Volkswagen’s Next-Gen Version of its Iconic Camper Van Could be Electric

The classic, iconic Volkswagen microbus — also known as the “VW CamperVan” or “VW Bulli” in different parts of the world — is probably one of the most instantly recognisable vehicles in the world. And while production of the original VW microbus finally ended in 2013 after two generations and more than 64 years of continuous production, demand for the original split-screen type 1 and even single-screen type 2 busses is still high.

The Volkswagen Bulli Concept could make it into production as an all-electric camper.

The Volkswagen Bulli Concept could make it into production as an all-electric camper.

In those 64 years, we’ve seen engineers and enthusiasts turn the Bulli into any number of different vehicles, ranging from crazy drag-racing dropped dubs all the way through to railway-going draisines and yes, even turned into a houseboat.

But now it looks as if the iconic Camper could return as an all-new, all-electric vehicle.

Talking with AutoCar last week at the New York Auto Show, Volkswagen’s head of Powertrain Development Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer said that VW was looking considering reviving the classic camper van with an all-electric drivetrain.

Given the vehicle’s instant recognisability, Neußer said that any reimagining of the Volkswagen microbus would need to keep the same design cues as the original Type 1 and Type 2 vehicles. That would translate to a boxy centre-section, a short nose with very small overhang, and a wide, solid D-pillar.

The described vehicle sounds very much like the all-electric Bulli concept car that we saw at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. With a design half-way between that of the traditional Volkswagen Camper and the current-generation Type Five microbus, the concept car featured an 85 -kilowatt electric motor driving the front wheels and a claimed range of 185 miles from an unspecified battery pack.

The concept we saw in Geneva a few years ago had a very simple -- and retro-themed interior.

The concept we saw in Geneva a few years ago had a very simple — and retro-themed interior.

With modern crash-test standards, building a modern-day, front-wheel drive take on the classic microbus made famous by Scooby Doo and Woody Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant is particularly difficult due to the space taken up by an internal combustion engine. But with an electric motor instead — which takes up far less space and can be mounted low down in the chassis — a snub-nosed dub is far easier to build.

Sadly, as with many of AutoCar’s scoops, there’s little else to work with here: VW hasn’t confirmed an electric Bulli for production, but Neußer has confirmed that work on the Buddi concept we saw four years ago is still ongoing inside VW’s engineering workshops.

Don’t take that to mean that an electric VW Camper is imminent however: back in 1970s, Volkswagen’s engineers did in fact convert a Type 2 to full-electric power as a prototype electric vehicle. One of the first all-electric vehicles to be built by VW, the prototype never made it to production.

This time however, given Volkswagen’s commitment to electric vehicles, we see the possibility of seeing an all-electric microbus as being far more likely than it once was.

In the meantime, if you want an electric VW microbus of your own, you’ll have to convert it — just like this excellent example below.

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  • As you’ve mentioned, this seems to be old news, but I really hope they are moving closer to launching a VW electric campervan – the market seems to be ripe for it at the moment.

  • Laila Keirstead

    That could be a huge breakthrough. I didn’t know that Volkswagen had a camper van in their collection. It looks smaller that the kinds I have seen but I bet there is a lot of space in there. It would be interesting to see the difference between the old van and this one. http://campervanaustralia.uk