Published on January 9th, 2016 | by Kyle Field


Volkswagen’s Latest Concept Wants To Be Your BUDD-e

January 9th, 2016 by  


VW BUDD-e Concept at 2016 CES | Image Credit: Kyle Field

To say that Volkswagen has struggled in the last few months would be an understatement. The company and associated automotive brands were found to have intentionally bypassed emissions controls for the vast majority of diesel engine-based vehicles produced since 2008. Since the news broke, the conglomerate has suffered massive turnover in senior leadership and, while penalties for the emissions violations are pending in most countries around the world, VW is moving forward with damage control for its retail brands, starting with an almost name change from “VW” back to its roots: “Volkswagen.”

In parallel to the new marketing spin, the automotive giant appears to be putting an eye towards the future of mobility with several clean energy vehicles in the works in the hopes that the reduced emissions might clean up the air and its image. To further pump its green creds, the concept has solar cells embedded on the roof so it can trickle charge when the sun is shining.


Volkswagen BUDD-e Concept w/ Solar Roof | Image Credit: Volkswagen

At CES 2016, Volkswagen unveiled the latest iteration of an old concept — the modernized version of the iconic mini-bus which packs some neat tech and tricks. The BUDD-e concept is a zero-emissions, all-electric vehicle with an estimated range of up to 373 miles / 600 kilometers (New European Drive Cycle estimate) and up to 233 miles / 375 kilometers (US EPA drive cycle), powered by an impressive 101 kWh battery pack.

This range is built using a new battery technology that brings much-needed charging capability improvements. Specifically, the battery can be charged up to 80% of capacity in about 30 minutes; marking an operational breakthrough for non-Tesla EVs.


VW BUDD-e Concept at 2016 CES | Image Credit: Kyle Field

The BUDD-e concept represents the juxtaposition of two Volkswagen worlds — 1) next-generation, production-volume, electric vehicles, and 2) connected, immersive infotainment.

Showing that Volkswagen has an eye towards the future, a new platform for electric vehicles called the Modular Electric Platform (MEB) underpins the new concept. The BUDD-e concept is the first car to use this new platform, which was likely a much larger investment than a single concept and is something that can be directly utilized in a production vehicle vs something that will only ever see the spotlight in a concept.

The development of a dedicated EV platform is consistent with what other forward-looking automotive companies such as Tesla, Chevrolet, and now Faraday Future are doing, which is not a bad list of cleantech peers to be included in.

BUDD-e also kicks infotainment up to the next level, leaning heavily into exploring what’s possible vs just implementing the latest and greatest practical solutions. Stepping inside, the world of the Smart Home and the Smart Car collide, with the car attempting to connect two disparate worlds into a user-friendly interface that lets drivers access their home while on the road.

  • Integrated interfaces for both the driver and passenger signal a shift from driver-focused vehicles to entertainment-focused vehicles.
  • A focus on intuitive interfaces seamlessly blends the entertainment experience and the driving experience. This obviously becomes more relevant after autonomous driving technology is implemented.
  • The BUDD-e concept enables passengers to digitally access their homes and workplaces to perform tasks such as controlling the air conditioning, turning lights on or off, or simply looking to see if their kids are home.

BUDD-e Dash | Image Credit: Volkswagen

The BUDD-e brings with it a new suite of gesture-based interface technologies for full control of the vehicle’s functions. The new system uses cameras to register if a passenger in the rear compartment wants to open the sliding door, for instance. Gestures have also been implemented in more traditional applications on displays, but this takes it to the next level with projections that can assist the driver and passengers while driving.

A selection of gestures can be used passively as well, without having to queue up the gesture recognition system, which indicates that it is always watching. Some may find this awkward, but it brings with it a whole suite of specialty assistance applications. 

While it is clear that Volkswagen is putting significant effort into the new electric platform and the array of innovations piled on top, the fact that all of these technologies are stuck in perpetual concept mode is a bit disheartening. It would be great to see a commitment from the German company to move forward with a production vehicle that makes use of the core electric drive platform.


