The Volkswagen Beetle became an icon of the 1960s, invading America’s roads with its rugged air-cooled engine and low, low price. Volkswagen continued to make the Beetle up until 2003 (not an uncommon practice for VW), and Mexico City still used Beetles as taxis up until last year. Things have come full circle for the Bug, with German company Karabag converting the classic people moving into an electric car.
Starting with a Mexican-built Beetle, Karabag removes the air-cooled four-cylinder engine in favor of a 23-kilowatt/30 horsepower electric motor that sends 109 ft-lbs of torque to the rear wheels. A liquid-cooled battery in this electric Beetle is good for 74 miles between charges, and the Beetle can reach a blistering top speed of 71 mph.
Alright, so it’s not exactly fast, but neither was the original Beetle. But it also isn’t cheap, with the conversion costing $15,000, plus a $133-per-month battery rental fee and the cost of the donor car. Even with cars costing way more in Europe due to high taxes and the VAT, that’s quite a bit of money for this limited-use EV. Karabag also adds a touchscreen device to help you monitor the battery, as well as an ethanol-burning heater.
Then again, with gas prices over $8.00 a gallon in many places, a little electric bug could be quite the money saver, battery pack rental or not. Karabag hopes to perform some 20,000 electric conversions in the coming year, and for customers looking to get a second life out of their older cars, an electric conversion might be the best bet.
The Beetle may prove to be the most resilient automotive design of both the 20th and 21st centuries if this keeps up.