Update: ‘Successor to the J1, MEB & PPE’ section updated with new development process info & ‘SSP open to other manufacturers’ section added.
Central to Volkswagen Group’s New Auto strategy is a mechatronics platform called Scalable Systems Platform, or just SSP in short. With an expected production volume of more than 40 million EVs on the SSP platform over the lifetime, Volkswagen Group aims to retain its leading position in the auto industry even in the carbon-neutral era.
Successor to the J1, MEB & PPE
Volkswagen Group brands will eventually develop and build all their models on the SSP, says Porsche Consulting magazine. Plus, they can do so super-efficiently, as, for example, each of them will be able to use individual e-modules.
Simply put, SSP is the successor to Volkswagen Group’s various modular passenger vehicle platforms. It will replace the MQB, MSB, and MLB ICE platforms and the MEB and PPE EV platforms. The ‘super platform’ will be ready for autonomous driving. The majority of the designing of this platform and its modules will happen at the company’s new R&D center in Wolfsburg, Germany. This facility will see an investment of around EUR 800 million.
The core of the SSP platform and its modules will be designed in the new campus Sandkamp (Wolfsburg, Germany). Markus Duesmann and Thomas Schmall will lead the entire program.Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO, Volkswagen Group
Here’s what Markus Duesmann, R&D chief, Volkswagen Group, and CEO, Audi, says about the SSP platform:
In our current ice portfolio we are basically using three different architecture(s), and our BEV offer is already based on only two different architectures: the MEB and the PPE. In the second half of this decade we will introduce the SSP to form one strong mechatronics platform.Markus Duesmann, R&D chief, Volkswagen Group, and CEO, Audi
Volkswagen (the brand) is realigning its Technical Development (TD) division in Wolfsburg and will redesign the development process, focused squarely on software, SSP, and customer requirements. Volkswagen’s new line of thinking is that development should be centered on functions, not individual components.
With the redesign, Volkswagen expects the development time to reduce by about a quarter, the speed of new software rollouts to increase, and the manufacturing processes in production to significantly speed up. The company says that vehicle projects will take only 40 months to complete instead of 54 months as before. The production time should reduce to around 10 hours/vehicle.
Volkswagen Group officials’ statements suggest that SSP will eventually be ready for models across a wide range of segments, from small to full-size cars.
SSP would support EVs as low-end as the MEB entry platform models like the VW ID.1 and VW ID.2, and even the high-end J1 platform models like the Audi e-tron GT and Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo. Dr. Diess suggests that the SSP will deliver EVs more powerful and exhilarating than the Porsche Taycan, the group’s ultimate on-road-performance-focused EV in the market right now.
The next generation of our hardware platforms in the succession of MQB, MLB, MEB and PPE, will allow us to reduce complexity over time as we will consolidate our existing platforms to one architecture for the entire e-product portfolio from entry-level to top of the range, from 85 to 850 KW.Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO, Volkswagen Group
The SSP will allow plenty of differentiation for various aspects, from design to driving dynamics, efficiency and range, performance, comfort, and digitalization. One platform does not mean a single technical solution for all product and price segments. Duesmann explains:
SSP does not mean that we will be producing a top of the line one size fits all solution. We still need to achieve maximum product differentiation as well as a significant reduction in variance at the same time. Therefore, the SSP consists of a standardized high value modules with dedicated variants as well as a few predefined platform sizes. We will be reducing complexity through reducing the number of variants within each column: the modules and the platforms. At the same time, we can still offer great brand differentiation due to scalability and various combinations of the modules in combination with the varying platform sizes.Markus Duesmann, R&D chief, Volkswagen Group, and CEO, Audi
Switching to a unified mechatronic platform architecture is likely to halve today’s complexity, which should considerably improve economies of scale. That’s what Duesmann said, defending the transition to SSP while assuring that technical differentiation will still be possible as required for different segments.
We will also reduce today’s complexity by about 50%, and I think you can understand what this means for us in terms of economies of scale. And as I mentioned before, we can still address specific vehicles and brand requirements through the combination of the different modules with the vehicle platforms. However, we will ensure that there are strict limits on the combination of the different variants since this is crucial to complexity, and therefore, to the practicability and financial success of the SSP.Markus Duesmann, R&D chief, Volkswagen Group, and CEO, Audi
Next-gen EV solutions
SSP platform models will get Volkswagen Group’s next-gen EV components, including unified cell format and solid-state batteries. The luxury and exotic models at the upper end of the group’s line-up may boast longer-lasting batteries, a short 0-80% rapid-charging time of 15 minutes, and a long range of 1,000 km. Using fewer battery systems would reduce the development and production costs, which could be vital in pricing the lower-end models competitively.
