Electric 1972 Beetle making its way across Canada
By Ben Coxworth
August 31, 2010
Despite the stunningly futuristic looks and high technology of cars such as the Aptera, practical electric vehicles don’t need to be exotic. Take, for instance, the E-Beetle. It’s a 1972 VW Beetle, which a group of students from the University of British Columbia Electric Car Club retrofitted with an electric motor. They had originally intended to enter it in the Zero Race, in which teams in electric cars are racing each other around the world. Once they realized they couldn’t make the deadline, however, they settled for a more modest goal – to drive it 6,400 km. (3,977 miles) across Canada... and they’re almost done.
The UBC Electric Car Club is made up of students from a variety of disciplines. What they all share, according to their website, is a desire “to break the fossil fuel dependency for transportation and commuting purposes.” They’re also interested in establishing UBC as a center of excellence for green technology, and in motivating other students worldwide to get involved in the field.
Although the club was formed just a year ago, they’ve already put together an impressive little car. The E-Beetle’s original combustion engine has been replaced with an electric three-phase AC induction motor, powered by a lithium-iron phosphate battery pack. Some extra power is generated through a four-wheel regenerative braking system. According to one of the drivers, Ricky Gu, they recovered over 2,000 watt-hours of energy from braking while coasting down from the Rocky Mountains.
The car has a range of 550 km. (341 miles) at 50 km/h (31 mph), or 300 km. (186 miles) at 100 km/h (62 mph), and takes about four hours to recharge. It has a top speed of 140 km/h (87 mph).
The two drivers and their dog set off from Vancouver, British Columbia on August 21st, and hope to arrive at their destination of Halifax, Nova Scotia by September 3rd – by doing so, they hope to break the speed record for driving across Canada in an electric vehicle. They are making the trip without the assistance of any support vehicles.
Unlike many EVs, the E-Beetle doesn’t require special charging stations. The team have been recharging at standard 50 amp outlets in places like campgrounds along the way. Unfortunately, soon into their journey they discovered that one of their onboard chargers was defective, bumping their required charging time up to about six hours. That may have been remedied as of the time of this writing, as they are currently in Toronto, where they were hoping to get their system repaired.
"The car had performed beyond my expectation and I am very happy with it," Gu told us. "This trip had taught myself what EVs are capable of. I would expect the electronics to malfunction from the blazing heat or the battery to under perform from the constant hard driving-charging-driving-charging every single day. But it just keeps going and going without any problems. Being able to experience this vehicle's performance first hand in such harsh conditions just gives me more and more confidence in electric vehicle technologies."
The E-Beetle still has another 1,264 km. (785 miles) to go before it reaches Halifax.