The 60s icon is going to have an electric heart
Volkswagen presented the ID Buzz prototype at the Detroit Auto Show, which revives its mythical T1. The vehicle that was the flagship of the hippie movement in the sixties, and took surf lovers to Californian beaches, is making a comeback: it does not pollute and is connected to the Internet.
The T1, colloquially known as Bulli, is the classic Volkswagen camper van and, at the same time, an icon that transcends the brand itself: the US sixties hippie movement claimed it as the symbol of their fight, it arrived at the mud-caked set of the mythical Woodstock Festival in great numbers and was the undisputed ally of the surfers who planted their boards in California’s beaches. It was also featured in some of Andy Warhol’s most famous works.
Today, the collective cultural imagination would have a major gap if the T1 had not existed. And it happened by chance, all because of a Dutch trader called Bernardus Marinus Pon, known to his friends as Ben Pon. He made a fortune in the last century importing Volkswagen models to the Netherlands and also exported the Beetle to the North American market. One day he visited the Wolfsburg plant and discovered the embryo of the iconic camper van. It was just a prank by the Volkswagen operators in their spare time, who designed an elongated chassis and mounted it on a Beetle platform. They used the marvellous contraption to transfer car parts from one side of the plant to the other. Ben Pon doodled the sketch of what he had just seen and wrote: “Vehicle capable of loading 750 kilos.” He returned to his native Holland and, after turning the idea around in his head night and day, finally went into action and put forward a proposal to the brand to market this fantastic camper van. In 1950 the first production model hit the German roads: it had a boxer engine with an output power of 25 HP and reached a maximum speed of 80 km/h. It was even capable of exceeding its planned load capacity: 760 kilos. The rest is history of our iconography.
This year, the T1 was reborn with another name: ID Buzz. And it aims to be as disruptive as the surfing camper van, but adapted to modern times: with an electric motor, eight seats and connected to the Internet. And it retains the charm of that bicoloured and rounded chassis, with those circular headlamps that gave it that friendly expression. Herbert Diess, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Volkswagen, explained during his presentation at the Detroit Auto Show: “The new e-Mobility brand already offers 50% more range [referring to the new Volkswagen e-Golf] and, from 2020, we will launch our new ID family, totally electric and connected automobiles, affordable by millions of users.” The Beetle was created nearly a century ago under the slogan “The People’s Car”. History repeats itself.
The ID Buzz takes that idea further: this prototype, 4.94 metres long, 1.97 metres wide and 1.96 metres high, seats eight passengers and has two boots, one at the front, with a capacity of 200 litres, and another in the rear, with an additional capacity of 600 litres. It includes a four-wheel-drive system with an electric motor on each axle and a maximum output power of 275 kW (374 HP). It is capable of covering a distance of 430 kilometres without refuelling and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just five seconds, and reaches an electronically limited speed of 160 km/h. It recharges its batteries by induction – i.e. without cables – providing 80% of the total charge in just 30 minutes. And it is hyper-connected: all we have to do is synchronise our mobile phone in order to handle all the apps from the driver’s seat, and it can also circulate autonomously thanks to laser scanners, ultrasound sensors and radars.
This is not science fiction: in 2020, we will see it driving on our roads. If only Andy Warhol could see this…