At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Volkswagen will launch BUDD-e. It is designed specifically for plug in vehicles as it uses the all new Modular Electric Platform (MEB). BUDD-e uniquely combines Volkswagen’s distinctive look whilst hinting at a futuristic feel. With a range of 373 miles, it is certain to generate interest.
In this digital age, our reliance on our mobile phones has never been greater and BUDD-e acts as an extension of our phones. Using the Internet of Things (IoT), BUDD-e connects the vehicle like no other car has done before. It interacts with your mobile or office computer for seamless connection wherever you are. It knows where you are and has resources to hand, making driving a completely interactive affair.
The vehicle makes use of infotainment technologies that effortlessly merge gesture and touch control for the maximum convenience of the driver. Gone are the old school analogue mirrors replaced by digital monitors. The combination of technology and interactive operating systems launches Volkswagen into the future, 2019 to be precise. For this is the date when production of BUDD-e is expected to commence in earnest, providing a car that runs solely on electricity but can rival its soon to be dated, petrol driven competitors.
By this time, Volkswagen anticipates that it will only take a mere 15 minutes to charge the vehicle to 80% capacity, revolutionising electronic vehicles. As a concept car, BUDD-e is the first vehicle offered by Volkswagen that uses the new MEB. This is significant because it is history in the making as we are at the corner stone where electronic cars move from environmental novelty to practical every day driving. It will change our perception of electronic cars for ever.
The vehicle has been architecturally designed to make it practical but aesthetic. It combines technology networking and functionality in harmony. With the recent controversy over fuel emissions, Volkswagen is determined to focus on performance and protection of the environment. BUDD-e is the vehicle to do just that. Performance has not been sacrificed as MEB vehicles are agile and responsive with powerful acceleration. Space is an important feature and BUDD-e has a lot of room. Gone are the cumbersome and large batteries as they’ve been replaced with a compact, thin, light weight 101 kWH battery almost completely hidden in the vehicle floor.
The battery powers two electric motors over each axle of the vehicle. Maintaining high performance, the vehicle has an impressive range of 373 miles with a top speed of 93 mph powered by front and rear motors. Retaining a popular feature of today’s electronic vehicles, BUDD-e can be charged cordlessly or via direct plug in. The extension to the vehicle’s range and battery life means it is a serious contender against its gas guzzling traditional motors.
The innovative architectural design means that the designers have been able to play around with the vehicle’s internal structure. By way of example, let us consider the heating and air conditioning unit. It has been placed entirely at the front of the vehicle which has provided more internal space for passengers. Air quality is also improved due to larger and more effective filters and a quieter fan for the enjoyment of the occupants of the vehicle. Size-wise, BUDD-e sits somewhere between VW Touran and Multivan T6, being 181 inches long, 76.3 inches wide and 72.2 inches high. The interior is generously wide and the wheelbase significant at 124.1 inches.
With a short overhang at the front, 27 inches and rear 28.9 inches, the overall size of BUDD-e is attractive. Modelled on the classic Volkswagen vans, at first glance it is clear that BUDD-e is part of the VW family. The design concept is one of practicality, innovation and charm. The concept car displays a two tone colour scheme with a ‘Nevada White’ body and a ‘Phoenix Copper’ roof, making a bold statement. The front end displays the iconic VW logo with integrated LED backlighting, providing a number of ways to highlight the same. There is an external soft light that runs towards the sides of the vehicle into a narrow strip that encompasses the van.
LED technology is used in the main headlights positioned high up on the vehicle for good visibility. Catch a glimpse of the vehicle from the side and you would be forgiven for thinking briefly of the Microbus and Beetle. However, there is no denying the futuristic feel of BUDD-e. With this model, it’s widely believed that the designers have found the perfect balance between tradition and progress. The vehicle has a flat stretched roof line, spacious blackened, presidential like windows with glazed A-pillars, 21-inch aluminium alloy wheels and light modules that stylishly highlight the vehicle’s flanks. LED strip lights the rear with flared D-pillars, adding to the impressive lighting ambiance created by the vehicle.
Think A-Team van crossed with a VW van and a MINI and you will start to picture BUDD-e, don’t you just love it when a plan comes together! In keeping with its futuristic image, gone are the door handles and wing mirrors. They have been completely redesigned with new electronic systems out of sight from the exterior of the vehicle. The end result is a streamlined silhouette that is dramatic, smooth and appealing. Using aerodynamics, the rear is designed to promote airflow through the gloss black D pillars.
The effect is to optimise rear downforce whilst reducing aerodynamic drag, making for a better driving performance. The exterior is neat and clean and the rear is dominated by a large tailgate, a feature reminiscent of the VW bus days. LED taillight strips run up to the D-pillars and C shaped LEDs emphasise the extractable Drop Box. You need to see this vehicle in the dark to appreciate the ambient lighting and the design that has gone into the BUDD-e. Step inside the interior of BUDD-e and that’s when you realise this is a vehicle of the future.
