(CNN Business)It’s been promised for years. Now it’s finally here. Volkswagen has unveiled the production version of the VW ID. Buzz, a 21st century version of the classic VW Bus. Unlike the noisy and underpowered original bus, the new version will be full electric with ample horsepower.
The Bus was a cultural icon on par with its smaller sister model, the VW Beetle. It was officially known as the Volkswagen T1 or Transporter but best known as the Microbus or, simply, the Bus. In America, it became associated with the Hippie movement, but the Bus also provided transportation for large families decades before the minivan was invented.
The classic Microbus has become a favorite among collectors. Nicely kept versions have sold for six-figure sums. The world’s most valuable Hot Wheels car, worth as much as $150,000, is a tiny Microbus.
While VW designers didn’t want to simply recreate the look of the original van, the automaker said, many elements of the ID. Buzz’s exterior are clearly inspired by it. The new van will be available with two-tone paint like the original. It also has short front and rear “overhangs,” the distance between the wheels and the ends of the body, like the original. Besides giving the van an overall shape similar to the Microbus, the short overhangs also allow for more space inside the van.
Like the Beetle, the Microbus had a small engine mounted in the back. The new VW ID. Buzz, likewise, has its electric motor in the back powering the van’s rear wheels. The motor in the ID. Buzz unveiled Wednesday will produce up to 201 horsepower, far more than the classic Bus’s meager two-digit horsepower figures. Different versions of the Buzz with various power capabilities will be announced later, VW said. VW hasn’t said how much driving range the ID. Buzz will have on a full charge.
The ID. Buzz’s battery packs are mounted under the floor. That gives the van a low center of gravity and, VW promises, particularly agile handling for a van. It shares much of its engineering with other new Volkswagen electric vehicles, such as the ID.4 crossover SUV.
Volkswagen Group, which owns the Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and Bentley brands, among others, is pushing heavily into electric vehicles and expects 25% of its sales to be EVs by 2026. As of last year, they made up about 5% of VW Group’s global sales. Currently, in the US, VW Group sells the electric Audi E-Tron models and Porsche Taycan models in addition to the ID. 4. Overseas, VW Group brands Škoda and Opel also offer electric vehicles, and Bentley plans to sell only electric cars by 2030.
Inside, the ID. Buzz has features similar to those in the ID.4, such as a gear selection knob behind the steering that can be twisted to put the van into drive or reverse. A light bar running underneath the windshield uses colors to communicate to the driver things like an obstacle in the way or an upcoming turn for navigation. The gauge cluster is a rectangular digital screen. There is a 10-inch touchscreen for navigation and entertainment, and a 12-inch screen will be available as an option.
The ID. Buzz will have no leather in its interior, using leather substitutes, instead. There will also be fabrics made entirely from recycled plastics.
The electric bus will be available globally in two lengths, standard and long wheelbase. Only the long wheelbase version will be sold in the US. The standard version will be able to seat five, but a six-seat version will come later. The long wheelbase version will have seating for as many as seven. VW will also be offering cargo van versions with seating for three in front — the driver will have an individual seat with a two-person bench next to them. A wall behind the occupants will keep the cargo area separate.
The ID. Buzz revealed on Tuesday will go on sale in Europe later this year. VW has not yet provided pricing. The technical details could be slightly different for the version that will be available in North America in 2024. That version will be revealed next year.
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