MQB is Volkswagen’s “Modular Transverse Matrix
” strategy or in more simpler terms, a standardized technical platform for cars from the VW Group which have a primary commonality – transversely mounted engines. With nearly half a million employees worldwide assembling more than 220 models in 90 production sites, Volkswagen AG stands to benefit tremendously from modular component systems, with standardized components and production process used across the various group brands.
Oh, lest we forget, MQB stands for “Modularer Querbaukasten” in German, which translated, is Modular Transverse Matrix.
The new Volkswagen Golf Mk7, the SEAT Leon Mk3, the Audi A3 Mk3 and the new Skoda Octavia, which was recently launched in India, are the models built on MQB that are currently in production. These models are quite the clear picture of how diverse the styling can be even though these cars share a ‘matrix’ of standardized components. MQB also facilitates the use of a variety of powertrains – conventional and alternative. The new VW Golf Mk7 is available in various petrol and diesel engines in addition to a purely electric model called the e-Golf. The new Golf is a prime example of how flexible the platform is.
MQB is not the only modular component system used by the massive VW group. MLB (Modular Longitudinal Platform) used in cars where the engine is mounted longitudinally is Audi’s responsibility while the Modular Standard Matrix is that of Porsche. Rounding off the list is the “New Small Family” consisting of the Volkswagen up!, SEAT Mii and Škoda Citigo.
So what exactly makes up the MQB? The modules that make up MQB are the front and rear carriages, front and rear axles, the centre floor, the front seats and the rear seats. What’s standard and what’s variable? The distance between the accelerator pedal and the center of the front wheel is fixed. Whether you’re driving a Polo, Golf, Jetta, Passat, an Octavia or a Seat Leon, this length will remain the same.
The new EA211 series of petrol engines and EA288 diesel engines which make up the MQB family of engines share numerous design traits. While previously the exhaust side was up front in petrol engines, now all MQB engines follow the standard layout of the where the induction is up front and exhaust is at the rear. While petrol engines were mounted with a forward tilt and diesel with a tilt toward the firewall, now all engines tilt rearward, towards the firewall at a 12° angle. The engine position and tilt has been standardized throughout the range.
These changes enable a standardized front carriage, including engine mounts, the firewall, distance between the various pedals in the footwell and so on. What’s variable? Pretty much everything else. Length, width, height, track, wheelbase, wheel size and seating position are all variable!
What’s standard? What’s variable?
Benefits of MQB
By the year 2017, more than 40 models from the various VW Group brands and vehicle classes will be designed and built based on MQB. VW says that’s around four million cars. VW can use these standardized modules in developing different models and derivatives without worrying too much about the development and production costs.
Weight Savings. The floor structure in a MQB vehicle is 18kg lighter! Extremely strong, hot-formed steels with improved strength, better crash properties also lead to reduced weight. The weight saving continues inside with savings of nearly 10kg estimated in future models. Electrical systems shed around 3kg. The engines lose nearly 21kg the details of which we have further ahead in the article.
The weight savings are blatantly obvious in the new Skoda Octavia. The new model is 90 mm longer and 45 mm wider than the second-generation Octavia. The wheelbase has been increased by 108 mm the direct benefit of which is space at the rear. Chauffeured customers of the Octavia in India should be delighted. The increased space on the exterior results in a 8mm increase in front head room, 39mm increase in front elbow space, and 26mm rear elbow space.
Despite all this increase in dimensions, ŠKODA engineers have succeeded in making the car up to 102 kilogrammes lighter than the second generation Octavia. This translates into improved fuel efficiency and is the most tangible benefit of MQB.
Assistance Systems. The standardization enabled by MQB results in some stunning numbers. Volkswagen will no longer be making 300 engine and gearbox variants. Just 36. These 36 modular systems will facilitate the end of life for 88% of the current engine and gearbox variants. Volkswagen used to make 102 air conditioning modules, now they just have to make 28. These numbers translate into reduced expenses in the making of a car. These benefits are transferred to the customer in the form of additional assistance systems as well as infotainment systems that have until now been only the domain of larger and more expensive cars.
