Albeit the diesel portion of the Golf TDI Hybrid it showed at the 2008 Geneva motor show has a questionable future, Volkswagen has taken steps towards producing the electric side of the concept. The automaker today announced it was partnering with Japanese supplier Sanyo to develop lithium-ion batteries for automotive use.
Although the two are currently working on nickel-metal hydride batteries, future efforts will focus on launching lithium-ion cells into production vehicles. Although the total costs are currently unknown, Sanyo says it expects to spend close to $769 million over the next several years on the project alone. We expect Volkswagen to foot a similar bill.
Lithium-ion batteries may well be great for future VW hybrid vehicles, but their use may not be limited to that application. Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn hinted the consortium would focus on "making electrically-powered vehicles alongside" those with combustion engines.
Should we expect a New Beetle EV any time soon? Not likely. We'd instead point you to the aforementioned Golf concept and Audi's Metroproject Quattro show car from the 2008 Tokyo motor show - small cars utilizing hybrid powertrains. Both suggest that the first likely application for the VW/ Sanyo cells may lie in VW's small car portfolio. Regardless of which vehicle uses it first, look for the batteries to enter production by late 2009 - and a production hybrid soon afterward.