Converted, hybrid or pure EV – Platforms eGolf, XC40 P8, ID.3 and 4 compared

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All car manufacturers today use ‘platforms’ for their car models. Although cars look different from the outside, they often have the same underside. The chassis, wheelbase and placement of the steering wheel and seat positions are the same and so is often the internal combustion engine. Such a shared platform is more efficient for the production process and saves costs, fewer different parts are needed and the undercarriage does not have to be developed separately for each model. A downside is that cars are becoming more similar and therefore less exclusive.

For electric cars, the use of platforms becomes even more important because of the placement of the battery cells, preferably also modular, so that there is room for more or less capacity. We can divide existing electric cars into three different platforms: a converted petrol car, a hybrid platform that is suitable for all variants and a newly designed platform that is optimized exclusively for an EV. In this article and accompanying video, we discuss three different platforms through four cars, discussing the pros and cons of each. Because three of the four have only been out for a short time, we also discuss our findings about the models themselves, but the common thread is the platform on which they stand.

Platform 1: converted petrol car

Car manufacturers are in a hurry to bring electric models to the market, on the one hand due to increased demand, but on the other hand because of stricter emission regulations. Developing an optimized design costs billions of euros and many years, and requires converting factories at the expense of existing cars. A simple method is to convert an existing model and equip it with batteries, an electric motor and the associated electronics. This also feels familiar to the consumer, because the car looks almost the same as a non-electric model. The biggest disadvantage is that the space for batteries is very limited, making it difficult for these models to compete with cars that have been optimized.

Volkswagen e-Golf (2014-2020)

A concrete example is the e-Golf. It came on the market in 2014 and was the first electric car from Volkswagen. We take this model as an example, because it is the best comparison material and there are quite a few of them driving around. The first version had a 24.2kWh battery pack with an 84kW (115hp) strong electric motor on the front axle. In 2017, the eGolf was equipped with an electric motor with 100 kW (136 hp) and a battery of 35.8 kWh. In practice you came 170 to 220 km away with that. The e-Golf is a converted version of the regular Golf and therefore there was limited space for the battery cells. These are cleverly housed under the front and especially the rear seats. The disadvantage of this is that further expansion is not possible, unless the energy density of the cells increases significantly or other space is sacrificed.

Other conversion EVs

Just like VW with the eGolf, Renault also started with a conversion. The first electric car from Renault was not the Zoe, but the Fluence in 2011. A small electric motor with only 70 kW (95 hp) was placed under the hood and with all the electronics above it. The 22-kilowatt-hour battery had a range of just over 100 km in the summer and was a large block that was placed behind the rear seats. It had that shape because it was interchangeable: handy for taxis, was the idea. However, this was at the expense of the trunk space and especially the handling. Incidentally, Tesla also started a conversion; the 2006 Roadster is based on the Lotus Elise. That was also not optimal, after which Tesla changed course for the next model and designed its own platform.

Other examples are the first Fiat 500E and the Hyundai Ioniq which, unlike the Kona, does not have enough space for batteries in the bottom and therefore remains stuck on a relatively small battery pack of 38.3 kWh. The conversion platform has now been succeeded by a hybrid platform, but there are car manufacturers that are not yet there. Jeep recently showed a concept of the Wrangler EV that appears to be based on the plug-in version, where the battery consists of three separate parts and is temporarily hidden under the seats and trunk.

Platform 2: hybrid platform for both fossil and electric

A so-called hybrid platform is a car in which both a combustion engine and an electric motor with a battery have been taken into account during the design. So there are two versions that look almost the same from the outside, or three versions if we include a plug-in hybrid. With an EV, this means that the battery is incorporated in the bottom, which is the best in terms of both space and handling.

A hybrid platform is a good compromise on the one hand, but not an optimal design on the other. Developing a completely new model takes a lot of time and money, so many automakers decide to adapt their existing platforms for petrol cars and also make them suitable for an electric powertrain. The main change is to adjust the placement of the battery cells in the bottom plate and the rest of the chassis accordingly. The rest remains pretty much the same, apart from a different tuning of the springs and dampers in connection with weight, still taking into account a large internal combustion engine under the hood. This is therefore not an optimal design.

