Hippies rejoice! The Microbus is being revived – providing it goes into production.
As promised, Volkswagen has revealed its latest concept car at this year’s Detroit Auto Show – and as we suspected, it’s essentially a zero emissions, all-wheel drive Microbus for the future. Called the Buzz Concept (yes: you guessed it: the Buzz refers to the “bus” of the Microbus name as well as the noise emitted by the electric vehicle - very clever, VW), this is the second concept car to join the Volkswagen's electric I.D. family.
Following the first I.D. Concept revealed at the 2016 Paris Show, the Buzz is part of VW’s plan to rebuild itself as an EV automaker. True to its ambition, VW says that the Buzz “forges links between the origins of the Volkswagen brand and its electrifying future.” It’s powered by a hefty 111 kWh battery with electric motors at both axels to make it all-wheel drive and deliver 369 horsepower. Volkswagen claims the Buzz can accelerate from 0-60 mph in five seconds and has a range of up to 270 miles, which is comparable to gasoline cars. Impressively, the battery can be charged to 80 percent of its capacity within 30 minutes, with a charging rate of 150 kW.
According to VW, because the Buzz is part of the manufacturer’s MEB platform, a rear-wheel drive variant producing up to 268 hp and a smaller 83 kWh battery could be possible in a future production model. The design of the Buzz Concept clearly takes its cues from the iconic Microbus, but Volkswagen’s Head of Design was keen to differentiate it: “The I.D. Buzz is not a retro design on 22-inch wheels; rather, we have taken the logical next step forward in development using what is in all likelihood the most successful design of its kind in the world,” he said. “The entire design is extremely clean with its homogeneous surfaces and monolithic silhouette."
The future and origins of Volkswagen design DNA combine here to create a new icon.” Like the original Microbus, the interior will seat eight people and has two luggage compartments. Oliver Stefani, Head of Volkswagen Exterior Design added: “Instead of the round headlights used in the original model, in designing the I.D. Buzz we opted for slender LED systems, which not only turn night into day, but also interactively communicate with other road users and pedestrians.” Naturally, the Buzz can be driven fully autonomously, making it the world’s first multi-purpose vehicle to be equipped with such technology. Pushing a button on the wheel will cause it to retract into the instrument panel and engage the I.D. Pilot mode.
The Buzz will then drive itself using a combination of ultrasonic sensors, radar sensors, side area view cameras and a front camera. With this mode engaged, the driver’s seat can also be rotated 180 degrees to face the rear. Volkswagen says this self-driving technology could make it into production in 2025. Unsurprisingly, the Buzz caters to the smartphone generation, recognizing people who enter the vehicle using their Volkswagen User-ID and a smartphone app to personalize their experience and control infotainment functions. Key data is displayed via an augmented reality display. The first MEB Volkswagen should be with us in 2020, in what will likely be a production version of the first I.D.
VW clearly has high hopes for its new electric car program, aiming to sell one million electric cars by 2025. It's great to see VW revitalizing some of its most iconic cars of the past with updated tech, but whether the Buzz will make it into production is another matter entirely. After all, VW has promised us a new Microbus several times before, only to disappoint us by not putting it into production. Hopefully the Buzz won't suffer the same fate.