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Volkswagen To Bring Back The Iconic Microbus In 2022

Volkswagen made it official today: It's bringing back one of America's most beloved vehicles, the microbus, this time as a fully electric van that will carry both people and cargo.

Five years after Volkswagen first unveiled its concept for an electric version of its iconic microbus, we’re finally getting our first glimpse of the vehicle on the road.

VW didn't say for certain that it would be produced for sale but, in introducing the ID Buzz, the automaker talked about a "big electric offensive" to begin in 2020. By 2025 the German automaker hopes to be selling 1 million electric vehicles per year.

Image Source - Volkswagen

But rather than some throwback to an era of hippies and flower power, the ID Buzz is outfitted with a high-tech suite of sensors and computing smarts for its new role as an autonomous test vehicle.

"After the presentations at the global motor shows in Detroit and Geneva, we received a large number of letters and emails from customers who said, 'please build this car,’ ” Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said in Pebble Beach.

VW's North American CEO, Hinrich J. Woebcken, called the I.D. BUZZ "the perfect balance between emotion, usability and sustainability, while also showcasing our technological leadership.

The high seating position, cargo capacity, overall versatility and all-wheel drive option packaged into such an appealing design is just what our customers want from us. And it’s the perfect fit for the zero-emissions American lifestyle.”

VW says the autonomous ID Buzz will serve as a platform for the automaker’s full-scale commercial ride-hailing and delivery operation that it plans on launching in Germany in 2025.

For now, VW plans to deploy the ID Buzz on public roads for testing in Munich, as well as at a private track near the city’s airport. The van made its public debut at the 2021 IAA Mobility Event in Munich, which also saw new concepts from Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

As part of that deal, VW invested a staggering $2.6 billion in Argo, which at the time saw its valuation rise to $7 billion. (That valuation has since increased to $12.4 billion as the company explores a public offering.) Argo opened an office in Munich and absorbed VW’s autonomous driving team that was based there.

While the original VW Microbus was famously underpowered and slow, this one will be able to jump from zero to 60 miles an hour in just five seconds, VW says. Top speed will be limited to 99 miles an hour.

The name Buzz plays off the word "Bus," VW said, while ID stands for -- take your pick -- "Idea," "Identity," or "Intelligent Design," among other things.

VW's big push on electric vehicles follows the automaker's recent diesel emissions scandal.

Volkswagen was found to have installed software that reduced harmful emissions from many of the automaker's diesel-powered vehicles only during testing. As part of a plan to make up for that, VW has agreed to promote electric cars.

Argo currently uses modified Ford vehicles for its testing in the US and has yet to reveal its own purpose-built AV like some of its competitors. The self-driving ID Buzz will be a more fully realized version of Argo’s AV hardware and software, including the company’s 400-meter range lidar sensors developed in-house.

Argo has been testing its fourth-generation vehicles in Miami, Austin, and Washington, DC, for the last few years as well as Pittsburgh, Detroit, and California.

The company is also planning on launching a ride-hail service in the US with Lyft by the end of the year.


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