It’s Not Groovy, Won’t See Production
Volkswagen has two iconic cars that are known around the world:
• The Beetle, which is sold to this day, and
• The Microbus, which VW has been teasing about bringing back since 2001 when it showed a Microbus concept at the Detroit auto show. Another tease came in 2011 with a smaller, battery-electric Bulli concept.
At the January 2016 Consumer Electric Show in Las Vegas, the German automaker pulled the wraps off another much-anticipated Microbus concept, but it appears the company is still not close to bringing a modern day retro-styled Microbus to production.
Called the Volkswagen BUDD-e concept — a name that plays on Bulli, the original name of the VW Microbus in Germany—is a true concept. Its only function is to preview some of the electronic
technology that will arrive in a production vehicle in 2020.
UPDATE: Volkswagen just announced that the BUDD-e will make its auto show debut at the 2016 New York Auto Show.
Those of us who were hoping the concept would resemble the company’s fabled air-cooled vans of the past were disappointed. The Volkswagen BUDD-e’s tall and slab-sided design, along with a two-tone paint job, does slightly resemble the hippie van of our memories. A modern-style front serves little purpose, but the grille at least is V-shaped in reference to the old van’s chrome-trimmed face.
Following in the footsteps of the Tesla Model S and Chevrolet Volt, the platform is a “skateboard” design that holds a flat battery pack under the floor and between the wheels. Exhibiting the MEB platform’s flexibility, the Volkswagen BUDD-e features two electric motors, one on each axle for all-wheel drive capability.
Volkswagen claims the large battery pack, presumably lithium-ion, has a range of 233 miles and can be charged to 80 percent of battery capacity in 15 minutes, technology that VW currently doesn’t have. These are projections of where VW thinks battery technology will be at the end of the decade.
Vision of Future Technology
Volkswagen’s plans to develop new connected technology that will make its coming vehicles more intuitive are why the concept debuted at CES and not an
auto show like Detroit or Geneva. While the BUDD-e’s lack of historically honest styling is a disappointment, the high-tech electronics aren’t—the concept’s interior is packed with futuristic and fantastical technology.
• Instrument Panel: Center stage was a completely new human-machine interface (HMI). Replacing the traditional dash are two configurable displays that blend into one another; a 12.3-inch curved screen that acts like a gauge cluster, while the other 13.3-inch screen performs infotainment duty with true 3D map displays.
• Gesture Controls: In addition to operating the large infotainment panels, the BUDD-e can recognize gesture movements without specific voice instructions to activate—a wave of the hand opens the sliding door, a kick of the foot opens the tailgate.
• Touch-Sensitive Steering Wheel: The BUDD-e’s steering wheel tosses redundant tactile button controls for audio and other functions. Instead, the driver uses swipes and touch pressure with haptic feedback—something Volkswagen says is “more intuitive” than current steering wheel control setups.
• Connected To Internet Of Things: VW joins other automakers who foresee a time when our “smart” cars and “smart” homes are connected. The Volkswagen BUDD-e would be interconnected to home or workplace. The driver or another occupant could remotely control lighting or air conditioning, and the van would be able to display images from cameras located in or outside your home.
I guess this would mean that the BUDD-e would become your ever-present “buddy.”
Volkswagen’s new CEO, Matthias Mueller, said he plans to move past the massive diesel-emissions cheating scandal, and the company will focus more heavily on electrified vehicles. Obviously, that is something VW will need to do to survive.
But, I find it interesting that the Volkswagen supervisory board only announced the MEB development in October 2015 and the Volkswagen BUDD-e concept showed up in Las Vegas just three months.
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