Volkswagen’s American division has created a new concept vehicle with the help of its Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) facility in Palo Alto, California. The new concept is based on a 1964 Deluxe Microbus that’s been decked out with the latest electronic gear and labelled the Chameleon. The goal was to conserve the look of the original but incorporate as much new technology as possible.

Some of the new features include speech recognition, head-up displays and sensors, enhanced audio plus new solar power and battery technology. The Deluxe Microbus will always remain as a classic in the minds of California’s aging baby-boomers but now a new generation of hippies can fall in love with it.

The vehicle features 21 windows in addition to its soft-top canvas roof. The original VW engine has been replaced by an electric unit powered by lithium polymer batteries. Roof mounted surfboards have flexible solar panels for extra juice. The funky electric bus will be used as a public relations tool and was displayed at Boston’s AltWheels event last week.

High-res images and full press release after the jump.



PALO ALTO, Calif.—Volkswagen of America, Inc. is introducing an exciting new concept vehicle from its Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL), located in Palo Alto, California. The ERL has taken a 1964 Deluxe Microbus and retrofitted it with a collection of cutting edge technologies. Dubbed the “Chameleon”, this renovated bus contains projects developed by ERL engineers and external partners that explore novel design concepts for tomorrow’s cars.

With the goal of preserving the classic look of the Microbus, the theme of the concept vehicle is “Hidden Technologies.” This goal is appropriately parallel to Volkswagen’s continuous mission to develop technologies that enhance the driving experience while limiting driver distraction. The large size and unique layout of the Microbus provides a tremendous platform to creatively integrate many different technologies. A multitude of projects are showcased in the Chameleon, representing the latest advancements in the topics of audio, speech, sensors, displays, navigation, lighting, batteries, solar cells and much more.

In addition to being a cultural icon, the Deluxe Microbus carries a uniquely Californian flavor. With its 21 windows and soft-top canvas roof, the vehicle was a favorite of surfers and adventurers on the West Coast, and is considered a prized collector’s item today. Acknowledging California’s traditionally environmentally friendly attitude, the ERL collaborated with Hybrid Technologies ( to replace the original VW engine with an all electric drive engine powered by lithium polymer batteries. Surfboards mounted on the roof are also lined with flexible solar panels that provide an additional source of energy to this 100% electric vehicle.

The interior of the bus is full of surprises, with an interactive digital instrument cluster, imbedded capacitive touch-pads, digitally enhanced sound quality, exciting rear seat entertainment options, and speech activated controls available throughout the cabin. The exterior houses several exciting new approaches for keyless entry, LED lighting, wide-angle parking cameras, switchable glass and much more.

The Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory intends to use the Microbus as a public relations tool to showcase the potential future of automotive electronics set in the nostalgic package of this favorite old-timer. The Chameleon has already been showcased in Germany to Volkswagen executives and engineers. It will be making its North American public debut at the AltWheels event in Boston, MA on Friday, September 22, 2006.

About Electronics Research Laboratory:

The Volkswagen of America, Inc. Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) focuses on providing customers with smarter cars, sooner. It aims to identify new technologies and accelerate their development into future production vehicles. Located in Palo Alto, California, the ERL is a high-profile think-tank representing the Volkswagen Group in North America. Its presence in the heart of Silicon Valley allows the Volkswagen Group to work directly with the world's leading high-tech companies, start-ups, and universities. Working closely with these partners allows the ERL to design and develop innovative features and applications, which are then integrated with Group vehicles for evaluation and testing. For additional information please visit

Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is one of the world’s largest producers of passenger cars and Europe’s largest automaker. Volkswagen sells the Rabbit, New Beetle, New Beetle convertible, Jetta, GTI, GLI, Passat, Passat wagon, Touareg and Eos through more than 600 independent U.S. dealers.