The Volkswagen NILS is a single-seat electric commuter concept vehicle that weighs just 460 kg, with looks and handling inspired by Formula 1 cars.
The NILS is 50 cm shorter than the new Volkswagen up! , with the same basic layout as a Formula 1 racing car, with the driver in the middle, the engine in back, and free-standing outboard wheels. The 17-inch alloy wheels are equipped with tyres optimised for low rolling resistance.
The concept car features an aluminium spaceframe, wing doors and free-standing wheels, and Volkswagen claims it has the performance of a sports car – but with zero emissions.
With a range of 65 kilometres (40 miles) and a top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph), the NILS would be the ideal vehicle for the majority of commuters in Germany. According to the German Bureau of Statistics, 73.9 per cent of all commuters residing between Berlin and Munich cover less than 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) on their way to work.
In Germany about 60 per cent of all commuters travel by car, according to the Federal Bureau of Statistics; of these over 90 per cent travel alone.
The NILS can accelerate to 62 mph in less than 11 seconds thanks to an electric motor with a reasonably small 15 kW nominal power and short-term peak power of 25 kW. A lithium-ion battery supplies the electric motor with energy.
A battery of this size is relatively inexpensive, and can be charged either via a conventional 230-volt electrical outlet (maximum charging time two hours) or at an electric vehicle charging station.
The centrepiece of the electric drive system is the lightweight 19 kg electric motor together with its transmission and battery. Energy management is via a high-voltage pulse inverter, which – together with the 12-Volt DC/DC converter for the vehicle electrical system and the charger – forms an integral drive unit. All drive unit components are located compactly in an aluminium housing at the rear of NILS; drive is to the rear wheels.
The motor, battery and all other components are so compact that there is still space for a small boot.
Volkswagen claims that due to optimal weight distribution, the NILS drives like a go-kart. The steering is purely mechanical (the low weight means power assistance is unnecessary), while the electric motor produces its maximum torque of 130 Nm from standstill, via a one-speed transmission.
The Volkswagen NILS is fitted with an automatic distance control system which uses radar sensors to scan the space in front of the vehicle over a distance of about 200 metres and uses brake interventions to ensure that the distance to vehicles in traffic in front of the car does not drop below a specified minimum value. The system can even automatically brake the car to a stop, depending on the situation. Not only are the four disc brakes used to brake; electric traction by electric motor and battery regeneration can be used to brake as well.
The NILS project is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, and is designed to be both technically realistic and economically supportable.
The NILS has been unveiled ahead of its public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show later this month.