DLR U-Shift concept: Is this the future of urban logistics and mobility?

The first DLR U-Shift prototype was presented at the Interim Conference of the Strategic Dialogue for the Automotive Sector at Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart last week. You're looking at a multipurpose all-electric vehicle with a modular design. According to the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und Raumfahrt) or DLR, the U-Shift caters to various applications. It can be configured as a mobile sales service, on-call bus, passenger shuttle, or mobile distribution center to name a few.

"We want to make tomorrow's mobility more sustainable, effective, and convenient," said Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, Baden-Württemberg Minister for Economic Affairs. "Entirely new products and business models can emerge from futuristic innovations such as the U-Shift vehicle concept."

The U-Shift reminds us of the eBussy modular EV, a 100-percent all-electric light-duty vehicle with configurable body styles. Designed by fellow German EV maker Electric Brands, the eBussy is available in station wagon, minivan, pickup truck, or convertible body styles – with up to configurations available. DLR's U-Shift concept is essentially in the same ballpark.

"It is essential that we support our small and medium-sized enterprises in Baden-Württemberg during the automotive industry's transformation process and help them find a new role in the field of future vehicle concepts and mobility solutions. The modular approach opens up a lot of opportunities in this area," continued Hoffmeister-Kraut.

Unlike the eBussy concept, however, the U-Shift prototype is similar in size to a large van. At present, the driveboard is operable via remote control, but future applications are destined for fully-autonomous operation. Safety is a key aspect in designing the modular cabs above the driveboard, and DLR did it without sacrificing cargo and passenger room. For instance, the cargo capsule is commodious enough to hold up to four euro-size pallets or eight barred rolling cabinets. Meanwhile, the passenger capsule has up to seven seats.

According to DLR, there's a second fully-automated prototype in the works. It has a top speed of 37 mph (60 kph) and is expected to arrive in 2024. The current U-Shift prototype's drivetrain was developed by the Stuttgart Research Institute of Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines, while the electrical architecture and chassis is from the Institute of Vehicle System Technology (FAST) and the Institute for Information Processing Technology.