BF Exclusive: Electric 1978 VW Beetle Convertible

1978 Volkswagen Beetle

Who needs one of those newfangled Teslas when you can get this electric Beetle? It has the classic look and is a lot cheaper! I’m not a big electric car fan, but I could get behind this one. I’ve seen a few of these conversions driving around and it does seem like a good use for a late seventies bug. This one is handsome and should make a fun and economical driver for someone. I’ll let the seller, Chris D, tell it in his words though. Keep reading to learn more about this high-voltage Volkswagen:

Plug Er In

This car started out as a rust-free California car and then I installed an electric conversion kit purchased from e-volks. It’s kit #3, which means it’s 120 volt. Power is supplied by 10 deep cycle marine batteries, with another battery to power the accessories.  There are two on-board chargers – one for the main pack and one for the accessory battery. The main charger is programmable, but I’ve never tried doing anything with it.  The other charger is just a standard trickle charger. Both charge from the same plug, so you just plug it in to a regular household outlet and it’ll charge all the batteries overnight.

Whats On The Dash

After I did the conversion, I had the car painted in a two-tone scheme that matches the convertible top, which was also new from the previous owner.  I then put in a matching two-tone interior with new carpet.

Electric Motor

The car feels quicker than it did with a gas engine up until about 40mph.  No shifting is needed – you can start out in second gear and that will take it up to 40 or so.  Top speed is probably around 60, but it really runs out of power by 50.  I would not call it highway capable, but it’s great around town where it has no problem keeping up with traffic.  I try to only drain the batteries down to 50% or less to keep them in top shape and that gives you around 25 miles of range.  The current batteries have only about 100 miles on them, so I’m still being careful to use them gently until they’re broken in.  The original pack died prematurely, probably because I ran them down to zero charge multiple times.

I’ve driven the Beetle around 7,000 miles with absolutely no issues.  Keep in mind that I, a liberal arts major, built this myself in my garage so it’s not a professionally designed and engineered conversion.  For instance, if you floor it for too long you can draw so many amps that a battery cable bracket might melt.  I don’t know what to do about that, but I’ve never tried to figure it out because it’s rarely an issue for me.

Electric Convertible

That being said, it works great and it’s really fun to drive.  Everyone from college kids to old homeless guys love this car! I’d like to sell this to an electric-car enthusiast who will understand its quirks and love it like I have.  I’m only selling it because I spent the last year working out of State, and will be leaving again this fall. I dont want the Beetle to just sit in my garage.  I realize there’s a million questions buyers might have, so feel free.  I want whomever buys this to be fully aware of everything about it.

If you’re interested you can contact Chris here via email. The car is located in Boulder, Colorado and he would like to get $5,000. He has spent a lot more than that to build this car, so it might be a bargain for someone considering a similar conversion.

Thanks for listing your VW us Chris! We hope it goes to a good home where someone will keep it… charged up! If any of you have an unique classic that you would like to sell, please think about getting it featured here on Barn Finds!

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Comments

  1. Blueprint

    Rust-free ’78 ? Convert back to gas, no question there. And I’m EV friendly.

    • Fogline

      Sadly, Blueprint, I have to agree and I drive a Rav4 EV. It has a range of about 100 miles on a normal charge depending on how cold it gets when charging at night and how much you run the AC. I find it is about perfect for a day but often end up charging during the day once anyway just to be safe. 25 miles wouldn’t even get me to the grocery store and back and I suspect charging these takes longer than with my 40 Amp charger.

      The body and paint seem really nice and if I was a VW guy I am sure I would snatch this up and convert it back.

  2. Joe Howell

    Why?

    • grant

      So that it’s useful as a car. As it is its a cool conversation piece.

  3. LD

    Wish it was closer to me, looks like a great find! LD71 :D

  4. Van

    I like it but I’d say something was done wrong. The speed should be faster up to at least 100.
    If things are melting under full power something is wrong.
    My right foot is to heavy to keep of the go pedal. Can you say double fire suppression system.

  5. AJ Hougland

    Looks like it used forklift motor and controller

  6. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    I like the idea, and have several friends that have built electrics, the neatest one, an MG midget.
    The hard thing is getting the range. The average person drives 50 miles, 25 each way to work and that is usually what most builders attempt as a target. This one suffers from that problem.
    Like the color combo and the way it was done.
    Never thought about it, but while the car interests me, it suddenly dawned on me the absolute uselessness of purchasing this and then having to transport it home as driving it to Connecticut would take weeks!?!
    Never though they could make the heating worse on a VW but I’m guessing no heat, meaning no defroster.
    I would recommend doubling up on the motor cabling to better handle the amperage, easier than trying to fit larger diameter cables to such a small diameter stud.
    Loose connections on these cars have to be watched. Everyone I know with these has the ability to pour lead for new terminals, where the connections are known to fail.

  7. Chris Doran

    Hi, I’m the owner of the Electric VW aka PlugBug. I wanted to add some info based on the comments above:

    –I have yet to meet a car with this type of conversion that can go 100mph. I don’t think there’s anything wrong, I think this motor doesn’t have enough power for that, but then I’m no electric-car expert .

    –The Beetle comes with a title that says it’s an electric car. Not sure about the legality of converting back to gas–maybe it’s possible in another state?

    –The part that will melt is the terminal end of the battery cable–the lead ring-shaped thing that connects to the post on the battery itself. Only the connections to the battery do this, so I think that’s the weakest link. If you start pulling more than about 300-400 amps for a sustained period, one of those will melt. I found out because a pal of mine borrowed it and floored it in third gear going up a steep hill.

    –Yes, no gas motor means no heat. Where I live I can drive it about 9 months out of the year so it never bothered me.

    –All equipment was brand-new when installed. Maybe it’s the same stuff used in forklifts, but none of my equipment was used or pre-owned when purchased.

    I’m happy to answer any other questions! It really is a fun car that gets lots of attention–people can’t get over that it is so quiet, since everyone seems to know what a Beetle should sound like. (And everyone over the age of about 50 will tell you how they wish they still had their beloved Beetle.). But as an owner/driver, you have to accept the limitations of its design and equipment.

    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetimgs All,

      Love the execution, the colors, etc.

      Very Nice Job Chris!!

  8. DW

    Sold already I see. That was a heck of a good deal. I have seen several conversions of Bugs and I’m sure the seller didn’t even recover the cost of his electrical supplies, let alone the cost of a convertible Bug in nice shape. Good deal for all!

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