Volkswagen is looking to become the world leader when it comes to electric vehicles, and now electric buses. The German automaker is planning to sell 22 million electric cars over the next decade across all off its many brands. If you don’t know, The VW Group owns Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT, Škoda, and of course, Volkswagen. With so many electric cars planned, Volkswagen is sure to cover every body style and size imaginable with an electric vehicle. This includes an electric microbus, tentatively known as the ID BUZZ, which takes inspiration from the company’s iconic Type 2 microbus design. Here is everything we know so far bout the VW electric bus.
VW TYPE 2 HISTORY
Before we look at the electric microbus, let’s look at the original VW bus that started it all. The first generation of the Type 2 was first produced in 1949. It was named the Type 2 as it was the second vehicle that Volkswagen had produced at that time, the first being the equally iconic Beetle (Type 1). The first (and most recognizable) generation of the VW Microbus was produced until 1967 in Europe and the US and until 1975 in Brazil. While its intended purpose was to serve as a utilitarian transport/cargo van, the Type 2 had become a symbol of the 1960s counterculture movement in the US. Dubbed by some as the “hippie van,” the Type 2 became very popular with those looking to “stick it to the man”. The simplicity of the body and engine made it easy to fix and its spacious interior allowed large groups to travel together and even live inside of it. As such, the Type 2 is now one of the most recognizable vehicles in history. It holds a special place in the hearts of people that lived through those times and is idealized by those who wish they could have experienced those times for themselves.
The iconic VW Microbus would continue to go through model refreshes and is currently on its sixth generation, none of which have seemed to capture the magic of the original. Now the company is looking to bring some of its history back with a VW electric bus.
VW ID BUZZ
With that history out of the way, we’ve come to a VW electric bus, the VW ID BUZZ. The VW ID BUZZ made its debut as a prototype during the North American International Auto Show in January 2019. At the time, it was not stated if the electric microbus would make its way into production. The VW ID BUZZ was received with much fanfare due to its fun aesthetics and the fact that it was a reimagining of the iconic Type 2. After much fanfare and a “large number of letters and emails from customers who said, ‘please build this car,’” Volkswagen announced its intention to bring the ID BUZZ into production eight months later (it probably also helped that VW Boss, Dr. Hebert Diess, considers the car, “the most beautiful and most exciting electric car in the world”). The VW Electric bus will join the first wave of Volkswagen electric cars which includ the ID Hatchback (now officially known as the ID.3), ID CROZZ, and ID VIZZION.
The electric microbus more or less retains the shape of its original gasoline-powered ancestor. As of right now, the concept has the following dimensions: 4.94m Length x 1.97m Width x 1.96 Height (16.2’x6.46’x6.43’). Compared to the original Type 2, it is significantly longer and slightly wider, but retains practically the same height. The dimensions of the generation 1 VW Type 2 were: 4.2m Length x 1.72m Width x 1.94m Height (13.77’x5.64’x6.36’). In addition to the similar proportions, The company adapted some of the design features of the original such as the two-tone V-nose, rectangular windows, and rear side air vents it’s new, refreshed, electric bus.
In terms of performance, there will be two different powertrain configurations: an all-wheel drive version with a 111 kWh battery that will make 369 hp, and a rear-wheel drive version which has an 83 kWh battery that will make 268 hp. Volkswagen claims that the higher spec’d version will be able to reach a 0-60mph time in about 5 seconds and will feature a top speed of 99 mph.
In terms of autonomy, the ID BUZZ is looking to offer Level 3 autonomous driving upon release. However, with the release date being so far away, we can only imagine where the progress with autonomous driving will be at that point. Volkswagen anticipates full Level 5 autonomy to become a reality around 2025 for their vehicles.
Of the currently planned Volkswagen electric cars, the ID BUZZ has by far garnered the most attention from enthusiasts and people within VW. The automaker seems to be very keen in making sure that everything goes right with this electric microbus. On top of calling it the “most exciting” electric car, Dr. Diess has on multiple occasions emphasized the importance of offering an “emotional” car when referencing the ID BUZZ.
“Emotional cars are very important for the brand. We are selling loads of Beetles still, particularly in U.S. markets. But we will also have the Microbus that we showed, which we have recently decided we will build.”
“We would like to bring this back because it fits so well to what the brand stands for: it’s emotional, it has functionality, it makes your life easier.”
You can also turn to their most recent redemption-toned commercial where VW tries to convey that it has turned over a new leaf after the dieselgate scandal and is now all-in when it comes to electric cars.
