Volkswagen's Bus is coming back—and now it’s electric and autonomous

VW’s iconic T2 bus will return to North American dealerships in 2022. (Image: Volkswagen of America)

Boomers will rejoice—and so will the Generation Z-ers who currently are hyping their road trips in now-classic VW buses under the hashtag #vanlife.

After eliciting huge hoo-ha at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, German automaker Volkswagen—which still is trying to make a comeback from Dieselgate in 2015—has promised to produce the I.D. BUZZ concept car, a fully electric vehicle that taps in to the spirit and vibe that made the VW Microbus such an iconic vehicle.

The vehicle will arrive at dealerships in 2022, after the compact four-door I.D. makes its debut. With the I.D. BUZZ, Volkswagen is mainly targeting markets in North America, Europe and China.

"After the presentations at the global motor shows in Detroit and Geneva, we received a large number of letters and emails from customers who said, 'Please build this car,’” Volkswagen CEO Dr. Herbert Diess said at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California on Aug. 17.

Volkswagen chose Pebble Beach as the location to make its announcement because, as Diess explained, "The Microbus has long been part of the California [surfer and hippie] lifestyle. Now we're bringing it back by reinventing it as an electric vehicle."

Just like the concept car that was shown in Detroit, the production model will have its batteries mounted inside the vehicle floor. Because the electric drive components—electric motor, power electronics, and such—don't take up much space, the vehicle has a long wheelbase with short overhangs, allowing for a spacious interior.

"The vehicle looks like a compact commercial van on the outside, even though it offers the generous interior space of a large SUV," Diess explained.

Hinrich J. Woebcken, CEO of the North American region for Volkswagen, added: “We are delighted that our parent company has taken the decision to produce the I.D. BUZZ. This vehicle is the perfect balance between emotion, usability and sustainability, while also showcasing our technological leadership. The high seating position, cargo capacity, overall versatility and all-wheel drive option packaged into such an appealing design is just what our customers want from us. And it’s the perfect fit for the zero-emissions American lifestyle.”

And like the classic T2 bus, the I.D. BUZZ will haul both people and freight (think: surfboards). "Along with a minibus version, we'll also be offering an I.D. BUZZ CARGO variant for zero-emissions delivery of goods,” said Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles CEO Dr Eckhard Scholz. "With Level 3 autonomous [self-driving] capability, this is an ideal concept for an electric van, particularly for delivering packages and goods to the inner cities."

Indeed, VW says, “Although [our] oldest and newest Microbuses will be separated by more than seven decades when the new model is launched, the I.D.BUZZ undoubtedly has the original's genes, as it offers maximum utilization of space on the footprint of a mid-size passenger car. Based on the new all-electric architecture, the production version of the I.D. BUZZ will incorporate many design ideas from the concept car, including multi-variable seating, interactive connectivity and highly automated driving.”