Renaissance of an ingenious idea -
From the T2 electric “Bulli” to the ID. Buzz
Germany is crowned European football champion for the first time, a band by the name of ABBA is formed in Sweden, and the first all-electric Volkswagen van rolls off the assembly line in Wolfsburg. The year is 1972 – and what not many people know is that it was in this year, that the dream of a zero-emission “Bulli” for everyday use was born. A dream that is to become reality 50 years later with the ID. Buzz. We journey back to the van’s roots.
Volkswagen laid the foundations for the all-electric ID. Buzz, which has multiple generations of Volkswagen vans in its genes, more than 50 years ago: In 1970, Adolf Kalberlah founded the “Future Research” development area, which designed the first Volkswagens with electric drive systems. Two years later, Volkswagen presented an electric van based on the T2 – initially as a test vehicle, then later as a very small batch, with various optional set-ups.The vision of the electric “Bulli” is born, but not yet practical. The first prototype of the T2 – a flatbed truck with an open loading area – weighs 2.2 tons and carries an 880-kilogramme battery with a capacity of 21.6 kWh. Compared to today’s battery systems, the cells are not only heavy, they also store significantly less energy.
50 years later, the batteries in the first generation of the ID. Buzzhave a capacity of 77 kWh (net) and weigh in at 500 kilograms – the result of many years of research and development. Last but not least, technological progress has had a considerable effect on agility and range, allowing the all-electric ID. Buzz to do its thing in the high-volume market.
Space-saving MEB concept for the ID. Buzz
While we’re on the subject of agility: the electric T2 from 1972 was based on the platform of the conventional T2. As such, it was difficult to install the battery in the vehicle underbody, and the battery was mounted on the loading floor, where it could be removed. In contrast, the ID. Buzz
As no motor is installed at the front, allowing an extremely large steering angle, the ID. Buzz is able to make use of another advantage: the turning circle of the electric “Bulli” is just eleven metres – similar to that of the compact Golf. This guarantees driving pleasure in even the tightest of spaces, making it perfectly suited for the city and narrow car parks.
Battery replacement vs. battery charging
As the range of the T2 electric van was only about 85 kilometres, a highly-innovative – for the time – battery changing system was employed in 1978 during a fleet test with seven T2 in Berlin. At the changing station in the Tiergarten district, it took just five minutes to replace an empty battery with a fully-charged one. This drastically reduced the waiting times of several hours, which would have been required for the charging process.
The principle of battery replacement is no longer used these days – not least because charging performance has improved immeasurably. Take the ID. Buzz, for example: Thanks to a maximum charging capacity of 170 kW at rapid charging stations, batteries can be charged from five to 80 percent in roughly half an hour.
Energy recovery system already to be found on the T2
When it comes to energy management, Volkswagen was already progressive in the 1970s. The T2 electric van already possessed an energy recovery system, which recovered kinetic energy under braking and then used this energy to charge the battery. A technological tour de force at the time, this is now taken for granted. This technology has been refined and optimised for the ID. Buzz– however, the basic principle of generating energy through inertia in a closed system remains the same. This can increase the range by 20 to 30 percent.
Dramatic changes over five decades
There have also been some fundamental changes, which are down to technological development. Back in 1972, who would have thought one day they could teach their “Bulli” to park itself, as you can the ID. Buzz? Or speak to it via voice control, to prevent the windows steaming up or to request that the “Bulli” calculate the route, including stops for charging?
What began as pioneering work with the T2 electric van in 1972 is now, 50 years later, reality. Progressive and versatile – the ID. Buzz combines the most important automotive trends of our time: electromobility, intelligent networking of assistance and information systems, technical prerequisites for automated driving and over-the-air software updates.