Volkswagen will be unveiling the pod-like electric city car dubbed NILS at the Frankfurt Motor Show. This is how Volkswagen envisions a commuter device of the future. This trend was started by the Renault Twizy, which was followed by the Audi Urban Concept. The NILS only has space for a single passenger.
It is built entirely from aluminum, making it weigh just 460kg. The rear wheels are powered by an electric motor positioned behind the driver. It is equipped with a small lithium-ion battery pack that could be recharged from the mains in only two hours, resulting to a 40-mile range. Its motor, which delivers 34bhp and 130Nm of torque, enables the car to reach a top speed of 80mph and to accelerate from zero to 62mph in less than 11 seconds.
It is also very practical as it has a boot above the drive unit that has enough space to accommodate a small bag. The NILS doesn’t look like any other vehicle, with its 17-inch wheels and gullwing doors, but VW made sure that it could be recognized easily as part of the family.
The NILS’ front and rear bumpers are black, similar to the up! but as it has a length of 3.04m, it is about 50cm shorter than VW’s new entry-level model. It also has other features that it shares with the up! like a City Emergency Braking system, which could automatically activate the stoppers at speeds below 20mph.
It also has been fitted with a removable sat-nav unit that could be used to control the radio, telephone and trip computer functions. VW made a survey on German commuters and found that 74% drive less than 30 miles a day.
It also determined that 90% travel to work alone, which means that the NILS would be ideal. The NILS has compact dimensions but it complies with all the safety requirements for a vehicle of this type. It’s very likely then that a production version would be seen on the road earlier.
The instrument cluster of the NILS comes with a thin film transistor (TFT) 7-inch display, in the middle of which the current speed is shown in a digital format. Even the energy flow is displayed though this is done through bars. There is also another graphic display with the driving range shown. A touchscreen is made available where the driver can manage the functions like Media, Navigation, Radio, Telephone, and Trip computer.
Through this, the driver can even preconfigure the Eco driving range. It has a second central instrument which is the Portable Infotainment Device, or PID, the same one fitted in the Volkswagen up! This multi-functional mobile device has been fitted to the A-pillar and just to the right side of its instrument cluster. What this PID does is that it determines the expected driving range and then puts up this route on its map display.
However it also includes the radius and a list of which areas can be reached based on the present battery charge. While this is indeed an excellent feature, there are others that need to be operated manually like the side mirrors. The reason for this is that the company wanted to make sure that in building the NILS, it would not only save on weight but on costs as well. Its ventilation and heating, like the seat heating, however are controlled electronically.
At the right of the steering column is where its motor start-stop switch is placed, the same round switch where the D, N, or R modes are chosen. While fun is a significant factor, just as important is safety. This is why the NILS has been equipped with what is known as the automatic distance control system. First the driver is made to set a specific distance for the car and the vehicle in front of it. Then by utilizing radar sensors, it scans the region in front of the NILS and when the system determines that the distance is nearing the value set, it applies the needed brake interventions.
Thus the distance of the car and the one in front of it will never go under what was originally set. Maximum distance that the system can scan is 200 meters. Enhancing the safety feature of this system is the Front Assist integrated to it. Working together, when the speed goes under 30 kph (18 mph), the system continuously warns the driver of any possible collision and in certain cases, the Front Assist automatically applies the brakes to prevent any collision.
Standard safety features are included like the four disc brakes. Helping with the brakes is the electric motor’s electric traction and even the battery regeneration. On the front, the headlights have bi-xenon modules with the daytime running lights and the indicator lights using yellow and white LEDs. For the rear, the lights have been integrated, much like small wings. However by having acrylic glass, the light from the LEDs is channeled through transparent semiconductors and therefore use small amounts of power, a feature that is apt for an electric vehicle.
The space frame body meanwhile is made of aluminum and has been designed to be an effective safety cell. With a white color, it is made using sheet aluminum, cast aluminum, and extruded aluminum. Extruded aluminum is also used for the side sills as well as the transverse profiles. It is the same material for the front and the rear sections. The door mounts and the roof frame are high-strength sheet aluminum, much like the bulkhead in the front, boot space, and roll bar.
Also in aluminum are the front side and the rear side body. However other parts, like the trim panels found on the side sills and the bumpers are made using high-strength plastic. In particular, the frames of its wing doors have three parts: the exterior, crash reinforcement, and interior. When closed, it offers the best in crash safety. The door windows meanwhile are layered with polycarbonate, which is resistant to scratch and lightweight. Its front window on the other hand is composed of laminated safety glass.