Electric Beetle buzzes up to 100 mph

Published 11:01 am Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Harold Turner looks over some of the batteries that power his 1972 Volkswagen Beetle| Gwen Albers/The Tidewater News

COURTLAND—Harold Turner traded two shotguns and $600 for a 1972 Volkswagen.

He then swapped the Beetle’s rear gasoline engine for 12 golf-cart-sized batteries.

“I can take off in second, put it in third and don’t need fourth,” Turner said about his homemade electric car, which can go up to 100 mph an hour and 70 miles on a four- to five-hour charge from an ordinary household outlet.

“The higher the gears the more amps (it requires),” the 57-year-old added.

At the request of his wife, Karen, Harold Turner gave the car a Herbie the Love Bug paint job, to replicate the Bug from the 1968 Disney movie starring Dean Jones.

“We did it to be different,” the Berlin man said. “We’ve got the movie.”

He estimates that driving the car daily would boost his electric bill by $7 to $10 a month.

Harold Turner started working on the car when gasoline hit nearly $4 a gallon, which meant $400 a month to drive roundtrip to his former job.

He pulled the engine and gasoline tank from the Bug and reinforced its frame for the battery mounts. With the batteries, the car weighs an additional 700 pounds.

Harold Turner, who works for Chip Transit in Courtland, drives a company truck, while his wife travels more than 70 miles roundtrip for her job as a corrections officer at a state prison. So they strictly drive their VW on weekends.

“I’d love to (drive it to work), but we live in Berlin,” Karen Turner said. “We run to Franklin with it (to shop and do errands).”

Karen Turner has another reason for liking the car.

“It’s bought and paid for,” the 49-year-old said.

Her husband estimates it would cost $30,000 to buy a vehicle and convert it to run on electricity.