Sep 072011

Volkswagen has just announced an awesome idea for a future urban vehicle. Called the NILS, the little urban runabout looks like the kind of thing we’ve long dreamed of driving, though it is still going to be years before people are whizzing around in these kinds of space-age vehicles, many of which were predicted, at least in graphic form, in books, magazines and cartoons decades ago.

So, here’s the lowdown: the NILS is a lightweight, single-seat EV concept vehicle that has been designed specially to meet the needs of commuters. Development of the NILS concept has been supported by Germany’s Ministry of Transport, making it at least slightly more likely that we could see these über-cool cars darting about (at least in Germany) at some point in the future.

Volkswagen announced the NILS at the 64th International Motor Show, which is underway in Frankfurt. As VW describes it, the NILS concept reflects a new type of ‘minimalist mobility’.

Volkswagen NILS Electric Vehicle Concept

Volkswagen NILS Electric Vehicle Concept

The concept car has an aluminium space-frame construction that uses top-hinged doors. The wheels are ‘exposed’ according to VW but they actually have small cycle-style fenders, making them unusual but not totally unique in today’s motoring world.

The shape of the NILS, however, could never be mistaken for anything else (well, until the future is filled with these sci-fi sportsters, of course). This thing really looks like it arrived from the year 2050.

The important thing is that the NILS is designed to provide plenty of dynamic performance (that’s PR-speak for ‘driving fun’) whilst doing minimal damage to the environment, thanks to it being an electric vehicle. The NILS produces no engine noise and emits no carbon gases.

Volkswagen’s Dr Ulrich Hackenburg, who heads up development of the VW brand and sits on the company’s management board, probably echoed the feelings of most observers at the press conference when he said the NILS looks like somebody projected the vehicle back here from the year 2030. The good doctor noted that despite the concept’s use of high-tech engineering, it had been conceived to be a very realistic proposition.

The design goal of the NILS project is to develop a financially-viable vehicle concept that provides ‘micromobility’. The aim is to combine design, sustainability and lifestyle in a novel way that reframes the idea of individual transportation, making it more environmentally-friendly and efficient, thanks to the use of electric drive.

The lessons learned and the development achieved with the NILS project is not limited to Volkswagen. Other members of the group, including Audi, benefit from the progress made in the Group Research think tank, which analyses all aspects of commuter transport in a bid to boost future sustainability.

The NILS concept has been developed to give commuters an advanced and green form of individual transport that is also safe. The vehicle has a range of 40 miles, making it ideal for the needs of most commuters in Germany.

The NILS can hit a top speed of 81mph, easily enough for anyone but the most insane of drivers in something this tiny, despite the fact that the car boasts a significant degree of safety, thanks to modern design and engineering.

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