Volkswagen Working On Electric Microbus With Self-Driving Features

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An electric resurrection of the Volkswagen Microbus, one capable of some degree of autonomous driving, is apparently in order.

Reports claim that the electric Microbus concept is one of 5 electrified concepts that have been chosen to “spearhead the company’s entry into the electric car ranks at the end of the decade.”

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Volkswagen Budd-E Concept

The unconfirmed concept was apparently “conceived by a team of Volkswagen engineers headed by development boss Frank Welsch,” so presumably a fair amount of work went into it. This is also a concept that has been rumored for well over a year.

The vehicle would make a lot of sense, as an all-electric Microbus — one with a good range and pricing — would probably sell pretty well (even with Volkswagen’s somewhat tarnished reputation). It also seems like an ideal vehicle for Volkswagen’s new MOIA initiative, which conspicuously doesn’t show a vehicle on its website.

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Autocar provides more:

“According to Volkswagen insiders with knowledge of the heavily shrouded project, the seven-seat electric powered MPV is based around the same flexible MEB platform as the five-door ID concept. … The MEB structure, which sites new Volkswagen concept’s liquid cooled lithium-ion battery within the floorplan to provide it with a completely flat floor, has been modified to suit the characteristics of the new Microbus, with both a longer wheelbase and wider track widths than those seen on the ID. …

“The new Microbus is also claimed to benefit from the same space saving driveline layout as the ID, with a power electronics package sited up front and a 122 kW electric motor mounted low down at the rear within the rear axle assembly… Nothing is official at this stage, though computer simulations are claimed to reveal the expansive floor area of the Microbus concept provides sufficient space for a battery large enough to endow it with nominal range of up to 500 km.”

Sufficient space … sure. But how expensive would the battery pack for a 500 km range be? Even assuming that figure relates to the optimistic (inaccurate) European testing cycle, that is still a very high range. Such a battery pack won’t be cheap, not even in 2020.

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Volkswagen ID Concept
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Volkswagen ID Concept

Interestingly, the concept apparently features a “classic” Microbus body design — so they company probably is intending for nostalgia to count for something, as it did with the launch of the “new” Beetle a while back.

Top image by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica. Other images by Volkswagen.


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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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