Call It A Comeback: Volkswagen Microbus Is On Its Way Back
The Volkswagen Transporter is one of the most iconic vehicles in history. Developed in the late 40s and early 50s and reaching a heyday that coincided with the surf and peace/free love movements of the 1960's, the spirit of the unique, boxy bus-van commonly known as the Microbus has lived on for decades, despite being watered down to the point of oblivion more than 30 years ago.
At the 2001 Detroit Auto Show, Volkswagen gave the world hope that the Microbus's return was imminent, debuting a concept that it called Microbus. The concept was influenced heavily by the original Transporters and was destined for production. Unfortunately, the production plans were scrapped, and Volkswagen eventually chose to go a much duller route in the form of its Routan van.
But there is hope once again. At the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, Volkswagen pulled somewhat of a surprise attack in the form of an all-new Microbus concept. Instead of using the American nickname, this one goes by the German nickname for the original Transporters: 'Bulli'.
The Bulli builds upon the design of the 2001 Microbus concept, though it loses a little of the flair and uniquity of the original VW bus. This is largely because the Bulli trades the rear orientation of the motor for a front orientation, which necessitates a hood, eliminating the classic, flat front fascia of the old Transporters. However, the Bulli keeps the traditional short overhangs and refrigerator-like, window-lined body of the classic Transporter, separating itself from every other van on the road.
And the nature-loving hippie folk that were so fond of the original Microbuses have something to celebrate besides the look of the Bulli: the van is designed to be highly efficient. The concept is powered by an 85 kW electric motor and lithium ion battery that offer over 186 miles of range. But it is also designed to accommodate small gas and diesel engines, which are more likely to be used in a production model. VW cited possible 1.0- and 1.4-liter engine options.
While the Bulli remains just a concept for now, Volkswagen has indicated production intentions. The automaker intends to build the new bus on its modular design system architecture, which will also underpin other VW Group models like the Audi A3. The flexible system will enable VW to offer various size buses in different markets around the world.
It's still very early, and VW could always change its plans, but so far it's looking like the bus is back!