At the 2016 CES in Las Vegas, Volkswagen attempted to focus attention away from its diesel engine emissions challenge by providing a glimpse into its electric future with an all-electric BUDD-e minivan concept. It would be the first model based on a new company "technology matrix" for electric vehicles called MEB, short for Modular Electric Drive Kit.
Advantages of the MEB promised by VW include spacious interiors and the smallest possible traffic footprint; greater agility, acceleration, and maneuverability; distinct design identity thanks to new proportion and styling possibilities; and cost-effective access to e-mobility, accompanied by long ranges to match today’s gasoline-powered cars. Better MEB packaging means that the HVAC system, for instance, can be completely integrated in the front end of the van, allowing for bigger and better filters and better acoustics due to a reduction in fan noise.
The concept van is 181.0 in (4597 mm) long, 76.4 in (1940 mm) wide, and 72.2 in (1835 mm) tall, putting it between Volkswagen’s Touran and Multivan T6 vans in terms of length, although the concept is wider than both. A relatively long wheelbase of 124.1 in (3151 mm) results in very short overhangs.
BUDD-e has electric four-wheel drive with a front motor producing 100 kW and the rear 125 kW. The 92.4 kW·h battery pack enables a theoretical range of up to 233 mi (375 km) in U.S. EPA estimated “real-world driving” or 533 km (331 mi) in the more optimistic Euro NEDC test. Theoretical top speed is 112 mph (180 km/h) and from 0 to 60 mph (0-97 km/h) acceleration is 6.9 s.
The flat battery pack, integrated into almost the entire vehicle floor, supplies two electric motors for all-wheel-drive capability, the one in front producing 100 kW and 200 N·m (148 lb·ft) and the rear 125 kW and 290 N·m (214 lb·ft). The battery can be charged by plug or induction, with 150 kW DC enabling an 80% charge fill in about 30 min.
The concept is designed with the option to be driven autonomously. Automated driving “will be part of our everyday lives and will change mobility completely. Volkswagen has a lot of ideas how to use these cutting-edge technologies and bring them to our customers,” said Dr. Herbert Diess, Chairman of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand, who gave a keynote address on the evening before CES opened its doors to the public.
One of those ideas is behind a strategic partnership with Mobileye, announced at the CES, that involves image-processing and swarm-data technology. The central focus of the joint venture is camera-based real-time image processing technology that—in conjunction with highly precise digitalized maps—is the key to autonomous driving, according to the partners.
“Digital representation of the real world in real time will play a key role in automated driving,” said Diess.
One of the goals of the joint venture, exclusively for Europe, will be to develop intelligent surroundings-monitoring technologies. Mobileye optical sensor systems will be used in the front cameras of future VW products to continually improve what are known as car-surroundings maps. Once a large number of vehicles are equipped with this technology, more precise real-time information can be generated to better serve the entire automated vehicle population.
VW says that by around 2019, when the BUDD-e could be available for sale, the functions of the various assistance systems in its development stable, such as those in the Audi A7 piloted driving concept and the e-Golf Perfect Parking research vehicles, and other systems already available, could make fully automated driving an everyday reality.
As with many recent automated vehicle concepts, the BUDD-e interior can be converted into a lounge. If the front-seat passenger wants to talk to his friends sitting in the back, he can simply swivel his rotating seat (just like the driver’s seat), which is fitted with an integral seat belt, around to face the back. A rear bench seat can be arranged longitudinally to the direction of travel to view a 34-in monitor integrated in the side wall.
The company also pitched the extensive networking capabilities that makes BUDD-e a mobile interface to the Internet of Things that includes the owner’s smart home and workplace. The concept’s next-generation infotainment system is said to merge touch and gesture control more seamlessly that what’s currently available. Gesture control 2.0 allows even the doors to be opened with a gesture. The multifunction steering wheel has a new HMI touch system. Most switches and buttons are replaced by individual displays that blend into large infotainment panels, and mirrors are replaced by digital screens.
The BUDD-e’s user-programmable instrument cluster is an evolution of the Active Info Display launched by Volkswagen in 2015. Centrally positioned in front of the driver is a 12.3-inch curved display with a surface consisting of three individually configurable sections: drive, control, consume.