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Volkswagen brings the spirit of the hippie bus into the 21st century

Volkswagen is traveling to the Detroit Auto Show to unveil a brand-new concept named I.D. Buzz. Fully electric, the design study accurately previews what a 21st-century Bus could look like.

The I.D. Buzz name suggests the concept is a follow-up to the original I.D. that broke cover a few months ago during the Paris Auto Show. At 194 inches long, it takes the form of a tall, boxy van whose design is heavily inspired by the original, rear-engined Bus launched in 1950.

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The idea of a modern-day Bus isn’t new. The Microbus concept introduced at the 2001 Geneva show and the Budd-e shown last year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) both illustrated what the 21st-century Bus could look like. However, the new I.D. concept takes the heritage-laced design a step further by adopting styling cues such as chromed trim on the belt line that ends in a V on the front fascia, tall quarter windows integrated into the front doors, and air vents cut into the rear roof pillars. Designers stopped short of giving the concept a split windshield and round headlights, though LED turn signals positioned low on the front fascia hark back to the original model.

The retro treatment is only skin deep. The I.D. Buzz rides on a longer version of the modular MEB platform found under the first I.D. concept, and it’s powered by a pair of electric motors that provide 369 horsepower to all four wheels. A large, 111-kWh battery pack directly integrated into the chassis aims to make range anxiety a thing of the past by offering up to 270 miles of range. An 80-percent charge is available in just half an hour when using a quick charger.

While the Beetle-based Bus of yore logged a zero-to-60 time of “eventually,” the I.D. Buzz performs the benchmark sprint in five seconds flat. Its top speed is electronically limited to 99 mph. The Wolfsburg-based company explains it would be relatively simple to create a more basic version of the concept powered by a smaller, 83-kWh battery pack and a single, 268-horsepower motor out back.

The I.D. concept was designed with autonomous driving in mind. The spoke-less steering wheel retracts into the dash at the simple push of the round VW logo, and the driver becomes a passenger as the task of driving is delegated to laser scanners, ultrasonic and radar sensors, and cameras that scope out the road ahead. Going into what’s called I.D. Pilot mode also makes the ambient lighting warm and relaxed, encouraging users to sit back and enjoy the ride.

The cabin offers space for up to eight passengers spread out over three rows of seats. Rails integrated into the wood floor and a clever multi-purpose center console let users configure the interior in a variety of different ways. For example, the I.D. Buzz can carry eight adults, four with the console set up as a table, or two passengers and over 260 cubic feet of cargo. The front seats pivot 180 degrees when I.D. Pilot mode is engaged to create a spacious, living-room-like atmosphere.

The Volkswagen I.D. Buzz is only a concept as of writing. However, earlier reports claim a modern-day Bus inspired by the Buzz could join the company’s lineup in 2021, about a year after the production version of the original I.D. concept lands in showrooms.