VW’s Budde-E EV Concept Revives the Microbus

Las Vegas — The Budd-e minivan concept borrows liberally from Volkwagen’s cuddly Microbus of the 1950’s, reinventing itself as an electric vehicle for 2016. It made its debut at Volkswagen’s booth during CES 2016. While it looks similar to the Bulli concept from a few years ago, a deeper dive reveals that this tech-laden prototype is really a whole new beast, and a great preview of VW's future.

The first thing you see are soft, blue LEDs embedded in the grill that draw you in. But when look down the sides of the car, you’ll notice a complete lack of handles or levers. Instead, VW positions sensors in the body of the vehicle that simply require a friendly wave to open.

Inside there’s a treasure trove of tech, including a giant flatscreen display hanging on a wall in the rear cabin, and a curved multi-panel dashboard that wraps around the driver’s seat.

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Each one of these screens is connected to the tablet in front of the passenger seat. Info on the tablet is divided into three main categories: Drive, Control and Consume, and with just a few touches or swipes, important data can be sent or viewed from almost anywhere in the car.

There’s more sensors and cameras inside that can automatically detect if someone wants to roll down the window, or change the interior lights by making simple gesture in the air.

Powering the almost entirely digital vehicle is a 101 kWhr battery hidden under the Budd-e’s floor, which VW says should get about 230 miles on a charge. But even more impressive than the range, is the Budd-e’s ability to reach an 80 percent change from dead in just 15 minutes. That’s fast enough to remove any sort of anxiety over running out of juice on an extended trip, and what’s better is that the Budd-e supports traditional wired and inductive wireless charging.

In back, Budd-e even makes grocery trips a little more enjoyable by allowing owners to open up the trunk just by moving their foot beneath the rear bumper.

Since the Budd-e is as much a connected device as your smartphone or tablet, you can reach out to device using the car’s built Wi-Fi and LTE connections, you can reach out to your home and have the thermostat set just right as you walk in the door.

It seems the only problem with the Budd-e is that unlike the original Microbus, without a pop-top and a enough space to fully roll out a mattress or sleeping bag, the Budd-e isn’t a real camper van. That’s a little disappointing, because with Budd-e’s super fast recharging, VW’s crossover concept seems like it would be a perfect pick for you next road trip.

Concept cars always have room for improvement, and I’m hoping that VW takes this superb tech showcase to actual showrooms soon.

Sam is a Senior Writer at Engadget and previously worked at Gizmodo as a Senior Reporter. Before that, he worked at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag as a Staff Writer and Senior Product Review Analyst, overseeing benchmarks and testing for countless product reviews. He was also an archery instructor and a penguin trainer too (really).