David Benardo is a true believer that classics are enjoyed more when they’re being driven. He’s not just blowing smoke. He’s racked up over ten thousand miles in his gorgeous turquoise and white 1964 VW Microbus and all in the last couple of years. While impressive, the over the road feat becomes even more eye-opening when you learn he did all without using a single drop of oil. That’s because his hot hauler has been converted to electric power.
Thinking Positive: Zelectric Motors
David owns and operates Zelectric Motors, a San-Diego-based company that specializes in electrifying select vintage Volkswagen and Porsche models. Since opening in 2016, they’ve cranked out about ten converted vehicles a year and the craze continues to grow. Currently, there’s a year-long waiting list for customers who want one to get their hands on one of their ultra-cool rides.
Driving the Dream
David has been a lifelong VW enthusiast but the venture started all because of the simple fact he liked driving. “I just wanted to drive the cars I love more but with the gas versions, I found myself spending more time adjusting the valves or carbs or addressing other mechanical issues,’ explains David. “In the four years with the bus, all I’ve adjusted is the tire pressure. The driving experience is exactly the same as the gas version – it just smells better.” David and his wife, Bonnie, aren’t the only ones who regularly use one of their battery-equipped rides. Several of their clients daily drive their cars, too.
He purchased the vehicle from a shop in Oregon, who completed a full restoration. It was the first bus the Zelectric team converted to electric power. A lithium-ion battery pack was installed under the middle seat and in the rear, an electric one-hundred horsepower motor was installed. It’s equipped with Level II charging and delivers around one hundred miles of range.
“The added weight of the battery park helped with the handling and performance,’ said David. “We don’t cut or weld the cars, preferring them to look very stock. That way, enthusiasts can have fun with them and then if they chose, pop back in the gas engine. The goal was really to get people spending more time driving and less time wrenching.”
Since this conversion, David’s team has started incorporating Tesla battery packs, which adds to the vehicle’s overall range. Two other busses have already been converted using them. Pricing for the conversions start around $60,000, plus the cost of the donor vehicle.
Movin’ Like Electric
While David and Bonnie had initial plans of selling their volted-up Vee dub, they’ve since changed their minds. “It’s a great calling card for the business and is so much to drive,’ gushes David, who charges it at the office with power sourced from solar panels. “Even with the decklid down, it draws people in. Everywhere you go, you have a conversation with someone. Little kids look at it thinking its a giant toy and adults can’t help but smile as either they or someone they knew had one like it.”