With the proposed ban on petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, electric vehicles are being heralded as the future of the industry. An electric version of the Volkswagen campervan is one of the most recent announcements. The vehicle will go on sale in 2022 and have 270 miles of range in its battery pack.
The VW campervan, commonly known as the Volkswagen Type 2, is an icon of the 1960s counterculture movement. It has a reputation as one of the most memorable vehicles of all time, and we’re taking a look back at its history.
The origin of the Type 2 can be traced back to Dutch VW importer Ben Pon, who saw a market for a small van and sketched out his concept in 1947. Volkswagen engineers further developed the concept and created a prototype known as the Type 29. It had a boxy design that provided inspiration for the Type 2.
The aerodynamics of the first prototype was poor, but engineers used the wind tunnel at the Technical University of Braunschweig to improve the design. Splitting the windshield helped to make the vehicle more aerodynamic and became a distinguishing feature of future models.
In 1950, the first generation of the VW Type 2 was introduced. Along with the split screen, it featured a 1100 cc VW air-cooled engine.
A hippie icon
The Type 2 gained many nicknames, such as a ‘splitty’ and ‘split screen.’ In the US, it became known as a hippie van because it was used to transport groups of young people to concerts and anti-war demonstrations. Some drivers painted colourful murals on their vans and replaced the VW logo with a peace symbol. This iconography became a staple part of the 1960s.
Second generation and beyond
In 1967, the Type 2 underwent a few changes, the most notable of which was losing the split windshield. The battery and electrical system was upgraded to 12 volts, meaning it was incompatible with accessories from the previous generation.
The next major change came in 1979, with the introduction of the T3. It was larger and heavier than previous models and had square corners instead of rounded edges.
The VW Type 2 has remained popular the world over. While the new electric version may become more efficient, there’s a timelessness about the classic model that will never be replaced.