The Volkswagen BUDD-e was one of the worst kept secrets at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Everybody knew Volkswagen was bringing a new electric vehicle to the show and we were 99 and 44/100% sure it would pay homage to the iconic VW Microbus. More than any other vehicle, that humble creation spelled freedom for lots of Americans. A car with good gas mileage that you could sleep in at the end of the day? Parents loathed them; young people adored them.
It’s like the VW bus was made for the libertine ethos of the 60’s. It carried hordes of young Americans to Woodstock. It became the official car of Haight-Ashbury. Every one of them sported a peace sign somewhere and had a Janis Joplin tape in the cassette player. What better way to make nervous Americans forget about diesel cheating software than to remind them of the good times they had, kicking back and getting high in a V Dub bus?
It turns out, the BUDD-e is quite an interesting re-interpretation of the original. Volkswagen engineers worked overtime to make the electric motors as small as possible, leaving more space for the people inside. It features an L shaped couch that cascades down the wall behind the driver’s seat before turning and continuing the width of the car at the rear. The front passenger seat swivels so the person in it can enjoy valuable face time with those in back.
Best of all, it has a 101 kWh battery mounted under the floor — the largest battery in a production car to date. Volkswagen says it can go 373 miles in the European test mode. EPA numbers are typically about 1/3 less, but that still means it will have almost 250 miles of range, which is better than the Tesla Model X. With its boxy styling, it will also likely be able to haul more stuff than Model X. Volkswagen hasn’t said anything about towing capacity.
What it has said is that it will be possible to recharge the car’s battery to 80% in just 30 minutes. To do that, hints Dr. Volkmar Tannenberger, Volkswagen’s global head of electric and electronic development, it may use the 800 volt charging technology being developed by Porsche for its Mission E four door electric sports car, according to Green Car Reports. Of course, that will require an expensive and extensive modification program of existiing CCS charging facilities.
There is one area of agreement between the Volkswagen BUDD-e and the fanciful Faraday Future FFZero1. Both rely heavily on a basic architecture that can be stretched or compressed to make virtually any kind of vehicle the market demands. Volkswagen’s new chassis is known internally as MEB, which stands for Modular Electric Toolkit, assuming you speak German. VW hasn’t said the BUDD-e is definitely going into production or what it might cost, but the MEB chassis, the hand gesture controls and the extensive internet connectivity are features that will definitely be seen in Volkswagen production cars soon, says Automotive News. In fact, the dashboard features of the BUDD-e will appear in the Golf-e in Europe later this year before expanding to include other world markets.
Elon Musk has recently implored Volkswagen and other companies to make more and better electric cars. Will the family of cars built on the MEB chassis satisfy Musk’s demand? They will be appearing in showrooms between now and the end of the decade. For many folks, they can’t come soon enough.