David Benardo’s Zelectric Motors shop in San Diego specializes in converting vintage petroleum-powered Volkswagens and Porsches into electric vehicles.
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The emphasis is on retaining and exquisitely refinishing the original outward appearance – replacing the internal combustion engine with an EV powertrain and discretely updating and modernizing the various components throughout.
Additional engineering and conversion expertise is frequently subcontracted out to parts and services provider EV West of San Marcos, Calif.
Established in 2012, Zelectric “is not and never will be a factory assembly line operation,” Benardo explains. “Each vehicle is meticulously rebuilt by hand into retro-futuristic experiential art on wheels. By the nature of the business itself, production will always be limited to bespoke creations, each somewhat unique.”
His wife, Bonnie Rodgers, manages the office and marketing aspects while assisting in locating stock classic car candidates suitable for undergoing the EV conversion process.
Benardo, who describes himself as the shop’s “CEO, Director of R&D and RetroFuturist,” recently provided some insights into Zelectric’s operational details:
Q: Do you sell complete vehicles?
A: Yes. We offer turnkey classics that are reborn electric, meticulously hand-rebuilt to order. Drivetrain conversion from fossil fuel is the hallmark of the Zelectric rebuild. But in addition, select upgrades and modifications ensure a dramatically improved driving experience. We use only proven components from world-class suppliers.
Q: Do you have a kit so I can do it myself?
A: No. It’s complicated. Individual components used in the basic electric conversion cost around $20,000, and that does not include Zelectric’s additional mechanical and proprietary modifications to support the conversion. When purchased alone, conversion components do not come with instructions for assembly or installation.
Q: What does a turnkey Zelectric cost?
A: Typical ZelectricBug sedans start at $73,500. But every car is a midcentury classic and is priced according to its unique characteristics. Less common sunroof (ragtop) models generally run $10,000-$15,000 higher and the highly desirable convertibles can add an additional $20,000 or more. We specialize in finding exceptional candidates, or may have one currently available.