Take for example the Multi-Collision Braking system in the new Skoda Octavia launched in India. This feature is now standard in the new Skoda Octavia as well as the Golf Mk7 and the Audi A3. Multicollision braking helps by automatically initiating braking after the first collision to reduce the intensity of secondary collisions. VW says around 25 per cent of all car accidents with personal injury involve multiple-collision accidents. In such a crash, the residual kinetic energy of the vehicle after the primary collision can lead to serious secondary collisions and multibraking works against this.
The Golf gets an even larger array of assistance systems. Camera-based traffic sign detection, Fatigue detection, Adaptive cruise control (ACC),Front Assist surroundings monitoring system and Lane Assist lane-keeping assistant.
MIB – New Infotainment Systems in MQB
In addition to the various assistance systems, the Volkswagen MQB family of vehicles also get new infotainment systems. The Modular Infotainment System (MIB) enables feature from higher end cars to trickle down into the volume segment. The new Audi A3, Volkswagen Golf and the only MQB car in India, the Skoda Octavia all get a touchscreen operated infotainment system. The system uses a proximity sensor to determine when the occupant is accessing the touchscreen and changes the content displayed to allow for more intuitive operation. Volkswagen also says the driver will be able to adjust easily and read information on all driver assistance systems individually on the large MIB display.
New Skoda Octavia is 90 mm longer, 45 mm wider yet 102kg lighter
Infotainment system with a proximity sensor enabled touchscreen
Laser Stir Welding
Jan Isenhuth, Head of vehicle project planning talks to Marijke Engel about the various advanced techniques used in the Wolfsburg plant where the first pilot run of the Golf Mk7 production was conducted.
The Laser Welding of the sheet metal panels has been taken to the next level. While previously, gaps only as narrow as 0.2mm could be welded, with a new technique called ‘wobble welding’ gaps of 0.5mm can be bridged without using additional filler material.
Laser remote welding works by using two mirrors inside the scan head to rapidly focus the laser beam on the sheets to be welded. Thorge Hammer, who is responsible for technology planning and development, body shop planning, and tool and die operations at Volkswagen, explains that the mirrors in this process manipulate the beam in a circular motion as they guide it along the gap: “We call this the ‘wobble effect’, and it causes the laser to stir the melt pool, which increases the volume of molten material.
The laser beam oscillates along a half circle as its moves along the gap. This ‘wobble effect’ helps ‘stir’ the melt pool making it possible to bridge larger gaps.
Jan Isenhuth also mentions in the same story that nine seams have replaced twenty two weld points. In the event of a collision, these seams are also said to be better at absorbing the energy.
MPB – MQB in Production
The Modular Production System (MPB) strategy begins in the manufacture of individual parts, which have been already standardized with MQB. In the future, production tools will also be constructed in such a way that they can produce a wide variety of parts. Where possible, Volkswagen will also standardize the work steps.
Shown here are the variants of the component for different models produced in VW’s Kaluga plant in Russia. With MQB VW can use the same component throughout its range
Volkswagen can produce the Golf, the Tiguan and the Passat all in a single assembly line. The biggest hurdle to doing this earlier were clamping fixtures. Clamping fixtures hold the underbody in place when welding on the side members. This is a process that calls for extreme precision and stability that have to be designed and optimized for each model. Now MQB enables the use of uniform fixtures across a range of models.
This is what will enable Volkswagen to utilise in the best possible way the capacities of its plants. The possibilities are endless when you consider the fact that Volkswagen does not have to restrict an assembly line just to one of its brands. Take for example the new manufacturing site in Foshan (South China) where starting in mid-2013 the Audi A3 will be produced alongside the Volkswagen Golf.
Suppliers also have a reason to rejoice. The procurement volume will nearly double by 2018. While this also does mean investment to the tune of billions of euros, thanks to high volumes, suppliers can optimally automate their production systems and offer competitive costs.
