Electrifying the vintage VW Beetle
Listen to Kathryn Ryan’s RNZ interview with Carl Penwarden or read the RNZ article below.
Volkswagens have been a lifelong love affair for Carl Penwarden. So much so that he’s just brought his 1965 Beetle, named Trixie, into the current day by converting it to 100 percent electric.
He began the mission late last year, stripping the old vehicle of its motor and getting stuck into the mechanics, and managing to document the entire journey with his camera.
It came about from wanting to find a way to make the car relevant for his young daughter, Abby, after contemplating whether or not the petrol car would be relevant by the time she learns to drive.
His grandfather and father had Volkswagens and now he has upgraded his 1965 Beetle, named Trixie, converting it to 100 percent electric.
Penwarden, who is an electrical engineer, began late last year stripping the old motor out of the vehicle and getting stuck into the mechanics — and documenting the entire journey.
His dad helped him essentially rebuild his first Beetle, a 1958 model, from the ground up.
Now he found he wanted to find a way to make the car relevant for his young daughter, Abby, after contemplating whether petrol cars would even exist by the time she learnt to drive.
He said he bought the electrical components from a US company and then kitted out the car according to New Zealand modification standards.
“A great thing about a Beetle is that they are a relatively simple car.
“They have mechanical breaks, mechanical steering, so the systems that had to be converted to electric were a relatively small number.”
He said he installed 37 battery cells that are connected to a 53-kilowatt AC electric motor — which is slightly more powerful than the original engine.
Overall the car is about 200kg heavier than before it was modified, but Volkswagens are pretty light vehicles so it still weighs under a tonne, Penwarden says.
And while the car has lost that distinctive Beetle sound — a kind of rough metallic purr — he says it means he can now actually hold a conversation with his daughter while driving.
Each time he charges Trixie it costs about $2.50 and gets him 130km around town.
A dollar-for-dollar comparison to 91 petrol comes out at about 83km per litre, whereas a normal car gets about 7km to 10km per litre, Penwarden says.
Trixie takes about 9 hours to charge, but can be plugged into a standard power point just about anywhere, Penwarden says.
“It’s so much fun to drive now, it feels a lot nicer.
“I was away this weekend and when I got home … I said to my wife ‘I’ve just got to take Trixie for a bit of a drive just to put a smile on my face.”
Originally published at www.radionz.co.nz on August 28, 2017.