Volkswagen's Bulli concept revives memories of the Kombi


March 2, 2011

The Volkswagen Bulli Concept

The Volkswagen Bulli Concept

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Volkswagen has had two of the most loved models in the history of the automobile, both originally built on the same chassis. It's not surprising then, that the company keeps reprising them, bringing their relevance into focus. The latest evolution of the iconic Microbus/Kombi wagon surfaced in Geneva. The new 'Bulli' concept offers a flexible layout, seating for six, a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery, an 85 kW electric motor with 260 Nm torque,140 km/h (87 mph) top speed and a range of 300 km (186 miles). There's still not enough range just yet for a serious escape vehicle – if there's no electricity available where you're going, you're on a 90 mile leash – but suitable as an urban electric all-purpose vehicle. The Volkswagen bus was originally proposed to the company by Dutch Volkswagen importer Ben Pon. In 1947 Pon sketched a compact bus over the wheelbase of a Beetle and it eventually saw production as the 1950 T1.

The all-new 'Bulli' concept is not in effect all-new. It clearly draws a lot of its inspiration from the 2001 Microbus concept, and is expected to be the shape of the next generation of people carrier to wear the VW badge. The electric Bulli will probably not be the first of this shape available, as VW pointed out that both petrol and diesel direct injection engines can be accommodated by the front-wheel-drive design.

Like many vehicles in Geneva, the tablet or iPad has been used in the center console as a multifunctional touchscreen interface and controller. In the Bulli, it acts as an interface for Internet-based applications, the media and entertainment functionality of the vehicles' telephone and navigation.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, (Australia's largest Telco), (Australia's largest employment site),,, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon

This looks like a sweet ride.

John Flower

But those seats are impossible.

Jim Cochran

Nice stats on range and speed. Range is not as much of an issue if time is not a major factor e.g. carrying a fuel cell readily available (a bit pricey in Australia) recharging in a remote location is very plausible. Solar panels are gaining in efficiency and out put as well, so an array on any one of the various EVs being offered would enhance the range too. Coupled with regenerative breaking and power management it will be nice to see it all finally come together.


William Liebhart

I like it. How is it that when someone like Toyota makes a boxy vehicle like a Scion xB, it looks... boxy, but when VW does it, it looks rather stylish?


I agree with teeduke, Gadgeteer \'should have gone to Specsavers\'....probably likes the Nissan Juke. Sorry, only joking Gadgeteer. Ian Colley.


Gadgeteer - It's boxy. Check your eyeglass prescription.


The little trailer resembling the VW camper is cute but at $17k?? In '92 I bought a pop-top VW camper for $10k. Prior to that I had a used '65 VW vanagon I built into a camper. Cost? Around $3000. Today a used fiberglass Scamp or Casita trailer can be had for about that much and is seriously appointed with camping gear. Corporate VW deep-sixed the VW pop-top camper in favor of a "weekender" in order to make life harder for "hippies" and other non-capitalists. But you can't kill an idea whose time has come. (I currently own a 22' class-C motorhome built on a GMC chassis...)

Janet Bratter
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