BUDD-e Passenger Chair on a Swivel | Image Credit: Volkswagen

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I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. TSLA investor. Tesla referral link:

  • Benjamin Nead

    Looks a lot like a Kia Soul EV. I prefer the look of the previous 10 or 12 other
    electric concept vans VW showed over the past 7 years or so that also never got produced.

    • ” I prefer the look of the previous 10 or 12 other electric concept vans VW showed over the past 7 years or so that also never got produced.”

      -Hahaha. Love this. 😀 Should be our tagline every time a new one is announced!

  • wattleberry

    Amidst all the conjecture, to me the significance of this design is its desirability, taking advantage of combining something versatile with the low running costs, space saving and performance improvements newly emerging.

  • Senlac

    Solar on the roof, I like it. I bet it is 500-700 watts. Perhaps 4-5 sq meters, at a conservative 15%.

  • Harry Johnson

    This would make an excellent real “taxi of tomorrow” if you’re willing to believe VW.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I just spent the day crawling into and out of the back seat of a minivan. I’m wanting some falcon wing doors.

  • Matt

    Panel on row top? How many miles does it charge in 4 hours of sun?

    • jonesey

      Based on the size of the panels on my (house) roof, that panel is probably about 250 watts. That means in full sun, it could charge about 1 kWh in four hours, enough to travel about … (wait for it) three miles.

      • neroden

        Maybe they’re using super-expensive space-grade Fraunhofer multijunction panels.

        (Yeah I don’t think so either)

      • Matt

        Yes that is my point. About the only use for panels on the roof are to power fans to vent the car so the inside doesn’t overheat in the sun. And of course when park in garage in shade, it does nothing. Just another point to show that VW has no plans to do anything with this.

        • JamesWimberley

          Didn’t BYD, a committed EV manufacturer, put solar panels on bus roofs initially? It doesn’t make sense of course, and no real EV Beetle or minibus will have them.

        • Harry Johnson

          Just turn on the lights in the garage. 😉

        • joshua

          The leaf has an issue with its 12 volt battery draining if left unattended for an extended period (as do all ICE cars). If this could prevent that from happening, and prevent the interior from baking, it would be worth it.

          Also, it’s a VW Bus! People take it camping. Having some extra power to charge electronics could be nice (it might not be feasible to have the traction battery constantly topping off the 12v battery).

  • Scott Gordon

    A brick seems to be more aerodynamic, and it is a VW… can we trust them again?

    • Kyle Field

      Well, we know it won’t have a tailpipe, so that’s a start.

    • Riely Rumfort

      Every brand has had recalls too which endangered people, can we trust them?


  • Riely Rumfort

    Hopefully later this year they announce a non-concept car with similar design and feats, that’s great range, you sit down for lunch on a road trip after 5 hrs at 70mpg charge for 40 minutes and drive another 4 hours(I’d think most travelers only care to cover 9 hrs a day of drive-time). Also, I’d hope they move the radio receiver to the far front or back as solar panel power transmission can cause frequency interference. Other than that, this looks like a step in the right direction, spacious and modern.

    • Kyle Field

      I’m with you on that. They need to put up another production EV or just stop putting out the same…old…concept.

    • Frank

      The only fast way to go about it is to make that thing Tesla compatible, and do a deal. Otherwise they have to make something that is different, but not better, and build a bunch of charging stations lickety spit. But that isn’t that easy or fast. I’m guessing Tesla would play along for money, amd the opportunity to become “The Standard”. Those other two varieties are cute, but they won’t get you to 80% on a 100KWh pack.

      • Foersom
        • Frank

          I thank you for the link. I generally like standards. Here is my problem with it, which again, is by no means insurmountable. You you need to have them available to be plugged in to. And the car has to be able to do it too. So while Tesla is expanding theirs, these guys have a specification. So how long before they get to where Tesla is at?

