Extraordinary eBussy modular electric van debuts in July, on way to US
When we first covered the instantly lovable eBussy electric mini-mover, we didn't actually believe we'd be writing about a working prototype a year later. In fact, we weren't sure we'd be writing about the vehicle ever again. But here we are; parent company ElectricBrands is preparing to reveal its first prototype in less than two weeks. Now called the Xbus, the modular tiny transporter still promises to become one of the most versatile, affordable electric vehicles out there, transforming between pickup, van, mini-camper and more.
"Yeah, okay, sure." The words reverberated through my mind with every keystroke as I wrote about the eBussy last July. It was yet another super-promising electric vehicle that could transform before one's eyes into virtually every type of utility vehicle you could ever want, represented only by a series of renderings and specs that seemed too good to be true. ElectricBrands wasn't a completely unknown startup like so many EV newcomers, but its three years of previous experience in electric scooters was hardly enough to inspire confidence in its ability to build and market such a versatile 4WD electric utility vehicle.
Technically, ElectricBrands will not market the eBussy, as a press announcement this week identifies an official name change to Xbus, which definitely sounds stronger and falls on the ears with less of an X-rated ring. The prototype will make its debut on July 7 at 7:07 p.m. CEST (1:07 p.m. EDT), at which time ElectricBrands will also launch a configurator, ordering system and crowd investment campaign.
The teaser video and photo suggest that the premiere Xbus will be a pickup with a crew cab/short bed, but given ElectricBrands' baked-in modular design, it'll technically be every style of Xbus in one, pending the development of the Lego-inspired modules needed to create pop-up camper, mini-passenger van, long-bed pickup and other configurations.
ElectricBrands plans to mate its modular body components to two different chassis: an off-road chassis with higher all-terrain suspension setup and a lower, more road-oriented standard chassis. Both chassis options will include an all-wheel drive electric powertrain with four in-hub motors combining for up to 1,000 Nm (738 lb-ft) of torque. The company's battery solution is as modular as its body, available in sizes between 10 and 30 kWh for estimated ranges anywhere from 200 to 600 km (124 to 373 miles). Using the quick-access battery drawers, Xbus drivers will even be able to swap out packs.
Xbus range figures are assisted by lightweight materials and standard integrated solar charging. The Xbus is so light, in fact, that it falls in the L7e-B2 quadricycle homologation class. ElectricBrands explains that, while the bus will be available in both two- and four-seat configurations, its classification means that it will be legally limited to driving three people.
Plans call for more than 10 different Xbus configurations in all, with prices ranging from €15,800 (approx. US$18,850) for the two-seat flatbed to €28,800 (US$34,350) for the off-road camper. Buyers will be able to convert their single Xbus between its myriad configurations, and individual add-on modules will price in between €800 and €11,000 (US$950 and $13,125), according to initial estimates.
ElectricBrands' most recent renderings show our favorite configuration, the off-road camper, with a more accordion-style rear-central pop-up roof said to raise height to 2.2 m (7.2 ft). The rear slide-out, meanwhile, extends the bed to a comfortable longitudinal length of 210 x 130 cm (83 x 51 in). Plans also call for a small kitchen with stove, sink and fridge and a TV — not bad for a 365-cm-long (144-in) mini-camper that's 85 cm (33.5 in) shorter on the road than the Volkswagen Caddy California.
As part of its move toward a late-2021 production start, ElectricBrands is offering European reservations now, with a €1,000 (US$1,195) early-bird discount good until the end of June. Its website counter puts total reservations at 8,861 as of publishing.
ElectricBrands plans to expand availability outside of Europe sometime around mid-2022, and an alert that appears atop its website indicates US reservations will open in September. A separate press announcement confirms plans to launch in North America, great news for all those Americans who have rightfully wondered if the Xbus would end up yet another European-only camper van inspiring burning envy from across the Atlantic.
We remain skeptical that a production Xbus will materialize on schedule and become a viable everyday driving option with estimated specs intact, at something resembling initial pricing estimates. However, building a working prototype during a horribly unstable, pandemic-stricken year is certainly a step in the right direction. Beyond the initial Xbus family, ElectricBrands also plans a larger "XL" model, presumably for those that prefer their vans and trucks in more conventional dimensions, and maybe even capable of carrying a passenger per seat.