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The Conversion Experts Making Classic Cars with a Futuristic Twist
By any definition, a classic car implies a certain degree of chronological heritage, even if that date can be surprisingly recent. For instance, a friend invited me to join him in a race of classic Ferraris, and that particular series ranked ‘classic’ as anything before 1980. Before 1980 was, of course, the 1970s: a time of discontent and the “three day week”. A time when electric cars were a thing of a Sci-Fi future, when they may as well be flying as driving along the road.
Nowadays, electric cars are commonplace, their charge points as much a part of the city furniture as lampposts and parking meters.
Modern environmentally-conscious consumers want to do what’s best for the planet, but they also want their car to have some of the soul that classic car companies brought to their designs.
So, what if you could have both?
A growing number of companies are emerging to give people just that – converting classic cars to be electrically powered.
And while this market is still a niche in the car industry, these companies have clearly hit on a popular vein, boasting full order books and many very satisfied customers.
And it’s not hard to see why. Despite climate deniers, we are living at a time of legislation against diesel, and indeed high powered petrol engines, with governments both legislating against fossil fuel sources and providing incentives for going electric.
The city of Paris is currently planning a ban on both diesel and petrol engines in its centre. While electric engines are achievable and desirable, for new models like the Tesla, electric systems can also be retrofitted into beautiful classic motors.
Discerning drivers that have enough money can have their cake and eat it: elegant, classic designs, powered by clean and reliable electric engines.
We aren’t saying that this is big business. It isn’t. At the moment it is the reserve of largely garage-based companies, making a few of the most iconic cars according to specific instructions. But it is taking place across the world.
In America, for instance (lest we forget the home of the gas-guzzling car), a company has emerged to create an electric version of the Ford Bronco. Perhaps not surprisingly, this company is located in California, the same state as Tesla.
In Europe, cars have a little more panache. In Italy, a company is currently converting classic Fiats to electric engines, while in Holland a company is specialising in switching the old flat-six engine in the Porsche 911 for a 58-kilowatt powertrain engine.
The numbers may sound unfamiliar to petrol heads, but perhaps they are numbers we need to start getting used to. Outside of the speciality shops, big brands are also waking up to the idea of combining the efficiency of the electric with the romance of the classic. Renault, for example, is trying out the notion of bringing back the classic Plein Air beach cruiser, but with an electric engine.
And how about in the good ol’ U of K? Well, the same trend is appearing here, with the likes of Aston Martin getting in on the electric scene. Their Heritage EV programme is designed to allow Aston Martin owners to switch their engines for electric powertrain versions. Yes, we may soon see the site of James Bond pulling over to recharge his DB5. Jaguar is following suit, offering to electrify the E-Type model, with one electric E-Type already famous for its appearance at Harry and Meghan’s wedding.
As well as the classic marques, new companies are also appearing to create bespoke electric vehicles, such as the nearly 500 electric Ford Mustangs customised by the British company Charge Automotive.
The benefits are obvious: all the beauty of the classic shell, with the guilt-free ergonomics of a contemporary, electric engine at its heart. But – at least at the moment – the costs perhaps provide as much of a shudder as the electric engines themselves. Converting your E-Type will set you back £60,000… and few of us are likely to have that hanging around in the glove compartment. An electric 911 will set you back a hair-raising £265,000, about three times as much as a regular classic. And that’s if you can get one… the company have only converted 40 so far. Similarly, the electric Ford Bronco is £116,000 and that, again, is about five times as much as a regular model.
Perhaps this is the surcharge for being both classic and climate-aware, and of course, the price is likely, eventually, to come down. And the price is also worth it when you consider that we will also be paying for the preservation of these beautifully engineered and constructed classic cars, future-proofing them for a world where petrol and diesel are considered words as dirty as the fuel itself.
I have been lucky enough to be in a classic Ferrari as it did what it was designed to do… race around the Oulton Park circuit. And I have been to Cuba, where classic American cars purr along the roads as though they were everyday Hondas and Nissans. We can all see the beauty in these vehicles, and the need to preserve them so that future generations can also enjoy their elegant lines and sleek design. The fact that the major brands are waking up to the love people have for their older, classic models, and are willing to consider their electrification, is a testament to the fact we will be able to see these cars on our roads, as well as in our museums. For those with the cash, and the vehicles in the garage, these new bespoke shops will also be able to bring these old cars up to modern motoring standards. And us car lovers – now not petrol heads… but electric heads – can then still gawp in admiration as those cars pass by – same body, different heart; still cruising, but now cruising with a clear climate conscience.
Retrofitting these classics with modern electrics is no easy task – particularly when it comes to the batteries.
With the electric vehicle market trending upwards, the demand for thermal sensors that can accurately control battery temperatures for optimum performance has sky-rocketed over the last decade.
ATC Semitec stock a wide range of temperature sensors that are used across a broad range of automotive applications including cabin environments and battery powertrain systems.
As a major thermal component supplier to world-leading car manufacturers, Semitec is the No.1 choice in this sector.