Volkswagen is in the process of transforming the deliciously retro ID.Buzz concept it unveiled at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show into a production model. In the meantime, it's catering to van drivers who want or need to go electric by releasing a battery-powered variant of the Transporter developed jointly with German tuning firm ABT.
Called eTransporter, the van looks just like a diesel-powered model when it's viewed from the outside, with the exception of a small ABT emblem on the grille. Volkswagen hasn't released images of the interior, but it noted a power meter replaces the tachometer in the instrument cluster. It's what's under the sheetmetal that counts here.
An electric motor draws power from a compact battery pack to send 110 horsepower to the front wheels via a modified dual-clutch automatic transmission. Volkswagen explained it mounted the battery pack below the body to avoid compromising cargo capacity, which still checks in at 236 cubic feet, but it hasn't revealed the unit's capacity or weight. Regardless, the end result is a whisper-quiet, vibration-free van that requires very little maintenance, but also one that needs to be charged every 82 miles and that takes 17.4 seconds to reach 62 mph. Engineers clearly had urban use in mind when they set out to electrify the Transporter.
Fast-charging technology fills the battery pack with an 80% charge in 45 minutes. Alternatively, those who plug the eTransporter into a wallbox will need to wait 5½ hours to see 100% displayed in the charge gauge.
Pricing for the Volkswagen eTransporter starts at £42,060, or about $51,000 at the current (and volatile) conversion rate. In comparison, the diesel-powered Transporter carries a base price of £27,626 (around $33,000). Although it looks like a tough sell at first, the zero-emissions model is exempt from road tax (VED) in the United Kingdom, and it benefits from unrestricted access to London's Ultra Low Emission Zone and Clean Air Zones; we suspect these advantages are what will motivate most buyers to place an order.
Volkswagen plans to release the production version of the ID.Buzz concept (which it hasn't named yet) in 2022. The cargo- and people-carrying models will be built on the same MEB architecture as the ID.3 hatchback, so the van will be developed as an electric car from the ground up, and its specifications sheet will be far more impressive than the eTransporter's. The concept's electric powertrain developed 369 horsepower and offered about 270 miles of driving range thanks in part to a 111-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. These numbers might change as production nears, and cheaper variants with a shorter range, less horsepower, or both, could join the lineup over time, but they're an indication of what the technology in Volkswagen's arsenal is capable of.