VW's undergoing a bit of rebranding, taking its Electronics Research Laboratory in Silicon Valley and turning it into the Innovation and Engineering Center California, which will be its largest R&D facility outside Germany. To commemorate the occasion, it's rolled out a wicked new concept that mixes both new and old.
Volkswagen on Tuesday unveiled the Type 20 concept. Starting with a 1962 Type 2 11-window microbus, the automaker ripped out its guts and replaced it with something just a little more up to date. It sports a 10-kilowatt-hour battery, a 2,500-watt onboard charger and an electric motor that makes 120 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque.
There's more than just a new powertrain in there. A clever pneumatic suspension, developed with Porsche, allows the Type 20 to change its ride height through software, rising as the driver approaches. Using a 720p wide-angle camera in the driver's second window, the concept uses facial recognition to allow the driver entry to the vehicle.
It keeps getting weirder, too. There are direction microphones in three locations -- outside in the front, by the driver and in the back where the passengers are. These feed into a voice assistant that is capable of understanding more natural language commands than what VW currently offers in its passenger cars. If a command is given from the exterior, the vehicle "responds" with LED-light feedback through the headlights and the VW badge on the front end, but it can respond to certain questions like, "Are you ready to go?" Facial recognition technology means that the Type 20 will greet you by name as you approach and unlock the door for you.
A quick look at the pictures below shows some weird, wild structures both inside and outside the Type 20 concept. These were created with the help of Autodesk, using something VW calls "generative design," which creates some very organic shapes for the wheels, steering wheel, side mirror stanchions and the supports for the rear seats. Volkswagen determined a set of physical parameters and let a computer design around them. Designers then drilled down further until they had look that you see here. Weird, but still really cool. There's also a holographic display in the dashboard that doesn't require special glasses, likely an extension of the.
Volkswagen will bring the Type 20 to Monterey Car Week later this summer, but its permanent home will be at the new Innovation and Engineering Center California to show visitors and employees alike what is possible using off-the-beaten-path ideas. Other historic and prototype cars will be on display alongside it, as well.