Volkswagen didn't appear to take this year's LA auto show very seriously – its press kit appears to have been assembled by a kindergarten class on a budget. The car it unveiled here in the City of Angels was little more than a redressed version the van concept they showed in Tokyo, as well.
The space up! blue takes the up! space and adds a hydrogen-electric hybrid powerplant and a solar panel on the roof. Volkswagen says the van will go into production, in one form or another, but without the advanced powerplant. And likely without the solar roof, either. They're "Pie in the sky" as the Volkswagen board member called it. And so, we're back where we were in Tokyo (only with a cameo by former pro baller John "Spider" Salley). That being said, the car itself is a quirky take on the retro-modern theme that could prove popular with young, trendy families if VW has its way.
Click on the galleries below to check out live shots from the space up! blue's unveiling VW's original factory images. The press release has also been included after the jump. Sit down with a nice cup of tea and enjoy.
The space up! blue
Clean Drive Revolution "Made in Germany"Volkswagen presents the first car in the world with high-temperature fuel cell
space up! blue covers downtown distances with pure battery drive
Wolfsburg / Los Angeles, November 2007. Powertrain revolution in California: Volkwagen is presenting the space up! blue concept car at the Los Angeles Auto Show (November 14 to 25) as a world exclusive – a compact, self-confident zero emissions van in the style of the legendary Volkswagen Samba Bus. On board: the world's first high temperature fuel cell and an array of twelve lithium-ion batteries. When the electric motor (45 kW / 61 PS) of the space up! blue is driven exclusively by battery, a range of 65 miles is possible – enough to handle nearly all distances in downtown areas. In the scenario of tomorrow's world, the four-seat Volkswagen is advancing to become the ideal vehicle for anyone who wants to drive – completely emissions-free – to work, recreation, school or university or just shopping.
Energy is "refueled" either via an electrical outlet or by the Volkswagen high-temperature fuel cell. In the latter case, the car's range is extended an additional 155 miles. This makes it possible to drive up to 220 miles on a single "energy charge". Aside from this, the microvan utilizes another energy source: the sun. And indeed with a large solar panel on the roof. It supplies up to 150 Watt of energy that is also fed into the battery.
With its new high temperature fuel cell (HT-FC) Volkswagen is introducing a system that represents a turning point in research on fuel cells for mass production. That is because, the HTFC offers crucial advantages compared to all other fuel cell systems: considerably lower weight, significantly greater everyday utility, substantially lower price, and therefore clearly the better chances of becoming a reality someday as a mass produced technology. The high temperature fuel cell was developed at a dedicated research center founded by Volkswagen in Germany.
With its concept car being shown in Los Angeles, Europe's most successful car producer is introducing the third variant of its "New Small Family" within just two months. Like the city specialist, the up!, already introduced at the IAA in Frankfurt, and the space up! presented in Tokyo, the space up! blue is a small space wonder too. Over a length of just 144.9 inches, a height of 61.8 inches and a width of 64.2 inches, it offers the space of a considerably larger vehicle. The clever space concept of the space up! blue – which is 1,090 kilograms "light" despite the fuel cell and batteries – is largely due to the layout of the powertrain. Its emissions-free electric motor operates – as did the engines of the Beetle and the Bulli (Microbus) at one time – in the rear. Also housed in the rear, under the rear seat to be exact, are the lithium-ion batteries. The high temperature fuel cell, on the other hand, is located at the front of the car.
The space up! blue Key Aspects
Volkswagen Concept Car Utilizes Water and Sun
Energy network of lithium-ion battery, fuel cell and solar cell
space up! blue is the third concept car of the New Small Family by Volkswagen
Wolfsburg / Los Angeles, November 2007. The space up! blue – with its four roof windows – is reminiscent of the Samba Bus of the 1950s. However, at a length of 144.9 inches the contemporary concept car is almost 23.6 inches shorter than the cult bus of that era. And so the "new one" is anything but a retro version of the "old one". Nonetheless, the two vans are certainly kindred spirits, and this goes beyond sharing the windows in the roof. For example, their designs both incorporate butterfly doors with opposing hinges and a motor layout in the rear.
