Image: VW Bulli
If the duration of the useful life of a product contributes significantly to a reduced ecological footprint, then the VW Bus is the model of sustainability. If the hours of joy accumulated by the people that spent time in a vehicle is a measure of value, then the VW Bus is a pearl of great price. But at some point the antiquated, fuel-guzzling, smoke-belching technology overtakes the environmental benefits of keeping that original VW Bus running. So it is with anticipation and great expectations that we await the serialization of Volkswagen's 2011 Geneva Auto Show concept car: a VW Bus reminiscent of the olden days but outfitted with promising modern technology. The famous Transporter 1 (T1) has been dubbed the world's first van. Historians attribute the design to Dutch importer Ben Pon, who in 1947 sketched the idea for a boxed-in vehicle with front wheel drive and a rear engine after being inspired by a vehicle that VW workers had built for transport needs at the factory. The Bus went into production in 1950 and already by 1951 the iconic 23-window Samba bus was rolling off production lines. Since then, the van known as the "Microbus" to Americans, as "Bulli" to Germans, has entered millions of hearts, and will forever be associated with the Hippies although it carried an awful lot of ordinary families on vacations that linger in the memory years later.
But this time around, the "hippies" are lined up against combustion engines, even against the concept of personal transportation. How will the legendary bus make its mark on a new generation of people who are fighting a philosophical battle every bit as game-changing as that of the "flower children?"
The new VW Bus will have an electric engine option. The study envisions an 85kW (115 horsepower) engine, with lithium-ion batteries covering a 200km range. The retro bus will reach a top speed of 140 km/h (87 mph) with 0-100 in a modest 11.5 seconds. But could the new VW Bus take the greening of personal transport to even higher levels?
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Microbus of the 21st Century goes down in history as the icon of a whole new model for personal transport? Can you imagine car-free masses reserving their electric bus at an agency like Zipcar for the occasions when they must step away from the public transportation infrastructure and venture on holiday to remote wilderness to commune with nature? Now, that would be electrifying.
Experts rate the chances of this concept car going into production extremely high, and if the Volkswagen webcam (click on concept car) is any indication, Volkswagen's four current people-carriers (Caddy, Touran, Sharan and Multivan) cannot stand in the way of the re-introduction of the retro freedom machine.
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Stefan Jacoby, CEO of Volkswagen America, on VW's Electric Car Strategy
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