Elon Musk said a lot of crazy things about the future of Tesla in his Master Plan Part Deux, things about solar panels and energy and expanding its vehicle lineup. But how serious was he about making the kind of mini-bus that Volkswagen has teased but never delivered on? Apparently very serious, and Elon Musk himself thinks Jalopnik’s idea for such a vehicle is on the mark.
Yesterday our Jason Torchinsky outlined how he believed Tesla could build a modern electric Microbus like the old Volkswagen Type II, a vehicle he called “the holy grail vehicle of wealthy Boomers everywhere.” More on his idea:
There’s a strong initial market of now-wealthy Boomers who would pay ex recto for a modern, safe, eco-friendly electric bus, and that vehicle, designed with the right balance of old and new, could leverage nostalgia and established character to get a new generation of people—specifically the allegedly less-traditional-car-interested-millenials—excited about buying a hypothetical (and, appropriately priced) modern Microbus.
Of course, Tesla may beat them to it.
The Tesla underlying architecture already lends itself to a box-on-wheels remarkably well. I’ve even written about how I thought the Model X should have been a van from the start.
Wouldn’t you know it turns out Jason’s idea was right on the money:
This serves as the first confirmation that Tesla’s Minibus will be based on the Model X platform. (And it’s about damn time one of Jason’s bonkers car ideas pans out.)
In the Master Plan, Musk said these buses would be autonomous or semi-autonomous urban vehicles ideal for moving lots of people around while being quicker and more agile than larger traditional buses. He also said that the buses would be “inspired by” the classic Volkswagen Kombi/Transporter/Bus.
With the advent of autonomy, it will probably make sense to shrink the size of buses and transition the role of bus driver to that of fleet manager. Traffic congestion would improve due to increased passenger areal density by eliminating the center aisle and putting seats where there are currently entryways, and matching acceleration and braking to other vehicles, thus avoiding the inertial impedance to smooth traffic flow of traditional heavy buses. It would also take people all the way to their destination. Fixed summon buttons at existing bus stops would serve those who don’t have a phone. Design accommodates wheelchairs, strollers and bikes.
Whether the Tesla Minibus is intended to be a consumer vehicle like a Model S or the Microbus Jason dreams of, or just a commercial fleet vehicle, remains to be seen. Hopefully it can be both.
You hear that, Volkswagen? If you’re gonna make the new Microbus like you’ve been promising for 15 years, you better do it soon before Tesla beats you to the punch.