No, it’s not a search for an extra terrestrial, it’s Volkswagen doing its thing with electric vans
Potsdam, on the River Havel about 24 km southwest of Berlin, is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg. You might of course be wondering on its significance to Delivery Magazine, but all will be revealed as you read further.
Potsdam developed into a centre of science in Germany from the 19th century. Today, there are three public colleges and more than 30 research institutes in the city, and back in 1921 the district even built a tower named after Einstein, to house research into the theory of relativity.
Volkswagen chose the Design Centre of Potsdam as the venue from which to announce details of its latest research programme into the future direction of the humble delivery van, illustrating how electric drive systems may well become commonplace in the near, rather than distant, future.
According to a VW spokesperson, Volkswagen’s eT heralds the reinvention of the delivery vehicle.
Volkswagen Group Research, which is responsible for the world of tomorrow, together with the German Post Office (‘Deutsche Post AG’), one of Germany’s largest customers of lightweight commercial vehicles – as well as the University of Art at Braunschweig – formed a think tank on future transport and mobility issues. Finally, these research activities led to a completely new vehicle concept for the delivery and logistics field – eT!
Dr. Jürgen Leohold, Director of Volkswagen Group Research said, “We analyzed 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.
“In this context, we focused on zero-emissions driving and available space in urban areas, semi-automatic driving functions that offer relevant support and simplify work processes, and the integration of new communication technologies.
“On top of that, we also set out to design a very emotionally appealing commercial vehicle. To attain these goals, our teams not only looked towards the future from the past, but also worked from a future perspective to implement an advanced development concept based on technologies available today.”
The eT! research vehicle could someday actually revolutionise the world of lightweight commercial vehicles. Completely reconceptualised, driven with zero emissions, thought through to the last detail and driving semi-automatically, if necessary!
Just how wide-ranging the significance of this research project could be for sustainability in the transportation field is underscored by the support for the eT! project by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
“eT! is a pure electrically-powered transporter that systematically transfers E-mobility to the area of commercial use,” says Dr. Rudolf Krebs, Group Manager for Electric Traction at Volkswagen AG.
“As a transport specialist, the eT! is advancing to become the automotive building block for an innovative, future-oriented logistics concept, which not only drives with zero emissions in urban areas – thanks to its electric wheel hub motors – but also offers maximum freedom in manoeuvring and turning as well as optimal utilisation of the vehicle’s interior space.
“If ‘refuelled’ with electricity generated from renewable energy sources, the eT! can indeed be operated with zero emissions. Naturally, the eT! is not a vehicle which, unlike the Golf or up! with an electric motor, could become available very soon. 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 those with electrical drives,” he added.
To make the working world of mail delivery personnel and courier drivers simpler and safer, to optimise the logistics of delivery and to shorten delivery times, eT! can be operated semi-automatically in certain situations.
The car can follow the delivery person from house to house (“Follow me”), or the car can return to the delivery person on command (“Come to me”) – driverless! (This might sound rather futuristic, but, to put things into perspective, when I grew up in the UK the local milkman’s horse did exactly the same, pulling the milk cart along the street , keeping pace with the milkman as he walked up each front path – Ed).
As an alternative, the driver can direct the car’s movements via a ‘drive stick’ from the passenger’s side that also offers a standing seat and quick access to the vehicle. On the passenger’s side, the side that faces the sidewalk and therefore the working area of the delivery person, there is an electrically opening sliding door that opens to two different stages. This enables extremely quick entry into the vehicle, as well as quick access to the mail parcels, and makes unnecessary walking movements around the vehicle a thing of the past.
Variants of this lightweight transport vehicle could be implemented for all conceivable business uses. And these derived concepts are also the focus of research activities. Meanwhile, the eT! concept shown in a world premiere at the Design Centre of Potsdam was specially designed for delivery of mail shipments of all types. The research vehicle will now be integrated in a driving test study and further analysed.