• Feb 28, 2011
Volkswagen Bulli – Click above for high-res image gallery

Remember the 2001 Volkswagen Microbus concept? For those who need reminding, it was a new look at an old icon – one that got enthusiasts and the automotive press all hot and bothered right after we ticked over into the new millennium. Sadly, management changes at Volkswagen killed the concept before it could become a reality.

Now, a decade later, VW is trying out the concept again at this year's Geneva Motor Show. This time it's called the Volkswagen Bulli, and like its 2001 ancestor, this one is designed to carry on the legacy of the brand's famous Microbus. This Geneva concept packs a 113-horsepower electric motor drawing power from a lithium-ion battery pack. At full charge, the Bulli is said to be theoretically good for 186 miles before a recharge. When it's time for more juice, VW says the Bulli can be fully charged in less than an hour.

Volksagen Bulli concept interiorThe Bulli's skin stays fairly true to the original Microbus shape, which means a flat load floor and plenty of interior space. Even old-school Samba fans will notice the family resemblance. Inside, VW supplied the Bulli with a removable iPad that controls the stereo, navigation, bluetooth and HVAC from its port on the console.

In a neat touch, the iPad will communicate with a Fender USA-designed stereo system, which should pump out more than enough roar for you and the kiddies.

No word on pricing yet or when the Bulli might be available, but we wouldn't expect it until 2014 if it reaches production at all. Follow the jump for the official word from VW.

[Source: Volkswagen]
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  • New compact van concept has pure electric drive
  • Original model of the Volkswagen Bulli was first van in the world

Wolfsburg / Geneva, March 1, 2011 - The Volkswagen bus, like no other car, stands for the spirit of freedom. It debuted over 60 years ago in 1950 with a contagiously simple design. Its internal Volkswagen code name was T1 for Transporter 1. The Germans called it the Bulli, and to Americans it was the Microbus. It was driven on all continents. And the world's first van is still appreciated by a fan base which spans the globe. Now Volkswagen is reinterpreting the compact original form of this automotive legend and sending it into the future – in the form of a concept vehicle for a new generation Bulli! It is spacious like it was in 1950, it is as inspirational as ever, and it has clean styling like never before.

In this vehicle, Volkswagen is finishing what it started in 2001: ten years ago, the vision of a new Bulli led to an unforgettable concept vehicle known as the Microbus. But some visions need to mature before they yield something new. Now, the time is right for this vision. That is because the concept was sharpened, and the necessary, sustainable technologies are now at hand. More compact and affordable than the earlier concept vehicle, it is now being shown in Geneva. The new Bulli – powered by an electric motor and fitted with six seats and infotainment control via iPad.

This concept has the potential to establish a new, fifth brand of people carrier next to the Caddy, Touran, Sharan and its large counterpart – the Caravelle. The Bulli could even become an icon like the T1 Samba that still trades at extremely high prices today – one of those few vehicles that simply do not fade with time.

Zero emissions – up to 186.4 miles on a single battery charge
Thanks to highly advanced drive technologies, the Bulli being shown in Geneva is what is referred to as a 'zero emissions vehicle,' because the concept is electrically powered. Zero emissions at the tailpipe. The Bulli's electric motor outputs 85 kW of power and an impressive 199 lb.-ft of torque. As is usual with this type of drive, its maximum forces are generated from standstill. The silent motor is supplied with energy from a lithium-ion battery with a maximum storage capacity of 40 kWh. This electrifying combination enables driving ranges of up to 186.4 miles – a high value for an electric car. When the Bulli's battery is charged at an "electric refuelling station" specially designed for electric vehicles, the charging process takes less than one hour.

The new Bulli accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in 11.5 seconds, and its top speed is 87 mph (electronically limited). Its range and driving performance not only make the compact vehicle ideal for short distances; but also ideal for most commuters and recreational activities with zero tailpipe emissions.

Naturally, the concept can also incorporate Volkswagen's extremely efficient gas and diesel direct injection engines as alternative drives. Engines with 1.0 or 1.4 liter displacement that are fuel efficient yet strong; this is downsizing by the book. Ideal for anyone who wants to cover maximum distances with minimal fuel consumption.

Bulli – the idea goes back 64 years
Without the Dutch Volkswagen importer Ben Pon, the T1 might not have existed, and of course neither would the Bulli concept vehicle at Geneva. That is because Pon was the person who on April 23, 1947, sketched a picture of a compact bus in his notebook. Actually, the Dutchman's drawing was a simple side view of a radically shortened public omnibus placed over the wheelbase of a Beetle with an "m" for "motor" written on it. That was it. The world's first van was born. Great ideas usually just take a few strokes of the pen, but then they require a dedicated effort to implement them. Volkswagen designers took this sketch and created the bus that became an automotive icon with the characteristic "V" in front.

