Volkswagen's upcoming entry-level electric city car, known as the ID 1, will channel the spirit of the Volkswagen Up and could even take its name when it arrives in 2026.
The affordable EV is due to follow the €25,000 ID 2 onto the market in the second half of the decade, rivalling the likes of the upcoming Renault Twingo and the new Citroën e-C3 at less than €20,000.
Volkswagen confirmed plans for a new entry-level EV last year when it revealed the slightly larger ID2all concept and is now working to bring the ID 1 to production within the next three years as a replacement for the Up, which recently went out of production after 12 years.
Revealing that the first design sketches are complete and that development is under way, technical development boss Kai Grünitz suggested it will be an obvious successor to the successful city car in its conception and inevitably will share some design elements and attributes.
“The ‘ID 1’ will be close to the Up regarding the usage of that car," he said. "There aren't so many possibilities to design a small vehicle for cities in terms of what it looks like. It will be a car that fits into the Volkswagen brand design DNA and functionality DNA but at a lower price.”
He stopped short of categorically confirming the return of the Up badge, but Volkswagen places great value on its longest-running and most successful names. Golf, Passat and Tiguan are all due to be retained in the EV era, with the suggestion that the brand’s numerical naming strategy for its ID EVs could be retired.
Grünitz outlined the importance of bringing such a car to market: “You need a smaller car that’s affordable for the broader customer base. That’s why we’re going for €25,000 for the ID 2all and we're invested in the development phase for a vehicle below €20,000 - that’s Volkswagen.
“We have to go in that direction to convince our customers that EV is the right way.”
Taking into account Volkswagen’s new 36-month vehicle development timeframe, the ID 1 should break cover before 2027. Indeed, Grünitz said the wraps will come off “several years before the end of this decade”.
Set to be based on a bespoke platform, distinct from the ID 2’s MEB Entry architecture, it will be developed with a rigid focus on keeping costs down, which means it won't play host to the same levels of advanced autonomy and connectivity functions shared by other, more expensive Volkswagen models.
“You need a car that really fits the customer demands in that price class. You don’t need high-end technology within these cars," said Grünitz.
“Maybe you could bring your own device into this car instead of having a huge infotainment system, or something like that,” he added, hinting at the possibility for the Up replacement to feature a smartphone cradle in place of a touchscreen, like the previous car.
“It has to be tailored to the customer group,” he said, adding that the focus will instead be on making it “bigger inside than outside”, with effective use of space and a range of innovative storage solutions.
Neither will the final car be equipped with 200kW fast-charging capacity or a battery that allows it to travel long distances, because it's envisioned as a pure city car, “not a car for driving thousands of kilometres on the highway”.
The Volkswagen e-Up, retired in recent weeks along with the petrol Up as production came to a close in Bratislava, Slovakia, claimed a range of 161 miles and could charge at a maximum speed of 37kWh.
Asked by Autocar whether the Up’s replacement can be produced profitably, Grünitz suggested that it might not need to generate huge margins in its own right but could rather serve as a ‘loss leader’ by introducing younger users to the VW EV line-up.
“Should it be a vehicle that is profitable on its own, or should we look for a vehicle that might be for first users? I started with a Polo when I was 18 years old, I got in touch with the VW family, jumped into a Golf and never left the Volkswagen family," Grünitz said. "It’s really important to have a vehicle for first-car users."
“There's also the possibility to earn money with more expensive cars,” he said, suggesting margins from larger cars could be sufficient to support production of a less profitable model.
In response to recent reports that Volkswagen could partner with Renault to develop the new cheap EV, Grünitz would only go so far as to say it remained a possibility.
“We're looking at several different ways: doing it on our own, doing it with [Volkswagen Group sibling brands] Cupra and Skoda, doing it with external partners... Everything has advantages or disadvantages, and in the end we will see where we're at.”
Nor has it been decided whether there will be sibling versions of the small EV, as is the case for the ID 2, which is technically identical to the Cupra Raval and an as-yet-unnamed Skoda model.