VW's MEB Platform: A Modularity Enabler
Volkswagen’s MEB, an in-development chassis designed strictly for electric propulsion, enables a modular battery layout that can provide a Volkswagen Group electric vehicle (EV) with an estimated 200-mile to 300-mile (322-km to 483-km) driving range. Slated to debut in 2022 as the underpinnings for EVs produced in North America at the automaker’s Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant, VW’s MEB is intended for compact to midsize A- and B-class vehicles.
“What we’re investing in with MEB is a dedicated platform for electric vehicles to achieve packaging efficiency, more cabin space and more energy,” Matthew Renna, Vice President of the E-Mobility Product Line for Volkswagen North American Region, said during a recent MEB Workshop for media in Chicago.
The automaker’s work with electric vehicles dates back several decades, but its 2015 model-year introduction of the e-Golf was transformative with its estimated 70- to 90-mile (113- to 145-km) driving range. Four years later, the 2019 e-Golf increased the estimated driving range to 125 miles (201 km) via a 100-kW traction motor and 35.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. E-Golf’s battery modules are packaged inside the center tunnel, in front of the rear axle and below the rear seats.
“Because the MEB is a dedicated EV platform, we are not packaging battery packs around existing systems and crash structures as we have done with the MQB [e-Golf platform],” Renna said, referencing VW’s modular architecture for transverse front-engine FWD or AWD vehicles.
MEB gained engineering momentum with lessons learned from VW’s first all-electric compact car for the U.S. market. “The MEB would not exist without the e-Golf,” Renna said, “We learned a lot about how battery systems work, how the chassis interacts with batteries and how customers use our electric car.
MEB: The next step
Flexibility and modularity are hallmarks of the upcoming MEB. The flat underbody is designated for battery packaging, with auxiliary power units for HVAC and other ancillary systems integrated into the e-vehicle’s front end. The drive motor, power electronics and single-speed gearbox are packaged as an integral unit.
MEB will be configured as a RWD or AWD architecture for a variety of vehicles (likely including 4-door sedan, crossover and minivan) fitted with lithium-ion batteries. “Our strategy is to use pouch and/or prismatic cells because those allow for packaging flexibility and we can cool the cells more efficiently,” Renna said.
The biggest engineering challenge with MEB is on the software side. “For us, the future of EVs involves over-the-air updates, autonomous-driving capabilities and additional apps and services,” Renna said, adding, “We need all of the e-car’s smart devices to communicate information under high-voltage conditions and do that in a really robust way. All of that work is coming along very well.”
The VW Group plans to invest $38 billion in electric vehicle technology, which includes 16 dedicated e-mobility factories around the globe. In North America, VW’s centerpiece for electric vehicle manufacturing is its plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. By 2025, the VW Group expects to launch no fewer than 50 EVs. The MEB platform will be used by most VW Group brands, including VW, Audi, SEAT, Skoda and VW Commercial Vehicles.