Electric motor and battery
While fifty years ago a boxer engine in the rear provided the propulsive force, in the new concept car it is an electric motor. This motor outputs 45 kW / 61 PS, turns at up to 10,000 times per minute and generates a maximum torque of 120 Newton-meter. The zero-emissions drive draws its power from an array of twelve lithium-ion batteries with a total energy capacity of twelve kilowatt-hours (kWh). Motorized in this way, the space up! blue attains a top speed of 75 mph. It handles the sprint to 100 km/h (62 mph) in a dynamic 13.7 seconds.
Exclusively driven by battery, the motor powers the space up! blue over a range of 65 miles. By comparison: a hybrid car in pure electric drive mode – i.e. with energy stored in the battery – can travel just two kilometers (1.24 miles) on average. The combustion engine must kick in again before this distance is driven. Consequently, the space up! blue represents a conceptual approach, reaching beyond hybrid technology, for operating the automobile by just battery, especially in urban areas. However, a prerequisite for this technology are durable and affordable lithium-ion batteries with a high charge capacities. With their help, transportation could become "electrified" – i.e. converted from combustion engines to electric motors – in a stepwise manner, initially in the big cities. The infrastructure needed for this is simple: electrical outlets! Step by step, public and private parking spaces and parking garages would have to be equipped with "electric service pumps" to offer charging capabilities. At night, vehicles like the space up! blue could take advantage of nighttime rates for electrical power – which are often much lower in many countries – to "fill up their tanks". The fact is: today the space up! blue concept car could already handle average daily driving distances in pure battery mode – without a fuel cell.
High temperature fuel cell
The high temperature fuel cell, meanwhile, could enable completely emission-free driving over long distances. The high temperature fuel cell develops a power of twelve kW to spur on the electric motor.
The fuel cell utilizes hydrogen (H2) to obtain electrical energy. Two safety tanks integrated in the underbody store up to 3.3 kilograms of compressed hydrogen. This quantity is enough to operate the electric motor over a distance of 155 miles. With fully charged battery and full hydrogen tanks, the theoretical range is a full 220 miles. So theoretically, even an excursion from the Los Angeles Auto Show to picturesque Santa Barbara and back would be feasible without an energy recharge. These are distances that demonstrate how cars with electric motors plus fuel cell are capable of more than just city driving.
Aside from the fact that hydrogen would have to be produced in sufficient quantities by regenerative energy, there is another serious problem: All fuel cells known to date – that is low temperature fuel cells – need to operate over a very specific temperature range. If the temperature rises too much, energy recovery is brought to a standstill. That is why all of these fuel cell designs have relatively large and likewise complex cooling and humidification technologies.
This is precisely where the high temperature fuel cell developed by Volkswagen comes in. It eliminates the numerous disadvantages of previously known low temperature fuel cells (LTFCs). A new high-temperature membrane and electrodes specially designed for this membrane enable significantly more compact, affordable and efficient fuel cell systems, as shown on the space up! blue concept car in Los Angeles.
Working together with its custom designed electrodes, the high-temperature membrane can be "driven" over a temperature range of up to 160 degrees Celsius. An average operating temperature of 120°C is planned for vehicle operation. And indeed without requiring supplemental humidification. Therefore – in contrast to the LTFC – it is sufficient to implement a much simpler cooling and water management system. This reduces space requirements, weight and costs significantly!
Like the city specialist, the up!, already presented at the IAA in Frankfurt and the space up! shown in Tokyo, the space up! blue is a small space wonder too. Over a length of just 144.9 inches, a height of 61.8 inches and a width of 64.2 inch, it offers the space of a considerably larger vehicle. The clever space concept of the space up! blue – which is 1,090 "light" despite the fuel cell and batteries – is largely due to the powertrain layout: the car's emissions-free electric motor operates – as did the engines of the Beetle and Bulli (Microbus) at one time – in the rear. Also housed in the rear are the lithium-ion batteries. The high-temperature fuel cell, on the other hand, was integrated in the front of the car.
Volkswagen is introducing the space up! blue as the third model variant of the "New Small Family". A common design philosophy unifies the up! concept car presented at the IAA in Germany, the space up! shown in Japan and the space up! blue. It is characterized by a simple, clear language of forms. The designers consciously omitted any superfluous gimmicks. As a result, the space up! blue also exhibits a completely new harmony between technical layout, on the one hand, and emotional design on the other.
