Quietly, a small wave in the automotive world started in England about five years ago, and while far from being tidal in nature, it has begun to create ripples along the American shoreline. Several small shops began to spring up that auto enthusiasts either consider genius or sacrilege. These automotive shops have begun to convert classic combustion engine cars into electric vehicles.
The Premise Behind the Concept
The idea behind converting old combustion engine cars into EVs is forehead-slapping simple. As more and more older gas engine and diesel powered cars age, engines become increasingly expensive to fix and maintain. Converting them to electric engines and batteries updates their technology. At the same time, as more modern electric vehicles are being driven, more and more are being crashed and damaged beyond reasonable repair. Many of these vehicles have perfectly good electric motors and power supplies, it is just their bodies that are no longer useful. The answer? Take the bodies of old classic cars and replace the power plants with recycled electric engines and batteries.
England is the perfect incubator for the concept of converting classic cars to EVs for several reasons. In the UK, “classic cars” are considered anything manufactured pre-1982. These vehicles may be operated on England’s highways without any road use tax. England also has easier access to heavier cars with great rides like Bentley, Rolls, and Land Rovers, which make great conversions. The government is on a mission of zero CO2 emissions and is incentifying the purchase of new EVs. There is a growing group that wants to see those financial incentives expanded to include retrofitted EV cars.
England aside, the idea makes sense in that it limits the scrapping of older cars and gives them new use. It also provides a valuable way to recycle electric motors and batteries from “totaled” Evs like Teslas and Nissan Leafs. Limiting scrapping and recycling alone can make the idea extremely appealing in the U.S.
While retrofitting classic combustion engine cars to all electric, the concept is not without its drawbacks. Conversions can time anywhere from three to six months. They are also expensive. It is estimated that a conversion in the U.S. would cost between $25,000 and $30,000. Experts say those costs could be reduced to between $5,000 and $7,500 if the idea would take hold. There is also the problem of the limited range and capabilities of older scrapped electric motors and batteries. Imagine the fun and excitement of a classic Mustang powered by a newer, powerful Tesla motor. For some, however, that too could be a drawback in that the roar of a combustion engine is part of the enjoyment of owning a classic car.
At the very least, a growing number of quiet, efficient electric cars on our highways would be interesting to witness. Whether that ’65 Mustang will ever drive autonomously is another story for another time.