Volkswagen bus to be revived as an electric vehicle

Cancelled in 2013, the classic Volkswagen Camper may find a new lease on life as an eco-friendly EV.

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Volkswagen Camper image by Nick Page, CC BY 2.0

The iconic "hippie wagon" may soon see a very apropos resurrection from the dead. Speaking at the New York Auto Show, Volkswagen board member Dr Heinz-Jakob Neusser announced that the German auto company was working on a brand new camper concept -- one that would run on batteries, rather than petrol, powering an electric motor driving the front wheels.

Talking to Autocar at the event, Dr Neusser said that the new car would maintain three iconic design principles of the original Type 2 microbus, first introduced in Germany in 1950. "First the wide, solid, D-Pillar," he said; "Second the boxy design of the centre section; and, thirdly, the front end must have a very short overhang. The distance from the A-pillar to the front end must be very short."

In 2011, the company took a stab at an electric concept it called the Bulli, clearly inspired by the Type 2, but closer to a small van than a microbus, with four hinged doors and one bench seat in the front and another in the rear that could be folded flat to make a sort of bed.

The Camper, in comparison, contains a small mobile home, with optional kitchen equipment, and detachable canvas tents and awnings; seats that could be folded out into beds; a folding table; and a small refrigeration unit.

Production on all Volkswagen Type 2 units -- including the Camper -- ceased in 2013. It had been outsourced to Brazil after safety regulations introduced in the 1970s in Germany meant that the van could no longer legally be made there. In 2012, Brazil introduced legislation that went into effect on January 1, 2014, dictating that all cars made in the country must have ABS and airbags on both driver and passenger sides of the vehicle.

At that time, Volkswagen decided that, rather than make a completely new vehicle, that it was more cost effective simply say goodbye to the Type 2 after 63 years of production.

However, Dr Neussel said that if the cost of production on the new electric Camper was feasible, the car could make it to market. The team at Volkswagen continues to work on the concept.

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