By on August 20, 2017

I.D. Buzz Concept Volkswagen Microbus

Volkswagen is bringing back one of America’s iconic and beloved vehicles, the microbus, as fully-electric van. Made official over the weekend, VW’s announcement indicated a production version of the horrendously named I.D. Buzz Concept would appear in North America, Europe, and China for 2022.

Showcased earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show, the vehicle is an unabashed nostalgia-machine with enough modern features to keep itself contemporary and betray some of its retro charm. But didn’t we already do this over a decade ago? Immediately after the new millennium, it seemed like most automakers had something on offer to satiate Baby Boomers’ lust for the past. The Chrysler PT Cruiser, Ford Thunderbird, Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, Plymouth Prowler, Mini Cooper, Chevrolet HHR, Chevy SSR, and even VW’s own New Beetle all arrived as part of this slightly awkward push to bring back the glory days of the those enjoying their youths in ’60s and ’70s.

The forthcoming Volkswagen van may, if you’ll excuse the terrible pun, have already missed the Microbus. While the vehicle possesses a charm that supersedes age, it might have been more welcome fifteen years ago. Boomers, who would be the most likely to purchase such a vehicle, are getting older — perhaps too old to want something like this. But maybe they’re not the market the German automaker is going for. 

China’s regulatory efforts has made it the biggest market for future BEV sales and the people that live within its borders love technology-laden automobiles. Meanwhile, American drivers that opt-in on battery power tend to be younger and more affluent than your run-of-the-mill hybrid shopper.

I.D. Buzz Concept Volkswagen Microbus

Information on the vehicle remains limited but Volkswagen made clear that it would be “fully electric” and possess level 3 autonomy. It also said that it would arrive on the global scene after a “more conventional all-electric VW” (probably the Crozz SUV concept) using the company’s I.D. label. That seems to suggest that the automaker is aware that the Microbus won’t have the same broad appeal of the original.

That’s a shame because a flat boxed minivan seems like something the automotive market is sorely missing right now. But, being so heavy on tech and possessing a battery-only power source, the Buzz is likely to lack mainstream allure. Unfortunately, adding a fuel tank and internal combustion engine would only sully its current shape for the sake of versatility. VW said having the batteries and electric motor mounted in the vehicle’s floor will allow for a spacious cabin and permit it to keep its present form (more or less).

I.D. Buzz Concept Volkswagen Microbus

“After the presentations at the global motor shows in Detroit and Geneva, we received a large number of letters and emails from customers who said, ‘please build this car’,” Volkswagen CEO Dr Herbert Diess said in Pebble Beach over the weekend. VW’s Board of Management chose Pebble Beach as the location to make its announcement because, as Diess explained: “The Microbus has long been part of the California lifestyle. Now we’re bringing it back by reinventing it as an electric vehicle.”

There’s still a case to be made for a hybridized option. Even in 2022, BEVs probably won’t have reached the popularity most automakers are proposing. But how feasible cramming a gasoline engine into the final design remains to be seen. What is known, however, is that VW doesn’t want to limit the Microbus to the private sector.

I.D. Buzz Concept Volkswagen Microbus

“Along with a minibus version, we’ll also be offering an I.D. Buzz Cargo variant for zero-emissions delivery of goods,” said Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles CEO Dr. Eckhard Scholz. “With Level 3 autonomous capability, this is an ideal concept for an electric van, particularly for delivering packages and goods to the inner cities.”

Inner cities means lower-range, which isn’t a bad thing when you don’t have far to go but it does put the kibosh on any fantasies of a cross-country road trip — unless it included frequent stops at EV charging stations. Here’s hoping that VW can maximize the miles per charge and make the final incarnation of its retro-inspired van as practical as possible. Because, when you stop and think about it, that’s what made the old one such a winner. Still, its quirky charm and throwback appeal are mighty. Maybe that factor alone will be sufficient to lure in a swath of eclectic and nostalgic customers from Europe or North America, who are just hungry from something unique.

I.D. Buzz Concept Volkswagen Microbus

 

[Images: Volkswagen]

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52 Comments on “Volkswagen Officially Confirms Electric Microbus Production — Who is Supposed to Care?...”


