Electric cars are becoming an increasingly visible part of the motoring landscape, with models from Tesla, Nissan, BMW, Renault and others slowly gaining traction with buyers. But it’s not just modern car design that’s benefitting from electric power – there’s now also a growing number of classic cars being converted to electric running. In doing so, models that might otherwise be considered as four-wheeled history are being given a whole new lease of life.
WHY CONVERT A CLASSIC TO ELECTRIC POWER?
Put simply, the advantages of switching a classic car from petrol to battery power are the same as for modern cars. In particular the absence of tailpipe emissions benefits local air quality (not to mention makes electric classics exempt from charges associated with entering low emissions zones), plus there’s the low-cost recharging and the ability to use the cars more often without the worries of overheating or stressing aged mechanical components.
Similarly, downsides remain the same as for all other EVs too. Primarily – and depending on the battery pack fitted – some offer a shorter range from a full charge than a traditional classic car might from a tank of fuel, and recharging takes longer than just topping up at a petrol station.
VANDALISM OR REPURPOSING?
Taking a charming old car and ripping out its engine and gearbox to replace them with an electric motor and battery pack will sound to some like an act of vandalism. Yet for others, it’s a way of taking a derelict old motor and repurposing it for the modern age.
Whatever your stance, the fact is that a small but growing industry is taking root to turn classics into EVs. One such company is RBW Electric Classic Cars, which has developed its EV MGB (pictured above) and is planning to build 30 examples with a price tag of £105,000. “Our aim is to make these great classic cars better for the modern age. We’ve put the cars through rigorous testing and used new components wherever possible to ensure the best for owners to enjoy their classic electric sports car,” says Peter Swain, RBW’s managing director.
The price (which, however you cut it, is a lot for an MGB) reflects that fact that RBW takes a ground up approach, meaning that virtually everything associated with the car is new. That includes the bodyshell, which is sourced from British Motor Heritage. The drivetrain meanwhile consists of a 70KW motor and a battery pack that offers a range of up to 160 miles on a single charge. With a 0-60mph time of 8.5 seconds this MGB is comfortably quicker than the original with its 1.8-litre B-series petrol motor, although you’ll need to allow eight hours for a full recharge on a 3KW charger.
THE ‘REVERSIBLE’ CONVERSION
Another firm offering the chance to drive an old car with zero tailpipe emissions is Electric Classic Cars. Rather than focusing on one particular model, Electric Classic Cars has worked on various conversions, from a Range Rover to a Ferrari 308. “Our conversions work in one of two ways. It’s either an engine swap using the original gearbox with adaptor plate and coupler, or we replace the whole transmission with a Tesla drivetrain with up to 600bhp,” says Sophia Pert, Manager at Electric Classic Cars.
“The conversions are essentially reversible as there is no major work carried out on the chassis and everything is bolt-in. Conversion costs vary depending on the make and model of the car as well as the customer’s specifications for range and power,” says Pert. As an example, Pert says that a Volkswagen Beetle with a range of around 100 miles will cost about £30,000 to convert while something like a Porsche 911 with a range closer to 180 miles will cost from £50,000 – and that’s all on top of buying the car, of course.
For a more affordable alternative you could try London Electric Cars, which offers DIY kits from £12,000. Company boss Matt Quitter recommends spending nearer £20,000, though, to include upgrades to the brakes and a bigger battery. He reckons his EV Morris Minor is the ideal city car for its zero emissions, low running costs and character.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM CLASSIC?
Yet it’s not just practical classics that are being converted. Aston Martin and Jaguar offer EV versions of their DB6 and E-type respectively, while UK-based firm Charge is building a run of 499 electric Ford Mustangs. At £300,000, the Charge Mustang (pictured above, in black) is far from cheap, but it has the promise of 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds, all-wheel drive and a 200-mile range. At the other end of the scale meanwhile is the more affordable (relatively at least) Swind E Classic (picture above, in red), which for £79,000 gives you a 125-mile range, a 107bhp electric motor and 0-60mph in 9.2 seconds – all in the body of an original Mini.
So, remember, while the majority of coverage about electric cars tends to be geared towards the latest designs, it is a technology that can also be successfully applied to much older vehicles, too. Question is, what would be your dream electric classic?
In the market for a used car?
CarGurus makes it easy to find great deals from top-rated dealers. CarGurus compares price, detailed vehicle data and dealer reviews to give each used car a deal rating from great to overpriced, and sorts the best deals first. Find out more and begin your used car search at CarGurus.