When you think of ‘camper van’ there’s always one that comes to mind first, and it always has the Volkswagen logo on the front of it. Since its inception in 1950, the Westfalia camper variant of VW’s vans has become the symbol of carefree living. And the German company has now updated its camper with a modern, electrified drivetrain – though it’s not exactly what you might think.
No, this isn’t the camper version of the all-electric ID.Buzz (more on that later). The Volkswagen California Concept is a plug-in electric hybrid (PHEV) based on the T7 Multivan, available in Europe. While VW doesn’t state the electric range of this California, the regular Multivan’s PHEV can go up to 50 km on a single charge before its 1.4L engine kicks in.
Of course, the highlight here is the pop-up roof, with an aluminum shell and three-ply bellows, automatically controlled with either a tablet in the rear or, of course, a smartphone app. It offers a bed that sleeps two, along with LED lights and USB ports.
Under that, Volkswagen has kept the kitchenette – complete with sink, induction stove and refrigerator – behind the driver’s seat (like all other VW camper vans before it), but slid it back just enough to allow access through a door on the left, for the first time. With the ability to prepare meals from either inside the vehicle or out, a large roll-out canopy protects the cook from the elements. There is another roll-out sunshade over the ride sliding door.
Two seats behind the front passengers can be removed for more room for cargo, while the rear seats fold down for an additional bed for two. And for the first time, there is room onboard for a removable camp toilet!
This California looks great, but you may be asking yourself, why didn’t Volkswagen build a camper based on the ID.Buzz? The company has confirmed it’s on hold because of a weight issue; with the required camper equipment and the 82 kWh battery, the all-electric version would weigh more than 3.5 tons – the normal, Category B driving licence in Europe has a vehicle weight limit of 3 tons, meaning Europeans would have to apply for a commercial-grade driving licence to drive an ID.Buzz camper.
While the Volkswagen California Concept is exactly that – just a concept – don’t fret if you’re a fan of the van life: the German company has confirmed it will become a reality in 2024.