Automotive

Volkswagen e-Bulli: An all-electric 60s classic conversion you can buy

Volkswagen e-Bulli: An all-ele...
It's been 54 years since this T1 Samba Bus was first built. Now it's time for an electric refresh
It's been 54 years since this T1 Samba Bus was first built. Now it's time for an electric refresh
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Volkswagen has retrofitted a 1966 T1 Samba Bus with a modern chassis and an all-electric drivetrain. Meet the e-Bulli
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Volkswagen has retrofitted a 1966 T1 Samba Bus with a modern chassis and an all-electric drivetrain. Meet the e-Bulli
Headlights are LED beauties, but they don't ruin the look
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Headlights are LED beauties, but they don't ruin the look
83-horsepower electric drivetrain sits in the engine bay
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83-horsepower electric drivetrain sits in the engine bay
Range is around 124 miles from a 45 kWh battery pack. Aerodynamics are not the e-Bulli's strong point
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Range is around 124 miles from a 45 kWh battery pack. Aerodynamics are not the e-Bulli's strong point
Nice little sunroof adds to the vibe
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Nice little sunroof adds to the vibe
Top speed is limited around 80 mph
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Top speed is limited around 80 mph
Charge plug is hidden behind the license plate
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Charge plug is hidden behind the license plate
A tiny electronic readout has been added to the speedo for battery level
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A tiny electronic readout has been added to the speedo for battery level
The old-school tape deck is actually a Bluetooth head unit. And how's that steering wheel!
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The old-school tape deck is actually a Bluetooth head unit. And how's that steering wheel!
Electric drive selector
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Electric drive selector
It's been 54 years since this T1 Samba Bus was first built. Now it's time for an electric refresh
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It's been 54 years since this T1 Samba Bus was first built. Now it's time for an electric refresh
Marine-inspired orange and white leather interior
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Marine-inspired orange and white leather interior
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This is a 1966-model Volkswagen T1 Samba Bus. It has spent more than half a century on the roads of California, meaning it's probably got wild and woolly stories to tell about Woodstock and the Summer of Love, and unspeakable things have surely taken place in its roomy interior. Lives have likely begun in this humble little people mover, and now it's getting a second life of its own.

Volkswagen has pulled out its 4-cylinder boxer engine, which was good for a very relaxed 43 horsepower when absolutely thrashed, and replaced it with a much more sprightly electric drive system that can silently and effortlessly output 82 horses and 212 Nm (156 lb-ft). This raises the T1's top speed from 105 km/h (65 mph) to a more freeway-friendly 130 km/h (81 mph), electronically limited. The battery is a 45 kWh pack good for around 200 km (124 miles) between charges.

Minimal changes have been made in the cabin; it's still got its mildly scary-looking schoolbus steering wheel and the interior has all been re-covered in lurid orange and white leather to conceal the sins of the past. There are a few new buttons, a simple battery charge level meter cut into the old-school speedo, and the gearstick has been replaced with an electric drive selector.

The old-school tape deck is actually a Bluetooth head unit. And how's that steering wheel!
The old-school tape deck is actually a Bluetooth head unit. And how's that steering wheel!

There's a Bluetooth system for music hidden away in what looks like an old-school radio, and this can also be used to check in on a range of vehicle stats and parameters through a smartphone app. But otherwise, it looks and feels super classic, with a touch of the marine world about it.

That doesn't mean the chassis has been left stock; VW has taken aim at the handling with new multi-link axles and adjustable suspension front and rear. There's a new rack-and-pinion steering system to correct any case of the wanders it might've been having pre-conversion, and the drum brakes have rightfully been turfed out for ventilated discs all-round. This old gal will drive like a racecar in comparison to how it used to. The headlights have been swapped out for LED units, although not so you'd notice when they're not switched on.

Renamed as the e-Bulli (not to be confused with the current-model T6.1 electric Bulli van) Volkswagen is calling this a concept car, but it's making it clear that you can have one if you want, either as a kit, as a conversion from your own old T1, or as a complete car through e-classics in Germany. The latter will start at about €64,900 (a little under US$70,000), which is ten grand more than the new mid-engined Corvette Stingray costs, but then you can only fit one of your hippie friends in that, and there's no room for guitar or bongo playing on the highway, so the choice is yours.

Source: Volkswagen

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6 comments
guzmanchinky
So cool! But so deadly in a crash! I can't wait for all electric campervans with thousands of miles of range from a Mr. Fusion.
paul314
Ooh. I so want one (but not enough to do anything about it). And maybe with the new suspension and the mass of the battery pack it will be somewhat more resistant to uncommanded lane changes in a crosswind.
Dolanfossil
I miss my 1967 bus. Handling was nothing to talk about, spent a lot of time trying to wring another MPH or two out of her. We traveled a LOT of miles and have seen a lot of country side. Nothing like driving down a two lane road in a fog, at night, listening to the drone of the engine, thinking you are flying an DC-3, through the clouds. (Having a head full of feeling higher had nothing to do with it.) Out of all the vehicles that I have owned, I believe this is the one I miss the most.
nick101
I think, for the promotional uses most of these will be used for, i.e. 'The CraftBeerCos Beerwagon' safety is adequate, people drive golf-carts too! I think what I love most about these things is the artful design that has all these great VW elements. I would buy one in a second if I had the cash.
SteveBarry
It doesn’t look like it would be too difficult to convert it back to a proper power plant. Nice restoration otherwise.
Bruce H. Anderson
Uber-cool! I had a '68. Not quite as terrifying, but close. Personally I would go for a '69 with a Subaru conversion kit. Still, as a new vehicle this won't fly in any numbers due to crashworthiness, but I too miss my van the most of any car I've ever driven.