4 VW Microbus concepts that led to the birth of the ID.Buzz EV

volkswagen bus concepts

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The Volkswagen Microbus has been reinvented for the modern era with the all-electric 2024 ID.Buzz, but its return has been a long time in the making. Volkswagen started toying with the idea in 2001 when it pulled the covers off the Microbus concept. Three more concepts followed: the Bulli in 2011, the BUDD-e in 2016 and finally the ID Buzz concept in 2017, which directly previewed today’s production vehicle. Each concept sported a distinct design but shared certain characteristics, giving insight into Volkswagen’s thought process as it determined what form its Microbus revival would take.

All about the VW ID 2024.Buzz

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Microbus Concept 2001

VW’s extended resurrection of the Microbus began at the 2001 Detroit auto show with a concept sporting a classic white and blue two-tone paint scheme. Unlike the VW bus of yore, the concept’s engine was front-mounted. Behind the grille was a 3.2-liter V6, developing 231 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, with power going exclusively to the front wheels.

Similar in size to the contemporary EuroVan at 186 inches long, the Microbus concept packed a second row with chairs that could rotate 180 degrees to face the third row bench. The airy interior included bragging-worthy (for its time) technology like a 7.0-inch touchscreen in the center console and four screens in the seatbacks for rear passengers. There were also two extendable screens when the second row faced rearward. A backup camera transmitted the rear view to another 7.0-inch screen in the front of the roof.

The concept’s exterior swapped out the old-school circular headlights for rectangular xenon units. Still, the full-length side windows echoed the iconic 23-window Samba bus, and three slots on the rearmost pillar mimicked the original rear-engine van’s cooling vents. The bus was designed in California with the American market in mind, but production was rumored to never begin. Then VW dropped the idea for the next 10 years.

2011 Bulli EV Concept

The Bulli concept arrived at the 2011 Geneva Auto Show with the two-tone treatment again, this time with a deep red shade. The Bulli was considerably smaller than the Microbus concept at 156 inches long and featured hinged rear doors instead of sliding units. The concept also ditched gasoline for a 114hp electric motor paired with a 40.0kWh battery under the floor. With 199 pound-feet of torque, the 3,200-pound concept could hit 62 mph in a claimed 11.5 seconds and a top speed of 87 mph. According to VW, the Bulli could travel 186 miles on a charge.

Styling was sharper than before, squareing off the rounded edges of the Microbus concept’s face. The still rectangular headlights included LED elements, while the chrome wheels had a retro-futuristic turbine look. Interestingly, despite the switch to electric, the Bulli featured a more distinct and protruding bonnet than the Microbus concept.

Inside were two benches, both of which could be folded down to create a bed. A large tablet-like screen on the center console hinted at the future of the car’s interior design, but unlike the new ID.4, climate control settings were still dictated by physical buttons. VW whispered about the feasibility of production, but the Bulli never arrived.

2016 BUDD-e Electric Vehicle Concept

In late 2015, in response to the Dieselgate emissions scandal, Volkswagen announced a new all-electric platform. The first glimpse of the MEB platform – which ended up underpinning the VW ID.4, Audi Q4 e-tron and now the ID.Buzz – took place at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016, where VW presented the BUDD-e concept. The BUDD-e was closer in size to the 2001 Microbus at 181 inches long, slightly longer than the Golf SportWagen of the time. The BUDD-e had all-wheel drive through two electric motors, which drew juice from a 101.0 kWh lithium-ion battery. VW claimed a range of 233 miles on the EPA test cycle and a top speed of 93 mph. VW also said the BUDD-e could gain 80% charge in just 15 minutes.

Unlike the 2001 Microbus concept, the BUDD-e had only two rows of seats, but the front seat could rotate to face the wraparound rear seat. The driver faced three screens while a large screen behind the driver’s seat entertained the rear passengers. Side mirrors were replaced with cameras and, in a sign of what was to come for VW’s interiors, the steering wheel replaced buttons with pressure-sensitive touchpads. The BUDD-e also had gesture control and a voice recognition system.

The BUDD-e was a bigger visual departure from the original Microbus. The two-tone look was limited to a bronze roof, while the front end was dominated by an illuminated grille-like design, despite the electric powertrain. The taillights stretched up and into the full-width brake light and mirrored the C-shaped LEDs in the front and rear bumpers. Sliding rear doors returned after their absence on the Bulli. VW confirmed a similar vehicle would hit production, targeting 2020 at the time, and the automaker would show its hand full the following year with the ID Buzz concept.

ID Buzz Concept 2017

Volkswagen debuted the ID Buzz concept at the 2017 Detroit auto show, and the Buzz was the largest concept bus yet, stretching to 194.6 inches long and 77.8 inches wide. The third row returned, with the ID Buzz seating up to eight, and once again the front seats could turn to face the second row. The true two-tone look was also back, this time in yellow, and the angular lines of the Bulli and BUDD-e had been smoothed out. There was delicate LED lighting and the three lines that adorned the rearmost pillar of the 2001 Microbus reappeared.

The floor has been designed to accommodate batteries ranging from 83.0 to 111.0 kWh, with VW targeting a range between 200 and 270 miles. An electric motor on each axle combined for 369 horsepower, with Volkswagen claiming a zero-to-60mph time of five seconds and a top speed limited to 99mph. The production Buzz debuts with an 82.0kWh battery with a 201hp rear-mounted motor and a top speed of 90mph, but there will be all-wheel-drive variants with nearly 300hp on the whole line.

Inside the Buzz Concept, the steering wheel could retract flush with the dash for fully autonomous driving tuning, while a heads-up display took the place of a more traditional gauge cluster. The center console, which featured a similar iPad layout to the Bulli, could slide forwards and backwards and could be detached for entertainment apart from the Buzz. There were no traditional buttons inside.

2024 ID.Buzz (production model)

Some of the more fantastic touches of the Buzz concept are missing on the production ID.Buzz, notably the swiveling front seats and portable center console. Importantly, the two-tone paint and overall sleek, airy design philosophy carried over to the production car, bringing the charisma of the original Microbus into the 21st century. The ID.Buzz isn’t expected to go on sale in the US until 2024, and then it’ll only be sold here as a yet-to-be-discovered long-wheelbase version.

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