Meet the I.D., Volkswagen’s first purely electric car on track for 2020

Volkswagen did indeed debut its first dedicated electric car at the Paris Motor Show, as heavily teased. The I.D. revealed at the show is still labeled a “concept,” but VW says it’s due to become a buyable car in 2020, with a total range of ups to 373 miles per charge, driven by a 168hp electric motor.

The concept design for the I.D., which will be Volkswagen’s first purely electric design (as opposed to vehicles like the e-Golf which also offer a gas-powered option) also includes some even more future-focused features, including “I.D. Pilot mode,” a fully autonomous driving feature. The carmaker says its self-driving tech will be ready for production vehicles beginning in 2025, if things go as planned. In the same year, Volkswagen intends to cross the million electric cars sold mark, the company noted in a press release.

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Autonomous capabilities help explain the interior design language of the I.D. concept, which VW’s PR describes as “the interactive center of a mobile lounge, or a supremely versatile Open Space.” This extremely indulgent marketing speak basically translates into a design that’s more flexible in case you don’t happen to have to be driving.

I.D. is also significant for being the first compact designed around VW’s Modular Electric Drive kit (MEB) architecture, which was created specifically for purely electric car models (as opposed to electric conversions of existing vehicles, again like the e-Golf).  The MEB is designed to be used in more car designs going forward, and is focused on maximizing vehicle ride comfort, safety, and use of space, with a floor-iterated flat battery pack, a long wheelbase and more.

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Other aspects of the design also come from the focus a connected vehicle experience. There also aren’t any mirrors on the doors, and instead cameras built-in to the front fenders give you a look behind you left and right. B-pillars are gone, too, since the front and rear doors, when closed, provide enough structural rigidity on their own. This probably also helps with maximizing energy efficiency for better range.

The headlights actually sound like one of the more interesting aspects of the car – they’re designed as more thoughtful communication devices, and will “look” at the driver as they approach (which sounds max creepy), and signal when they’re in I.D. Pilot mode (from 2025 on obviously) with a different look, so other drivers know it’s driving itself. The lights also “look” in the direction the car intends to turn, and even “looks” at pedestrians and cyclists. All creepy when you think about a car doing this, but also pretty natural in terms of how we communicate with one another.

Somebody's watching you...

Somebody’s watching you…

VW’s I.D. Pilot self-driving tech uses lasers for primary detections, which are supplemented by ultrasonic, radar and photographic camera sensors. Traffic data is collected by individual cars and used to update a cloud-based model of real-time ground conditions, too, VW says.

It all sounds very lovely and future-focused, but it’s worth remembering that this is still just a concept, even if Volkswagen currently sounds very confident about that 2020 launch date. The self-driving system is even further away from being a reality, so bet to take all of this as a partial preview of what will actually arrive in a few years’ time.

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We don’t yet know much about specific pricing or trim packages for the I.D., but Volkswagen says it’ll be “on a par with comparably powerful and well-equipped Golf models.” The current e-Golf starts at $28,995 U.S., so that’s probably a decent beginning point in terms of setting price expectations.