Those of us of a certain age still with brain cells might remember the slow, loud and smelly but ever so cute VW bus of the 60's. This one has had a modest upgrade: "The drivetrain is all electric, powered by lithium polymer batteries -- those surfboards on the roof are lined with flexible solar panels for extra juice. The interior is a museum of tech: an interactive digital instrument cluster with embedded touch pads, digital audio and video, a wide-angle back-up camera display and speech-activated controls." ::Gizmodo
Volkswagen of America, Inc. is introducing an exciting new concept vehicle from its Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL), located in Palo Alto, California. The ERL has taken a 1964 Deluxe Microbus and retrofitted it with a collection of cutting edge technologies. Dubbed the "Chameleon", this renovated bus contains projects developed by ERL engineers and external partners that explore novel design concepts for tomorrow's cars.
With the goal of preserving the classic look of the Microbus, the theme of the concept vehicle is "Hidden Technologies." This goal is appropriately parallel to Volkswagen's continuous mission to develop technologies that enhance the driving experience while limiting driver distraction. The large size and unique layout of the Microbus provides a tremendous platform to creatively integrate many different technologies. A multitude of projects are showcased in the Chameleon, representing the latest advancements in the topics of audio, speech, sensors, displays, navigation, lighting, batteries, solar cells and much more.
In addition to being a cultural icon, the Deluxe Microbus carries a uniquely Californian flavor. With its 21 windows and soft-top canvas roof, the vehicle was a favorite of surfers and adventurers on the West Coast, and is considered a prized collector's item today. Acknowledging California's traditionally environmentally friendly attitude, the ERL collaborated with Hybrid Technologies (www.hybridtechnologies.com) to replace the original VW engine with an all electric drive engine powered by lithium polymer batteries. Surfboards mounted on the roof are also lined with flexible solar panels that provide an additional source of energy to this 100% electric vehicle.
The interior of the bus is full of surprises, with an interactive digital instrument cluster, imbedded capacitive touch-pads, digitally enhanced sound quality, exciting rear seat entertainment options, and speech activated controls available throughout the cabin. The exterior houses several exciting new approaches for keyless entry, LED lighting, wide-angle parking cameras, switchable glass and much more.
The Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory intends to use the Microbus as a public relations tool to showcase the potential future of automotive electronics set in the nostalgic package of this favorite old-timer. The Chameleon has already been showcased in Germany to Volkswagen executives and engineers. It made its North American public debut at the AltWheels event in Boston, MA on Friday, September 22, 2006