Volkswagen BUDD-e Concept Portends the Future of VW
As is evidenced by the debut of the Volkswagen BUDD-e Concept at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the automaker continues to stoke hope in fans of the classic Microbus that something like it will ultimately roll back into a VW showroom, and preferably without the name “Routan” attached to it.
Titillating the faithful in Vegas, the BUDD-e Concept is not a look at a future Microbus replacement. Rather, it showcases a new Modular Electric Toolkit platform that Volkswagen says demonstrates what might be possible to buy in 2019, a suggestion that a new electric vehicle designed and engineered from the tire contact patches up is on the way.
Taller and wider than a Honda CR-V, but just a couple of inches longer than the popular crossover SUV, the BUDD-e Concept is a van that “provides a hint of future design direction,” according to Volkswagen. Equipped with 2-tone paint like the old Microbus, the BUDD-e Concept features a backlit front VW emblem, LED headlights and taillights, circumferential ambient outside lighting, and 21-in. aluminum wheels.
Beneath the bodywork, the new Modular Electric Toolkit platform is designed to provide maximum interior space with a minimum footprint, supplying what Volkswagen promises will be “inexpensive access to e-mobility.” A flat, 101-kWh battery is embedded into the floor of the platform and powers electric drive motors at the front and rear axles to provide all-wheel drive. Volkswagen says the platform will deliver more than 230 miles of driving range, strong acceleration, nimble handling, and a top speed of over 90 mph.
Using a municipal quick-charging system it should take 30 minutes to achieve an 80% charge, according to Volkswagen. Additionally, the BUDD-e Concept’s platform provides cordless inductive charging capability.
Beyond the details associated with the new electric vehicle platform, the BUDD-e Concept is a showcase for Volkswagen’s approach to transform travel into a “fully interactive, intuitive experience.” Envisioned as an integral part of the Internet of Things, BUDD-e contains technology that networks the vehicle with its owners’ Smart Home, Smart Office, smartphones, and smart watches.
For example, while driving or riding in BUDD-e, owners and passengers could theoretically remotely access home systems from the vehicle, or receive a notification that someone is at the front door at home and then provide an image of that person. Owners could be notified if they’ve left something in the vehicle, or warned to remember an umbrella if rain is in the weather forecast. The BUDD-e Concept even has a “drop box” accessible from outside of the vehicle using a digital key access code. This means items ordered online could be delivered to the vehicle when desirable, though it is unclear what happens if it is a drone that brings the package rather than a human being.
With the BUDD-e Concept, Volkswagen also forecasts the future of the automotive interior. Don’t look for buttons, knobs, or switches inside of this Vee-Dub. Instead, it is equipped with touch-, voice-, and gesture-control display panels. Multi-zone climate control and natural speech recognition are also aboard the BUDD-e, along with camera-based “e-mirror” technology similar to what Cadillac is rolling out for the 2016 CT6 and 2017 XT5.
A multi-function steering wheel also features haptic-feedback, touch-sensing, gesture-recognizing controls that are synced to the control panel’s programmable displays. Hand gestures can also be used to open the doors, while foot gestures open the tailgate.
Designed to sense and predict what people want to do before they actively do it, some of the technology showcased within the BUDD-e Concept will take longer to bring to fruition than others. You can bet on seeing this electric-drive platform sooner than later, though. Whether or not it comes in the form of a long-awaiting Microbus replacement, however, remains to be seen.