It is the sanctum of the Zwickau vehicle factory – the pilot hall. A plain white entrance door, just like every other door on the factory premises. Inconspicuous. A colorful poster hangs to the right of the shuttered door at the entrance and simply refers to the “E-Mobility Center”. But behind the, well-protected, thick wall, the future of Volkswagen is being created: the fully electric models ID.3 and ID.4. They are being produced for technical development in Wolfsburg. Here too, the ID.4 is still wrapped underneath a black tarpaulin, because: the all-electric SUV has not yet been shown to the public without camouflage.
While production is suspended in most of the manufacturing halls in Zwickau and other locations due to the corona pandemic, the pilot hall is working at full speed. “We’re providing a lot of energy,” smiles Robert Pahlow (42), Head of MEB Start-up Management, who has been working in Zwickau for the past two years. He is on loan to Saxony from Central Production Planning in Wolfsburg, a Start-up Management professional. “Despite the production shutdown, we are continuing to complete the pre-series vehicles for Audi, SEAT and Volkswagen and are providing support for the start of production, for example with electrics and electronics. In concrete terms: employees are present from every area of the pilot hall. They maintain contact with the technical development in Wolfsburg, work on important bodywork optimizations, refine the settings for chassis, lights and the electrical system of the ID. vehicles and carry out important analyses of the electronics. Final quality checks are also on the agenda.
“It’s really immense: everyone is pulling along,” says a delighted Carsten Friedrich (47), head of the pilot hall and a Zwickau veteran. “The colleagues know the importance of the project they are currently working on for Volkswagen. No matter whether they are young or old. Everyone we urgently need has agreed to join us right now.” The goal remains: to hand over their vehicles to the ID.3 pre-bookers in the summer.
The corona pandemic has also changed the work routine at the Zwickau shrine. The most important message: keep your distance. For example, only every second lift is used, meetings are held standing at a distance and the cleaning cycles in the pilot hall have been increased. Also new: attendance lists are filled out during every meeting. “We want to know exactly who was in which meeting and when. Just in case,” says inspector Antje Pflug (52), who has been working at Volkswagen Sachsen for 23 years. “We adhere 100 percent to the more stringent rules,” adds vehicle coordinator Sven Zander (49).
Volkswagen’s E-offensive begins in Zwickau
Series production of the all-electric ID.3 and pre-series of the ID.4 have been underway at the Zwickau plant since November 2019, and more than 100,000 electric cars are to be produced in Zwickau this year. In 2021, capacity will increase to up to 330,000 electric vehicles, and in summer 2020 the era of internal combustion vehicles will end in western Saxony with the phase-out of the Golf Variant.
After Dresden, Zwickau is the second site ever to be completely converted to e-mobility by a volume manufacturer like Volkswagen – and the brand’s first site to go into mass production. Volkswagen is investing more than 1.2 billion euros in the conversion of the Zwickau plant into one of the most efficient e-car factories in Europe. The second production line will also be converted in the summer. “Here at the Zwickau plant, Volkswagen’s E-offensive is beginning. Everyone here knows that,” says Pahlow.
By 2029, the company plans to launch up to 75 pure e-models and an additional 60 hybrid vehicles across the Group. Investments of 33 billion euros are planned for this by 2024 alone.
The first ID.3 vehicles will go into customer hands this summer. And the environment also benefits – because the ID.3 and ID.4 roll off the production line in Zwickau with a CO2-neutral balance sheet. This is made possible, among other things, because the battery cells are manufactured, and the vehicle production runs on 100 percent green electricity.