VW ID. Buzz electric bus fuses van life past and future
One of the most anticipated vehicles ever, the Volkswagen ID. Buzz has finally made its debut. The all-new all-electric bus has been in the making for five years, if we're only counting back to the Detroit 2017 debut of the concept Buzz, but decades when taking into account the multiple Bulli concepts VW has teased the world with over the years. Was it worth the wait? Take a closer look at the all-new fully electric MPV and cargo vans and decide for yourself.
It's the iconic breadbox looks that keep nostalgia for the original T1 VW microbuses alive and well, and VW has absolutely worked to channel those looks into the design of the ID. Buzz. Whether or not it was successful will be up to each beholder, but its intentions are clear in the dual-tone paint scheme, V-angled face, short front and rear overhangs, and generous wraparound glasshouse.
Where the production ID. Buzz design disappoints in comparison to both the 2017 concept and the original Type 2 vans is in its squarer front-end and nose bump, sharply carved out lower front grille and crisper, less natural lines throughout. It's not as instantly lovable as the 2017 concept or original T1, but it certainly pulls closer to the retro V-dub bus the world has been waiting for since 1979, jumping off and further evolving from the semi-retro look of the new T7 Multivan.
The real evolution, of course, comes under the split-color skin, where VW's MEB skateboard loads in a high-voltage 12-module lithium-ion battery pack with 82 kWh of gross energy and 77 kWh of kWh of net energy. That pack gets the 150-kW (201-hp) motor spinning out up to 310 Nm (229 lb-ft) of torque, powering the rear axle for speeds up to an electronically limited 145 km/h (90 mph).
The ID. Buzz can handle DC fast-charging up to 170 kW, offering the battery a trip from 5 to 80 percent full in about 30 minutes. Using a special DC wall box, the ID. Buzz will also deliver bidirectional charging, capable of feeding energy into the house when necessary or convenient.
"The ID. Buzz is a genuine icon for the electric era," declared Ralf Brandstätter, VW Passenger Cars chairman of the board. "In the 1950s, the Volkswagen Bulli stood for a new feeling of automotive freedom, independence and great emotion. The ID. Buzz picks up on this lifestyle and transfers it into our time: emission-free, sustainable, fully networked and now ready for the next big chapter – autonomous driving."
The ID. Buzz's 90-mph top speed feels like a low ceiling for modern highway and autobahn driving, but it's undoubtedly designed to protect range. Sadly, however, it appears five years of development time proved inadequate for Volkswagen to offer a proper range estimate during its world premiere. VW said that information will follow at a later date, so look for it to drop sometime between now and the ID. Buzz's official European launch (initial markets) in Q3 2022. The first North American vans won't follow until 2024.
The standard-wheelbase ID. Buzz measures a compact 471 cm (185 in) in length, which sizes in the middle of the current-generation VW Caddy small van range, well shorter than the modern T6.1 Transporter that traces its lineage back to the T1. The sized-down packaging owes to the small, space-optimizing electric drive, and the ID. Buzz still rides on a 2,988-mm (117.6-in) wheelbase that's only two centimeters shorter than the wheelbase on the 490-cm (193-in)-long T6.1. The van has a 36.4-foot (11.1-m) turning circle.
Stepping inside the ID. Buzz passenger van's dual sliding doors isn't quite as awe-inspiring as taking in the wild features of the funky 2017 Buzz concept, but it's certainly an enjoyable trip in its own right. The van comes standard with five seats, shown here trimmed in the available dual-tone color scheme to match the exterior.
The three-seat rear bench offers split 40:60 folding capabilities and forward/aft adjustment of 150 mm (5.9 in). With all seats upright, the e-MPV packs 1,121 liters (39.6 cu ft) of tailgate area storage space, which nearly doubles to 2,205 liters (77.8 cu ft) with the second row folded flat.
It comes as no surprise that VW is all about tech in the cockpit, facing the driver is a compact, floating 10-in digital instrument display with a standard 10-in infotainment screen just to the right. Below the latter, touch sliders provide simple temperature and volume control, while digital buttons access menus for the dual-zone Climatronic HVAC system, driver-assistance systems, and other features. An interactive "ID. Light" directly in the driver's line of sight above the instruments conveys information via lighting cues.
The driver and front passenger seats include side thorax airbags, and a central airbag prevents the driver and passenger from hitting each other in a collision. An available removable, multifunctional center console between the front seats derives directly from the 2017 ID. Buzz concept, locking in to offer an array of storage compartments, including a tablet/laptop drawer.
The ID. Buzz Cargo, meanwhile, will come standard with a three-seat cab split off from the 3.9-cu m (137.7-cu ft) cargo zone by a partition wall. Buyers will be able to option the van with two individual front seats and a window and/or load opening on the partition wall. The wide-opening tailgate delivers access to a load area that includes floor tie-down rings and sidewall bars. A passenger-side sliding door comes standard, the second sliding door optionally.
The European ID. Buzz five-seater will come standard with a driver-assistance package that includes Car2X communications, front assist and lane assist. Optional add-ons will include a travel assist with swarm data feature that allows for partially automated driving across the speed range, along with other features like park assist and area view.
Volkswagen will begin production of the ID. Buzz during the first half of 2022 at its Hannover commercial vehicles plant, ahead of the European launch later this year. It plans to build the majority of electric drive system components, including the axles, at various plant locations around Germany. Each van will come with an eight year/100,000-mile (160K-km) battery guarantee. Expect pricing, along with range, to be announced closer to launch.
The specs included above apply to the European model, and whatever differences exist on North American variants will be fleshed out closer to the 2024 American launch. Other models and options will also be revealed over time, and VW plans an extended-wheelbase model, several different battery options, and six- and seven-seat MPV layouts.
Volkswagen has also confirmed plans for an ID. California electric camper van, though it has not said whether that variant will come to North America. Given that camper vans have been the hottest segment of a thriving North American RV market, the timing seems very right for the reintroduction of an official VW camper van. But even if VW falls short there, we're sure conversion businesses around the country are giddy with the anticipation of getting the all-electric VW van into their shops. In fact, now that the van is official, we expect the first camper renderings to start showing up in the coming days and weeks.