VW I.D. R electric racer sets Pikes Peak in its sights

Volkswagen has been pushing its electrification strategy hard in recent months, promising dozens of new EVs over the next couple of years, and now it has a halo car too. The VW I.D. R is an all-electric racing car, with which the automaker believes it can take on the notorious Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. That is, of course, when it actually finishes building it.

For the moment, indeed, the I.D. R is currently just a prototype. All Volkswagen is showing off is a couple of glossy renders. It doesn't have long to turn those into an actual vehicle, mind: the hillclimb is fast approaching, taking place in Colorado on June 24.

The production car will be the fruit of a collaboration between Volkswagen R, its performance road car division, and Volkswagen Motorsport. Equipped, unsurprisingly, with four-wheel-drive, it'll be designed to take on the so-called "Race to the Clouds" and beat the current EV prototype class record time of 8:57.118 minutes. That will involve starting at around 9,000 feet and then climbing, over the course of 12.4 miles, to 14,115 feet above sea level.

Despite the outlandish appearance, though, the I.D. R actually has some sizable similarities with VW's production electric cars. Under the sheet metal there's the same MEB platform as we've seen the automaker use already, a modular-electric system that promises huge flexibility in how future EVs are configured. At one extreme will be the I.D. R with as much electric power as the engineers can fit in, but that's not the only talent of the MEB.

For VW, after all, this is about more than just racing up a hill in the fastest possible way. The I.D. R sits at the top of its I.D. family of what are now electric concepts, but will eventually be a full production range of cars available in mainstream dealerships. In the US, that will begin in 2020 with the production version of the I.D. CROZZ, its all-electric crossover.

Beyond that, there's the striking I.D. BUZZ electric Microbus, and then in 2022 the most recent of the concepts, the I.D. VIZZION. That's a sizable electric sedan which Volkswagen promises will embrace autonomous driving, or at least as much of that as is technologically and legally permissible by that point in time. As with the other I.D. vehicles, the MEB will offer plenty of customization potential: front wheel drive or rear wheel drive, for example, or all-wheel drive like the I.D. R, and with a range of batteries depending on how long between charges the vehicle needs to run.

While Pikes Peak might seem like a frivolity in the face of tougher emissions standards, for VW it's another opportunity to demonstrate that electric needn't mean dull. Hopefully that also paves the way for a full-EV sports car using the MEB platform in the not-too-distant future, too.