Green With EV: 1968 Karmann Ghia

This has got to be one of the coolest electric car conversion I have seen. It’s a 1968 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, a very lightweight and fun-to-drive car to begin with, and as an electric vehicle is surely an interesting and unusual example.

The current owner, Jim Augustine, did this conversion and restored the VW himself, and he has been driving it for seven years now. It’s for sale on craigslist and located in sunny Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The owner has provided links to a couple sites where you can see an extensive photo gallery as well as learn the engineering details and specifications of this build. It looks like a very well done restoration of the Karmann Ghia, along with a very well designed and engineered EV system.

This electric VW now has a top speed of 78 mph and a range of 50 miles, though as the batteries have aged, the builder says its range has decreased to more like 30 miles, and is decreased a further 20% in the winter.

The restoration and EV conversion cost almost $12,000, and the car is now for sale for $9,800. The interior is very tidy, as is the body of this Ghia. The transmission is said to be a four speed manual, but without a clutch.

If you want to learn more about this interesting vehicle, its specifications and narrative about the build are hereand the photo album can be found hereWhile this car is definitely not for everyone, it looks to me like a very well done conversion and a fun car to drive, as along as you don’t mind short trips. You will get to enjoy driving a nice vintage VW and have the pleasure of waving at gas stations as you quietly cruise by them all.


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  1. Howard A Member

    I applaud this person’s efforts, it looks like a nice conversion, but I’m sorry, I always felt, and still do, just barking up the wrong tree with electric cars. 30 miles isn’t very far, even 50 ( for me, anyway, nearest big town is 45 miles, so I’d have to stop and charge the batteries somehow, in the middle of N. Wis)( I can hear it now, passenger sez, “what are these bicycle pedals for”? Me, “when it happens, you’ll know”) so we have a ways to go with the electric car, and clearly, not suited to rural life. I’ve always thought the Karmann Ghia made the most sense of all vintage VW’s . Nice styling, German engineering, a real trunk, for some reason, they never caught on like the Bug, at least in the Mid-west. Sorry, pass on electric VW. (btw, does anybody know how something like this would be in the rain or a snowstorm ,,,ZZZap, WHOA.)
    Here’s MY idea for electric,,,,,HEY, in the back,,,wake up,,,ok, you still have a gas engine, and an electric motor, and a groove with contacts in the main roads, like a giant slot car, and when you want to “get off” to go somewhere, you lift the “contact shoe” and fire up the gas motor. Do you think that would work, anybody?

    • Ron Motis

      All that is needed here are more batteries that will extend range. Lithium ion OP4 would be best, but all baths would need replacement. No problem in water at all. Colder weather shortens battery range, but a small 12v portable in-car heater can remedy this loss. I dont think there would be room for both electric & gas motors in this size car. Range would also be cut when on batteries due to excessive weight. Suspension would need a retrofit for this load.

  2. Jay M

    Sounds like expensive and dangerous infrastructure. How would you keep it clean?
    A hybrid gas/electric or better yet diesel electric system is more flexible and less expensive.
    Diesel-electric locomotives are proven world wide.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Jay, that’s true, but at SOME point, we are going to have to do away with all internal combustion engines.( probably not in our lifetime) I think hybrids are kind of a “band aid on a heart attack” and doesn’t really solve the problem. Kind of postpones the inevitable. And hybrids have quirks of their own. Thanks for the response ( and not a TD)

      • Jay M

        Howard, I think people’s opinions on power sources will be influenced by local environment, infrastructure and population density.
        Also, a dual fuel, or hybrid system gives you an extra margin of freedom and flexibility.
        They test electric cars here in Manitoba, and outside of a city they do not hold up. Even some hybrids die easily, according to local towing companies.
        Reduced range in cold weather, few charging stations, rough roads take their toll.
        I would like an electric vehicle, but simply could not trust it without a way of on board charging as required (HYBRID)
        Mahindra and Tata in India has ever developed small diesel/electric power plants for cars and small trucks. I’d like to get ahold of one to transplant.

