With the introduction of the I.D. BUZZ CARGO concept — a panel-van version of the Bulli-remake — it looks as if Volkswagen is planning more for its fully-connected I.D. electric-vehicle range than simply for around town grocery getters.
As with its stablemates, the I.D. BUZZ CARGO is based on Volkswagen’s Modular Electric Drive (MEB) platform, andit can be fitted with a 111-kWh lithium-ion battery to give it a range of 550 km (standard fitment would be a 48-kWh battery, which would cut range roughly to 240 km), making it ideal for a day’s duty delivering packages or hanging out at the worksite. A nearly-full-length solar-panel roof aids in topping batteries on the go, and reportedly delivers as much as 15 km of extra range.
Using fast charging systems with 150 kW direct current, the 48-kWh battery can be charged to 80% in 15 minutes (the 111-kWh unit would take a half hour). The concept is inductive-charge ready, as will be the production unit.
And, it is Level 4 autonomy ready, meaning the driver doesn’t have to interfere with the route planning and execution. Volkswagen says it could come to market as early as 2021. The I.D. BUZZ is due for production in 2022.
Full interior modularity means it can be outfitted for individual ventures, and it comes ready with a household electrical outlet to supply electricity to power tools, plug in appliances or to recharge devices. Internet of Things (IoT) is also on board.
For those keeping track, Volkswagen has already introduced an electric van — the e-Crafter — but the I.D. BUZZ CARGO takes the panel-van down a size, rolling in at a length of 5,048 mm (e-Crafter is nearly a metre longer, at 5,986), making it 106 mm longer than the passenger I.D. BUZZ shown in Detroit last year. Its payload is 800 kg (over half that of e-Crafter, at 1,750 kg).
The increase in length brings with it a redesigned rear bumper and wide opening swing out rear doors, which makes it easier to snuggle up to cargo loading bays and also makes easy deployment of a rear-mounted work bench.
The cargo van is also missing a driver’s side sliding door, which is a typical design cue of transporters (as panel vans are sometimes called), in order to maximize their interior utility, and rides on 20-inch wheels (the I.D. BUZZ was shown with 22-inchers). Side mirrors are replaced by cameras, with images projected near where the driver would be looking at mirrors, the front doors and sliding side-door open electrically, and are unlocked outside the vehicle via a smartphone mobile app.
The rear-wheel drive van features a compact 150-kW motor mounted on the rear axle, creating further storage space in front, where the combustion engine might be housed. All wheel drive will reportedly be available, and the van also features rear-wheel steering to give it a turning circle of less than 10 metres.
Inside, there is room for three — in the driver’s seat and 2-position bench, whose left portion can fold down to create a mobile workspace for the driver, complete with an integrated laptop computer that can be used with the vehicle is in autonomous mode.
Activating the Level 4 autonomous system involves pushing on the steering wheel for a few seconds, causing it to retract into the instrument panel and allowing the driver’s seat to be rotated 15 degrees right for a more ergonomic working position.
Key vehicular information is presented in 3D augmented reality in head-up style on the windshield, negating the need for an instrument cluster. All controls for driving are located on the steering wheel whose centre hub is actually a touchpad, and controlling vehicle functions such as navigation and climate control is handled by a tablet that sits in the middle of the instrument panel and can be removed as needed.
Developed by German equipment specialist Sortimo, the transporter’s shelving system has been fitted with sensors and a lighting system to allow the IoT to keep track of inventory, and interact with home-base to order equipment and supplies as needed for specific jobs. Special orders can also be placed from the driver’s workplace, as can specific inventory searches — the driver would enter a part or tool being searched for, and the space on the shelf would illuminate for quick retrieval. At the end of the job, the system would also identify if any tools are potentially being left behind, since they aren’t located in their assigned shelf location. And for easy job tracking and billing, the time a tool spends from its assigned spot is catalogued.