Volkswagen Group will debut an electric, autonomous all-wheel drive concept vehicle called the I.D. BUZZ at the Detroit Auto Show this week. The van highlights the automaker’s plans to bring a line of fully-electric vehicles to production by 2020, with hopes of selling 1 million electric vehicles annually by 2025.
The I.D. BUZZ attempts to invoke memories of the classic Volkswagen Microbus that served more than 60 years in worldwide production, finally ending in 2013.
Travel-friendly features include seating for eight, sensor-activated power rear sliding doors and a front trunk with 6.1 cubic feet of space. The second row of seats can be folded into tables, and the third row can be turned into a bed.
This is not the first time Volkswagen has toyed with the idea of reviving the Microbus. It debuted the Bulli concept in 2011, and introduced a Microbus concept in Detroit back in 2001.
Recently, VW’s concepts have taken a decidedly emissions-free approach, starting with the debut of the electric I.D. concept at the Paris Motor Show in September, which promised 373 miles of fully-electric range.
The first I.D. vehicle rides on the company’s new Modular Electric Drive Kit, or MEB, that could provide underpinnings for a fleet of electric vehicles.
The new I.D. BUZZ is built on an extended “MEB-XL” platform that stretches its length to 194.6 inches and its wheelbase to 129.9 inches, an increase over the standard MEB platform of 33.2 inches and 21.6 inches, respectively.
Powered by two electric motors – one attached to the front axle and one at the rear – it makes 369 total horsepower and boasts 270 miles of electric range.
Volkswagen is eager to embrace electric technology after fallout from the Dieselgate controversy, which revealed the company had for years installed cheat devices in diesel vehicles that allowed them to bypass sensors and emit up to 40 times the allowed levels of nitrogen oxide.
The company is reportedly nearing a settlement with the Justice Department that could reach $2 billion. Penalties, owner claims and other fees have already caused Volkswagen to agree to roughly $16 billion in costs. Volkswagen faces additional charges and penalties in countries outside of the United States, as well.
“The Volkswagen brand’s big electric offensive begins in the year 2020 with a completely new vehicle architecture,” says Herbert Diess, global head of the Volkswagen brand. “By 2025 we want to be selling one million of these vehicles annually. We are making electric mobility the new trademark of Volkswagen.”
Despite its size, Volkswagen claims the I.D. BUZZ will be quick and capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in 5.0 seconds. Its 111-kWh battery, mounted along the floor, can be charged to 80 percent of capacity in just 30 minutes with a Combined Charging System (CCS) or inductive – or wireless – charging.
“It carries the feeling of freedom of the Microbus over to a completely new era of mobility,” said Frank Welsch, head of development for the Volkswagen brand.
Volkswagen says the I.D. BUZZ is also fully autonomous. The steering wheel can retract completely into the instrument panel while the I.D. BUZZ drives itself. Volkswagen calls this “I.D. Pilot” mode.
In I.D. Pilot mode, the front seats can unlatch and rotate to face the rear. The driver can resume manual control of the vehicle at any time by touching the steering wheel or pressing the brake or accelerator pedals.
While in this fully-autonomous mode, four laser scanners extend from the roof and illuminate the road ahead. The scanners can detect other vehicles and people — even alerting nearby pedestrians or cyclists of its presence.
Volkswagen says that I.D. Pilot autonomous technology could be available by the year 2025.