The VW e-Tharu Turns a Small SUV into an EV, but Is It for Us?

Volkswagen’s new ID.4, headed here soon, isn’t the only new electric SUV from the German automaker on its way to dealerships at the moment. VW is also about to launch a new version of the Tharu, but with an electric drivetrain. Meanwhile, the U.S. will receive the new Taos, closely related to the Tharu, solely in gasoline form.

The difference, of course, is the ID.4 was designed from scratch to be an EV, while the Tharu will be trading its internal combustion bits for a battery and an electric motor. This makes it something of a placeholder, but for now it’s only going to be offered in China.

How did VW shoehorn an EV drivetrain into something that originally debuted in gasoline form using the MQB platform?

By placing the 44.1-kWh battery under the rear seat, while positioning a 100-kW electric motor driving the front wheels under the hood. This is essentially the electric MQB-platform Golf’s recipe that, you recall, was offered in battery-electric form as the e-Golf, but was obviously not looking to set any range records. The e-Golf used a slightly smaller battery offering 35.8 kWh of juice. Other than that, this is a rather direct use of that basic formula to produce a small battery-electric SUV.

The results are 196 miles of range in the very optimistic NEDC cycle, usually quite a bit north of WLTP and EPA ratings. But given the relatively slow traffic speeds in the larger Chinese cities, 196 miles is plenty for commuting. And a price of 194,800 yuan, about $29,400, makes sense to a lot of buyers.

So might we see an electric Taos in the U.S. following a handy demonstration of how the Tharu could be turned into an EV?

That’s unlikely, not only because the U.S. is getting the purpose-built ID.4 with a much greater range in relatively short order, but also because this use of the MQB platform is quite dated by now. We won’t be seeing too many more uses of the MQB platform in this manner simply because the MEB platform underpinning ID-branded vehicles from Zwickau has plenty of advantages for battery-electric models from the start, while the MQB was primarily a gas and diesel platform that could be used for BEV models.

The MQB platform still has plenty of life left in it, including underneath the Atlas models, but VW’s use of MQB for battery-electric models will be aimed at markets like China where shorter-range EVs that can hit a specific price point still make sense.

But with a battery with 50% more juice and a 300+ mile range we can’t help but wonder if the MQB platform could still make sense for new-ish electric Volkswagen models in North America and elsewhere that aren’t MEB-based?

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