Volkswagen at Amelia Island
Volkswagen of America proudly presented the past and future of electric vehicles at this weekend’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, displaying a 1979 Elektrotransporter once used for research by the Tennessee Valley Authority in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV. Both drew sizable crowds at the Concours, which featured a special focus on EVs past, present and future.
“We are proud to have brought a signature Volkswagen mix of heritage and innovative vehicles to Amelia Island that demonstrates more than six decades of EV development,” said Mark Gillies, Senior Manager, Product and Technology Communications, Volkswagen of America. “In its era, the Elektrotransporter drove the streets of Chattanooga, helping to establish key technologies like regenerative braking that EV customers now take for granted. The enthusiasm we saw this weekend reinforces our view that EVs are the future of personal transportation.”
A first for the Concours was the Taking Charge parade – a showcase of current and upcoming EV models across the main concours judging area. Volkswagen’s ID.4 took its place among traditional car brands like Cadillac, Ford, Hummer, and Porsche, as well as EV startups like Lucid Motors and Bollinger. Since going on sale in the United States in March, the ID.4 has received strongly positive reviews for its combination of EV technology, design and affordability. The enthusiasm and interest generated with attendees at the Concours was a positive sign that more consumers seem ready to make an electric vehicle part of their everyday lives.
As the ID.4 is expected to be assembled in Chattanooga beginning next year, the 1979 Elektrotransporter offered a historic tie to the early days of EV development. During the global oil crisis of the early 1970s, Volkswagen produced a number of Type 2 buses converted to electric power to explore the feasibility of electric propulsion and charging. In 1978, the Electric Power Research Institute and the Tennessee Valley Authority bought 10 of these electric Type 2s to test how EVs performed under daily use in work fleet conditions.
The electric bus held 72 lead-acid battery cells in a 1,874-lb. pack under a raised floor with 25.9 kWh of energy. The electric motor was bolted directly to the existing bus’s transmission, which remained locked in second gear, driving the vehicle’s rear wheels. The Transporter produced only 23 hp, and claimed a top speed of 48 mph, though testing by NASA was only able to produce a top speed of 44 mph. While some pieces of the technology were rudimentary by modern standards, the Elektrotransporter did offer an early version of regenerative braking. Based in Chattanooga, the EPRI-TVA fleet clocked a total of about 54,000 electric miles over an 18-month test period.
After many years in collection, Volkswagen of America acquired the Elektrotransporter last year, and plans to return it to running condition while preserving its role in EV history. It was one of several classic electric vehicles displayed at Amelia Island this past weekend. The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance always showcases rare and unusual cars, and reminded attendees that EVs are as old as the automobile. The 1895 Morris and Salem Electrobat IV is one of the earliest electric vehicles produced and the class also included vehicles built until 1922. The class winner was a 1905 Columbia XXXV Open Drive Brougham that resembled a horseless carriage design.
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