How a classic Beetle was transformed into an eco-friendly car
In collaboration with IIT-Delhi, engineer Jawaad Khan makes electric cars more popular without adding new cars to Indian roads
Thanks to a new method developed at IIT Delhi, vintage car owners don’t need to keep their beauties locked up. The 1948 VW Beetle and 1946 Austin can now zoom out on streets, modernized to be electric and therefore environmentally friendly.
“I bought a 1948 Volkswagen Beetle about 14 years ago. The car originally belonged to the German Ambassador to Nepal and I have added it to my collection, ”said Major Manjith Rajain (retired), speaking from Gurugram.
“I don’t see myself as a collector. I buy cars that I can restore and use because I think these beautiful cars should be kept running and enjoyed, not just locked up for a few private individuals, ”says Maj Rajain, who also owns a 1926 Chevy, a Morris Eight and a Morris Minor Atlantic, among other rarities.
Maj Rajain remembers how much his first grandchild loved riding the Chevrolet with him. “On the one hand, I was aware that we were polluting the atmosphere by driving these vintage models. At the same time, I wanted my granddaughter to take advantage of this car and inherit a healthy planet.
Luckily, a conversation with his friend, Arun Duggal, founder of the Center of Excellence for Clean Air Research (CERCA) at IIT-Delhi, led them to a solution.
“Converting a classic car to an electric car would still preserve its beauty and charm, and at the same time solve the pollution problem,” says Duggal.
Earlier in 2019, one of Duggal’s acquaintances saw the prototype of a ‘converted’ electric car at the Inno-Fest World Summit in Singapore presented by Jawaad Khan, an electrical engineering student at the Swami Vivekanand Institute of Engineering and Technology (SVIET) in Punjab. After the summit, Khan was invited to IIT-Delhi where he met Duggal and Maj Rajain, and the project to make the Beetle eco-friendly took off.
VE 2030 target in sight
Originally from Chenab Valley in Jammu, Khan (23) says he tinkered with machines even when he was young. While a student at SVIET, he converted a Maruti 800 into an electric vehicle for his university project. Dubbed SVIET Volta, the car quickly gained a lot of attention and earned it sponsorship for Inno-Fest.
Working over a six-month period, Khan replaced the Beetle’s internal combustion engine with lithium-ion batteries, making sure they found the perfect engine, gearbox, and batteries to meet both to the requirements of the car and the major.
Using the term ‘refurbished’ to describe the internal makeover he gives to cars, Khan believes this method can help India meet its EV 2030 target. “I knew my design could make electric cars more popular without adding new cars on Indian roads. “
He founded Tadpole Projects, a start-up currently working with IIT-Delhi. “The potential of this sector is immense and we have made ‘innovation’ our program. These aren’t just rare models – a lot of people are sentimental about their early cars or heirlooms. Unfortunately, most of these cars do not meet emission control standards. Retrofitting them is an ecological solution.
“We have converted four cars so far. Two vintage vehicles – the 1948 VW Beetle and the Major’s 1946 Austin as well as two modern cars – a Swift DZire and a Honda City. Upgrading a car can cost between three lakh and nine lakh rupees, and depending on the model, it can reach a mileage of 80 to 500 kilometers.
“When it was finally ready and I drove it for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised. It was smooth and silent. Although it has lost its “classic” status, it drives much better than with a gasoline engine, ”explains Maj Rajain.
The Post Office introduced a rubber stamp earlier this year, commemorating the Beetle’s successful conversion from classic to eco-friendly.
As for Maj Rajain’s 1948 VW Electric Beetle, he donated it to CERCA and it is now permanently stationed on the IIT campus where visitors can view it.