Volkswagen E Scooter at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show, image by AutocarEnlarge Photo
Instead, Volkswagen's latest incarnation of the popular Beetle has been wowing the crowds at New York, Berlin and Shanghai, and virtually anyone with access to a computer. It's not the only important new Volkswagen on show though, and certainly not the one AllCarsElectric are excited about.
That honor falls to the E-Scooter, a lightweight electric two-wheeler quietly displayed by Volkswagen at the Shanghai Motor Show. Electric scooters are the new fashion amongst automakers wanting to attract urban consumers to their brand at the entry level, and the E-Scooter joins both MINI and Smart in showing its take on the genre.
Where the MINI Scooter E is unashamedly retrospective and the Smart Escooter organic and simple, the VW E-Scooter looks like a pared-down, basic device with an almost cubist and industrial appearance and a bare minimum of bodywork, not unlike the popular Honda Ruckus. You'd be hard-pressed to even identify it as a Volkswagen, though the chromed wheel hubs with their VW logos and the whitewall tires evoke memories of the original Beetle.
This lack of apparent mass translates to lack of actual mass too. Without batteries, the E-Scooter weighs an almost unbelievable 44 pounds, but VW's director of design in China, Simon Loasby, is still confident the scooter is up to VW quality standards.
Power is provided by a 350-watt motor and a small nickel-metal hydride battery endows the scooter with a modest 25 mile range and 30mph top speed. This pales next to the 30-plus mile per hour top speeds and 60 mile range from MINI and Smart's offerings, but VW's scooter is aimed at a different market - China.
In an interview with Autocar magazine, Loasby said "The are already 20 million electric scooters a year sold in China... Our idea was to come up with a solution for affordable mobility in megacities like Shanghai, and to give people who’ve never owned a car a way into the VW brand".
VW reckons that even a scooter with LED lights, a leather seat and a sophisticated trip computer could still be sold for less than $1000 on the Chinese market, considerably less than models like the Smart and MINI are likely to cost, as well as non-electric rivals like the Vespa range. Currently, many of the electric scooters sold in China cost around $500, but these are often very crude devices.
At 20 million scooter EVs sold per year in China though, it's a market that can't be ignored. Volkswagen is considering trialling a fleet of E-Scooters in 2012 in China. If it proves successful, then it could result in sales worldwide.