Quick, clean, and classic.
California’s Zelectric is turning old Beetles into state-of-the-art electric cars with a classic retro style
He started to wonder why old cars always had to smell of oil and petrol. As a former art and advertising student and art director at a number of big ad agencies, he’s all about the aesthetics – form over function, through and through. Not for him the idea that a classic car is only a true classic if it runs on the original combustion engine. “Electric engines are clean, reliable, maintenance-free and a lot speedier than the original engines. It’s the ideal solution for me.”
The idea of implanting an electric engine into his classic Beetle came to him when reading about a pilot project at Stanford University where Volkswagen engineers had installed an electric drive system into a Volkswagen campervan. An interesting project but unfortunately not a profitable one back when it was set up eight years ago. “The electrification of the vehicle alone had cost $40,000,” says Benardo, “and none of the components had been tested out on the road in day-to-day driving.”
Since that time, costs have fallen dramatically – particularly for high-quality lithium-ion batteries, the most expensive component in an electric engine. When it came to his fiftieth birthday, Benardo found himself asking, “If you could be 20 again, what would you do differently?” His reply was that “I would have founded my own company installing electric engines into limited edition classic cars”. So that’s exactly what he did. Benardo quit his job as a partner at an advertising agency in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and moved to San Diego on the coast of California. Which is where he is now, sitting at the kitchen table in his modest home, reflecting on his earlier life.
“I’d just had enough of always trying to come up with a new way to sell things with no substance. The e-Beetle is different. It’s an idea that just makes good sense.”
» Electric engines are clean, reliable, maintenance-free and a lot speedier than the original engines. It’s the ideal solution for me. «David Benardo