Published on September 6th, 2022 | by Subhash Nair


Volkswagen’s First Electric Van Actually Came Out 50 Years Ago

Volkswagen ID.Buzz has a grandfather from 50 years back built on the T2 platform.

Volkswagen today is one of the few companies with an electric van in production – the ID.Buzz. However, most may not know that this isn’t the first electric van for the company.

Volkswagen electric T2 experiment

Back in 1972, the zero-emission electric T2 “Bulli” was first presented. The electric “Bulli” was built on the T2’s bones and was built in very small volumes for testing purposes. The idea for this vehicle came about in 1970 when Adolf Kalberlah founded the “Future Research” development area.

The vehicle weighed 2.2 tonnes because it carried an 880kg battery with a capacity of 21.6 kWh. The ID.Buzz has a 500kg battery with a 77kWh capacity. That’s a huge improvement. The range of the T2 electric van only had a range of 85km. To overcome slow charging times, Volkswagen experimented with swappable batteries, which just took 5 minutes to exchange. There was a charging port on the electric T2, but it was seldom used. With the ID.Buzz, fast charging stations are used to recover about 80% of the battery’s state of charge in half an hour.

But it wasn’t just battery technology that advanced of course. The packaging of the battery has come a long way too. On the 1972 electric T2, the battery could not be installed under the body. Instead it was mounted to the loading floor – a little higher than you’d like. This ate into the cargo area of the van by a very significant margin. The ID.Buzz in contrast was built on the Modular Electric Drive platform (MEB), which accommodates a battery package within the ‘sandwich floor’. The lower placement allows for a more agile vehicle and more room for cargo inside.

There are other aspects of MEB that allow for a better electric vehicle experience. The energy management system of the T2 was present and it did recover kinetic energy under braking to recharge the battery. However, this technology in the ID.Buzz is a lot more advanced and is responsible for increasing the effective range of the vehicle by as much as 30%.

Despite the differences, there are some similarities between these two electric VW vans. For one, they both lack a motor in the front. This gives both vans a much tighter turning circle than expected, improving manoeuvrability in narrow spaces.

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Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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