VW, Deutsche Post, University of Art, Braunschweig

Electric cars are over-hyped. Hardly anybody buys them. Hybrids with engines that charge batteries are practical; some such as the Toyota Prius sell quite well. But the whole industry is too excited about Evs, and is only preparing itself for the day when politicians outlaw petrol and diesel.
Back in November 1991 California legislature demanded that, “by 2010 seven cars out of ten will be electric”. It hasn’t happened and despite desperate efforts by the motor industry to persuade the world it is green, it won’t. Not yet anyway. You can’t store electricity in a tank, like you can petrol, and the only way we’ll have electric cars is by having two - one car for Town, one car for Country. That’s not very Green.

VW, however, has a hopeful little invention that follows historical precedents. It is the ingenious product of VW’s co-operation with the German Post Office (Deutsche Post AG) and the University of Art at Braunschweig. Dr. Rudolf Krebs, Group Manager for Electric Traction at Volkswagen AG describes the eT! as an automotive building block for zero emissions in urban areas. It has electric wheel hub motors and great freedom in manoeuvering. “If ‘refuelled’ with electricity generated from renewable energy sources, the eT! could indeed be operated with zero emissions,” says Dr Krebs.

Historical precedent 1. Ferdinand Porsche designed hub-mounted motors for his Lohner Porsches at the beginning of the 20th century. They do not require drive-shafts, gear trains or brakes. (Above) This Lohner Porsche had hub-motors in front; some were four wheel drive.

Historical precedent 2. When VW was run under the British military government of 1945 its principal customers were the British army and the German Post Office. The army bought VWs as communications and staff cars, the post office for delivering mail in the war-torn country.

It was Reichspost before it was Bundespost
Deutsche Post is still one of the largest customers of lightweight commercial vehicles, and wants a postal van that can operate semi-automatically. eT! can follow a postman from house to house (“Follow me”), or return on command (“Come to me”) – driverless. It can be operated by a ‘drive stick’ from the passenger’s side and its electric sliding door reduces a delivery person’s walking movements.

The eT! concept shown in a world premiere at the Design Centre of Potsdam will now be analysed. Let us hope if it ever gets made they find a name without the !