VOLKSWAGEN HAS COMMITTED itself to bringing a production version of its all-electric E-Up! concept to market by 2013, and aims to make the pint-sized city car the "Beetle of the 21st century".
Utilising a 3+1 seating arrangement, the E-Up! concept saves interior space by storing its lithium-ion battery pack under the floor.
Overall weight of the concept is 1085kg, the car's 240kg battery pack accounting for almost a quarter of its kerb mass.
"We will launch a zero emissions Up! on the market in 2013," VW Chairman Dr Martin Winterkorn said.
"The concept car now being presented in Frankfurt very realistically shows how we envision such a Volkswagen with pure electric drive ??? technically, visually and with regard to a practical size."
The electric motor is mounted in the nose of the car, delivering 60kW of power and 210Nm of torque to the front wheels.
Acceleration is reasonably brisk for a car of the E-Up!'s stature: 50km/h comes up in 3.5 seconds, and 100km/h arrives in 11.3 seconds.
The concept's top speed of 135km/h is more than adequate for urban driving.
The E-Up! concept boasts a roof-mounted solar array capable of topping up the car's batteries, however charging the car is more quickly accomplished via a mains power outlet.
An 80 percent charge can be delivered in just under an hour, and with a full charge the E-Up! is capable of running for up to 130kms.
Dr Winterkorn doesn't expect electric vehicles to become truly mass-market before 2020. However, Volkswagen's commitment to kick off its EV line-up with the E-Up! is its first step towards establishing the technology in the marketplace.
"Until the production numbers of a purely electric car approach the success curve of a Polo, its schedule will indicate the year 2020 at the earliest," Dr Winterkorn said.
"That is why our highly efficient TDI and TSI engines are the most important waypoints of the present.
"They will continue to be a dominant force for decades. And they are what allow us to make the step-by-step transition to the future.
"Cars with pure petrol and diesel engines ??? which in the foreseeable future will continue be unbeatable for mid- to long-range distances ??? will be supplemented by cars like the E-Up! in upcoming years, especially in the city.
"And that will happen starting in 2013."