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Volkswagen to launch first battery-powered van this month

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BERLIN: Volkswagen will launch its first battery-powered van later this month as it shifts to zero-emission vehicles following its diesel cheating scandal, but customers are still skeptical about the benefits of going electric.

“If electric drives offer no distinct benefits to cost-oriented entrepreneurs, they will not join in,” Eckhard Scholz, chief executive of VW’s commercial vehicle unit said.

Scholz said practical issues with the day-to-day use of electric vans as well as concerns about the total costs of ownership make it harder for battery-powered vans and commercial vehicles to take off.

“The typical customer for commercial vehicles has yet to be convinced,” he added in emailed comments to Reuters.

VW, facing billions of dollars in fines and customer compensation linked to its tainted diesel engines, is cutting costs across group to fund a transformation focused on electric cars and on-demand mobility services.

Also Read:  Daimler to unveil long-distance electric car in October

Electric vehicles have become the holy grail for carmakers, with new entrants such as Tesla and technology giants like Alphabet’s Google posing a competitive threat.

The van division, accounting for no more than about 2 percent of VW’s 213 billion euros ($239 billion) of annual group sales, will use the Sept. 21-22 Hanover trucks show to present its first battery-powered model, the e-load up! mirco van.

Scholz complained that representatives and owners of mainly privately-run small businesses such as electricians and plumbers had been excluded from talks between the German government and carmakers such as VW and Daimler, who earlier this year agreed on sales incentives and more charging stations to spur demand for electric cars in Europe’s biggest auto market.

VW is making an aggressive push into electric cars at its core namesake brand and its Audi and Porsche premium divisions, with the goal of launching more than 30 zero-emission cars across the group by 2025.

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