Design Concept of the Day: Volkswagen NILS

September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here’s Volkswagen’s take on the urban commuter theme: NILS, a single-seat EV. It’s “designed to be both technically realistic and economically supportable”, says Volkswagen, and is “a glimpse of a new form of minimalist mobility”. Though it bears a considerable resemblance to the Audi urban concepts, it’s said to have been developed independently, with support from the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development. It’s built around a lightweight aluminium spaceframe, and features wing-style glass doors and freestanding wheels; its rear-mounted 15kW motor (which gives a short-term peak of up to 25kW) is good for 80mph and 0-62mph in less than 11 seconds, though range is only 40 miles – good enough for most daily commuting, however. This is a deliberate measure to enable the use of a small, cheap and easily-packaged lithium-ion battery, which can be charged in just two hours from a conventional 230-volt outlet via its rear-mounted plug socket.

At only 3.04m long, 0.39 wide wheel-to-wheel and 1.2m tall, NILS is a tiny little thing, but it has a handy rear luggage compartment above the rear light module, and its driver is seated in comfort, Volkswagen promises. Its powerplant, single-speed transmission and all drive components are positioned at the back, with the driver in the middle, and it’s said to “drive like a go-kart”. No power steering is necessary; the 130Nm motor drives the rear wheels, and there’s double-wishbone suspension front and rear to the 17-inch alloy wheels plus stability control to keep it all in check.Volkswagen describes the spaceframe body as providing a “highly effective safety cell”; the door windows are a lightweight but strong layered polycarbonate, and the front window laminated safety glass. Further safety features include a radar-monitored automatic distance control system with auto braking, and four disc brakes – which are electrically-assisted, using energy recovered through the brake energy recuperation system.

Despite its minimalist credentials, NILS has a fairly comprehensive digital display with a seven-inch TFT screen showing speed, energy flow and range; as in the new Up! city car, it accommodates a mobile, portable multi-functional entertainment/information device, with touchscreen controls for navigation, radio, phone, trip computer and other media connections, plus configuration of the drive-system. The ignition switch – a large round button – also incorporates the transmission functions. Bi-xenon headlights are fitted, with LED indicators and daytime running lights, plus low-energy rear LED lights illuminated via semiconductors.

“NILS anticipates the future”, says Dr Ulrich Hackenburg, Volkswagen’s head of development. “The goal of the NILS project is to research a technically concrete and economically feasible vehicle concept for micromobility which restructures individual transportation to make it more efficient and environmentally compatible based on electric drive technology”. NILS will be displayed at next week’s Frankfurt Motor Show.


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