CES: Volkswagen's all-electric Budd-e concept

The Budd-e concept inaugurates a modular platform designed specifically for electric vehicles.

Volkswagen has revealed a new concept called Budd-e ahead of its debut at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Budd-e is the first car built on Volkswagen's new Modular Electric Platform (MEB), an architecture that was designed specifically to underpin electric vehicles. It boasts a completely flat 101-kWh battery pack that stretches almost the entire length of the floor, a packaging solution that gives the Budd-e a generous 373-mile driving range while preserving the spacious cabin that consumers expect to find in a van.

Power comes from an electric motor mounted over each axle, and the van has a top speed of 93 mph. The battery pack can be topped up without a cord thanks to a state-of-the-art inductive charging system that will gradually be offered on electric Volkswagen and Audi models over the next few years.

Volkswagen's newest concept stretches 181 inches long, 76.3 inches wide, and 72.2 inches tall, dimensions that make it about 20 inches shorter, three inches narrower, and four inches taller than a Honda Odyssey. It gets a heritage-inspired design that borrows styling cues such as a V-shaped front end and flared D-pillars from the original, rear-engined Volkswagen van that was built for decades in Germany and abroad, but it's not full-on retro like the Beetle and the Fiat 500.

The retro treatment is only skin-deep, and the cabin puts a big emphasis on connectivity. Notably, the Budd-e can be programmed to send a message to the driver's smartphone if he or she has forgotten an item in the car. It also gets real-time weather updates, and it can tell the driver whether or not there is an umbrella in the cabin if the infotainment system detects that it's going to rain.

Interestingly, the instrument cluster and the screen that runs the infotainment system have been combined into a single unit. The portion that replaces the instrument cluster provides information about the car and its surroundings, while the portion that replaces the infotainment display groups the Budd-e's entertainment, navigation, and connectivity functions into a single unit that lets the passengers watch videos or surf the web on-the-go. The infotainment system can be navigated via voice commands and via simple hand gestures.

The Budd-e is billed as a concept car, but the Wolfsburg-based car maker openly suggests a slightly toned-down version of it could be introduced before the end of the decade. What's certain is that the MEB platform will underpin a full range of all-electric models, and Volkswagen has announced plans to become one of the first companies to offer a gesture-controlled infotainment system in a relatively affordable car.

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