ZVW Test Drive - Zelectric Motors

Los Angeles CA, July 28 2013 - Like a lot of people, David Benardo and Bonnie Rodgers have had a decades long standing love affair with Volkswagens. Owners of Beetles, buses and Karmann Ghias, they started thinking about how to carry on the affair with the next gen form of energy propulsion. The rapid resurgence of electric powertrains has created a market support system for power, parts and people that know how to make it all work. Noting that you can buy almost any part for an old Volkswagen and the ready availability of quality cars for restoration, the Beetle is an ideal platform for a modern electric car.

Their perfectly red bug seems a great choice for a Zelectric Motors pilot project – 1963 on the outside; 2013 on the inside. The original canvas top body model cost a premium to start, but hey – this is southern California. David is quick to point out that no animals were harmed in the conversion process. Neither body nor powertrain was cut or modified beyond bolting the electric motor on the original 4 speed transmission.

The pilot project car is a walking (and driving) billboard. David and Bonnie can be found everywhere – the car easily getting into Concours level shows including Rodeo Drive Concours and Art Center Car Classic in 2013. Spotted at the Petersen Breakfast Club Cruise-in, David gave a guided tour and test drive of the car - a few rips around the Petersen parking lot amid rows of other classics.

The electricity doubles the original gas horsepower, and provides a rather instant jolt to the rear wheels. Being original, this bug still feels like a bug on the ground (or an antique baby-carriage). 3rd gear alone would be good enough to start and drive around in. With all the immediate torque you don’t really need 1st gear, but it’s fantastic and surreal to hear both rear tires squealing around corners in a Beetle!

The gas to electricity conversion process took a while for David to build, but the one-on-one human mindset conversions will happily go on. He reckons the batteries should last 15 years or 160,000 miles, making a Zelectric Motors car a fine long term investment. Every car manufacturer is stumbling over themselves with electric lookalikes lately. Now the classic crowd has retro options for the future.

by Randy Berg

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