Volkswagen launches BUDD-e, 'smart' electric revamp of minivan

January 6, 2016 by Sophie Estienne
The Volkswagen BUDD-e is presented at a press conference at the CES 2016 Consumer Electronics Show on CES Press Day in Las Vegas
The Volkswagen BUDD-e is presented at a press conference at the CES 2016 Consumer Electronics Show on CES Press Day in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 5, 2016

Meet the revamped Volkswagen Kombi—once a hippie favorite, the minivan has been transformed into an electric, connected vehicle of the future.

BUDD-e, unveiled late Tuesday in Las Vegas, is "a new concept for long-distance electric vehicles," explained VW brand chief Herbert Diess on the eve of the official opening of the Consumer Electronics Show.

The electric minivan is rather modern but clearly a nod to that symbol of the hippie movement of the 60s and 70s—and idol of surfers and families—known as the Kombi or Bulli.

Volkswagen officially stopped production of the microbus about two years ago.

The new version is filled with technology that makes it "intelligent" and "social," with a new electronic interface that is both intuitive and interactive.

"Door handles are so 2016," Diess proclaimed, as he noted how the model responds to verbal commands or gestures.

BUDD-e can also communicate with connected devices at home.

So you can check from the comfort of your van if there's enough beer left in the fridge before inviting friends over to watch a soccer match or to see who's come knocking at your door to let them in or ward them off.

It's also based on the future modular production platform for VW electric vehicles, with a more efficient battery that is located under the floor.

Detail on a Volkswagen Kombi minivan pictured during an exhibition at the Volkswagen plant in Sao Bernardo do Campo, southern Sa
Detail on a Volkswagen Kombi minivan pictured during an exhibition at the Volkswagen plant in Sao Bernardo do Campo, southern Sao Paulo, Brazil on December 8, 2013

It charges up to 80 percent in just 30 minutes and can travel up to 373 miles (600 kilometers) on a full charge—equivalent to today's average car running on a full tank.

Although it's just a prototype for now, "BUDD-e could be a reality by the end of the decade," Diess said.

'Smartphone on wheels'

The auto group also presented a second electric prototype, the e-Golf touch, which is due to hit the market within a year, according to VW's Volkmar Tanneberger.

He called it a "smartphone on wheels," with verbal commands and gestures replacing buttons, which has a new generation of infotainment systems and is compatible with almost any smartphone, and can also be charged wirelessly.

You can also use a smartwatch to unlock the car, turn on the heat or air conditioning from a distance while the vehicle is still charging, or receiving notifications when someone else—say a teen—is driving the car and is driving too fast or exiting a predefined zone.

Although the firm was presenting electric vehicles at CES, Diess said Volkswagen was determined to resolve the scandal over pollution test cheating in its diesel cars.

The automaker is embroiled in a massive lawsuit filed by the US government after it was found to have installed software in 11 million engines worldwide that intentionally subverted clean-air regulations.

"The current issue with the diesel engine is certainly nothing to be proud of. We disappointed our customers and the American people, for which I'm truly sorry and for which I apologize," Diess said.

"We are committed to make things right and we are focused on ensuring that something like this can never happen again at Volkswagen."

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5 / 5 (2) Jan 06, 2016
"Door handles are so 2016," Diess proclaimed

Except when the door is frozen on top and the electric motor to open it stalls.

It's a perennial problem with electric windows and central locking systems as well, and you sometimes have to pry a car door open in the winter, simply because the whole car is covered in ice frost and the rubber seals around the door have stuck to the frame. That's when a door handle is pretty damn useful.

Moist air comes in from the sea, cold air comes in from inland, bam, everything's stuck. Sucks for those who don't have heated garages.
3 / 5 (3) Jan 06, 2016
Except when the door is frozen on top and the electric motor to open it stalls
This happens to me frequently with a conventional car door. I just bought a little pocket de-icer sprayer.

Theyre cheap.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 06, 2016
I hope that Pauly Shore introduced the car on stage
not rated yet Jan 06, 2016

de-icer sprayer
Theyre cheap.

And they also wreak havoc on the door seals because they're often isopropanol or methanol based. I rub silicone oil in between before the freezing season to keep them from sticking and tearing.

I've heard from folks driving the e-Golf up north that the battery doesn't really work below 0 C. The regen brakes don't turn on, and fast chargers refuse to put out any current into a cold battery, and there's no separate battery heater so you have to drive the car dozens of miles before the battery is warm enough to charge - which is mighty difficult if you're starting on an empty battery.

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