Volkswagen has unveiled the e-BULLI concept, a 1966 classic equipped with the drive system components of the brand’s latest electric vehicles. The concept vehicle is based on a T1 Samba Bus produced in 1966 and comprehensively restored. Volkswagen has replaced its 32 kW (44 ps) four-cylinder boxer engine with a silent electric drive system that delivers 61 kW (83 ps) and 212 nm (156 lb-ft). It raises the T1’s top speed from 105 km/h (65 mph) to 130 km/h (81 mph), electronically limited. The battery is a 45 kWh pack that will last approximately 200 km (124 miles) between charges.
Just like the boxer engine of the 1966 T1, the combination of gearbox and electric motor integrated in the back of the 2020 e-BULLI drives the rear axle. A lithium-ion battery is responsible for supplying the electric motor with power. The battery’s usable energy capacity is 45 kWh. Customized for the e-BULLI in collaboration with eClassics, a power electronics system in the back of the vehicle controls the high-voltage energy flow between the electric motor and the battery and in the process converts the stored direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC). In addition, the on-board electronics are supplied with 12 volts via a DC/DC converter.
The battery is charged via a combined charging system (CCS) socket. It enables charging with alternating or direct current. Alternating current: The battery is charged via an AC charger with charging power of 2.3 to 22 kW, depending on electricity source. Direct current: Thanks to the e- BULLI’s CCS charging socket the high-voltage battery can also be charged at DC fast-charging points with up to 50 kW of charging power. In this case it can be charged up to 80 percent in 40 minutes.
“It started with the seemingly audacious idea of switching an historic Bulli over to a drive system producing zero emissions on the road in order to bring it in line with the challenges of a new era,” explains Volkswagen. “To this end VWCV engineers and designers formed a team along with drive system experts from Volkswagen Group Components and the eClassics company, which specializes in electric car conversions.”
Volkswagen has modified the exterior and interior design in parallel with the new electric drive system. An interior concept has been created for the e-BULLI that is both stylish and avant-garde. The new look, and corresponding technical solutions, were developed by the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles design center in cooperation with VWCV Vintage Vehicles and the Communications department. The designers modernized the exterior of the iconic vehicle with great sensitivity and finesse, including giving it a two-tone paintwork finish in ‘Energetic Orange Metallic’ and ‘Golden Sand Metallic Matte’. Details such as the new round LED headlamps with daytime running lights communicate the transformation into the modern era. At the rear, there are also LED charge indicators, which signal to a driver walking up to the e-BULLI how much charge the lithium-ion battery still has even before they reach the vehicle.
It is only when you look through the windows into the eight-seat interior that you notice that a few things are not as you might assume them to be in a T1. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ designers have re-imagined a lot of the interior, without losing sight of the original concept. The seating is one of the new features. In keeping with the external paintwork, it is also in two colors: ‘Saint Tropez’ and ‘Saffrano Orange’. Positioned within a console between the driver and front passenger seat is the new automatic transmission selector lever. The start/stop button for the electric motor is also integrated here. Solid wood in the look of a ship’s deck is used for the floor throughout. As a result of this and the nice bright leather tones, this electrified Samba Bus takes on a maritime feel. This impression is strengthened by the large panoramic folding roof.
The cockpit too has been sensitively modernized. The new speedometer is based on the original, while a two-digit display integrated into it creates a link to the modern era. This digital display in the otherwise analogue speedometer provides the driver with a variety of information, including range. LEDs also indicate whether, for instance, the parking brake is on or the charging connector is plugged in. An additional detail in the center of the speedometer: a stylized Bulli symbol. A multitude of further information is shown via a tablet integrated into the roof console. Via Volkswagen ‘We Connect’ the e-BULLI driver can also call up information online by smartphone app or via a PC and a corresponding web portal such as on remaining charge time, current range, miles travelled, trip times, energy consumption and recuperation. Music on board comes from an authentic-looking retro-style radio, which, however, is equipped with cutting edge technology such as DAB+, Bluetooth and USB. The radio is linked to a sound system with out-of-sight components, including an active subwoofer.
Available to buy for real, Volkswagen partner eClassics is planning to offer T1 conversions and T1 complete vehicles in the style of the new e-BULLI. As a complete car e-classics is offering the e-BULLI from about €64,900 (∼$70,000 USD).