Buried projects: ultra efficient electric vehicles

Volkswagen Nils

Commuting to work or school alone in heavy and inefficient vehicles is one of the biggest transportation problems we have. It just doesn’t make sense.

However, it’s not always people’s fault, sometimes they have no alternative.

Between 2009 and 2011, automakers seemed determined to fix this problem and presented some solutions. Back then concepts of ultra efficient electric vehicles were common at auto shows. They were light and most had tandem seats to improve aerodynamics.

Unfortunately all of those projects were buried and now automakers seem to forget that the problem remains…


In this article we’ll see some concepts of ultra efficient electric vehicles that had great potential to change the way we move in and between cities. We’ll start with my favorite.


Opel Rak-e

Opel Rak-e concept car


The Opel RAK-e premiered at the 64th Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2011. It looked like a fighter jet and it was my favorite concept. I liked the Opel RAK-e so much that in 2013, tired of waiting I created a facebook page asking Opel to start selling it…


Advertised specs

  • Seats: 2 (tandem)
  • Battery: 5 kWh
  • Range: 100 km
  • Motor: 10,5 kW (36,5 kW peak)
  • Top speed: 120 km/h
  • Length: 3.000 mm
  • Height: 1.190 mm
  • Weight: 380 kg



Volkswagen Nils

Volkswagen Nils concept car charging


The Volkswagen Nils also premiered at the 64th Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2011. This concept was the one that looked more ready to go into production phase. I just disliked it having only one seat, two tandem seats is the correct formula for this type of vehicles.


Advertised specs

  • Seats: 1
  • Battery: 5,3 kWh
  • Range: 65 km
  • Motor: 15 kW (25 kW peak)
  • Top speed: 130 km/h
  • Length: 3.040 mm
  • Width: 1.380 mm
  • Height: 1.200 mm
  • Weight: 460 kg



Audi Urban Concept

Audi Urban Concept


You might have guessed, the Audi Urban Concept also premiered at the 64th Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2011. Put larger tires on this one and it would almost look like an off-road buggy that came from Mad Max. Extremely cool!


Advertised specs

  • Seats: 2 (tandem)
  • Battery: 7,1 kWh
  • Range: 73 km
  • Motor: 15 kW (2 motors)
  • Top speed: 100 km/h
  • Length: 3.219 mm
  • Width: 1.678 mm
  • Height: 1.189 mm
  • Weight: 480 kg



Nissan Land Glider

Nissan Land Glider Concept


The Nissan Land Glider is a concept electric car from Nissan that was presented in October 2009 at the 41st Tokyo Motor Show. It had two electric motors but specs were never mentioned.

While having an unique “tilt” setup, it employs a special leaning function that holds occupants firmly in place even when the vehicle is cornering at extremely tight angles.



Veeco RT

Veeco RT


Man I really wanted this one to succeed. In 2012 the Portuguese EV community was extremely excited with this electric vehicle.

The Veeco RT had the mission to become the first electric super efficient reverse trike made in Portugal. It was set to go on sale in 2013, unfortunately it was postponed time after time and never made it to the production phase.


Advertised specs

  • Seats: 2
  • Battery: LiFePO4 16 kWh (48 kWh optional)
  • Range: 200 km (more than 400 km with optional battery)
  • Motor: 30 kW (80 kW peak)
  • Top speed: 160 km/h
  • Weight: 800 kg (with standard battery)



The reality

Instead of all of these cool concepts the closest thing we ever got was the toy car Renault Twizy attached to a battery rental in 2012…

Don’t get me wrong, this quadricycle is extremely fun to drive and perfectly fine to use in the summer, but we can’t use it all year long in comfort.


Renault Twizy


Advertised specs

  • Seats: 2 (tandem)
  • Battery: 6,1 kWh
  • Range: 100 km
  • Motor: 13 kW
  • Top speed: 80 km/h
  • Length: 2.303 mm
  • Width: 1.132 mm
  • Height: 1.476 mm
  • Weight: 473 kg



The present

Right now the best thing we can hope for from a major automaker is the SEAT Minimรณ that just seems an improved second generation Renault Twizy. SEAT says that this electric vehicle is aimed at car-sharing services, but private buyers are not excluded. Production starts in 2021.


SEAT Minimรณ


Advertised specs

  • Seats: 2 (tandem)
  • Battery: 9,6 kWh
  • Range: 100 km
  • Motor: 20 kW (2 motors)
  • Top speed: 90 km/h
  • Length: 2.500 mm
  • Width: 1.240 mm
  • Height: 1.189 mm
  • Weight: 450 kg


Considering that this electric vehicle is aesthetically very similar to the Renault Twizy, but better in all fronts, I wonder what Renault plans to do. Fight back with a new generation Twizy or completely kill the project?!



Summing up.

Affordable ultra efficient electric vehicles would address one of the biggest transportation problems we face today, that is inefficient commuting. While I think that more and better public electric transportation is what we collectively should aim for, regarding private transportation ultra efficient electric vehicles could play an important role and become a no-brainer for a lot of commuters (old and new). Moreover, this type of vehicle would help automakers with young people.

