During the last several years, we’ve seen a variety of interesting and sometimes quirky, all-electric concept vehicles from Volkswagen, such as the battery-powered dune buggy that debuted at the New York International Auto Show last year. More than a few, like that e-Buggy, have struck a decidedly retro note – as does the automaker’s latest offering, the e-BULLI Concept.
In this case, VW’s Commercial Vehicles unit really has reached into the past, the e-BULLI starting out as a 1966 classic Microbus that has had its conventional, four-cylinder engine replaced by a compact electric drive system.
“It is only when you look through the windows into the eight-seat interior that you notice that a few things are not as you might assume them to be in a T1,” the commercial Samba Bus version of the old Microbus, VW explains in a statement accompanying these images.
As with the original T1 edition, the bus is a spartan affair, down to the original, airbag-less steering wheel and push-button-style radio. But a closer look reveals entirely new seats, for one thing, a big navigation screen mounted just above the windshield, and a completely new center console with a modern shifter. The single gauge looks, at first glance, like the classic Microbus speedometer, but it’s been updated to provide additional information, including range.
Using the We-Connect mobile app, the e-BULLI driver can also call up information online by smartphone app or via a PC and a corresponding web portal such as on remaining charge time, current range, miles travelled, trip times, energy consumption and recuperation.
The radio, incidentally, may look like a classic ‘60s-era device, but it’s been hooked up to some hidden, cutting-edge technology, including an active subwoofer, and gets both USB and Bluetooth audio inputs.
The exterior also might fool you, as the charge port has been carefully tucked away behind the fold-up rear license plate.
Under the skin, the original chassis has been replaced, as has the 1966 T1’s old 43-horsepower gas engine. It’s been replaced by an electric motor punching out 82 hp. Torque has jumped from the original 75 pound-feet to 156, meanwhile.
With the new drivetrain, E-Bulli can manage a top speed of 80 mph, up from the original 65 mph. Range from the 45 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is estimated at 124 miles per charge.
The pack can be plugged into either a conventional Level 2 system, at 240-volts, or it can use a DC fast charger of up to 50 kilowatts, giving it an 80% recharge in just 40 minutes, VW claims.
One reason for using a new chassis was to allow the e-BULLI to mount its batteries in the load floor, much like VW’s first production long-range BEV, the ID.3. That means little sacrifice in terms of interior cargo or passenger space. The lithium-ion pack, in fact, is being produced at the same plant as the batteries VW will use in the ID.3 and other models to come.
The list of planned battery-electric vehicles also includes the ID.Buzz, a much less retro-styled take on the classic VW Microbus. That model is a year-some away from production, plans calling for it to be assembled at Volkswagen’s big Mexican assembly complex.
Don’t expect to see the German automaker add the e-BULLI to the flood of BEVs it is working up. That said, it is likely to give ideas to EV fans, as well as the growing number of custom shops specializing in converting old vehicles, such as the classic, first-generation Beetle, to run on all-electric power.