The Volkswagen Beetle could ride again, reviving the rear engined and rear wheel drive layout that defined the original - but this time the engine will be all electric giving the new Beetle a very modern twist.
That’s according to Volkswagen chairman Herbert Diess, who revealed that the German carmaker is actively looking at creating a third generation of the ‘new Beetle’ based on the Volkswagen Group’s modular MEB electric platform.
The proposed new electric-powered Beetle, which would act as a sister model to the modern day Microbus presaged by the I.D. Buzz concept at the 2017 Detroit motor show, is one of a number of proposals that are planned to be put before Volkswagen board members when they meet to vote on ways to build on plans to extend the company’s initial range of electric powered models.
“The next decision on electric cars will be what kind of emotional concepts we need,” says Diess.
Quantifying what is meant by the term “emotional concepts”, Volkswagen’s 59-year-old chairman says it covers cars like the Microbus and Beetle as well as open top models such as the Kubelwagen and Buggy.
Diess denies any firm decisions on the successor to the Beetle have yet been made. However, he suggests any direct successor model would be electric.
“If we wanted to do a Beetle, electrically it would be much better than today’s model, much closer to history, because it could be rear-wheel drive,” he explains.
Diess says the MEB platform provides the perfect basis for what he describes as emotional concepts like the Beetle.
“We have a good chance on the electric side. You can do derivatives efficiently. We have a very flexible platform. We can do nice things: rear wheel drive, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive.”
Volkswagen has already displayed the possible rear drive capabilities of the new MEB platform in 2016 with the I.D. hatch concept, which is set to go into production in 2019 as the first of Volkswagen’s range of EVs.
The I.D. concept used a single 110kW/260Nm electric motor contained within the rear axle providing drive directly to the rear wheels.
Volkswagen’s original Beetle debuted in 1939 powered by an air-cooled four-cylinder boxer engine mounted behind the rear axle - a move designed to free up interior and storage space in the original car.
The move to a rear-mounted electric motor could have a similarly beneficial effect on a modern day Beetle opening up a number of packaging advantages not seen on today’s front-engined/front-wheel drive model, including a front luggage compartment similar to that of the original.
Volkswagen resurrected the Beetle as a modern day model in 1997 following positive reception to retro-inspired Concept One show car revealed at the 1994 Detroit motor show. The first generation modern-day model was produced at Volkswagen’s plant in Puebla, Mexico until 2010, when it was succeeded by a second-generation model that remains on sale today.
Diess confirmed to Drive that the MEB platform was already planned to support up to 15 new electric powered models with the Volkswagen Group, which includes the Volkswagen, Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Porsche brands.