The classic Volkswagen Beetle from the 1960s and 1970s was powered by an air-cooled four-cylinder engine that made roughly 40 horsepower when new, all while spitting fumes into the air every second of its lifetime.
In other words, it’s not exactly environmentally friendly, which is why several companies out there offer EV conversions for the iconic German two-door. However, some of these companies are asking a pretty penny for their precision work, like the $20,000 for the kit from EV West or the much more expensive conversion from Volkswagen itself, which includes the battery and powertrain from an e-up.
But don’t fret, because there’s always China and the ever-so-popular Alibaba online marketplace, where one could find everything from run-of-the-mill nuts and bolts to lasers, lathes, and – you guessed it – bolt-in EV conversions for the classic VW Beetle.
Initially spotted by Jason Torchinsky from The Autopian, who owns a 1973 Beetle, one of the cheapest Chinese conversion kits costs just $2,000 and includes a 15-kilowatt (20-horsepower) electric motor, a controller, a charger, an accelerator pedal, and an add-on instrument cluster that can display the speed and the state of charge.
Torchinsky reckons that the motor bolts directly to the rear transaxle of the classic Beetle, which is what specialist companies from the 1970s and 1980s have been doing, but back then there was the problem of fitting heavy lead-acid batteries wherever there was any available space.
This Chinese kit doesn’t come with any batteries and the system requires a 96-volt pack, which isn’t very common, but then again, it shouldn’t be impossible to find.
It’s worth noting that 20 hp isn’t anything to write home about, but maybe the instantaneous torque will make up for the lower output compared to the original powertrain. Plus, there’s the obvious advantage of not putting any nasty gasses into the atmosphere, which is a great feeling to have.
There are other variants available on Alibaba that go up to about $5,000 and bring more power, although – just like the $2,000 version – they all seem to be universal products that can also be used on golf carts, scooters, and other low-speed vehicles. Is that good, or is that bad? Let us know what you think in the comments below.