Using our SSP we can decrease our variance across Volkswagen Group by more than 60%. So we reduce from a peak of 22 different battery systems to an expected amount of only eight.Markus Duesmann, R&D chief, Volkswagen Group, and CEO, Audi
Also new in the SSP platform models will be a new software stack called E³ 2.0, which will be the basis for a new vehicle software called VW.OS. These EVs will be extremely software-based, and they will come with considerably fewer variants. In other words, hardware will be largely standardised. The new-age EVs will virtually have almost every main feature, including autonomous driving functions, on board. Customers will be able to enjoy many features on a pay-per-use basis, meaning that it will be possible to upgrade to a higher-spec car after purchase/lease without having to replace it physically.
The advantages for customers are obvious, but Volkswagen Group would also benefit from this move of producing largely hardware-ready cars in fewer variants. Its production costs would reduce, and it will gain a new stream of after-sales income. CARIAD, Volkswagen Group’s in-house software arm, will be responsible for E³ 2.0.
“CARIAD will receive license fees paid by the brands or paid by potential third parties for the software used, and this already started with the rollout of the ID. family architecture,” Arno Antlitz, CFO, Volkswagen Group, said at the New Auto strategy announcement event. At the same event, CARIAD CEO Dirk Hilgenberg also talked about the new software architecture:
There will be three layers. Firstly, future proof hardware; that’s cameras, sensors, actuators, and a powerful computing platform. We are reducing dozens of controllers to a new powerful control unit and semiconductor chips, simplifying the architecture massively and decoupling hardware from software. Secondly, we are looking at the software layer that includes our VW.OS.
As the car will be connected to the cloud, we will be able to keep the car always up to date with the newest features, including applications (and) functions on demand. And thirdly, we are creating and developing innovative automotive features, applications and services. These will shape the user experience that millions of customers around the world will enjoy. The car will become your personal mobility companion, a companion enriching your right with automated driving features, an intelligent personal assistant, organizing your trip, or video conferencing on the go.Dirk Hilgenberg, CEO, CARIAD
Volkswagen Group has set a target of achieving 60% of its sales and up to 40 million cars based on its own software stacks by 2030. This will allow it to gather large amounts of data, which it could use to constantly improve its products and increase its software-based earnings from existing customers with more after-sales upgrade options.
The SSP will enable Level 4 autonomous driving, enabling Volkswagen Group to catch up with Tesla with respect to hands-free driving capabilities and possibly even offer superior hands-free driving capabilities. CARIAD will develop this technology, which will allow customers to hand over the steering fully to the vehicle.
The first model based on the SSP platform will arrive in 2026. However, SSP will be partially in use by that time. The first Audi Artemis project, also called Audi Landjet, will see significant usage of SSP modules. While initially, in May 2020, Volkswagen Group said that it will be on the road as early as 2024, recent announcements suggest that sales of the Audi Artemis will begin only in 2025. The Audi Grand Sphere concept that debuted at IAA 2021 will inspire its radical design.
The first high-volume segment model based on the SSP platform will be a Volkswagen model. The development is taking place under a separate lighthouse project called VW Trinity. A sister model from the Audi brand is in the pipeline, called Audi Apollon. The final name of the models will likely be something else, though.
The SSP will, by 2030, already cover a bigger volume than the PPE and the MEB put together. So we can proudly say that the rollout of the new mechatronics platform and the related reduction in complexity will be faster than ever before. As far as our plans go, we want to sell more than 40 million vehicles based on the SSP over lifetime.Markus Duesmann, R&D chief, Volkswagen Group, and CEO, Audi
At the beginning of 2022, Volkswagen Group assigned the responsibility of the VW Trinity project to Dr. Gjuki Tettenborn, who was previously the Head of Development at SAIC Volkswagen. Commenting on the development, Ralf Brandstätter, CEO, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, said (via LinkedIn) that Dr. Tettenborn is the right man to lead the Trinity project. The car taking birth will boast the latest all-electric drive technology and innovative digital solutions and, at a later stage, be ready for Level 4 autonomous driving, Brandstätter added.
SSP open to other manufacturers
The SSP will be available to license to other automakers, just like MEB (Ford has already struck a deal for MEB).
Porsche Consulting magazine, which revealed this aspect, also spoke with Thomas Schmall about the strategic transformation of Volkswagen Group. Schmall is the BoM member responsible for Technology at Volkswagen Group and also the CEO of Volkswagen Group Components. He said that platform thinking significantly reduces complexity and streamlines huge processes.
Featured image: Volkswagen