Volkswagen Aims to Be the World's Biggest Producer of Electric Drivetrains, Production Begins in China

Volkswagen Aims to Be the World's Biggest Producer of Electric Drivetrains, Production Begins in China

Author: Eric Walz   

As the auto industry continues its push towards electrification, demand is rising for electric vehicle components that will replace conventional gas-powered engines and transmissions. These components include battery-powered motors and integrated drive units, which automaker Volkswagen announced its started production on for its electric vehicles sold in China.

The Volkswagen Group's Chinese components factory in Tianjin has started production of the APP 310 drive units designed for the automakers "MEB" electric vehicle platform, which represents an entirely new way of building cars at Volkswagen. The MEB platform will be the foundation for millions of electric vehicles the automaker plans to produce over the next decade. 

While the battery cells for many new EVs are being supplied by just a handful of companies, including South Koren battery maker LG Chem and China's CATL, German automaker Volkswagen plans to manufacture EV powertrain components for all of its brands, including for its joint ventures in China, which is the world's biggest auto market. 

"With the start of production on the APP 310 at our components site in Tianjin, we are accelerating the electric mobility movement not only in the regional market but also for the Group as a whole. Our presence in the key markets enables us to react flexibly and efficiently to the needs of our customers. In this way, Volkswagen Group Components is making a major contribution to the Group's electrification campaign," said Thomas Schmall, CEO of Volkswagen Group Components.


The electric motor and drive unit of the APP 310 are intergrated into a single housing (Photo: Volkswagen AG)

The APP 310 electric powertrain will be used in the ID.4 electric SUV and will be produced by two of VW's joint venture partners for vehicles built locally.

Chinese automaker FAW is building the upcoming VW ID.4 CROZZ and SAIC is building the ID.4 X. Volkswagen said that the drivetrains for future electric models for the China market will also be supplied by its factory in Tianjin.

In Europe, The Volkswagen Group Components facility in Kassel, Germany will produce the APP 310 units for current and future electric VW models for the European and North American markets. 

Volkswagen said the factories Kassel and Tianjin are working closely together on the industrialization process for the APP 310 to reduce costs and streamline production.

Volkswagen's MEB EV platform consolidates all of the powertrain and electrical components into a skateboard-like architecture. In German, its called the "Modulare E-Antriebs-Baukasten," hence the acronym "MEB." Translated to English its name means "modular electric-drive toolkit." 

The MEB platform and the APP 310 drivetrains are designed to be the basic building block for Volkswagen future electric vehicles. The EV platform can be easily adapted for many different sizes of electric vehicles and battery packs. It uses shared components to help lower costs and reduce complexity.

The MEB platform allows VW to configure its upcoming electric models with either rear wheel or all-wheel-drive, using one or two APP 310 electric powertrains for more optimal weight distribution and better handling.

"The MEB modular electric drive matrix is probably the most important project in Volkswagen's history," said Christian Senger, Head of Volkswagen Product Line e-Mobility in 2018 when it was unveiled.


VW's compact APP 310 electric drive unit replaces a standard internal combustion engine and transmission.

Just like with the MEB platform, Volkswagen's APP 310 drive unit will help support the company's transition to electric vehicles. 

The entire drive unit weighs roughly 90 kg (198 lbs) and is compact enough to fit in a standard-sized duffle bag. The APP 310 features a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor with the drive and gearbox configured parallel to the vehicle's axle. Each unit has an output of up to 150 kW with a maximum torque of 310 Nm (229 ft-lb), which is reflected in the APP 310 name. 

The automaker said the two factories can currently produce up to 880,000 electric drive units per year. By 2023, Vokswagen plans to increase production up to 1.4 million units. This would make Volkswagen Group Components one of the largest producers of electric drives in the world.

By 2025, VW plans to sell as many as 3 million fully-electric cars per year globally.

VW's first mass-produced electric vehicle for the U.S. market using the APP 310 drive unit is the ID.4 1st Edition SUV. It will be available in the first quarter of 2021 with a MSRP of $43,995. A less expensive version costing $39,995 will be available by mid 2021. 

Consumer interest in VW's electric ID.4 SUV has been strong. The entire production run of the ID.4 1st Edition is already sold out.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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