OK, so it’s not the latest Microbus, but here’s another sign that Volkwsagen’s moving swiftly to electrify its fleet in the coming years. On Monday, the automaker said it’s rolling out a new all-electric minibus for a ride-hailing service set to debut late next year.
VW’s mobility division, called Moia, unveiled the six-seater, battery-powered minibus at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in Berlin. The purpose, VW says, is to have Moia’s new minibuses replace 1 million cars on the road by 2025. That’ll be accomplished by launching a new ride-hailing service, yet another competitor for Uber to compete against.
Initially, Moia plans to start with 200 vehicles in the City of Hamburg, Germany, by the end of 2018. From there, the Hamburg fleet is expected to grow to about 1,000 and, eventually, the service will expand internationally. The buses will apparently be able to charge to 80 percent capacity within 30 minutes.
Customers can order the ride-pooling service through an app. The vehicles have fast internet access for passengers and the seats feature reading lights as well as USB ports to charge smartphones or tablet computers. Moia developed the vehicle within 10 months in collaboration with VW’s light-commercial vehicle division. It has a range of more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) and can recharge 80 percent of battery capacity within about 30 minutes.
“Pooling as such isn’t a new idea, but the actual implementation is often not ideal. We want to combine the efficiency of pooling with a pleasant customer experience,” Moia Chief Operating Officer Robert Henrich told reporters.
The Moia bus looks like a spiffed up boxy minivan, but the interior looks spacious and sharp. That jibes with Henrich’s intuition; Uber and Lyft both offer pooling services and, while they generally provide a cheaper service, pooled trips aren’t universally welcomed by drivers and passengers. Something like this makes total sense for the ride-hailing market that aims to pool riders.