It could drive 52 miles on a charge.
The electric van revolution is upon us. Ford has started to deliver its e-Transit to customers and the Volkswagen ID.Buzz will reach North America in 2024. But did you know Volkswagen built an electric people mover decades ago? In 1972, VW revealed a prototype T2 Bulli powered only by batteries and an electric motor in the back. Though the final prototype was a van, the first development mule was a flatbed truck with an open loading area.
It featured a 21.6-kilowatt-hour battery weighing 1,940 pounds. If you need any more proof of how far battery technology has come since then, the ID.Buzz has a 77kWh battery that weighs only 1,100 pounds. That's more than triple the battery capacity at nearly half the weight.
Battery range has increased significantly too. Whereas the T2 Bulli could only go around 53 miles on a charge, the modern ID.Buzz will travel around 260 miles, just 20 less than VW's first new EV in America (after the e-Golf), the ID.4. Replenishing that battery is also much different in 2022 than in 1970. There were no fast-charging stations, so VW simply swapped the empty battery with a full one in around five minutes rather than waiting hours to charge it. While this sounds like a great solution to recharging, it took a team of engineers to execute. By comparison, the ID.Buzz charges at 170 kW, meaning the batteries can go from 10-80% in 30 minutes.
The T2 Bulli was rather archaic compared to a modern EV, but it did introduce some rather modern innovations. It featured an early days energy recovery system, which could retrieve kinetic energy under braking to recharge the battery. This same regenerative braking technology is used in the ID.Buzz where it increases vehicle range by approximately 20-30%.
VW has learned a lot about building EVs in the past 50 years, but it hasn't forgotten the past. In fact, the German automaker paid homage to the T2 Bulli with an EV-swapped Type 2 Kombi called the e-BULLI. Furthermore, a company called eClassics will offer EV-swapped VW classics in the future; how cool does an EV-swapped Thing sound? Count us in.