Younger generations are more worried about the environment and when they are looking for their first car they don’t want to buy ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars, but they also can’t afford current electric cars that cost a lot more than 10.000 euros.

Without the need of big batteries to have decent range these ultra efficient electric vehicles would be extremely affordable. They could be available with two battery packs, one optimized for cost made with cobalt-free LFMP battery cells and other optimized for range with more energy-dense NCMA battery cells.

I would definitely love to see these battery packs in the concepts we saw previously.

LFMP battery

  • Capacity: 20 kWh
  • Range: 300 km (186 miles)
  • Cost: 1.600 euros

NCMA battery

  • Capacity: 30 kWh
  • Range: 450 km (279 miles)
  • Cost: 3.000 euros


Anyway, do I have confidence that automakers with finally sell ultra efficient electric vehicles anytime soon? Hell no, this is the industry that convince us that we need big and inefficient SUVs to drive around the city… They have strong ties with the oil industry, moreover they don’t need to be smart to survive since they are too big to fail, governments will always bail them out when they screw up…

What do you think? Would you be interested in one of these vehicles? What’s your favorite concept?

Pedro Lima

My interest in electric transportation is mostly political. Iโ€™m tired of coups and wars for oil. My expectation is that the adoption of electric transportation will be a factor for peace and democracy all over the world.

20 Responses

  1. Kevin says:

    Rumor is Tesla will build a small car for the Chinese market only.

  2. woots says:

    The Aptera seems to be clinging to life. I hope it succeeds, for a lot of families it would work well as the small car, and complement a Cybertruck nicely.

  3. Archie says:

    Wise environmental choice. My guess is that to really succeed against SUVs, this offer will have to be combined with generalized automated driving. For security reasons.

  4. Viking says:

    For me, my favorite one is the Sondors Electric car company… Since 2017, i hope to be able to drive this mini 3 wheel car one day! Nice look, 3 places, good specs, this look like a winner to me if ever they success to find the money to build it for everyone… We can hope one day!

    • Pedro Lima says:

      It reminds me the Veeco RT, but with one extra seat in the back. I hope it doesn’t become a buried project like every other.

  5. protomech says:

    Arcimoto FUV is a three-wheel open cockpit oddball. The $20k variant is shipping now in several US states.

    Efficiency is quite good at city speeds (~100 miles and ~140 wh/mile), but worsen dramatically at higher speeds. A motorcycle-sized battery paired with tall frontal area and micro-car weight are a poor combination.

  6. Mark Kellogg says:

    Have you not heard of the Solo?

  7. Peter Szczesiak says:

    I have had a Twizy and have to say it was fantastic fun. I now have a Aixam mega truck charged by solar, the only problem is the 54kmph top speed I wish it was capable of 70kmph. As a useful truck its brilliant in the year I have owned it solar has taken care of all its running needs. I have a Aixam mega city e car it’s a project for the future

  8. Chris says:

    I realise it is not the class of the vehicle you are discussing in this post but I quite like a Podbike.

  9. Freddy says:

    – Externally designed: the Opel or The Veeco
    – Access to interior: the Audi;
    – Performance: The Portuguese Veeco
    – Price:
    a) Would love to see something like the Vaeco with 16kwh battery, 2 seats, highway capaility for 10-12KEUR…at the time aimed for 25-30KEUR…dah
    b) Would also consider something with 2 seats tandem without highway capability and with WLTP 150kms for less than 9 K EUR…
    But we are dreamers ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Pedro Lima says:

      โ™ฌ You may say we’re dreamers, but we aren’t the only ones. I hope someday they’ll join us. And the world will be clean for once. โ™ฌ

      • Freddy says:

        Im currently with 1 BEV (22 KKms/year) + 1 Diesel van (now only 2 KKms/year but from year 2000 and with 370 Kkms now)
        House with green eletric energy, no gas and 6 PV…

        I’m still dreaming with 2nd EV, battery storage (as netmetering is impossible due to lobbying form Energy companies in Portugal)… even some agricultural eletrical appliances to change current gas ones (lawnmower and grass cutter).

        • Pedro Lima says:

          Indeed. Net Metering is crucial for the decentralization of electricity production, but has strong lobbies against it and the lack of public awareness doesn’t help either. I’ll try to find time and patience to write an article on the subject.

          • Freddy says:

            Yes… Here in Portugal I use as reference regarding energy (and also some specific info on EV’s) the forum novaenergia.pt which has very good information (in my personal opinion of course).

  10. Famlin says:

    Its an established fact that a vehicle being rectangular in shape should seat at least 4 passengers and have 4 doors(+ hatch). Any vehicle that does not follow this will fall by the wayside.
    All automakers who showed these vehicles had no idea of selling them. They just displayed to show that electric vehicles are not practical. Now they are eating the dust as Tesla sells 1.000s of vehicles every month.

  11. Carlos says:

    What about uniti? It’s a swedish car that’s been in development for some years. It’s similar to the ones you showed and it seems to be in production phase.

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