By: IOL Motoring Staff

Las Vegas, Nevada - Volkswagen calls this a gateway to the future; it is, however, more a signpost to where Wolfsburg sees the car in 10 years' time.

The Budd-e electric minivan is an interactive personal space that focuses more on connecting to the virtual world than moving through the real one.

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The nuts and bolts of it is a new platform called the Modular Electric Drive Kit, with a 100kW/200Nm electric motor driving the front wheels and a second, 125kW/290Nm motor on the rear axle to give it permanent all-wheel drive.

Volkswagen quotes 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 180, powered by a 92.4kWh lithium-ion battery built into the floor that gives it a range of up to 533km, according to NEDC projections, although the EPA's real-world driving estimate of around 370km is probably closer to the mark.

Size-wise, it's about midway between the Touran and the new T6 - although wider than either - with a full-size tailgate and a sliding door on the passenger side.

THE ‘INTERNET OF THINGS’

But what's important about this concept is the merging of car control and connectivity, as the car takes its place in the ‘Internet of Things’. As on a modern smartphone or tablet, there are no buttons or switches.

Individual displays (and the rear-view mirrors!) are replaced by a full-width infotainment panel displaying exactly what you need to see right now, with a navigation map as big as the whole dashboard on a conventional car permanently in the background.

The multifunction steering wheel has no switches; when you touch the correct spot on the smooth operating surface you feel a 'click' feedback, and when you operate that function you feel a second, stronger click.

None of which, says Volkswagen, is science fiction - it can all be done using existing technology.

THE KONNECTED KOMBI

The BUDD-e is also part of the internet, allowing the occupants to access their homes and workplaces remotely, using App Connect - Volkswagen's interface for all Apple and Android smartphones - to control the air conditioning system, turn the lights on or off, or simply take a look online to see if the kids are home yet.

It can also check what's in your fridge, put the whole house into energy-saving standby mode, or switch on the driveway and stoep lights just before you get there. It can even display images from cameras mounted in and around the house, so that if a visitor rings the doorbell at home, an image of them is sent to the car's dashboard.

You can talk to them using the car's hands-free system and, if you want, open the door for them.

The BUDD-e can also remind you by sending a message to your watch or phone, if you've left something behind in the car or, if rain is forecast, remind you that there isn't an umbrella in the car. By reading a little 'smart' sticker on each item it can even do a pre-trip inventory of everything you've packed aboard.

It may sound a bit Big-Brother-ish but it's a lot better than discovering you've forgotten the baby's disposal nappies at home when you're hours from anywhere!

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