Volkswagen is partnering with eClassics to build electric conversions of the iconic VW Beetle, breathing even more life into an already-popular enthusiast platform and opening the doors to a whole new group of tinkerers.
The foundation for the electric conversion is the production powertrain from Volkswagen's e-Up. The 14-module battery pack, with a total capacity of 38.6 kwh, is built into the e-Beetle's underbody. Volkswagen says this is good for a total range of 200 km (124 miles) by internal estimates. A 60-kw (80-horsepower) electric motor drives the rear wheels.
While the e-Beetle is heavier than the air-cooled equivalent by almost 50 percent, this is a lot more power than any stock engine offered in the old Beetle lineup. To account for this, eClassics beefs up the chassis and brakes. It'll reach a top speed of 93 mph, which isn't exactly blistering, but it's probably about as fast as you want to drive in a car this size and age.
While Volkswagen refers to this as a kit, eClassics handles the conversion from start to finish. Volkswagen said the process is individually tailored, which leads us to believe that customers will have some flexibility in their individual builds.
Perhaps the best part of this arrangement is that VW is approaching it as the first of many potential EV conversion projects. Conveniently, old air-cooled vehicles from VW and Porsche actually have quite a bit in common with many modern EVs.
The Beetle's undercarriage was about as close as a classic got to a modern "skateboard" style chassis, and the compact packaging of a rear-mounted engine and transaxle makes it relatively simple to swap out the works for something else entirely.
Other air-cooled cars of the era were similarly configured, making it relatively painless to apply the same techniques to other enthusiast favorites. "We are already working together to prepare the platform for the Bus. An e-Porsche 356 could also be pursued in the future," said Thomas Schmall, who leads up VW Group's Components division, in VW's announcement.
Volkswagen has other plans for EV collaborations, too, and not just for revitalizing classic cars. When the retro-inspired ID Buggy first debuted, Volkswagen made it clear that intends to make certain variants of its MEB platform (which will underpin its electric passenger cars for the next decade) available to third parties.
Like the e-Up itself, we suspect the e-Beetle will remain forbidden fruit for U.S. (and UK) buyers, even as a kit; but as Volkswagen continues to aggressively pursue electrification opportunities, there's hope for future collaborations on this side of the Atlantic.