Back in 1950, Volkswagen engineers called it the Transporter 1, or T1. Americans later called it the Microbus. But Germans always labeled it the Bulli, and in 2011, the Bulli is back. This time, however, no fossil fuel-fed mill can be found under the rear hatch.
The six-passenger Bulli concept you see here is a reinterpretation of a reinterpretation. At the 2001 Detroit Auto Show, VW rolled out its first Microbus concept powered by a 3.2-liter V-6. Nowadays, priorities have changed, and the internal combustion engine is replaced by an 85 kilowatt electric motor with 199 pound-feet of torque.
A 40-kilowatt-hour battery cell resides under the flat floor and can propel the 3190-pound, front-wheel-drive bus to 62 mph from a standstill in 11.5 seconds. Top speed is limited to 87 mph. Engineers say the new Bulli can travel 186.4 miles on a single charge - far more than the Nissan Leaf's claimed 100-mile range. A full charge can be had in an amazing 60 minutes when it's plugged into the correct power outlet (what voltage outlet was not specified).
The front hatch was constructed to accommodate a multitude of Volkswagen mills, including 1.0-liter and 1.4-liter gas or diesel direct-injection engines. So those wanting some classic gasoline powered fun could theoretically have it if the Bulli hits production lines.
Designers wanted to stay true to Ben Pon's original bus design by maintaining simplicity. Blunt ends with short overhangs define the vehicle, as do extra-large badges and wide windows that allow a multitude of light inside.
The cabin space continues on as a simple environment. Two bench seats can be folded in a variety of ways, or if need be, the entire rear bench can be completely stowed. An iPad serves as the main passenger interface and controls entertainment, Bluetooth, and navigation functions.
So we have to ask: Do you want the Bulli back?