VW wants to keep the purity of the irrational buggy that has no roof or doors
Want Volkswagen’s electric dune buggy? You are in luck because it looks like VW will make the ID Buggy, an electric two-seat concept shown at the Geneva Motor Show with no roof or doors, designed to enjoy motoring.
When the wraps came off the ID Buggy, the initial reaction was lust and then dismay on the assumption VW would never actually build it. It does a good job of demonstrating the flexibility of VW’s electric MEB (modular electric drive) platform, but the outrageously simple styling, old-school Beetle face, and stark packaging could not possibly make it to market. How mean of VW to tease us with something we can never have.
We were wrong to judge.
VW execs love the buggy, too, and it seems poised to get the green light.
We went right to the top and asked Herbert Diess, chairman of the Volkswagen AG Board of Management, if the automaker would make it.
MEB fits nicely with the Buggy, Diess said, and is the kind of emotional vehicle VW wants to include in its portfolio, which will include the ID Buzz, a modern and electric take on the Microbus. The objective is to make electric mobility attractive for a broader base of customers—not just for the rich.
“We decided on the Buggy because it is the most emotional and irrational vehicle we could develop,” said Diess. “We could do this car if we keep one time spending low and one-time investment low.”
VW is only looking at volumes of 5,000-10,000 for the Buggy, but it would enjoy the economies of scale of the MEB platform that will be used for 27 different models among the VW Group brands by 2022 and yield 15 million vehicles at the end of seven years. VW will churn out 1 million electric cars a year by 2025. Those economies of scale make niche projects possible.
Then we asked Scott Keogh, CEO and president of Volkswagen Group of America, who would love to see it built and would love to own one. He describes it as a cool opportunity that plays into a sweet spot and taps into demand for retro and nostalgia but offers something modern with the electric powertrain. Perfect for those in California beach communities or the Hamptons. VW is looking at bringing the ID Buggy to Pebble Beach this year to gauge consumer reaction.
VW will do a financial feasibility study and a market study, but Keogh notes there was no market study for the Beetle. “Sometimes you need to do things that break market studies.”
Klaus Bischoff, executive director of Volkswagen Design, told us point blank it will go into production in two years. Assembly is being contracted out to e.Go Mobile, a German electric startup. E.Go is the first outside partner to use the MEB platform that VW is making available to other companies, notably startups, who want to do low-volume electric vehicles but cannot afford the platform. No U.S. startups have entered talks with VW yet, said Keogh.
A team from e.Go was involved in conceptualizing the ID Buggy because of its interest in building it for VW, said Juergen Stackmann, member of the Board of Management for the Volkswagen brand responsible for sales, marketing, and aftermarket sales. He also said the project must go through feasibility studies “but there is strong willpower to do it.”
When the VW ID Buggy goes into production, it will not add a roof or doors—you jump in and out—but it does have rollover bars and airbags. The cloth seats are weatherproof and there are drains throughout to get rid of rainwater, including the closed trunk area. There are cupholders and an open glovebox. A chip card that the car recognizes brings it to life and you turn a switch to put it into drive. The chip also unlocks the rear cargo area. There are a few buttons on the steering wheel to play music and a small screen provides speed and other critical information.
A few things will have to be added so the car can be certified for use, such as HVAC to defrost the front window, but care will be taken to avoid adding more than absolutely necessary for homologation. VW wants to keep the character and purity of the car and avoid price creep. “It can’t lose its soul,” said Keogh. And it doesn’t need all the sensors and driver assist features and adaptive cruise control.
ID Buggy rides on 18-inch all-terrain tires. It has a 62 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery in the floor and a 201-hp, 228-lb-ft electric motor in the rear axle to ensure power is always at the ready, even off-road. Range is 155 miles (250 km).