Volkswagen have been in the business of making commercial vehicles for over 60 years, therefore they have a fairly good idea about what the average delivery driver, postal worker or general-purpose van driver wants out of their daily workhorse. With the Volkswagen eT! concept they’ve decided to look to the future and see what new ideas they can come up with which might make the daily routine of the average commercial vehicle driver a little bit easier.
The Volkswagen Group Research unit – the department responsible for investigating proposals for the company’s next, next-generation vehicles – teamed up with the German Post Office (one of the largest customers of lightweight commercial vehicles) and the University of Art in Braunschweig when developing the eT! concept.
Professor Jürgen Leohold, Director of Volkswagen Group Research said of the project: “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 Volkswagen eT! concept is powered by a 100 percent electric drivetrain. But that’s not the interesting bit. The eT! concept van can be operated semi-autonomously! The car can follow the delivery person from house to house in a “Follow me” mode, or the car can return to the delivery person on command using a “Come to me” feature. As an alternative, the driver can control the car 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 faster entry into the vehicle as well as quick access to the mail parcels.
Dr. Rudolf Krebs, Group Manager for Electric Traction at Volkswagen, said of the vehicle: “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 maneuvering 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.”
Volkswagen say there could be multiple variants of the eT! concept electric transport vehicle which could fulfill all conceivable business uses. Well everything except long-distance travel anyway.