It’s not exactly a surprise that Volkswagen plans to build a camper van version of the upcoming ID. Buzz electric van. Camping has been entwined in the model’s DNA since before it was even approved for production — the original 2017 concept was loaded with camper-friendly features. This week it got official, as Volkswagen AG’s supervisory board voted to green-light an ID. California camper van. Retro inspiration and futuristic tech promise to combine to make the ID. California an instant classic, a VW camper van that helps protect the remote, pristine spaces campers enjoy most.
Volkswagen has been hard at work expanding and improving the California lineup over the past few years. Just last year, it followed up on the new and improved T6.1 California with the all-new Caddy California mini-camper, eliminating the Caddy Beach and unifying its leisure vehicle lineup under the “California” name. Now, the company confirms an electric California will grow the family a little more during the second half of the decade.
“The ID. California based on the ID. Buzz will combine the ongoing trend towards mobile leisure arrangements with sustainable CO2-neutral mobility,” promises Dr. Carsten Intra, chairman of the VW Commercial Vehicles board of management.
An ID. California seems like a no-brainer, especially now at a time when the RV industry is enjoying historic success. In August, Germany’s Caravanning Industry Association (CIVD) announced that the first six months of 2021 were the country’s best sales half-year on record and predicted sales strength to continue into a record year.
Over in the US, where Volkswagen camper vans haven’t been available in decades but could potentially make a come back with the ID. California, the RV industry has already reached a record. The RV Industry Association reported that as of October RV manufacturers produced a total of 510,608 units, beating the 504,599 record set in 2017. Projections call for the 2021 total to exceed 600,000 units.
Volkswagen cites California-model sales strength in announcing plans for the ID. California, and whether or not that strength continues into the middle and later parts of the decade, a VW e-camper should shock new life into VW’s camper lineup, and maybe the market as a whole. The classic VW Westy pop-up van remains the poster child for the open-road #vanlife freedom of past, present and future, and the ID. California will combine that timeless branding with a clean, capable all-electric van platform.
ID. California development is just getting underway, so VW does not provide details on what the new camper van might look like, but the ID. Buzz concept and prototypes have been an absolute rolling laboratory for camper-friendly technologies and features. To start, electric powertrain technology will allow outdoor-loving adventurers to travel more quietly and cleanly through nature. With the potential addition of in-vehicle electrical outlets, large lithium battery packs can be used to power camping equipment, in addition to propulsion systems.
The compact, decentralized configuration of electric drives is also prized for opening up interior space, something especially valuable in a camper van that attempts to recreate the essential amenities of home inside a small vehicle interior. Perhaps the ID. California can follow the Grand California in offering a small bathroom, an amenity the popular midsize California famously lacks.
The original 2017 ID. Buzz concept made use of its flat floor and voluminous cabin for a camper-friendly layout with floor rail modularity, a removable position-adjustable table, fully folding second- and third-row seating, and swivel cab seats. A pop-up roof to complete an all-out retro-inspired e-camper van was missing, but a pop-top, perhaps optional, seems almost mandatory for the production ID. California since it’s an integral part of the VW camper van legend.
The ID. Buzz has also served as VW Commercial Vehicle’s autonomous driving test bed. In 2025, around the same time the ID. California will be pushing closer to market, VW-owned urban mobility company MOIA plans to launch an ID. Buzz-based autonomous ride-pooling service in Hamburg, Germany. ID. Buzz people-movers and camper vans won’t get that level of autonomous driving right away, but advancements in autonomous tech have intriguing implications for RVs, where they could define a more leisurely class of leisure vehicle.
Given that autonomous tech has been baked into the ID. Buzz’s design since it was but a wee concept car, we don’t see why it shouldn’t one day become one of the first fully autonomous electric RVs in the world. At that point, an ID. California owner would be able to begin a relaxing getaway immediately upon stepping inside the camper van, enjoying the scenery or playing games (probably cards and not horseshoes) while the autonomous drive system shuttles them effortlessly to camp. Bonus: the elimination of full-time driver controls would free up extra interior space.
Volkswagen will build the ID. California at its Hannover plant alongside ID. Buzz MPV and cargo van models, the new T7 Multivan and the Transporter T6.1. The production ID. Buzz van is on track to debut in 2022, several years ahead of the California e-camper variant.
Source: VW Commercial Vehicles