The Volkswagen NILS concept was a radical single-seat vehicle which was developed with the support of the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development. The concept appeared in 2011. Volkswagen said the concept was designed to be both technically and economically sustainable, while also achieving the impossible by offering the dynamic performance of a sports car together with the environmental benefits of an electric car.
And that’s where it starts to go a bit wrong. The range of 40 miles might be fine for short commuter trips through a city, and I’m not doubting it’s an electric car. But the top speed of 80 mph (130 km/h) isn’t even close to sports car territory. In fact almost every base-model hatchback on the planet will leave it for dead on the highway. Even the acceleration is sluggish. It takes 11 seconds to get to 62 mph.
But if you just forget the fact Volkswagen is claiming the NILS has the performance of a sports car, and just concentrate on the fun-factor of this little one-seater then it starts to look a little bit more appealing.
The Volkswagen NILS has the same basic layout as a Formula 1 race car, with the driver in the middle, the engine in back, RWD transmission, and free-standing outboard wheels.
Alhough the inspiration for its layout may have come from Formula 1, the NILS’ styling has its origins at the Volkswagen Design Centre in Potsdam, Berlin. The centre’s director, designer Thomas Ingenlath said of the car: “NILS was designed to make a visual statement and transport a vision of the automotive future to the present. I am especially pleased that we managed to implement the concept of the two glass wing doors. This allowed us to create large transparent surfaces and simultaneously to make entering and exiting the vehicle very comfortable, even in the most cramped of parking spaces.”
The Volkswagen NILS weighs just 460 kgs (1,014 lbs) – thanks in part to its aluminium spaceframe chassis and bodywork. That means it doesn’t need a very big electric motor to get moving. Mounted behind the driver is compact electric motor which produces 15 kW, although for short bursts it can develop 25 kW. A lithium-ion battery supplies the energy.