Lowly German Clunker Goes Electric, and Sports a Solar Roof

The Art of the Trabi.jpg

Trabi photo Rick Dikeman via Wikicommons.

Ask almost any German what comes to mind when you mention the word 'Trabant' and they'll probably respond something like "East," "East German," and "clunker." But Trabants, with their smelly two-stroke engines, squat piggy bodies formed from plastic and cotton waste fiberglass, and tiny gas tanks that required lifting the hood and mixing both gas and oil together at each fill up, have gotten a 21st century electric makeover. Photo of the updated model after the jump.


Twenty eight year average lifespan

Trabants, or Trabis, as they are often called, were produced by the East German company VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau. More than three million of the cars were made up to 1991 when the plant was closed. Amazingly, though Trabis were considered to actively demonstrate the pitfalls of centralized communist planning (their design changed litter over the years), their average life span was 28 years, and many of them are still in good shape today, though they don't pass the emissions standards of the inner city of Berlin.

New green cult classic?

There was no precedent of environmental innovation at VEB, yet German investors at the Herpa Miniaturmodelle GmbH decided to revive the Trabant concept with a new model called the nT. nT is an electric car that will be equipped with a 64 horsepower electric motor powered with a lithium-ion battery. The nT will have a 155 mile range on a full charge, a top speed of 80 mph, and a cost of $29,000, or about €20,000.

The Trabant will also have a 1.8 square meter, 120 W solar roof that feeds energy to the car's 'ventilation' system -- the car's brochure says the nT Trabi has no 'unnecessary gadgetry.' Also, while the original Trabants were always considered the bottom of the market, the nT's price puts it squarely in the upper portion of the bottom, so to speak - there are cheaper electric rivals such as the Norwegian (now to be produced in Finland) Th!nk.

As the Autobloggreen site speculates, the nT Trabant is really just a prototype car at this point (though the New York Times says Herpa is 'in discussions' with investors) so the chance that it may make it into production and be ready to roll by the targeted introduction date of 2012 may be a tad optimistic.

However, Herpa says the nT Trabant has the potential to be a cult classic.

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