Volkswagen Tests Electric Compact Van Concept with Elektro Caddy

By · April 27, 2011

Volkswagen Elektro Caddy

Volkswagen Elektro Caddy

It sounds a bit surreal. Volkswagen doesn't offer any electric model yet, but last month in Geneva, it calmly announced plans to be the world leader in high-volume EVs by 2018. If a start-up made make such a claim, everybody would laugh—but I advise anyone not to laugh at Volkswagen. The German group just announced record sales and profits for the first quarter. It will launch the world's most fuel-efficient car later this year—a small diesel that will not be available in the U.S.—and it's working hard to develop EVs.

EVs For The People

One of those EVs will be based on the soon-to-be-introduced Up small car, while the other will use the Golf platform. You've already read about the electric Golf, it will become an electric Jetta in America, and there's also the utility model based on the Golf platform: the Caddy. I believe it's only available in Europe. It's what I call a Compact Utility Vehicle. In that same segment, Ford already offers an electric version of its Transit Connect, and Renault has bold plans for its electric Kangoo. Volkswagen cannot ignore that the German postal service has already received two electric Kangoos for testing purposes. The largest German car manufacturer certainly doesn't want to be left behind, and it has developed the electric version of its Caddy that you see here. No surprises. The diesel Caddy shares all its mechanics with the Golf, and it's about the same with this electric Caddy. The biggest difference is that it was easier to convert the Caddy to an electric drive than the Golf, because the Caddy has a much larger rear compartment, with plenty of space underneath to hide batteries.

The standard Volkswagen Caddy, with short or long wheelbase

The standard Volkswagen Caddy, with a diesel engine, in short or long wheelbase.

Curiously, that was not used to the maximum benefit. This electric Caddy has a rather disappointing 68 miles of range. But I would not draw any conclusions at this stage. Only two electric Caddys have been built so far—officially, there may be more on VW's private testing ground—and they haven't been sold. They've been leased to the city of Hannover which will use them in a plan to promote electric mobility in the capital of Lower Saxony. I guess a longer range was not needed for the test program. More interesting, the cars have—count 'em—three chargers each. They're rated at 3.3-kW. My guess is that if only a single standard plug is available, the cars will recharge during the night. But if a higher current is available, like 380-Volt, the Elektro Caddy will be able to handle it. Again, we won't draw conclusions from this set-up. The two vehicles built so far are prototypes, and from what is known today, I don't see them going into regular production antyime soon.

Just an Experiment?

Volkswagen may see things differently than its competitors, Ford and Renault. The electric Ford Transit Connect is the first electric Ford on the market, and Renault expects to sell tens of thousands of its electric Kangoos. Both manufacturers believe there is a market for electric CUWs, but I don't see any indication Volkswagen has the same belief. Maybe VW remembers, like me, that it had developed a natural gas (CNG) version of the Caddy. It's one of the best CNG vehicle available in Europe. Yet, when British Gas chose to renew its fleet and bought 5,000 of them, Britain's leading energy supplier chose diesels. Cheap to buy, cheap to run, with a proven reliability record, and easy to use with a long range and quick refills—VW know business users like its diesels.

Volkswagen Elektro Caddy

Volkswagen Elektro Caddy

It's easy to see that the first customers of the electric Ford Transit Connect wanted to make a statement, and that they didn't have the same concerns as normal business folks. I may be wrong, but from what I see, VW's EV strategy will be dedicated to private customers, with the focus on the electric Golf and Up. The Elektro Caddy is just there to show that, if the winds change direction, Volkswagen could quickly adapt.

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