Zelectric turns classic Volkswagens into electric cars (w/Video)

Modern electric cars make for sensible, efficient transportation, but every car fan knows that classic cars have a certain personality that newer models just can’t match. So what do you if you want the style and fun of an old car, but with a modern electric powertrain?

There are actually a few companies that will install electric powertrains in vintage cars. One of them is San Diego-based Zelectric, which specializes in 1950s and 1960s Volkswagens, as detailed in a recent profile by The Verge. The converted cars still look like the originals, but they run a bit quieter.

With its California location, Zelectric seems to have hit a sweet spot between Californians’ interest in environmentalism, and their love of VW Beetles and Microbuses. The company converts about 10 vehicles a year, at prices that reflect the demand for classic Volkswagens in the Golden State. Beetle conversions range from $68,000 for a sedan to $88,000 for a convertible, while buses run as much as $130,000.

When it comes to Beetles, Zelectric prefers to work on models built between 1958 and 1966. A typical conversion includes an electric motor making 85 horsepower and 120 pound-feet of torque, meaning an electric Beetle should have substantially better performance than a stock model with the air-cooled flat-four gasoline engine. The company says its electric Beetles average 80 to 100 miles of range, with a top speed of 100 mph.

Unlike most modern electric cars, these Beetles also have multi-speed transmissions. Zelectric retains the factory-stock manual transmission, with the stock gearing. The electric motor’s instant torque means relatively little shifting is actually required; the car can move away from a stop in second or third gear, and reach 50 mph in third. The clutch is only used for shifting, not stopping and starting, making negotiating city traffic a lot easier.

With classic styling and the efficiency of modern electric powertrains, Zelectric’s electrified Volkswagens seem to be the best of both worlds. If you can afford one, that is.

Posted by Stephen Edelstein

Stephen's obsession with cars is almost too hard to quantify. From the latest electric car to the classics, he's interested in anything with four wheels. When he's not writing, he can be found searching the Internet for a car he hasn't seen before, or reading a good book. He has a Master's Degree in History from Clark University. He currently lives in Connecticut.

  1. This reminds me off Rebbl, a dutch company that converts classic cars to electric versions.

    They started with the VW bug and also did this “Electric Lovebus” van like this article:


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