Volvo XC40 Recharge P8

The XC40 Recharge P8 is Volvo’s first electric car. The P stands for ‘pure’ and the 8 refers to the battery pack. Volvo, part of the Chinese Geely, is therefore relatively late to the party, but has meanwhile announced that it will focus exclusively on EVs from 2030 and to expand the range quickly. The XC40 as the first EV is not a bad idea, since the petrol version of this is, according to Volvo’s own words, the best-selling model at the moment. In the meantime, the C40 Recharge has also been announced, with a sloping roofline and a slightly different front.

Both cars are built on the CMA platform, which the Polestar 2 is also built on. This platform has been developed as a hybrid platform suitable for petrol, plug-in and fully electric models. The batteries are incorporated in the bottom plate, so there is enough space for the 77kWh battery pack. 75 kWh of this is effectively available. Instead of a grille for the radiator, we see a cover plate at the front. Under the hood, the design takes full account of a large combustion engine. Because there is space left, we see a small ‘frunk’ here, where you can store the charging cables or a small bag, for example. The space for the occupants has not been increased by, for example, using the excess space of the bonnet, so it is practically the same size as that of the petrol version. There are five seats, but in the middle of the rear seat, unlike the regular XC40, you do not have a flat floor and you are therefore less comfortable. This is a result of the battery and the associated electronics, which apparently could not be completely eliminated.

The XC40 P8 can charge quickly with 150 kW of power, which is above average. The frontal surface of the car is not really aerodynamically designed and, in combination with the SUV shape, this leads to a high energy consumption compared to other EVs. The WLTP is 418 km, but in practice that amounts to 300 to 350 km.

In terms of driving experience, the Volvo feels like a well-thought-out electric car. With 299kW (408hp) at its disposal, thanks to two electric motors, the XC40 reacts as smoothly as a sports car. One-pedal driving is also present and functions excellently. When you release the accelerator, deceleration continues to a stop. Those who do not like that can also disable this function, but what is a pity is that you cannot set the degree of regeneration. That is possible with the Polestar 2.

The interface is very similar to that of the regular XC40 and is partly customizable. The standard screen is a lot smaller than that of the Polestar 2. This is a bit annoying, especially if you use the reversing camera. The angle of this camera is quite extreme and it only uses half of the screen, so you’re more likely to miss small details than in cars with a larger screen. A horizontal screen would have been more practical for that. The 360-degree bird’s eye view is very handy.

At the time of our test, at the beginning of February, our version of the XC40 was not yet equipped with the latest features. For example, there was no app, the consumption was not visible anywhere and the number of remaining kilometers was not visible. Instead, we saw a battery percentage. This is very useful for experienced EV drivers, but for those who are just driving their new EV and still suffer from range anxiety , it is not useful. The number of remaining kilometers can be requested via the voice control. In the same way you can turn up the heating with your voice. An app, which allows remote preheating, among other things, will arrive soon. Such an app is actually indispensable. After all, if you take a walk or drink a cup of coffee while fast charging, you want to know how long the car is still working.

The Google integration, as with the Polestar 2, is excellent. Apart from justified privacy concerns, this makes driving a lot easier. The integration of charging stations is also good, so that you can see in advance where you have to charge and how long it will take for a long journey. The integration is not yet as far as Tesla’s Supercharger network, where you also see how many charging stations are free. Compared to our previous introduction to the Polestar 2, the number of Android Auto apps has barely increased. It is not yet possible with the Polestar 2 to use alternative route planners such as Waze or, for example, to activate a speed camera app. YouTube and Netflix are also not available, although they are interesting during fast charging. Apple Carplay currently supports significantly more apps,

Other hybrid platforms

Other well-known examples of a hybrid platform are the Hyundai Kona SUV and its Kia variant, the e-Niro. These are available in both petrol and plug-in versions and are 100% electric. Despite the shared platform, which actually has an oversized hood, the Kona is quite efficient. In practice, it achieves about 340 to 460 km with its relatively small 64 kWh battery. Another example is the Mercedes EQA. That’s really just a GLA, just like the EQC is a GLC. You will notice that the floor for the rear passengers is relatively high, because the battery is there. That is less pleasant on long journeys. Other examples are the BMW iX3, the Peugeot e-208 and e-2008, the Opel Corsa-E and the Audi e-tron.