Resembling the control panel from Star Trek, the infotainment, control systems and instrument cluster have been completely redesigned to create one curving control panel gently encompassing the driver. Get ready to be transported as the dash board is gone, replaced by one digitally interfaced control centre. The primary function of the navigation panel is of course to enable driving, but behind this screen is a rotating 3-D navigation map with graphics. The two displays are separately distinct and yet blend visually into one both visually and functionally. It is known as the Human Machine Interface (HMI) where the driver and machine almost become one.
Active Info Display (AID) is the first screen positioned directly in front of the driver. It can be programmed to an individual’s choice displaying all the traditional vehicle instruments. Behind the AID floats the infotainment system which provides for all of the technological needs of the passengers in the vehicle. The two concepts visually merge into one hub using graphics to easily access playlists, apps (App-Connect), on line services such as Car Net and Points of Interest (POI) are all configurable. This means that the whole family can remain connected and networked to their devices and flat batteries will become a thing of the past. The driver can set the hub up to display contents in the preferred order as the contents can be easily moved between the Active Info Display and the head unit.
There are three ways to operate all of BUDD-e’s systems: 1. Gesture control 2. Touch screen with displays and touch slider 3. Voice control
The driver can switch between these three modes of control. Voice control is simply operated by saying “Hello BUDD-e”. It is programmed for complete speech interaction and so you don’t have to use a set of preordered commands to use this function.
For example, if you are feeling that it is getting warm in the vehicle, a phrase such as “Turn up the AC a bit please” will result in the vehicle immediately adjusting the temperature of the vehicle. BUDD-e even knows which passenger made the request and it will then direct climate control to a specific area. So if a passenger complains they are cold, the temperature in their passenger zone would be immediately raised to improve their environment. This is not the first time customers have seen the programmable instrument cluster. It was first introduced by VW in 2015. It contours around the driver in a 12.3-inch curve. With three individually personalised sections, the driver is clearly in control.
Each section is named. They’re known as Drive, Control and Consume. The Drive area is the central area of the hub. A 3-D interactive map highlights the existing travel route and directions. When it functions together with POI, it becomes particularly useful when navigating new and unfamiliar areas. To the left is the Control section which provides the driver with all the mechanical information and data from BUDD-e’s computer. Speed is displayed in the middle, energy reserves and range located to the right and fuel consumption to the left.
This information is constantly displayed at the bottom section of the panel, left of the Active Info Display. Finally, to the right there is the Consume panel which holds all the infotainment such as the weather, calendar and messages. The primary focus of the hub is to ensure that the route and driving are where the driver’s focus goes. Engaging the Travel Mode moves the route to the head unit which can be used by the passenger to direct the driver. The speed indicator which is located in the middle panel, fuel consumption located to the left, and energy reserves and range to the right are constantly positioned at the lower part of each screen.
The redesigned head unit of the HMI can be easily viewed by all passengers in the vehicle and is found at the middle of the console. This 13.3-inch display is connected to the Active Info Display. As its default setting, the head unit reveals the 3-D navigation map which helpfully includes buildings. The driver can assign specific tiles to the top level of its surface choosing from two different tile sizes with a maximum of eight tiles being displayed in total. Using this feature, passengers can access Audio which includes playlists, songs and cover, Messages can be accessed in Driving Mode and Trip Data can also be displayed.
A useful home button in the middle of the head unit allows occupants to go back to the top level menu. Taking inspiration from smartphones, a menu tab is positioned at the top of the screen. Once this option is selected, key functions and menu items are displayed. This also includes operating the vehicle. With the absence of handles, the sliding doors can be opened or closed from here. Familiar options are available such as Phone, Images, Videos, Places and Music. Vehicle climate control and heated seating functions are also found at the bottom of this display. BUDD-e is fitted with ‘e-Mirrors’.
These are discreet digital wing mirrors screening from two external cameras which project directly to the hub displays. As a safety feature, the vehicle doors can only be opened by the driver or front seat passenger when the vehicle is at a standstill. The screen panel opens and closes the sliding electric doors. The driver’s display is 7.7 inches and the front passenger screen is 5.9 inches. With the multifunction steering wheel 3.0, the driver needs no key or switch to start the vehicle. It operates via touch alone. As the driver touches the wheel, a palpable haptic response is given as BUDD-e acknowledges the driver’s presence.
A function is activated by gentle localised pressure and is more responsive than the haptic technology we are using now. The driver is no longer constrained by the immobile shift paddle and the entire operating stack is responsive to touch. Complementing this haptic feedback, the driver is also given visual feedback on the Active Info Display. So for example if the driver is accessing a track, the cover of the song will be visible in the display.
Icons will also appear at the corners of the square to enable scrolling through tracks adjusting volume and accessing the menu. The effect is an uncomplicated user friendly system that one intuitively responds to. Volkswagen has certainly set the bar high for electronic vehicles revolutionising car design. If you’re as impressed as we are, join us as the countdown to 2019 begins.