Volkswagen’s electric-powered dune buggy crams futuristic tech right into a retro bundle

In January, Volkswagen teased a new electric dune buggy, a modern reinterpretation of the classic American dune buggies that were first created in the 1960s. Now, the battery-powered buggy is making its global debut this week at the Geneva Motor Show, and it has a name: the I.D. Buggy, placing it alongside the automaker’s other I.D.-branded vehicles that are meant to represent VW’s all-electric future.

The I.D. Buggy is at once futuristic and retro. A 62 kWh lithium-ion battery is integrated into the buggy’s floor, while a 201-horsepower electric motor in the rear gives it an expected range of 155 miles on the WLTP cycle (the EU’s new, more stringent standard for measuring EV range). The battery is designed for short but active distances — in other words, you won’t be taking this on any road trips. On paved roads, the buggy can sprint from zero to 62 mph in 7.2 seconds. The maximum speed is electronically controlled at 99 mph.

The minimalistic design — no doors or roof on this two-seater — lets drivers feel the spray of sand as they crest the dunes of Baja. It’s a far-fetched concept that could hold promise for the future of low-volume sporty cars.

For VW, the buggy is meant to show off the versatility of its MEB, or “Modulare E-Antriebs-Baukasten,” which is German for “modular electric drive matrix.” The company is betting big on its MEB platform, which will serve as the basis for the 10 million electric cars it wants to sell.

Also known as beach buggies and sand rails, dune buggies became wildly popular in the 1960s with the launch of the Meyers Manx, produced by California surfer and entrepreneur Bruce Meyers. Debuting in 1964, Meyers came up with the idea of lifting the body off the original Volkswagen Beetle and replacing it with a fiberglass, open-topped shell, making a few other modifications that would let it operate on sand dunes, as well as public roads.

Volkswagen estimates that as many as 250,000 of the original Beetles were modified into dune buggies and other unique models by the 1980s. Meyers himself relaunched his company in 2000.

All buggies from the 1960s featured a high degree of modular variability. The I.D. Buggy is no different. According to VW, it’s a pure two-seater that can be converted to seat four. Another electric motor can be added to the front axle to make four-wheel drive possible. In fact, the upper body can be completely detached from the MEB chassis, opening up a world of possibilities for third-party manufacturers as the original Meyers Manx kit did for the first buggies.

The paint job, which VW describes as “fern green,” is reminiscent of the automaker’s Day-Glo yellow microbus concept, the I.D. Buzz, which it first revealed in 2017. This makes sense considering all are members of VW’s I.D. Family, a new generation of connected, autonomous electric vehicles. Other members include the Vizzion, a 400-mile range, 75 kWh-motor sedan, and the Crozz, a self-driving crossover SUV.

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