Love classic cars? Now you can get a ’50s whip turned into an EV.

Love classic cars? Now you can get a ’50s whip turned into an EV. thumbnail

There are many options for electric vehicles. You can get everything from the new Chevrolet Bolt to the new Ford F-150 Lighting. That being said, a lot of people like classic cars, and those run on gasoline and might only get around 20 miles per gallon. Some car enthusiasts are changing that.

Back in 2006, the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory in Palo Alto, CA decided to convert a 1964 Type 2 microbus into an electric vehicle. David Benardo, a graphic designer at the time, saw the situation and decided to embark on a similar venture.

After years of contemplating this project, Benardo finally met with experts in electrical engineering who were familiar with how cars work. Around 2012, they started working on converting his vintage 1963 Ragtop VW Bug into an electric vehicle. They spent two years testing it. He shared the entire process via social media.

Benardo founded the company Zelectric that year, which turns classic VWs and Porsches into electric vehicles. Currently, they only work on 1950s-70s air-cooled rear-engined models.

” It started as a personal project. But, before we were done, we were posting progress pictures to social media,” Benardo explains to Popular Science. “Once people discovered that we were doing another one, they wanted to find out if we could. This is how .”

came to be.

Zelectric does not cut the cars to make them electrical. Instead, they find a motor that fits in the car’s existing body. A classic Porsche can be fitted with a Tesla motor, but a classic VW requires something more. To convert antique VW models, Zelectric uses smaller motors made by companies like HPEVS and NetGain. These companies began making motors for industrial uses, such as forklifts. However, they eventually became interested in EVs.

“We don’t want to cut up this precious 50-year-old car to accommodate some monster motor,” Benardo says.

Electrification isn’t cheap, with rates starting at around $70,000, and it takes three to six months for the car to be finished. Benardo claims that this hasn’t stopped people taking the plunge. He currently has a two-year waiting list. Zelectric produces about half a dozen cars each year.

[Related: Electric vehicles have come a long way since the 1890s.]

” Our clients want something unique. Benardo states that clients don’t want something easy to find in a parking garage.

Converting classic cars not only makes them more eco-friendly, but also prolongs their usefulness and life expectancy. Benardo claims that the new electric motor can often double or triple the car’s horsepower. It also makes the car more reliable.

Some classic car enthusiasts tell Benardo that he is taking the soul out the vehicle by replacing the motor. They view the engine as an integral part of the vehicle’s history. Many people are happy with the electric motor.

Zelectric is a focus on VWs and Porsches but they are not the only ones. Zero Labs, for example, is converting classic Ford Broncos and Landrovers into electric vehicles. Big car companies have caught on as well–new electric car concepts like Hyundai Grandeur and Pony are modeled after vintage cars.

“There is a lot of interest in it,” Benardo states. “Not everyone wants to own a Nissan Leaf or a Tesla .”


Companies such as Zelectric are not only helping the environment by turning these old cars into electric ones, but they also give them reliable engines that can extend their life expectancy. These cars can be kept on the road for many years if they are properly maintained.

Read More