The classic Volkswagen hippie car is reborn, electrified – and yours for the weekend

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Finally, I knew what driving an ice cream truck was like. Behind the wheel of one of Volkswagen’s first all-electric campers, I’m the most popular guy on the road. Deep in the Sussex Downs, groups of men outside pubs huddle and point at each other. Camper mates say “Awesome!” At roundabouts. When my partner and I park, strangers pull over to ask if they can peek inside.

The truck has a lot of heritage to live up to. Launched in 1949, the VW Type 2 became an icon of the 20th century counterculture (the Type 1 was the Beetle). Vans were initially produced with or without seats, but other companies such as Westfalia and Dormobile soon added beds, cooking appliances and sometimes pop-up roofs to turn them into campervans – the perfect base for a surf safaris or alternative adventure. No wonder the truck became known as the mobile hippie.

It may come as a surprise that it took Volkswagen so long to capitalize on this cultural capital, but it was a rebirth 22 years ago. The company showed off its first retro-style Microbus concept car at the Detroit Auto Show in 2001 only for progress to stall, then shift focus to creating an electric-powered version. After three other teaser vehicles at the auto show, the first ID Buzz rolled off the production line late last year. And the waiting only built anticipation — even if the end result screamed more “yuppie” than “hippie.”

A woman starts a fire next to her Volkswagen Type 2 in the bush of Western Australia, circa 1970 © Popperfoto via Getty Images
Black and white photo of a man on top of a truck parked outside a store
English jazz musician Kenny Ball mounts a double bass to the roof of a Type 2 van in Soho, London, in 1961 © Popperfoto via Getty Images
A man sits inside a campervan, cooking over the stove, while a woman sits outside in the rain, holding a scarf over her head
A couple attending the Isle of Wight Festival in 1969 making the most of their VW campervan © Paris Match via Getty Images

From its vintage-inspired design cues to Bassett’s Allsorts color options and spacious interior, for affluent buyers with nostalgia, the car promises to be as much a sign of fun-loving environmental credentials as it is a useful way to get around. And they’re already buying them – in March, waiting lists for some specifications (including the base two-tone paint job) were reported to be as long as 18 months.

Like its predecessor, the ID Buzz comes with or without seats, but VW says it will launch its own campervan version, the ID California, in 2025. Until then, it’s once again up to third-party companies to take the Buzz and turn it into a car. The campervan – and this weekend I’m testing one of the oldest examples on the road, as well as the first UK model available for hire. The conversion was done by Sussex company Love Campers, and the van was hired (from £150 per night) by Brighton-based Wild Drives. (ID Buzz vehicles are also starting to become available from other rental companies internationally, including Siesta Campers in Portugal and Arctic Campers in Norway.)

View of the back of the campervan, with a seat with cushions and a yellow and white dresser
Love Campers has placed a solar stove, sink, refrigerator and foldable bed in the back of the truck, with a refrigerator under the sofa seat

After we made our way from Brighton seafront via Sussex to our campsite near Rye (where I saw a vintage 1990s camper van alongside the usual crowd of modern, luxurious Volkswagen California vans), we opened the Buzz’s cargo doors to check out Our house at night. Love Campers engineers placed a solar stove, sink, refrigerator and pull-out bed in the back of the truck, with a refrigerator under the sofa seat and several storage cabinets that can be crammed into the compact space. Finished in eco-friendly bamboo worktops and interior trim (plus soft bamboo bed covers), they are upscale yet undeniably subtle. There are no bathrooms here, and the small double bed is comfortable, so you’ll have to be somewhat fond of your travel partner.

In the driver’s seat, meanwhile, Volkswagen has put the bells and whistles. As an introduction to electric vehicle driving, ID Buzz is a revelation. It’s playfully and delightfully easy to drive. VW clearly knows this too; Our car has the accelerator and brake pedals stamped with play and pause icons.

A yellow truck on the road, visible through the windshield of the following vehicle
The ID Buzz has a wow factor when out on the road © Sandra Mickiewicz
A yellow truck is parked in a field.  A woman stands in the door of a truck, and a man walks towards her
Alexander Tyndall and his partner prepare for the night at a campsite near Rye © Sandra Mickiewicz

A stalk behind the steering wheel controls the driving mode (including nifty ‘regenerative braking’ which charges the battery while slowing down to boost range). With a 150kW engine, it’s very light despite its 2500kg weight, and feels nimble and stable on the road – in marked contrast to some of the original Type 2 models, which handled like a boat.

VW has long since mastered smartphone integration, and connecting my iPhone to CarPlay was seamless. The 10-inch touchscreen is easily accessible and is comfortably large enough to make reading maps a breeze. However, the standout feature is the optional active cruise control and lane keeping, keeping you a safe distance behind the car in front and driving happily. A claimed range of 250 miles or so on a charge is enough for a weekend getaway. The Buzz may not be the right choice for epic road trips across Europe, but it’s probably not big enough for that kind of trip anyway.

A person pours water from a yellow kettle into a cup
A welcome cup of tea after a full day of driving

There is a contradiction in all this, of course. It’s hard to claim that the free-loving spirit of the original campervan has been revived in a car whose cheapest commuter model starts at around £60,000, with campervan conversions running into the thousands on top of that. So the seamless integration of GPS and Spotify doesn’t conjure the same magic as a map with randomly marked ears in Peru and a transistor radio hanging from the rearview mirror.

I’m partly wondering if something essential has been lost along the way. But in the morning, with the kettle and cups safely stowed, we head east towards the endless pebbled beaches of Dungeness. I settle back into the driver’s seat, my partner puts on a #VanLife playlist, I switch the electric motor to Drive mode, step on the ignition pedal, and the roads open up before us. Our adoring fans are waiting. The Buzz is the perfect escape from everyday life – even if it’s just for a weekend.


Alexander Tindall was a guest on Wild Drives (, which offers ID Buzz campervan hire from £150 per night. Love Campers conversions from £17,000 ( Non-converted passenger versions of the Volkswagen ID Buzz cost from £58,915; Cargo versions start from £48,421

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