For most classic car owners, converting a classic car to electric is a sacrilege. They like driving with an original engine. They believe a classic car should remain in their original condition.
Yet, there is obviously a demand for classic car electric conversion. Remember newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan Markle driving away in a silver blue Jaguar E-Type of 1968. It had bee updated with…an electric engine. It was the first time an electric classic car made it into the public eye in such a big way. Notably, a special division of Jaguar itself had built the car.
Retrofitting classic cars to electric is a new trend in Europe
Indeed, Jaguar now takes your old E-Type and electrifies it for around 70,000€. Aston Martin has also recently announced the launch of its ‘Heritage EV’ program. It allows swapping the engines from DB5s, V8 Vantages and others for new electric powertrains. In the meantime, Volkswagen has launched a partnership with a German firm performing the retrofits, eClassics. VW supplies the batteries and powertrain. It even considers providing its modular platform that will be in use on its forthcoming electric cars. VW now considers the conversion of Porsche 356 in coming years.
In France, Renault is testing the waters with its electrified replica of the original Renault 4L Plein Air (1968), called E-Plein Air. And all over Europe, new specialists of retrofit classic cars are emerging. In Italy, Garage Italia proposes Fiat 500 Jolly ‘Spiaggina’ Icon-e conversion. In the Netherlands, Voitures Extravert is swapping electric powertrains into vintage Porsche 911s. In Britain, Charge Automotive is focusing on Ford Mustangs, offering 499 brand-new electric Mustangs… In France several companies have also started retrofiting cars, following the governmental authoritzation, such as Retrofuture-ev, and the Méhari Club de Cassis.
So why are there more and more people swapping the engines and transmission of their beloved classic cars to these controversial electric engines?
Improved mechanical and environmental performance thanks to electric conversion
The first reason behind this demand for retrofit is related to environmental concerns, and increasing restrictions on the use of oldtimers on the road. Retrofitting may indeed be a middle ground, allowing keeping our cars on the road while making them more sustainable. True, their character is changed once you take the original engine out. But they become more sustainable products.
Furthermore, an electric conversion generally improves the acceleration and potential top speed of vintage cars. These cars are also better balanced as batteries are installed in front and rear. Their maintenance costs are significantly reduced. Think about the time and money needed to adjust the carburetors of your classic car…
Embracing new audiences with electric classic cars
Electric car conversion makes classic cars more attractive for a wide range of people of all ages. Thanks to electric conversion, new people are now interested in classics, who were put off before by having to maintain old mechanics. These cars are more appealing notably to younger drivers.
Some classic car enthusiasts also see these new technologies as a way to keep their cars drivable in the modern age. Indeed, a number of electric retrofit classic car customers have started to be daily drivers in classic cars.
Electric conversion helps addressing the challenges of classic car maintenance and restoration
Retrofit is also relevant to address the major challenge of restoring a classic car when original parts are missing. This is true especially for cars known for their lack of reliability and mediocre performance capabilities. It is obviously a different story for a high-functioning classic Lamborghini for instance. But in general, some vintage cars are difficult, if not impossible, to restore to their original condition. This can lead their owners to abandon them. Electric conversion can be a good option then.
Talking about retrofitting costs
Retrofit is not cheap, in particular for the heaviest cars. The costs are variable and depend on :
- The restoration work needed. Retrofit is done on fully restored vehicles.
- Size of the car. Heavy cars need more powerful engines and batteries. Smaller vehicles are usually cheaper but they can present issues when fitting batteries.
- Type of car. A sport car will demand more work in order to achieve higher driving performance, which can be costly.
As a result, the conversion of a small car, such as a Fiat 500, starts around 15-20 000€. If you want more, you can easily spend over 70 000€ for higher performance and longer range.
Yet, the fuel cost is dramatically reduced after the conversion. Other taxes, such as environmental ones, are also much lower, especially if you live in a city with restrictions based on emissions. Besides, converting the car to electric allows getting rid of parts you no longer need, engine, gear box, exhaust pipe…These parts are usually valuable and can be sold, which can offset the cost of retrofit.
So, what car would you like to convert?