The Volkswagen I.D. Buzz is what the classic VW Microbus would be like if it belonged to the future. Not a very distant future though, considering the fact that the German auto maker plans to roll out production versions of its I.D. Concept vehicles by the year 2020.
The I.D. Concept, as you’d recall, is Volkswagen’s autonomous electric vehicle project. The first car to bear the I.D. tag was displayed at the 2016 Paris Motor Show. The eight-seater Microbus, christened the I.D. Buzz, carries over similar design cues and technology.
Familiar elements from the retro minivan include the dividing beltline extending across the length, culminating into a prominent ‘V’ at the front, highlighting the large VW logo in the centre. The modern touches are the slick LED headlamps that respond and help communicate with other road users, depending on the driving mode used. To complement the blend of iconic VW design and modern technology, its designers have give the I.D. a Silver Metallic and Cyber Yellow Pearl colour scheme. The dual tone paint job is another shout-out to the iconic hippie-bus image the original Microbus or VW Camper was associated with. Besides the luminous LED seam, the other elements that grabs attention on the side of the I.D. Buzz are the 22-inch aluminium alloys, painted in a Galvano Gray Metallic.
Since the car is used to showcase the latest in Volkswagen’s autonomous technology, it comes with a self-driving mode called the ‘I.D. Pilot’ mode. When activated, the function causes the spokeless steering wheel to retract into the dashboard. The driver can take control of the wheel just by touching the steering wheel or pressing the accelerator or brake pedals.
The Microbus’ intelligent capabilities are enabled by a full complement of safety equipment – sensors of the laser, ultrasonic and radar variety; cameras, and on-board laser scanners. For the sake of aerodynamics and better all-round visibility, the concept also ditches outside rear view mirrors in favour of cameras to scan and send data on traffic.
While the exterior might remind one of the iconic ‘flower-power’ donning Volkswagen Campers of the past, the cabin is a far cry from its original inspiration. Volkswagen has tried to preserve the best of the quaint yesteryear charm – the floor is contructed from Silver Birch wood, with silver aluminium inlays, while the seats are upholstered in honeycomb patterned knit fabric with hints of yellow in the piping and seatbelts. They’ve also thrown in a softly padded rear side sun visors and cushions to add to the cozy feel. But the classic feel is compromised, thanks to staples of autonomous tech, such as a dashpad, a heads-up display and ambient lighting that changes with every driving mode. Also, the front seats can be rotated a full 180 degrees to mimic a more lounge-like feel, when the car is in autonomous mode. The cabin settings can be further personalised according to the driver’s tastes, using the Digital Key function – used in conjunction with the driver’s smartphone.
The Volkswagen I.D. Buzz showcased at the Detroit Motor Show is claimed to provide a range of up to 434km (270 miles) on a single charge. The minivan demonstrates Volkswagen’s new Modular Electric Drive Kit platform – which can be commonised with several other electric vehicles that are expected to be rolled out by Volkswagen in the near future. The minivan concept runs a 369hp electric powertrain. When plugged to a Combined Charging System (CCS) or an inductive charging interface, its 111kWh battery is expected to charge up to 80 per cent in less than half an hour.
Volkswagen has big plans for the I.D. Concept vehicles from its stable. According to Herbert Diess, chairman of the company’s management board, they’re aiming to sell one million units of these vehicles annually by 2025.