Classic Camper van will return with all-electric derivative to showcase VW’s vision for autonomous tech, safety and connectivity
The Volkswagen Microbus will make another return with an electric concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month, prior to an official announcement confirming the iconic van’s return to the German car maker’s line-up.
Described as a close preview to a planned production version of the Microbus to be produced at Volkswagen’s Puebla factory in Mexico from 2017, the concept is set to showcase a newly developed electric drive system among other contemporary connectivity technologies.
The zero local emission driveline, which relies on the Volkswagen Group’s latest lithium-ion battery technology as used by the Audi R8 E-Tron and Audi Q6 E-Tron Quattro concept, is claimed to provide a range of between 400 and 500km (250-310 miles) depending on the driving conditions.
The German manufacturer, which is seeking to rebuild its reputation in the wake of the emissions scandal, will show off the car during a keynote speech by Herbert Diess, head of passenger cars for Volkswagen, on the eve of CES.
In his address Diess will lay out Volkswagen’s vision for electric mobility and sustainability.
The all-electric Microbuss is planned to be offered alongside more conventional turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and diesel powerplants on the production Microbus, which senior Wolfsburg sources describe as being smaller than the latest Multivan.
Speaking at the New York show earlier this year, a Volkswagen spokesman revealed that VW engineers and designers were working on a new Camper van concept using a small electric motor driving the front wheels and battery packs stored under the floor.
The spokesman told Autocar that the design of the original VW van was “so iconic” that any attempt at a new model would have to have three “very important” design cues: “First the wide, solid, D-pillar, second the boxy design of the centre section and, thirdly, the front end must have a very short overhang. The distance from the A-pillar to the front end must be very short.”
The key to achieving the unique front-end design is the fact that an electric motor would allow a much lower ‘bonnet line’ than a conventional petrol engine. This, in turn, would allow the A-pillars to be placed much further forward than in a conventional MPV.
The news of VW’s new EV concept was confirmed by Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive of the company which organises CES. He said the car would be a “groundbreaking electric vehicle that will further illustrate the synergy between the Internet of Things and the automotive industry”.
Shapiro added: “We are pleased Volkswagen will use the CES stage to unveil a concept car displaying its latest developments in safe and energy-efficient electric vehicles consistent with VW’s long history of innovation in the driving experience.
“When we agreed to a Volkswagen keynote earlier this year we, along with the world, did not know much about emissions testing, but after talking with Dr Diess I felt the CES audience would be interested in his vision and curious about his plans for a new type of sustainable car.
“Now, VW has an opportunity at CES to show the world its designs for the future and how the company views electric mobility and sustainability.”
Diess’s keynote speech, which will take place on 5 January on the eve of CES’s opening, is likely to expand on comments he made last month about how Volkswagen was “repositioning itself for the future”.
“We are becoming more efficient, we are giving our product range and our core technologies a new focus and we are creating room for forward-looking technologies by speeding up the efficiency program.”
Diess also hinted that “a new standard with regard to connectivity and driver assistance systems is to be defined”, and it seems likely that the CES show car will showcase autonomous driving technologies.