A topic generating a lot of hot air among restoration purists these days as the concept of battery-powered vehicles has become so widely accepted – can a car that has been converted to battery power still be regarded as an authentic classic.
Debates for and against have become intense over the last few years, as the concept of battery-powered vehicles has become so widely accepted. Those in favour say that a very high proportion of major restorations include a new or refurbished engine being fitted –so why not battery powered?.
The purists claim that saving a classic car from extinction justifies replacing its engine- but why electric.
Those against electrically powered engines make the strong argument that one of the principal charms of a classic car, especially a high-powered tourer such as the E-type Jaguar or an Alfa Romeo, is the throaty roar the engine gives off when the driver’s foot presses hard on the accelerator.
As the concept of fitting cars with battery-powered engines was in its infancy around twenty years, car owners were excited about the prospect- especially the positive effects that having more and more vehicles on the roads that did not run on fuel would have on the environment.
These were cars for the future nobody dreamed for a moment that cars produced sixty years or more could be adapted to be battery-powered – or that anyone would want to.
Slowly acceptance grew that specific models might lend themselves to electric power, particularly the large gas-guzzling saloons of the Fifties and Sixties. Replacing an engine in one of these “battleships” if it could be found was a costly exercise and usually not financially viable.
While fitting an electric engine is not cheap, it is almost on par with a fuel-driven one in these instances. And the cost savings over the long term in powering a large family saloon or even a SUV will be considerable.
Not content with fitting electrically powered engines into top of the range classics, those intrepid enthousiasts are also in favour of fitting electrically powered engines into such bread and butter classics of the Fifties and Sixties such as the Volkswagen Beetle or Morris Minor
While the arguments rage on, those classic car lovers who are in favour of switching their vehicle to electric power are experiencing a growing supply problem. When the numberof conversions remained low, it was not too much of a problem to pick up second-hand batteries and the other parts that would enable a conversion at a relatively low cost; now, they are becoming increasingly scarce as the demand rises.
Restorers are reduced to scouring through the breakerss yard searching for a electrically powered vehicle that is an insurance write off, whose motors and batteries are in salvageable condition. Top of the list are parts from Teslas, with Nissan Leafs lagging not far behind, but these are few and far between. Late-model Toyotas and Hondas are more readily available, although their batteries have usually been in use for much longer. Usually their search will bring no results as these finds are few and far between.
As the trend to convert the classic car to electric power gains more legitimacy, independent companies begin to emerge, producing electrically powered vehicles built on the frames and using the bodywork of such classics as the Jaguar E-Type or the Aston Martin DB4.
While these electric classics carry a heavy price ticket and are geared towards a limited market, signs that mass-market electrically powered classics could become commonplace in the coming years is the launch of the e-Plein air open-top from Renault based on their workhorse four from the Sixties.
The release of the e-Plein air is seen as a precedent for many entries level classic car reproductions that will hit the market in the coming years.
While e-Pleins and similar are far away from the concept that most classic car restorers envisage for the future for the battery-powered classic. They hope that these components, vital in their construction, will soon be more readily available and at an achievable cost to suit most budgets.
The development of lithium-ion batteries is significant as they are bot lighter in weight and should more precisely match that of a traditional internal combustion engine.
Anticipations are that it is only a matter of time until some live wire in the industry will come up with a package deal that will take in batteries, the motor, and the appropriate frame that will match most UK and European models the Fifties and Sixties.
In the US, developments of a self-contained EV friendly chassis designed to fit almost any classic car are also reportedly at an advanced stage, and it should only be a matter of time before they make it to the UK and Europe.
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All you need to know about restoring and maintaining UK or European cars of the Fifties and Sixties- as well as the history of the great cars of the era and the people that produced them.