VW Design Chief talks about digital design and electric vehicles

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  • Volkswagen Group Head of Design Klaus Bischoff shared Volkswagen’s digital design process with Car and driver in an online conference.
  • Even with the move to computers, clay models are still an important part of creating a new car, Bischoff said.
  • He noted that building the ID electric vehicle family was the biggest challenge of his career, and the automaker is currently working on a small electric vehicle for the city.

    The digitization of automotive design has accelerated over the past 10 years. Out-of-the-box software combined with enterprise-level applications make it possible to complete design elements in days or even hours, which would have taken weeks on the hand. Volkswagen Group Head of Design Klaus Bischoff recently demonstrated how Volkswagen is moving from digital sketches to finished designs and what that means for the automaker’s future and current lineup.

    The initial sketch of a vehicle is actually one of dozens of sketches potentially made by VW designers and third-party partners competing to participate in the final design showdown. From this horde, the number of sketches is reduced to three, then to two, and finally to one, although Bischoff admitted that sometimes the drawing goes from three to one.

    From there, the design is refined and created in a 3D environment. At this point, designers start to use VR headsets and controllers to create a digital representation. They don a helmet and, using manual controls, they can add, remove and adjust vehicle components.

    Refinements are made, and although the process is almost entirely digital at this point, the vehicle ultimately comes to life as a clay model. “We always have clay models, and working with digital tools always ends with a physical model,” Bischoff said. Templates are used for presentations and for judging design as something tangible.

    The interior, exterior and even the amount of metallic glitter in the final available colors are all calculated in the computer and available for the whole team to inspect without having to be in the same room. Like everything else, the shelter-in-place mandates had an impact on the design of the cars. But because so much has been digitized, the impact is far less than it could have been.

    Overall, even with most aspects of the design digitized, from sketching to final locked design still takes about the same time as it did before computers entered the process. Bischoff said sometimes it’s a bit shorter but “the cars just got more and more complicated. It is a multi-million dollar or euro project. Production processes, law enforcement and many regulations must be observed. “

    The electrification of vehicles creates new opportunities, but it is not a walk in the park. “The biggest challenge of my career has been to create the ID family from scratch with my colleagues,” notes Bischoff that it was the life experience that forced the team to work quickly on new coupled products. to a new technological base.

    Within the ID family, Bischoff said that Volkswagen is redesigning the dashboard, “HUD (heads-up display) technology will replace the screen behind the steering wheel and the multimedia system will remain as it is.” said Bischoff. “We design throughout technological development, but we are also pushing our engineers towards new solutions on the ID family. You will see how far we can push HUD technology with augmented reality features coming to market later this year. “

    While it does happen in the future, another funny piece of information Bischoff shared is that Volkswagen is currently working on a small EV for city driving. Volkswagen officials have talked about low-cost electric vehicles to help drive adoption of the technology, and it’s likely the vehicle will. It remains to be seen whether he will travel to the United States. The ID.3 will not be sold here; instead, the first electric car based on the MEB platform to come to the United States will be the ID.4 SUV. Whatever the market, the little EV that hasn’t yet been announced likely started out as a digital sketch on an iPad somewhere before it was built in virtual reality.

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