After 16 years of concepts, teasers, vague promises and more concepts, Volkswagen is believed to be close to greenlighting a retro-styled “Microbus” MPV for production, Automotive News reports. VW brand chief Herbert Diess reportedly wants the concept to reach production, sources at VW told Automotive News, and the decision could be made within weeks.
The timing and an upcoming electric platform may have had more to do with this expected decision than public reaction to the latest in a long line of concepts, which was shown at the Detroit auto show just days ago: The impending production of the pure-electric MEB platform and the myriad vehicles that VW intends to put on the EV platform will have required a small MPV positioned under the commercial-looking Transporter.
As presented in Detroit in the form of the I.D. BUZZ concept, the latest in a line of pure-electric concepts that kicked off at the Paris motor show debut of the I.D. concept, the production version will reportedly follow the spirit and the design of the classic Microbus.
The eight-seat BUZZ concept could be powered by one or two electric motors, one at each axle.
“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,” said Klaus Bischoff, Volkswagen head of design, prior to the reveal of the concept in Detroit. “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.”
The Detroit concept is powered by two electric motors located at each axle producing a combined 369 hp, with a range of 372 miles on the European cycle on a full charge. That figure will inevitably change by the time the BUZZ reaches production — battery technology may not move fast but it does not sit still. VW’s aim for the range was 600 kilometers in the European cycle, but it was quick to temper expectations with an estimated 270-mile range as estimated by the EPA. Regardless of whether the EPA will still be around in five years, the 111-kWh battery that is integrated into the floor can be charged up to 80 percent in just 30 minutes, which will make the production BUZZ a capable road-tripper, as well as a range-anxiety-free commuter.
“The I.D. BUZZ is a next-generation vehicle based on the new Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB), offering comfort and plenty of space,” said Dr. Frank Welsch, Volkswagen member of the board of management responsible for development. “The overall concept of the I.D. BUZZ points the way to the future. This concept vehicle is the world’s first electric multi-purpose vehicle to be equipped with a fully autonomous driving mode. It carries the feeling of freedom of the Microbus over to a completely new era of mobility.”
When will fans of electric VeeDubs be able to buy the resurrected Bus? The latest reporting paints a 2022 or earlier debut for a production version of the BUZZ. In the year 2025, if man is still alive, a production version is likely to offer Level 5 autonomy, also known as full autonomy with eyes-off-the-road capability. That means you won’t even need to actually drive the Microbus; some machine will be doing that for you.