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Tesla-powered Porsche 912: vintage meets electric

Five, four, three, two, one.
(car engine roaring) (upbeat music) This is a 1968 Porsche 912 powered by a Tesla drivetrain. It’s not just fast; it’s the culmination of a years-long boom in taking vintage cars
and retrofitting them with EV technology. It’s the brainchild of two guys: David Bernardo, the founder
of Zelectric Motors, a shop that restores old
cars with a modern twist, and Michael Bream, the founder of EV West, which specializes in
high-performance modifications. (Michael Bream laughing) (lighthearted music) Zelectric started out
as a personal project. I wanted to take a Volkswagen
and make it electric. I would’ve liked to have done a bus, started with that, but
they’re crazy pricey. Back when we started, you
can get a nice car for $7,000, $8,000, $9,000. So we got a nice ragtop
and were determined to make that electric. We started in 2010,
and there were probably three or four years that
the phone just didn’t ring. The email inbox was mostly empty. But it wasn’t really until
this last three years or so that the public’s really turned onto this. During that time, Tesla went from a kooky startup on the fringes of Silicon Valley to the most serious
player in electric cars. As soon as Tesla came
out, my interest grew in taking a classic car
and make it electric because their first electric
car didn’t look like an appliance. Michael and
David have been working together for almost a decade now and have a growing list of happy customers and eager buyers, and that’s let them take on more complicated and expensive builds like the Volkswagen Microbus. I mean, we get emails every single day from people all over the planet, and it’s their favorite vehicle. They want that to be electric. And I disappoint a lot of people because our focus is just
Volkswagens and Porsches from the ’50s and ’60s, and that’s keeping us super busy. It’s keeping us all very,
very busy right now. Our waitlist to get in the shop now extends three to four years out, so we’re booking appointments for 2023. Despite
that increasing workload, Michael and David were eager to take on a bigger challenge. That’s where the Tesla-powered
Porsche 912 comes in. This customer brought it in, thought it was a fantastic project. A little bit of a
challenge, engineering-wise, because the car is much smaller than the cars that we’re
pulling the components out of. A Tesla drive unit comes out of a 5,500-pound car, and we’re
trying to shoehorn it into about a 2,300-pound car. The result
of that engineering is 550 horsepower and
4,500 pound-feet of torque. The donor car was a Tesla P85 from which they pulled out the motor, inverter, the rear differential, and even the throttle pedal. Zelectric doesn’t use the Tesla battery because it weighs too much. Instead, they use a 32kWh LG Chem battery pack, split into two 16kWh portions to balance out the car. This 912 will also lay the
groundwork for future builds. EV West plans to sell a 912 conversion kit for roughly $50,000. There’s a surprisingly long history of people tinkering with electric cars. But lately, the cost of the technology that powers them has gone way down while the availability of the parts and the knowledge of
how to put them together has gone way up. This has resulted in a boom of weird, cool, and increasingly fast custom EVs. I had very low expectations because the electrified VWs I’d seen online were just Frankenstein’s monsters. They’re filled with golf cart batteries in the back seat and strange motors. They really were bad. So I assumed it was going to be like that and that I’ll do the test drive, it’d be interesting. But I wasn’t going to buy one, and I was blown away. That’s Paul Stone and his 1966 electric Beetle. He’s one of Zelectric’s first customers. The first time I drove it and got out onto the street and really stepped on the accelerator, it blew me away. In first gear, it’ll throw
you into the back seat. This isn’t Paul’s first time buying into electric drivetrains. He says he was one of the first Prius owners in California, and so the work that EV West and Zelectric are doing
makes sense for him. But the idea of messing
around with vintage cars, especially retrofitting
them with EV tech, isn’t for everyone. You get two reactions: either people think it
is the greatest thing and great for repurposing an older vehicle or it is sacrilege, blasphemy. I think part of the experience of having a classic car is to have the driving experience of a classic car, and it depends on what your needs and your wants and your desires are. In some ways, retrofitting
an electric motor to a car that didn’t have one originally, it defeats the purpose a little bit of having a classic car
or having a vintage car because most people who have those kinds of vehicles want the
authentic motoring experience. And you can’t get that
with an electric motor in your Volkswagen Bug or your Porsche or any other car that
you want to retrofit. If you’ve got a rare car, a really rare car like a Porsche 901, one of the pre-911 Porsches, and you want to convert
it to an electric car, it’s yours, you certainly can do that, but you’re diminishing the hobby by taking something very rare, something very important and modifying it, likely to the state that it will be very difficult to return it to its original configuration. Michael
and David say they try to construct their cars so
they could be converted back, though they don’t really
expect that to happen. But Leslie Kendall’s comments
illustrate a larger point: of course some of the people
who have spent decades, maybe even most of their lives, finding, restoring, collecting, tuning, and showing off vintage cars aren’t going to like what shops like Zelectric and EV West are doing. It goes past vintage cars, too. Electric racing series like Formula E have needed to work extra
hard to prove themselves alongside traditional racing series. And while EV sales are slowly
ticking up around the world, consumers in the US are actually buying more gas-guzzling SUVs and
trucks in the near-term. I think a lot of people think we take perfectly good running
cars and convert them. And what we actually do
is more along the lines of what happened with the 912, where you have a car, kind of incomplete, kind of rusty, and it’s right on the edge of maybe just going to the junkyard and being done. And these cars are great because they typically don’t have the engines in them.
You can get a good deal, and that’s what we have here with this. The public, in general, is
not going to jump through hoops to move a new technology forward. But if you make it a little bit easy, if you make it convenient, then that’s actually a very
good reason for the public to participate in moving
forward that technology. The electric
car revolution is not a shift that will happen overnight, but shops like EV West and Zelectric and projects like the
Tesla-powered Porsche are signs that car culture
is starting to adapt to this new reality — and
they have the order books to prove it. Hey, everybody. Thanks for watching. Make sure to like and subscribe
if you like this video. And now I’m going to leave you with a bunch of Tesla-powered
Porsche burnouts.

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