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VW Develops All-Electric Microbus Concept

The Chameleon electric microbus.

Volkswagen of America Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL), located in Palo Alto, California, has taken a 1964 Deluxe Microbus and retrofitted it with a collection of new technologies, including an all-electric drive powered by lithium polymer batteries.

VW ERL worked with Hybrid Technologies on the electric powertrain for the bus, which VW has named the Chameleon. Ten 30-volt batteries under the van’s floor provide a range of about 100 miles. A recharge takes about 6 hours. Surfboards mounted on the roof are also lined with flexible solar panels that provide an additional source of energy to this 100% electric vehicle.

A multitude of other projects are showcased in the Chameleon, representing advancements in the topics of audio, speech, sensors, displays, navigation, and lighting, in addition to the electric drive system, batteries and solar cells.

The interior of the bus features an interactive digital instrument cluster, imbedded capacitive touch-pads, digitally enhanced sound quality, rear seat entertainment options, and speech activated controls available throughout the cabin. The exterior houses several exciting new approaches for keyless entry, LED lighting, wide-angle parking cameras, switchable glass and more.

The Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory intends to use the Microbus as a public relations tool to showcase the potential future of automotive electronics. The Chameleon has already been showcased in Germany to Volkswagen executives and engineers. It made its North American public debut at the AltWheels event in Boston, MA on 22 September.



Why don't they convert the New Beatle into electric. That would be a great car!


Before the New Beatle came out they had announced that it would come as a diesel-electric hybrid and all-electric vehicle, I clipped the article since I sincerely hoped an EV would be available... Still waiting.

hampden wireless

VW came out with this and even said it was going to be produced but then later pulled the plans...

It looks almost like it should be electric too.

What a shame they didn't make it.

Mark R. W. Jr.

Could this have retail value? Think about it. Some fleets, like short-range shuttle buses, would find this a boon!


I think the EV part is cool in a 64 microbus, especially since I would never drive one with the original polluting ICE. I can do without the rest of the googaws. Although, maybe they ought to be put some turbines on those surfboards too to extract energy from the surf.

It sure wouldn't be hard to retrofit a microbus as an EV and, at the same time, equal or exceed the performance of the original microbus.

hampden wireless

Yes, the performance of the original would not be hard to match. Many engines were made but they started at 25hp and went up to 70hp.


This is nothing more than an advertisment
100 miles. electric cars in the 90's were getting a whole lot better than that. what is the big deal that makes this news worthy

Robert Schwartz

When I was in college in the late 1960s, my roommate owned one of those things. Man, it was nasty to drive. Back then the speed limit was 70 mph and the bus had a top speed of maybe 62 mph, on level ground with a following wind. Its aerodynamics were so bad that every time a semi passed you (and a lot of them did) the air currents would pick the bus up and move it 3 or 4 feet sideways.

I bet the bus is improved by the batteries under the floorboards, and no, it is not slower.

Shaun Williams

Did somebody say New Beetle Electric Vehicle ?


Here is a New VW Beetle conversion,


I bet they could make it 200 miles if they just unplugged the lava lamp.


You do have a point. The telematics and entertainment electronics they describe probably consume around 1kw-hr of energy.

In fact the automotive world is starting to face major problems with 14.4V systems again. Electric PS, telematics, climate control, etc are requiring 200Amp + alternators which means losses in the wiring are going up faster and faster.;jsessionid=P42KS2YU4S5DGQSNDLRCKHSCJUNN2JVN


>Why don't they convert the New Beatle into electric. That would be a great car!

My guess is because the New Beatle weighs more and does not have 10 or so feet of flat storage areas to put the batteries.


I meant to say New Beetle. :)

P L Schager

VW actually did have one Electric New Beetle made, as a research project, before the California mandates were crushed.

Ron Gremban

For an earlier electric VW microbus, check out and . In 1968, in this electric VW microbus, vehicle and race creator Wally Rippel, along with George Schwartz and myself, were the first people to cross the continent purely on electric power -- so it's fun to see VW resurecting the concept!


This is a typical example of a large motor company using concept cars to gain free publicity and put on a green suit. The reality is that they have no intention of producing non-fossil fuel automobiles in the near future. Pimp-my-ride style entertainment where real cars are needed. Thanks for nothing.

Steve Yap

A fantastic solution. Many people will buy vw-remake buses that are electric just like this. The 1968-78 type two bus body is the perfect candidate for the electric drive. The sheetmetal/chassis manufacture of this exact bus should go back into production, dedicated for electric drivetrain. The body is very lightweight but immensely strong; the perfect recipient. Remember, the type two was rated ONE TON. It also looks neat - "cool" & fun. It's also roomy - you can put all kinds of stuff in it. It really doesn't need to have all that fancy stuff; just a good heater, radio, 3-speed windshield wiper, very basic gauges & dual front airbags, with side curtain passenger airbags. Such a bus should also be fitted with the (return of the) 7mph shock-absorber bumpers (front and rear). The real clincher is this bus has approximately a 90-mile range AND only a 6-7 hour recharging requirement. 90 miles! THAT'S what people have been waiting to hear! There's only one thing left to do: Continue to engineer & provide the market with better & improved BATTERIES. Such ongoing improvements will steadily increase RANGE. Keep in mind that the manufacture of Batteries on a massive scale is much less energy consuming than biofuel or hydrogen fuel production, will not require any more rebuilding of existing industries (12 volt auto batteries have been made & sold for decades now) AND batteries can be RECYCLED. Another interesting advancement: Electric cars don't need any coolant/liquids (There are many other reasons why electric cars are a far better solution than other ideas).


what we really need is a solution like using hydrogen cells, but one that uses solar power or radiation and doesn't involve petroleum or water... oh wait, one might exist afterall... seems those philosophy classes might just pay off... only time will tell. just like the triumphant return of the beloved microbus... only time will tell. until then, I'll enjoy my vanagon (it's a wolfsberg!) as it is until I can afford to create the 4 wheel independent motor electric drive system I want, and retrofit it (unless the microbus makes its return before hand).


I grew up in the 60s, my family owned a VW Bug... Man, it was great to drive. Its aerodynamics were so bad that every time a semi passed you (and a lot of them did) the air currents would pick the bus up and move it 3 or 4 feet sideways.
Take mw back to the days of Herbie the Love Bug!

Before the NB came out they had announced that it would come as a diesel-electric hybrid and all-electric vehicle, I clipped the article since I sincerely hoped an EV would be available... Well we are still waiting
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