Volkswagen has announced a new way for vintage Beetle owners to convert their cars to battery electric power. The automaker is partnering with a German firm called eClassics that will actually perform the retrofits, while VW will provide the batteries and powertrain.
VW says it’s already working on an electric conversion solution for vintage microbuses, too. Beyond that, “[a]n e-Porsche 356 could also be pursued in the future,” board member Thomas Schmall says. The German automaker says it’s even considering how it might use the modular MEB platform that will power many of its forthcoming electric cars in future conversions.
Instead of mating new electric motors and batteries to the cars’ existing drivetrains, as many upstart retrofit shops do, VW is providing eClassics with a new single-speed powertrain borrowed from the automaker’s E-Up! electric city car. The battery will have a total capacity of 36.8 kWh, which VW says should be good for around 200 kilometers (124 miles) of range.
80 horsepower, and about 124 miles of range
The resulting retrofit Beetles will be able to make about 80 horsepower, and go from 0 to 80 kilometers per hour (about 50 miles per hour) in around eight seconds. And as the folks over at Jalopnik noticed, the weight distribution of the modern electric drivetrain should not only improve handling, but will also free up some storage space.
The German company is not the first automaker to offer a way for owners of vintage cars to convert to electric. Aston Martin announced a “Heritage EV” program in 2018 where owners can convert their classic Astons to electric. Jaguar announced a similar conversion kit effort a few weeks later, which leverages the technology from its first EV, the I-Pace.
These conversions tend not to be cheap, but they’re a particularly interesting option in Europe, where a number of major cities are restricting or outright banning diesel engines from their downtown areas. VW didn’t announce pricing, availability, or mention which models its keen to retrofit, though it did show off an already-converted 1973 Super Beetle convertible, and promised more details at next week’s Frankfurt Motor Show.
Tinkerers and small companies have been converting gas cars to electric for years, as we explored in a recent piece about California shops Zelectric Motors and EV West. But now that major automakers are getting on board with the trend, expect to see more projects like these crop up in the near future.