Volkswagen Retrofitting Electric Powertrains Into Old Beetles

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
volkswagen retrofitting electric powertrains into old beetles

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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  • Garak Garak on Sep 08, 2019

    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.

  • DweezilSFV DweezilSFV on Sep 08, 2019

    "...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".

  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.
  • Cardave5150 I've had 2 different 300's - an '08 300SRT and an '18 300C. Loved them both a LOT, although, by the time I had the second one, I wasn't altogether thrilled with the image of 300's out on the street, as projected by the 3rd or 4th buyers of the cars.I always thought that the car looked a little stubby behind the rear wheels - something that an extra 3-4" in the trunk area would have greatly helped.When the 300 was first launched, there were invitation-only meet-and-greets at the dealerships, reminding me of the old days when new model-year launches were HUGE. At my local dealer, they were all in formalwear (tuxes and elegant dresses) with a nice spread of food. They gave out crystal medallions of the 300 in a sweet little velvet box (I've got mine around the house somewhere). I talked to a sales guy for about 5 minutes before I asked if we could take one of the cars out (a 300C with the 5.7 Hemi). He acted like he'd been waiting all evening for someone to ask that - we jumped in the car and went out - that thing, for the time, seemed to fly.Corey - when it comes time for it, don't forget to mention the slightly-stretched wheelbase 300 (I think it was the 300L??). I've never found one for sale (not that I've looked THAT hard), as they only built them for a couple of years.
  • Jkross22 "I’m doing more for the planet by continuing to drive my vehicle than buying a new one for strictly frivolous reasons."It's not possible to repeat this too much.
  • Jeff S Got to give credit to Chrysler for putting the 300 as a rear wheel drive back on the market. This will be a future classic.
  • Lou_BC How to Fix Auto Media? Stop fixating on soft touch plastics and infotainment systems. I did quite a bit of research on my ZR2. There was no mention of the complexity of putting the transfer case into neutral. (9 step process). They didn't talk about how the exhaust brake works with tow/haul mode. No mention that the exhaust brake does not work with off-road mode. Nannies only stay turned off with the lockers engaged. Only one review mentioned the tail pipe as a vulnerability.