Point Loma man launches new company to retrofit classic VW Beetles as electric cars

SAN DIEGO - A local man's new startup company is taking state-of-the-art technology and putting into some vintage vehicles.

David Benardo's love affair with Volkswagen Beetles began when he was a kid with a neighbor that did his own VW conversions.

"He would take them apart and turn them into dune buggies," Benardo told 10News.

After Benardo turned 50 years old and retired as an ad executive, he decided it was time for something new.

That's when Zelectric cars was born.

"This is the capital of VW enthusiasm. There's so many old 'bugs' here," Benardo said.

That's important for Benardo's business. He takes vintage Beetles from the 1960s and puts high-tech electric motors in them.

He took his idea and built a presence on social media. Then, he started taking his Beetle on the road to cars shows, and even to San Diego's recent Earth Fair.

"The No. 1 response to this car has been like, 'I wish VW would make this car,'" Benardo said.

The company doesn't, so now Benardo is. EV West of San Marcos designed the first engine, and Benardo will now take that engine, replicate it and put it into Beetles.

"We have 12 lithium cell up front and we have 25 more in the back," Benardo said.

The Zelectric engine is quiet and fast, and Benardo claims the batteries will last for about 120,000 miles. He said customers are starting to line up.

"If we can make 10 to 12 of these a year, one a month, we'll be in really good shape," he said.

Up next for Zelectric is conversion of a 1964 Beetle, taking a 1960s classic and moving it right into the 21st century.

Owning a Zelectric conversion won't be cheap, however, as Benardo told 10News the price tag will be about $50,000.

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