Volkswagen has suspended production of the all-electric ID. Buzz model in Hanover, Germany, with local media citing problems with the battery system.
Since Buzz production commenced earlier this month, VW Commercial Vehicles has manufactured about 500 examples. However, it has not yet delivered any to customers, making the situation vaguely similar to the Japanese recall affecting the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra. Though the sibling EVs from Asia were afflicted by faulty wheel hubs, Volkswagen’s van is reported to be cursed with problem battery cells. Considering the issues the company has had with battery suppliers in the past, one would think that VW would be well-positioned to deal with this problem. Unfortunately, the automaker has confirmed that these are new cells from a different supplier that is currently used exclusively on the ID. Buzz.
Early reporting on the issue was conducted by Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, before being picked up by Electrive for the English-speaking world. The good news is that there don’t appear to be any fire risks or defects so serious that the vehicles have been rendered undrivable. Instead, reports have suggested that the 82 kWh battery (77 kWh usable capacity) is underperforming – noting voltage drops that might affect range and acceleration.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the unit was eventually supposed to be slotted into other MEB-based products that have already suffered production delays. This presumably includes the ID.4 (which suffered software gremlins and a limited battery recall) and the ID.5 (which couldn’t get enough wiring harnesses in from Ukrainian suppliers).
A spokesperson for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles confirmed to electrive.net that only the ID. Buzz is affected – although other MEB models in the ID.3, ID.4 and ID.5 series with a battery with 77 kWh of usable energy content are also on offer. “It is a new battery cell from a different supplier that is currently only used in the ID.Buzz,” the spokesperson said. “Therefore, only the production in Hanover is affected, but not other locations.” However, he said, the new cell will later be used in other MEB models. The spokesman would not disclose which manufacturer was involved when asked.
This year, [Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles] targets producing up to 15,000 units of the ID.Buzz Pro and ID.Buzz Cargo EVs. After the ramp-up, up to 130,000 vehicles per year can be produced in Hanover in the future. Sales of both models reportedly began on 20 May. The passenger car variant ID.Buzz Pro starts at a gross list price of €64,581. The ID.Buzz Cargo is available for a net list price of €45,740 and €54,430 (gross).
It may be pure coincidence that currently, yet another battery problem with an MEB model became known – it is an isolated case. Norwegian eMobility Youtuber Björn Nyland recently had to abort a range test in a VW ID.5 GTX because the battery could only retrieve around 65 kWh of energy content. Usually, 77 kWh is the usable net energy content; gross, 82 kWh are installed in the vehicles. In the case of Nyland, VW Norway justified the measurements with a defective battery module.
For a company that seems to have bet everything on electrification, Volkswagen seems to be having a lot of trouble with its battery packs. But it would be unfair to say it was the only company facing headwinds. General Motors, Hyundai Motor Group, Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis, and Volkswagen have all issued battery-related recalls since February of 2020. In some cases, those recalls involved the manufacturer recommending against parking the vehicle in garages to minimize any additional risks posed by a potential fire hazard. LG Energy Solution has frequently been a supplier of note in these events. But we’ve seen other battery purveyors being similarly being blamed for what are becoming uncomfortably familiar issues.
The silver lining for VW is that the MEB platform makes it relatively easy to swap units. That should make the issue relatively easy to deal with, assuming the supplier is the one to blame. But things will be a little tougher if these problems come down to lapses in Volkswagen’s own quality assurance.
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