At the 2017 Detroit auto show, Volkswagen took the wraps off the ID. Buzz concept—a microbus that combined VW’s electrified future with design elements of its past. The ID.3 might have been unveiled a few months earlier, but it was the ID. Buzz that got people excited for the automaker’s electric transition. Now, four years later, VW Group CEO Hert Diess has tweeted, “The legend returns on 03/09/22!” The microbus is back. Almost.
A darling of the VW booth at auto shows for the past few years, the hype it generated at the beginning was almost entirely based on nostalgia. Drivers might not find minivans cool, but a van from Volkswagen that reminds them of the Summer of Love and California surf culture? Well, that’s certainly worthy of a spot in the driveway. But with the times being what they are and the rise of “van life,” the battery-powered microbus is set to become something else.
POWERED BY THE PAST
So much of car culture is based on nostalgia. Actually, nostalgia powers about 90-percent of our current culture. Why else would there be 700 Star Wars movies, shows, animated series, and video games? That gives the ID. Buzz (or whatever they’ll call it once its production version has been unveiled) a leg up over other vans in the market. To be honest, I’m pretty sure there will be people who hate EVs who buy this because of the urge to relive days gone by.
If that’s what gets people into EVs, wonderful. If there’s anything that gets drivers to appreciate electric vehicles, it’s driving one. Some of these microbuses will likely get repainted with paisleys and flowers and a peace symbol here and there. Others will be lowered, with shiny rims and, let’s say, some glowing bits tossed in for good measure.
THE WEIRD OUTDOORSY NOW
Then the last two years happened. Suddenly, flights seemed too risky, especially for those with children. Car rental companies sold their fleets to stave off bankruptcy only to be caught without enough inventory for people who eventually decided to fly to vacation spots and for those opting to travel by four wheels instead of in the air.
At the same time, van life was on the rise. Modern-day vagabonds taking to the road in converted vans powered by wanderlust and Instagram likes. At first, a curiosity, but as lockdowns wore on and people tried to figure out how to get away without interacting with too many strangers, the allure of traveling by and sleeping in a van sounded better by the day.
EV Van Life That’s the world the ID. Buzz is being dropped into. A place that’s completely changed from when the concept was unveiled back in 2017. A world that’s beginning to embrace EVs. Where a Mustang is taller and electrified, and nearly every automaker is rushing to get an electric pickup on the road and in the hands of contractors.
In March 2022, Volkswagen will show off the actual vehicle we’ll be able to buy in 2023 (Europe will get the ID. Buzz sometime this year). There’s already chatter that the spy shots of the production vehicle show it’s lost some of its concept vehicle panache, but sadly, that’s the nature of concept vehicles. There’s always something that has to change. Usually for regulatory reasons. But even though some of the styling is squelched a bit, the ID. Buzz is being dropped into an outdoorsy, road-tripping world. When the concept was revealed, VW said it would have a range of 373 miles. That’s likely based on the very lenient European standard. Since then, battery technology has evolved, and if there’s an EPA-rated bus with 350 miles of range, that’s it. Volkswagen will have a winner on its hands that will be as much a part of its brand as the Golf, Beetle, and original Type 2 Microbus.