Klaus Bischoff has been shaping Volkswagen design for three decades now. Born in Hamburg, he started his career as an interior and exterior designer in Wolfsburg in 1989. Since then he was responsible, amongst others, for the development of four model series of Golf and Passat, the SUV models Touareg, Tiguan and T-Roc, the small up! and the premium Arteon. But nothing was as challenging for the 57-year-old as working on the vehicles of the upcoming ID. family. Here, Bischoff, who has been in charge for the worldwide design of the Volkswagen brand with more than 400 employees since 2007, explains what new opportunities and freedom the E-era offers for car design.
Mr. Bischoff, electric mobility is also fundamentally changing the work of car designers. What is particularly new for you?
Actually, almost everything is changing. The cards are being reshuffled – from the tools of the trade to the product itself. It starts with an element that has dominated the laws of car design from the beginning – the combustion engine – being taken out of the equation. This creates a new territory, a new freedom that must now be used. For a car designer like me, there is nothing more exciting.
An electric car no longer has a big engine, but a big battery in the vehicle floor. What does this mean for the design?
So far, around a third of the vehicle's body has been occupied by the engine - hence the classic hood with radiator grille. Behind it came the occupants and the trunk: a layout that we have further developed over decades. Now a vacuum is created in one third of the vehicle that has to be filled. In addition, the vehicle now has a different foundation, which also changes a lot, for example you sit higher in the electric car. All of this, however, increases our degree of freedom considerably. On the base plate, into which the battery is embedded, we can arrange the occupants relatively freely and tailor the rest around them. This enables completely new product characters.
The heavy battery in the underbody also affects the driving characteristics of the car. Electric cars have a particularly low center of gravity.
Exactly. This also gives more freedom in the interior. Until now, the drivetrain and wheels had to be coupled, and there was always the center tunnel for the drive shaft. This has now changed and creates unimaginable possibilities in interior design. Through digitalization and connectivity, we can create new user experiences, new operating philosophies and a completely different driving experience.