VW's electric Microbus just got confirmed for production

Volkswagen has given the green-light to its I.D. BUZZ concept, with plans to put the electric VW Microbus into production. The decision, announced at the Pebble Beach Concours D'Elegance today, will deliver one of the automaker's most well-received concepts to dealerships, atop its brand new electrified platform. According to VW, the demands to build a production version of the I.D. BUZZ have been frequent and vocal since the concept bus was first shown off.

That happened back at the Detroit Auto Show, earlier this year. Then, the I.D. BUZZ was intended to demonstrate the flexibility of the Modular Electric Drive kit (MEB). Previously that had been used as the underpinnings of the first VW I.D. concept, a Golf-sized hatchback, but the automaker wanted to show that its brand new architecture was flexible enough to suit a variety of cars.

The I.D. will still be the first car to get a production version, mind, currently scheduled for around 2019 when it will launch as a model year 2020 vehicle. The I.D. BUZZ production version will follow on in 2022, VW said today. It'll be targeting drivers in the US, Europe, and China.

To do that, it'll combine a brand new, emissions-free platform with a healthy dose of nostalgia. Though clearly a modern concept, the I.D. BUZZ is unmistakably related to the original Volkswagen Microbus that epitomized the Sixties. "After the presentations at the global motor shows in Detroit and Geneva," Volkswagen CEO Dr Herbert Diess said of the decision, "we received a large number of letters and emails from customers who said, 'please build this car'."

The result will be a zero-emissions vehicle intended for flexibility. Its iteration of the MEB will have all-wheel drive as an option, VW has suggested, with final power, range, and other specifications yet to be confirmed. The concept Microbus had AWD, 369 HP, and a 111 kWh battery pack that is said to be good for close to 300 miles of range. A 150 kW fast-charging system would get it from 0- to 80-percent in 30 minutes.

Inside, meanwhile, VW is promising full-size SUV capacity on a midsize SUV footprint. That's helped by the drivetrain and batteries being low down, under the floor. For the concept there was seating for eight or 162.5 cubic feet of cargo with the seats folded. The production version will come in minibus and I.D. BUZZ CARGO forms for work hauling.

Whereas the concept car promised full autonomous driving, VW says the production model will have Level 3 support. That, defined as "conditional automation," will be mostly self-driving but expect the human driver to step in as a fallback should issues arise. The automaker says that the "I.D. Pilot" Level 4/5 autonomy won't be ready until 2025 at the earliest; similarly, the high-tech and minimalistic cabin is unlikely to make it through to production unscathed.

Still, this is a welcome decision for a car which has possibly generated the most enthusiasm among VW fans in recent years. Pricing isn't known at this point, unsurprisingly, but VW's Diess says the I.D. BUZZ will be "much more affordable" than the competition.