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Volkswagen diesel apology tour spurs big new EV push

The German automaker plans to launch 30 all-electric models by 2025 in wake of last year's emissions scandal.

Volkswagen has launched plans to significantly ramp up its production of electric cars and put increasing focus on new technology services, as the firm battles to move beyond its emissions cheating scandal.

Matthias Mueller, chief executive of the German car maker, told reporters Thursday that VW will launch 30 all-electric models by 2025, by which time it aims to sell between 2 million and 3 million EVs accounting for around 20 to 25 percent of the firm's yearly sales of 10 million cars.

The announcement marks a significant increase in ambition from the firm's earlier commitment to sell 1 million EVs by 2025, which was announced in April. 

Self-driving cars, battery technology and shared ownership models such as the firm's ride-sharing startup Gett also will play a major role in the company's future, he said at the press conference at VW's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

"Special emphasis will be placed on e-mobility," Mueller told reporters. "The group is planning a broad-based initiative in this area: It intends to launch more than 30 purely battery-powered electric vehicles over the next 10 years."

The move marks the latest effort by VW to reposition itself as a leader in green transport following the so-called "dieselgate" scandal, when it emerged last September that the firm had fitted many of its diesel engines with software that distorted the results of emissions tests. As many as 11 million cars worldwide were affected by the scandal, and cost the car maker $18.3 billion in earnings last year.

There is no reason why every car cannot already be electric, zero emissions and renewably powered.

The firm, which previously had had a heavy focus on diesel cars, has seen sales slump behind European rivals since the scandal emerged.

"The crisis partly eclipsed what we attained as a group over the last few years," Mueller said. "But there is a lot more to Volkswagen than diesel."

Mueller said the firm would spend at least $11.28 billion by 2025 in new technologies, with the investment financed by cost cuts in other areas.

"This will require us — following the serious setback as a result of the diesel issue — to learn from mistakes made, rectify shortcomings and establish a corporate culture that is open, value-driven and rooted in integrity," he said.

The news follows rumors earlier this month that VW was considering investment in a major new battery factory

While VW already offers a number of hybrid and electric plug-in vehicles, including the Golf GTE, the e-Golf and the E-Up, this latest announcement shows it is following in the footsteps of other car makers including Ford, Nissan, Volvo and Tesla to bank heavily on the rapid uptake of EVs over the next decade.

In related news, Europe's largest EV rally arrived at its final leg in Geneva, where the teams plan to park their cars at the gates of the United Nations in the formation of "1.5" to remind the world of the commitment made by leaders in Paris in December to pursue efforts towards limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C.

The rally, made up of 75 teams from 13 countries, travelled 808 miles from Bremerhaven, Germany in a bid to highlight the importance of zero emissions for 1.5 degree average temperature rise.

"There is no reason why every car cannot already be electric, zero emissions and renewably powered," said Louis Palmer, founder of the World Advanced Vehicle Expedition (WAVE), which co-organized the campaign. "Electric vehicles are here, they are here to stay, they are fun, attractive and the obvious choice. They are the future."

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