Nov 23, 2011
Chris Weiss

Volkswagen Introduces The eT! Van

VW introduces The eT! Van

Volkswagen introduced its latest electric concept last week, a van that it calls the eT!. Outside of extending the Volkswagen exclamation point MO that we’d wish had ended a year ago, the eT! looks to be a pretty cool, funky van from the OG of cool, funky vans.

The eT! shares a very similar shape and look with the Bulli concept from earlier this year, a fact that immediately endears us to it. The Bulli conveyed its consumer intents with more curves and raked lines, whereas the eT! shows its more utilitarian purposes with a squarer stance. Despite that, this concept van still screams, “Strip my rear seats, toss in a mattress and tour the country.”

We don’t think that many will actually heed that call, though, even if the concept were to see production. The eT! was a collaboration between VW, the German Post Office and the University of Art at Braunschweig. The team sought to create a next-generation commercial van for the logistics and delivery industry. In other words, this ain’t your neo-hippy VW van.

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Leohold, Director of Volkswagen Group Research makes this cool concept a lot less sexy: “We analyzed process flows and customer needs in detail, and from these analyses we derived ideas on how the segment of delivery and courier vehicles could be further developed over the long term. In this context, we focused on zero-emissions driving and available space in urban areas, semiautomatic driving functions that offer relevant support and simplify work processes and the integration of new communication technologies. On top of that, we also set out to design a very emotionally appealing commercial vehicle.”

That’s a far cry from smoking doob and playing acoustic love-and-peace songs.

If you’re still awake after that quote, you’ll be happy to note that, while its purpose is as dry as can be; its design does have a few quirky, interesting talking points. VW didn’t detail the powertrain, but it’s an all-electric van designed for deliveries in densely populated European city centers.

The concept’s most interesting function is its semi-autonomous driving. Say the driver has to deliver several packages in a small neighborhood. Instead of driving from house to house or walking the entire neighborhood and coming back, the driver can command the eT! to follow him along the route, letting him hop right back in at the end.

To add even more flexibility to the drive-delivery equation, a ‘driving stick’ and standing seat on the passenger side allow the driver to operate the vehicle from there. A sliding door lets the driver jump in and out for more seamless deliveries via the passenger (sidewalk) side.

The eT! is still in the research and refinement stage at this point, but it does show some potentially useful solutions for delivery vehicles.

PRESS RELEASE

eT! is electrically powered and drives semi-automatically on command

Driver can steer the eT! by ‘drive stick’ from passenger’s side as alternative

Wolfsburg / Potsdam, 18. November 2011. For over 60 years now, commercial vehicles from Volkswagen have maintained a visual presence on the world’s streets. They are helpers in everyday life, which bring us people goods, services, postal deliveries and occasionally emergency assistance as well. Volkswagen Group Research, which is responsible for the world of tomorrow, together with the German Post Office (‘Deutsche Post AG’), which is one of the largest customers of lightweight commercial vehicles – as well as the University of Art at Braunschweig – formed a think tank on future transport and mobility issues. Finally, these research activities led to a completely new vehicle concept for the delivery and logistics field: eT!

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Leohold, Director of Volkswagen Group Research: “We analysed process flows and customer needs in detail, and from these analyses we derived ideas on how the segment of delivery and courier vehicles could be further developed over the long term. In this context, we focused on zero-emissions driving and available space in urban areas, semiautomatic driving functions that offer relevant support and simplify work processes and the integration of new communication technologies. On top of that, we also set out to design a very emotionally appealing commercial vehicle. To attain these goals, our teams not only looked towards the future from the past, but also worked from a future perspective to implement an advanced development concept based on technologies available today.”

The eT! research vehicle could someday actually revolutionise the world of lightweight commercial vehicles. Completely reconceptualised, driven with zero emissions, thought through to the last detail and driving semi-automatically if necessary! Just how wide-ranging the significance of this research project could be for sustainability in the transportation field is underscored by the support for the eT! project by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. “The eT! research vehicle,” explains Dr. Wolfgang Schreiber, spokesperson for the Board of Management of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, “unifies a whole gamut of innovative functions, which will gain in future importance, specifically for logistics businesses. In particular, the possibility of driving the car semi-automatically – and electrically – in downtown areas unifies economical and environmental aspects more systematically than ever. As a vision of the future, the eT! Is showcasing what is the maximum feasible technology for electric vehicles in the commercial market today with a special design that systematically addresses future customer needs.”

“eT! is a pure electrically powered transporter that systematically transfers E-mobility to the area of commercial use,” says Dr. Rudolf Krebs, Group Manager for Electric Traction at Volkswagen AG. And continues: “As a transport specialist, the eT! is advancing to become the automotive building block for an innovative, future-oriented logistics concept, which not only drives with zero emissions in urban areas – thanks to its electric wheel hub motors – but also offers maximum freedom in manoeuvering and turning as well as optimal utilisation of the vehicle’s interior space. If ‘refuelled’ with electricity generated from renewable energy sources, the eT! can indeed be operated with zero emissions. Naturally, the eT! is not a vehicle which – unlike the Golf or up! with an electric motor – could become available very soon. But we must make plans today for what the world of lightweight commercial vehicles might look like starting in the second half of this decade, including with regard to electrical drives.”

To make the working world of mail delivery personnel and courier drivers simpler and safer, to optimise the logistics of delivery and to shorten delivery times, eT! can be operated semiautomatically in certain situations. The car can follow the delivery person from house to house (“Follow me”), or the car can return to the delivery person on command (“Come to me”) – driverless! As an alternative, the driver can direct the car’s movements via a ‘drive stick’ from the passenger’s side that also offers a standing seat and quick access to the vehicle. On the passenger’s side – the side that faces the sidewalk and therefore the working area of the delivery person – there is therefore an electrically opening sliding door that opens to 2 different stages; this enables extremely quick entry into the vehicle as well as quick access to the mail parcels. This makes unnecessary walking movements around the vehicle a thing of the past.

Variants of this lightweight transport vehicle could be implemented for all conceivable business uses. And these derived concepts are also the focus of research activities. Meanwhile, the eT! concept shown in a world premiere at the Design Centre of Potsdam was specially designed for delivery of mail shipments of all types. The research vehicle will now be integrated in a driving test study and further analyzed.

 


1 Comment

  • Very cool van i must say they sure did think of everything for it.

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