Automotive

Volkswagen resurrects the Kombi as an AWD, autonomous electric minibus

Volkswagen resurrects the Komb...
Volkswagen ID. Buzz
Volkswagen ID. Buzz
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: all-wheel-drive electric powertrain
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: all-wheel-drive electric powertrain
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: uses a platform that should be shared by several vehicles in VW's upcoming electric range
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: uses a platform that should be shared by several vehicles in VW's upcoming electric range
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: front storage compartment
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: front storage compartment
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: cabin can rearrange to form a couple of feel-up reverse lounges
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: cabin can rearrange to form a couple of feel-up reverse lounges
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: cabin rearranges to a rolling lounge room in I.D. Pilot autonomous mode
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: cabin rearranges to a rolling lounge room in I.D. Pilot autonomous mode
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: multifunction cabin
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: multifunction cabin
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: carries seven in full crew configuration
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: carries seven in full crew configuration
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: removable touch screen forms the dash
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: removable touch screen forms the dash
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: steering wheel pushes into the dash to engage self-drive mode
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: steering wheel pushes into the dash to engage self-drive mode
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: a spiritual successor to the Kombi van, but probably priced for the well-heeled this time
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: a spiritual successor to the Kombi van, but probably priced for the well-heeled this time
Though it isn't a complete camper van, the ID. Buzz includes camper-style features like movable furniture, a table/storage console and swivel cab seats
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Though it wasn't a complete camper van, the ID. Buzz included camper-style features like movable furniture, a table/storage console and swivel cab seats
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: part of VW's serious electric push beginning in 2020
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: part of VW's serious electric push beginning in 2020
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz will hit the streets of Doha in 2022
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz will hit the streets of Doha in 2022
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: recalls the old Type 2 Kombi's signature front V-lines
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: recalls the old Type 2 Kombi's signature front V-lines
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: rear view - mirrors are replaced with an e-mirror camera system
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: rear view - mirrors are replaced with an e-mirror camera system
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: 150-kilowatt charge stations will make quick work of topping up on the run
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: 150-kilowatt charge stations will make quick work of topping up on the run
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: a concept pointing toward VW's electric future 
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: a concept pointing toward VW's electric future 
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: we need to see one painted up with flowers and peace signs before we'll accept this into our hearts
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: we need to see one painted up with flowers and peace signs before we'll accept this into our hearts
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: multifunction electric people carrier points the way forward for VW
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: multifunction electric people carrier points the way forward for VW
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: a spiritual successor to the Type 2 Kombi van
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: a spiritual successor to the Type 2 Kombi van
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: speed is limited to around 100mph to preserve range and extend battery longevity
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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: speed is limited to around 100mph to preserve range and extend battery longevity
The new VW I.D Buzz on the floor of the Detroit Auto Show
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The new VW I.D Buzz on the floor of the Detroit Auto Show
The new VW I.D Buzz on the floor of the Detroit Auto Show
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The new VW I.D Buzz on the floor of the Detroit Auto Show
Behind the wheel of the VW I.D Buzz
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Behind the wheel of the VW I.D Buzz
The little dash ornament in the VW I.D Buzz spins 
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The little dash ornament in the VW I.D Buzz spins 
Volkswagen ID. Buzz
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Volkswagen ID. Buzz
The smiling face of the VW I.D Buzz
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The smiling face of the VW I.D Buzz
The VW I.D Buzz
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The VW I.D Buzz

Electric is the big focus for Volkswagen right now, as it gears up for a serious push into EVs beginning in 2020. This I.D. Buzz minibus shows us what we might be in for - including a modular, convertible cabin, augmented reality HUD, removable dash and speakers and laser-guided self driving.

Volkswagen is all-in on electric starting in 2020, with a new platform in the works, a full range of "fully connected, all-electric" vehicles on the drawing board and rumors circulating that it might even build its own gigafactory-style battery plant to supply the million-plus electrics it wants to sell per year by 2025. We can't think of a better way to shake off the company's unfortunate reputation after the dieselgate scandal.

After showing the I.D compact concept in Paris, VW has wheeled out a nifty modular electric van concept at this year's Detroit NAIAS auto show that harks back to the famous Kombi (Type 2) vans that came to symbolize the hippie and surfie lifestyles from the 1950s through to the 1980s.

Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: a spiritual successor to the Type 2 Kombi van
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: a spiritual successor to the Type 2 Kombi van

The I.D. Buzz concept puts a modern twist on that familiar shape, with a more aerodynamically friendly front profile and a clever converting interior that reflects VW's intentions for this multi-function vehicle.

The back and middle seats can fold down to take cargo, or up to take up to six passengers. Well, seven, really, because the driver can choose to take the wheel, or let the car self-drive and spin the front seats around to create a moving lounge room experience.

