VW’s ID Life concept teases a truly affordable electric car

One of Volkswagen’s latest concept cars teases what will eventually be the most affordable entry in its lineup of ID-branded electric vehicles.

Revealed at the IAA Mobility conference in Munich, Germany over the weekend, the ID Life concept is a boxy little four-door compact car that’s actually more reminiscent of the overly cute Honda E than its more streamlined ID siblings. It won’t go on sale until 2025 (meaning we’re likely at least two years away from seeing the final production version), but when it does, VW says it will cost around €20,000 (roughly $24,000).

That is an incredibly aggressive price tag, and it’s one of two big reasons VW (and the larger Volkswagen Group) has spent so many billions of dollars developing the modular “MEB” electric vehicle platform. Being able to power multiple cars at different price points with the same underlying technology is allowing the automaker to eventually charge far less for what should still be a capable EV without taking a total financial bath on the project. (The other reason was Dieselgate.)

The ID Life concept will use a 57kWh capacity version of the MEB battery pack, which VW says can last for around 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) on the European WLTP testing cycle. A potent 172kW motor (roughly 230 horsepower) will sit on the front axle — the ID Life will be the first MEB car with front-wheel drive — and can move the compact from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in just under seven seconds.

A lot can happen in the next four years, but those specs are actually better than the current base model of the ID 3, VW’s current entry-level, Golf-style electric vehicle.

The inside of the ID Life is sparse. There’s a yoke-style steering wheel with touch-sensitive buttons, and there’s no standard dashboard display — instead, VW imagines owners will drop their own phone or tablet onto the wooden dash and let those devices run the infotainment system. (There’s also a wireless charging… sleeve, or pocket, in the fabric of the driver’s side door.) The rear bench seat is small, and the front trunk is also tiny, as it appears the front passenger foot well takes up much of the space under the hood that isn’t occupied by the electric motor.

400km of range and 230HP — which would be better than the base model ID 3

Of course this wouldn’t be a good concept car without at least one ridiculous idea, which VW conveniently supplies in the form of an integrated projector and a projection screen that extends up from the dash — the idea being that you could fold the front seats down and watch a movie or play video games from the ID Life’s back bench seat. (VW even says there’s a video game console included, though it doesn’t actually name one.)

Lastly, VW is promoting the idea of using lots of natural and recycled materials with the ID Life concept. There are wood chips in the exterior paint for coloring. The roof and hood are made of recycled PET bottles. The tires are made of “[b]io-oil, natural rubber and rice husks.” These are very popular ideas in concept cars, but recyclable materials are still only slowly making their way into production vehicles, so it’s anyone’s guess how much of this makes it into the real ID Life that will hit the road in 2025.

Truly affordable electric cars have been elusive to date (outside of China, at least). Tesla spent years promising a $35,000 Model 3, but never totally delivered on that promise. (Its cheapest cars now cost around $40,000.) The latest electric Mini starts at around $30,000, and some other varsity EVs like the Hyundai Kona and Chevy Bolt are inching close to that price tag — though those two have also dealt with massive recalls regarding the LG batteries around which they’re built. Every major automaker has a new EV or two (or three) coming in the next few years, but VW is probably the best bet to make something as affordable and capable as it’s promising with the ID Life.

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