For years, Volkswagen has experimented with highly efficient commuter cars - and this year's Frankfurt Auto Show is no different. The automaker revealed its fully electric NILS Concept at the show, touting the minimalist concept car as the future of urban commuting.
Capable of up to 40 miles on a single charge, the NILS Concept uses a tiny 15 kW electric motor that propels the futuristic car from 0 to 60 mph in around 11 seconds. While those numbers may not sound very competitive with other electric cars, the 1,000-pound NILS Concept's major advantage is its charge time. According to VW, the commuter car can be fully charged in just two hours from a standard household plug - a major boost over EVs like the Nissan Leaf, which needs nearly 20 hours to fully recharge from a typical outlet.
But it's not just the NILS Concept's motor and range that set it apart from typical cars. In addition to its light weight and single-seat design, the NILS Concept also features a polycarbonate rear hatch and gullwing doors, plus a unique shape that include wheels sticking out from its distinctively-shaped body.
Although it might seem worrisomely small, Volkswagen says the NILS Concept is built around an aluminum space frame and packs many of the automaker's most advanced safety systems. Such features include Emergency Braking - which automatically applies the brakes in case of an emergency - and Automatic Distance Control, which uses a laser to measure the distance and speed of the vehicle ahead.
"NILS is a vehicle that anticipates the future," said Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Volkswagen's head of development. "It looks as though someone had projected it back from 2030 to the world of today... It's a high-tech vehicle from the Volkswagen company with electric drive, but it's also very realistically conceptualized."
While it's unlikely the NILS Concept will see production anytime soon, the small Volkswagen is another example of the automaker's imagination in the world of commuter cars. The automaker's original concept came in 2002 with the aerodynamic two-seat "1-Liter Car," followed by the L1 in 2009 and the XL1, which was first shown earlier this year at the Qatar Motor Show.
See more coverage of the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show.
|JEFFREY ARCHER is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.|