VW’s ID Buzz meets its maker

Volk­swa­gen’s EV fu­ture bus and its iconic in­spi­ra­tion take on the mean streets of San Fran­cisco

CAR (UK) - - Contents - Words Ge­org Kacher | Photography Robert Ke­rian

IF IN 1967 you were cruis­ing around San Fran­cisco’s Haight-Ash­bury district in your VW camper van you could eas­ily have bumped into Ja­nis Jo­plin, or per­haps Jef­fer­son Air­plane singer Grace Slick, or maybe Jerry Gar­cia of the Grate­ful Dead. Close to the Golden Gate Bridge, the area was home to th­ese icons of the emerg­ing hippy coun­ter­cul­ture, who’d moved there be­cause it was cheap. They were very soon fol­lowed by groupies, deal­ers, daytrip­pers and oth­ers lured by the idea of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. It quickly soured, and the icons ei­ther died or moved on. But the VW bus stayed. Leg­endary hippy-era rock ’n’ roll venues like Fill­more West and the Avalon Ball­room are no more, but 50 years on cer­tain parts of the city still move to the mu­sic of the Dead, Quick­sil­ver Mes­sen­ger Ser­vice and the Doors. To this day, the area is still seen as the mecca for lat­ter­day hip­pies; at once promised land and tourist trap. At times San Fran­cisco seems slightly em­bar­rassed by all this, but at oth­ers it’s keen to en­cour­age it. And so it is with VW and the Mi­crobus, or Kombi, or Trans­porter, or Type 2 (when the Bee­tle was Type 1). Call it what you will, it was launched in 1950 with a rear-mounted air-cooled en­gine that kept the whole ve­hi­cle sim­ple and rel­a­tively roomy. It evolved a bit, but the ba­sic idea was so strong that vari­a­tions on the theme were still be­ing built decades later. Ini­tially in­tended as a load car­rier and/or pas­sen­ger van, it was avail­able in large quan­ti­ties as a preloved bar­gain by the time the hip­pies emerged. Chim­ing with their com­mu­nal ethos, it could com­bine el­e­ments of crash pad, beach hut and Grey­hound bus. Mean­while, 6000 miles to the east of Haight-Ash­bury, and about 2000 light years away from the Sum­mer of Love, my first school bus was a 30bhp 1957 VW T1 painted in sub­dued post-war blue-grey and trimmed with a best-for­got­ten mix of rub­ber and leatherette. I usu­ally sat up front, my right foot rest­ing on the grey tin blis­ter that pro­tected the head­lamp as­sem­bly from the in­side. There was no ra­dio, no heater worth men­tion­ing and no seat ad­just­ment, just slid­ing side win­dows to fid­dle with, which I did in­ces­santly. We made our own en­ter­tain­ment in those days. So when we go for a drive around San Fran­cisco in a pro­to­type of 2022’s VW ID Buzz elec­tric MPV along with a 1952 Mk1 Mi­crobus, it’s both a re­minder of the past and a taste of the near fu­ture. A pro­to­type it may be, but this feels pro­duc­tion ready, and it pro­vides a vivid demon­stra­tion of how elec­tric propul­sion, au­ton­o­mous driv­ing and digi­ti­sa­tion are go­ing to re­de­fine the mis­sion of the mo­tor car over the next 10 to 15 years. VW has shown many pos­si­ble 21st cen­tury Mi­crobuses, but this is the one that’s re­ally go­ing to make it into pro­duc­tion, in a fin­ished form that’s close to this con­cept. The com­bi­na­tion of ID elec­tric think­ing and funky camper-van pack­ag­ing has proved ir­re­sistible: get rid of the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine and you free up some valu­able space, and si­mul­ta­ne­ously you ac­quire the green cre­den­tials your tar­get mar­ket de­mands. The ini­tial buy­ers won’t be al­ter­na­tive-lifestylers any more than they were for the orig­i­nal in 1950, but they will cer­tainly want their new ac­qui­si­tion to alert the world to the fact that they’re more in tune with shiny Sil­i­con Val­ley than stinky Detroit. If the re­cep­tion the pro­to­type got on our tour of San Fran­cisco is any­thing to go by, VW’s on to a win­ner. We head to the hippy heart­land to can­vass opinion, and bang on cue two time-warped hip­pies called Dean and Don stum­ble into our con­voy. The T1 trig­gers all sorts of pos­i­tive vibes for them, while many more for­ward-look­ing San Fran­cis­cans re­gard the ID Buzz as a se­ri­ous al­ter­na­tive to the elec­tric car or hy­brid they currently run. When it ar­rives in 2022, VW in­tends to sell the ID Buzz at a price close to a base-level long-wheel­base Trans­porter T6 (which be­comes the T7 in 2019), currently around £30,000. That’ll be way too much for Dean and Don, but a tempt­ing propo­si­tion for Tesla or Prius­driv­ing mid­dle-class fam­i­lies. And once their at­ten­tion has been grabbed by the Buzz, there will be a choice of IDs wait­ing for them. VW is en­vis­ag­ing a whole new fam­ily of elec­tric ve­hi­cles, rather than a bunch of pre-ex­ist­ing mod­els with their en­gines re­placed by elec­tric pow­er­trains. We’re driv­ing the ID Buzz just three days after VW pub­licly con­firmed that the project will be go­ing into pro­duc­tion. It will, in fact, be the last of the first batch of VW ID mod­els to come to mar­ket. Wolfs­burg’s e-at­tack be­gins in early 2020 with the Golf-size ID (the cover car from our March is­sue) and the Tiguan-size ID Cross. In 2021, we ex­pect to see the boxy Touareg-size ID SUV and the seven-seat ID Lounge, a cross­over coupé with MPV cabin space. As well as the ID Buzz, the plan for 2022 in­cludes a large ver­sion of4

A pro­to­type it may be but this feels pro­duc­tion ready, and pro­vides a vivid demon­stra­tion of how elec­tric propul­sion is rede in­ing the car

In­te­rior de­signed for max­i­mum lex­i­bil­ity, with room for up to eight seats

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