Home » There Are Cheap EV Conversion Kits For Classic VW Beetles On Alibaba Now

There Are Cheap EV Conversion Kits For Classic VW Beetles On Alibaba Now

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As I feel I have demonstrated, I’m fascinated by the automotive offerings on that massive online retailer of questionable crap, Alibaba. Recently, I noticed some strange things showing up in all of the targeted Alibaba ads that interrupt my rigorous and unforgiving pornography-seeking web browsing: ads featuring old air-cooled Volkswagen Beetles, but from Alibaba! I know they don’t sell vintage air-cooled VW Beetles on Alibaba, so what’s going on here?

Look, here’s one of those ads that just now popped up:

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Also, The Algorithm seems to be suggesting I maybe want to start looking around for a kidney? Is it tracking all the cans of Diet Coke I drink? Does it see the blood in my pee? And what the hell is JFrog?

Back to the Beetle ad there. That looks like a ’66 Beetle on that lift there, and the caption just says “Drive System $4,200.” What’s going on here? Clicking that ad took me here:

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Well, holy crap, look at that: it’ an EV conversion kit for a classic VW Beetle. It appears to be specifically designed to mount that 15 KW/20 horsepower electric motor right to the standard VW Type I transaxle?

Now, these sorts of kits to convert Beetles (or other air-cooled VWs) to electric power have been around for decades, the simple design of the Beetle lending itself to such conversions. Here’s two 1970s-era kits, the Corbin-Gentry Electric Bug Kit and the King Engineering Kit:

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Both of these kits took exactly the same approach as that Alibaba one: bolt a motor right to the existing VW transaxle, effectively just replacing the original flat-four motor for the job of spinning a shaft. Oh, and then cramming heavy lead-acid batteries into every bit of available space.

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There’s a lot of these new Alibaba kits; that first one I saw was $4,500, but there’s ones for about $2,000 as well:

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Again, as you can see in that picture, this looks to be a motor that bolts right to the transaxle and the required controlling/recharging/inverter/etc. hardware.

These prices are way, way less than the other old VW conversion kits out there; this one from EV west, considered by many to be one of the best out there, costs about $20,000. Companies like Zelectric will sell you a beautifully restored-and-converted Beetle for a lot of money, and so will Volkswagen themselves, but it’ll cost you about $100,000.

Ebeetle Cutaway

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Of course, the VW-endorsed solution, engineered by e-Classics, takes a very different approach, replacing the whole drivetrain with one from the VW e-Up! and mounting the batteries under the chassis floor, as you can see above.

Those, of course, are all very out of my price range. But what about one of those Alibaba kits? See, my poor ’73 Beetle, which I’m very fond of and have had since I was 18, is kind of in a bad state. I took off the carbs to clean and maybe rebuild them a while back, then made the rookie mistake of starting an entire new car website, so those carbs have just been sitting on my workbench and in all of this time of neglect, my engine seems a bit frozen up.

Ugh.

I feel so guilty about letting it sit like this! The car has been such a huge part of my life, and I hate feeling like I’m letting it down. I need to do something.

Mybeetle

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I was going to pull it and see if I could get it turning again or maybe crack it open and try my hand at rebuilding it, but let’s be real: I don’t have that kind of time right now! And I don’t have a ton of cash to just throw at it! But! What if I pulled that engine and tried out one of these cheap EV conversion kits?

From what I can tell, this would be a reversible conversion, if I don’t do anything stupid, so if I wanted to slowly rebuild the flat-four, I could, and then swap it back.

And, sure, 20 electric horsepower would be a power downgrade of about a third, which isn’t ideal, but, hey, no gas to buy! No valves to adjust! No fumes! No heat in the winter!

Also, it’s not clear if these conversion kits include batteries; I suspect they don’t. So that would be another significant expense. And I wouldn’t want lead-acids, since I’d need to fill the trunk and the rear luggage well completely just to get, what, maybe 50 miles of range? No, a lithium-ion pack from a wrecked Leaf or something would be way better.

Maybe this would be as big a project as just rebuilding the engine? But, then again, it might be more engaging to read about or see videos of for people?

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I’m not sure yet. But, I am extremely curious about what these Alibaba conversion kits are like, and how difficult they might be to install. Maybe it’s worth looking into?

Anyone interested in seeing what a budget Beetle EV conversion is like, as performed by an idiot who maybe shouldn’t be allowed around batteries? Can I convince David to help me with this conversion instead of trying it on his Golden Eagle?

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Scott
Scott
7 months ago

I’m all in favor of TheAutopian endowment funding this EV conversion in the name of can-it-be-done-cheaply-? automotive journalism! 😉

Ronald Pottol
Ronald Pottol
9 months ago

Frankly, I think this in a VW kit car would be amazing.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
9 months ago

So let me get this straight, you want to blow several grand on an electric conversion that will suck the character and personality out the rear of your beetle… and not only do you not get any extra speed as a consolation, but it’s both slower and will have worse range? And it’s built with who knows what if any quality control…

How exactly is this better than just getting a new VW flat four? If DT has proven one thing, it’s that we’ll read and enjoy wrenching articles about random old junk. I for one would love to read some articles about rebuilding that VW engine, which would both be less expensive and labor intensive than a cheap EV conversion of dubious quality with a very real risk of burning your beloved beetle to the ground.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
10 months ago

I love that you’ve had this same VW since you were a teenager!

It could make for an interesting EV conversion, and there are plenty of options out there for EV VW’s. But as stated by others, maybe just spray some ATF fluid in the cylinders and let is soak for a day or two, then try to unfreeze the motor again? Because the engine is a boxer motor this method might not yield the same results (the atf might not soak in to the top side of the rings), but still worth a shot?

If the motor that’s in it is truly past its prime, it would definitely make for a great ongoing story to follow on this website, so I guess you can win either way….however…

Do you really want to try out an Alibaba kit on a vehicle that is so important to you and has been such a part of your life? Maybe move a little up-market on VW EV kits?

The Car Accumulator
The Car Accumulator
10 months ago

Get a drive train out of an electric F150 and put it in there. You can call it the Lightning Bug.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
10 months ago

My dear, sweet Torch. It will probably be cheaper and less labour intensive to just get the beetle motor running. If it is not THAT stuck, you might get it moving with a quick jerk.
However, it would be really cool to see the EV conversion!

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