Zelectric Bug is the EV Beetle for a New Generation
In the 1960s, a generation of Americans adopted a funny little German car, which would go onto become the defining image of the decade. That car was the Volkswagen Beetle. While the venerable Beetle hasn’t really ever disappeared from our roads, much less our pop culture, there’s a new Bug on the scene and it’s backing up its retro looks with new-age technology to boot. Except it’s not from Germany. RELATED: Take a look back in time at the iconic 1960s Volkswagen Beetle
It’s from San Diego. Meet the Zelectric Bug, your classic Volkswagen Beetle with an all-electric heart transplant. Created by Bonnie Rodgers and David Benardo, co-founder’s of Zelectric Motors, the Zelectric Bug is a 21st century answer to the problem, "How do I keep my classic car up and running?"
For Benardo, that answer was simple and just happened to be green as well. Benardo and team replaced the old air-cooled flat-four engine with a torquey 3-phase electric motor, now producing 110 lb-ft of torque and more than double the Beetle’s original horsepower. Out front, a bank of lithium-ion batteries – expected to last an estimated 160,000 miles – have replaced the gas tank.
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Ingeniously, the electric motor has been retrofitted to bolt right up to the stock Volkswagen four-speed manual transmission, giving drivers the option to shift in and out of gears for quick acceleration. Conversely, drivers can simply leave it in third gear and cruise around effortlessly, if they wish.
Though the neatest aspect of the Zelectric Bug might not be its new heart, but the way it has been delivered. The company makes no cuts or welds in their EV conversion process, which helps to preserve the visual integrity of the classic VW design. Improved brakes, shocks, sway bars, LED lights, and a digital fuel gauge help complete the subtle package.
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On the road, drivers can expect anywhere between 80 and 110 miles per charge, with range dependent on driving behavior. Happily, the Zelectric Bug isn’t what you’d call slow. Benardo tells us it can hit top speeds well into the 90 mph range and cruise around happily at 70-80 mph in fourth gear.
Desperately want one yet? Well, soon you can make that dream a reality. Benardo shared with us that turnkey Zelectric Bug sedans will retail for a base price of $45,000, and that the company has two special models nearing completion that will be offered for sale shortly – a ’66 Midnight Black sedan and a ’59 Italian Racing Silver ragtop.
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Soon enough, Zelectric will begin taking offers on converting customer cars as well, which will start at around $28,000. But best of all, the company says it can retrofit a slew of similarly manual transmission equipped vehicles from the period, including Karmann Ghias, Meyers Manxes, and VW Microbuses.
Imagine scooting around in a torquey EV Porsche 356 or even a Volkswagen Syncro Westfalia campervan. Internet, what would you have Zelectric Motors electrify?
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