The Bulli concept vehicle now follows in the footsteps of the original bus and demonstrates the concept of maximum space utilisation with the characteristic "V" with VW logo at the front end and the cleanest of proportions. In the process, the concept vehicle's design follows the maxims of the new Volkswagen "design DNA." Retro? Hardly. It is a Volkswagen! The team led by Walter de Silva, Head of Volkswagen Group Design, and Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design of the Volkswagen brand, developed the "design DNA" for the modern era based on styling principles of the bestselling Beetle, Golf I and T1.

Design – visual world of a masterpiece
The new edition of the Bulli is 156 inches long, 68.4 inches wide and 66 inches tall. The T1 was somewhat longer and taller, but narrower. With a wheelbase of 102 inches, the Bulli utilizes the overall length very well. Also striking here are the Bulli's relatively large track widths (54 inches front and rear) in relation to body width.

Front end: Like the Samba bus before it, the Bulli being presented in Geneva also has two-tone paint – in this case white and red. The "V" on the bonnet, is kept white. The bonnet does house the engine: instead of rear-wheel drive with a boxer engine, as on the Samba, the Bulli has an electric motor located forward of the front axle and front-wheel drive. Here, it is a compact integral drive whose primary components are an E-motor, high-voltage pulse inverter and DC/DC converter for the 12-Volt electrical system.

In keeping with the Volkswagen design DNA, there is a horizontal layout of the narrow dual headlights with L-shaped LED daytime running lights and turn indicators implemented as LEDs arranged in an inverted L shape at each outer corner. Incidentally, LEDs not only exhibit tremendous luminous power and long life; due to their low energy consumption, they are ideal for the electrically powered Bulli of 2011. Located between the headlights in the bonnet is, as always, the VW logo. On the level beneath, one finds – once again arranged in a horizontal line – the air intakes for the passenger compartment and for battery cooling or for cooling the alternative conventional drives.

Finally, the bumper that is seamlessly integrated in the front end completes the design. Laterally, it exhibits a large round fog light on each side, another air intake in the middle, and a front spoiler in black below. This line matches the lines of the side sills.

Side profile: The Bulli's two-tone paint also distinguishes the sides. Treated in white is the entire area above what is known as the character line. Originating in the wings is a white stripe that runs to the distinctive D-pillars; above them, the entire roof section is painted in this color. The continuous line of windows creates an especially striking contrast between the white sections. Here, the visually slender black pillars executed in the style of the 2001 Microbus concept are visually striking. Painted in red are the door mirror housings protruding from the line of windows.

Beneath the character line is the red body area. Design elements such as the distinctive wheel housings, the additional shape modulation in the door surfaces above the side sills and the headlights that wrap around to the sides with minimal seams are details that would not have been possible to manufacture in this form and precision on a T1. Concealed in the sandwiched floor behind the sills is the 1,450 kg Bulli's lithium-ion battery. The white door handles are practical, opening in the direction of pull. The 18-inch alloy wheels are especially attractive. At their centers are stylized chrome hubcaps – another tribute to the bus of years past. Shorter than ever are the overhangs at the front and rear.

Rear section: The Volkswagen design DNA with its horizontal lines also dominates the rear of the new Bulli. Viewed from the bottom upwards, above the body-colored bumper (including black, stylized diffuser), there is the tailgate that extends across the entire width of the vehicle. In the tailgate, the narrow LED rear lights continue a theme from the Microbus concept of 2001. At the center, but smaller than at the front end: the VW symbol. When all six seating locations are fully occupied, there is a 370-liter bootspace behind the tailgate.

Interior space – melding of car and iPad
Like the body design, the interior is also marked by a level of clarity whose consistent application can only be found at Volkswagen. The passenger compartment – immersed in light during the day thanks to its panoramic sunroof – also harbors some surprises.

A practical highlight: like the T1 in times past, thanks to its level floor, the new Bulli is also equipped with a single bench seat in front. The van offers space for three in the rear as well.
An infotainment highlight: a removable iPad in the center console serves as a multifunctional touchscreen. Along with Internet-based iPad applications and the media center, it also handles control of such functions as Bluetooth hands-free telephone and a navigation system. Integrated right on the iPad mount are controls for the climate control system and the centrally-located hazard warning switch.

Typical Volkswagen: all cockpit details are clearly organized and designed to be intuitive. Running laterally across the entire width is a line with air vents. In front of the driver, there is a speedometer in the shape of a semicircle. A color multifunction display, also semi-circular in shape, can be used to view and control (via multifunctional keys in the steering wheel and on it) the navigation system, telephone, trip computer and media center – the entire unit of speedometer and multifunction display also communicates with the iPad. The key word here is sound: a system produced by legendary guitar and amplifier manufacturer Fender (USA) ensures that the music sounds as though it were being performed live. At Woodstock in 1969, Jimi Hendrix played "The Star-Spangled Banner" on a Fender Stratocaster guitar.

