1. Justin

    Justin Owner Administrator

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/artic...bi-combines-communist-past-with-silent-thrill

    Electric Trabi Combines Communist Past With Silent Thrill
    5:01 PM CDT
    May 4, 2015

    [​IMG]
    Two electric Trabant automobiles sit in a parking lot during an East German nostalgia tour on the Baltic island of Ruegen, in Sassnitz, Germany, on Saturday, April 4, 2015. Photographer: Naomi Kresge/Bloomberg

    Watch out, BMW, a new German rival is on the scene: The sputtering, yet lovable Trabant is getting an electric makeover 25 years after the country’s reunification.

    A power company is refitting the plucky little car built for the communist East’s proletariat with an electric motor, giving the vehicle an emission-free range almost equivalent to BMW AG’s high-tech i3 electric.

    Technology firm ReeVOLT says it’s created the e-Trabant to show the environmental virtues of retrofitting existing vehicles with electric motors. The unit of utility WEMAG AG also sells electric versions of vehicles such as the Fiat 500 and Ford Ka. Driving the 38-horsepower electric Trabi, with no power steering and weak brakes, is a little like taking a bumper car onto the open road and stepping on the gas.


    “This is a lot quieter than my old Trabi used to be,” said Helmut Lettow, a 61-year-old resident of Bremerhaven, as he wrestled the creaking car onto the road heading north out of Binz, a town on the German island of Ruegen in the Baltic Sea. “It accelerates a lot faster.”

    Lettow bought a Trabant back in 1973 when he was a teenager growing up in the West. East Germany exported some of the 3.1 million Trabis it produced to get hard currency and sold the car for less than half what Volkswagen AG charged at the time for the Beetle.

    More than 40 years later, Lettow paid 29 euros ($32) to drive the electric version for a 2 1/2 hour nostalgia tour. Ruegen’s tourism agency, which started the program in April in partnership with ReeVOLT, has painted its e-Trabis bright orange with the island’s decals on the sides.

    U2 Video
    The car was made famous in the West after the fall of the Berlin Wall as East Germans clogged the roads. The rock group U2 filmed a version of the music video to “One” with a Trabant, after falling in love with the car while recording the album “Achtung Baby” in Berlin. Classic styling -- round headlamps, a smiling front grille and a huggable, stubby body -- has helped make it a collector’s item.

    In its heyday, the Trabant filled the streets of communist countries such as Poland, Hungary and the former Czechoslovakia. Made from a shell of resin and cotton waste, the vehicle cost the equivalent of an average worker’s annual salary, and people often waited more than a decade to get one.

    An e-Trabi costs about 15,000 euros -- 12,000 euros for the ReeVOLT kit, 2,000 euros for a Trabant and 1,000 euros for labor -- or about half the price of BMW’s i3, according to Andre Schmidt, a ReeVOLT spokesman.

    Lawnmower Engine
    The e-Trabi, with a flat-screen display to show how much energy it’s used and produced, has traded the distinctive thwack-thwack of the two-stroke motor -- think lawnmower -- for electric-driven silence. Other changes to the car are minimal. There’s barely space for two adults to squeeze into the rear bench seat, and safety features such as rear seat belts and front headrests are missing.

    Of course, the Trabi also won’t network with a driver’s phone or beep if it gets too close to surrounding vehicles. Still, the car boasts a 130-kilometer range, compared to 160 kilometers for the BMW, and charges in about 5 1/2 hours from a household socket.

    The top speed is 110 kilometers per hour (69 miles per hour), Schmidt said. That’s to give the sluggish brakes a chance to stand up against the immediate pickup of the electric engine.

    “It takes off like a rocket,” he said. “You could build a real race Trabant, but of course we wanted it to be sensible.”

    Nostalgia
    Lettow’s e-Trabi convoy stopped at Prora, a Nazi-era resort designed to house 20,000 vacationers in 4.5 kilometers of identical hotel blocks, and parked above the port that once received goods from the Soviet Union and now gets mostly Swedish tourists. When the tour later dropped in on Sassnitz, a village that draws tourists for fish sandwiches, some passers-by took pictures and asked for a peek under the hood.

    Nostalgia aside, Lettow wasn’t sure he’d actually buy an e-Trabi of his own. Insurance is a lot more expensive now than when he was driving two cars and a motorcycle around northern Germany at age 19.

    “It was just an idea I had when I was young,” he said. “It was a bit silly.”
  2. DaveinOz

    DaveinOz Aussie Trabant Nutter Forum Donor

    Great article - thanks for sharing! If you think about it a Trabi is a perfect car for an electric conversion: light weight, no power assisted brakes or steering and plenty of room to fit batteries in the boot and under the hood. Surprised you don't see more of them converted to EV's in Germany.

    Will have to add a visit to Rügen to my bucket list!
    Justin likes this.
  3. Very interesting article, one very close to my heart as this is a venture that I too am indulging in.
    I have a 1990 Trabant that I am currently converting in to electric drive as a prototype. I have gone for hub drive units and LiFePo4 batteries for a range of around 80 Miles and just over 100Kph.
    I'm hoping they will be warmly received as a retro urban ride in the cities of the UK due to the numerous environmental and financial benefits not withstanding the coolest DDR styling.
    Please feel free to add to this thread with any information, support or indeed criticism (as if) of my project or any other electric Trabants that you may know of.
    RogerDerSchrauber likes this.

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