EV Parts from eBay and Desire, Yields Stunning Electric Karmann Ghia

David Herron, a software engineer turned automotive journalist, owns just one car: a gorgeous red 1971 soft-top Volkswagen Karmann Ghia—converted to run purely on electricity. But he doesn’t advocate that every EV shopper embark upon a conversion project.

“These days, you can go down to a Nissan dealership, and buy an electric car on the spot,” he said. “To do a conversion today, you have to really want an electric version of a specific car not offered as an EV.”

As soon as Herron spotted the 1971 Karmann Ghia for sale, he recognized it as a thing of beauty. In fact, it had already been converted to run on electrons, but the previous owner used a conversion kit with a 72-volt system with flooded lead-acid batteries. It could only go 50 miles per hour on a good day, and its range was an impractical 10 miles.

“I bought it because it’s a very pretty car, and it’s electric,” Herron said. “And I had the idea that I might improve the system after I drive it for a while.”

Having some experience with electric conversions of motorcycles and bicycles, Herron went about upgrading the system, searching out the appropriate controller, throttle, motor, batteries and battery management system. “People on eBay are selling all of those things,” he said.

Herron argues that a conversion won’t necessarily save you money, and it definitely takes time—but there’s no other way to get a truly unique emissions-free vehicle.

The 1971 Karmann Ghia is now capable of a top speed of 70 miles per hour, and 50 miles of driving range by virtue of these components:

  • Netgain Impulse 9 electric motor (brushed DC).
  • Electric motor bolted directly to VW 4 speed transmission.
  • Kelly KDH140800 controller rated for 800 amps.
  • Lightning Motorcycles – Battery Management System.
  • Battery box and other integration work by Lightning Motorcycles.

The onboard Manzanita Micro PFC40 charger can handle 120 and 240 volts. The full recharge time is about 2.5 hours. Even though the car has a relatively short driving range, the fast charging time makes it possible to make long-ish trips in a day. “I can drive from Mountain View to Monterey by making a full recharge at a charging station in Gilroy, a full charge in Monterey while seeing the sights, and then a full charge again in Gilroy on the way home,” he explained.

And Herron is doing it in style and comfort. Unlike other Karmann Ghia or VW Beetle conversions, his clever design placed the battery pack fully in the engine compartment. “We really studied the shape of the available spots, and saved the back seat.” Herron uses the “royal we,” to give credit to friends who provided some help with the project.

His unique design also features the use of a massive heat sink found on eBay. “We mounted it in the engine compartment in a way that looks really cool,” he said. “It’s functional because the controller sits right on it. I can drive all the way to San Francisco and the controller stays cool.”

When asked what he sees as his dream EV, he replied, “Mine is pretty cool. The car took top honors two years in a row in Silicon Valley EV Rally as best classic conversion.”

Article by Brad Berman, appearing courtesy eBay Green Driving.

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2 comments on “EV Parts from eBay and Desire, Yields Stunning Electric Karmann Ghia

Sabrina Hill

That’s REALLY nice, IF you live in a City, due, like all other Electric vehicles, to it’s limited range. I love the Ghia, my first car was one, and I owned three total. If I could AFFORD to make one a HYBRID, I would do it, but not being rich, I will stick with my Gasoline and my Diesel vehicles, out here in Far West Texas, where you can drive almost an HOUR between houses. Until the electrics have a range of AT LEAST 200 miles, AND are affordable by “Joe or Jane Minimum wage, or, like me a Disabled Veteran, they are worthless.



Now that we have access to lithium batteries and they are continuing to improve, it is entirely feasible to build an electric conversion that has over 200 miles range. You can get a free subscription to “Charged Electric Vehicle Magazine”, with articles on converted cars every month. I’m a Vietnam era vet myself. If you have $15K I would build you a Ghia with that range capbility. I’m a retired senior engineer from McDonnell Douglas Boeing. I have built most of the cars I’ve owned since I was a kid. deyermann@q.com 480-516-6487 I had a Ghia coupe back about 1980 loved it. Personally I’d love to convert a VW micro bus. I had about 5 of them. A friend who has a shop in St. Louis has one he said he’d give me, but I’d have to drive to St. Louis to get it or pay about $700 to have it shipped out here to AZ where I live now. Interested in a VW van with +200 miles range? Don

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