What is not found in the Bulli is a tachometer (unnecessary with an electric motor) or a conventional gear shift or gear selection lever (also unnecessary with an electric motor). The latter is replaced by a rotary switch to the right of the driver, which is used to activate forward and reverse gears. A push button in the same switch is used to start and stop the motor. Another rotary switch to the left of the driver is used to control the lighting functions.

Seats become reclining surface in an instant
The outer and middle seat positions of the front bench seat can be folded down (2/3 split); the rear beach seat, meanwhile, can be completely stowed. When the rear bench seat is stowed, cargo capacity increases to 1,600 liters. In addition – and here the new Bulli is reminiscent of its legendary ancestor – the seat system can be transformed into a large reclining surface with just a few manual movements. This turns the compact MPV into a compact camper – the ultimate companion for a weekend trip.

At least as important for many users, however, is that the seating system should not only be versatile but also offer maximum comfort. The seat position is comfortably high and is equally relaxing. As an added benefit, it offers an optimized view forward as well. And that is how it was in the T1 too. Contributing to peace of mind aboard today's vehicle is the fact that the new era Bulli is equipped with all conceivable safety features. And that is the crucial difference: the car has essentially been reinvented since the days of the first T1 aka the Bulli aka the Microbus.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's look really a much cute and very attractive.That's good thing that excellent features with great design and it's seating arrangement also good.I really like it.Thanks for sharing such a nice information with us.

      • 3 Years Ago
      When I heard "new electric VW bus" on the news, I was momentarily psyched. A few years ago I regularly saw an awesome white Vanagon campervan parked in my community college lot, and then one day, after a long time of admiring it, I spied a "For Sale" sign in the window. Ding, ding, ding! A dream vehicle was sitting right there, up for grabs. I've been told I should've been a hippie in the 60s. And I have a passionate love for recreational vehicles and travel, so I'd dearly adore to have a camper conversion.....or any VW!!....

      Sadly, my dad didn't support my idea, holding that the beautiful thing would be 'unsafe to drive' (at least for someone of my age and driving experience at the time), and difficult to maintain and repair. After a
      good fight I reluctantly let go of my exciting fixer-upper ideas,
      practically deciding that it was for the best; that one would no doubt go to an ideal home, and had been my inspiration for someday finding the perfect VW Bus for me and making it my very own.

      So, now, for years I've been lamenting the fact that there's nothing
      being made that's comparable to the VW buses. I'd absolutely love to one day acquire an old one, maybe convert it to electric...but to be able to get a new, improved, modern one that's just like the near-perfect old ones in most ways WOULD be pretty amazing, no?

      I have to say that I LOVE "boxy" vehicles. The boxfish is one of my favorite creatures on the planet. And I love the Scion xB, Kia Soul, Honda Element, and quite a lot of other things I've seen with unique and recognizable shapes and styles. Just two months ago I got a new car, and had wanted a Nissan Cube. Once again on my dad's well-researched opinion, I wound up with my beloved metallic lime green Ford Fiesta for certain reasons. But anyway, point being, I LIKE the appearance of that new thing--it's just that it looks like a variation of some other modern
      vehicles, not a VW bus. But for the logo on the front, I wouldn't even imagine that that's what it's trying to be. I love this IDEA very much, and hope it comes to fruition. The notion of making significantly more environmentally-friendly vehicles practical to purchase and use appeals to me a great deal. Electricity, hybridism, solar power, biofuel--I eagerly await the future development and spread of it all! Especially if and when it becomes more efficient and practical than, and replaces, normal combustion engines.

      But again, they ought to essentially recreate the old buses/vans! The pop-tops, the different styles...that's what I really want, anyway. Having it new and improved and so enviro-friendly would be a super bonus. I don't want to judge this prematurely, because as I said, I don't dislike it at all. It just doesn't look different enough from a more average vehicle, now that I really look...it's not what you expect to see when you hear of a new/returned/updated VW bus. Having seen photos of the interior, I have to say, it simply does NOT appear to be one at all. I'm certainly delighted that they're in the process of bringing them back, and in electric form, but, they need to keep working...
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why did they move the record on the wall between photos 6 & 7? Seems kind of odd to go through the trouble of turning the car and putting it in almost the same position and moving nothing else but that record.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Seems to be a MINI Clubman competitor.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Needs more petrol.
      • 3 Years Ago
      looks like a two-tone xB Scion. This is NOT a Microbus redux, or replacement, or anything related to the coveted Samba. This is a cynical marketing ploy to sell another B segment car. I really expect more from VW, but perhaps that's my problem.