Platform 3: designed as EV

The third platform is designed from the ground up for electric cars. This design therefore does not take into account a combustion engine, which is reflected in the placement of the wheels, the bonnet, the interior and the streamlining. The battery is placed in the bottom. There is a lot of space there and this benefits the handling. The battery is often modular, so that a platform is suitable for more or fewer battery cells. As a result, different versions and variants can be built on the same platform. It is quite costly to develop a new platform specifically for EVs, as different sizes and models have to be taken into account and the design has to be approved in all global markets. A design flaw could result in millions of cars being recalled,

As a reference for a platform that is 100% designed for EVs, we chose Volkswagen’s MEB platform. Our main motivation for this is that this platform will be used very widely – for large and smaller models and, moreover, by almost all brands within the VW group and even beyond. Moreover, the first two, the ID.3 and ID.4, have not been released that long and we were able to compare them well. The bottom of the cars is identical, while they differ from the outside.

Volkswagen decided in 2017, partly due to dieselgate, to completely change course and announced that it would invest no less than 34 billion euros in developing a series of electric cars and converting factories. It was not until more than three years later that we saw the first results. This was not without associated problems, as we shall see below. A switch to EVs on a new platform is therefore costly and risky. In the case of Volkswagen, it is an advantage that other car brands will also use the MEB platform, such as Skoda, Audi and Seat, and even Ford, which does not belong to the VW group.

Volkswagen has chosen to place the electric motor on the rear axle. This has the advantage that the power is better distributed, so that you do not get spinning front wheels, for example. It also allows the front wheels to turn further, resulting in a small turning circle. Many other EV makers use the same strategy, especially for high-powered cars. All single-electric Teslas use this principle, including the Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron GT and Ford Mustang Mach-E. An electric motor on the front axle, of course, remains an alternative option, just like in-wheel motors.

Volkswagen ID.3

The Volkswagen ID.3 was the first member of the MEB platform. In fact, the ID.3 is more or less the electric successor to the Golf. The wheels are further apart, and it is striking that the front wheels in particular are far forward. The bonnet is quite short. From the outside it looks as big as a Golf, but inside it is as spacious as a Passat. You notice that especially as a passenger; because there is no combustion engine, you have more legroom. That makes a big difference compared to a hybrid platform, where the space is not always used optimally.

The ID.3 is a lot lighter than the larger ID.4 and so it also accelerates faster. VW has not opted for the most powerful electric motor, but with 150 kW (204 hp) you are still at 100 km / h in 7.3 seconds, more than enough. There were quite a few problems in the production of the ID.3, especially with regard to software development. VW had decided to market the ID.3 while the software was not yet complete, because otherwise a delay of more than half a year was imminent. That meant that the first batch of owners had to deal with some bugs. At the time of writing, all delivered ID.3s are being recalled to the garage for a major update. After that, they also have all the originally promised features, including support for over-the-air updates, so that you can make the updates yourself in the future. An app with extensive features was also not finished during this production, just like with the XC40. That is a great pity, because such an app is of great value for EV drivers in particular – for example to switch on the heating from home or to check how the battery is doing during fast charging, while you drink a cup of coffee or takes a walk.

The ID.3 and ID.4 have the same interior with two screens and an optional augmented reality head-up display, projected onto the windshield. The multimedia system looks good and there are also quite a few setting options, right down to the color of the interior. However, the system sometimes responds a bit slow and you have to wait a while for something to happen. Unfortunately, that also applies to the buttons on the steering wheel. Volkswagen has opted for touch-sensitive buttons with haptic feedback. They don’t feel very pleasant in practice, certainly less nice than physical buttons, and moving to the next song on your connected phone sometimes takes up to two seconds.

The ID.3 and ID.4 can optionally be supplied with an augmented reality system, which is cleverly thought out and also works quite well. You see the current speed and the permitted speed projected on the window and if you also use the navigation, you also see which lane or exit you need to take. The special thing is that this is interactive. On the highway you can see which lane to follow or which exit to take. If you are overtaken by a car that moves in front of you, you will see a line showing the distance. That line moves at the height of the car driving in front of you, quite impressive!

