The Volkswagen Bus Is Back…And Now It’s Electric

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Debuting at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, the Volkswagen Budd-e previews an electric VW Microbus successor that could debut in 2019. While still technically a concept, the Budd-e rides on the new Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB) that will underpin future small electric cars from VW. Even if the Budd-e doesn’t make it to showrooms, some of its hardware might.

The Budd-e, a pint-sized version of the company’s legendary hippie van, stays true to what seems to be the automotive theme of CES this year – connection to everything on command. The Budd-e will let you know if a visitor is at the front of your house, what’s in your fridge and “make sure your robot cleaner is ready” before you get home, according to one LG exec who came onstage during the presentation.

The Budd-e name is a play on Bulli, the original name of the VW Microbus in Germany. But instead of an air-cooled boxer-four engine in back, the Budd-e features two electric motors, one for each axle. They can propel the van to a top speed of 93 mph, while the 101-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack provides enough juice for 373 miles of range. Admittedly, that’s as measured on the European testing cycle; expect a slightly less impressive performance on the U.S. EPA cycle. Wireless charging is also included, and VW claims the battery pack can be charged to 80 percent capacity in 15 minutes.

The tall, slab-sided, design certainly recalls the Microbus, isn’t as retro as some people might have expected. There’s a modern-style front fascia with thin headlights and a prominent grille that serves no obvious purpose on this electric vehicle. That grille is at least V-shaped in reference to the old bus’ chrome-trimmed face, and the Budd-e sports a two-tone paint job and full LED lighting. The battery pack is also flat like in a Tesla, freeing up interior space.

That interior is packed with tech. An “Active Info Display” is divided into three sections: Drive, Control, and Consume. The “Drive” section features a 3D navigation map with highlighted points of interest, while the “Control” section includes other relevant information like vehicle status and trip data. The “Consume” section displays infotainment content like messages, a calendar, and audio menu. There’s also a 13.3-inch central display linked to the driver-focused Active Info Display.

Other notable features are an “e-Mirror” display that integrates feeds from two external cameras, a multifunction steering wheel that uses haptic feedback instead of buttons and switches, and the next generation of the gesture control technology shown on the Golf R Touch at CES in 2015. But the tech isn’t limited to what is in the car.

Perhaps inspired by hippies using old Microbuses as improvised dwellings, Volkswagen also envisions an integrated “Drop Box” where a delivery person can drop off and pick up packages wherever your car is parked.

Budd-e also seems to be adherent to “the force.” The handleless car doors will automatically open at the command of your voice.

The Budd-e can also be integrated with smart homes; Volkswagen claims it can monitor a smart fridge or put an entire house into energy-saving mode remotely. We’ve clearly come a long way from the old Type 2.