Go Green: 1974 VW Beetle EV Conversion – Sold!

Mar 2020 | Classifinds, Malaise Monday

Update: This one got away, but if you have your heart set on something similar, email us the details of what you’re looking for or call Rudy directly at (908)295-7330

We’re firm believers in the notion of converting air-cooled Volkswagen Beetles to electric power makes sense for several reasons.  With both the price of stock examples on the rise combined with the conversion cost estimated to be $15K, the already completed and debugged 1974 example listed in March 2020 on Craigslist in Wall Township, New Jersey for $9,950 seems like a bargain.  Checking the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms this private seller has their unique Beetle priced $1,300 above the current #3 “Good” estimate of $8,600 for a stock gas-powered version, so you’re essentially getting the EV conversion for free.

We believe doing electric conversions on Type I air-cooled beetles makes sense for several reasons.  First, while prices are on the rise, there are still plenty of them around and even when rust repair is needed, parts to do the work are also readily available.  Second, the sheer lack of power combined with drum brakes make stock examples downright scary to drive in modern traffic. Third, the inefficient heater and defroster system makes Beetles an even more uncomfortable experience when the temperatures drop below 40.  Consequently, it’s highly unlikely the lack of heating system will have you driving this conversion cold weather anyway as the range will likely drop below 50 miles with the current battery pack.

While the Beetle featured here uses a custom system, the video below from the established EV West converter shows what you can expect in performance from an EV-powered Beetle:

Not only is the EV conversion on this Beetle completed and debugged, but the basis of the project was also a rust-free New Mexico car.  We love the brakes and suspension have been upgraded to handle the newfound electric power.  The only we would consider changing is the bland paint job as this conversion deserves something better to attract the attention it deserves. Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“For sale is my amazing 1974 VW Beetle.

I bought this from New Mexico. It has a no expense spared Electric conversion done to it. It was a showcase vehicle for a solar company. This isn’t a hack job home mechanic conversion. This was a professional conversion.

The heart of the car is the engine and batteries. The batteries came out of a late model chevy volt. This was an upgrade over the batteries that were installed when originally converted. Top speed observed is 70 MPH – I never felt the need to push it faster as it uses more electricity to do so. I’ve gone up to 50 miles on a charge. With the chevy volt battery it should do 80 miles.

It has a very expensive top of the line motor and controller. It is a 300 kilowatt 342 max volts 1000 amps controller and motor. The chevy volt battery is putting out 194+ volts so it is operating at half of it’s limits.

Look at all the wiring, it’s clean. Look at the engine bay, it’s clean and tidy. Look under the hood, all organized.

All of the gauges, lights, and switches work. Everything is run off of a 7″ touchscreen monitor. It includes CD, bluetooth, and battery and motor gauges.

The car retains the original 4 speed manual transmission and clutch. It drives like a normal car. Except there is no noise, no oil leaks, no exhaust smell, no maintenance, and best of all you can charge it from a standard outlet at your home or office.

All four corners of the chassis are upgraded. New shocks, and disc brake conversion all around.

The vehicle is from New Mexico – there is absolutely no rust. Look at the pictures of the body and underside. There isn’t any rust bubbles in the usual areas.

There isn’t a cleaner VW Beetle, or a cleaner conversion. I’ve driven this car daily. It is reliable and an absolute joy to drive. It gets more attention than anything else that I’ve driven.

I have paperwork and receipts for everything that was installed. This includes the wiring diagrams and installation instructions. Every receipt, even the home depot or lower runs for small parts are included. All of the users manuals are included. This is a no maintenance vehicle, but if anything ever needed to be worked on, all of the paperwork is there.

This car is quick, quicker than a stock VW gas beetle. It has no shortage of power.

Insurance is less than $150 a year –

Please feel free to ask questions and I’ll be happy to answer them.

How do you feel about converting classic cars to electric power?  Comment below and let us know!

1 Comment
  1. Analog Man

    I absolutely love the GuysWithRides site, and am on the same page with you on almost everything. But I’d like to present a counterpoint on this electrified VW. I think it’s sacrilege to electrify a classic like this VW bug both from the perspective of preserving an increasingly rare classic car, and because it doesn’t necessarily make environmental sense.

    Air-cooled VW Beetles used to be a dime a dozen (and I’ve owned some that I paid even less for). But most of them have now rusted away and returned to the elements from which they were made. The astonishing fact is that now, pretty much any air-cooled VW is a collector’s item. If it’s in sound enough condition to electrify, then it’s good enough to save and properly restore with an original type drivetrain.

    Very few air cooled VWs will now be used as a daily driver (except maybe in southern California), so heating is irrelevant. Even so, if the heater boxes and heater channels are sound, the heat is ‘adequate’. I got through many upstate New York winters in old Beetles with their original heating systems keeping me alive if not toasty. The brakes are primitive, but can be upgraded to discs whether it’s an EV conversion or otherwise stock. But most importantly, the air-cooled drivetrain gives the car it’s essential character, it’s soul, and makes it so much fun to drive. No soulless battery motor can ever capture even a fraction of that feeling and experience.

    The world is increasingly becoming filled with EVs. Like it or not, they’re the future. There will be more than enough EVs running around in days to come, and precious fewer air-cooled Bugs. Let’s save the ones that are left.

    From an environmental perspective, the scientific data on climate change are overwhelming. We need to save our planet and do whatever we can to combat climate change. After all, this is the only planet we have, so not killing it, and ourselves in the process, is a really good idea. Many studies have shown that the environmental friendliness of BEVs depends primarily on how the electricity is generated. Electricity is not ‘free’, it doesn’t just come out of the socket or from a hole in the ground. Some other primary energy source must be used to generate the electricity.

    If you’re truly living completely off the grid and generating all of your own electricity with your own solar panels or windmill, then you can make a good case for driving a BEV. But the fundamental problem is that right now, fossil fuels still provide about 63% of the electricity generated in the US, with nuclear an additional 19%. There are significant regional differences, but overall only about 11% of US electric power is generated from renewable sources:

    https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3

    A report in Scientific American estimated that a Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius both produce on average about 200 grams of CO2 per mile (which would be about 100 grams/mile CO2 in California, and 300 grams/mile CO2 in Minnesota):

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/electric-cars-are-not-necessarily-clean/

    So unless you’re totally off the grid, a BEV in this country is really just a fossil- or nuclear-fueled car with a long tailpipe. They’re not ‘zero emissions’ cars (sanctimonious Tesla license plate frames notwithstanding), they’re actually ‘remote emissions’ cars.

    Globally, China currently gets 60% of its electricity from fossil fuel, mostly coal, which changes the BEV calculation there. Shockingly, Japan recently announced they were building 22 new coal powered electric generating plants, which together will release about as much CO2 as all the cars sold in the US:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/03/climate/japan-coal-fukushima.html

    Like most things in life, the solution is going to be complicated, and not simply buying more electric cars. The fundamental need is to change the US, and world, electric generating grid to renewable sources like solar, wind, and tidal. That will take a lot of money. Just for the US it would cost $5 trillion:

    https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/2017/03/29/the-old-dirty-us-electric-grid-would-cost-5-trillion-to-replace-where-should-infrastructure-spending-go/

    So unfortunately, the bottom line is that with the CURRENT US (and world) electric energy grid, one is probably better off simply burning fossil fuel directly rather than converting it into electricity to then power a BEV. It still comes back to having to change the US electric grid and how electricity is generated.

    The pesky thing about science is that it’s true whether you choose to believe it or not. That holds both for the reality of human actions being the cause of climate change, and for the complicated picture of BEVs.

    Reply

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