MQB Petrol Engines : EA211 Series
The EA211 Series comprises not just hte MQB engines but also the engines for the “New Small Family”. The first EA211 Series to go out on the road was the three cylinder mill that powers the VW up! The MQB family of EA211 engines made their debut in the Golf and in India, in the new Skoda Octavia.
The stars in the family are the new four cylinder mills with Active Cylinder Management (ACT) with direct injection and turbocharging. These TSI mills are available in various states of tune, the 1.2L mill with 63 kW / 85 PS and 77 kW / 105 PS and the 1.4 L mill with 90 kW / 122 PS and 103 kW / 140 PS. The most powerful 1.4L engine in the MQB family makes its Indian debut in the new Skoda Octavia.
The Skoda Octavia 1.4L TSI mill with direct injection and turobcharging boasts of a maximum torque of 250 Nm which kicks in at as low as 1500 rpm and stays at the peak level all the way upto 4000 rpm. When the engine speed is between 1250 rpm and 4000 rpm and the transmission does not call for the peak torque, the second and third cylinders shut down improving fuel efficiency. In the deactivated state the engine makes anywhere between 25Nm to 100 Nm. VW assures that this system does not add to any unwanted vibrations and that all transitions will be smooth. All mechanical switchover processes are said to take place within one-half camshaft rotation, which VW says is anywhere between 13 to 36 milliseconds. Cylinder deactivation is also shut down when the system – using accelerator pedal sensor – detects irregular driving profiles.
How did Volkswagen achieve standardization with this new family of petrol engines? While previously the exhaust was placed up front in petrol engines and the engine was tilted towards the front, now the cylinder head has been rotated and the exhaust is at the rear and engine is now positioned at a 12 ° inclination towards the firewall. This is exactly the same configuration as in diesel engines. Thus the exhaust line, driveshafts and gearbox mounting position can be now standardised.
Not only are the cylinder head, the engine block, crankshaft, connector rods and bonnet modules produced uniformly and flexibly, but the components for fuel induction including the charge air pathway, the air filter, induction pipe, intercooler, throttle valve and control drive are also identical across all variants of the family.
Weight Saving. One of the most important goals of MQB is to save weight everywhere and the engines were no exception. The grey cast iron crankcase was ditched in favour of a rigid aluminium crankcase that shaves off close to 22kg. The main engine bearing diameter which was previously 54mm has been reduced to 48mm. The crankshaft was also lightened by 20% and the connecting rods by a quarter of the previous weight! With such typical Teutonic attention to detail, you’re wondering how the ACT helps the cause. VW assures us the entire ACT system weights just under 3 kg and the fuel efficiency savings outweight the disadvantage o the additional 3 kgs.
Optimization : Getting more from less
The EA211 Series engines used twin cooling loops. The cylinder crankcase is cooled by a mechanically driven coolant pump while the intercooler and turbo-housing get their own cooling loop which is operated by an electric pump that drives the coolant only when needed. The cylinder head cooling loop is used to heat the passenger compartment and not the crankcase loop, thereby quickly heating the interior while also enabling a faster increase in operating temperature of the cylinder block. The new TSI engine uses a single scroll turbocharger thanks to the innovative construction of the exhaust manifold (which is integrated in the cylinder head) resulting in reducing weight. The intercooler is integrated in the induction pipe which is made of injection-moulded plastic resulting in significantly accelerated pressure build-up, which leads to very responsive downsized engines.
Similar to what we’ve seen in the 1.0L Ford EcoBoost engine, the MQB family of turbocharged petrol engines also use a 20mm wide belt instead of a chain drive between the crankshaft and the DOHC. This results in less noise and less friction.
The engine is also as compact as can be. The mounting length has been reduced by 50mm. Ancillary components such as the water pump, air conditioning compressor and alternator are screwed directly to the engine and the oil sump without additional brackets.
