Volkswagen merged with authority into the electric car race this week with the I.D. Vizzion concept.

Introduced at the Geneva auto show, the fully electric all-wheel drive hatchback sedan is more than just a concept. It will be VW’s EV production flagship vehicle that will come to market by 2022. The 400-mile-plus range Vizzion stand atop VW’s new I.D. EV brand that includes the I.D. Crozz SUV, throwback Buzz Microbus and compact vehicle concepts.

While the Vizzion debuted in Geneva sans driver controls — a hint at VW’s plans for the car in its autonomous product planning — the 2022 production model is aimed squarely at Tesla and other EV entries like Volvo’s Polestar 1 and Jaguar’s I-PACE. Indeed, with its big greenhouse and skateboard batteries-in-the-floor architecture, the I.D. Vizzion looks similar to the I-PACE (introduced last week in Graz, Austria) and Tesla Model 3.

“We will be offering this model — by the latest in 2022 as the top sedan in the I.D. family with the innovative I.D. cockpit and a steering wheel,” said Volkswagen CEO, Dr. Herbert Diess, in a statement.

But the Vizzion intends to move beyond its competitors with a 111-kWh battery that is bigger than Tesla’s current offerings in its top-line Model S and X models. The result is a gas-engine like 413-mile range (in the European mpg cycle).

The I.D. Vizzion is part of VW’s aggressive campaign to put its Dieselgate scandal in the rear-view mirror. The I.D. family promises 15 EVs on VW’s new “MEB” skateboard architecture by 2025. VW is building vast battery-charger networks in the US and Europe and promoting EV racing series like electric Global Rallycross (e-GRC) with VWs and Formula E for its luxury Audi brand.

“We are betting the farm on electric,” Greg Lucia, director of experiential marketing at VW America, told The Detroit News last year. “We are making things differently now. Electric suits our product. And e-GRC is a great way to showcase it.”

The corporate shift to electrics is risky given the lack of consumer acceptance for EVs.

Electrics and plug-in vehicles are just over 1 percent of the European market where affordable, fuel-sipping diesels still reign. Sales in the U.S. are just as meager. But VW’s move is a nod to the 180-degree turn that global governments have taken with respect to once-favored diesel-fired powerplants.

Beholden to the Paris Climate Agreement, global governments from France to China are moving to phase out carbon-emitting engines in favor of electrics.

The Geneva show was preceded by buzz about Porsche’s first battery-powered 911 sports car. European automakers are trying to get ahead of government diktats that are far stricter than in the U.S. where the federal government is reportedly moving away from strict mpg mandates.

Automakers like VW and General Motors also hope that the EV transformation will dovetail with their plans for a future of self-driving cars and connected highways.

Volkswagen’s I.D. Vizzion, which showcases a dramatic new design language for the conservative brand, may be a fun-driving, low-slung EV in 2022. But the Geneva concept also foreshadows a pod that is a fully-autonomous, Level 5 (no driver controls at all) vehicle.

“(The I.D. Vizzion) shows that, even in the electric self-driving future, we will be using desirable, expressive and individual automobiles — and not just uniform tin boxes,” said Diess of the 122-inch wheelbase vehicle with the external dimensions of a mid-size Passat sedan but the interior room of a full-size VW Phaeton.

Free of steering wheel and pedals, the Vizzion concept boasts a roomy cabin for four that identifies its owner with a facial scan, then adjust the interior accordingly — seat depth, soundtrack, scents — and responds to voice commands and gesture controls for instructions.

The car’s sleek exterior includes high-definition Matrix lights in the grille that can, for example, project a crosswalk on the sidewalk to signal pedestrians that it is safe to cross in front of the vehicle.

Tesla’s Model 4 3 also hints at this driverless future with its minimalist dashboard. With no instrument panel in front of the steering wheel, the wheel may be recessed into the dash when the drive wants to be ferried autonomously.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-1 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

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