Return of the Microbus? Volkswagen presents electric “hippie bus”.
Volkswagen has unveiled its new ID Buzz.
Volkswagen has unveiled its ID Buzz: a van the company is touting as the spiritual successor to its iconic Microbus. But while the original “hippie bus” was powered by a tiny four-cylinder engine behind the rear axle, the new one is purely electric.
Chad Kirchner, Editor-in-Chief of EV Pulse, says despite the retro looks and EV powertrain, the Buzz’s main focus is practicality.
“It’s initially designed as a kind of mainstream people carrier. Only with hints to play into the retro appeal of the Microbus,” said Kirchner.
Volkswagen introduced the first microbus, the T1, in 1950. In the decades that followed, the vehicle became synonymous with the “counterculture” movement. Microbuses were often given bright, psychedelic paint jobs, stuffed with flowers and peace symbols. Type 2s feature prominently on album covers by Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys, and are easily spotted in Woodstock footage. Early microbuses shared an engine with the VW Beetle of the time. The new Buzz similarly shares a powertrain with another VW stablemate.
The Buzz is based on VW’s “MEB” electric architecture, which also underpins the brand’s electric crossover, the ID4. The company has yet to release specifications for the Buzz for the American market, but it did say that the European model will come with a 201-horsepower electric motor driving the rear wheels. As for electric range, Kirchner expects it to be close to the ID4’s 268-mile figure. The Buzz is about five inches longer than the ID4, and VW says the European version has 138 cubic feet of cargo space.
“Anyone who wants a little more space will reach for the ID Buzz,” says Kirchner.
Numbers aside, Kirchner says, car buyers’ fond memories of classic VW buses could prove to be the Buzz’s main selling point.
“There’s definitely a large group of people out there who are nostalgic for the old Microbus,” he added.
Todd Olson is co-founder of Buses By The Beach, a car club for microbus enthusiasts. He says he first became interested in buses after attending a Grateful Dead concert in 1992.
“It all made sense then,” he told ABC Audio. “I’ve seen all these Volkswagen vans that people can live in… that triggered the error.”
Olson says he’s now owned, restored and sold over fifty different Volkswagen buses and says he’s discovered a vibrant community of enthusiasts in the process.
“Buyer of Volkswagen [buses]they’re counterculture people, they’re a little bit different,” he says. “They dance to a different beat.”
As for whether the new Buzz can dance to that rhythm, Olson says his first impressions are positive.
“I think it’s a very cool concept,” said Olsen. “I’m excited to see the vehicle.”
However, he is concerned that an EV’s limited range could dampen its appeal.
“The owners of these vans — they want to roll, they want to travel and follow the Grateful Dead … follow Phish,” Olson said. “Unfortunately, this purely electric vehicle does not yet have the range.”
The Buzz is slated to launch in Europe later this year. It will come to US dealers in 2024. Olson says he still wants to test drive it despite his reservations.
“When the new thing hits the showroom, we’ll definitely try it,” he said.
Hear ABC’s Michelle Franzen talk about VW’s new electric bus: