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 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 VW