Volkswagen shows the near future of electric commercial vans
Volkswagen has released a silent flurry of new electrics at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hannover, Germany, including a commercial version of its popular I.D. Buzz electric Kombi van. The I.D. Buzz Cargo concept is a mobile workshop with integrated laptops, level 4 autonomy, automated inventory and a whopping 550-km (342-mi) range.
It may have started out as an electric throwback to the hippie 60s, but it seems the I.D. Buzz could be even more effective with a haircut and a real job. The I.D. Buzz Cargo concept is a future-forward re-imagining of the light commercial van, and it could hit the market as early as 2021.
It gets a new solar roof, which will make up to 15 km (9.3 mi) of your driving each day completely green. It's also slightly larger than the people-carrying version, with wide-opening rear doors and a side sliding door.
In the cockpit, it's got three front-row seats, with a middle seat that folds down to reveal a small workspace with an integrated laptop. There's virtually no dash, with everything projected to the driver in a 3D augmented reality heads-up display, and infotainment controlled through a removable tablet.
As it's a level 4 autonomous vehicle, you can either drive it, or be driven. Pushing the steering wheel back into the dash lets the car take over, and at that point you can rotate the driver's seat 15 degrees and get to work on your laptop, taking advantage of the van's mobile connectivity.
In the back of the van, things get even more interesting. Working with German in-vehicle equipment specialists Sortimo, Volkswagen has kitted the Cargo out with a highly intelligent shelving system, which is capable of tracking part stock levels and communicating with an enterprise resource planning or procurement system to make sure drivers and technicians have the right bits and pieces for the jobs they've got scheduled that day.
It's even got a pick-by-light feature that selectively lights up parts as you need them during a job. On the slightly Orwellian side, the shelving system can track how long each step of a job is taking by registering when tools are taken out and put back in.
As a commercial van, it's not a performance monster, but it'll still get around with plenty of zip thanks to its single-speed 160-kW (215-hp) rear-wheel drive motor. Mind you, the I.D. Buzz people carrier is all-wheel drive, so the platform is certainly capable of supporting an AWD Cargo in the future.
The underfloor battery pack ranges from 48 to 111 kWh, representing charge ranges of 330 to 550 km (205-342 mi). It can be fast-charged at rates up to 150 kW where infrastructure is available, which would bring the biggest 111-kWh battery pack from 0 to 80 percent in around half an hour. Of course, most of the charging is going to happen back at the depot overnight, where the Cargo can simply sit on an inductive charging plate and take in energy at a more relaxed 11-kW rate overnight, enjoying off-peak energy prices.
Volkswagen says the I.D. Buzz Cargo is "a glimpse into the middle of the next decade," but also that it could get this thing onto the market as early as 2021. Presumably the autonomous driving tech is the only real stumbling block at this stage.
Other electrics presented at IAA Hannover
While the I.D. Buzz Cargo represents the medium-term future of Volkswagen's light commercial vehicles, the company is also rolling out three vehicles that are even closer to production. Here they are, in brief:
The ABT e-Transporte
Volkswagen will eventually electrify the venerable Transporter T6, and the ABT e-Transporter is a glimpse of what that'll look like. Based on the long-wheelbase version of the T6, it'll be equipped with either 37.3 or 74.6 kH of battery, representing 208 or 400 km of range (129 or 249 mi).
The 2019 ABT e-Caddy
Slated to hit the road in mid-2019 and based on the the Caddy Maxi, the e-Caddy is a spacious, electric maxi-taxi seating five people plus luggage. It runs a modest 82-kW (110-hp), single-speed, front-wheel drive motor, with a 37.3-kWh battery that's good for 220 km (137 mi) of range. It'll charge at 40 kW, meaning it'll take some 49 minutes to reach 80 percent capacity.
This one's a bit of an eyebrow-raiser for us. While the e-Caddy's range might cover the average eight-hour shift for a driver, many taxis run round the clock with several drivers sharing the car to get the most out of the asset. The e-Caddy's relatively low range and relatively slow charging times will be a tough price to pay.
Last-mile deliveries will be handled in the "very near future" by this 250-watt, euro-compliant e-trike. Rideable without any kind of license, the Cargo e-Bike can carry up to 210 kg (463 lb) including its rider, with an innovative tilt-stabilized front platform to carry a decent amount of boxes.
Range is up to 100 km (62 mi) from a 48-volt, 500-Wh battery, and Volkswagen says it's as easy to ride as any bicycle. A production area has been set aside at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles' manufacturing plant in Hannover, and the Cargo e-Bike will see production very shortly.