Volkswagen (VW) has unveiled an electric conversion concept for its iconic Type 2 microbus to celebrate 20 years at its Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in California.
Today, VW announced that it is renaming the laboratory to the new “Innovation and Engineering Center California (IECC),” and it is expanding its role to become “the largest Volkswagen vehicle research facility outside Germany, and serve as the heart of an expansion of Volkswagen’s North American engineering resources, driving greater innovation in vehicle technologies closer to the U.S. customer.”
Scott Keogh, president and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America, made the announcement:
The future of the Volkswagen Group will be defined by our success in developing new technology that is designed to meet our customers’ needs. As we roll out the next generation of electric and autonomous vehicles, innovation will increasingly define who we are.
For the occasion, VW worked with Electric GT, a California-based EV conversion company, to build an electric version of a 1962 Type 2 11-window Microbus.
The vehicle, and especially its electric components, is a real work of art:
Unfortunately, it’s just for display since it is equipped with only a 10 kWh battery pack, which would give the vehicle an extremely limited range.
But Electric GT told Electrek that it could easily be fitted with a bigger battery pack.
It was also equipped with several other interesting technologies:
- Powertrain & Chassis: The Type 20 features a full BEV drivetrain, including a 10 kWh battery, 2,500-Watt onboard charger, and an electric motor that produces 120 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque. It also features a custom-designed active pneumatic suspension developed with Porsche that adjusts the vehicle’s ride height via software. This allows the Type 20 to actually rise as the driver approaches.
- Biometric Identification: Experimenting with biometric vehicle access, the Type 20 includes a real-time facial recognition system integrated with the digital assistant to enroll and identify users. The system leverages a 720p wide-angle camera integrated into the driver’s-side second window. The recognition is done via the Sensory SDK, running in real-time on an Nvidia Jetson TX2 prototyping package.
- Conversational Digital Assistant: The Type 20 integrates directional microphones into three zones of the vehicle — the front exterior, driver cockpit, and rear passenger zone. An intelligent speech agent builds on the existing speech capabilities of the Group and can receive more natural language commands. The system provides LED feedback to exterior commands via the headlights and iconic Volkswagen logo.
- Generative Design: Working with Autodesk, Volkswagen designers created custom wheels, rearview-mirror supports, and interior support elements using generative design — a process focused on maximizing strength while minimizing weight, which mimics natural evolution to create organic shapes.
- Holographic Infotainment System: A Looking Glass II holographic display is integrated into the Type 20’s dashboard, generating 3D images without the need for specialized glasses.
The vehicle, which has been named Type 20, will be on display at the IECC to celebrate the company’s two-decade history in Silicon Valley, alongside other installations that include past prototypes, project artifacts and historic vehicles.
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