Volkswagen puts a charge in the dune buggy

Concept electric dune buggy is a tribute to 1960s' modified beach vehicles

Published: January 30, 2019, 9:30 PM
Updated: February 6, 2019, 5:58 AM

Volkswagen e-buggy concept

Volkswagen is bringing back another iconic vehicle and updating it, as it has recently with other classics, with electric power for next month’s Geneva International Motor Show

Volkswagen e-buggy concept

On the stage in Geneva, Volkswagen will premiere a concept electric dune buggy, a tribute to the modified vehicles that went from road to sand on California beaches back in the 1960s as the west coast beach culture mixed with teenagers’ lust for freedom of movement. Most buggies started life as Volkswagen Beetles, which at the time were relatively cheap, with body panels that were relatively easy to remove

The term buggy was reportedly derived from the Volkswagen Type I nickname – bug — with the car chosen for its rear air-cooled engine driving the rear wheels, and a simple and durable front suspension. The first dune buggy was created by Bruce Meyers in 1963, and eventually went into controlled production as the Meyers Manx (named after the tailless cat, in reference to the car’s shortened VW chassis).

Meyers Manx

The dune buggy design spread to other vehicles and cultures around the world, and by the time they people stopped making them at the end of the ’70s, an estimated 250,000 had been built, many of them one-offs.

This isn’t the first Volkswagen dune buggy concept — the company created a beach buggy concept based on the Up!, called the Buggy Up, in 2011 — but it is the first electric version.

Volkswagen Buggy Up! Concept

A modern interpretation of the classic, rather than a “retro” vehicle, the Buggy concept is built on Volkswagen’s modular electric drive (MEB) architecture that has been pegged for production electric vehicles ranging from coupes to crossovers to minivans.

Like its inspirations, the reinterpretation of the dune buggy (itself a one-off, for now) does away with a fixed roof and doors, opens up the side sills, and is fitted with large wheels and off-road tires to allow it to skim over beach or desert dunes.

Greekbuggy - (Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Cv05648)

“A buggy is more than a car. It is vibrancy and energy on four wheels,” explains Klaus Bischoff, Volkswagen Head Designer. “These attributes are embodied by the new e-buggy, which demonstrates how a modern, non-retro interpretation of a classic can look and, more than anything else, the emotional bond that electric mobility can create.”