The only similarity between the EA211 Series of engines and the previous generation EA111 Series is the 82mm spacing of the cylinders.
EA288 Series engine : 2.0 TDI
MQB Diesel Engines : EA288 Series
Similar to the petrol engines, the only similarity between the EA288 Series of engines and the previous EA189 Series is the cylinder spacing. Everything else is redesigned. The new diesel engines emit up to 7 g/km less CO2 and VW proudly states that total emissions were reduced by up to 45 per cent in the Euro-6 version, set to be offered later this year. The Euro 6 emission standard is set to roll out only in September 2014 and VW’s engines are already ready. The EA288 engines form the standardised diesel base engine series in Volkswagen’s modular diesel system (MDB). The modular aspect of the diesel engines makes a lot more sense considering the various emission regulations in different countries. Volkswagen says the design of modular components gives engine plants the ability to react flexibly and quickly to changing market conditions and demands. More specifically, the modular construction of the valve actuation module, fuel induction and exhaust gas recirculation components enables this flexibility for different emission regulations.
Handling various emission requirements. In the EA288 engines, three different types of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) are used, depending on emissions requirements:
Cooled high-pressure EGR without low-pressure EGR.
Cooled low-pressure EGR without high-pressure EGR.
Cooled low-pressure EGR and uncooled high-pressure EGR.
In addition, the following emmision control methods are used depending on emission requirements.
Oxidation catalytic converter
Diesel particulate filter
NOx storage catalytic converter or selective catalytic reduction system (SCR)
In recent news, the Mercedes-Benz CLA diesel was speculated to miss the US market due to the unavailability of space for a SCR system which is requirement in the USA. VW’s modular system is specifically designed to address such issues.
The 2.0 TDI CR engine in the all new Skoda Octavia makes close to 105 kW/143 PS with a maximum torque of 320 Nm. The new diesel engine also uses a dual cooling loop, one for the cylinder head and one for the cylinder crankcase. This again enables quick heating of the passenger compartment in winter. The 2.0 TDI in the Skoda Octavia uses two low-friction bearings in its balancer shafts which eliminate free inertial forces that occur in any piston engine system. Volkswagen says the new engines will make less noise thanks to the toothed belt drive of the oil and vacuum pumps operating in the oil sump and encapsulated injection nozzles.
What could go Wrong?
Cascading Failures? In a recent report by Auto Bild, cases of water leaking into the driver foot well of the VW Golf Mk7, courtesy of badly installed drain pipes for the HVAC system were identified.
“We have come to know this issue through individual cases,” a spokesman at Volkswagen’s headquarters told Reuters. While VW is said to be looking into the cause, Auto Bild estimated that more than 300,000 cars could be affected by the problem. The problem, the German auto magazine says could also proliferate through to the other brands using MQB. While there have been no reports (yet) of similar problems in the Audi A3 or the Seat Leon, this scenario presents the possibility of the extent of what a batch of bad components or tardy workmanship could do.
$70 billion investment? Morgan Stanley has estimated that an investment of $70 billion would be made by Volkswagen to implement MQB. With such a huge investment being made, reports have surfaced that VW might not after all be able to meet its 2015 profit goals.
Volkswagen has strongly denied the report by Manager Magazin.
The speculation in the latest Manager Magazin article is without any foundation. The suggested impression that Volkswagen does not stick to its targets any more is wrong. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft remains fully committed to its statements on the future business development of the Group. This was stated by the Volkswagen Group on Thursday.
The 2015 targets were set in order to achieve the bigger goal of 2018 consolidated return of 8 percent eight percent before taxes and interest.
We quite fancy the idea of technology from cars in higher segments trickling down to volume segments. The foundation of the MQB strategy, which is that of standardization of components while retaining unparalleled levels of flexibility sounds good to us. How much of these benefits will actually be passed onto the customer is what will decide the ultimate success of this strategy. Here’s hoping MQB is an actual blockbuster!