Volkswagen’s Bulli microbus concept, revealed in 2011 as a funky little tribute to the legendary Type 2, is back - this time with new looks, a new electric platform, and a new name: Budd-e.
The development of a specific platform means that while the Budd-e itself may or may not make the leap to production, there’s nothing fanciful about Volkswagen’s plans for a new generation of electric vehicles.
On the styling front, the Budd-e pulls its Bulli predecessor in-line with Volkswagen’s evolving design language, introducing a tall grille with integrated headlights, reaching back toward a wraparound glasshouse and tall tail-lamps that extend up and over the tailgate.
Enough with the looks: as a CES unveiling, the Budd-e’s purpose is to showcase the electric drive systems and infotainment technology that Volkswagen will introduce in the years ahead.
Power in the Budd-e is provided by two electric motors, one at each axle, with energy drawn from a large 101kWh lithium-ion battery pack that runs along the vehicle floor.
Outputs for the motors have not been revealed, but Volkswagen claims a driving range of around 600 kilometres off one charge - based on the New European Driving Cycle system.
Those figures make the Budd-e fairly comparable with Tesla’s Model S P90D, which claims around 520km (NEDC) with its 90kWh battery pack.
As with Tesla’s platform, Volkswagen’s MEB architecture is designed to maximise interior space while accommodating an expansive battery pack in the floor. That design, with its low centre of gravity, is also intended to contribute to driving dynamics.
The MEB platform’s design gives the Budd-e a very long 3152mm wheelbase, with overall length measuring 4597mm. That makes the Budd-e markedly larger than its inspiration, with the original T1 Type 2 riding on a 2400mm wheelbase with an overall length of 4280mm. And, at 1940mm, the Budd-e is even wider than the current T6 Transporter.
Inside, the Budd-e features a large curved Active Information Display with three configurable sections, forming the major part of the concept’s user control interface.
The display, which also accepts gestures and voice control, features sections titled Drive, Control and Consume. The Drive section displays navigation, while control features aspects of the vehicle’s drive and comfort systems. Lastly, Consume focuses on infotainment, with controls for audio, weather, messages and a calendar.
Those gesture control functions also extend to the exterior, with the Budd-e’s doors able to respond to mid-air swiping movements for opening and closing.
Volkswagen also sees the Budd-e as a component of our connectivity with “the internet of things”, making it a key interface with systems that communicate with our devices and homes.
The carmaker says the Budd-e should be viewed as a preview of how electric vehicles might appear and work by 2019 - although that view is focused more on styling and its interior infotainment systems than the concept’s electric drivetrain, which is already fairly well matched by models like the Tesla Model S.
The company does note, however, that by 2019 it expects to be able to offer a rapid charge function for its electric vehicles, allowing for a 101kWh battery pack to be charged to 80 percent within just 15 minutes.
Although the Budd-e concept is not planned for production, it does mark a key point in Volkswagen’s move toward electric power, beyond the current e-Golf offered overseas.
Watch for an MEB-based production model to come in the next couple of years.