An important side note is that the navigation system only works if you use the built-in navigation. It does not work with Android Auto or Apple Carplay. There is a good chance that you will use the latter systems as standard in practice, because their integration is much better. If you already enter an address at home, the car will automatically take over, but the projection on the windscreen will not show navigation.

One-pedal driving is not ideally implemented in our opinion. For example, regeneration is minimal by default. In the B position you do brake on the engine when you release the pedal, but the effect is rather weak compared to many other EVs. Unfortunately, the degree of regeneration is not adjustable. In practice, you will therefore regularly need the brake pedal.

Volkswagen ID.4

The ID.4 is on the same platform as the ID.3, but as a crossover SUV. You can see that clearly if you compare both cars from the side. Although this version has rather large wheels, the turning circle is still small. The ID.4 is clearly a size bigger, but the hood is relatively compact. We do not find storage space here, because a future model with a second electric motor for four-wheel drive is still being considered. That also applies to the ID.3. An important difference between the two is that the ID.3 is only allowed to use a bike rack tow bar, while the ID.4 is allowed to tow 1000kg. The ID.4 also comes with a Skoda variant: the Enyaq.

Because of the platform, there are many similarities between the ID.3 and the ID.4, even though they look like different cars from the outside, especially in terms of size. The ID.4 also has a fairly short turning radius and performs similarly. The ID.4 is a lot bigger and more spacious. You will notice this especially in the back, where there is more space for passengers and luggage. The advantage of a crossover SUV like this is that the entry is a bit higher and that you also have a better view of the road. The downside is that it is less aerodynamic and uses more energy than the ID.3.

The ID.4 is standard equipped with a larger battery: 77 instead of 58kWh, although this battery will also be available for the ID.3 in the future. Due to the larger size and the extra weight, the ID.4 is less economical per kilometer. On a full battery charge, it can travel approximately 350 to 425 km in winter; the WLTP value is 500km.

EVs on a similar platform

Although a hybrid platform is currently more commonly used, various car manufacturers have developed their own platform. The Tesla Model S and X have been developed from scratch and share the platform. This also applies to the Model 3 and Y. Furthermore, Hyundai is coming this year with the Ioniq 5, which has been developed on a completely new EV platform, Mercedes is coming with the EQS, which is the first on a real EV platform, and saw we have previously seen the Porsche Taycan and the Audi e-tron GT on the same J1 platform. The Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf were also developed specifically as EVs, but were never conceived as a platform on which different models would appear. That will soon change, because this year Nissan will introduce the Ariya, for example, which is a technical leap forward compared to the Leaf.


In the coming years, the platforms will continue to exist side by side for a while. Of the three, the first platform will disappear the fastest. These models have too little space for battery cells and will therefore not be able to compete with the new platforms. The hybrid platform will last for a while; for manufacturers, this is a relatively simple way to quickly bring electric cars to market and to use the same platform for petrol cars as well.

In the long term, this is not optimal, not for the design, but also not for the production process. As a result, we see car manufacturers increasingly coming up with completely new designs. Such a new platform costs time and money, and requires factories to be converted, but in the end it is more efficient in all areas.

e-Golf XC40 Recharge P8 ID.3 ID.4
Range (WLTP) 230km 418km 425km 504km
Range (practice) 160-210km 300-350km 300-380km 325-425km
Battery capacity 35.8 kWh (32) 78kWh (75) 62kWh (58) 82 kWh (77)
Electric motor 136hp (100kW) 408hp (300kW) 204hp (150kW) 204hp (150kW)
max. couple 290Nm 660Nm 310Nm 310Nm
0-100km sprint 9.6 seconds 4.9 seconds 7.3 seconds 8.5 seconds
max. speed 150km/h 180km/h 160km/h 160km/h
Load capacity 40kW DC

7.2kW AC

150kW DC,

11kW AC

100kW DC

11kW AC

125kW DC

11kW AC

Turning circle 10.9m 11.8m 10.2m 10.2m
From price €34,295 €55,495 €37,990 €47,290
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