MOIA Ride Sharing Van Breaks Cover In Berlin

Just one year ago, Volkswagen announced the creation of a new ride sharing division is calls MOIA (free lifetime subscription to Gas2 for anyone who knows the origin of that name). “We are still moving around our cities like we did 20 or 30 years ago,” said MOIA CEO OleHarms said. “We need to offer new forms of transportation and really improve the traffic situation.”

MOIA electric ride sharing van
Credit: TechCrunch

This week, VW pulled the wraps off its first MOIA branded vehicle — an all electric six passenger vans based on the MEB chassis the company has developed for its upcoming line of I.D. branded EVs. One of those vehicles will be the Buzz, the 21st century version of the iconic VW Microbus of the ’60s. The MOIA people mover is halfway between the current Volkswagen T6 van and the Buzz.

MOIA expects to have up to 200 of these vehicles in operation in and around the city of Hamburg by the end of 2017. In fact, the first of them should hit the streets in January. The vehicles promise plenty of room for up to 6 passengers. Easy access is promised by a large sliding doors on the passenger side. Once inside, each person can adjust the ambient lighting to his or her taste. WiFi is included, as are charging ports for portable devices.

Luggage is carried in a dedicated area just inside the sliding door where the passenger seat would normally be. This eliminates the need to open and close the rear hatch at every stop. Interestingly, even though the vehicle is electric, it is does not feature autonomous operation — at least not  yet. There is still a human driver on board and VW thinks its MOIA ride sharing service can still be profitable without full autonomy.

Harms is careful to point out the MOIA system is not intended to compete directly with existing public transportation systems. “We are operating with full respect of the public system. We don’t want to get below the public transport system because them we would take people who are already pooled in a bigger vessel into a smaller one.” He indicated at this time last year that fares for the MOIA service would be about the same as taking a bus.

Development of the MOIA van has been unusually quick in the car industry. The vehicle unveiled this week didn’t exist a year ago and incorporates suggestions made by customers using prototypes based on the T6 production van as recently as October of this year. Eventually, the vans can be customized to meet the needs of customers in individual cities.

The ride sharing component is based on a smartphone app that allows riders to book trips and pay for their rides online. A built-in carpooling algorithm makes it possible for groups on similar routes to maximize usage of the vehicles. The software permits the creation of virtual bus stops located 200 to 250 meters apart, minimizing the distance people need to walk to get to the vans or get to their destinations.

“By 2021 I definitely see a couple of cities worldwide operating autonomous fleets,” Harms says. He adds that MOIA’s biggest markets will be in Europe, China, and the US and that revenue from the system will be  “in the region of a couple of billion” dollars in 2 to 4 years.

Also back in 2016, Elon Musk told the world that his engineers are working a high capacity urban transport based on the Tesla Model X chassis. Tesla is planning its own ride hailing and ride sharing service called the Tesla Network. Musk says the Model X can be reconfigured to accommodate from 10 to 12 passengers.

Is the MOIA people mover optimized for the job? Tell us what you like or don’t like about it in the comments section.

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.