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e-Bulli concept: Half-century on, VW turns around a classic

A DIFFERENT TYPE OF FUEL FILLER: 80% charge takes about 40 minutes. Image: VW Germany

HANNOVER, Germany – Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in Europe has unveiled on of the most amazing conversions yet to a good old VW Microbus and branded it the e-Bulli concept.

It’s an all-electric vehicle that produces zero emissions once on the road thanks to being equipped with drive system components from the latest Volkswagen electric vehicles.

It’s based on a VW T1 Samba Bus assembled way back in 1966 but comprehensively restored for 2020 and VWCV partner eClassics is planning to offer T1 conversions in the style of the new e-BULLI to customers in Europe.

Here’s what VW had to say about the plan….

CLEAN POWER CONVERSION: The shell is 54 years old, but inside – oh WOW! Image: VW Germany

It started with the seemingly audacious idea of switching an historic Bulli over to a drive system producing zero emissions on the road to bring it in line with the challenges of a new era. To this end VWCV engineers and designers formed a team along with drive system experts from VW Group Components and the eClassics company, which specialises in electric car conversions.

As the basis for the future e-Bulli, the team chose a T1 Samba Bus produced in Hannover in 1966, which prior to its conversion spent half a century on the roads of California. One thing was certain from the start: the e-Bulli was to be a T1 that uses the VW Group’s latest electric drive.

POWER AND TORQUE DOUBLED

The 32kW, four-cylinder, boxer engine gave way in the e-Bulli to a silent VW electric motor delivering 61kW. Comparison of the engines’ power output alone makes it very evident that the concept vehicle has completely new drive characteristics, as the electric motor is almost twice as powerful as the boxer.

What’s more, with maximum torque of 211Nm, more than twice that of the original T1 engine from 1966 (102Nm). The maximum torque is also – as is typical for electric motors – is immediately… it is not matched to engine revs as on a liquid fuel engine.

READ MORE VW features on Carman’s Corner

That, VW says, changes everything. Never before has there been an ‘official’ T1 as powerful as this e-Bulli. New in this form, it thus becomes a silent cruiser that combines the fascination of zero-emissions drive with the incomparable style of a classic Bulli.

Power goes through a single-speed gearbox controlled by gear between driver and front passenger. The auto transmission’s selector settings (P, R, N, D, B) are shown next to the lever. In position B, the driver can vary the degree of recuperation, i.e. of energy recovery when braking.

SIMPLE BOX: Forwards, backwards and park is about it but the bus is certainly no sluggard. Image: VW Germany

Top speed is The e-Bulli reaches a top speed of 130km/h (electronically limited). The original could only manage the original drive system the T1 managed only 104km/h.

Just like the boxer engine of the 1966 T1, the combination of gearbox and electric motor integrated in the back of the 2020 e-Bulli drives the rear axle. A lithium-ion battery is responsible for power supply – the battery’s usable energy capacity is 45kWh.

Customized for the e-Bulli in collaboration with eClassics, a power electronics system in the back of the vehicle controls the high-voltage energy flow between the electric motor and the battery and in the process converts the stored direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC). In addition, the on-board electronics are supplied with 12V through a DC/DC converter.

ALL PARTS FROM VW

All of the electric drive system’s standard parts are being made by Volkswagen Group Components in Kassel, Germany. The lithium-ion modules were designed at the Braunschweig components site. They are transferred by eClassics into a battery system appropriate for the T1.

As in the new ID.3 and future ID.BUZZ, the high-voltage battery is housed centrally in the vehicle floor. This layout lowers the e-Bulli’s centre of gravity and thus improves its driving characteristics.

THE POWER CONVERSION: E-Classics handles the whole conversion, including the installation of the electric motor. Image: VW Germany

The battery is charged via a combined charging system (CCS) that can charge to 80% in about 40 minutes; with a fully charged batter the VW’s range can be as much as 200km.

The bus rides on a chassis for the sake of comfort, safety, and more-dynamic handling. It incorporates multi-link front and rear axles with adjustable shock-absorbers and coilover struts, plus new rack-and-pinion steering.

Braking uses four ventilated disc brakes.

ALL-ROUND VIEWING: The e-Bulli is for touring on electric power only – but it is no slowcoach. Image: VW Germany

The hot seat has been, VS says, ”sensitively modernised”. The new speedometer is based on the original; a two-digit display integrated into it creates a link to the modern era.

This digital display in the otherwise analogue speedometer assembly provides the driver with a variety of information, including range. Lights indicate whether, for instance, the parking brake is on or the charging connector plugged in.

TOTAL MODERN COMMUNICATION

An additional detail in the speedo: a stylized Bulli symbol. And further information is shown on a tablet integrated into the roof console. Via VW’s ‘We Connect’ the e-BULLI driver can also call up information online by smartphone app or via a PC and a corresponding web portal: remaining charge, current range, distance travelled, trip times, energy consumption and recuperation.

A REAL VW BUS: Eight modern seats and note the new gear-shifter NOT on a transmission tunnel. Image: VW Germany

Trip music comes from an authentic-looking retro-style radio – in reality cutting-0edge tech such as DAB+, Bluetooth and USB. The radio is linked to a sound system with out-of-sight components.

European customers who find the new e-Bulli an electrifying prospect can fulfil their dream of owning an emission-free T1 at eClassics. They are offering the T1 conversion, complete with redesigned front and rear axles, at prices starting from 64,900 euros.

T2 and T3 conversions are also being offered by eClassics too through dealers qualified to insert a ready-to-fit parts kit.

TAKE YOUR TOP OFF: A canvas sliding roof can be part of the deal with an e-Bulli. Image: VW Germany

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