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New Volkswagen California Concept previews plug-in hybrid campervan

Volkswagen Multivan will spawn a plug-in hybrid family-friendly camper due in 2024

Volkswagen has presented the “California for tomorrow” – a camper concept based on the T7 Multivan – at the Caravan Salon trade fair in Düsseldorf. The California Concept is a near-production-ready version of the forthcoming next-generation camper, and will be offered with a plug-in hybrid powertrain for the first time.

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Featuring a two-tone blue and white paint job, visual changes versus the existing Multivan are minimal. A pop-up roof has been added, as well as an awning on one side and a smaller ‘sun sail’ on the other. Longer and wider than its T6.1 predecessor, the new model also gets sliding doors on both sides, which VW says allows for “extended use of the space around the vehicle”. Volkswagen calls this its ‘Three Zone Concept’.

Inside, there is a kitchen area with an induction hob, fridge and plenty of clever storage solutions. Like in the existing California, the front seats rotate 180 degrees, while the rear seats can be lifted out completely or folded flat to make a double bed. The seats are covered in a “hard-wearing and haptically pleasant fabric” according to Volkswagen. An additional bed is found in the roof.

There is apparently more space inside, providing room for a removable dry-composting toilet behind the front seats. There’s a foldable table inside, as well as a pop-out table and chairs for use outside. There’s ambient lighting for the interior and exterior to “suit individual moods”.

The T7 California Concept comes with a pop-out tablet mounted on the C-pillar. This controls myriad features from the pop-up roof to the interior lighting, while also allowing owners to monitor fresh and waste water levels, power supply status – as well as giving remote access to the refrigerator temperature and auxiliary heater. This screen also acts as an entertainment unit, and can be attached to a rotating arm to stream movies and TV shows in the van. 

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While engine and powertrain specs haven’t yet been revealed, Volkswagen has confirmed the production version will become a reality in 2024 with “all drive systems of the Multivan”. That should mean a choice of 1.5 and 2.0 TSI petrol engines, a 2.0-litre TDI diesel, and – for the first time in a California – a 1.4-litre petrol-electric plug-in hybrid.

Assuming this uses the existing system unchanged, expect the 13kWh battery to deliver an electric-only range of around 30 miles – or a little less given the camper’s likely heavier kerbweight. Different drive modes will be available, including a battery save function to hold the electric power for use in cities or, perhaps more appropriately, camp sites.

Volkswagen had previously spoken about the California in its 2022 financial results statement, saying: “VW will build out the great success of its California model range by adding digital features and services to create a “California Universe”. That “California Universe'' could lay the foundations of a broader California-badged range. Currently there’s just Transporter-based California, and smaller Caddy California within Volkswagen’s ranks, but we expect camper versions of VW’s electric range – particularly the ID.Buzz – to join at a later date. 

The reveal of the production version of the California Concept is expected towards the end of the year and Volkswagen plans on putting it on sale in the UK just before summer 2024. Prices are yet to be revealed, but expect a modest increase on the outgoing T6.1’s £61,322 starting price. California residual values are historically among the very best of any vehicle on sale, and it’s likely the T7 will continue this trend. 

Click here for our list of the best family caravans...

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Deputy editor

Richard has been part of the team for over a decade. During this time he has covered a huge amount of news and reviews for Auto Express, as well as being the face of Carbuyer and DrivingElectric on Youtube. In his current role as deputy editor, he is now responsible for keeping our content flowing and managing our team of talented writers.

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