This article originally appeared on San Diego Goes Green (all images courtesy Zelectric Motors).
By Lydia Wisz
Electric cars and VW bugs? What do they have in common and why would you want to learn more about them? It seems like the makings of the “best of both worlds here.” First off, electric cars, which are triggered by an electric motor, then activated by rechargeable battery packs, have something viable to offer any potential buyer. Also, the batteries are reusable in other applications after their first use in the car; and after their 2nd life, they can be recycled. They don’t go into a landfill. Some of the many advantages that these cars can give include energy efficiency, great performance benefits and an eco-friendly standing.
VW bugs have been known to conjure up great emotional attachments in Americans since the 1960s with its culture of change and a great awakening movement in such things as technology and music. To this day, in the United States alone, Volkswagen car enthusiasts attend car shows, have raffles and contests, and so on. Bringing the electric car together with the VW can offer the best of both worlds, no doubt.
Here in San Diego, we have a company called Zelectric Motors — their first product is called the Zelectricbug. The Zelectricbug is the re-creation of the nostalgic VW bug. There are many advantages to the purchase of such a drivable item, and you can learn more about these cars from the CEO and Director of R&D, David Benardo. Below are some of the questions asked of David himself….
You mention the first additional model being for sale by this summer. Are you going to keep the first one?
Yep, keeping our red prototype. The first car we’ll have for sale this summer should be a 1966 black sedan.
This process sounds expensive, do you have any idea how much the ZelectricBugs will sell for?
We’re producing a turnkey customized classic car – around $50,000.
How much of your time does this consume? Do you have another job or is this it?
This is it now. As a creative director in advertising and branding agencies, I’ve produced a number of large projects over the years.
What makes you love VWs so much.
I actually grew up next door to a man who took old bugs in the 70′s and converted them to dune buggies. Guess the seed was planted then. Personally our family has had VW’s on and off forever. My mom had a 55 in the late 50′s. My first old VW was an orange 1973 microbus in the mid 90′s and my wife drove the Beetle in the 70′s.
I’ve wanted to do this for the last 5 years. The problem 5 years ago was we were living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and the resources we’d need to produce the car correctly were pretty spread out geographically. We moved back to San Diego last year and a number of things fell into place. For the most part, So Cal has a HUGE VW scene – so many cars and shops here are devoted to them.
Who is on the team? How did they come to get involved?
My wife and I have worked together on the creative end of advertising and branding for tech companies over the past 27 years. We’ve brought in a number of local contractors including a really great company called EV West in San Marcos that’s helping us with the electrics.
Do you have any plans to convert vintage microbuses or Karmann Ghias?
That’s a natural evolution of this idea. We didn’t start with those models because they appeal to a smaller group of people and since there are far fewer, the cost is much higher than the Beetle.
Why are VW bugs easier to convert — is it solely because of simplicity of design or something else?
Yes, simple design, loved by many, lightweight, parts are very easy to obtain, thousands of mechanics worldwide.
How will Zelectric be different than a classic beetle; will the original image of the beetle be maintained?
Other than the high performance electric power plant hiding under the hood, no one will ever know. We haven’t cut or welded anything. We even kept the spare tire – the Nissan Leaf doesn’t have one. The car is totally in stock. It is exciting to note that the car’s range is 90 to 110 miles and can be driven at 80+ mph and you can also charge anywhere – at home or a public quick charger. We added a number of other improvements like Disc brakes, seat belts, Bluetooth stereo, and a ceramic heater for instant heat.
Was the involvement with “bugs” at first a hobby of you and your wife or how did it evolve to what you do now?
My wife and I have owned a number of VWs, including the classic 60s Beetle, a restored 1965 21-window microbus, a 73 microbus, and a 66 Karmann Ghia. We like the styling of the pre-67 VWs – No plastic, more chrome, and lots of curves.
I’d like to go into a bit about the advantages/disadvantages of gas vs. electric — can you add anything to that?
The main thing is we’ve just updated this car for the 21st century. It’s super quiet, fast, and very fun to drive. With our new power plant, we estimate getting at least 160,000 miles from the batteries and we expect them to last for 10 to 15 and even 20 years. Driving a 50-year-old car in and of itself is a wonderful experience. You’re not as insulated from the road and environment as you are with a modern car. On the technical and environmental side, an electric motor is 3-4 times more efficient than a gas engine and it’s 8 times cleaner/better for the environment. Google it – there’s some amazing info out there along with a number of misconceptions. Check our FAQ page.
That’s really not why we’re doing the conversion. I wanted to improve this great little car and drive it more often. Now with a maintenance-free power plant, we can. Check out our specs page for a few more interesting numbers at: http://www.zelectricmotors.com/specs.
Concluding the interview with David left me having learned more about the many advantages that having such a car can offer. I highly recommend that you refer to their very informative website and perhaps you too will be converted!