Retrofitted classic helps to celebrate 20 years of the Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL)
If people had the option of buying a VW Type 2 Bus with a modern EV powertrain, would they want the new I.D. Buzz? This is a discussion that can go on forever, especially among nostalgic folks, but Volkswagen did not want to start it. Not on purpose, at least. It just wanted to celebrate the 20 years of its former Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL), now named Innovation and Engineering Center California (IECC). And it did that turning a Type 2 Transporter into an electric concept called Type 20.
The Type 20 does not disclose its intentions apart from the cool painting and the orange wheels, presented with a structure Volkswagen calls “generative design”. It is also present on the rear-view mirror supports and on the steering wheel and rear seat supports on the inside. It looks like aerial roots and not for a style purpose, but to create stronger structures with less weight than conventional ones.
When you check the engine bay, you realise you are in front of an EV. And the Type 20 uses a 120 hp and 173 lb-ft electric motor fed by a 10 kWh battery pack. Probably enough for a few miles, just to show the Type 20 for the press and in events.
While the Type 2 had rear suspension arms with varying camber, the Type 20 uses a custom pneumatic suspension developed with Porsche that adjusts the concept’s height via software. VW says it can rise when the driver approaches, but does not explain why the Type 20 does that. We suppose it's to ride closer to the ground, improving stability at high speed, and to make getting in and out of the concept easier.
The Type 20 also presents biometric identification through facial recognition, a holographic infotainment system and conversational digital assistants. All of them with the same sort of cutting-edge technology that helped ERP create “Stanley”. If you do not remember, this Touareg was the first robotic car to finish the DARPA Grand Challenge, in 2005, by travelling 132 miles of desert autonomously.
This special Type 2 will meet visitors of the IECC in Silicon Valley, California. But we bet we will have the chance to see it at some major auto shows from now on, especially those that take place in the U.S.
Gallery: VW Type 20 concept based on Transporter Type 2
VOLKSWAGEN EXPANDS SILICON VALLEY EXPERTISE WITH NEW IECC, MARKS 20 YEARS OF INNOVATION WITH 'TYPE 20' CONCEPT VEHICLE
Jul 2, 2019
- New Innovation and Engineering Center California (IECC) reflects expanded role for former ERL
- Type 20 concept combines Volkswagen heritage and futuristic technology
Belmont, CA — Volkswagen Group of America announced a new name and expanded role for the former Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) today, and unveiled a unique vehicle concept that combines Volkswagen heritage with futuristic technology. The new Innovation and Engineering Center California (IECC) will be 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.
“The future of the Volkswagen Group will be defined by our success in developing new technology that is designed to meet our customers’ needs,” said Scott Keogh, President and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. “As we roll out the next generation of electric and autonomous vehicles, innovation will increasingly define who we are.”
The former ERL served as the Volkswagen Group’s research and innovation hub in Silicon Valley for more than 20 years. It grew from just three employees when it was founded in 1998, to more than 180 engineers, social scientists, researchers and product designers. Over the past two decades the campus helped develop several key vehicle technologies, such as predictive navigation and online speech, along with impressive technical demonstrations, such as “Stanley,” the first robotic car to complete the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005 by navigating 132 miles of desert without human intervention.
The IECC will be comprised of two entities: the Innovation Center California (ICC) and the Engineering Center California (ECC). The ICC is one of three global Group Innovation centers that will be tasked with key “lighthouse projects” and focus on bilateral research and pre-development projects for VW Group brands. The ECC will focus on connected car, intelligent cockpit, and autonomous driving and parking development projects in the North American region.
To celebrate 20-plus years of innovation, the IECC also unveiled the Type 20 concept today. Built from a 1962 Type 2 11-window Microbus, the Type 20 has been converted to electric power and showcases a variety of experimental elements, both tactile objects and interactive electronics. This unique concept embodies the Volkswagen Group’s history of combining future innovation with iconic heritage, much like the forthcoming ID. BUZZ.
- 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.
“We are excited to move into our next chapter as the IECC, to continue designing innovations that will bring the Volkswagen Group vehicles into the future with cutting-edge technology,” said Nikolai Reimer, Senior Vice President of the IECC. “The Type 20 is a fantastic example of how we celebrate our heritage while striving to advance our technology.”
The 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.
About Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.
“Volkswagen”, all model names, and the Volkswagen logo are registered trademarks of Volkswagen AG.Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (VWGoA) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, one of the world’s leading automobile manufacturers and the largest carmaker in Europe. VWGoA operates a manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee and houses the U.S. operations of a worldwide family of distinguished and exciting brands including Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Volkswagen, as well as VW Credit, Inc. Founded in 1955, the company's headquarters are in Herndon, Va. The company has 8,000 employees in the United States and sells its vehicles through a network of 1,000 dealers.