      • 3 Years Ago
      I like it. It's evocative without being overtly 'retro'. It's thoroughly contemporary, but with a nod at the past. Better design than the New Beetle and those bland, outdated concepts issued by Giugiaro.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I like the 2001 concept better
        • 3 Years Ago
        I like it a lot more. My wife and I have never considered a van. We saw the concept recently photos and both of us were immediately interested. Too bad they aren't going forward with it.
        • 3 Years Ago
        The concept did trump this, easily, though the more angular version shown here still has more character than the revised Mazda5 and Ford C-Max.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Cute but I'd like to replace my Vanagaon/Eurovan not my PT Cruiser. Size matters!
      • 3 Years Ago
      The design is nice, but I am really excited about the iPad integration. That is pretty awesome. I like the way that media and radio is all righ there. Hopefully more carmakers will copy this. It is a very functional way to do navigation, radio and whatever!!
        • 3 Years Ago
        It is not a functional way to integrate HVAC and audio.

        Several reasons.
        1: Forgot your iPad somewhere because you were doing other things? Well, you're not going to be able to operate most of your car.
        2: It's a pretty tantalizing target for thieves. It's easy to yank out and take from the car, much easier than integrated car stereos and whatnot.
        3: Touch screens are the absolute worst for car controls. Why? Ideally, with a vehicle, you should be able to operate it without looking at the buttons. That is not possible with a touch screen.
        4: In cold environments, where you wear gloves, it's incredibly difficult to use. I adore the big chunky knobs on my car, I can change the settings in thick gloves no matter the temperature. Not possible with an iPad. Plus, can you imagine how slowly that LCD is going to refresh in -20?

        I will not buy a car which uses an iPad/Xoom/Whatever for its various secondary controls. It is the worst idea possible.
      • 3 Years Ago
      If Ford/Mazda, GM, and Toyota can all do a a 3 Row MPV, why can't VW do this with the Micro Bus??? I mean VW brags about its best in class space on the $16k VW Jetta platform, so like Ford taking the Focus and making their MPV, VW could do the same and have a icon hit from a styling perspective...
        • 3 Years Ago
        It's about damn time they revisited the fantastic Microbus concept from 2001:


        That vehicle had actually been scheduled for production beginning in 2003, using the Transporter platform, but was delayed and then cancelled in 2005. Apparently someone went off their meds and thought the Caravan-based Routan was a better idea.

        A New Bus seems like a no-brainer, given that the soriority girls who flipped for the New Beetle in the late-'90s are now in their 30s with kids--and the next generation of youth doesn't want to be seen in their mom's/single librarian's/flamboyant drama teacher's New Beetle. Why a more conventionally-powered, reasonably-priced version of this concept isn't already in production is a mystery to me.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Agreed. Now I guess we know why they took the "bus" out of it. This is tiny and falls flat for the demographic that's yearning for the "micro bus". I can recall me and my brother and sisters going to the drive-in in my sister's micro bus and having tons of room to lay in the back in sleeping bags. They were great for camping too- with a tent that would attach to the outside. What a shame.
        • 3 Years Ago

        No, there is a Touran. We just don't get that one either. The Routan is a rebadged Chrysler. It's not bad, but it's not a VW.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Volkswagen has two great vans with 3 rows...The Touran and the Sharan. Why should they build a livestyle van like this like a family transporter?!
        • 3 Years Ago

        So they have both a Touran and a Routan? That's crazy! *mind explodes*

        I still think they should release an actual new Micro Bus though.
        • 3 Years Ago
        There's also the Caravelle.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I think that this is a B-class vehicle like the new Ford B-max, not really room for a third row.
        • 3 Years Ago

        Yeah, their vans are so great no one remembers it's actually called the Routan and the Sharan isn't available in the US and Canada
        • 3 Years Ago
        Yep, this is a stubby car, the first concept was much better. this = fail.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I disagree with the naysayers....

        I think the Bulli could a sales hit. Considering that some of the smaller, econo, do-whatever boxes sell to young and older consumers, VW may be on to something.

        Think about the Honda Element, Scion xD, Kia Soul, Toyota Matrix, Chevy HHR, Jeep Patriot, etc. --- what age range(s) have you really seen driven those cars on the regular? Either younger hipsters or older folks who needed something small & simple, but with some youthful flare. And it doesn't hurt that they're all fairly useful grocery-getters and fuel sippers. All of the small vehicles I mentioned were initially intended for a purely younger consumer set, but in reality, they had a greater appeal to older people too. I wouldn't could count the Bulli out just yet.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Four seats and no cargo is not a van under any definition.
        • 3 Years Ago
        It Has 6 Seatbelts...Look again, this time with your eyes open.

        It's a 4+2 seater :)
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