Automotive

Zelectric jolts classic Porsche and Ghia into the electric age

Zelectric jolts classic Porsch...
Zelectric shows its electric Karmann Ghia prototype at the 2016 LA Auto Show
Zelectric shows its electric Karmann Ghia prototype at the 2016 LA Auto Show
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Zelectric shows its electric Karmann Ghia prototype at the 2016 LA Auto Show
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Zelectric shows its electric Karmann Ghia prototype at the 2016 LA Auto Show
Zelectric shows its electric Karmann Ghia prototype at the 2016 LA Auto Show
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Zelectric shows its electric Karmann Ghia prototype at the 2016 LA Auto Show
Zelectric shows its electric Karmann Ghia prototype at the 2016 LA Auto Show
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Zelectric shows its electric Karmann Ghia prototype at the 2016 LA Auto Show
A peek inside the ZelectricGhia
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A peek inside the ZelectricGhia
ZelectricGhia prototype at the LA Auto Show
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ZelectricGhia prototype at the LA Auto Show
ZelectricGhia prototype at the LA Auto Show
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ZelectricGhia prototype at the LA Auto Show
ZelectricGhia prototype at the LA Auto Show
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ZelectricGhia prototype at the LA Auto Show
Zelectric experiments with a custom-built two-speed transmission for this build
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Zelectric experiments with a custom-built two-speed transmission for this build
The Zelectric911 is a sort of performance flagship for Zelectric, featuring a two-motor powertrain worth 130+ hp
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The Zelectric911 is a sort of performance flagship for Zelectric, featuring a two-motor powertrain worth 130+ hp
The Zelectric911 prototype is based on a 1973 911 Targa
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The Zelectric911 prototype is based on a 1973 911 Targa
A look at the 911's electricals in back
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A look at the 911's electricals in back
Zelectric911 at the 2016 LA Auto Show
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Zelectric911 at the 2016 LA Auto Show
With a Tesla-based lithium battery, the electric 911 can travel around 150 miles per charge
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With a Tesla-based lithium battery, the electric 911 can travel around 150 miles per charge
Zelectric911 at the 2016 LA Auto Show
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Zelectric911 at the 2016 LA Auto Show
The electric motor in the ZelectricGhia
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The electric motor in the ZelectricGhia

San Diego's Zelectric has become well known for electrifying iconic Volkswagens in the form of its ZelectricBug and ZelectricBus. But it also puts volts to other Volkswagens and rear-engined classics. At this year's LA Auto Show, which wrapped up on Sunday, it highlighted two of these vehicles: a high-performance electric Porsche 911 prototype and a beautiful cherry red electric Karmann Ghia prototype.

Along with wild customized cars and trucks, Zelectric is a major highlight of the downstairs-level LA Auto Show "Garage". Last year we discovered the brand's beautiful electrified 1964 VW Bus, which made the trip again for 2016, but his year it was the pristine Ghia and 911 that grabbed our attention.

Zelectric911 at the 2016 LA Auto Show
Zelectric911 at the 2016 LA Auto Show

The modernized 1973 911 Targa is of particular note because it splits from the single-motor design we've seen in other Zelectric projects, using a dual-motor setup for a ride becoming of a 911. In fact, Zelectric says that the car maintains the horsepower of the original car, around 130 hp, while of course adding immediate electric torque. Zelectric maintains the original 5-speed manual transmission to keep an authentic feel.

Another notable aspect of the 911 prototype is its robust 54-kWh battery pack built from Tesla cells, which is mounted down low and up front. The company estimates range at 150 miles (241 km), well above the 80 to 100 miles (129 to 161 km) quoted for its standard Bug kit, which is powered by a 22-kWh pack. Top speed is estimated at 150 mph (241 km/h), so the Zelectric911 offers a pretty nice combination of practicality and performance.

Just as attractive as the Zelectric911, the ZelectricGhia prototype is a 1969 Karmann Ghia with fully electric powertrain. Built between 1955 and 1974, the Ghia saw Volkswagen Beetle underpinnings topped with a sporty Ghia-designed body coach-built by German shop Karmann. It came in coupe and convertible flavors, and Zelectric chose a beautiful red coupe as its prototype guinea pig.

Zelectric experiments with a custom-built two-speed transmission for this build
Zelectric experiments with a custom-built two-speed transmission for this build

Like the 911, the Ghia has a Tesla-based battery pack, this one 36 kWh, and Zelectric estimates driving range at 140 miles (225 km). The Ghia features a single-motor setup, like the one on the ZelectricBug, paired with a custom two-speed (high/low) transmission.

Zelectric has traditionally relied on the stock four-speed VW transmission but decided to experiment with its own two-speed since it doesn't need the full range of gears for the electric motor. The first gear gets you up to 45 mph (72 km/h) or so, and then the highway gear takes over up to a top speed around 100 mph (161 km/h). A switch-activated reverse function takes care of backing up by spinning the motor the other direction.

Zelectric didn't advertise pricing at the show, and while we've reached out to request pricing, we have not yet received a response. If we do, we'll update the article, but given that these are categorized as prototypes, we're not sure there's specific pricing information to be given. We do know that the standard ZelectricBug conversion, with its smaller battery, starts at US$49,000.

If you think these builds are cool, be sure to check out Zelectric's Facebook page, YouTube and other social media, where it details other projects that include a high-powered VW Thing team-up with Icon 4x4.

UPDATE: Zelectric CEO David Benardo got back to us with pricing, which he quotes at $57,000 for the Karmann Ghia conversion. He estimates the 911 conversion at $75,000 and also mentions that he believes the Porsche's range will end up closer to 250 miles (402 km).

Source: Zelectric

3 comments
Bruce H. Anderson
Range is a huge concern, but if I had the money and just needed something to toodle around in, I would be happy with either.
LordInsidious
This is how you revive old cars or car brands, same classic style with electric engines.
Tom Lee Mullins
I like the Karmann Ghia. I think it would be cool as an EV.