Kez Casey | Jan 7, 2016

Making its official debut after a series of teaser images, the Volkswagen BUDD-e compact people mover gives a strong clue at what the company expects from its own electric future.

In keeping with the high-tech theme that flows through the Consumer Electronics Show, where the BUDD-e was revealed, the concept offers an array of high tech features including smart networking with the home, gesture control, and of course, its zero-emissions electric powertrain.

Designed to offer the best use of interior space in a compact footprint, the BUDD-e adopts a minivan shape that allows for lounge-like interior featuring a two seat bench in the rear and swivelling front seats to create an interactive space.

Ahead of the driver sits a 12.3-inch Active Info Display taking the place of a traditional instrument cluster, showing three information fields: Drive shows 3D navigation information, Control handles relays vehicle information from the trip computer, while Consume provides infotainment options.

In the centre of the dash a 13.3-inch screen offers an extension of the Drive navigation display, but can be configured with up to eight ‘tiles’ to display messages, news, weather, calendar, or other information, able to be operated via gesture control.

Even the steering wheel has been given a makeover, featuring a buttonless design that provides an array of control functions activated by touch or swipe gestures and confirmed via touch feedback.

Beyond the showy CES-special interior tricks, the BUDD-e forecasts Volkswagen’s vision for electric mobility in the future. The vehicle is built atop Volkswagen’s modular electric platform (dubbed MEB), which will become the basis for Volkswagen’s coming electric vehicle range.

Featuring a 100kW/200Nm front electric motor, and 125kW/290Nm rear electric motor, the BUDD-e offers up to 533 kilometres of driving range from a single charge.

Both plug-in and inductive charging are available, with a rapid-charge feature capable of replenishing 80 percent of the battery’s charge in 30 minutes. A top speed of 180km/h and 0-97 km/h acceleration of 6.9 seconds give the BUDD-e performance comparable to a petrol-powered hatch.

The BUDD-e also integrates smartphone functions and apps. In conjunction with electronics company LG, Volkswagen has shown how the BUDD-e to connect to your home network.

Functions include setting the lighting and heating, or even checking the contents of your fridge before stopping at the supermarket. Similarly, the BUDD-e can also check what’s in your car.

Rain forecast at your destination, but no umbrella detected? the BUDD-e will issue a reminder, provided you attach a small RFID sticker to the items you’d like to be reminded of.

In its current form the BUDD-e probably won’t see production, but there’s a good chance the Microbus-inspired styling will be headed for production sometime around 2017, bringing with it a choice of electric and petrol-powered motivation.

Meanwhile the MEB framework will form the basis for an increasing number of electric vehicles in Volkswagen’s portfolio. The company will no doubt be redoubling efforts to revive its green image following last year’s ongoing diesel emissions scandal.

MORE: Volkswagen | Electric Vehicles | CES

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