Here’s Why Volkswagen Plans to Abandon Front-Wheel-Drive EVs

Right now, if you want an electric Volkswagen, your only option is the e-Golf, an electrified version of the front-wheel-drive Golf hatchback. But as we learned last year, future Volkswagen EVs will exclusively be rear- or all-wheel-drive. Recently, in a round table discussion with MotorTrend and other journalists, Matthew Renna, VW’s North American head of E-Mobility, explained why that is.

“Well, you get some benefits on an internal combustion engine [vehicle] from doing a front-engine, front-wheel-drive [layout] because you don’t need the driveshafts and rear axles and all that,” Renna explained. “With an electric vehicle, you have a drive unit and some cables, so you can package that drive unit in the front if you want a front-wheel-drive car. And that would be efficient, but you’re equally as efficient with that same motor in the rear, save a few pennies of copper to lengthen the cable. So, you know, with the improved dynamics of rear-wheel drive, that lends itself to being a bit better for a rear-drive platform given the fact that it’s roughly cost-neutral.”

Renna also said he wouldn’t be surprised to see front-wheel drive become a lot less common as EVs get more popular. “I can see that being the case,” he said. “I mean, if it’s the same efficiency and the same cost, dynamics would prevail. Usually, that trade-off is made in lower-cost vehicles that bias towards efficiency and cost. They have to sacrifice dynamics.”

Christian Buhlmann, VW’s head of product line communications, went even further, claiming there’s little reason to build a front-wheel-drive EV. “It doesn’t make much sense because if you think of the starting torque that you have and the dynamic weight distribution, the weight is lifted from the front axle towards the rear axle,” he said. “That’s exactly where you need the torque to be in your acceleration moment. Therefore, it physically doesn’t make sense to use only the front axle if you have the vehicle that offers a lot of torque right from the start.”

So there you have it. Building a rear-wheel-drive EV isn’t any more expensive, Volkswagen doesn’t see any advantages to choosing a front-drive layout, and powering the rear wheels comes with multiple benefits. That sounds like a pretty convincing argument to us.

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