To say that Volkswagen is heavily invested in electric cars is an understatement. There's the electric race car that went up pikes peak, the ID Buzz electric car for production, and they've even said that they will be making over 30 new hybrid and electric models within the next 30 years.
That commitment to electric power will also be made to their motorsports division. From this moment on, Volkswagen will no longer be making race cars with engines. It's all-electric motors starting now.
“Electric mobility offers enormous development potential, and in this regard motorsport can be a trailblazer: on the one hand, it serves as a dynamic laboratory for the development of future production cars and, on the other, as a convincing marketing platform to inspire people even more towards electric mobility. That is why we are going to focus more than ever on factory-backed electric drive commitments and continue to expand our activities with the development of the MEB. Innovative technology relevant to the car of the future is our focus”, said Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director.
What does this mean for teams that have been driving Volkswagen race cars then? They can still drive them, but they won't be getting much support from the manufacturer. There will be assistance, but it won't be similar to a full factory effort. So the next Volkswagen race car you see will be run by privateers. Moreover, the development of the all-new Golf touring car (racing in TCR) will be halted as well. It seems that the announcement was sudden, as the Golf TCR was said to still have been testing as of last week.
With Volkswagen pulling the plug on most of their current racing programs, where will they head to next? Formula E looks like a good place to start, but Audi already has that covered. Rallying looks like a good bet too, but there are no rally championships that have electric cars running. Perhaps there will be more racing leagues that will have electric cars running in the future, but there are little (if any) at the moment.
Despite their shift to electric racers, Volkswagen will still be building a gas-powered race car – the Polo R5. Designed for customer racing, the German automaker will continue building the rally car and the parts needed to maintain it. Still, we can't help but think Volkswagen is missing out on a couple of high-profile races as they shift to electric power. Of course, the future of motorsport can change in an instant, and Volkswagen could be a pioneer for performance electric cars in the coming years and decades.