After five years of teasing, the long-awaited debut of the Volkswagen ID Buzz is finally here. The German automaker unveiled the all-electric van at a virtual event on Wednesday, where it positioned the ID Buzz as a recreation of its iconic Type 2 Microbus – think hippies, flower power and peace signs – for a more modern era.
The ID Buzz and its commercial equivalent, the ID Buzz Cargo, will arrive in Europe later this year, with a longer wheelbase version for US markets expected to debut in 2023 and go on sale here in 2024.
There are a lot of things we still don’t know, mainly the price. But the ID Buzz will play a crucial role as VW continues its transformation from environmental cheat (remember Dieselgate?) to leader in electric vehicles. The van will serve as a showcase for the company’s MEB modular electric architecture, and it will be among the first electric vans marketed specifically for families.
The minivan has been slightly updated from the concept form that captured many people’s imaginations in 2017. The grille is a bit different, with larger air vents than one would typically expect. expect from an electric vehicle. And the overall shape is boxier, with sharper angles and a higher road stance.
But VW has stuck surprisingly true to the original design, even going so far as to offer the same two-tone Day-Glo lime yellow paint scheme as an option. (VW offers a total of 11 color variants.)
The first European version of the ID Buzz will include a battery pack with an energy capacity of 81 kWh, of which 77 kWh can be used. This will power a rear axle motor capable of producing 201 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque. But let’s face it: this isn’t an EV meant for the track – in fact, VW limits the van’s top speed to just 90mph (145kph). Given that its ancestor could only hit 60 mph (usually downhill), that shouldn’t be too disappointing for most customers.
VW doesn’t reveal range, but all signs point to around 300 miles on a full charge. The alternating current (AC) charging power is 11 kW. On a DC fast charging station, the charging power of the ID Buzz increases to 170 kW. VW claims the vehicle will charge from 5 to 80 per cent in just 30 minutes – just eight minutes faster than the 2021 VW ID 4 SUV.
Going forward, VW says ID Buzz will offer Plug and Charge functionality, the standard that allows an electric vehicle to automatically identify and authorize itself to a third-party charging station on behalf of the owner.
But the ID Buzz should get adequate charging support, thanks to VW subsidiary Electrify America, which has more than 670 charging stations in the US, including nearly 2,900 individual DC fast chargers. Like Tesla, VW has skin in the game when it comes to electric vehicle charging infrastructure, which will go a long way in keeping car owners away from the warm embrace of the combustion engine.
The European version of the van and its commercial equivalent will come with two-way charging, in which the vehicle can also be used as a power source for other electrical devices or even for an entire house. VW says it plans to use the Buzz ID to “smooth out” the power grid during peak demand periods – a similar claim made by other major automakers.
The European ID Buzz won’t be as big as other minivans on the market, with a wheelbase of just 117.6 inches (2,988 mm). The US version will be longer when it goes on sale in 2024, although VW didn’t disclose the size. Overall, the European version is 185.5 inches long, partly because its overhangs are so short.
These ultra-short overhangs, the length of the vehicle that extends beyond its wheelbase, will be one of the defining characteristics of the ID Buzz. For example, the minivan is about 9 inches longer between the axles than the VW ID 4, but only 5 inches longer overall. It’s 76.3 inches (1,937 mm) tall, 78.2 inches (1,895 mm) wide at the mirrors, and even the European version has 138 cubic feet of cargo space. It’s more than a Cadillac Escalade, so yeah, it’s big inside.
Essentially, VW is introducing an entirely new form factor to the EV market. Hot hatches have come and gone, and electric crossovers and compact SUVs currently command the moment. They will soon be replaced by luxury trucks and SUVs, which have proven to be the preferred profile of American car buyers. Into this swirling mass of sizes and shapes comes a van, both familiar and utterly unique. Not a van—a microbus.
“The original transporter, or bus, was obviously highly regarded, not only for its design, which was super iconic and still is to this day, but of course also for its functionality and space,” Jeffrey Lear , product manager for ID Buzz at VW, said The edge. “So great packaging, super short overhangs, super low center of gravity, and the ID Buzz, thanks to our modular electric drive, is now able to tick all of those same boxes.”
This space is evident as soon as you step inside. The standard-length ID Buzz will launch with five seats, all of which are adjustable. The front seats can be moved up to 9.6 inches (245 mm) fore and aft, while the three-person rear bench seat can be fully folded or 40:60 split, and it can be moved lengthwise a total of 5.9 inches (150mm).
On the standard wheelbase, a six-seat configuration will come later, with individual seats arranged in three rows of two. With the extended wheelbase, a seven-seat configuration will also be available in a 2/3/2 configuration. The cargo version of the ID Buzz will be even more spacious, with an option for a single front seat and a fixed bulkhead to separate rear storage space.
The cockpit of the ID Buzz is similar to that of the ID 4, with a 10-inch gauge cluster paired with a centrally positioned 10-inch infotainment system. (A larger 12-inch screen is optional.) Vehicle software can be updated over the air and will support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
VW really emphasizes the modularity of the ID Buzz’s interior, with a fully movable and removable center console. This option, taken from the concept version, allows the central console to be transformed into a movable multifunction box in the middle of the second row of seats. There’s plenty of room inside for a plethora of gadgets, including a laptop, but the storage potential is massive. Removing the center console for a thorough cleaning will be a big selling point for families who often have to deal with dangerous levels of cracker crumbs in their car.
The ID Buzz will be one of VW’s most sustainable vehicles, with a leather-free interior that uses recycled materials and fabric made from 10% collected ocean plastic and 90% recycled PET bottles.
The adorable and functional design of the ID Buzz hides a lot of cleverness under the surface. In Europe, the Buzz Cargo will have sensors and software that VW says will enable self-driving capabilities. But a fully standalone version of the Buzz won’t be available until the standard version is released. The VW Group, which also owns Audi, Skoda and Porsche, expects this to be its first self-driving vehicle ever on the market.
We’ve actually already been treated to footage of the ID Buzz draped in sensors and high-tech hardware in its role as an autonomous test vehicle in Germany. VW said the self-driving microbus will serve as the platform for its large-scale commercial transport and delivery operation it plans to launch in Germany in 2025.
When released, the ID Buzz will join the ID 3 sedan, the ID 4 compact SUV and the soon-to-be-released ID 5 coupe as the newest member of VW’s fast-growing electric vehicle lineup. (China will also get a stretched ID 6 at some point in the future.) VW’s ID family also includes concept versions of a large SUV (ID Roomzz) and a dune buggy (ID Buggy). All are built on Volkswagen’s MEB modular electric vehicle platform.
But none will have to walk a tightrope the way ID Buzz did. “This car has to play a conservative role,” said product manager Jeffrey Lear. “You have to balance both sides, don’t you? It has to be modern, fresh and exciting for people who maybe weren’t even around then,” he said, referring to the original Microbus heyday in the 1960s and 1970s.
The clues are still there, from the two-tone paint job to the very prominent VW logo on the grille, Lear noted. Still, it will be a delicate balancing act. “I would call it the 80-20 split,” he said, “with 20% nostalgia and 80% anticipation.”
Does this mean that we will then have an electric VW Beetle? “I haven’t seen anything, haven’t even heard any rumours,” Lear said slyly, “but there’s an array of possibilities with this platform.”