The Verge Explores The Art Of Converting Old Volkswagens To Electric (w/video)

2 years ago by Steven Loveday 19

Zelectric Motors specializes in converting vintage Volkswagen from the 50s and 60s into fully-electric vehicles. CEO, David Benardo explains:

VW Interior Fully Restored, Source: Zelectric Motors

VW Interior Fully Restored, Source: Zelectric Motors

“I wanted a VW that was quick, fun, and wouldn’t leave you stranded on the side of the road. An electric powertrain proved to be the best solution. It works magically well with a 50-year-old design. The sweet spot is between ‘58 and ’66.”

The company has tapped into a very specialized and successful market. Benardo says they can convert approximately 10 cars per year. The Beetle Sedan costs $68,000, the convertible $88,000, and the micro bus $130,000. Included in the prices is the original car, as well as full restoration. Many additional options are offered as well.

Zelectric is located near San Diego in Oceanside, California. All the conversion work is done in a small garage at an industrial park. Matt Hauber, long-time EV enthusiast, is the main engineer doing most of the labor. From start to finish, each car takes 4 to 6 months.

The Beetle is said to have a range of 80 to 100 miles and can reach 100 miles per hour. Benardo says the electric motor, “puts out the equivalent of 85 horsepower and 120 pound-feet of torque, a sizable upgrade on the original.” The car keeps its original manual transmission.

The Microbus has less range and speed, but still is much more responsive and powerful than in its original form. Front windows can be pushed open and the canvas top can be rolled up, opening the whole top of the bus. There are two bench seats in back, with the middle one serving as the battery compartment. The bus has plenty of room.

Zelectric is bringing together vintage and future, and helping the environment at the same time! These retro conversions are truly remarkable, though perhaps a bit too pricey for most of us.

Source: The Verge

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19 responses to "The Verge Explores The Art Of Converting Old Volkswagens To Electric (w/video)"

  1. Nix says:

    Before anybody complains about 100 MPG being “low”, stock VW Beetles of that era with gas engines can’t even go that fast at all.

    1. evcarnut says:

      No offence Everyone Needs to make a living , These prices are “INSANLEY LUDICRUS” & the range sucks , There is so much variety out there for these prices….

      1. fotomoto says:

        Not only that, those are some of the most unsafe vehicles still on the road. Check out their crash test videos some time: https://youtu.be/YRbwTutw-Hk

        1. evcarnut says:

          The new Hi-Tec VW mini electric Bus will have lots of range (300+miles) @ Half the Price Or Less of this 0LD Death trap..

      2. SJC says:

        The company making electric Corvettes is of interest to me.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Nix said:

      “Before anybody complains about 100 [MPH] being ‘low’, stock VW Beetles of that era with gas engines can’t even go that fast at all.”

      Actually, I was wondering if it was safe to drive a Beetle at that speed. They certainly weren’t designed to go that fast!

  2. Three Electrics says:

    In the early 2000s I planned to concert and old Karmann Ghia to electric. It would have been called the Karmann Electra. Alas, it did not come to pass.

    1. Zukidrvr says:

      Someone in the Portland, OR area beat you to it several years ago. It was a beautiful conversion with custom badging to match.

  3. Roy LeMeur says:

    Correction… battery upgrade is on a Kurbwatt mail van and not Karmann Eclectric.

  4. SparkEV says:

    I wonder if SparkEV EV drivetrain can be adopted to other vehicles. Then it’s 100 kW + 400 ftlb of torque, no gearbox needed. Even buying new SparkEV and stripping it out, it’d be cheaper than $68K.

    Maybe someone with enterprising resources could make EV1 replica with SparkEV drive train.

    1. Seth says:

      You could buy a old i-Miev and get completely authentic 60 hp to match the looks 🙂

      The large cells from the i could possibly made to fit too. If you could find another salvage job it would be possible to get double the capacity for 10k $ a piece.

    2. goodbyegascar says:

      SparkEV:

      I pondered that very same conversion!

      The substructure should come from a GEO Storm coupe, with handmade fiberglass panels designed to copy the look of the original EV1.

      The greenhouse and overall proportions would be slightly “off,” but it’s as close as you could get, I think

      It would be fun to show up at GM headquarters with an EV1 “zombie!”

  5. Speculawyer says:

    “The Beetle Sedan costs $68,000, the convertible $88,000, and the micro bus $130,000.”

    Holy smokes!

  6. David says:

    I remember a self-deprecating billboard ad from VW years ago when they reintroduced the (new) Beetle. It read “Zero to 60 . . . Yes!”

  7. Bill Howland says:

    I cringe every time I see these guys doubling the horse power on the original clutch and transmission.

    Since they are using all 6 volt cars, why not just put in a motor equivalent to the gas one, put in the amount of batteries the customer wants, and put in a 6 volt supply to run the original equipment?.

    If they want a car that will REALLY last they wont be abusing stuff like that. Even a company like Tesla has had problems with failing gear boxes.

  8. Toolmanjack says:

    Here in Holland we build also old Cars with electric engines. If you want an old VW Beetle Convertible it will cost you only 20.000 – 25.000 Dollar!
    http://Www.stormemotorbikes.nl

    1. Bill Howland says:

      Very Nice….. Any chance of putting the Website in English?

  9. Gsned57 says:

    I’ve got a 72 super beetle convertible rusti… Appreciating that I plan on converting myself. Personally I’d like to find a donor that I could just steal the entire chassis from. The body of a beetle and bus come right off without too much trouble. I could get a used leaf or miev for $7k or a wrecked one cheaper but unfortunately the wheel base is off a good deal. It’ll get done eventually. If anyone knows someone who’s done this already I’d love to see an example.