Volkswagen Will Now Convert Classic Beetles To Electric Power Which Is Maybe Even Better Than A New EV Beetle

I knew that even though Volkswagen ended Beetle (including Beetle-dressed Golfs) production in July, they wouldn’t ever really be able to not build some sort of Beetle, and I think this announcement proves that to be correct. VW is partnering with German EV conversion company eClassics to do conversions of classic, air-cooled Beetles into EVs with modern electric drivetrains. The first one they’re showing is a 1973 Super Beetle convertible, and it looks fantastic.

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The really interesting part about all of this is how they’re doing the conversions. Unlike other vintage Beetle (and Bus, and Porsche 356, etc.) conversions we’ve seen before from companies like Zelectric that use an electric motor mated to the car’s existing transaxle and batteries placed in existing luggage areas, the VW/eClassic conversion is using the drivetrain from VW’s e-Up! city car.

From what I can see from VW’s press pictures, it appears that the whole e-Up! transverse drivetrain has been transplanted to the back of the VW chassis, replacing the whole longitudinal transaxle/engine setup.

It’s a very nice, tidy setup, and the e-Up!’s power pack fits remarkably well in the back of the Beetle. I can see that some extra motor mounts and supports have been added to the rear torsion tube housing, and the frame “horns” that once carried the transaxle have been cut off. New rear shock absorber mounts seem to be added as well.

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The drivetrain, being transverse, is a bit shorter than the original transaxle/flat-four setup, so its weight is more focused over the axle line, and as such is less of an “outboard” motor, which will likely improve handling a good bit.

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Not only that, the engine package is so compact, the former engine compartment is freed up for use as a second trunk! I’m not exactly sure how you access the engine, though—it seems to take up the area of the old interior rear luggage well, so maybe via pulling down the back seat?

Compared to other Beetle EV conversions, the battery installation is significantly better—instead of eating up the front trunk and rear luggage well, the batteries have been integrated into the Beetle’s platform chassis. There’s 14 battery modules, each making 2.6 kWh, for a total of 36.4 kWh.

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The power is significantly better than an original Beetle as well; here’s VW’s rundown on the specs:

The components from Kassel and Brunswick work together in the e-Beetle as an electric drive that reaches performance peaks of 60°kW /82°PS. The battery system is built into the underbody and consists of up to 14 modules, each with a capacity of 2.6 kWh. The lithium-ion battery modules cumulatively deliver energy of up to 36.8 kWh. The higher performance and the increased weight due to the extent of electrification require the adaptation and reinforcement of the chassis and the brakes. Despite the new total weight of 1,280 kg, the e-Beetle accelerates to 50 km/h in just under four seconds and to 80 km in just over eight seconds. The range of the e-Beetle, which reaches top speeds of up to 150 km/h, is 200 km – a comfortable distance for a relaxing day out in an electrified classic car. In the event that the e-Beetle runs out of electricity during the trip, the built-in series-produced components allow for fast charging via a combined charging system. As a result, the e-Beetle can store enough energy for a journey of over 150 km after charging for around an hour.

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So, let’s see what we have here—the electric motor makes just over 80 horsepower (fantastic for an old Beetle), and even though it’s over 1,000 pounds heavier at 2,821 pounds, but it’ll get to over 30 mph in under four seconds, to 50 in eight seconds, and I suppose 60 in a bit more than that. VW says it’ll do a 93 mph top speed, also better than the original.

The range those 14 batteries is about 124 miles—not amazing by current standards, but certainly not bad, especially for what is really a 1930s design converted to an EV.

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VW suggests that the same e-Up!-based conversion method should work on Buses or even a Porsche 356—really, any of VW’s air-cooled vehicles should work, since they all used effectively the same basic transaxle setup. So a Type 3 Squareback could get the EV treatment or a Ghia or even a Brasilia or whatever. A Type 4 may be a bit trickier, but I bet not much.

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Of course, they restored and upgraded everything else about the car, too, and the manner which they handled the aesthetics I think is great.

Body modifications have been kept to a minimum, with the only real visual clues being the skirt under the running board that I believe is part of the battery housing setup, but also may have some aero benefit as well. It looks cool, too.

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This car appears to be a 1973 curved-windshield Super Beetle (1303), though it does have the older taillights used from 1968 to 1970. These taillights hide a neat little trick, though, as the right-side light lifts to reveal the charging port.

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Are they hiding any cooling units behind the vented front valance? I like those sealed-beam replacement units, too. I’d love to see this thing up close. Remind me to pester VW’s PR people about that.

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The rear is sort of odd-looking to old-school VW nerds because of the lack of any cooling vents at all. It makes sense, as they’re not needed in this context, but it’s still oddly jarring.

One minor complaint, though: see those three dots under the e-Käfer decal? That’s where the old VOLKSWAGEN badge would have been mounted. After all this work, they couldn’t have filled in those holes? It seems like a weirdly minor thing they could have done instead of just plugging them with what looks like black rubber plugs.

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VW hasn’t released any pricing or availability information yet for their conversion service, but based on the quality of this conversion and the associated restoration and the significant changes made to the chassis, I suspect it will not be cheap.

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I’d love to do this to my old Beetle, kinda, but I don’t know if I can grow and sell enough kidneys in time. Overall, I think this is a great move for VW, at least until they wise up and make a modern, MEB-based mass-market EV Beetle.

So many Beetles were built that I think it’s just fine to convert a good number of them to EVs. And, if you have the money, this looks to be a pretty amazing conversion.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)