          • Foersom

            It is an extension of the CCS, these are already available and more are installed every day. CCS is already used by VW E-Golf, BMW I3, Chevrolet Spark EV etc.. The current installed CCS normally charge at 50 kW. The CCS CharIn variant will probably initially be installed at travel stops, like at restaurant and petrol stations on motorways.

  • Shane 2

    Face like a Storm Trooper.

    • Kyle Field

      A face only a mother could love? Hah! Your comment reminds me of the Fiat 500e from the auto show:

      • Shane 2

        Love Star Wars? We have the car for you!

  • Freddy D

    I wonder what it will cost and when it will be available.

    I see in the concept sketches that it has tires of bicycle proportions ( like the i3). I certainly wouldn’t want to compromise handling or performance for electric. Perhaps the Model 3 or the 3Series EV will be choices with sporty performance.

    Or maybe they’re aiming for the blinding acceleration, the teetering sideways lean and double-clutching of a 1976 air cooled bus!

    • Rich

      In the article – “At CES 2016, Volkswagen unveiled the latest iteration of an old concept”
      If that doesn’t say it all I don’t know what does. VW has been showing these concepts for a long time. This is a pure PR move. Oddly enough, concept cars normally come out of the Marketing budget. This is a concept car with no indication by VW that they’ll actually build this. VW’s PR department is desperately trying to convince people they’re changing direction when they haven’t made any changes. VW have yet to rectify the 600,000 cars creating 40x the legally allowed pollution levels in the USA.
      No one should take VW seriously until they stop limiting sales of their current e-Golf to compliance (CARB) States. VW leadership are a group of lying, manipulating, cheating, polluting, sociopaths.

      • Dragon

        But Volkswagen just wants to be your BUDD-e, dude! And who’s VW? That sounds like some unrelated evil company that did something bad long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…

      • Hahaha, yes x 10!

  • JamesWimberley

    The concept car shown does without wing mirrors. These are indeed dispensable, and replacing them with cameras and a full-view display would improve the aerodynamics a surprising amount. Here the obstacle isn’t the conservatism of manufacturers but that of regulators. Please get moving on the standards!

    • Kyle Field

      Valeo showed side mirror replacement systems at CES and the Audi etron Quattro also had a nice little side camera instead of mirrors. Finally, the Bolt has a switching rear view mirror that is a normal mirror but can be switched to a video feed from the wide angle rear view camera. It’s coming!

    • neroden

      Frankly, I support conservatism on this matter. You don’t want to know how often my Tesla center screen has temporarily flaked out due to software bugs. It’s nice to have the physical mirrors just in case.

      • JamesWimberley

        The obvious compromise is a dual-function interior mirror and scrub the wing mirrors, which are the drag hogs and only add a little to safety. The reliability of car electronics will go up; do you hear if failures in engine management systems? ARM take reliability very seriously. Their processors now go into aviation electronics.

      • Dragon

        My steering wheel screen flakes out about once every couple weeks, ie freezing till I reboot it or spontaneously rebooting itself. I talked to a Tesla tech who said that’s unfortunately pretty normal. That console is basically always in beta because it changes its display with every Tesla OS release. I doubt it will ever be completely stable. Gone are the days of simple car displays that are rock solid reliable. I guess it’s worth the periodic updates, but it’s kind of unnerving as well. As long as the core car systems don’t crash, we’ll be alright.

        However, with something as critical as mirrors, they can have simple, dedicated firmware and dedicated screens near where the actual mirrors would be that should rarely fail. Of course, if they _do_ fail, it creates a new problem… Once the warranty runs out, people are going to drive around without side “mirrors” rather than spend $1000 (or some other fairly large amount) to get them fixed. It will be hard for police to notice such failures, but surely tickets will occasionally be handed out and the fines will need to be stiff to make that $1000 look worthwhile.

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