Debuts in Geneva with 201 hp and 250-km range
Too cool for school? Volkswagen unzips an electric dune buggy at the Geneva auto show, showing it is having fun with its commitment to electric vehicles and teasing us with promises of sand dune fun while there is still snow on the ground in many places.
The concept is called the I.D. Buggy and it rides on the automaker’s vaunted MEB (modular electric drive) platform that will underpin a myriad of vehicles for the assorted brands within the Volkswagen Group and could even spawn some Ford vehicles if those partnership talks bear fruit.
Electrifying a dune buggy is a fun way to show the flexibility of MEB. The concept has no roof or doors, but does have a weatherproof interior with integrated seats and a digital cockpit.
The two-seater harkens back to California dune buggies that cruised the beach in the ‘60s. They had a Beetle chassis, four-cylinder boxer engine in the rear, and innovative fiberglass bodies of every description. The I.D. Buggy tries to recapture that hippie spirit, inviting owners to convert it to a 2+2 or add another electric motor to the front axle to give it four-wheel drive.
Energy comes from a 62-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery in the floor and a 201-hp, 228-lb-ft electric motor in the rear axle ensures power is always at the ready, even off-road. It was designed for short spurts of power with a range of 155 miles (250 km). It has a single-speed gearbox. But it can go: VW says it can hit 62 mph (100 km/h) in 7.2 seconds and has an electronically controlled maximum speed of 99 mph (159 km/h).
There is no grille but the Buggy has a raised hood, crazy high fenders and back end, oval headlights and taillights, and the LED VW logo that is becoming an I.D. family signature. To create the illusion that the body is floating above the chassis, designers painted the top half of the car in matte Fern Green and the bottom in a textured and dark Gray Tech Blue.
Inside, the headrests and seatbelts are integrated into the backrests of the seats. There is a hexagonal steering wheel covered in water-repellent Nappa leather, touch controls in the crossbar, a digital cockpit that greets the driver, an anti-slip floor, and everything is designed to be hosed clean.
The Buggy rides on 18-inch wheels and BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires. It asks to be taken off-road with an aluminum underbody guard to protect the front axle and there is also a protective side sill panel. But if it ends up getting, there are steel eyelets in the bumper to winch it out of trouble. The windshield frame and Targa bar have been reinforced in case of a rollover in the open-air vehicle. And if the sun is too much, a tarp can be stretched across the top.
This is not a large vehicle: the 104.3-inch wheelbase is longer than a Fiat 500L but the overall 160-in. length is shorter, accentuated by the short front and rear overhangs. Ground clearance is an impressive 9.4 inches. That leaves a lot of room for sinking in deep sand.
The Buggy joins the growing I.D. family. The VW I.D. hatch is the first vehicle from the MEB platform designed to underpin 10 million electric vehicles—more than 15 mainstream vehicles of all shapes and sizes across four brands—by the end of 2022.
MEB can accommodate electric motors on either axle and batteries are stored in the floor. Batteries can be recharged up to 80 percent in about 30 minutes.
The I.D. hatch is not for the North America but it is followed by the I.D. Crozz crossover, the much-anticipated I.D. Buzz electric microbus due in 2022, and the I.D. Vizzion sedan. All will be made in the Zwickau, Germany, plant that will be Volkswagen’s first dedicated EV plant.
Porsche has its J1 electric car platform and the Audi E-Tron uses a modified version of the MLB platform but both are stopgaps, to be replaced with the new PPE (premium platform electric) architecture for high-performance luxury vehicles starting in 2022.
We will be in Geneva to get more details about the I.D. Buggy. Question one: when does the fun begin?