An all new Volkswagen Microbus will debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Its drivetrain will be based on the state of the art lithium ion battery that will be used in the forthcoming Audi R8 e-tron and Q6 e-tron. Range is said to be 250 t0 310 miles.
The original VW bus occupies a favorite spot in American culture. It was the original freedom machine. It could go anywhere, albeit at a leisurely pace. It got pretty good gas mileage. You could take lots of friends along and you could even sleep in it. Try that in Mom’s Impala! It stood for free expression, free love and free music. Most of the people at Woodstock either drove one or knew someone who did.
The front of the original became a symbol of the 60’s. Volkswagen has worked very hard to faithfully recreate that look, but it wasn’t easy. A VW spokesman tells Autocar, “First the wide, solid, D-pillar, second the boxy design of the centersection 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.” It wasn’t until the advent of modern electric drivetrains that the whole project started to come together.
Volkswagen has been engulfed in a tidal wave of negative publicity as a result of the diesel emissions cheating scandal that broke last September. In its wake, top man Martin Winterkorn was replaced. Now uber-engineer Ulrich Hackenberg, the man who designed the platform the R8 e-tron and Q6 e-tron are built on, has suddenly decided to retire.
The top man for Volkswagen cars is now Herbert Diess, who will give the keynote speech at CES on January 5. Autonomous driving systems are expected to dominate the show this year, so the fact that VW is planning to introduce its new electric Microbus there suggests it will have plenty of electronic features to show off. Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive of the company which organizes CES, says the car will be a “groundbreaking electric vehicle that will further illustrate the synergy between the Internet of Things and the automotive industry.”
VW’s Diess says his company is “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 says “a new standard with regard to connectivity and driver assistance systems is to be defined.”
Using CES as a platform to outline how Volkswagen plans to move forward is smart. It’s hard to imagine that anything good can come out of the diesel emissions scandal, but that debacle may actually spark a revolution within the company to bring the electric cars the world needs to market sooner than anticipated. What better way to start its climb back then by re-introducing the automotive face America came to love to our roads once again.
Photo credits: Volkswagen, Pinterest