Series 2 Land Rover Conversion
Protecting British heritage by future-proofing a British icon
By Yosi Romano
as feastures in “Classic Land Rover” magazine March 2023
I sat on the train from London to Halifax with a one-way ticket, seemingly a giveaway of my intention. On arrival, I met Olli, the owner of a 1969 Series 2a diesel that I’d made the trip north for. Olli had rescued her from a barn on a farm in Yorkshire two months earlier, the Landy had been through decades of use as a run-around on the farm.
In love at first sight, I asked Olli if he thought I could safely drive her back to London – “if you are willing to do 200 miles at a maximum speed of 40 mph, I’m certain you’ll make it”, was his response. Eight hours later, with a few stops en route, I was back in London and was the proud owner of a piece of British motoring history.
The next morning, once my excitement had settled down, I excitedly started her up to show my young children our new toy but was met with an uninvited cloud of black smoke. I naively told myself that everything would be alright once the engine warmed up a bit.
And wrong I was…
After consulting Google, YouTube and a local Landy specialist I made a few attempts to clean her lungs but alas, living with my smoky Landy until I came up with a solution was my only option. This meant waiting until no pedestrians were around me before starting her up, waving sorry to every cyclist I overtook and being genuinely embarrassed to be polluting the health-conscious city of London.
This embarrassment was worsened due to my career in air quality and air pollution. I stood in front of the nation on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den in 2018 to pitch my company, Brizi, we are on a mission to protect babies from air pollution, so this didn’t feel quite right.
Morally I thought I could never drive a Land Rover again!
Thinking surely not, I began investigating my options and was pleased to find that it was possible to convert classic cars to full electric power, something that I had never considered or even heard of. I had found an exciting new industry, and could I perhaps be one of the very first owners of an Electric Land Rover?
After gathering a couple of quotes, I realised quite how new this industry was. Most companies wanted to fully restore my Land Rover, and then electrify it, and came back with quotes of in excess of £100,000, not to mention the three-year waiting list! The only way I’d be able to afford this was by winning the lottery.
With a final breath of determination to find a solution I searched deep into the back pages of Google and came across ‘Electric Car Converts’, a start-up in Sussex trying to make electric vehicle conversions affordable, supposedly for people like me. I contacted the owner, Barnaby, who told me that they don’t build conversions with crazy horsepower, they don’t build with hundreds of miles of range, but they do electrify Land Rovers for cheaper than buying a new ‘budget’ electric city car. Perfect!
Delighted that I now had a solution I took it to my family one dinnertime but was immediately hit with the face of my unimpressed 8-year-old daughter, Alma. Her main worry was that Landy (that’s the name she gave our car) would lose her character. Alma wanted to keep the rattle and the noise and agreed only after I explained again that we couldn’t use the vehicle in town with the amount of black smoke she spewed. I made her a promise that I would preserve the rest of Landy’s character by never painting her, even the heavily patinaed rear tub, caused by hay bales in her previous life.
So, back to Barnaby I went… Due to his specialty in Land Rovers, Barnaby explained that it was important to start with a good vehicle with good brakes, suspension and a solid chassis, as it wasn’t worth converting a “rust bucket like so many of them are”, so he recommended I talk to a restorer before embarking on this project.
Afterall, I didn’t want to put 120 horsepower of battery powered goodness into a car that wouldn’t stop!
To get my Landy EV conversion ready, I approached Joel from RestoRovers, who changed my leaf springs to a set of softer ones, made a tiny repair and rust treated my chassis and checked everything was in good order for electrification. Four new tyres later I pootled down into the Sussex countryside to drop my pride and joy off with Electric Car Converts!
Acceleration (0-60 mph)
|Original Diesel Engine
|3,596 kg CO2 per annum
So, Landy was electrified to the following specifications:
Range and Batteries:
I opted for the short-range option, which was 5 Tesla Module S batteries (26.5kWh) mounted under the bonnet, giving me around 70 miles of range. People often say to me “70 miles is nowhere near enough”, but when you actually think about it, how often do you drive more than 70 miles in a day? I do about 70 miles in a week around London!
Crucially, when I am ready to extend my range, I can bring her back in and have another battery pack installed.
An American ‘Hyper9’ electric motor was installed, which produces 120 horsepower and 235Nm of torque, more than doubling what my 2.25 Diesel put out before. This allows me to accelerate quickly and keep up with modern day London traffic, crucial in making driveability better. This motor is coupled to the original gearbox through a series of complicated adapter plates (machined within a 1000th of an inch!), which means the original flywheel and clutch are used. I spend most of my time in third gear around town (I never need 1st or 2nd due to the huge torque), changing into fourth when I go onto any faster road – even more exciting, when I go off road, I can still engage my original four-wheel drive system and low ratio box.
My car charges at 6.6 kilowatts, which is the speed that most electric cars charge. She can be charged at any EV charging station, be it outside the supermarket, at a lamppost or at a motorway services – this allows a full 0-100% charge in 4 hours. However, most of the time I plug her in on a normal 3 pin plug outside my house, which tops the charge up each night ready for another day of carting my kids around!
Due to being significantly lighter under the bonnet (200kg worth of batteries and motor instead of a 350kg engine + fuel + radiator etc), Landy is much easier to steer without any power steering, making life a bit easier during a tight London parallel park! She’s also got a high voltage heater installed, which means instant heat in the mornings, think a hairdryer on steroids! This is mounted in the original heater box, meaning the original ducting’s and heater controls are used.
I’ve found that driving an electric car in London comes with many benefits both financially and environmentally. I now produce 0 grams of CO2 per mile, compared to 390 grams previously and my cost per mile is down from 39p to just 9p. I no longer pay a surcharge for diesel and get a huge discount as an electric vehicle on my residential parking permit, plus I can drive into the city centre without paying the congestion charge, and if I did pay road tax I would now be tax exempt. I even ended up convincing parking apps that my 1969 Land Rover was an electric vehicle, this was quite a process, but I now get the discount I deserve!
Like most Land Rover owners, I do like to get my hands dirty and having an electric Landy doesn’t change this. I still spend hours tinkering, whether that be putting my spare wheel on the bonnet, touching up the odd rust bubble, fixing my speedometer cable or greasing my driveshaft. She’s still an old Land Rover and she still behaves like one, ask Alma!
When people that know a thing or two about Land Rovers see me before they hear me, the surprise and disbelief is very amusing. I’m constantly approached in carparks and asked about the process and if I’m happy with my decision to convert my car and I must say I’m very pleased to be able to drive a car that I genuinely love without contributing to London’s smog.