Automotive

Zelectric (z)electrifies classic Volkswagen split-window bus

The electric conversion couldn't have happened to a nicer VW Type 2
The electric conversion couldn't have happened to a nicer VW Type 2
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The "ZelectricBus" at the 2015 LA Auto Show
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The "ZelectricBus" at the 2015 LA Auto Show
A peek inside the back of the Zelectric bus
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A peek inside the back of the Zelectric bus
Zelectric says its motor doubles the original horsepower and provides about 70 miles of range
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Zelectric says its motor doubles the original horsepower and provides about 70 miles of range
The lithium batteries are stored below the bench
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The lithium batteries are stored below the bench
Inside the ZelectricBus
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Inside the ZelectricBus
In case you didn't believe us about the sunroof ...
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In case you didn't believe us about the sunroof ...
The electric conversion couldn't have happened to a nicer VW Type 2
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The electric conversion couldn't have happened to a nicer VW Type 2
A peek inside the front of the bus
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A peek inside the front of the bus
ZelectricBug
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ZelectricBug
We've seen ZelectricBugs in the past, but the ZelectricBus was a new sight for us
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We've seen ZelectricBugs in the past, but the ZelectricBus was a new sight for us
The "ZelectricBus" at the 2015 LA Auto Show
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The "ZelectricBus" at the 2015 LA Auto Show

After starting up in 2012, Zelectric Motors has quickly made a business out of retrofitting electric powertrains to classic Volkswagen Beetles. The San Diego-based shop also performs its electric magic on other classic cars, including Porsches and Manxes, and recently completed what we'd call its coolest conversion yet: a 1964 Volkswagen Type 2, complete with signature first-generation split windshield, sunroof and sliding door. It's a beautiful example of iconic 20th century automotive design updated with 21st century drive technology, or as Zelectric likes to say, "retro future."

"Midcentury cars were made for a different world – one that had what seemed like an endless supply of cheap gasoline and no air pollution," Zelectric explains on its website. "But unlike cars today, they were designed with timeless character and endless appeal. Zelectric Motors offers the best of both worlds, where iconic high style fuses with today's future-forward technology to provide an exhilarating driving experience."

We've seen ZelectricBugs in the past, but the ZelectricBus was a new sight for us
We've seen ZelectricBugs in the past, but the ZelectricBus was a new sight for us

The classic Beetle, dubbed the ZelectricBug after transformation, remains the company's bread and butter, but it's also turned some attention to Beetle-related models like the Type 2. It converted this particular Microbus earlier this year and has been showing it at car shows, including last month's LA Auto Show, where we gave it a thorough looking at.

In place of the air-cooled boxer engine you'd expect to find mounted at the rear, Zelectric has fitted its electric motor. The company was advertising the same 80- to 100-mile (129- tto 161-km) range as the Bug in LA, but CEO David Benardo admits that the Bus prototype is more likely to get around 70 miles (113 km) before needing a recharge. He also says that more batteries could be added to double or triple that range.

Zelectric says its motor doubles the original horsepower and provides about 70 miles of range
Zelectric says its motor doubles the original horsepower and provides about 70 miles of range

The lithium batteries are mounted under the middle bench, and Zelectric says drivers can expect a lifespan around 160,000 miles (257,500 km). Charging time takes between three and four hours from a 240-volt outlet. The e-Bus looks best for rolling down the coast at cruising speed, sunroof peeled back, but with a top speed falling somewhere between 80 and 100 mph (130 - 160 km/h) – Zelectric hasn't quite zeroed in on the exact limit – it also has the giddy-up for highway driving.

Benardo says Zelectric doesn't have any current plans to offer a turnkey electric Bus, the way it does with the Beetle, but it is offering the conversion package starting at US$55,000, including the electric motor, reworked four-speed transmission, disc brakes and LED lights. The company doesn't cut or weld the original vehicle during the process, so the bus could be converted back to gas if the owner ever wants to do so. Zelectric is already working on two other Type 2 conversions for clients.

Source: Zelectric Motors

10 comments
gizmowiz
I would love it if they would do a retro electric fit using an old Fiat X1/9 body! I'd buy it in a heartbeat!
zevulon
AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! why haven't i already heard of them?
Bruce H. Anderson
I loved my old 68 bus, but a 69 would be better (disc brakes, and lights instead of reflectors) even though the split windshield is history on both. Maybe a small turbodiesel genset ala Chevy Volt would ease range anxiety. But really, 80-100mph? Going 70mph, even in my old 68, would put the fear of God into any man.
Paul Anthony
I wonder what the profit is on this? Over $50,000!
Hugh Kirk
I'm impressed, the future is bright with opportunity.
Timelord
One day, I'd like to convert an Isetta to electric, then call it the E-setta.
VoiceofReason
They want $68K for a Beetle?! Um....no.
Bill Bennett
@ C.C. A 1964 VW Type II did not have a sliding door, it had split doors on the right, opening the forward one from the outside would allow access to the release handle of the other door.
cliff
"I would love it if they would do a retro electric fit using an old Fiat X1/9 body! I'd buy it in a heartbeat!" It has been done several times by DIY'ers like myself. I have been driving my converted 84 Bertone since November 1999 and loving it.
DavidBenardo
Hi Bill, the sliding door was a option starting in 1964 then became standard in 1968.
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