Volkswagen will offer all-electric conversion for vintage Beetles

An irony of the classic Volkswagen Beetle’s popularity among environmentally conscious drivers has been that those old coots, with their obsolete air-cooled and usually carbureted engines, produce choking amounts of pollution.

As Volkswagen endeavors to convert its modern fleet to electric drive as quickly as possible with modern EVs like the ID hatchback and the upcoming e-up! that will debut at next week’s Frankfurt Motor Show, the company is also tempting classic Beetle fans with the chance to modernize their Bugs.

In a collaboration with German specialist eClassics GmbH, Volkswagen Group Components supplies production parts for the electric drive and the battery system straight from the new e-up! for installation in the old Beetles.

“The electrified Beetle combines the charm of our classic car with the mobility of the future. Innovative e-components from Volkswagen Group Components are under the bonnet—we work with them to electrify historically important vehicles, in what is an emotional process,” stated Thomas Schmall, member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Group Components in a statement. “We are also providing Beetle owners with a professional conversion solution, using production parts of the highest quality.”

eKaefer e-Beetle
eKaefer e-Beetle

eKaefer e-Beetle

While it is no surprise that collectors who own classic Aston Martins can contemplate a reversible factory-engineered bolt-in EV conversion for their sports cars, electrifying a People’s Car that is likely old enough to collect Social Security might be a dubious financial move. The price for a turn-key electrified Beetle in Germany is the equivalent of $110,000.

In this case, VW will bolt your Beetle’s body onto a new platform with the electric drive system installed for the equivalent of $55,000, which is similar to the price of a conversion of an existing car by Zelectric Motors in San Diego, which charges $56,000. Or you can just buy the platform to install in your own car for $44,000.

The original Beetle’s modular construction—that made its platform so attractive as the foundation for kit cars, where a (usually) fiberglass body replaced the stock body atop the running platform—is executed in reverse in this case. Now the classic Bug’s body is retained, while all the new guts roll into place beneath it.

That same modularity makes the conversion suitable for other air-cooled Volkswagen models, so eClassics says that it is already working on a Bus conversion (and theoretically it could work on a Thing or a Karmann-Ghia). eClassics even has an its eye on the Porsche 356.

A key difference between the e-Beetle and currently available conversions from companies like EV West and Zelectric is that the e-Beetle is built using real Volkswagen hardware borrowed from the company’s newest electric production model.

eKaefer e-Beetle

The result of the e-Beetle conversion is a Bug with 80.5 electric horses, which is approximately twice as many as it originally had in the corral. The floor-mounted 14-module, 36.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack pushes the e-Beetle’s weight to 2822 pounds, so it is substantially heavier than the gas-powered version.

But the electric motor still has the oomph to push the similarly-sized e-up! to 62 mph in 11.9 seconds, and VW says the e-Beetle will reach a top speed of 93 mph. Zero-to-50 mph acceleration for the e-Beetle is rated at 8.0 seconds.

Driving range is 124 miles per charge, which is similar to that of a Nissan Leaf, for comparison’s sake. The e-up! charging equipment provided in the conversion permits quick charging that yields as much as 93 miles of driving range from an hour of charge time, according to VW.

eClassics is only offering the e-Beetle in Germany to start, but VW is preparing to expand the opportunity to other countries, according to spokesman Enrico Beltz. How many customers will see this fantasy through to fruition is an open question. Volkswagen will exhibit the e-Beetle at the Frankfurt show to promote interest, Beltz said. They haven’t forecast sales, but said it “depends on how many customers want to convert their Beetle to an e-Beetle,” rather than on any production constraint. “The interest is already great,” Beltz added.

Of course it’s great, and it represents the chance for Beetle-loving environmentalists to reconcile their passions. We’ll hold out for the twin-motor, all-wheel-drive Porsche 356 conversion. Surely that’s only a matter of time, right?

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