Volkswagen Designs "Micromobiles" for Life After Traffic Collapse

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©. Volkswagen Group

From scooters to cargo bikes, a bunch of alternatives to driving that car.

Steve Jobs once said, "If you don't cannibalize yourself, someone else will." So, even though the iPod was 50 percent of Apple's revenue in 2006, he introduced the iPhone, which soon ate its predecessor.

The Volkswagen Group seems to be doing a little bit of self-cannibalization, recognizing that cities are getting big and crowded, noting that "answers are needed to avoid the threat of traffic collapse on the one hand and to meet the changing demands of modern mobility on the other." People will still have cars, but use them differently.

The vision: City visitors and residents will soon be able to arrive in the world's metropolises, park their cars at home, at the hotel or in multi-storey car parks and then use smaller zero-emission models.

© Volkswagen Group

VW has developed a range of "innovative micromobiles" starting with the three-wheeled Cityskater. It has a 350 watt (.46 horsepower) motor and a 200 Wh (682 BTU) battery, pushing it up to 15km (9.3 mi) at up to 20km/h. (12.42 mph) This makes a lot of sense if you are using it for that last mile or two after parking your car, because it is designed to fit in the trunk.


© Volkswagen Group

The Streetmate makes less sense to me; this thing is big and heavy at 70kg (150 lbs), fast at 45 km/h. (28 MPH) With a range of 60 km, it seems more like a car replacement.

Cargo bike

© Volkswagen Group

Then there is the Cargo e-bike; now this makes sense. It's a pedelec (no throttle, 250 watt motor) so that it can go where a bike can go, without licences required.

Energy for the electric motor is supplied by a lithium-ion battery (energy content: 500 Watt-hours). The range is up to 100 kilometers. A novelty for cargo bicycles is the tilting technology: The innovative technology ensures that the transported goods on the loading area do not tilt into the curve with the cargo bike, but are always balanced horizontally.

Is Volkswagen cannibalizing itself, is it just nibbling at its toes, or is it all just continued brand management and rehabilitation?

footprint of various forms of transport

© Volkswagen Group

Or is it a realization that the age of the car is truly coming to an end in cities, and that they should be prepared? Their own chart demonstrates how much space cars take up and how much they cost, in comparison to micromobiles or buses.

As Carlton Reid notes in Forbes, this may well be "VW’s admission that car use in cities is so last century."