Volkswagen AG debuted the concept version of a new self-driving microbus that the automaker says can go 270 miles in all-electric mode on a single charge.
The microbus, unveiled Monday at the North American International Auto Show, will be known as the I.D. Buzz, Volkswagen called it "a microbus for a new era" that "forges links between the origins of the Volkswagen brand and its electrifying future."
Volkswagen said the I.D. Buzz will come equipped with a fully autonomous “I.D. Pilot” driving mode that will allow drivers to turn their seats around 180 degrees to face their rear seats.
“The Volkswagen brand’s big electric offensive begins in the year 2020 with a completely new vehicle architecture," Herbert Diess, chairman of the Board of Management for the Volkswagen brand, said in a statement. "That is when we will be launching an entirely new generation of fully connected, all-electric vehicles to the market. By 2025 we want to be selling one million of these vehicles annually. We are making electric mobility the new trademark of Volkswagen.”
Volkswagen has come under fire for its focus on electric vehicles because federal regulators have required the company to contribute $2 billion to zero-emission vehicle research after it was caught rigging hundreds of thousands of diesel cars to cheat U.S. pollution standards. Volkswagen’s settlement, which was approved by a federal judge in October, calls for $1.2 billion for federal zero-emission vehicle research and $800 million to help fund similar efforts in California, which helped catch the German automaker.
The funding is part of an agreement that calls for Volkswagen to pay more than $10 billion to either buy back or repair about 475,000 2-liter diesel vehicles that were sold between 2009 and 2015, and were built with devices to trick emissions testers.
Critics have argued the zero emissions clause in Volkswagen’s deal could give the company an unfair leg up in the U.S. electric-car market.
Volkswagen said "the I.D. Buzz zero-emissions vehicle conceptually follows the new Volkswagen brand strategy."
Volkswagen said the microbus will have a zero-emissions all-wheel drive system that "has a total output of 369 horsepower and an NEDC electric driving range of 600 kilometers (270 miles on a predicted U.S. driving cycle)" and be capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 miles-per-hour in about 5 seconds. Top speed is and estimated 99 miles per hour.
"One electric motor at the front axle and one at the rear each deliver a power output of 201 horsepower, distributed between the two axles by an electric propshaft, the company said.
Volkswagen added that the I.D. Buzz's 111 kWh battery will be able to be charged to 80 percent of its capacity within 30 minutes, with a charging rate of 150 kilowatts.
Volkswagen called it the world’s first fully autonomous multi-purpose vehicle.
"A slight push on the steering wheel makes it retract and merge into the instrument panel, switching the I.D. Buzz from manual control to the fully autonomous 'I.D. Pilot' mode that could make it into production by 2025," the company said. "In this mode, the wheel is decoupled from the steering gear via a newly developed steering column system. The ambient lighting then switches from white light ('Drive') to mood lighting that is warm and relaxed. At the same time, the distribution of ambient lighting is extended to the rear seating area. Simultaneously, the status of the I.D. Buzz can be seen at all times on the tablet and the augmented reality head-up display."
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