Flower power: Volkswagen I.D. Buzz concept revealed at Detroit

Ever wondered what a modern-day Volkswagen hippy van would look like? VW clearly has: hence the 2001 Microbus concept, the Bulli of 2011, last year’s Budd-e and, finally, the I.D. Buzz – set to be revealed at this year’s Detroit Auto Show.

With a push for eco-cars following the Dieselgate emissions scandal, now could be a good time to bring back flower power, this time in the form of an all-electric bus.

Based on an extended version of the firm’s new scalable MEB platform, the I.D. Buzz boasts a combined output of 369hp and an electric range of 373 miles. Naturally, it’s packed with autonomous functions: push the steering wheel and it disappears into the dash as the Buzz slips into ‘I.D. Pilot’ mode.

This decouples the steering column and uses laser sensors to detect other road users, while cameras, radar sensors and ultrasonic sensors monitor the van’s surroundings.

Flower power: Volkswagen I.D. Buzz concept revealed at Detroit

Inside, there’s room for eight people, with the front seats able to turn around and face the rear passengers once it’s in autonomous mode. The second row of seats can fold down and be used as a table, while the rear seats can be turned into a bed for overnight stays once the Buzz is stopped.

With a wooden floor, fancy coloured lighting and movable cushions, the interior is more homely than you might expect from a Volkswagen of the future.

There’s also a clever augmented reality head-up display. This projects virtual images from 23 to 49 feet ahead of the car – with the effect being ‘astonishingly realistic’, says VW.

Couldn’t the I.D. Buzz look a bit more… retro?

Flower power: Volkswagen I.D. Buzz concept revealed at Detroit

“The I.D. BUZZ is not a retro design on 22-inch wheels,” explains VW’s head of design, Klaus Bischoff.

“We have taken the logical next step forward in development, using what is in all likelihood the most successful design of its kind in the world. The entire design is extremely clean with its homogeneous surfaces and monolithic silhouette. The future and origins of Volkswagen design DNA combine here to create a new icon.”

There are some retro touches: the iconic ‘V’ on its front-end, for example, but the round headlights have been replaced by slim LED lights. These mimic the gestures of the human eye, says Volkswagen, allowing the Buzz to communicate with other traffic. When it’s parked up, the eyes appear closed, opening up to greet drivers and passengers.

When awakened, its lights ‘open’, while accelerating causes them to adopt a more aggressive look. During autonomous driving they truly act like eyes, looking in the direction the car is planning to turn.

Is the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz actually going to be sold?

Flower power: Volkswagen I.D. Buzz concept revealed at Detroit

The company is aiming to launch its first car on the new MEB platform by 2020, and these could be autonomous by 2025.

Does this mean the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz will make production? Not necessarily – and certainly not without a great deal of revision, as you’d expect as technology progresses.

The Detroit Auto Show kicks off today, so stay tuned for all the latest from the Cobo Centre.