It measures less than four metres in length, but the next small van from Volkswagen is expected to be a big performer for businesses operating in cities.
Just unveiled as a concept but due to be revealed as the German group’s first commercial vehicle powered solely by electricity, the E-load Up model could soon be solving many of the daily problems facing delivery firms, officials claim.
“The solution is simple, really. We think that a very small van that carries correspondingly small loads is able to operate more efficiently than a larger vehicle if, when bigger volumes need transporting, the operator can rely on a fleet of sister vehicles,” said a Volkswagen spokesman.
“What we’re talking about here is collective intelligence and the advantages are obvious: vehicles that are small
and agile are ideal for large, congested cities and with electric power, our vehicle is also able to be used in zero-emissions zones.”
Set to be launched as a production model at the September IAA commercial vehicle show in Hanover, the 3,540mm long E-load Up puts a fresh slant on urban delivery transport.
Based on the group’s successful city car, it looks much the same from the outside but replacing the rear seat with a flat load floor and mesh bulkhead transforms the interior into a practical cargo area with enough space behind the driver to cope with load volumes in excess of 1.4 cubic metres – 0.45 more than can be accommodated in the car version.
Equally surprising is the the little van’s ability to carry cargo weighing up to 306kg, a performance the company claims makes it suitable for a variety of transport roles in meeting the needs of technicians, couriers, pizza delivery drivers and social services workers, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles product marketing manager Jenny Maeckelmann told Fleet Van.
“This concept is positioned in a very small market segment that accounted for only 9,000 total registrations in Britain last year, but even though the numbers are low, our view is that there is clearly an opportunity for it.
“In city operations, the distances covered on daily delivery work is often a secondary consideration – the primary focus is on the environment and there is little doubt that electric vehicles have a role to play in this respect.
“Volkswagen is spending a lot of time and money to understand and develop an electric drivetrain proposition to make sure that when the market demands vehicles of this type, we will be able to deliver them.”
The workhorse version of the Up proved capable of holding its own on a test drive out in the hurly-burly traffic of rush-hour Berlin.
With maximum torque on tap from the first spin of its silent motor, this is a city slicker away from standstill and it’s all too easy to depart from rest in a blur of vivid acceleration.
Backed by easy steering action and lightweight controls, the van also makes child’s play of threading through congested streets and negotiating the tightest parking spaces.
Due in no small part to a low overall weight of 1,164kg, the miniature van is capable of covering up to 100 miles on a full charge, although continued exploitation of the peppy performance – top speed is 81mph – inevitably takes its toll on range.
Using Panasonic cells, Volkswagen’s lithium-ion battery module carries an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty, helping alleviate potential concerns over the battery’s lifetime performance.