Volkswagen E-Bugster Unveiled


You can forget about the stringent, straight-laced Teutonic stereotype of German car manufacturers because yesterday, on the opening day of the NAIAS 2012, Volkswagen unveiled a concept that was by its very existence, rather poetic.

The E-Bugster is a zero-emissions, pure electric two-seater concept that is the latest member of the Wolfsburg-based company’s Blue-e-motion family of concept cars.  The name E-Bugster is an amalgamation of electric, bug and speedster – the reasons for which become clear once you’ve seen the concept that pays homage to the Ragster that debuted at the same show in 2005.

Ragster Concept 2005

It would be difficult to accuse VW of giving the E-Bugster an inert stance, and they claim that as well as presenting an opportunity to showcase pure-electric mobility, the E-Bugster is also a ‘dynamic study into Beetle design’.  Starting at the front, the E-Bugster uses LED Daytime Running Lights (like its petrol-powered sibling) but this time they form an almost digital bracket shape on each side of the bumper – these continue ‘through’ the car and are mirrored (as reflectors) on the rear bumper.  This is a unique feature that we have come to expect on VW’s electric vehicles (re: E-UP!) and it certainly lends the E-Bugster a sense of purpose.  The idea of a boring electric concept is left further behind still with the addition of 20-inch wheels and flared wheel arches – more than enough to scare the Nissan Leaf behind you into the undergrowth.

Of course the primary design feature of the E-Bugster is its ‘speedster’ A-line, something that VW are familiar with.  This aggressive roofline, although closed and not open in true ‘speedster’ style, is convincing enough for me.  Factor in black decals on the side-sills and you’d be forgiven for expecting to see an ‘R’ after ‘Bugster’ rather than the ‘E’ before it.

VW are keen to let us know that the new concept’s looks are not only skin-deep either, and although there are no pictures of the interior, they say that it features EV-specific gauges and the traditional tachometer has been replaced with an ‘energy consumption display’ that fluctuates with vehicle acceleration.  Interestingly, there is also a display to show the driver the intensity of battery regeneration.

At the heart of the E-Bugster is a 114bhp electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery that allows the concept a range in excess of the now industry standard of 100 miles.  Furthermore, with a Level 3 charger the battery can quick-charge to 80% capacity in half an hour.  In what is becoming an increasingly favourable omen, technology on a comparable level to this will be found in future models such as the Golf Blue-e-motion (on-sale in 2014 with a range of around 90 miles), says VW.  There is no suggestion, however, the E-Bugster will make it into production.

That this sort of advanced technology finds its test-bed in a vehicle that’s fundamental design has changed little since its conception in 1938 seems, as mentioned, quite poetic.

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