5 Big Ideas Coming from VW’s “Innovation Workshop 2014”

On November 11, 2014, Volkswagen announced a list of 18  innovations that are coming soon or have already arrived in production models.  The announcement was part of an event called the “Innovation Workshop 2014”.  The Innovation Workshop 2014 served as a nice umbrella for the carmaker to publicly recommit to the concept of sustainability.  I could try to paraphrase it, but it’s always better to hear it from the source:

Volkswagen AG has set the goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable carmaker by the year 2018. Compared to baseline figures for 2010, the Group wants to reduce energy and water consumption, waste generation and emissions (including CO2 emissions) by 25 per cent in all of its business areas. The company is applying all of its innovative carmaking know-how to achieve this sustainability gain within the four years remaining until 2018.


The nice thing for car guys is that instead of trying to reach these goals by making driving boring, many of these innovations will make driving better.  As well as cleaner and more economical.

VW put these new ideas and technologies into 2 groups, CO2 and Networking. To reduce CO2, VW will increase the use of plug-in hybrid technology, more efficient gearboxes and engines, new structural design, and aerodynamics to meet the goal.  Networking is where it gets very cool, and where you can begin to see the future of the car, driver, smartphone, and onboard electronics.  Very smart people call this the “Connected Car”, and we’ll keep you in touch with how this evolves.

The video above is about VW’s XL Sport Concept, introduced at last month’s Paris Motor Show.  The XL Sport is filled with a lot of the tech discussed at the Workshop.  It is a leading-edge vehicle that looks and performs like the sports cars it was modeled upon.  But…its 196 bhp and 167 mph top speed is generated from a V2.

No, not the WW II-era missile.  A two-cylinder engine in a “V” configuration.  Let that sink in.

And now, to some of the better ones on the list:


1. Think Blue. Engineering.


It has set the goal of reducing waste materials, emissions, water usage and CO2 emissions by 25 per cent (compared to 2010 figures) by 2018.  Based on “Think Blue. Engineering.” each new product should also be developed to embody exhibit environmental properties – over its entire product life cycle – which are better than in the previous model.


Simple. Where some would try to use program vehicles to hit emissions and sustainability targets,  VW is making a public commitment to a model-based sustainability improvement cycle.  Same as they have for performance, safety, and comfort.


2. Mild hybrid – stop-start 2.0 and coasting with engine off.


The start-stop 2.0 system does not just deactivate the engine when the car is stationary at a red light; rather it already deactivates the engine at speeds below 7 km/h. In coasting with engine off (special coasting function), the engine is also shut off at higher speeds as soon as the driver releases the accelerator pedal. This can significantly improve fuel economy when the driver adopts an anticipatory style of driving.


Now this sounds like fun.  Not only is it economical, I’m willing to bet if you punch it while coasting, the powertrain will re-engage like it would in a gas or diesel engine.  But a lot smoother.


3. High-performance engines.


New high-tech engines such as the 240-PS (236 bhp) bi-turbo diesel of the recently revealed Passat also make saving a pleasure. With a power density of 120 PS (118 bhp) per litre displacement, it is the most powerful of any four-cylinder TDI that has ever been put into production. The fuel consumption of the saloon – which has a top speed of 240 km/h (149 mph) – is a low 5.3 l/100 km (44 mpg). An intelligent advanced development of this TDI might take the following form: the power of the two- litre engine could be increased to 200 kW / 272 PS (268 bhp) by the use of a variable valve train, further optimised gas exchange cycles and what is known as an electric booster.


Smaller is where the technology is heading.  Between this development, news of Volvo’s low-displacement high-compression engines, and Ford’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost in the new Ford Mustang, and it’s easy to see that the future is green.  And it’s driven by people who simply accept that sustainability is a reason to innovate, not trot out rehashed versions of 20th Century powertrain technology.


Of course, given tin-pot politicians and oil-company billions, the road won’t be smooth.  But it’s safe to say that these cars and this technology will be what emerging countries will aspire to drive.  After all, if you lived in No-where-istan and just got your first real good job; would you want the brand new V-10, 50-gallons a mile Pushkin Marauder?  Or would you want a shiny new Passat, Volvo XC90, or Mercedes BlueTec?


4. 10-speed DSG


Now Volkswagen is presenting a newly developed 10-speed DSG (dual clutch gearbox)  for engines with up to 550 Nm (405 bhp) of torque. The highly efficient layout of its gear steps contributes towards further lowering of CO2 emissions.


A 10-speed dual clutch is coming?  Shut. Up.


 5. Integration of consumer electronics


In parallel to the theme of sustainability, Volkswagen is also driving the integration of maximum interactivity in all vehicle classes, which achieves a new dimension in comfort and convenience. In the process, the car is becoming increasingly better networked with the communication world of consumer electronics. That is because more apps and online services than ever can now be used via the modular infotainment system (MIB) and Volkswagen Car-Net.  The “Media Control” system that was introduced in the new Passat links tablets of all types into the matrix of infotainment systems for the first time. Rear passengers, in particular, can conveniently use their tablets to operate all key entertainment functions (radio and media), surf the Internet, view movies or send an address book entry to the infotainment system as a destination for navigation. It is also easy to find addresses by Google search and integrate them into navigation.


Note to self: buy a Passat.  Or better yet, I should test-drive one and tell you about the on-board electronics.


After the initial use of MirrorLinkTM in the Polo and Passat, Volkswagen continues to further develop the integration of smart phones. Volkswagen is combining interfaces to a wide variety of operating systems of mobile phones, and thus also to the MirrorLinkTM apps, under “App Connect”, because soon it will be possible to link nearly all smart phones to the infotainment system via “Apple CarPlay” and “Android Auto”.

After generations of automotive entertainment and information systems that were confusing, intentionally built to defeat customization, and just plain bad; this is good to hear.  That VW wants to spread the use of an agnostic platform for use by Apple and Android is a breath of fresh and logical air.

Volkswagen is showing how future networking of tablet and car might look in a concept vehicle. Here, videos can be played back in parallel on all tablets in the vehicle – regardless of their physical source. Not only can the sound be reproduced on headphones, but also lip-synchronous over the vehicle loudspeakers. As mentioned, any device connected to the WiFi network of the Volkswagen can serve as a source, because the memory location of the media no longer plays a role in the selection process.


This is a big, meaty section that makes it crystal clear that VW will shape the future of the Connected Car.  Best of all, Volkswagen’s vision, from what they share here, seems to make sense in the ecosphere of today’s connected, cloud-based mishmash of tablets, smartphones, and watches.

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Copyright 2014 Hybrid and Electric Car News



Sebastian James


Accept no substitutes

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