By on September 5, 2019

With the last incarnation of the Volkswagen Beetle officially dead and buried, VW is hoping to breathe new life into vintage models by retrofitting them with electric powertrains. While purists will no doubt frame this as the blatant ruination of a historic model, something tells us that plenty of Beetle fans are just quirky enough to dig the idea.

On Thursday, Volkswagen Group Components announced that its partnership with eClassics has birthed the “e-Beetle” (e-Käfer in German). Borrowing components from the company’s European e-Up, the model is supposed to be a proof of concept for the electric conversion of other historic models — with VW noting that an e-Porsche 356 and electrified Microbus are already in the works. 

“The electrified Beetle combines the charm of our classic car with the mobility of the future. Innovative e-components from Volkswagen Group Components are under the bonnet – we work with them to electrify historically important vehicles, in what is an emotional process,” said Thomas Schmall, Member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Group Components, in a release. “We are also providing Beetle owners with a professional conversion solution, using production parts of the highest quality.”

VW claims the use of its MEB platform is under consideration for future models. That makes sense, especially considering the company has already suggested the platform could be leased by rival manufacturers. If the take rate is high enough, it’ll help solidify the brand as a leader in electrification — something it would very much like to see happen.

However, Volkswagen is only handing over the hardware. The actual conversions will be carried out by eClassics in Renningen, Germany, near VW’s home base in Stuttgart. That means e-Beetles will likely be isolated to Europe for the time being. Yet the company has already indicated it has broader aspirations that may include North America.

Those plans may have to be postponed until juicer powertrains become available, though. Volkswagen reports that the e-Beetle’s performance peak resides somewhere around 82 PS (about 80 hp). While that’s supposedly good for a 50 kph (31 mph) rush of “just under four seconds,” the trip to 80 kph takes twice as long. Not exactly inspiring performance by modern standards. Still, the automaker claims the vehicle’s 93 mph top speed, combined with 124 miles of range, is enough “for a relaxing day out in an electrified classic car.”

As it turns out, the car’s 36.8-kwh battery adds some heft to the Type 1 — resulting in a new curb weight of 1,280 kilograms (2,822 pounds). Fortunately, it’s still faster than the original by a good wide margin. And, since the electrified bug seems to be operating inside a Gattica-style fantasy where vintage automobiles are converted into pristine electrics to be used daily, we’ll not complain about the zip factor.

A near-production version of the e-Beetle will be on display at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany, later this month. Expect more information on the program then.

[Images: Volkswagen/eClassics]

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23 Comments on “Volkswagen Retrofitting Electric Powertrains Into Old Beetles...”


  • avatar
    star_gazer

    Kinda cool, but…how about the safety features (air bags, ABS, etc.) that are required (and demanded) in today’s cars?

    When I was in high school, our German club went to Germany in a 1972 Volkswagen van. We had no problems, but an accident in this vehicle would have been a disaster.

    • 0 avatar
      Gedrven

      It has good visibility, one of the three critical safety features far more important than a bunch of gadgets.

      That said, the second such feature – stable and predictable handling – is not the Beetle’s strong suit. Depending on the distribution of all its new weight, it might even be worse.

      The third feature – the quality of the nut behind the wheel – is an open question. Most Beetle drivers I’ve encountered have been a bit nutty, but their driving has been, from my small sample size, actually pretty good. Perhaps because bad ones can’t get away with it for long without ending up in the weeds.

      • 0 avatar
        dantes_inferno

        >The third feature – the quality of the nut behind the wheel – is an open question.

        Based on direct observation, the quantity of nuts behind the wheel FAR outpace the quality.

      • 0 avatar
        Vega

        Handling should be excellent as it is based on a superbeetle, which had trailing arms instead of a swing axle in the rear and struts in front. The identical setup was later used in 924&944 Porsches.

        Considering the batteries are integrated with the floor pan weight distribution should also be much improved.

  • avatar
    TimK

    Yeah, I remember those halcyon days when Pop Tarts were good and my friend’s Beetle-driving hippie sister came home from college with an aversion to wearing underwear.

  • avatar
    NG5

    There has to be a good Taycan joke in here somewhere…

  • avatar

    Hell with Beetle. I want my 1958 Pontiac Bonneville Tri-power convertible electrified.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    Good-bye all South African sales, with that decal!

  • avatar
    threeer

    I kind of like the idea…but would miss the classic “fweem.”

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Sorry, not seeing it. Part of the charm of the original Beetle is the whistling of the exhaust. That, plus it is a very lightweight car and adding all those batteries just doesn’t sound like a good idea.

    I would guess that these will be seriously pricey.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Subscribed, will read later .

    Q : ? where the hell will they find unrusted Beetles ? .

    I’m going to cover my ’59 # 113 .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar

      I think they still make it in Mexico or Guatemala or Panama, anyway, somewhere south of the border.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Oh no ~

        Puebla, Mexico was the last of the air cooled Beetles long, long ago .

        I had an 1982 I loved but the SCAQMD found out I had it with California tags and title and sent me a nasty letter so back to Mexico it went .

        Hence my question ~ yes there are still air cooled “builders” scattered across the South West but not like in years past .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    They should have gone to Mexico. From what I read, Mexico scrapped thousands of former-taxi Beetles when two-door taxis were outlawed.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    In general, this is a brilliant idea.

  • avatar
    Garak

    Making the beetle any worse would’ve been an achievement, any kind of changes are automatically for the better.

    Jokes aside, electrifying cars like this is a good thing. An original Beetle really isn’t something you want to drive in modern traffic, and there are many places in Germany where you’re not even allowed to run pre-catalytic converter cars anymore.

    Gasoline VWs are also extremely flammable due to a variety of reasons, an EV conversion is almost certainly less likely to go up in flames. Unless you get batteries made by Tesla, of course.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    “…automaker claims the vehicle’s 93 mph top speed, combined with 124 miles of range, is enough “for a relaxing day out in an electrified classic car.”

    Nice of you to decide how much range I need for a relaxing day out.

    More toys for the rich. Volkswagen: The People’s Car.
    As Earl Schieb used to say: “Riiiiiiiiiiight”.


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