Expect a Hint of ‘Apple’ in Volkswagen’s Upcoming Electric Cars

With its iconic innovations like the iPhone and iPad, Apple continues to stretch the boundaries of beautiful design, creating generation after generation of products admired and adorned (and even counterfeited) by people the world over.

Apple’s design language is so impactful, in fact, that according to a Reuters report published on Thursday, we could even see hints of it in Volkswagen’s next-generation of fully Electric Vehicles (EVs) — as the German automaker reportedly looks to turn a profit on its upcoming line of battery-powered cars while redefining its image in the process.

“We are currently redefining the Volkswagen values for the age of electrification,” said the company’s veteran design boss, Klaus Bischoff, in the interview. He added that “What’s at stake is to be as significant, purist and clear as possible and also to visualize a completely new architecture.”

The Age of Electrification

Bischoff — who joined Volkswagen over 25 years ago and has served as head of VW brand design for the last decade — described wanting to adopt a “purist,” clear, articulate, yet distinctive design, such as Apple’s, to serve as the “guiding principle” for how he and his team will go about styling VW’s new line of EVs, which are expected sometime in 2020.

Europe’s biggest automaker may be trying to “redefine” its image, but, even on the surface, it’s clear they’re hoping to also shift any lingering focus away from the massive, 2015 “Dieselgate” emissions scandal as well.

VW’s New Direction

“Dieselgate” scandal notwithstanding, Reuters noted that Volkswagen knows full well the importance of electric vehicles. They’ll be a literal driving force (no pun intended) in the company’s bid to compete moving forward — especially in large, developed markets like China, where it currently reigns supreme as demand for EVs continues to rise.

Citing how Volkswagen was “previously a laggard on electrification,” the paper also pointed out how VW has so far pledged to invest as much as $ 42.45 billion towards the development of its next generation EVs, self-driving technology/software, and associated “digital mobility” ventures by 2022.

“The core namesake brand alone will spend 6 billion euros on a new modular platform dubbed MEB designed to underpin over 20 purely battery-powered models,” Reuters noted, citing the automaker’s previously accounted EV plans, including an “I.D. hatchback,” “I.D. Crozz” [a crossover style hatchback] as well as a modern take on the grooviest VW of all-time, the “I.D. Buzz” microbus.

Though he declined to elaborate further, Bischoff said his company plans to use the upcoming 88th annual Geneva auto show, running between March 8 and 18, 2018, as a venue to offer early insight into what Volkswagen’s “post-I.D. generation” of EVs might look like.

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Hyundai tests first autonomous fuel cell cars

South Korean car maker Hyundai has successfully tested what it claims are the world’s first self-driven fuel cell electric vehicles.

A fleet of the cars completed a self-driven, high-speed, 190-kilometre test drive from Seoul to Pyeongchang. The firm said this is the first time that “level 4 autonomous driving has been achieved with fuel cell electric cars”.

Level four autonomy is when vehicles are able to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip – one stage short of human-level safe driving in all road conditions.

In total, five cars completed the journey on 2 February. Three of them were based on the company’s fuel cell electric SUV NEXO technology, while the other two were Genesis G80 models.

The future of driving

Hyundai believes that fuel-cell cars could result in more efficient journeys at speed on domestic roads. During the test drive, the driverless cars travelled at between 100 km/h and 110 km/h, which is the maximum speed on Korean motorways.

The company claimed that the cars demonstrated its three visions for the future of driving: connected mobility, clean mobility, and freedom in mobility.

The vehicles “moved in response to the natural flow of traffic” on the highway, “executed lane changes and overtaking manoeuvres” and “navigated toll gates” using a wireless expressway payment system, said Hyundai.

The design of the cars is similar to the manufacturer’s mass-produced models, but they’re packed with cameras and a LIDAR system, which uses a laser to judge distances.

The cars use GPS technology and a range of other sensors to recognise other vehicles, make accurate judgements at junctions, navigate through toll gates, and identify different locations.

Jinwoo Lee, head of the intelligent safety technology centre at Hyundai, said the firm is working to “provide the highest level of safety combined with a high standard of convenience that our customers expect”.

Passengers also gain access to a system called “Home Connect”, which allows them to control IoT devices via their smartphones. Hyundai plans to release this system over the next few months.

Assault on batteries?

Autonomous vehicles need a lot of power, and Hyundai believes that fuel cell technology is the answer. The firm said the cars can drive 600 km on a single charge.

Fuel cell technology produces electricity by causing a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, with environmentally friendly emissions of warm air and water. However, the industrial production of hydrogen can be carbon intensive, despite being the most abundant chemical substance in the universe. 

Internet of Business says

The combination of sustainable development, fuel efficiency, and minimum environmental impact will be critical to the future development of autonomous vehicles.

• Hyundai has yet to announce when its fuel cell electric vehicles will be available in the West.

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