VW e-Bulli – a classic VW Transporter converted to electric power

  • All-electric van conversion means double the power, no emissions
  • Fully Volkswagen CV approved, built by eClassics and on sale now
  • Driving range is over 124 miles, fully revised suspension and handling

This might cheer you up: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in Germany has gone and converted a classic Samba Microbus into an all-electric vehicle called the e-Bulli, doubling its power and torque in the process.

And it’s not even a one-off – together with partner eClassics, VW is making the e-Bulli available for customers to buy, either as a conversion or a complete vehicle.

This is surely the kind of electric van we can all agree on.

The VW e-Bulli looks fantastic!

Doesn’t it just. Bulli is the affectionate German name for the Transporter bus range, particularly the early T1 and T2 models that also form the basis of the stereotypical classic VW campervan. This e-Bulli is based on a T1 Samba originally built at the Hanover factory in 1966, then delivered to California – it has been fully and lovingly restored.

Volkswagen e-Bulli - interior, front, 2020

Fans will spot that alongside the electric drivetrain – on which more in a minute – the e-Bulli features a revised interior, including a neat centre console that contains the gear selector for the single-speed transmission.

Functioning like an automatic, this has forward and reverse settings plus a B mode that allows the driver to vary the level of regenerative braking – in other words how much the electric motor slows the van down when you lift off the accelerator. The more aggressive the deceleration, the more energy you recover – standard electric van stuff.

So what’s going in the engine bay?

Instead of the wheezy old four-cylinder ‘boxer’ petrol engine with its staggering 44hp, the e-Bulli is now propelled by a package of ‘the Volkswagen Group’s latest electric drive system components’ – despite appearances this is now a state-of-the-art machine.

Volkswagen e-Bulli - electric motor, 2020

It’s also nearly twice as powerful as it was, thanks to an electric motor that produces 83hp, and 212Nm of torque it’s more than twice as muscular – the old T1 engine coughing up just 102Nm.

This makes it the most powerful T1 ever ‘officially’ created by Volkswagen (the quotation marks are VW’s, not ours). Top speed is just under 81mph – up from the 65mph the bus would have originally, eventually managed.

Volkswagen e-Bulli - overhead view, 2020

What’s more, because it’s now pure-electric, the e-Bulli drives silently and with zero tailpipe emissions.

What’s the driving range?

VW reckons it will travel over 124 miles on a charge – a figure we can well believe, since the electric motor appears to be similar to that fitted in the e-Up electric city car, and the e-Bulli has a 45kWh battery pack to the e-Up’s 36.8kWh item.

Volkswagen e-Bulli - side view, driving, wind farm, 2020

The e-Up has a claimed driving range of 159 miles, though it is also smaller, presumably lighter and more modern.

Charging the e-Bulli is equally up-to-date, with 50kW DC compatibility (among the most powerful currently available) as well as more modest AC charging options. On the mainline DC plug you can get an 80% charge in 40 minutes.

The charging port iis cleverly hidden under the rear number plate.

Volkswagen e-Bulli - charging port under rear number plate, 2020

The battery pack, specially designed for this application, is mounted centrally under the floor, lowering the van’s centre of gravity – which improves the way it drives.

Has anything else about the e-Bulli been updated?

Sensibly, eClassics has also been right through the chassis, adding new multi-link suspension front and rear, adjustable coil-over shock absorbers, modern rack-and-pinion steering and ventilated brake discs all round.

As a result ‘compared to the T1, riding in the e-Bulli feels completely different,’ says VW. No kidding. ‘Serene poise’ is another phrase it uses.

Volkswagen e-Bulli - front view, wind farm, 2020

On the outside the main Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles design centre has gotten together with VWCV Vintage Vehicles (who knew such a thing existed?) and the firm’s communications department to subtly update the classic Samba’s looks.

Not only does it sport two-tone Energetic Orange Metallic and Golden Sand Metallic paint, it’s also fitted with LED headlights and external LED battery charge indicators.

On the inside there’s new seating and upholstery – in complementary Saint Tropez and Saffrano Orange, no less – and a solid wood floor like the deck of a fancy boat. The roof has a giant, fold-back canvas panel.

Volkswagen e-Bulli - interior, rear, 2020

There are also modernised instruments, a built-in tablet for Volkswagen We-Connect connectivity services and a retro-look radio system that still packs DAB, Bluetooth and a USB connection.

How much does the VW e-Bulli cost and why is it being announced now?

The e-Bulli was supposed to have been VWCV’s star at the 2020 Techno Classica show. But this has been cancelled by COVID-19, and so we’re getting a digital debut of this all-electric resto-mod instead.

It was no joke about this being available to customers, either. VW’s partner firm on the project, eClassics will build you one with prices starting at 64,900 Euros – that’s around £60,000 at current exchange rates.

Prefer something a little newer? A similar conversion is also available on the VW T2 and T3.

Now all we need to do is convince Volkswagen to let us drive them...

Also read:

>> VW Transporter full review

>> Bricking it: full-size VW camper made out of Lego

>> VW ID Buzz Cargo electric van heading for production

>> Find a VW Transporter for sale via Parkers