After watching the Faraday Future roll out at CES 2016 I was a little disappointed. Mostly, because they did such a good job of ratcheting up the anticipation. I applaud them throwing their hat in the ring and contributing to the evolution of our commute and sustainability by introducing integration, but an elitist concept car left me flat. Conversely, I was really impressed with Volkswagen’s introduction of the Budd-e.
Granted, this is a concept car, but the fact that VW is the largest producer of cars in the world, it doesn’t take much to imagine their car being in mass production in 2017. They also have a headstart by virtue of designing a similar, gas powered version, the Bulli, in 2011 that never made it to market. The Budd-e will certainly make it to market, if for no other reason than Volkswagen is trying to recover from its emissions scandal.
My disappointment with Faraday Future’s concept car, the Zero1, came from its lack of mass appeal. It seemed like it should only be driven by billionaire superheros. Conversely, the Budd-e has a practical feel. It’s certainly exotic, being fully electric with integrated technology, but there is still a feeling that a common person with common aspirations and a normal job could and would own one.
The Budd-e and Zero1 are not completely unalike, however. It’s even possible that VW may have inspired a Faraday Future’s concept, multi-use platform which is a large part of the excitement created by the Budd-e. VW used the MQB platform for cars from the Golf to the Tiguan. This was a unique and innovative approach that massively improved efficiency and scalability. It really surprising that other car companies haven’t followed suit on this approach. VW indicated that they will continue to use this multipurpose platform approach with the Budd-e breaking the new ground, and other models to follow.
VW claims that the Budd-e will get 233 miles per charge(some report 373, but I’m sure that’s kilometers), be rechargeable to 80% in 20 minutes and have a top speed over 90 MPH. These are all projections, and there are certainly doubters, but math and German engineering are behind the claims. The math doesn’t have to be that advanced either. The vehicle has a large base area, which will be comprised of the battery pack. With a large area, there is a large capacity for energy storage. And because it only reaches a top speed of just over 90 MPH instead of 150-200 like Teslas and the ostensible Zero1, the energy density can be configured for max distance instead of high speed.
Some of the ‘wow’ features of the car include various methods to communicate with the Budd-e’s intelligent operating system. The system responds to voice commands, and hand gestures. The Budd-e has no door handles, because the car opens and closes based on commands. The internal technology syncs devices to the automobile’s interface so that the individual device isn’t necessary.
Virtually everything in the Budd-e operates from voice commands or hand gestures. There are no knobs or dials. The inside of the Budd-e is designed to encourage interaction. Not only does the minibus sync devices into its system so you don’t need a tablet in your face, but the seats are aligned for to create a conversational space. Instead of rows of seats where everyone faces the front, the Budd-e’s seats are configured so that all the passengers can look at each other (I suspect that the driver’s seat will be able to pivot as well once driverless automation is approved).
All of these design features create a car that is desireable, beyond the fact that it is an electric vehicle with good range. Tesla created this model of designing attractive electric cars that can be bought on face value and oh by the way we’re saving the planet.