The MPV concept could resemble the Budd-E, revealed in January
Volkswagen is preparing to resurrect the Microbus as an electric MPV with a theoretical range of up to 500km together and the latest in autonomous driving functions.
Sources close to the German car maker describe it as a future relevant concept featuring modular architectural and technical solutions.
The latest take on the iconic Microbus is among a series of concepts conceived by a team of Volkswagen engineers headed by development boss, Frank Welsch. Unconfirmed at this stage, it is said to be one of up to five dedicated electric powered models tentatively chosen to spearhead the company’s entry into the electric car ranks at the end of the decade.
Same platform as ID concept
According to Volkswagen insiders with knowledge of the heavily shrouded project, the seven-seat electric powered MPV is based around the same flexible MEB platform as the five-door ID concept – a pure electric hatchback revealed at the Paris motor show in September and already confirmed for launch in 2019.
The MEB structure, which sites new Volkswagen concept’s liquid cooled lithium-ion battery within the floorplan to provide it with a completely flat floor, has been modified to suit the characteristics of the new Microbus, with both a longer wheelbase and wider track widths than those seen on the ID.
The new platform architecture has been developed independently of the structures to be used by Volkswagen sister companies Audi and Porsche with the upcoming production versions of the e-tron quattro SUV and Mission E saloon.
The new Microbus is also claimed to benefit from the same space saving driveline layout as the ID, with a power electronics package sited up front and a 122kW electric motor mounted low down at the rear within the rear axle assembly.
As with the ID, the modern day Microbus is planned to offer standard rear wheel drive. Alternatively, it is also claimed to support four-wheel drive with the aid of a so-called electric propeller shaft and smaller satellite electric motor mounted at the front and used to power the front wheels.
The contemporary driveline layout closely mirrors that of the original Microbus, which used a Beetle-derived platform design featuring a rear-mounted air-cooled four-cylinder boxer petrol engine and rear wheel drive., unlike its spiritual successor, the Multivan, which receives a front mounted engine and standard front-wheel drive.
Nothing is official at this stage, though computer simulations are claimed to reveal the expansive floor area of the Microbus concept provides sufficient space for a battery large enough to endow it with nominal range of up to 500km.
Takes inspiration from original Microbus
Drawing on the proportions of the original Microbus launched in 1950, the new electric-powered concept is described as boasting a bluff front end, extended roof line and upright rear end in a layout aimed at maximising interior space. It is also claimed to revive a number of exterior design elements from the classic Volkswagen model, including its upright windscreen and distinctive side window graphic.
With an overall length around 4900mm, the reborn Microbus is said to be a considerable 400mm shorter than the latest seventh-generation Multivan. Despite this, the MPV concept is claimed to offer interior accommodation comparable as its more conventional combustion engine touting commercial vehicle sibling with seating for up to seven and what is described as “more than adequate luggage space at the rear”.
Further details remain under wraps, though sources privy to early packaging mock-ups of the new MPV suggest it will likely feature a classic Microbus body design with two conventional front hinged doors for the front seat occupants, a kerb side sliding door for the occupants seated within the second and third rows of seats and an automatically opening tailgate at rear.
Further features set for inclusion on the new Microbus include high-definition instrument and infotainment displays a well as head-up display technology and new autonomous driving functions – all of which are being developed for inclusion on Volkswagen’s upcoming electric car line-up.