Front end: Distinguishing the front end of the "New Small Family" are the headlamps that take an inward diagonal line, between them the horizontally integrated air inlets (minimized aperture optimizes aerodynamics), the VW logo arranged on the front hood (as the only exterior detail kept in chrome) and the smooth-surfaced bumper with a lower segment.
Side profile: On its sides, the concept car – like the Samba bus in earlier days – exhibits a long extended window section, additional roof windows and a clearly distinctive, powerful C-pillar whose form is typical of Volkswagen. The A-pillar is positioned far forward.
The space between the A and C pillars is spanned by the line of butterfly doors with opposing hinges. Both the front and rear doors are opened by door handles at the height of the imaginary B pillars. Since the doors open in opposition and extend across nearly the entire space between the wheel housings – i.e. the entire sill length – all four seating positions are exceptionally convenient to access. A key concept here is wheel housings: Hidden under them are the self-confident and large 18-inch wheels with low rolling resistance tires sized 165/50. Distinctive in this area are the short front and rear overhangs. The front overhang, from the axle hub to the outer skin of the bumper measures just 53 centimeters; in the rear it is 59 centimeters. The result: crisp proportions.
Rear end: Also unmistakable are the design features of the rear end. Take the example of the rear door: It fills out practically the entire car area above the bumper. Similar to the smaller up!, the door – split 1/3 to 2/3 – consists of a transparent material. Integrated beneath it are the taillights. Fully opened, the door offers a cargo width of 101 centimeters. The bumper itself was designed to match its counterpart at the front end.
Thanks to the wide track width of 1.42 meters (55.9 inches), the outer edges of the wheels line up with the wheel housings. The effect is that the entire vehicle width of 1.63 meters seems to consist of axles plus tires and wheels. Meanwhile, the only details that boldly jump outside of the vehicle width are the round-shaped outside mirrors.
The space up! blue is a full-fledged four-seater that is extremely comfortable, even on long trips. The reason: The cushions of the four seats – for driver, front and rear passengers – consist of an airflow foam that automatically adapts to individual anatomies. In addition, the seating position is pleasantly high, making it extremely comfortable. Despite the extensive powertrain equipment, no compromises are made in the amount of space offered compared to versions with "normal" internal combustion engines: interior height (measured between the seat surface and car headliner) is 40.6 inches in front and 40 inches in the rear.
With the exception of the driver's seat, all seats can also be folded and removed. If the seats are "only" folded, this creates a level cargo area with a capacity of up to 1,005 liters. With four people on board, cargo capacity up to the height of the window sill is still 220 liters.
Since the car's cockpit was conceived as a module to be applied across all models of the "New Small Family", the cockpit unit was adopted completely from concept cars presented in Frankfurt and Tokyo, with just slight modifications. An instrument panel that offers up everything at a glance: in detail, the space up! blue has two central displays. In the cockpit, an 8-inch monitor displays information such as vehicle speed, battery reserves, hydrogen volume and range. In the middle of the instruments a 7-inch monitor shows how future human-machine interfaces might look and operate. Here all conceivable functions are controlled via a touchscreen that – using proximity sensors – reacts to gestures as well, i.e. specific hand movements.
Menuing was retooled and reorganized so that people without computer science educations can operate the system. The engineers intentionally separated "display" and "control" levels from one another. Always shown on the screen is a control bar with standard functions such as climate control and audio volume control. Developers packaged functions of other higher-order systems – navigation, telephone, radio, images, films, etc. – on a display level that has been referred to internally as the "main menu carousel" – a type of virtual carousel. It consists of the icons of different system functions (telephone, navigation, etc.). When the user touches the "main menu carousel" it can be rotated by touchscreen. Visually, this control is just as spectacular as it is intuitive. When the desired function appears on the main menu carousel – such as the telephone – the user just needs to move his or her hand to the display to switch to the telephone menu thanks to proximity sensor technology. Just like on the two members of the New Small Family already presented, this fact applies to the space up! blue too: the new type of user control is fun, easy to understand in any cultural environment and very safe. That is precisely what is typical of Volkswagen.