Automakers love to remind us how “close” our electric and autonomous future is, while a lot of major racing divisions they participate in remain powered, at least partly, by internal-combustion engines. But Volkswagen is done with all of that, apparently. It plans to only race electric cars from now on.
Volkswagen announced the plans Friday, saying it is “focusing its motorsport strategy on electric mobility” moving forward and that “a clear emphasis on fully electric racing cars will be backed up by the farewell to factory-backed commitments using internal combustion engines.”
There was a much less cryptic way to say this, such as, “We’re ending our ICE-powered motorsport efforts in order to race EVs going forward.” But, you know, no one asked me to edit it.
Anyway, the announcement means a few things: The Volkswagen ID.R prototype that’s been all over hillclimb courses and to the Nürburgring will continue to be the poster child, while Volkswagen will build out the ID race-car family with the Modular Electric Drive Kit architecture “on which numerous electric production vehicles will be based.” The release noted that motorsports using new and in-development technology are a good test ground for how the technology will do when it takes a beating, while also being a marketing platform.
The switch to electric won’t be entirely about growing the motorsport stable, though. Volkswagen said some programs will end, while others will make the move to electric power. (The Volkswagen Group already participates in the all-electric Formula E championship under the Audi name.)
From the release:
Correspondingly, Volkswagen Motorsport’s customer sport programme will also be electrified. The first stage will involve different disciplines, platforms and vehicle types being examined and evaluated. Parallel to this, the production of the Golf GTI TCR for the racetrack will expire at the end of 2019, and a successor based on the new generation will not be offered. Customer service and spare parts supply will be guaranteed in the long term.
The Polo GTI R5 remains an integral part of Volkswagen Motorsport’s customer sport offering and will continue to be produced for customer teams. The Hanover base will be responsible for continued customer support, spare parts supply and the competitiveness of the Polo. Factory-backed competition entries with the Polo GTI R5 will no longer go ahead.
Leaving behind non-EV motorsports entirely appears to be a big move on the surface, given that major divisions like NASCAR and Formula One remain under gas power. But Volkswagen has done more in rally and touring cars anyway, and there is an ever-growing number of options for EV racing out there.
It’s also good for outward PR. The company has communicated with its own advertisements that it wants to heroically rise from the ashes of its self-created Dieselgate emissions scandal, and boldly announcing that you’re leaving behind what’s still a staple of modern motorsports, the ICE, is one step toward that.
We’ll just have to see how well it works.