A no-emissions future must look awfully good from scandal-wracked Wolfsburg, and so the Budd-e concept is Volkswagen’s loaf-shaped crystal ball from which to predict it. Think of the Budd-e as less of a vehicle that may actually see production, and more as a fun box to house all sorts of not-quite-ready mobility and connectivity technology.
Interested in what Volkswagen has up its sleeve in the short term? Go read our coverage of the e-Golf Touch, which is the near-future technology implementation showpiece at CES. The Budd-e, a reimagining of the Bulli-cum-Microbus concept, merely “tells a story about future technology” rather than being indicative of a future minivan revival, VW spokesman Darryll Harrison told Autoblog.
Despite “not being based on anything today,” Harrison characterized the new MEB modular electric “toolkit” as a spinoff of the MQB architecture that underpins everything from the current Golf to the new Tiguan CUV. VW started talking about the MEB platform back in the in the wake of the emissions scandal, envisioning it as a path forward for virtually any vehicle in its extensive brand portfolio. That being said, it seems like VW wants to start with the smallish MQB-based vehicles in its electrification program.
Taking Budd-e at face value, it’s essentially a tall box built around a dual-motor skateboard chassis. A flat battery pack of a theorized 101-kWh capacity takes up most of the vehicle’s floor. The front houses an electric motor powering the front wheels and the motor controllers. Out back, handling is by multi-link suspension and a second electric motor provides extra traction.
vw volkswagen budd-e concept ces 2016
vw volkswagen budd-e concept ces 2016vw volkswagen budd-e concept ces 2016
While the company claims that the Budd-e represents a vehicle that has 373 miles of range and can charge to 80 percent of battery capacity in about 15 minutes, this doesn’t represent any technology currently available to VW. These numbers are projections about where VW thinks battery technology will be by the end of the decade.
Does VW have a supplier that is promising equipment to deliver these range and recharging features? Harrison admitted that VW is “still looking at various companies” that might be engaged to develop these products in the future. So Budd-e is most emphatically not a 373-mile-range EV prototype. It’s what a future EV with that kind of range might look like, if the right battery pack and charging technology come along.
Budd-e is a peek at what future technologies VW is interested in pursuing. Inside, it’s a hypermodern lounge space with reconfigurable seating and huge touchscreen panels. Buttons have been largely replaced, in Budd-e’s hypothetical layout, with gesture controls and smooth touch capacitive surfaces with variable haptic feedback. Like many manufacturers thinking about connectivity, VW believes you’d use a car like this to interact with your smart home or office, and more importantly, you’ll use it to consume media and messaging. Instead of mirrors, the “e-Mirror” will show outside images on smaller dedicated displays in the cabin. And VW abandons the hard separation between gauge cluster and infotainment. Budd-e predicts a Virtual-Cockpit-on-steriods approach, with a massive 12.3-inch curved screen in front of the driver that blends into a 13.3-inch display in the center console. VW wants you to think of this as an “information hub” rather than two distinct areas displaying two different types of information.
Being unhinged from needing to demonstrate the feasibility (or practicality) of any of these ideas, Budd-e shouldn’t be evaluated as a serious proposition. It’s a thought experiment, a pure concept. On that point, Harrison told us that Budd-e isn’t “indicative of a future direction … but it does play on the idea of your car as a living space.” A large box does make for an effective “activity space”, so if VW ever gets serious about implementing these fanciful ideas into a real car, perhaps it’ll look something like this modernized Microbus.
Author: Alex Kierstein