Was the electric car featured in the commercial the ID.3, which is to go into production at the end of this year? No, the car under the spotlight was the VW electric bus, the ID BUZZ, a vehicle that is, at the very least, three years away and not even in a production form. Clearly, Volkswagen is looking for the ID BUZZ to be the microbus that will finally capture the magic of the original.
VW ID BUZZ INTERIOR
The VW ID BUZZ interior is just as groovy and interesting as the exterior. The cabin can seat up to eight people and uses a rail system that will offer a lot of flexibility in terms of seating configuration. Seats can be swiveled around, folded into tables, or completely folded into the floor to have the maximum amount of space. Thanks to electric cars being able to stow the battery and motors below the seats, you can have even more interior room thanks to there not being space allocated for the engine.
The dashboard is very minimalist with an oddly shaped steering wheel taking center stage. When/if the BUZZ comes with autonomous features, the driver will be able to press the big VW logo in the center of the steering wheel which will enable autonomous driving and the steering wheel will retract into the dashboard itself. At that point, the front seats can swivel around to face the passengers in the back.
This VW electric bus truly is the closest you will get to a “living room on wheels” (outside of a dedicated camper), and I hope that the rail system will make its way into the production model.
VW ID BUZZ RANGE
Depending on the battery pack, the VW ID BUZZ will have a range of about 200-270 miles. The higher tiered 111 kWh battery version will have an estimated EPA rated range of 270 miles. The 83 kWh version will have a range close to 200 miles. As of the writing of this article, there are no other electric microbuses to compare to. The closest comparison we could make is the Rivian R1S and R1T which are other big electric vehicles slated to be released around the same time. The two will have a range of anywhere from 230-410 miles depending on the battery configuration. While 270 miles does place the range in acceptable figures, given that a microbus’ envisioned use is for road trips, I wonder if the range will be bumped up over the next three years. As of right now, Volkswagen is saying that the ID BUZZ will have a charging rate of 150 kW, meaning a 0-80% charge will take 30 minutes. If you’re envisioning a cross country road trip, you are going to have a lot of stops. Although, there are few cars I would imagine are more comfortable to wait around in.
VW ID BUZZ PRICE
As of right now, the price of the VW ID BUZZ is to be determined. With the electric microbus so far out, we will not be seeing a concrete price for a while. Although we can speculate based on the pricing of the ID.3, the cheapest ID.3 is slated to start at “under €30,000” (about $33,000). The current cheapest VW Golf in Germany starts at €21,365 (about $24,000). This represents a roughly 38% increase in price (this is not completely accurate due to their not being a final price on the ID.3 yet). The current cheapest VW microbus (that’s not a transport version) in Germany starts at €37,818 (about $42,500). If we apply a 38% increase to the price, we get €52,188 (about $65,000). This is a very rough estimate, but we should expect to see the ID BUZZ at no lower than $60,000, especially if it manages to incorporate autonomous driving features.
VW ID BUZZ RELEASE DATE
At this point, the VW ID BUZZ release date is slated to be some time in 2022. The current electric microbus we see is a hand-built prototype so it still has a long way to go before it enters production. The further you plan for the future, the less accurate the dates can be, so the 2022 release year could be subject to change.
VW ELECTRIC VAN
In an effort to fulfill a utilitarian purpose as well as an “emotional” one, Volkswagen has showed off a Volkswagen ID BUZZ CARGO. This version of the VW electric microbus is built to serve as a cargo van. Some of the differences from the regular ID BUZZ include: a four-inch longer body, solar panels on the roof that add about 9 miles of range a day, no sliding doors, and 240-volt power outlets for power tools. The ID BUZZ CARGO features the same 111 kWh battery, but only has a single 201 hp motor for the rear wheels. The estimated range is 340 miles based on the WLTP cycle. Volkswagen states that the electric cargo van could launch in Europe as soon as 2022 and are still undecided about bringing it to the United States.
VW CHARGING STATIONS
While there are no official VW charging stations, Electrify America stations can be seen as the de facto charging stations for Volkswagen vehicles since Volkswagen was the one who built them. By the end of 2019, Electrify America looks to have over 2,000 fast chargers at almost 500 locations nationwide. Each planned site will be no further than 120 miles from one another. Additionally, Electrify America chargers can go up to 350 kW, meaning that if the ID BUZZ will end up supporting charging rates that high, a 0-80% charge can be done in as little as 15 minutes. Of course, you don’t need a specific Volkswagen charging station to charge the ID BUZZ. It will most likely come with a CCS plug that will enable it to charge at basically any charger that isn’t a Tesla Supercharger. According to the Department of Energy, there are currently 17,369 charging stations in the US which feature CCS plugs, and that number will only continue to grow.