Have an old VW Beetle from the 1960s or 70s laying around and want to convert it into an electric vehicle? It’s easier than you think, and cheaper, too. An electric conversion kit from Alibaba designed specifically for classic VW Beetles can nearly get you rolling for $2,000.
Electric conversions of classic cars are quite common, breathing new life into older vehicles yet without the environmental cost of those heavily polluting engines.
Air-cooled cars like a VW Beetle are some of the best options for conversion, and classic cars with simpler designs and roomier engine bays make it easy to perform custom work like this.
A new electric conversion kit designed for VW Beetles made from 1965 to 1975 takes advantage of those perks, offering a relatively easy way to get an old combustion engine car back on the road in fresh, electric glory.
The kit was first spotted by the Autopian‘s Jason Torchinsky, who seems to have as much fun dumpster-fire diving in Alibaba’s catalog as I do.
The design of the kit looks fairly straight forward. It includes a 15 kW electric motor that puts out around 20 horsepower. A 1965 VW Beetle of that era originally carried a 4-cylinder engine that produced closer to 40 horsepower, but electric motors feature much higher torque and thus are capable of producing higher performance than gasoline-powered engines even with lower power ratings.
The 48 kg (105 lb) motor appears to bolt straight onto the Beetle’s transaxle. It’s a simple approach – something has to spin that shaft and the car doesn’t care if it’s a motor powered by electrons or cancer-causing dead dinosaur juice. (This might not be the time for it, but here’s a friendly little reminder that your gasoline-powered car is literally giving your kids future cancer, and probably you, too).
In addition to the bolt-on electric motor, the Beetle conversion kit also includes the electronic speed controller and also a replacement (or rather add-on) digital dashboard with the new electric readouts.
One key aspect that seems to be missing though is the battery. This is very much a “batteries not included” type of deal.
You’ll need a 96V battery pack, which isn’t exactly something you can pick up at WalMart. But with several interesting US-based auto-battery resellers out there, you’ve still got a number of options.
As for a factory electric VW Beetle, don’t get your hopes up. VW threw cold water on the idea of ever making a new electric Beetle. The VW bus, though? That’s alive and well as a modern electric vehicle in the VW ID. Buzz.
This probably isn’t a good kit for you if an IKEA bookshelf assembly turns into a phone-a-friend situation, but it also won’t take a lifelong mechanic to install a kit like this due to the relatively simple design.
Compared to other kits in the US that can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, this one seems fairly compelling. That being said, I always advise caution when making big purchases from Alibaba. In fact, I usually advise to not do it. That hasn’t stopped several of my readers, but I still don’t think it’s worth risking thousands of dollars (and untold thousands more in shipping and customs fees) with untested online vendors from halfway around the world.
I’ve already got a fun little air-cooled Chinese EV of my own, so I don’t think I need to do any Beetle conversions at the moment. And if I did, I’d be on the lookout for a 1969 AMC AMX with a bad drivetrain anyway. Everyone has a Beetle. Give me something interesting.
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