  • avatar

    To do list:

    1) Sell everything.
    2) Buy VW minibus.
    3) Move to Colorado.
    4) Grow hair.
    5) Await return of Jerry Garcia while America implodes, just like the late 60’s.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    “Volkswagen is bringing back one of America’s iconic and beloved vehicles…”

    It isn’t “America’s” vehicle, but it is/was iconic here. Your wording suggests that it was from here, and/or only considered iconic here. Not so.

    “The Chrysler PT Cruiser, Ford Thunderbird … Plymouth Prowler … Chevrolet HHR, Chevy SSR … all arrived as part of this slightly awkward push to bring back the glory days of the ’60s and ’70s.”

    Quite awkward, since the vehicles those particular models emulated were not from the 1960s or 70s.

    “Boomers, who would be the most likely to purchase such a vehicle, are getting older — perhaps too old to want something like this.”

    Yes, because I’ve never seen an old couple driving a minivan. Never.

    Nor has any person under 65 purchased a Mini, New Beetle, 500, Mustang, Camaro, Challenger or Charger.

    “While the vehicle possesses a charm that supersedes age, it might have been more welcome fifteen years ago.”

    Because BEVs were more popular 15 years ago? This exact vehicle would not exist in its present form with a gasoline engine, as you pointed out. Retro is a part of this vehicle, but no more so than its electric drivetrain.

    Since they’re producing a cargo version, its clear VW doesn’t see this model as *just* a retro vehicle that is supposed to sell on that fact alone (like the New Beetle, for example). Its a very modern, technology-infused vehicle first, that just happens to be styled as a successor to the old VW bus secondly.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      The cargo version will have to be built in the NAFTA zone to avoid the 25% “chicken tax” in the States, just like the 1960s bus did. That or import passenger vehicles and then remove the rear seats, seat belts, and windows – the approache used by Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Acceleration will probably be measured in geologic time like the original.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Yay, the VW Shenanigon is coming!

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    I wonder how much room VW’s van will have in the back with all but the front two seats removed or recessed into the floor. Our Sienna has room for a mattress. It’s more comfortable than sleeping on the ground in a tent without the expense of an RV. Range is still a concern. Yesterday, we took the Sienna on an evening trip, 100 miles each way, with no opportunity to recharge in the middle.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @kendahl: The VW van has a 270 mile range so you should have been able to make it without a problem. In sub-zero temps, you probably would have needed a charge at the halfway point. From what I understand, it will have the new 300+ kW charging capability so you could shoot in a couple of hundred miles of range in less than 15 minutes. Also, I carry a portable level 2 charger that can plug into RV NEMA 14-50 outlets, so if you’re camping, you can plug-in.

      I’ve made a similar 230 mile trip from Boston’s Northern suburbs to Vermont and back without a problem in a 100-mile range Leaf. I quick charged twice at the halfway point in Bedford New Hampshire and in Vermont once. With a 270-mile range VW I could have easily made the entire trip without a single charge. The hotel where I stayed had charging stations and lots of 120v outlets in the parking lot, so I would probably plug into the 120’s anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      b534202

      Seems like this is one vehicle where you can put a big piece of solar panel on the roof. Maybe even can have it unfold and act as an awning.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    I think you are underestimating the vw minibus love by hipsters. Really it’s going to come down to price. Not everyone in California who wants an electric van/SUV can afford a model X after all.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    This will be a success — not as a 2,000 mile cross country road trip vehicle, but as a city van, both commercially and privately owned. Maybe more in Europe than the US (I couldn’t say about China), where I can envision these as anything between and including carrying surfboards to the beach at St Moritz, to carrying kids to school in Genk, to carrying tourists to hotels in Vienna, to carrying mail to offices in Frankfurt.

    Just like the original Microbus did.

    By 2022, such vehicles will be BEVs quite commonly (I see them regularly already, mostly French ones — Peugeot and Renault), and being styled somewhat reminiscient of a $50,000 iconic classic can’t but help the VW get a slice of that cake.