The VW I.D Buzz
The VW I.D Buzz

Pushing the steering wheel in (it's more of a steering panel, with a touchscreen on it) makes it retract and merge into the dash, switching the I.D. Buzz into an autonomous I.D. Pilot mode the company says we should see active by 2025. As well as radars, ultrasonic sensors and cameras, Volkswagen says it'll use laser scanners to more precisely map the terrain and other road users in self-driving mode.

The main dash is a large touchscreen unit that sits on the front console, but can also snap off so you can pass it around the car or take it out with you. Likewise the center console with its built-in speakers moves back toward the rear when the car is self-driving. This could be a pain from an acoustic design point of view, but then the speakers are also removable when you get to the beach for outdoor audio, so that's a nice touch.

Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: removable touch screen forms the dash
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: removable touch screen forms the dash

If you do bother to drive yourself, navigation directions are shown via an augmented reality HUD that projects images to look as if they're 23-49 feet in front of the vehicle and overlaid on the scenery. You'll note there are no mirrors poking out the sides either, these are replaced by an e-mirror that shows images from rear and side cameras.

Power and performance was never really the Kombi's selling point, but an 111 kilowatt-hour battery and all-wheel-drive electric motors form the 369-horsepower drivetrain platform of the vehicle, and that'll bring a fair bit of pep to the party. Volkswagen would be just as happy to build one with a smaller 83 kWh battery and rear wheel drive for a lower price point.

Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: uses a platform that should be shared by several vehicles in VW's upcoming electric range
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz: uses a platform that should be shared by several vehicles in VW's upcoming electric range

Range with the larger battery is estimated at around 600 kilometers (373 miles) on the New European Driving Cycle test, and it'll charge to 80 percent within 30 minutes on a 150 kW combined charging system or inductive wireless charging interface.

Part of what made the old Kombi such a hit – like the famous Beetle itself – was its cheapness and simplicity. The I.D. Buzz doesn't seem to have a lot of either, but it does look like a great little minibus. We're curious to see how the harsh realities of production will alter the design, and we'd love to see one glide silently by at a surf beach, painted with flowers and peace signs all over it.

Source: Volkswagen

15 comments
Jason Catterall
What made the old Kombi such a hit is that you could actually go and buy one. How long has VW been peddling pointless concept Kombi replacements now? Is it 15 years? 20? Just build one for chrissakes!
KaiserPingo
VW is quite desperate to come in to the EV-market. They are a lot behind all other big car companies, and some of the smaller ones. But the marketing-people are busy, trying to make us all believe, that VW are up and running with a lot of EV-products. They are not ! Most is nothing but Photoshops and concept cars. But they are as allways trying to steal focus and fill us with propaganda. The old VW minibus was s%$t to drive, with the engine at the rear, it used obscene amounts og petrol, it was a deathsentence if you crashed, the cargo area didnt have a flat cargofriendly bottom, it was awfull in windy conditions. Later when Renault came with the Espace and showed how practical and versatile it could be done, VW tried to copy it. Without luck, but the propaganda-apparatus blew competition away. Dont trust VW !
borhaaa1
Agree with Jason, VW! #$%$ or get off the pot with your Kombi concepts. Seems like VW is sitting on a mini van gold mine that they continuously tease and always fail to develop. The "new Beetle" was a hit and I can't understand why they never followed up with a "new bus". Loosing faith that it will ever happen.
Dan Lewis
After the revelation of major corporate dishonesty, I'm pretty sure I won't buy a Volkswagen product during my remaining 20 or so years.
DavidB
You write and caption several photos with talk of seven passengers, but the photos clearly show only two seats in that third row, for a total of six (well, five, if you don't count the driver). What's up with that?
NigelThompson
Lots of nice concepts here, I like the modular platform, the big battery, HUD, quick charge, but 369hp? Seriously? Is this going to be entered in drag races maybe. Look forward to seeing these and other VW electric vehicles on the road.
dugnology
Reduce the size of the motor. There is no need to go 0-60 in 5 seconds with 7 other passengers aboard. This is a family vehicle. Loose the 21" wheels. They are expensive, take up a lot of interior space, and are not needed for this vehicle. I would love to see this produced.
Grunchy
Moustache a'la Salvador Dali. Neon green at that, omg.
AngryPenguin
@NigelThompson - >but 369hp? Seriously? Maybe someone wants to pull a really big trailer.
JohnOh
dugnology says: make the motor smaller.... Sorry, but an electric "motive" motor accepts any power fed into it. So function isnt a matter of motor power, but of ability to accept current which gives it the boost. So in this case one size fits all. Range is the factor so batteries are the important issue. With Fuel like petrol weighing 1 KG and giving 100% btw. With a battery this weight equals 2/3 % compared to petrol. This means weight is a major concern with batteries as are its costs and charging time.