Zelectric has found a particularly happy niche, though, tapping into an environmentally conscious thread of the latent nostalgia for old VWs. Benardo says Zelectric can currently convert and restore about 10 vehicles a year. Prices range from $68,000 for a Beetle sedan to $88,000 for a convertible, and include the price of the original car, which Zelectric will send out to a local firm to restore. "The sweet spot is between ‘58 and ’66," he says.
The hefty price is partly because of the intense work needed to safely install the electric powertrain, but also because the prices of well-maintained vintage VWs has exploded. Zelectric will even locate and convert that most quintessential of California vehicles, the Microbus — but prices for the iconic van are crazy these days, so a Zelectric starts around $130,000.