      • Adam T45 Staff

        I agree with your band aid analogy Howard A. I don’t see hybrids as a long-term answer for the automotive industry. In the UK a break-down of environmental impact of the Toyota Prius proved that from mining of the base materials, through production, running and then end disposal of the vehicle, a Prius does more environmental damage that a V8 Range Rover through the same criteria!

        I think that Honda may be on the right track with the Clarity, utilising the Hydrogen Fuel Cell. Bio-fuels may be a possibility for a longer term future for internal combustion. The problem that any new technology faces is that it will need to be as robust as the existing internal combustion technology (we’ve all seen engines that have done 200,000 miles without having a spanner near them). That’s going to be a tough call as car manufacturers have had 120+ years to get internal combustion technology to the level it is now. Any new technology will have a hard act to follow.

    • 4-Doors-for-my-Tuba

      And GM introduces the new, for 2011, Chevrolet Volt. I love getting 250 mpg up to 32 mile range electric mode. And the safety of a gas engine when needed.

    • 4-Doors-for-my-Tuba

      And GM introduces the new, for 2011, Chevrolet Volt. Mine’s a 2013. I love getting 250 mpg up to 32 mile range electric mode. And the safety of a gas engine when needed.

    • Z1rider

      Jay M

      Diesel locomotives use electricity (generators and motors) for a completely different reason. Just imagine for a moment what it would be like if they used clutches and manual transmissions. How many gears would be necessary? 50, 100, 200? A generator driven by the Diesel engine and feeding power to the drive motors is the only practical way to make the connection between the crankshaft and the drive wheels. Diesel electric locomotives don’t bother with regenerative braking.

  3. Jeffro

    I’m sorry, but I’d have to put a VW motor back in it. 50 mile range is not going to cut it. Who am I kidding. If I worked out of my home…I’m still putting a VW motor back in. 1776cc would do nicely.

  4. Papa Martin

    Different strokes for different folks. I’d take this car in a minute if I had a bit of spare cash. The electric car functionality is advancing very quickly. I agree that a car with limited range, such as this one, is limited to simple commutes and probably as a novelty item at a car show. But in the not too distant future, I think electric cars will be much more common. GM just luched their Bolt with a 200+ mile range and quick charge potential. But I digress. Love this car, wish it was in my garage.

  5. Dolphin Member

    An electric car parked at a gas station for a sales photo?

    OK, maybe the seller just went in for a Coke. Or maybe electricity is pricey where he lives (no hydro or solar) and the association with gasoline could be better for a sale….unless people think about it…..

    With ‘aged’ batteries giving a range of about 30 miles, and less in winter, the $9.8K price doesn’t sound too good. I think if it still had its original engine it would be worth more.

  6. Brian

    “Green with EV” – that’s rich! I love it.

  7. Mike S

    Such a shame to do that to a Karmen Ghia. Why not use a Ford Pinto or a Yugo? There are many low value cars that were produced in big numbers that would work as a viable alternative. Karmen Ghia values are rising but more to my point, Karmen Ghia are just too cool to be a treehuggermobile.

  8. Niterói805

    It’s been for sale for years.

  9. Brakeservo

    I’ve been in Las Cruces, New Mexico for two years now, and this car has been continuously advertised all this time, with prices bouncing all over from $7500 to $12,500. Maybe even to $14,500 a time or two. And the ad headlines are always different, sometimes bordering on outright misrepresentation. Sometimes advertised as an “automatic” I guess because you don’t shift gears, but any poor prospect not told outright that it’s a homemade battery operated car is going to feel mislead and thus pissed-off. No wonder he can’t find a sucker. A classic example of how not properly describing your car at the outset will make it sale-proof! No one buys when they realize they have been lied to from the get go.

  10. John Lane

    Really? One of the coolest electric car conversions you’ve ever seen? You need to get out more. Check out or

  11. Wayne S.K.

    I must say, that’s one of the coolest COLORS I’ve ever seen! The rest? Meh…

  12. Chinga-Trailer

    It’s been over three years since I first saw this advertised on the Las Cruces Craigslist . . . and it’s back again, same seller, same description. Some people just don’t know when to give up. Was a wonderful car, now just a curiosity that apparently nobody wants. Put the wheezing four-banger boxer back in it, smoke the air but someone will buy it then.

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