Volkswagen has been pushing hard with its concept cars recently, using the Paris and Detroit Auto Shows to provide a glimpse of its plans for an electric future. The ID Buzz and Crozz have now been joined by the Gen.E Research Vehicle which, underneath its fairly staid exterior, demonstrates how technology like automated charging robots could make the swap from internal combustion to battery power easier.
Volkswagen hasn't revealed a huge amount of detail about the Gen.E launched at the VW Group Future Mobility Day, but the tidbits on offer provide a glimpse at some of the technologies the VW Group wants to integrate into its upcoming electric vehicles. For one, the car can be charged with a mobile robot that comes to the car. Rather than forcing owners to find a plug, park in that spot and get their hands dirty, the robot scans multi-story carparks or underground garages and automatically tops them up.
Tesla captured the world's attention with a prototype robo-charger back in 2015, but Elon Musk's twitter-teaser was fixed to a wall. The robot being used to charge the VW Research Vehicle looks similar to the serpentine Tesla prototype, but it's mounted to a cooler-sized box with wheels on it. The car can be charged through a plug on its flanks, or using a connector behind the front badge.
Under the skin, the Gen.E is powered by an all-electric powertrain with more than 400 km (249 mi) of range. Although that's around 100 km (62 mi) less than the I.D. Crozz Concept announced earlier this year, the Gen.E is a smaller car, with less room for batteries under the skin.
Volkswagen says the concept is built around a lightweight architecture and battery structure "designed for maximum crash safety." The I.D. Concept debuted a new Modularer Elektrifizierungsbaukasten (Modular Electric Drive Kit) platform for Volkswagen, and we'd expect the Gen.E to ride on the same skateboard chassis with integrated lithium-ion batteries.
Although the Gen.E is the star of the show, the VW Future Mobility Day also played host to some interesting ideas about self-driving technology and in-cabin comfort that VW is working on. One example is an in-cabin humidity control for passengers that is designed to make life more comfortable in particularly harsh winter climates. The group is also working on a system that better fuses detail from camera and radar sensors for smoother, safer autonomous cars.
The Future Mobility Day is an annual event held in Wolfsburg, Germany.