The lightning ‘bug’

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Pictou Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College is moving a piece of the past into the future with a revamp of 1997 ‘Voltswagen’ Beetle with an engine swap to turn it into a Tesla.

The project turned into a campus-wide initiative that faculty had been looking into for a few years now, finally able to make it possible when everything fell into place.

“We’re always looking for something new and innovative to take part in,” said Glen Coleman, teacher of the electronics engineering program at the college.

Coleman had been thinking about a project like this for students to take part in for a while. For two years, he has been seeking funding for the project. It just so happened that after he found an online kit to convert a Beetle into a Tesla some connections led him to the mint condition ‘97 Beetle that will be used for the project.

The car itself has a history, originally being made in Mexico in 1997 made for European use. It was then shipped to Japan where it was later acquired by an Ottawa collector who had it shipped to the Canadian capital where it was part of a collection. Coleman was able to obtain the Beetle from Ottawa and it now sits at the campus in Pictou. He shared that the car has spent more years in storage or in a crate than it has on the road so it is in excellent condition.

The Beetle was picked for the project because it is an air-cooled system, making it less complicated for the students to learn with than other coolant systems.

“We’re really not doing anything that hasn’t been done before, our spin on it is it’s a teachable project,” he said.

Once classes at the college resume normal activity and students make their way back, Coleman shared that there will be a live stream. This will allow people will be able to log on and watch the students work on the car and see the progress of the vehicle in real-time.

As well as the electronic engineering students, Coleman added that auto mechanics and heavy duty equipment truck and transport classes will be taking part in the hands-on portion of the conversion with business students handling the sale of parts taken out of the car and marketing students looking after selling advertisements that will be placed on the car. He even mentioned that the cabinet making class is thinking of adding custom wood inlays to the car.

“The students are over the moon,” said Coleman about the project, adding that it is also a great way to introduce people to what is offered and possible at the NSCC. “It’s to welcome people to the campus and show them all the innovative things we do.”

Coleman estimates that once things return to normal at the campus it will likely take more than a year for everything to come together and the project to near completion.

Although the car is currently at the Pictou Campus in Stellarton, Coleman said they are still waiting on the kit to arrive for the conversion. As for the construction, although there are no instructions he is confident that with the know-how of teachers at the college as well as connections that the college has made things will go smoothly.

“We’re the largest toolbox in Nova Scotia,” he chuckled. “We have the ability.”


A crowd takes a look at the “Voltswagen” after it arrived at the NSCC Pictou Campus.