The Volkswagen ID. Buzz — a battery electric version of the iconic and much loved VW Microbus — has been in the works since George W. Bush was in office. Or was it George H.W. Bush? Anyway, it has been a long time coming. Rumors, speculation, and guesses about the ID. Buzz have been coming thick and fast in the last few weeks, in advance of the official North American reveal on June 2.
Unlike our competitors, who have been shamelessly milking the story for all its worth in advance of the official announcement, we (well, most of us) decided to keep our powder dry and wait for actual facts before covering this story. Now June 2 is finally here and the official press release is out, so let’s get to it.
All About The LWB Volkswagen ID. Buzz
The long wheelbase Volkswagen ID. Buzz is the only version that will be offered to customers in North America. It is 4,962 mm long and has a wheelbase 250 mm longer than the standard vehicle. Thanks to its larger footprint, the LWB ID. Buzz has an interior volume of 2,469 liters (87 cubic feet), which is large enough for seven seats (a 6-seat version will be offered) with plenty of room also for the stuff people take along when they go places.
The extra room also allows for an 85 kWh battery — the largest fitted to any MEB-based vehicle. The LWB ID. Buzz will have a single electric motor driving the rear wheels, but that’s not the end of the story. Recently, the company announced a new motor and drive system called APP 550 that is more compact and more efficient but offers more horsepower and torque.
Karsten Bennewitz, head of powertrain and energy systems at Volkswagen, said in a company press release, “Because the available space has not changed, we were compelled to develop a new drive that achieves significant improvements in performance and efficiency in spite of being subject to the same constraints. That was a great challenge for the team of Technical Development and Group Components. The result shows that we were able to reduce the use of raw materials while at the same time achieving a considerable increase in vehicle efficiency.”
The APP 550 powertrain also has more torque — up to 550 Nm (405 lb-ft) depending on the vehicle’s gear ratio. The significantly higher torque provides superior power both from a standstill and at higher speeds, thanks to an enhanced stator with a higher effective number of windings and a larger wire cross section. The rotor is equipped with more powerful permanent magnets that give it a higher load capacity. The drive was also reinforced to withstand the greater torque. The more powerful 210 kW (286 hp) APP 550 powertrain will be an available option on the LWB ID. Buzz. With it, the top speed is increased to 160 km/h (100 mph).
But that’s not all. Volkswagen also says it has developed a new pulse inverter that is 20% more efficient, which not only allows for more powerful motors but also increases range. We all know that efficiency is of paramount concern to EV manufacturers and drivers. The LWB ID. Buzz will also come with a heat pump for cabin heating and cooling — another improvement that will allow the vehicles to travel further on a single charge.
Coming soon is a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive GTX version of the ID. Buzz with an output of 250 kW (339 hp) — enough to propel it to 100 km/h in 6.4 seconds, down from 7.9 seconds for the single-motor version.
Note: There was a time when most cars could accelerate to 60 mph in about 10 seconds. That was acceptable performance for a daily driver. Now, 7.9 seconds is not exactly slow, but it’s not all that fast for an electric car with a boatload of torque available off the line. For comparison purposes, the Tesla Model Y LR zips to 60 in 4.4 seconds. Now that gets people’s attention!
Features & Benefits
Thankfully, the Volkswagen press release is lacking the glowing praises other manufacturers like to use. There is no reference to how the driver’s door handle is inspired by a tree that once grew on the summit of Mount Fuji or how the fabric for the upholstery uses yarn harvested from the socks of Mediterranean fishermen.
Volkswagen is pretty chuffed about its 1.5-square-meter panoramic sunroof — the largest ever in any of its vehicles. The roof uses smart glass that can switch from transparent to opaque using a touch slider or an oral command to the voice assistant. There is also a head-up display in front of the driver, an upgraded next-generation infotainment system, and remote parking via a smartphone app. The North American versions of the ID. Buzz will also feature air conditioned seats and an illuminated Volkswagen logo on the front. Woo hoo!
Thomas Schäfer, a Volkswagen board member, said: “Volkswagen is an extremely strong global brand with a great history, millions of loyal fans and legendary products. This is clearly evident here at the largest VW Bus festival in the USA. I am therefore delighted that the team at Volkswagen Group of America is celebrating the premiere of the ID. Buzz with long wheelbase here. With this model, we are taking a big step towards becoming a true love brand again.”
Pablo Di Si, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, underlined the importance of the electric VW bus for the US market. “The ID. Buzz and the USA — it’s a perfect match! The VW bus has a long history in the USA and enjoys real cult status. Our aim today is to further strengthen the Volkswagen brand in America. The ID. Buzz with long wheelbase is exactly the right model to fulfill this task.”
Delivery of the first ID. Buzz vehicles in America will start in 2024, with deliveries beginning in Europe shortly thereafter. Like the Multivan and the Bulli T6.1, all ID. Buzz vehicles will be produced at the main plant of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in Hanover, Germany.
You will notice the Volkswagen press release skipped over a few important things, namely the price and EPA range. These will probably be forthcoming in due course. But sitting around the mahjongg table in CleanTechnica’s meditation garden (the oleander is especially fragrant this year), we had a few questions.
First, if the LWB ID. Buzz is manufactured in Germany, how will it compete with other 3-row electric vehicles like the Hyundai Ioniq 7 and Kia EV9 that are assembled in America or Mexico and eligible for some or all of the US tax incentives? Second, from what we know so far, the new MEB based vehicle from Volkswagen is not exactly inexpensive, especially compared to the Tesla Model Y.
We love the ID. Buzz. We really do. But we wonder how much the allure of the microbus that was the darling of the great unwashed during the ’60s is really worth. Most Americans alive today were born after Woodstock. In today’s political climate, free love and lots of grass may not be the vibe most people are searching for in a vehicle.
Volkswagen says interest in the ID. Buzz is extraordinarily high, and yet if the asking price is $10,000 or more higher than a Tesla with better performance, we have to wonder how much of that interest will translate into actual sales. Besides, you can get a mattress for your Model Y and use camp mode to keep you comfy during the night.
Clearly, Volkswagen is waiting to see what happens with the ID. Buzz before thinking of building it in America, but unless it is manufactured in North America, it may languish on dealer lots. There are only so many people who will want to strap some surfboards on top and go shoot the curl at San Onofre or La Jolla while the Beach Boys serenade them through their ear buds.
What we are saying is the LWB ID. Buzz is a throwback to one of the most iconic vehicles of all time in America. It was a cult symbol and much beloved, even if its forward progress was measured in furlongs per fortnight. Will this new model capture lightning in a bottle for a second time? “We’ll see,” said the Zen Master.
You can watch the official reveal of the LWB ID. Buzz destined for America next year in the video below.
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