Buzz is building, but it’s a long way off
VW’s electric ode to the Microbus not due till 2024
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/03/2022 (266 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Like an acid trip that just keeps building, the story of the Volkswagen ID. Buzz took another small step forward this week when VW unveiled its back-to-the-future reincarnation of the Microbus.
The Microbus was the darling of the 1960s, as much a part of the cultural landscape as the Summer of Love and Woodstock. Its simplicity and its quirkiness — combined with a voluminous interior and exterior surfaces perfect for daisies and flowers and other psychedelic motifs — more than made up for its lack of power.
To recapture that magic, VW first unveiled the Buzz concept at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and since then has been delivering dribs and drabs of information every so often to keep the, ahem, buzz going.
Expect another teaser before it hits these shores, however: it’s not due here until 2024.
This week, we learned the most striking example of VW’s transformation to a zero-emissions provider will feature an 82 kWh battery and a powertrain that will leave its progenitor in the dust: a 201-horsepower electric motor delivering 229 pound-feet of torque and an electronically limited top speed of 145 km/h.
While the company isn’t announcing the vehicle’s range yet, it’s possible to speculate. The Hyundai IONIQ 5 — a smaller vehicle — has a top range of 488 kilometres with its biggest (77.4 kWh) battery. The VW ID 4, with an 82 kWh battery similar to the Buzz’s, offers 400 kilometres of range. All this would suggest the Buzz would lose some of its buzz if the range wasn’t at least 400 kilometres.
Despite not quoting range, VW says the Buzz can recharge in as little as 30 minutes at a DC fast charger.
While the technical details are still to come, VW says the model shown is very close to what the Buzz will look like in production. With an available two-tone colour scheme, and with that second colour repeated inside, it’s a fresh design that will look right at home in that epicentre of hippie culture, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district.
Odes to the Microbus of yore are seen in the chassis design, where the wheels are pushed as far to the corners as possible, allowing for maximum interior space for the footprint. In passenger versions, it has a similar set of windows as the Microbus. The colour scheme, the easter eggs throughout — smiley faces in various locations — and the simple, pushed-forward dash also pay homage to the original.
Another nod to its hippie past is the Buzz’s use of sustainable materials in production: the headliner is made from recycled plastic bottles, seating and other fabric-covered surfaces, such as the steering wheel, are made from non-animal products.
An area where the Buzz is likely to outperform the Microbus is handling. Not only has suspension engineering advanced significantly in the five decades since, the Buzz’s battery is in the floor, keeping the centre of gravity almost subterranean in its height. It won’t be at all tippy like the Microbus, that’s for sure.
Volkswagen isn’t just targeting hippie wannabes with the Buzz, however. A cargo version, essentially a panel van, is under development to cater to businesses seeking a lower environmental footprint. VW says the cargo version is suited for delivery — it can hold two Euro-sized pallets — as well as conversion to a trades van, for electricians, plumbers or carpenters.
The cargo version comes with sliding side doors and a choice of a standard minivan-like tailgate or two swinging rear doors like full-size vans. In addition to the standard cargo space, an underfloor storage area, which extends in a channel to under the passenger seat, is available to haul longer items. The cargo will also feature a partition to keep cargo from flying into the cockpit. That partition is available with or without a window.
VW says the cargo has a 600-kilogram capacity for payload inside, plus an additional 100 kilograms for rooftop storage, either for extra cargo or to attach fixtures to store items such as pipes, conduit or wood for those plumbers, electricians or carpenters. The cargo’s windowless rear panels are also the perfect palettes for company logos.
As for price, VW isn’t saying yet. With the van two years away, expect to learn about price sometime in late 2023 or early 2024.
Copy Editor, Autos Reporter
Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.