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LA Auto Show – Volkswagen space up! Blue – Deutschland In Da House Y’all

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Whether you’re tired of fuel prices creeping up to $4 dollars a gallon, uncomfortable with the idea that your money is making it’s way over to the Middle East or simply want the feel good endorphins to pump through your body as you are seen as a socially responsible human being, a hybrid may be the answer. They have become the American answer to slow all personal transportation energy woes and Volkswagen, no stranger to fuel efficiency, wants a piece of the action. The VW space up! blue plans to provide just that…


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Our friends in Wolfsburg look to be changing my misdirected notions of both hybrids (currently overpriced and overrated) and concepts (far-fetched design exercises). AutoPacific has been told that this concept is fairly close to what Vdub plans on bringing to market by the end of the decade. It may not have the solar panel roof or give consumers both the option of filling up with hydrogen and plugging-in to electricity, but it may very well be a platform much like that of the Chevrolet Volt; where a customer can choose their preferred medium of energy when purchasing the vehicle. In Europe most customer may be satisfied with a diesel where as here in California many may want Hydrogen or a plug-in Hybrid.
There are currently three versions of the ‘up!’, all released within the last two months. The up! introduced at the IAA in Frankfurt, the space up! presented in Tokyo, and the space up! blue. The name up! by the way was taken from the European entry level Volkswagen, the Lupo. They simply chopped of the first and last letters and voila!
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Exterior Design:
Wow! More efficient than a Mini and more fun than a Prius. Will a surfboard fit up there? At first glance the space up! blue looks like a VW, it’s got flat and flush surfaces and those four windows in the roof really help make it. It reminded me of a miniature Samba bus; a 21 window. I started talking like Jeff Spicoli (played by Sean Penn) in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. “Dude, those round exterior mirrors are far out!” It was really embarrassing for me, but it was wonderful to see design cues from an all time favorite, an icon of yesteryear. Those windows, as long as they stay near the edge of the roofline, should definitely make it into production… those are vital to the character and image firmly established by VW’s history and heritage.
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Interior:
The interior was very plain and simple. It is a true four-seater with seating positions that are relatively high. The interior height (measured from seat surface to headliner) is 40.6 inches for the driver and passenger and 40 inches in the rear. The space up! blue also offers versatility. All of the seats (except for the drivers seat) can be folded, creating a level cargo area with a capacity of up to 35.5 cubic feet. Can your Prius do that?
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Occupied Space:
Almost a foot shorter and just a few inches narrower than a Scion XD the ‘space up! blue’ offers the interior room of a considerably larger vehicle. This space was really made possible by VW DNA. I’m not kidding. Not only is the up! rear-wheel-drive but the electric motor is actually in the rear along with the lithium-ion batteries (under the rear seat to be exact).
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Hydrogen Please:
The concept version does offer all energy options; from the world’s first high temperature fuel cell and an array of twelve lithium-ion batteries. The energy can come from either the electrical outlet (65 miles) or by the high-temperature fuel cell (155 miles) giving the up! blue an overall range of 220 miles on a single “energy charge”. The solar panels in the roof also provide up to 150 Watts of energy.
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What’ll Make The Cut
In our estimates we can envision the ‘people’s car’ of the future looking like the space up! blue. Most people we spoke with really liked the vehicle. It doesn’t have the ‘I’m vacationing in a third world country ‘Smart Car’ feeling’ but it still communicates ‘I’m socially conscious’ like the Prius. By the end of the decade America may start taking deliveries of production versions of the ‘space up! blue’. The first versions may be TDI (VW’s branded turbo diesel) and offer around 150 horsepower. The TDI brand has a huge cult following and low sulfur, clean turbo-diesel engines offer 35% greater efficiency than gasoline engines of the same displacement. Vdub plans to bring diesels to all 50 states starting next year, so a diesel seems pretty natural. Although, U.S. emissions laws and America’s fascination with hybrids may push gasoline hybrid versions into production over any diesel versions. I personally like the idea of rear engine, rear-wheel-drive but I’m not sure how cooling will be provided to the engine. Later versions may offer lithium ion batteries or hydrogen fuel cells as the technology becomes more readily available.

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