Transforming a Classic: The Electric Defender

Welcome, everyone! Barnaby from Electric Car Converts here, bringing you the story of our latest project: converting to an electric Defender. If you follow us on Instagram or YouTube, you’ve probably seen this beast before. But today, we’re giving you a closer look.

A Classic Meets Tesla

This isn’t just any Defender. Underneath, it boasts a Tesla Model 3 motor and a 55 kWh battery pack up front. We took it to the Furl Hill Climb in East Sussex, a place known for its classic sports car hill climbs, to show off what this electric conversion can do.

Quick and Powerful

The electric Defender is surprisingly quick. As we zoomed to the top of the hill, we marveled at the view: London 60 miles one way and the ocean just a couple of miles the other. It’s a beautiful area, and we’re lucky to have our workshop here.

Sustainability in Action

One of the coolest aspects? The power for this electric Defender comes from wind energy, thanks to a nearby wind farm. So, it’s not just about the looks or the speed; it’s about being eco-friendly too.

The Conversion Process

From the outside, this Defender is a 1986-87 model with a modern facelift, including a new bumper and grille with Twisted branding. But the real magic is under the hood. Let’s dive into the details.

Battery System

We placed a big gray box in the front to house the batteries, keeping the weight distribution similar to the original design. This box contains 55 kWh of LG Chem battery modules, the same used in VW ID3s. It’s not easy to get new battery packs, but we managed it for this project.

Battery Management

The battery pack includes a management system to monitor temperatures and ensure everything stays balanced. A small radiator and header tank help keep the batteries cool by circulating water.

High Voltage Control

We installed contactor controllers to manage the high voltage, and a CCS controller for fast charging. This system can charge the Defender at about 70 kW, allowing it to go from 20% to 80% in around 30 minutes.

Efficient Charging

Instead of loading up on batteries, we focused on faster charging. A smaller battery pack with quick charging capabilities keeps the weight and cost down. This setup offers a range of 120-140 miles, perfect for trips to London and back.

AC and DC Systems

For everyday charging, the Defender uses an AC system, either through a standard plug or a home charger. There’s also a DC-DC converter to power the vehicle’s 12-volt systems like headlights and wipers.

Cooling and Throttle

Two radiators and fans manage cooling, one for the batteries and one for the motor. We’ve also included a Model 3 throttle adapted to fit the original throttle cable.

Power Steering and Brakes

The power steering is an optional upgrade, offering a more sophisticated electric assist. For braking, we installed a Tesla iBooster system, providing excellent braking performance and regenerative braking.

Interior Upgrades

Inside, we removed the clutch pedal and flattened the floor for more space. The simplified layout now features just a throttle and brake pedal, making it more comfortable and spacious, even allowing room for a third seat.

Charging Ports

On the side, you’ll find the CCS charging port. The top section handles AC charging, while the bottom two holes manage DC fast charging for those long trips.

This electric Defender project highlights the potential of combining classic vehicles with modern electric technology. It’s powerful, sustainable, and retains the rugged charm of the original Defender. We’re thrilled with how it turned out and can’t wait to take it on more adventures.

Stay tuned for more projects from Electric Car Converts, and thanks for following along!

Reviewed by Barnaby Birkbeck (Founder) & Toby Wilson (Head Electrical Engineer), in 2024.

This article has been reviewed by our team of professional experts for accuracy and relevance. However, the information provided is for general informational purposes only. We recommend consulting with us for personalised guidance.