It looks like the legendary "hippie van" of the 1960s, but the iPad-powered Volkswagen Bulli concept electric van turned a lot of heads Wednesday when it was shown off at the New York International Auto Show.
Peek inside the compact van and sitting innocently inside on a dock built next to the steering wheel you'll find an Apple iPad tablet. Its purpose? To serve as the main control center for the entire vehicle. While the dock itself has buttons for the heating and air-conditioning systems and the hazard lights, the iPad controls the navigation system, the media center and Bluetooth-assisted hands-free communications. Of course the iPad can also handle thousands of iPad-friendly applications, very few of which should be used while driving.
The Bulli resembles the popular Volkswagen bus first built in 1950. "Bulli" was the German name for the van, officially called the "Transporter 1" or "T1" in the U.S., but American drivers usually referred to the long, boxy van simply as the "bus" or "microbus."
The electric Bulli, which has a cruising range of up to 186 miles, is powered by a motor that can generate 85 kilowatts of power and 199 pound-feet of torque. Its lithium ion battery has a storage capacity of 40 kilowatt hours, according to Volkswagen, and can be charged in as little as an hour at special "electric refueling stations."
The red and white Bulli on the show floor was 13 feet long, 5.7 feet wide and 5.5 feet high, which is wider and shorter than the old "bus." It can go from zero to 62 mph in 11.5 seconds and has a top speed of 87 mph, according to Volkswagen.
While the Bulli concept vehicle is all electric, the shell could also be designed with a standard gas-powered engine, said Volkswagen. While it may never make it to market, the Bulli is being showcased as an example of where Volkswagen would like to go in the future in terms of using alternative fuels, said CEO Jonathan Browning.
The "bus" was popular among young drivers in the 1960s and was often seen in great numbers at large concerts such as Woodstock because of the number of passengers that could be creatively stuffed inside. It also starred in major motion pictures, most notoriously in comedy duo Cheech & Chong's "Up in Smoke," in which a bus made completely out of marijuana was openly smuggled from Mexico to Los Angeles.
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