Classic Car EV Conversion – Modern Performance with a Timeless Look
Electrification is taking over the industry, we’ve written about it a few times before. It’s even affecting classic cars. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be looking at iconic vehicles from the past have been upgraded, modernized, and converted to electric vehicles. Last we discussed electrifying Street Rods This week we’re looking at classic cars.
Remove the cast iron engine, cooling system, and fuel system. Then Replace them with an electric motor, controller and battery pack. The process a lot sounds simpler than it is and until recently, this would only be attempted by the most hardcore enthusiast. But because of information sharing on the internet, it has turned classic car conversion into thriving and passionate online communities.
Surprisingly, classic cars are simpler to convert than a modern car, and any classic car with an anemic carbureted 4-cylinder engine is a good candidate for an electric conversion. Most conversions are done by repurposing battery packs from Tesla, Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf and using reprogrammed, aftermarket battery management or purpose-built motor controllers.
Classic cars often have a manual transmission, brakes, and steering. Even those with an automatic transmission can still be converted because there is software that will “idle” the electric motor – spinning the torque and pump like an engine or there is an electric pump kit to supplement the transmission pump if no torque converter is used. Electric conversion allows a classic car with a manual transmission to be driven almost like an automatic-equipped car. Select the gear, press the accelerator, and go.
There are also companies springing up that are doing these types of conversions as well. EV West is making a name for itself converting air-cooled Volkswagens to electric power. They remove the air-cooled 25-horsepower, 49-foot-pounds of torque engine that was good for a 40 second 0 to 60 MPH time. Replacing it with an electric motor that has 187-horsepower and 300 lb/ft of torque. That brings the 0 to 60 times down to 5 seconds. That is an amazing improvement!
Nowadays, there are classic cars on the street with no gasoline to go stale in the fuel tank. No vented fuel tank to stink up the garage. No wicking carburetor gaskets, sticking chokes and sinking floats. No points ignition with a weak spark. No flooded spark plugs. No discharged 12-volt battery to replace when it fails to crank in the spring. Heck, there is even A/C that has been added during the conversion process. Modern technology and performance in with a classic look. A win-win in this technician’s humble opinion.