Volkswagen launches ‘revamp’ of minivan

By Sophie Estienne AFP

LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Meet the revamped Volkswagen Kombi. Once a hippie favorite, the minivan has been transformed into an electric, connected vehicle of the future. BUDD-e, unveiled late Tuesday in Las Vegas, is “a new concept for long-distance electric vehicles,” explained VW brand chief Herbert Diess on the eve of the official opening of the Consumer Electronics Show. The electric minivan is rather modern but clearly a nod to that symbol of the hippie movement of the 60s and 70s — and idol of surfers and families — known as the Kombi or Bulli. Volkswagen officially stopped production of the microbus about two years ago. The new version is filled with technology that makes it “intelligent” and “social,” with a new electronic interface that is both intuitive and interactive. “Door handles are so 2016,” Diess proclaimed, as he noted how the model responds to verbal commands or gestures. BUDD-e can also communicate with connected devices at home.

So you can check from the comfort of your van if there’s enough beer left in the fridge before inviting friends over to watch a soccer match or to see who’s come knocking at your door to let them in or ward them off. It’s also based on the future modular production platform for VW electric vehicles, with a more efficient battery that is located under the floor.

It charges up to 80 percent in just 30 minutes and can travel up to 600 kilometers (373 miles) on a full charge — equivalent to today’s average car running on a full tank. Although it’s just a prototype for now, “BUDD-e could be a reality by the end of the decade,” Diess said.