Volkswagen is delighted to show an e-mobility project developed by Volkswagen Group Innovation and Volkswagen Group South Africa.

A study of an electric tractor developed in and for Africa to facilitate small-scale agriculture and to increase the productivity of subsistence farmers while also improving power supply and mobility in sub-Saharan Africa. This study is shown for the first time within the exhibition Countryside, The Future at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The project study will be on display at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York as part of the Countryside, The Future exhibition, opening from February 20, until August 14, 2020. Created and curated by Rem Koolhaas and AMO’s director Samir Bantal in partnership with international universities and scientists, the unique non-art exposition addresses urgent environmental, political and socioeconomic issues and allows visitors to understand the radical transformations taking place outside urban areas and the requiring new responses.

Next, the e-tractor project will set up partnerships between Volkswagen Group South Africa and different African collaborators, universities and stakeholders. As a result of their co-ooeration they will gain knowledge on technical aspects of the sharing system and its implementation in local contexts.

The research partnership between Volkswagen and AMO has aligned their interest in developing the discourse on the countryside through research and future rural mobility narratives. It will extend to China, with the Volkswagen Group Innovation Center Beijing researching perceptions of the Chinese Countryside, and to Eastern Saxony, where the company is pushing the transformation to e-mobility.

The e-tractor is at the heart of an ecosystem

Peter Wouda, Design Director of Volkswagen Group Innovation Center in Potsdam, Germany, and responsible for the design of the study, says: “This project was about creating a meaningful and holistic system, which if done right, has the potential to bring people together and support a community. The beauty of the design will be in its simplicity and in the joy of using it.”

Thomas Schäfer, Chairman and Chief Executive of Volkswagen Group South Africa, adds: “Mobility is a social right, as it provides access to different economic and political realities – regardless of where you were born or where you live. If we want to provide mobility for all, we must understand the countryside. The Subsaharan countryside is a good example. I am very excited that we could link our researchers, Future Heads, and designers on gaining insights through research leading to the e-tractor project.”

Rem Koolhaas, architect, writer and urbanist, explains: “When I saw the study of the e-tractor for the first time I realized it was a really fundamental moment: This machine can change a lot.”

Shared, multifunctional and environmental-friendly mobility for rural areas

Based on an idea from the Volkswagen innovation department, an interdisciplinary team created the e-tractor study. The vehicle will not be sold to individuals, but rented by communes and shared by villagers and farmers, enabling people who could never afford to buy a tractor to use one. The design of the electric tractor ecosystem taps into the extremely high solar radiation in Africa: it comes with a network of solar charging stations, producing clean energy for free. These stations are inspired by village squares, the most important social space where people come together.

Modularity is key in the design of the ecosystem, embracing sustainability and re-usability. The battery can be swapped and used as an independent power source when its performance is in decline; modular parts allow for different configurations where the tractor could be assembled with different plows, or even as a drill to drill wells, or just as a people mover.