Volkswagen has unveiled a thoroughly modern version of its T1 Samba bus, the ubiquitous camper van emblematic of the 1960s hippie movement.
The latest model, called the e-BULLI, is fully electric and can cover up to around 124 miles between charges using its 45kWh battery.
The good news is that owners of existing T1 Samba models will be able to buy parts from qualified dealers top convert their buses to the new format.
The move by Volkswagen is in conjunction with a partner company, vehicle conversion specialists e-Classic.
The T1 bus, sometimes called campers in the UK and Ireland, was born in 1950, derived from the VW Beetle.
It had a high profile in the 1960s when it was became known as the “hippie van” after being adopted by the ‘flower power’ counter-culture movement. The Samba version was the most luxurious model.
The next generation, known in the trade as the T2, was also popular.
The new e-BULLI version is a concept vehicle based on a T1 Samba bus produced in 1966 and comprehensively restored and equipped with the drive system components of the latest Volkswagen electric vehicles.
The original model’s four-cylinder boxer engine was replaced by a silent, zero-emissions electric motor delivering 61 kW (83 PS), almost twice as powerful as the old engine.
It has an electronically limited top speed of 80mph, compared to the original’s 65mph.
Power transmission to the rear axle is by means of a 1-speed gearbox. The drive system is coupled with the gear lever, which is now positioned between driver and front passenger seat.
The automatic transmission's selector settings (P, R, N, D, B) are shown next to the lever. In position B the driver can vary the degree of recuperation, i.e. of energy recovery when braking.
Customised for the e-BULLI in collaboration with eClassics, a power electronics system in the back of the vehicle controls the high-voltage energy flow between the electric motor and the battery and in the process converts the stored direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC).
It also supplies the on-board electronics with 12 volts via a so-called DC/DC converter. The battery will reportedly charge to 80% power in 40 minutes at fast-charging points.
A re-designed chassis has been created for added comfort, safety and better handling.
This includes multi-link front and rear axles with adjustable shock absorbers and coilover struts, plus a new rack-and-pinion steering system and four internally ventilated disc brakes.
The exterior and interior get an avant-garde look with touches like a two-tone paintwork finish in ‘Energetic Orange Metallic’ and ‘Golden Sand Metallic Matte’.
On the outside rear LED charge indicators signal to a driver walking up to the e-BULLI how much charge the lithium-ion battery still has.
The cabin has been re-imagined with the seating also in two colours: ‘Saint Tropez’ and ‘Saffrano Orange’, and ship’s deck-type solid wood on the floor. A large panoramic folding roof gives an airy feeling.
The new speedometer is based on the original, while a two-digit display integrated into it creates a link to the modern era.
This digital display provides a variety of information, including range. LEDs also indicate whether, for instance, the parking brake is on or the charging connector is plugged in.
There’s also a tablet integrated into the roof console that displays further info.
WV’s ‘We Connect’ service is present allowing people call up information online by smartphone app or via a PC and a corresponding web portal such as on remaining charge time, current range, kilometres travelled, trip times, energy consumption and recuperation.
The e-BULLI costs from around £58,000. It will go on sale initially in Germany but is likely to be extended to the UK and Ireland assuming demand exists.
VW’s battery technology is improving rapidly and it is expected bigger batteries with longer ranges will be available on e-BULLIs in the future.