Within the race towards electrification, some automobile corporations are extra motivated than others. Take Volkswagen: Nonetheless reeling from the fallout of its Dieselgate scandal, the German large’s numerous arms are asserting, creating, and making an attempt to promote EVs at a dizzying tempo, from Audi’s E-Tron SUV to Porsche’s Taycan, to a slew of VWs within the pipeline. And funnily sufficient, VW’s rush to the longer term has put me a bit again in time, and right into a dune buggy.
This swoopy inexperienced sand machine, known as the ID Buggy, isn’t destined for manufacturing, not like VW’s revived-as-electric Microbus. The idea’s mission is to show the pliability of VW’s Modularer E-Antriebs-Baukasten, or MEB, or modular electrical automobile platform. The concept is to that, just like the previous Beetles lovers became dune buggies, right this moment’s electrics can turn into absolutely anything.
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A couple of months after exhibiting the idea on the Geneva Motor Present, VW introduced the ID Buggy to Monterey Automotive Week, maybe the 12 months’s best occasion for automotive lovers. Sadly, my drive was quick, speed-limited, and restricted to pavement, as a result of Monterey’s anti-fun ordinances and the truth that that is nonetheless an idea automobile and never fairly prepared for full-on dune bashing. Nevertheless it was nonetheless revealing concerning the potential—and limits—of future EV manufacturing.
“We needed to understand how make electromobility extra widespread, and a kind of options turned permitting third-party producers to license the platform,” says Jochen Tekotte, VW’s communication director for its electrified fashions. “Within the 1960s folks took the Beetle and constructed onto it, together with most famously dune buggies just like the Meyers Manx.”
The Manx, created by Bruce Meyers, noticed high-profile motion in Steve McQueen and Elvis Presley movies, and have become a staple of California automobile and seashore tradition. Volkswagen just lately commissioned a brand new one for themselves from Meyers. The small, gas-powered, open-top journey had a four-speed handbook transmission directing energy from the Beetle engine to the rear wheels. Driving it up and down 17-Mile Drive in Monterey was a thrill. Steering was mushy at greatest, the transmission felt suicidal, and the wipers didn’t a lot transfer a molecule of mist from the windshield. Nevertheless it was mild and small and fast, and it felt magnetically drawn to the close by, woefully off-limits dunes. Then it was time to drive VW’s electrical model.
The ID Buggy pulls away easily and silently, and rips briskly as much as 25 mph. That was sufficient to motor down the highway at a cushty informal tempo, and the 228 lb-ft of torque from the 150 kW, 201-hp motor was sufficient to spin up some grime when mashing the pedal from a cease. Steering felt exact and silky, aided by the automobile’s highly effective electrical motors. The waterproof inside is roomy and cozy, the controls an train in minimalism. The foot pedals have acquainted digital-media symbols representing their respective capabilities—press “play” to go, “pause” to cease. It’s additionally absolutely weather-sealed and able to go splashing by means of the surf.
The connection to the Manx is generally in spirit. The unique buggy is a high-riding off-roader that weighs round 1,500 kilos, constructed on a budget utilizing the chassis, engines, and different elements from the Beetle. Agile and sturdy, they’re famend for his or her enjoyable, energetic vibes. The ID Buggy weighs round four,400 kilos, due to its battery and all of the structural hardware required to make trendy vehicles protected. Nonetheless, it could actually shoot as much as 62 mph in a respectable-enough 7.2 seconds and drive for a full 155 miles on a single cost. A manufacturing model matching these specs might high out at 99 mph.
However that spirit of enjoyable remained, due to the smoothness, the open-air aura, a suspension engineered for off-roading, and its responsiveness. The ID Buggy roughly appears to be like the half, and anyway, the one one who can construct a real electrical Manx might be Meyers Manx Inc., itself.
Which is ok, as a result of the purpose of this train isn’t to rebirth the Manx however to point out that that the MEB electrical platform on which this idea is constructed can match any variety of purposes, together with a barely bloated however nonetheless enjoyable dune buggy. Need to replicate the looseness of rear-wheel-drive? Flip a change. Need to bail your self out of hassle on the path? Hit all-wheel-drive. In the end, there is perhaps a day when electrics turn into as closely custom-made as equally versatile vehicles had been within the ’60s and ’70s.
So whereas VW has no rapid intention to supply the ID Buggy itself, it’s hoping aftermarket builders would possibly tackle the problem of customizing the MEB Platform. It’s already gaining some traction on this respect: Ford simply licensed the platform to construct a small EV for its European market. No phrase but on whether or not it’ll be any enjoyable.