Volkswagen's Bulli concept revives memories of the Kombi
By Mike Hanlon
March 2, 2011
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.