Volkswagen to electrify its California camper van (update)

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is gearing up to unveil the newest generation of the California camper van at the Caravan Salon trade fair in Düsseldorf later this month. As the first teaser images reveal, the lifestyle van is, as usual, based on the long Multivan. It aims to bring unique features to its class, from innovative ideas to a plug-in hybrid driveline.

While many eyes are set on the camper version of the all-new and fully electric ID. Buzz, the legacy series, continues on its path. And for a good reason, as the ID. Buzz California won’t be available for a decent time to come. Maybe not even before 2030.

Too heavy

A quick note on the ID. Buzz version first. While development continues, the launch has been delayed because of weight issues. If equipped with the same gear and tools as the Multivan California, the ID.Buzz for campers would easily put three tons on the scales, jeopardizing the payload and making it no longer eligible for drivers with a B-license. They would have to leave all their luggage at home – not handy for a leisure vehicle.

Volkswagen hasn’t abandoned the project of an ID.Buzz California – the model was officially announced in December 2021, but won’t commit to a deadline. According to the German website Edison, it seems unsure whether it will arrive within this decade. The German carmaker awaits further battery development, set to shed some weight on the current generation packs.

Post-lockdown Zeitgeist

So, the van life crowd must settle for the Multivan version. As Volkswagen Commercial released the latest T7 two years ago, time is now due for the California spin-off aimed at adventurers, hikers, and lovers of the outside. The current edition is based on the 6.1, a facelift of the previous generation.

As the market for these recreational vehicles is set to boom significantly, partly boosted by a post-lockdown Zeitgeist propagating epicurism and the growing culture of van life, Volkswagen has an edge on its new-bred competitors from Fiat (Ducato Camper), Ford (Transit Custom Nugget), and Renault (Trafic Spacenomad). The new camper builds on a heritage stretching back 35 years.

Plug-in hybrid

Final pictures and a preview model will be shoved under the spotlights during the Caravan Salon fair at the end of the month (as of the 25th of August). We know the model will have an all-electric range from a plug-in hybrid driveline.

Presumably, this is the 1.4-unit gasoline assisted by an electric motor and a battery pack, as found on numerous other PHEVs from Volkswagen. And the regular Multivan, where the system delivers 218 hp, CO2 emissions of 34 g/km, is mated to a robotized gearbox.

As California carries some heavy furniture in the back, emission and acceleration performance is expected to worsen. But it should be better than most competitors, which don’t offer an electrified driveline. Seeing if the system will fit with a DC charging socket will be interesting for a traveler.

Double sliding doors

Inside, California will be equipped with an extractable roof, freeing up a head clearance of two meters. The cabin will be controlled and monitored by tablet functionality and features an independently powered refrigerator. Volkswagen also hints at double sliding doors, which would be a world first for a compact camper.

Volkswagen will start to build the Multivan California in its factory for commercial vehicles in Hanover as of 2024. The show vehicle is still a concept. Over four generations, more than 260 000 units of this compact camper van have been sold. It’s the most successful camper of all time.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen is already working on the T8 version of the Multivan. This future version is based on the building blocks of the Ford Transit, following an industrial partnership between the two brands.


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