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VW Microbus Rides Again, On Electrons

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On: Fri, Mar 11, 2011 at 10:02AM | By: Chris Weiss

VW Microbus Rides Again, On Electrons

What exciting news for the auto world. As part of its Geneva presence, Volkswagen presented an all-new Microbus concept. Taking off on the Microbus Concept VW presented in 2001, the reinvented icon does its hippie, tree-hugging roots proud: it tosses the gas engine in favor of an electric motor.

The concept is called the Bulli, a name that represents Germany's nickname for the original Transporter buses, which were popularly called Microbuses in the U.S.

It's a modern reinterpretation that attempts to stay true to the original Transporters, while updating the design language and building upon the Microbus concept that VW presented at the 2001 Detroit Auto Show. The hoodless front fascia of the classic Transporter is reintepreted into a short, engine-bearing front end and raked windshield. VW maintains the light-bearing cabin, but restructures the array of individual square or rectangular windows into more of a wrap-around greenhouse. The round headlamps are long gone, and instead, VW uses a sharp set of LEDs. The Bulli keeps the short rear overhangs.

In concept form, VW has equipped the Bulli with an 85 kW electric motor that pumps out up to 199 lb-ft of torque. That motor is powered by a 40 kWh battery pack mounted under the floor. The bus will take you 186.4 miles on a single charge—not quite enough to follow Phish around from city to city without a better charging infrastructure, but better than the 100 miles or so that's become the standard of EVs like the Nissan Leaf. 62 mph comes in 11.5 seconds and the Bulli is limited to an 87 mph top speed.

Inside, there are two benches, which can be folded to accommodate a variety of interior set-ups. And something you probably never thought you'd see in a VW Microbus—an iPad—lets drivers control navigation, music, and Bluetooth.

The automaker has also configured the bus to fit gas engines including 1.0- and 1.4-liter gas or diesel options.

VW hasn't indicated any plans for production, but given the concept's versatility in terms of engine/motors, it seems like the automaker is considering potential production.

In designing the Bulli, VW faced the conundrum of reviving a legend while modernizing it enough to make it relevant and contemporary. Do you think that it succeeded with the styling and electric powertrain?

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