  • avatar
    loopy55

    If you don’t live in SoCal you have no idea how the old MicroBus is revered as the surfer/hippie/hipster lifestyle vehicle – they command high prices. People will knock down VW’s doors to get at this. The EV powertrain , though completely impractical now, might be actually usable in 5 years. And they could never have built it as a conventionally powered vehicle due to crash regulations.

    • 0 avatar
      guardian452

      They are a good way to stand out… I saw one of these baby blue and well-restored close to the beach. It stood waaay out in the sea of grey/silver/black RR’s, Audis, Porsches, and other boring plebe-mobiles in Santa Monica.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      The microbus, but more so the Vanagon and Eurovan (because young people can actually afford them) are hipster icons everywhere on this continent.

  • avatar
    dwford

    do they realize that the baby boomers that would’ve been interested in a new vw bus are in their golden years now and probably no longer interest

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    In addition to all the talk of nostalgia for this thing, there’s also the fact that the current crop of affordable cars are largely starved for style and individuality. I think a lot of people would be into this for that aspect alone.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    It will be fun watching the myriad ways VW can screw up in this new technology venture.

    After all, they’re well established in screwing up in the known realm of ICE cars.

    Let’s see how many ways they can make this new one highly fragile and non-repairable. I wonder what the Buzz version of coil packs will be. My guess is they’ll try to German-engineer the reliability right out of the batteries to start with.

    • 0 avatar
      Ermel

      You’re confusing VWoA with VW proper. Just because they screwed up in the US market doesn’t mean they’re incompetent. Or how could they be one of the world’s biggest carmakers — and quite profitable even after billions of Dieselgate punishments — if they were?

    • 0 avatar
      guardian452

      It’s possible, but much easier to screw up the BMS or some random power electronic (AC compressor inverter, anyone?)

      EV deaths come from obscure parts no longer available as the main drivetrain tends to be the focus of attention and is therefore fairly well-engineered.

    • 0 avatar
      tylanner

      VW should be worried about those industry best SUV ICE warranties they got going then…going to cost them “big-time” in repair/maintenance…

  • avatar
    slap

    The problem with the electric Microbus is that size wise it is what some would buy as a trip vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Goatshadow

      Plenty of room to take a nap while it’s charging…

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @goatshadow: It might be a short nap. I think it’s getting the same charging system that’s coming to the Porsche Mission E. Cars with 350 kW and 450 kW charging will leave you with barely enough time to hit the bathroom during a charge. They’re already starting to install 350 kW stations.

        https://electrek.co/2017/07/14/porsche-350-kw-ev-charging-station/
        http://www.chargepoint.com/about/news/chargepoint-enables-future-mobility-express-plus-electric-vehicle-charging-platform/

  • avatar
    Joss

    Oh looky a minivan with a single 1 gear automatic? Makes the fools buying new ice with 8 & 10 gears, look well over complicated.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Agreed.

      I’ll in a minivan phase of my life and, if I were ever going to buy another VW, it would pretty much have to be an electric minivan.

      But, my Jetta TDI ate gearboxes and sensors at such a rate that I could probably pay for a Tesla Model X on the money I spent on that car. That will be a consideration.

      But an electric minivan? That’s the vehicle I need and want *today* and, if VW is the only company selling one, I’ll have to at least give it some serious thought.

      But the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is probably a better bet, even if it’s vastly more complicated. As a former VW owner, I have more faith in FCA completing a complex systems integration challenge than in VW completing a simple one.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    It looks like your legs are the crumple zone. This version will never be legal where there are crash standards.

  • avatar

    What can get wrong with VW built BEV? I am not a prophet but sometimes I have a vision of exploding BEVs with badge resembling W inside the circle. What it might be about? Any ideas?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    We’ll see how many 75-year-old hippies want this vehicle in 2022 when they see it costs $60-100k due to its 100 kWh battery.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I respectfully disagree. The original VW Kombi van was very versatile in addition to being an icon. It was in production in Brazil through 2013. In Rio today, you see them all over, usually driven by tradesmen.

