The Frankfurt Auto show, which runs from September 15 through 25 features a number of concept cars offered by European manufacturers. Los Angeles car buyers with an eye to the future should be able to find their dream machine among the lineup. I am presenting a sampling, ranging from A (Audi) to V (Volvo).
The Volkswagen Nils Concept is a dream machine—if you dream small. Compared to the Nils, the original VW Beetle is a spacious sedan; the miniscule vehicle has seating for one. Volkswagen touts it as a zero emission, silent propulsion vehicle with sports car-like performance—just like a Formula 1 racer. However, the plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) can be aptly described as a skinny egg on wheels. In addition, acceleration and top speed fall far short of the mark; it accelerates from 0 to 62 MPH in just under 11 seconds and maxes out at 81 MPH. The seat is mounted in the center of the car; just behind the seat is the electric motor. The 17-inch wheels, which are encased in in low rolling resistance tires, are placed outboard of the body. Entrance into the cockpit is via polycarbonate gullwing doors, one on either side of the vehicle. The cockpit contains two display screens: a seven-inch LCD display indicates speed, range, and energy flow; and a portable navigation and entertainment unit similar to the one used in VW’s production Up! runabout. This unit allows touch-screen browsing of navigation, radio, phone, and trip-computer functions. The 15 kW motor has a 25 kW over boost-like function; it is powered by a lithium-ion battery, which has an unimpressive 40 mile range; thus, it is not an option for the LA road warrior who has a long commute. It should be more appealing to a Berliners than Angelenos. According to the German Bureau of Statistics, about 74% of German commuters travel less than 15.5 miles to their work. The PEV can be charged using a 230-volt outlet (the European standard) in about two hours.
The Nils weighs just 1,014 pounds, due to all-aluminum construction. The motor produces approximately 95 lb-ft of torque and powers the rear wheels via a one-speed transmission. To compensate somewhat for its tiny size, the vehicle is equipped with a collision warning system, a radar-based automatic braking system, four disc brakes, and electronic stability control. The gullwing doors contain a crash reinforcement section and the aluminum space frame has been designed to act as a safety cell in the event of a collision.
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