The original Volkswagen Microbus started life as a sketch by Dutch VW importer Ben Pon for a small, useful cargo delivery vehicle. The idea of it having all those windows and hauling families and covens of hippies came later—it was a cargo vehicle first. That’s why Volkswagen’s announcement of a cargo version of their I.D. Buzz retro-inspired minivan is such a big deal: this is the job the original Type II Transporter was literally born to do.
The design of the I.D. Buzz Cargo remains fundamentally the same as the I.D. Buzz concept we saw last year, with the notable difference that it lacks side windows behind the B-pillar and a totally different interior layout, one optimized for cargo use.
The Cargo variant is built on the same MEB Modular Electric Drive Kit platform VW is developing, and VW’s press release suggests that, like the original Type 2, the Cargo will have its motor at the rear (at 201 horsepower and electric, it’ll be quite different), though an AWD version will be available with a motor at the front axle as well.
The Cargo version will have the largest battery available to the platform, which should provide it with a range of 340 miles, based on the European WLTP testing system. Additionally, the concept sports a solar panel-covered roof, which VW claims will extend the daily range of the van by 9.3 miles, a number that I assume is very dependent on the weather.
The I.D. Buzz Cargo (I hope they come up with a better, or at least easier to type name) will also have a 230V outlet for tools and other equipment, and VW mentions Level 4 autonomy capability, though I do hope the van’s eventual release to market won’t hinge on that being ready.
The Cargo has one sliding door on the passenger side, a pair of large rear double-doors, like many cargo vans, and can hold up to 1,760 pounds. The rear overhang is four inches longer than the I.D. Buzz people-hauler seen last year, for an overall length of 198.7 inches. It’s 77.8 in wide and 77.3 in tall, with a wheelbase of 129.9 inches.
A lot of thought seems to have gone into how the interior is organized:
The cargo compartment begins behind the first seat row and a bulkhead. Like the rest of the vehicle, it was “re-thought.” Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is bringing the “Internet of Things” on board in this van. In cooperation with the German equipment specialist Sortimo, a new shelving system has been developed for the cargo area and fitted with sensors and a lighting system. This shelving system is connected to the intelligent I.D. BUZZ CARGO via a customer-specific function control unit and a CAN interface. The data is transferred by WLAN to tablets in the cargo space and cockpit. By means of a mobile radio network, the functional control unit might communicate with a company’s job or order-management system, theoretically making it possible to track all articles on the shelves. This enables precise online management of the type and quantity of freight and equipment in this futuristic Transporter. Further data is provided by the already available ConnectedVan fleet management system.
Really, a short-ish range delivery vehicle is sort of an ideal application for an electric vehicle, since it’ll have a set route and distance that can be known to be within the vehicle’s range, and it can be recharged easily every night.
These also have potential to make great platforms for food trucks, campers, and, with the right airbrush mural and shag-carpet interior, vans that one should best refrain from knocking upon if the van is observed rocking.
Interestingly, if these are to come to the United States, they’d be subject to the infamous Chicken Tax, a 25% tariff on cargo vehicles that was actually originally targeted at the original Volkswagen Transporter vans back in the 1950s. This suggests to me that if Volkswagen is serious about bringing these to America, they’re going to have to build them here, perhaps at their factory in Chattanooga.
I’m not going to lie—I love this thing, and I really hope it makes it to production as close to this as possible. I mean, I know those rear-view cameras and the lighting will likely have to be dialed back, but that basic, two-tone iconic look is just right.