CES 2016: Volkswagen's hippie-era Microbus morphs into all-electric van

By BLOOMBERG | 6 January 2016


LAS VEGAS: Volkswagen AG is using this week's Consumer Electronics Show to hark back to happier times as the scandal-burdened German carmaker presents an emissions-free concept model reminiscent of its iconic, hippie-era Microbus.

The VW BUDD-e heralds new high-performance battery technology the company is creating for future electric cars, the Wolfsburg-based automaker said in a statement on Wednesday in advance of the show's opening in Las Vegas. VW didn’t specify whether it expects to produce a vehicle based on the all-wheel- drive concept.

Volkswagen is seeking to balance model development with the widening costs of a diesel-emissions cheating scandal that emerged in September, a task complicated by a US Justice Department lawsuit filed on Monday seeking penalties as high as US$80 billion.

Even with a 7 percent cut in the group's capital budget this year and reductions in other spending, Herbert Diess, head of the namesake VW brand, has vowed to invest in electric-drive systems and in December outlined plans for flat automotive batteries.


The battery for the BUDD-e is integrated into the vehicle floor and powers two electric motors, which drive both axles. The van offers a maximum range of as much as 375km, compared with 413km that Tesla Motors Inc. asserts for its new Model X electric sport utility vehicle.

The VW model's battery takes about 30 minutes to recharge to 80 percent of capacity, either from being plugged into a power socket or through an induction pad. The BUDD-e has a top speed of 180kph, and can accelerate from 0 to 100kph in 6.9 seconds.

The BUDD-e exterior is similar to that of the Microbus, which was built primarily in the 1950s and ’60s. Interior features include carpet or wooden flooring, a cushioned side bench, an electronic display panel instead of a dashboard and a wall-mounted touchscreen for the infotainment system.

Volkswagen looked into bringing back a version of the Microbus about 15 years ago especially for sale in the US, but scrapped the plans in 2005 after deciding the model wouldn’t make money. An electric variant would enter a segment that has yet to generate high demand, and VW has put off a redesign of its top-end Phaeton sedan as a battery-powered model.

e-Golf Touch Interior
The e-Golf Touch infotainment system.

VW's display at the CES also includes the e-Golf Touch, a hatchback whose new infotainment system includes 9.2-inch, high-resolution touchscreen as well as gesture controls similar to what the carmaker plans for coming compact models.

The e-Golf Touch also marks the debut of Volkswagen’s latest generation voice control technology. This system offers significantly improved controls, as voice commands are displayed on the screen to accompany the request. This new version of the voice control system will be launched in the early summer of 2016 in Europe.