The Volkswagen Kombi. The Bulli. Splitty. The Microbus. Hippie Van. It goes by many names. The vehicle known simply as “The Bus” had the longest production run of any vehicle ever, and was still being produced in Brazil until 2013. Unsurprisingly, anticipation surrounding the bus’s next generation is buzzing. Scheduled for production in 2022, the all-new VW bus, now known as the I.D. Buzz, retains many of the bus’s most endearing features, including the large versatile interior and distinctive shape. But the connection ends there. The new bus will be all-electric and ready for autonomous driving.
Other than the peace symbol, there are few designs more closely linked to the counterculture movement of the 1960s than the VW bus. A new generation of admirers may have mostly done away with tie-dye and flared jeans, but the scene around the bus is still strong. Brothers Dimitrious and Joshua Nichols run Bus Junkies, a social media space for bus enthusiasts, from Santa Cruz. “Santa Cruz is known to have more than its share of classic buses cruising the local beaches and cliffs,” they note. “The love affair for the bus began in the 1960s and never left. The concept of #buslife and #vanlife in social media has brought the love of the open road, expressing creativity and living an independent lifestyle back into public consciousness.”
At the I.D. Buzz launch, Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO of VW brand management, remarked: “(The bus’s) success story is deeply connected to California. In the sixties, the idea of love, peace and happiness inspired people all over the world. Back in those days, driving a Microbus represented freedom. It took you everywhere—together with your friends and boards. It was a car, but also a home on wheels. It was a mover of young families. It was both reliable and unconventional. And it was highly emotional, putting a smile on everyone’s faces.”
For bus enthusiasts, the news that a new bus will emerge from VW factories is met with some trepidation. As the Bus Junkies explain, “The general consensus is that they should bring the bus back, but that they will kill the original concept in some fashion in the process of trying. Unfortunately, part of the charm of the vintage buses is the connection you have to the road and the mechanics of the vehicle, including the manual transmission. It’s a visceral and fun experience to drive.”
The I.D. Buzz is being billed as a “tablet on wheels,” according to VW engineers. The square steering wheel will recede into the dash when in autonomous drive mode, and engineers have achieved their long-held ambition of doing away with secondary switches and buttons by using a touch interface on the center console. The seating configuration is transformable and capable of seating eight. It will have a range of close to 300 miles from one charge and be powered by a “chocolate bar-like battery” that can be easily upgraded as technology evolves.
No matter how the I.D. Buzz finally arrives on our streets, the boys from Bus Junkies see one huge advantage over the vehicle’s historic predecessor: “A self-driving mode might be just the thing for today’s recreational pot smokers!”
Meet the New Buzz—Same As the Old Bus?
The new I.D. Buzz was crafted in the spirit of the Volkswagen classic, but the similarities end there.