In the 1950s the Volkswagen T1 or Transporter 1 – also known as the camper-bus, microbus, hippie-bus and Bulli amongst others – came to life and made a huge hit with its simplicity, looks and practicality. It became a part of a massive youth movement of its time and was known the world over, automatically gaining a place in the history books. The Volkswagen Transporter endured numerous facelifts and design changes over the years, completely veering away from where it all began; a cute, little, two-ton bus that stole the hearts of the masses.
Reviving a classic from the past is a typical sales strategy practiced by many car manufacturers. In the case of Chevrolet for example, the Camaro was brought back to life a couple of years back, carrying through key design cues and features. The folks at VW attempted to do the same with the microbus back in 2001 and came up with something very reminiscent of the classic from back in the day. Features like the horizontal air vents, dual colour scheme, sliding doors, and most importantly the same round appearance translated well into the new design. Unlike the original that had its boxer engine mounted in the rear, the all new microbus had its engine mounted in the front. Unfortunately, the concept never took off the ground and it went back to the drawing boards.
Let’s jump into the time-machine and dial in ‘2011’ on the command board. We are in Switzerland at the 2011 Geneva Auto Show, and we are here to watch Volkswagen debut yet another concept – a second attempt – of the microbus, which is now dubbed the “Bulli”. With the right sustainable technologies readily available, the timing is perfect in order to realize the vision, recreate the unforgettable experience, and follow an ideology set over 60 years ago.
The world’s first van has a brand new look and guess what: it’s fully electric! The iconic “V” in the front along with an oversized Volkswagen emblem jump right out. Round lights that were missing in the 2001 microbus concept, now come as fog-lights of gigantic proportions, that dominate the lower-fascia. A similar headlight treatment is noticed in the T1 giving a real face-like appearance to the front end. The rear end of the new Bulli has a very serious, modern appearance that does not really follow any cues from the original except for the rectangular, rear window. From the side, it turns out that the Bulli had lost its curves over the decade; perhaps due to a fair share of electricity consumption.
Powered by a huge battery that weighs in at just under one and a half tons – as heavy as some of todays compact cars – the Bulli has a range of over 300km which is plenty for a weekend camping getaway. Going from 0 to 100km/h in 11.5 seconds, you will also travel from 0 – 100% style in about the same time. Loaded with technologies such as LED lighting, removable iPad centre console, and a colour, multifunction display, there’s also loads of interior space that can be made available by folding down the seats. This characteristic is one that made the original bus so popular in the first place.
On April 23, 1947 a Dutch Volkswagen importer by the name of Ben Pon had a vision of a compact bus that started it all. Today, this vision has come a long way, embodying shapes of different sizes and colours, but most importantly, the old philosophy had been kept in tact with the new VW Bulli.