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Green powers up the Blue

Volkswagen's third member of the Up! family may result in an on-the-road car for 2010.

The radical new Volkswagen Up! has moved a step closer to the road with the unveiling of the third member of the concept car team created to test its future with customers. The Space Up! Blue was revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show after the original city hatch and a baby wagon previewed at last month's Tokyo event.

This time there is a double-edged Up! message about compact people-movers and the potential for green family motoring. The Blue car is inspired by the 1950s Kombi and is called the Samba Bus, but it is truly 21st century; with power from a pioneering high-temperature fuel cell charging 12 lithium-ion batteries.

Volkswagen says the hydrogen-fuelled power pack is used only to provide current for the battery pack, which powers the rear wheels.

So it is a fully electric car with a top speed of 120km/h and can cover the benchmark 0-100km/h sprint in 13.7 seconds. It also has a bank of solar cells on the roof for extra charging and is claimed to have a range of up to 350km.

“We are open to trying things that are a little bit different,” Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Jutta Dierks says. “This is the environmentally friendly model in the Up! family. They all focus on different needs.”

She has no news on a production plan for any of the Up! concepts, despite the money invested in them and the interest they have generated.

“I strongly believe one version, or maybe even all of them, will be produced. But I honestly do not know what is happening,” she says.

Dierks knows Volkswagen is looking for a way to make a workable and profitable city car that takes the company back to its roots in the original Beetle; not in design, but in price and the efficiency of the basic package. Volkswagen hopes to have an Up! on the road by 2010.