Don’t call it Microbus: The basic shape of the Volkswagen Budd-e concept may bring to mind the classic van, but this is an all-electric car that points toward the type of EV Volkswagen could sell by 2019. “We want to create a new experience of mobility,” says Volkswagen passenger cars CEO Dr. Herbert Diess.
The Budd-e is the first vehicle built upon Volkswagen’s new Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB, for the original German translation), and neatly hides its 101-kWh lithium-ion battery pack into the floor of the car. That’s a huge battery pack by the standards of today’s electric cars. The largest battery Tesla sells, for instance, is the 90-kWh pack in the Model X crossover; the current Volkswagen e-Golf‘s lithium-ion battery pack has a capacity of just 24.2 kWh. With two electric drive motors, one at each axle, the Volkswagen Budd-e concept is said to manage an impressive driving range of 233 miles per charge. The concept’s top speed is 93 mph.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this article stated a claimed range of 373 miles, but that is based on the New European Driving Cycle. The driving range of 233 miles is for the more rigorous EPA drive cycle in the U.S.
Better yet, Volkswagen says that advanced charging technology under development now should allow for that battery to be 80-percent recharged in as little as 15 minutes. In other words, the Budd-e would have the range and quick refueling time of a conventional gasoline-powered car. Assuming, of course, this battery and charging technology makes it to production unchanged from the concept.
Retro design cues
Despite the modern technology, there’s no mistaking that the Volkswagen Budd-e concept takes its inspiration from the Microbus. At 181.0 inches long, the Budd-e fits in lengthwise between a Golf SportWagen and a Passat, but its 72.2-inch height makes it taller than a Dodge Grand Caravan. The van’s nose has high-mounted LED headlights and an illuminated VW logo. The Budd-e wears a two-tone copper and white paint scheme, 21-inch wheels, and gloss-black D-pillars that are sculpted to improve aerodynamic performance. Out back, vertical LED taillights extend into the D-pillars.
The heating and air conditioning systems are mounted in front, to maximize cabin space, while out back is a special “Drop Box.” One of many internet-linked services (more below), the Drop Box function would allow owners to have online orders, for instance new windshield wipers for the Budd-e, delivered to the car’s Drop Box. (Volvo is experimenting with a similar system that allows couriers to deliver packages to a car’s trunk.)
Ultra-modern interior controls
Inside the Volkswagen Budd-e concept, a 12.3-inch Active Info Display screen replaces a traditional instrument cluster, serving up navigation data, trip information, the car’s charging information, or entertainment data. It’s similar in concept to the Virtual Cockpit fully digital instrument clusters in the Audi TT, R8, and Q7. The steering wheel also has a touch interface with haptic feedback, allowing the driver to slide or tap various parts of the wheel that correspond to menus shown on the display.
At the center of the dashboard is a 13.3-inch display that shows even more information for passengers, with configurable “tiles” of information that can be swiped and arranged next to one another. The display has intelligent voice recognition for the climate-control and other systems.
Building on the technology shown at last year’s CES in the Golf R Touch concept, many of the Volkswagen Budd-e concept’s functions can be operated by gesture control. Passengers can use special hand gestures to open the van’s sliding doors, for instance, or to open the liftgate. The car will even project a laser outline on the ground of where users should wave their feet to make the doors open automatically.
“Door handles are so 2016,” says Diess. “Budd-e doesn’t need them.”
The future of electric Volkswagens
What the Budd-e previews above all is Volkswagen’s strategy for making electric cars that have all the performance of a regular gasoline model, with none of the drawbacks of today’s EVs. Electric vehicles will become increasingly important to Volkswagen, with the company even planning an electric Phaeton, in part because the company wants to move past its not-so-green diesel scandal.
“The Budd-e could be a reality by the end of the decade,” says Diess. “I’m sure the best days of the car are yet to come.” Stay tuned for more details on an exact debut date for an electric car inspired by this concept.