It started with the seemingly audacious idea of switching an historic Volksie Bus over to a drive system producing zero emissions on the road in order to bring it in line with the challenges of a new era. To this end VWCV engineers and designers formed a team along with drive system experts from Volkswagen Group Components and the eClassics company, which specialises in electric car conversions. As the basis for the future e-BULLI the team chose a T1 Volkswagen Bus produced in Hannover in 1966, which prior to its conversion spent half a century on the roads of California.
One thing was certain from the start: the e-BULLI was to be a T1 that utilises the Volkswagen Group’s latest electric drive system components. This plan has now been realised with the e-BULLI. The vehicle serves as an example of the great potential that this concept offers.
The new electric drive system components
The 32 kW (44 PS) four-cylinder boxer engine gave way in the e-BULLI to a silent Volkswagen electric motor delivering 61 kW (83 PS). The comparison of the engines’ power output alone makes it quite evident that the concept vehicle has completely new drive characteristics, as the electric motor is almost twice as powerful as the boxer. What’s more, with maximum torque of 212 Nm, the new drive provides more than twice the force of the original T1 engine from 1966 (102 Nm).
The maximum torque is also – as is typical for electric motors – immediately available. And that changes everything. Never before has there been an ‘official’ T1 as powerful as this e-BULLI. New in this form, it thus becomes a silent cruiser that combines the fascination of a zero-emission drive system with the incomparable style of a classic Bulli.
Power transmission is by means of a one-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. The e-BULLI reaches a top speed of 130 km/h (electronically limited). With the original drive system the T1 managed a top speed of 105 km/h.
Just like the boxer engine of the 1966 T1, the combination of gearbox and electric motor integrated in the back of the 2020 e-BULLI drives the rear axle. A lithium-ion battery is responsible for supplying the electric motor with power. The battery’s usable energy capacity is 45 kWh. 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). In addition, the on-board electronics are supplied with 12 volts via a so-called DC/DC converter.
All of the electric drive system’s standard parts are being made by Volkswagen Group Components in Kassel. Added to this come the lithium- ion modules designed at the Braunschweig components site. They are transferred by eClassics into a battery system appropriate for the T1. As in the new ID.3 and future ID.BUZZ, the high-voltage battery is housed centrally in the vehicle floor. This layout lowers the e-BULLI’s centre of gravity and thus improves its driving characteristics.
By Jay Groat