This is the eT! concept. While the Kombi kommunity waits for word on a production version of the popular Bulli minibus, Volkswagen's latest concept offers a preview of the next-generation Transporter and Multivan.
The eT! study continues the familiar boxy styling of the brand's current hauler, while adding the usual concept flair: wide guards, sharp headlights, a futuristic interior and, of course, an electric powertrain.
Power for the eT! comes from four electric motors - one in each wheel - and while power figures have not been revealed, Volkswagen says it took this approach to ensure maximum carrying space in the van's cargo area.
Electric powertrains have become par-for-the-concept, but Volkswagen has given the eT! a number of features that could one day prove a boon for tradies and couriers.
In the cabin, the unique "Drive Stick" means the driver can control the van from either side of the vehicle, while the passenger side offers a standing seat and an electric sliding door that opens to two stages: front access and rear cargo access.
“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," Jürgen Leohold, Director of Volkswagen Group Research, said.
Volkswagen has also blessed the eT! with a degree of autonomy: a "Follow Me" feature allows the vehicle to follow the driver as he walks from house to house, store to store. That's a good one for the milk man.
There's also a "Come to Me" feature, which will see the eT! navigate to the driver on its own.
We shouldn't expect the autonomous driving abilities to feature on a production model anytime soon, but it does show some promise for the future.
"Naturally, the eT! is not a vehicle which – unlike the Golf or up! with an electric motor – could become available very soon," says Rudolf Krebs, Group Manager for Electric Traction at Volkswagen AG.
"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."
Exactly when the eight year-old T5 Transporter will be replaced is unclear, but Volkswagen says the eT! concept will soon begin driving test studies, so we might see it in showrooms on the other side of 2015.
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