3 German brands roll out sporty EVs for crowded cities
FRANKFURT -- How do you solve the problems of congested cities, tailpipe emissions and the high price of electric vehicles?
Three German brands offered their solution at the auto show here, and it's as simple as "one plus one." Or perhaps just "one."
Opel, Audi and Volkswagen each proposed a radical reconfiguration of the automobile with cars that are only wide enough for one passenger per row of seats. In Opel and Audi's concept vehicles, that results in a one-plus-one seating configuration. But VW displayed the bare minimum: a one seater.
Think enclosed motorcycles, perhaps. But enclosed motorcycles that are very futuristic, stylish and sporty.
The vehicles feature electric drive-trains with smaller batteries than the ones needed in full-sized EVs. The smaller batteries and the lightweight frames cut costs.
The vehicles are meant for the megacities of tomorrow, where larger vehicles may be banned, or at least taxed as they are in several European cities today.
Here are the skinny cars:
Audi Urban Concept. Weighing in at a mere 1,058 pounds, the Audi entry draws on the brand's early racing heritage for some style touches, such as the large open wheels set apart from the body. The snubbed-off front and rear ends also are reminiscent of an earlier era.
The two seats are slightly offset, giving the passenger more legroom. The sliding roof allows for open-air operation. The downward flaring lower flanks generate downward force, but also can let the batteries be charged by induction, an experimental form of wireless charging.
The tiny steering wheel might seem too go-kartish for most drivers, and the aluminum dash might not pass muster on safety; on the other hand, the decorative lights in the wheels are pretty cool.
Photo credit: JIM FETS
Opel Rak e. General Motors Europe boss Nick Reilly touts this as a "one euro" car, saying that would be the price to drive 100 kilometers, or 62 miles. The Rak e also is speed limited to about 75 mph, which would make it legal for 16-year-olds to drive under German law.
Reilly says the lightweight frame is more like a motorcycle's than a car's. He estimates that it could be sold for under $15,000. GM will use feedback at the show to weigh a decision on production, which would be at least five years away.
Volkswagen Nils. VW's concept grew out of the same corporate r&d as Audi's, and it shows in the dinky steering wheel and open wheels. But VW took a different tack in going for a one-seater. A brand spokesman says VW chose to use the space for a small trunk so the driver could bring home, say, a bag of groceries. It's aimed at commuters cruising solo today in larger cars.
The spokesman describes it as "just a concept," meaning that, at least in the near term, its chances for production are just about nil.
You can reach Dave Guilford at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Follow Dave on