How Volkswagen plans to make the electric ID Buggy concept a reality

Volkswagen is getting ready for summer by resurrecting the emblematic Meyers Manx beach buggy as an electric vehicle. The company traveled to the 2019 Geneva Auto Show to display a brand-new concept car named ID Buggy that shows the fun side of its imminent electrification offensive while showcasing the Lego-like flexibility of its electric technology. Digital Trends learned there’s a good chance it’s coming to a beach near you in the not-too-distant future.

The ID Buggy takes the form of a battery-powered, two-seater dune buggy that channels the spirit of the original, Beetle-based Manx sold between 1964 and 1971. It’s not merely a retro-styled recreation of the Manx, though. It stands out with a look and a personality of its own. It has no roof and no doors, but users can stretch a fabric top between the windshield frame and the roll bar to protect the passenger compartment from the sun, or from the elements. 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped by off-road tires help the ID Buggy plow through sand dunes without getting stuck, while aluminum skid plates protect against obstacles commonly encountered off-road, like rocks, causing a high-voltage impact with the battery pack.

“There are enough vehicles with doors,” Volkswagen design boss Klaus Bischoff told Digital Trends during the 2019 Geneva show.

Inside, the ID Buggy pays homage to its predecessors with an ultra-minimalist, back-to-basics interior that nonetheless incorporates state-of-the-art tech features like touch-sensitive buttons on the two-spoke steering wheel to control the sound system, a chip card instead of a conventional key, and a digital instrument cluster. The use of waterproof materials — including the fabric that upholsters the seats — brings users peace of mind. They won’t ruin the interior if they forget to pack the tarp, or if they hop in after going for a swim. Volkswagen cleverly integrated a wireless phone charger in a waterproof storage box located on the center console to let the occupants juice up while keeping their devices out of the elements.

The lightweight composite body hides Volkswagen’s modular MEB platform. An electric motor mounted over the rear axle draws power from a 62-kWh lithium-ion battery pack stuffed under the passenger compartment to zap the rear wheels with 201 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque. Volkswagen pegs the concept’s driving range at about 155 miles, and its 0-to-60-mph time at 7.2 seconds. The concept is rear-wheel drive, but making it all-wheel drive would be as simple as adding an electric motor over the front axle.

“A buggy is more than a car. It is vibrancy and energy on four wheels. These attributes are embodied by the new e-buggy, which demonstrates how a modern, non-retro interpretation of a classic can look and, more than anything else, the emotional bond that electric mobility can create,” explained Bischoff. It’s not just a wild, head-turning concept, either. If everything goes according to plan, motorists will be able to buy it in about two years.

“Our plan is to bring [the buggy] to life, and to the market. It’s a very concrete project,” Bischoff told Digital Trends. Intrigued, we sat down with Volkswagen board member Jürgen Stackmann to get more information.

“We’ve been holding discussions with a company called E.Go who is very interested in bringing the ID Buggy to life. This show car is not a true show car, it is already conceptualized by e.Go’s team. It is feasible to build. E.Go will basically build the product you see, the shell, onto our platform in a low-volume, low-production series. The project needs to go through feasibility studies, so it hasn’t received final approval, but both parties have a strong will to make it happen,” he told us during a round-table discussion.

When it arrives, assuming it receives the proverbial green light for production, it will showcase the MEB platform’s unusually high level of flexibility. Think of it as a skateboard; everything needed to make the car move is under the occupants. Volkswagen has also used the architecture as the basis for a Golf-sized hatchback, a Microbus-inspired van, an SUV, and a sleek-looking sedan. All of these vehicles have been previewed by concept cars over the past two years, and most will be in series production in early 2020. Only the sedan remains in limbo as of writing.

Volkswagen’s willingness to license its technology could start a new trend. Coachbuilders new and old will be able to purchase a turn-key chassis straight from the factory, and put their own body on it, whether it’s to make a dune buggy, a sports car, a pickup truck, or something else. Electrification will open up new possibilities for companies seeking to make low-volume models without developing billion-dollar technology from scratch.

“[The Buggy] will be the start of more joint ventures created to bring MEB to companies to help them realize cars on our platform,” Stackmann concluded.

Updated on March 7, 2019: Added more information about the buggy, quotes and details about its path to production.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!

This vintage Ford Bronco off-roader has a modern electric powertrain

Zero Labs took a classic Ford Bronco and replaced its gasoline engine with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. So you get the style and off-road capability of a Bronco, but with zero emissions.

Nikola previews $80K NZT off-road EV speedster with 590 horsepower

Nikola Motor is taking reservations for the NZT, a high-performance, all-electric off-highway vehicle (OHV). The $80,000 NZT has 590 horsepower, 775 foot-pounds of torque, and reaches 60 miles per hour in 4 seconds.

Qiantu K50 is a Chinese electric sports car that’s coming to the U.S.

The Qiantu K50 is a Chinese electric sports car that will be marketed in the United States by California-based Mullen Technologies. The carbon-fiber bodied, 402-horsepower K50 is expected to go on sale in 2020.

Genesis’ all-electric Mint concept proves small cars can still be stylish

Unveiled ahead of the 2019 New York Auto Show, the Genesis Mint concept is a future electric city car with scissor doors in place of a traditional hatchback. Genesis likely won't put it into production, however.

Café racer-inspired ebike hits 28 mph quickly and quietly with carbon belt drive

Ebike manufacturer Electra launched the Café Moto Go, an advanced ebike. The Café Moto Go's step-over frame was inspired by café racers. The Café Moto Go is a premium performance ebike built to run smoothly and extra quietly.

Where to go when your EV is low: Rich neighborhoods have most charging stations

If you're running low on juice in your electric vehicle, head for the rich part of town. A survey by found median home list prices in the 20 U.S. ZIP codes with the most EV charging stations were 2.6 times the national average.

Ford is keeping hackers out of its cars by putting key fobs to sleep

Ford found a way to stop thieves who try to hack their way into a car by duplicating its key fob. It developed a smart key fob that puts itself to sleep when it's idle for at least 40 seconds. It automatically wakes up when someone picks it…
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.

Tesla will have ‘autonomous robotaxis’ in 2020, Elon Musk says

Tesla will deploy self-driving cars in a "robotaxi" service in 2020, CEO Elon Musk said at the automaker's Autonomy Investor Day. Musk has promised autonomous Tesla electric cars before, but will he finally deliver this time?

Startup Smartcar accuses bigger rival Otonomo of stealing intellectual property

California-based startup Smartcar claims its intellectual property was stolen by a much bigger (and better-funded) rival named Otonomo. Otonomo hasn't given its side of the story yet.

2020 Nissan 370Z Special Edition celebrates 50 Years of the Z car

Nissan is celebrating 50 years of its iconic "Z car" with a special edition of the 2020 370Z. The 50th-anniversary model is dressed to look like a 1970s race car, but remains technically unchanged.
Product Review

BMW’s smallest M car is its biggest performance statement

The BMW M2 Competition is frighteningly quick in a straight line, and its short wheelbase lends itself to some hilarious power slides, but it’s the curvy roads and tight tracks where this coupe comes alive.

Tesla rushes investigators to China to figure out why a parked Model S exploded

Tesla has sent a team of in-house investigators to Shanghai to determine why an early Model S suddenly exploded and caught fire. The electric sedan was parked before the fire started, and the cause of the blaze remains unknown.