    I think a small easy-to-park electric van would be successful among younger buyers and businesses in large urban areas. The nostalgia factor would be a mere plus, not the primary selling point as it was for the Volkswagen Beetle.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      As a kid whose parents drove a VW Bus (and owned a second one for parts), the Hus became iconic *because* it was cheap, versatile, and repairable.

      Without those attributes, it’s just another forgettable retro design.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        That is the key. It’s going to have to be value and utility first, and nostalgia a distant second. If VW can bring it in at a decent price point and it has decent range it will sell. They are not going to be able to sell it as a high end specialty vehicle with Boomers as the primary target.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Will a 275 mile range be impressive in 2022? I don’t think so. It’ll have to be at least 400 by then.

    But as others have said, the fact no one has made an electric vehicle that is cute, customizable, practical and “unique” is quite frankly absurd. Why isn’t the Leaf or Bolt available in ridiculous two tones or anything that says “I drive a weird looking car and I’m proud of it!”?

    If someone made an affordable EV version of something that resembled a 2x scale Suzuki Alto Lapin (with lifted suspension and AWD available) , they’d have a massive hit. Lynn & Co are you listening?

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      And yes I meant Lynk & Co.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      scott25 – – –

      The e-Microbus has a projected range of …. 275 miles?
      How pathetic.

      When EV’s have:
      1) a range of greater than miles 500 miles while hauling and/or towing, and…
      2) can FULLY charge in 10 minutes or less, and…
      3) will cost LESS than a comparable ICE vehicle, and…
      4) can be supported by charging stations all over the country, and…
      5) have an electric grid capable of powering more than 25% of all customers who would drive EV’s, and…
      6) do not depend on exotic metals like indium and cobalt, which are rare and rapidly depleting, and…
      7) have adequate VERY cold-temperature performance (which they do not now), then……
      …..maybe they would be the beginning of a viable alternative product for GENERAL (as opposed to urban-only) use.

      In the meantime, my 6-passenger diesel pickup cost <$50K; hauls 3K lbs.; tows 16K lbs.; has a range of 700+ miles; can refuel in 7 minutes; does not depend on anyone's "grid"; and can safely drive from Milwaukee to Minneapolis at -15 deg. F to visit grandma!

      ========================

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    The original So. Cal. surfer vehicle was a late-’30s to late-’40s woodie wagon. It didn’t matter what maker, they just had to be CHEAP and available. There weren’t as many of the all-steel wagons of the 1950s, and by the ’60s the ’55-’57 Chevrolet wagon was the iconic surfer vehicle.

    The VW bus didn’t come in vogue until there were too few ’50s wagons left at a decent price in the late ’60s. The Dart, Valiant, and Falcon wagons were too expensive and still in use as daily commuters at that time.

    I bought my brown ’63 Dart wagon in’74 from a surfer who had gotten married, and he tried to buy it back so he could sell it to another surfer. The early to mid ’60s Dart and Valiant wagons were hard for broke surfers to find since they were still good commuter cars after 10-15 years on the road.

  • avatar
    shaker

    And I always thought that Woodys were popular with surfers because of the lack of termites at the beach…

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I have never been a fan of these, let alone any VW. I do see the one nostalgic feature they pretty much did keep – the front bumper looks to still be your knees!

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    Can they just sell us the T6 / California instead?

  • avatar
    Opus

    Zackman – WRONG. If you look closer, you can see that you enter and sit BEHIND the front wheels, unlike the old Bus where you sat ON/Ahead of the front axle. This is (as someone else already pointed out) a short-nosed minivan design that has been cleverly styled to disguise that fact.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    I’ve been waiting for this for 15 years now and I’m under 50. My wife would have bought a Microbus years ago had they sold the 2003 concept version (she drives a mini).

    The main problem I have is it’s 5 years from now, really five years is an eternity in the auto world. By then it better have closer to 300 miles of range.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    I had one of the originals. Horribly unsafe. Grossly underpowered. Highway travel in windy conditions was like tacking a sailboat. Sold it for the original price to a flower child. I miss it. Like Bob and Ray.


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