Automotive

Forget the I.D. Buzz, Volkswagen's loaded an all-electric 1962 Splitty with next-gen tech

Forget the I.D. Buzz, Volkswag...
The Type 20 gets a vibrant look to match its futuristic tech package
The Type 20 gets a vibrant look to match its futuristic tech package
View 10 Images
With help from Autodesk's generative design tools, Volkswagen makes its Type 20 look organic ... and a little creepy
1/10
With help from Autodesk's generative design tools, Volkswagen makes its Type 20 look organic ... and a little creepy
This element looks like some kind of super villain tentacle
2/10
This element looks like some kind of super villain tentacle
The Type 20 has a 120-hp electric motor 
3/10
The Type 20 has a 120-hp electric motor 
Old becomes new: the classic VW bus gets some technologies from the future
4/10
Old becomes new: the classic VW bus gets some technologies from the future
Volkswagen revealed the Type 20 project this week in an announcement about its revamped, renamed IECC research facility
5/10
Volkswagen revealed the Type 20 project this week in an announcement about its revamped, renamed IECC research facility
The motor puts out 173 lb-ft of torque
6/10
The motor puts out 173 lb-ft of torque
The vintage driver's area gets upgraded with new technologies like a holographic display and voice command assistant
7/10
The vintage driver's area gets upgraded with new technologies like a holographic display and voice command assistant
No specified driving range, but with a modest 10-kWh battery pack, it won't be a world beater
8/10
No specified driving range, but with a modest 10-kWh battery pack, it won't be a world beater
The generative design features throughout the cabin
9/10
The generative design features throughout the cabin
The Type 20 gets a vibrant look to match its futuristic tech package
10/10
The Type 20 gets a vibrant look to match its futuristic tech package

The naming of a new Volkswagen Silicon Valley research center that's really a 20-year-old Volkswagen research center? Huge yawn. A Halloween-colored, 11-window 1962 Type 2 bus with weird organic styling, pure-electric powertrain, facial recognition and holographic infotainment? We're wide awake, eyes and ears open. It's no wonder VW spliced the two announcements together, previewing innovations yet to come from its reinvented innovations facility with a one-of-a-kind electrified Microbus.

The VW facility previously known as the Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) is in the process of a full rebranding and expansion, from here on in to be known as the Innovation and Engineering Center California (IECC). So yeah, not exactly the type of news that's getting any hearts racing, at least not without a futuristic e-Type 2 to spice it into something worth taking a bite out of.

The ERL had a good run, growing from three employees to a team of more than 180 in 20+ years while playing an integral role in notable technologies like the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge-winning "Stanley" autonomous vehicle. So to celebrate the combination of history and new horizons going on in Belmont, California, Volkswagen revealed the Type 20 for the occasion, brilliantly blending classic, modern and next-generation design.

The vintage driver's area gets upgraded with new technologies like a holographic display and voice command assistant
The vintage driver's area gets upgraded with new technologies like a holographic display and voice command assistant

A quick stop on the journey between electric T6.1 and I.D. Buzz, the Type 20 beautifully combines some of VW's proudest heritage with a host of experimental technologies not quite ready for roadways. Things heat up the moment the driver approaches the door, with a pneumatic suspension system developed in collaboration with Porsche lifting the van up to greet the driver. The facial recognition system scans facial features with a 720p wide-angle camera pointed in the second driver's side window, analyzes them through sensory software running on the Nvidia Jetson TX2, and pops the door locks.

Inside, a more natural, conversational breed of digital assistant (we'll believe it when it hears us, the first time) provides voice control capabilities, utilizing a trio of microphones secured out front, in the driver's area and in the rear passenger cell. The system communicates with those outside the van using both audio and LED-based visual cues. A Looking Glass II holographic infotainment display in the dashboard creates three-dimensional images without the need to wear distracting glasses.

With help from Autodesk's generative design tools, Volkswagen makes its Type 20 look organic ... and a little creepy
With help from Autodesk's generative design tools, Volkswagen makes its Type 20 look organic ... and a little creepy

As far as the bright-orange organic-growth styling of the wheels, side mirror supports and interior structural elements go, Volkswagen developed them with Autodesk's generative design, a process that concentrates strength while minimizing material and weight.

A custom all-electric VW Type 2 is always a winner, but the powertrain specs on this one are rather underwhelming. A small 10-kWh battery pack powers a single electric motor for up to 120 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque.

The motor puts out 173 lb-ft of torque
The motor puts out 173 lb-ft of torque

The Type 20 may be the newsy headline-maker for now, but the IECC will certainly have more of an impact on the future of Volkswagen technology. Split into separate innovation and engineering centers, its employees will focus on connected car, intelligent cockpit and autonomous driving and parking projects for the North American region. It will serve as VW's largest vehicle research facility outside of Germany.

"We are excited to move into our next chapter as the IECC, to continue designing innovations that will bring the Volkswagen Group vehicles into the future with cutting-edge technology," says Nikolai Reimer, IECC senior VP. "The Type 20 is a fantastic example of how we celebrate our heritage while striving to advance our technology."

It's also a fantastic example of how to make a boring, eyeball-deterring headline much more intriguing.

Source: Volkswagen

3 comments
vince
PS call American Pickers Mike Wolfe.
rude.dawg
All-electric means zilch if the crumple zones are still my knees.
TomLeeM
I think that is a neat platform to display new technology. I read that a similar bus was used to display LED headlights.