Motoring News

The VW Microbus is back – but not as you know it, Jim

  • Type 20 concept has VW heritage, futuristic technology
  • Don’t be fooled by the shell – the VW is unique
  • Take a Microbus, and let the geeks loose on it…
SURE, IT LOOKS LIKE A 20-YEAR-OLD VW BUS:  …but take a second look, at the wheel rims! What’s going on? Well, the shell is camouflage for one of the world’s most innovative vehicles. Image: VW America

BELMONT, Californina – VW Group America has a new name and an expanded role for what was its Electronics Research Laboratory here and unveiled a unique vehicle concept that combines VW heritage with futuristic technology.

It looks like an old-fashioned VW Microbus, but inside it is all very different…

What will be the largest VW vehicle research facility outside Germany and the heart of expanding VW North American engineering resources will, the automaker says, ”drive more innovation in vehicle technology closer to North American customers.

VW VAN: Spiderman at work again – the specialised steering assembly. Image: VW America

Scott Keogh, president and CEO of VW America, told The Corner in a media release: “The future of the VW Group will be defined by our success in developing technology designed to meet customers’ needs. Innovation will increasingly define who we are as develop the next generation of electric and autonomous vehicles.”


The former ERL was the group’s research and innovation hub in Silicon Valley for more than two decades, growing from only three people in 1998 to more than 180 engineers, social scientists, researchers and product designers in 2018.

”Through the past two decades,” the automaker said, ”the campus helped to develop several key vehicle technologies – among them predictive navigation and online speech, technical demonstrations such as “Stanley”, the first robotic car to complete the 2005 Darpa Grand Challenge by navigating 212km of desert without human intervention.”

VW VAN:  Source of all the power. Image: VW America
  • The IECC will be have two entities: Innovation Centre California (ICC) and Engineering Centre California (ECC).


  • The first will be one of three global group innovation centres to handle “lighthouse projects” and focus on research and pre-development projects for VW Group brands.
  • The ECC will focus on connected cars, intelligent cockpit, autonomous driving and parking.

To celebrate the more than two decades of innovation, the IECC has also unveiled the Type 20 concept today based on a 1962 Type 2 11-window Microbus. It’s been converted to electric power and showcases various experimental elements – tactile and interactive.

”The unique vehicle,” VW says, ”embodies the VW Group’s history of combining innovation with iconic heritage, much like the forthcoming ID. Buzz.

WATCH THE video of the ID.Buzz launch

Powertrain/chassis: The Type 20 has a full electric drivetrain that uses a 10kWh battery, 2.5kW charger, an electric motor capable of 90kW/240Nm, custom-designed pneumatic suspension developed with Porsche that adjusts ride height – including rising to easier access as the driver (and, of course, key!) approaches.

HIDDEN IN THE BOOT: Just like all VW buses, the power unit rides behind the back seats. Image: VW America

Biometric identification: The bus also uses facial recognition to identify users via a camera in the drivers-side second window.

Conversational digital assistant: Three zones – front, driving seat, rear seating – have a directional microphone  to receive more ”natural language” commands. The system provides diode-lit feedback to commands from outside the bus using the headlights and VW logo.

READ MORE VW features on Carman’s Corner

VW VAN: Spiderman has worked his magic on the wheel rims, too. Image: VW America

• Generative design: Working with Autodesk (and, it appears, Spiderman – Ed.) designers created custom wheels, rear view-mirror supports, and other interior support elements using generative design – a process focused on maximum strength/minimal weight.

• Holographic infotainment system: A Looking Glass II  holographic display is mlounted on the facia,,, it generates 3D images without the need for 3D spectacles.

Nikolai Reimer, senior vice-resident of the IECC, commented: “We’re excited to be moving into our next chapter, to continue designing innovation that will take VW Group vehicles into the future with cutting-edge technology.

“The Type 20 is a fantastic example of how we celebrate our heritage while striving to advance our technology.”

  • The Type 20 will be on display, alongside other installations that include past prototypes, project artifacts and historic vehicles, at the IECC to celebrate the company’s 20 years in Silicon Valley.
NOVEL SEATING ARRANGEMENT:  The floor is colorful, too – and holographic entertainment is pare of the package.  Image: VW America
VW VAN: Image: VW America
VW VAN: A very memorable face – is there anybody in the world who would not recognise it? But then take a look inside! Image: VW America.




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