Converting a classic car to electric

Converting a classic car to electric

Laura Laura
6 minute read

Can you convert a classic car to electric? And how much would it cost?

There’s no denying the beauty and elegance of generational classic cars. Also for those old vintage vehicles we grew up with - while they might not score high in the beauty category - they still hold a special place in our hearts.

So it’s perfectly understandable why one of the most frequently asked questions on the internet right now is whether you can convert a classic car into an electric vehicle - and if you can, how much will it set you back?

 

Classic car conversions and restorations

If you are interested in converting your classic car to run on electric power, you are not alone. Classic car conversion to EV makes sense, whether you plan on taking on the project yourself or contracting it out for someone else to do.

 

Instead of fixing a classic car’s internal combustion engine, and all the headaches that go with it - finding spare parts, importing spare parts, searching for rare spare parts - fitting it with one or more eco-friendly electric motors and a battery pack makes so much sense.

 

What is the best reason to convert an ICE vehicle to an EV?

It goes without saying that manufacturers haven’t got around to producing every type of electric vehicle yet, and nowhere else is this more apparent than the outdoor sports, RV and adventure/touring sector.

 

You only have to look at the style of EVs available to the public to see that most of the models would struggle going off-road or fit more people inside. This is because EVs are relatively heavy compared to an internal combustion engine car and all that weight has to be put somewhere, which takes up space.

 

Taking a new EV model boondocking isn’t possible yet - the new Jaguar Land Rover is still a few years away from becoming more widely available, it might be best for you to have converted an iconic off-road vehicle to run electric. This is no walk in the park, however. A purpose-built recreational vehicle or outdoor adventure vehicle must be converted so that it keeps all of its rugged good looks and safety features as well as offer a meaningful range.

 

Range anxiety is one of the most talked about drawbacks when consumers discuss their concerns about going fully electric. Throwing a couple of portable tanks of petrol into the back of the Land Rover and hitting the road will be a thing of the past. On the other hand, a converted outdoor adventure vehicle will give you the ability to travel away for the weekend without worrying if it might break the budget.

 

Electromodding

Classic car modification to electric battery power is called 'electromodding'. Electromodding is rapidly increasing in popularity, with businesses that sell electric car modification parts and batteries seeing a surge in customers and full, turnkey conversion businesses having to be booked well in advance. This is clearly a trend that reaches far beyond the interest in converting vehicles to run on old cooking oil that happened a few decades ago.

 

Remember the conversion from manual to digital cameras? Many purists in photographic circles fought hard to stop the proliferation of digital into the hallowed ground of shutter-click cameras and chemical developing, but they lost the battle. It’s likely to be the same with petrol vs. electric cars too.

 

How to convert a classic car to run on electric and batteries?

EV conversion specialists all over the world are happy to share their knowledge on this subject. A few things have to be taken into consideration before the conversion can be done, however:

      What range does the driver require from the battery? Those used to driving 450km in their petrol-powered VW Beetle are likely to be disappointed when they find out that the car works best with a 150km range/28kWh battery pack from Tesla and an 88kWh electric motor.

      Not all classic cars lend themselves to conversion, easy conversion or budget-friendly conversion. What’s the point of saving on petrol costs when you’ve overspent on the conversion?

      The definition of a classic car is fairly narrowly defined when it comes to converting a vehicle to run on electric. Any car produced after 1990 contains software that is too complicated to transpose. Some cars, such as the Mini, are too small and estate cars, station wagons and panel vans pose difficulties because of limited space to fit the battery box.

      It may not be financially practical to convert a classic car to run on electricity. Price parity between EV and ICE vehicles in the upper end of the market is almost indiscernible at this point, and the budget end of the EV:ICE market is rapidly catching up, especially when you factor in the $8,625 clean car discount. This is easy to illustrate: why spend money on a classic car conversion when you could buy a new MG ZS EV for $40,000-odd?

      Only once your ICE car has been given “Warrant of Fitness” clearance, will it be considered for conversion, with the EV conversion parts costing anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000. With figures like that, classic ICE car conversion is usually done for novelty purposes as opposed to cost efficient purposes. 

 

Why should I bother doing an electric conversion?

If you are considering an electric conversion for the car you use every day, you can still drive the car you know and love, and rack up all those kilometres on it, without worrying about rising fuel prices affecting you. You won’t be running extra kilometres on the old engine, and when it comes to keeping the classic cars on the road, there is no contest.

 

What are the costs for ICE car conversion?

Because of global shortages, used battery prices have increased sharply recently, so sharply in fact that you will be lucky to find a conversion for under $40,000, and that price is exclusive of bodywork.

 

Is there any way to save on classic car conversion costs?

You can avoid hiking the price of an ICE to EV too high in two ways:

      Stick to converting the car to around 90kW of power with a 150 - 160km range.

      Save money by investing in a DC fast charger port for EVs or whichever charger best suits your budget.

Alternatively, you can DIY the conversion yourself if you are able to adhere to the safety complacency regulations.

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