VW ID. Buzz Gets Ready for Medical Duty

Photo credit: VW
Photo credit: VW
  • VW exhibits ID. Buzz paramedic vehicle by Bösenberg at IAA Transportation in Frankfurt, Germany.

  • The prototype previews an electric paramedic vehicle of a type used in Germany, which does not feature equipment as extensive as ambulances for critical patient transport.

  • The automaker plans to build several versions of the ID. Buzz for commercial use, though paramedic vehicles are typically built by specialist firms.

Even before the ID. Buzz arrived in production form, we knew it wouldn't be long before we'd see several types of professional vehicles based on the retro-styled electric van. In fact, VW planned several different versions of the ID. Buzz, with the Cargo panel van revealed first, followed by a Level 4 autonomous vehicle, set to enter production in 2024.


But before the autonomous ride-sharing version arrives, we've gotten a preview of the ID. Buzz in medical scrubs.

Say guten tag to the ID. Buzz in Notarzt spec, which is Germany's equivalent of an emergency physician's vehicle, albeit a bit different from a paramedic or Rettungssanitäter. Outfitted by ambulance specialist Bösenberg, the vehicle was revealed at the IAA Transportation in Frankfurt this month by Volkswagen commercial vehicles. It's not quite an ambulance, but something just below it in equipment and purpose.

With a top range of 260 miles and a length of just 16 feet, the ID. Buzz is certainly large enough to be a paramedic vehicle in Germany, as this role tends to be filled by compact and midsize station wagons, or at least it did when station wagons were more plentiful. Unlike most station wagons that haven't been converted to a taller roof, the ID. Buzz has enough room for a gurney, though not enough room for paramedics to stand up inside or move around easily, making the ID. Buzz more suited for non-critical patient transport.

We asked a paramedic in Europe what he thought of the specs of the ID. Buzz on paper, and whether it would make a suitable ambulance.

"Without a taller roof, it can certainly be what the Germans call Notarzt," Alex the paramedic tells us. "But in Germany and other countries, at the moment they're really using vehicles far larger in size and far taller, and we do too. We have the tall (Mercedes-Benz) Sprinters and (Ford) Transits. Some of them are not really that much longer than five meters like the Buzz, but they are taller and we need bin space on two sides around the patient. If the Buzz was longer by a meter and taller by half a meter, it could work, but it seems better suited for paramedic work. We had station Jettas (station wagons) for this work too, just for house calls."

And what about the range?

"The range is fine. We don't do 400 kilometers (249 miles) in a day, but some of it (energy) will be eaten up by the electronics in these. But they'd have to be plugged in between shifts, won't they? I mean, they use much smaller cars for this work in Germany, Touaregs too, which we had a couple of at one point. And that couldn't carry a bed inside anyway. So these will be okay."

"We don't have too many vans of this type at the moment. Everything is basically a lot larger or a lot smaller for house calls," Alex adds. "We had smaller wagons about 15 years ago—they were made in the late 1990s—and we actually got those by getting used Notarzt wagons from Germany."

Of course, the debut of this van in Europe for paramedic work and the debut of EVs stateside for similar work are two different things. At the moment, it's mostly the Ford Explorer that fills this niche at stateside hospitals, in addition to Ford trucks that carry gear, but don't actually carry patients.

VW decided some time ago not to offer the ID. Buzz Cargo stateside, likely judging it to be too small for commercial van owners, so the odds of us seeing an ID. Buzz paramedic car stateside are rather slim. But the odds of us seeing a battery-electric ambulance in the next five years are... not bad actually, once specialist firms get their hands on electric Ford Transits, which are certainly large and tall enough to be converted into ambulances.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned