Three Cheers for Volkswagen’s Electric Van
This is the EV poster child the world needs.
“It is a head turner, a traffic stopper, a conversation starter.” That’s what The New York Times wrote about the Volkswagen New Beetle when it debuted almost exactly 25 years ago.
That’s the kind of magic Volkswagen hopes to work again starting next year with another reborn icon: the original “Type 2” Microbus that reached a household-name status in the 1960s and ‘70s. And like the New Beetle before it, this new VW Bus offers a taste of nostalgia but ultimately updates the recipe for a new era.
While the New Beetle was powered by diesel and gasoline engines, the VW Bus is reborn as the ID.Buzz, and now it runs on electrons instead of fossil fuels.
The U.S.-spec 2025 Volkswagen ID.Buzz made its debut Friday at a special event in Huntington Beach, California, where its surfer-and-hippie-van image was played to the hilt. It’s an understatement to say we’ve been waiting a while for this electrified Type 2 comeback; the original concept car debuted way back in 2017, but the world would wait another five years before the production car would go on sale in Europe. And Americans will have to wait even longer still until sales start here in 2024.
But just as the original Microbus wasn’t known for its speed, this new ID.Buzz makes up for its lack of punctuality with pure charm. Americans will get the longer, bigger version of the bus with rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive; more horsepower than the European model; and a bigger 91 kWh battery good for an estimated 260 miles of range, according to various reports.
And above all, it just looks fantastic. There are a lot of reasons to pay attention to the ID.Buzz when it finally starts gracing American roads next year.
It’s big, but it’s interesting.
The world, and the car market, are very different since the days when the New Beetle was still, uh, new. While the spherical, ultra-cute, vividly colored New Beetle was essentially a stylish compact car, American buyers’ tastes have since skewed much bigger. We’re a truck, SUV, and crossover market now. That goes doubly true for EVs.
Electric vehicles are costly (and not always profitable) to make, and so automakers have to target the most volume-selling segments first. This is partly why the Mustang Mach-E is a small crossover and not a coupe, for example.
So VW was smart to use the old Microbus as a way into this world (though it should be noted that the company has flirted with this idea for over 20 years now). The U.S.-spec ID.Buzz has three rows of seats and can carry up to seven people. In short, it’s a people-mover just like the old one was, and that’s the kind of car we’re buying right now.
And thankfully, it’s not just another crossover. No automaker has really jumped into the electric van space with this much style yet. Those offerings tend to be cargo-carrying options, like the Ford E-Transit. The ID.Buzz brings family-friendly capability with a design that you may just stare at when it’s stopped to charge. I’d argue Hyundai’s eye-catching Ioniq cars are like that, but they still won’t bowl people over like VW’s electric van will.
It’s proof that, yes, automakers can think outside the box a little bit and that EV design, unencumbered by the need to place an internal combustion engine somewhere, can take more risks. I hope we see more of this. Too many new electric crossovers are just straight boring. I don’t see a world where driving an ID.Buzz wouldn’t be an adventure of some sort.
It’s a goodwill ambassador for EVs everywhere.
The ID.Buzz has the potential to be exactly the kind of head-turning, traffic-stopping, conversation-starting electric vehicle that we haven’t really seen the likes of since the Tesla Model 3 came out.
It’s not just a needed shot in the arm for Volkswagen after the capable but unexciting electric ID.4 crossover — although it very much is that — it’s also destined to become a new kind of ambassador for electric cars in general. And one driven by eye-catching design, our real or idealized visions of the past, and the kind of technology VW and other companies are counting on over the next few decades.
When people see this thing, they’re going to stop and ask questions — and those questions will invariably touch on the charging experience, range, and day-to-day driving. That might help people realize EV ownership is more within reach than ever, and getting better all of the time.
It’s the right EV for the moment.
Remember how much you didn’t love never going anywhere at the height of COVID-19? Pandemic lockdowns are why so many Americans discovered the #vanlife for the first time, going on long, outdoorsy trips in camper vans, RVs, and even Japanese-imported off-road vans.
Even though much of the very worst of COVID-19 seems thankfully in our collective rearview mirrors, the road trip, camping, and vanlife boom is still going relatively strong. And the RV Industry Association says a new generation of Millennials (and sometimes Zoomers) is taking up this mantle for the first time ever, bringing younger energy into something once considered almost exclusively a Boomer hobby.
If you want to do that and not pay for expensive RV gas, the ID.Buzz seems like a great way in. While it’s not as large as RVs are, obviously, it does seem tailor-made for road trips just like the Microbus was. The new EV even has tables that fold out of the back seats and a removable center console between the front seats for extra space. You’re kind of missing out on a lot of fun if you just use this thing for school drop-offs and daily errands.
But time will tell if the new ID.Buzz is going to be the kind of ultra-popular, volume-selling EV that could keep Elon Musk awake at night and wondering if he should spend more time updating Tesla’s lineup and less time tweeting.
The price is still a big unknown factor. We should learn more about that closer to its actual debut, but the estimates of around $40,000 feel a bit low to me; I’m worried it could be closer to $60,000. (VW’s North American CEO is already warning his dealers not to engage in price-gouging.) And as of now, the German-built ID.Buzz won’t qualify for any tax credits.
Finally, that 260-mile range isn’t exactly mind-blowing. With tons of competitors crossing 300 miles of range or more these days — that’s what you get from Kia’s forthcoming three-row EV9, for example — road-tripping may hinge on the car’s ability to charge its battery from 10 to 80 percent in 30 minutes rather than its talents as a distance runner. One imagines we’ll see some range upgrades in the near future.
Nonetheless. the ID.Buzz remains something to look forward to, an exciting and fresh entry into the electric space that I suspect could be a lot of families’ first EV ever. But if you end up getting one, expect to spend a lot of your time talking to other people about it.
The ID.Buzz won’t fly under the radar like yet another boring crossover, and that’s exactly the point.