- Self-driving electric van concept at Detroit 2017
- Debuts as people carrier but could form small LCV
- Part of new VW ID family on sale in 2020
Volkswagen has already confirmed it will bring an electric e-Crafter version of its latest large van to market in 2017. Does this VW ID Buzz concept just revealed at the Detroit motor show suggest a smaller, cuter, companion electric van is on the way?
Designed to demonstrate the flexibility of the firm’s new all-electric ID platform – which first saw the light as a quirkily-styled but otherwise more conventional car at the Paris motor show in 2016 – the Buzz is a modern take on the classic VW Microbus, famed for also forming the basis of a much-beloved campervan as well as a commercial vehicle.
Not content with being all-electric, the Buzz also demonstrates fully-autonomous self-driving technology, which VW reckons could come to market in 2025.
The ID platform is slated to appear earlier than that, however, with VW board chairman Dr. Herbert Diss going on record to announce a 2020 on sale date for the new electrical vehicle architecture.
Details of VW’s new all-electric van concept
As all the windows and seats make clear, although Volkswagen is describing the Buzz as a ‘van’, it’s certainly much more of an MPV as far as European vehicle terminology is concerned (in the USA the word ‘minivan’ is more commonly used to described what we would call people carriers).
However, the boxy, retro shape would also be ideal for a light commercial vehicle – especially considering the cult following VW vans both old and new already command. It would certainly make a much more interesting-looking alternative to the likes of the Renault Kangoo ZE and Nissan e-NV200.
Like these existing models, the ID Buzz is a pure electric vehicle. However, VW is clearly out to demonstrate the performance potential of this technology, as it’s loaded the little bus with two electric motors – one front, one rear – and given it 275kW of power.
That’s equivalent to a stonking 374hp, and means 0-62mph in 5.0sec as well as a top speed of 99mph. Perhaps more relevantly for commercial use, even at that power output there are enough batteries built into the floor to give the Buzz a 270-mile range between charges.
High-tech self-driving and augmented reality features
You may have noticed that the steering wheel isn’t round. It’s also a kind of giant touch pad – which gels neatly with the removable tablet in the minimalist centre console – and is designed to disappear into the dashboard whenever the autonomous driving mode is engaged.
VW is imagining a self-driving scenario so sophisticated here that you would even be able to turn the seat around to face the rear passengers. We suspected 2025 is an optimistic timeframe for this degree of technological accomplishment, but it’s an interesting idea none-the-less. Imagine being able to catch up with paperwork while your little VW drives you between jobs.
Further to this there’s also an ‘augmented reality’ head-up display, which projects information such as sat-nav directions onto the windscreen in a manner that makes them appear as if they’re floating in the road 7-15m ahead.
Is Volkswagen really going to build the Buzz?
The evocative looks of the Buzz certainly won’t harm the chances of Volkswagen’s electric ID platform launching to immediate success. And with VW ambitiously aiming to sell one million all-electric vehicles annually by 2025, it’ll need all the emotional engagement it can get.