Electric Car Converts Explains:
Converting a classic car to electric power is no simple task, however, the post-conversion benefits are definitely worth it – performance, cost to run and reliability are all vastly improved. An electric car conversion involves replacing the petrol or diesel engine in your car with an electric motor. The electric classic car is powered by a battery pack, which is connected to the motor and motor controller, along with a whole load of other bits and bobs. Converting a classic car to electric power gives it instant acceleration due to its maximum torque from a standstill, making your classic car light on its feet and great fun to drive.
Choose an Electric Motor
An important aspect of an electric car conversion is choosing the right electric motor for the classic car. There are a few different types of motors that can be used for electric car conversions, this can be anything from a used front or rear drive unit out of any Tesla model, an old industrial motor (such as one out of a forklift truck) or our favourite, a 3 Phase AC, Synchronous Reluctance Internal Permanent Magnet (SRIPM) Motor. The main difference between the different types of motor is power and efficiency, but there are also important things to consider such as the connection to the wheels and its mountings (will it be mounted to the original gearbox or mounted as a transaxle?). The motor you choose will greatly depend on the classic car being converted to electric power, will it need power? Is there space for it? Will it be mounted safely and securely? All motors suitable for an electric car conversion have high torque and high efficiency (95-98%), compare this to a petrol/diesel engine which are between 20-30% efficient!
Once a motor has been chosen for the EV conversion, the next step is to source it (easier said than done) and then install it. This involves removing the engine and all of the associated parts, such as the fuel tank, exhaust system, engine ancillaries and the cooling system. Although motors are lighter than engines, they’re still upwards of 60kg, so specialist equipment is required to line them up and hold them in place before fixing. Custom mountings and adapters are fabricated to allow the motor to sit in the chassis and connect to the drive train, as electric motors are a different size and shape to an original classic car engine.
Choose The Batteries
The next step is to install the batteries. At Electric Car Converts we only convert cars to electric using the two most modern and energy dense battery options available: Tesla Model S/X batteries and LG Chem batteries. They’re both Lithium-ion batteries with very similar capabilities. The main difference though is the size and shape of the batteries and how many you will need. For example, a 26.5kWh battery pack consists of either 5 Tesla Model S/X 5.3kWh batteries, or 10 LG Chem 2.6kWh batteries. Tesla batteries are long and thin, as they are under the floor in a Tesla car, this means that they need space and are well suited to large classic cars such as Land Rovers or VW Campervans. LG Chem batteries are around the size of a breeze block (a large brick) this means they can be snuck behind the seats or in the edges of a boot/engine bay in a smaller car, such as a classic Mini or an MGB.
Once batteries have been chosen, it’s time to decide how to connect them all together (in series or parallel) and how they’re going to be mounted in one or more custom fabricated battery boxes, with inbuilt cooling, wiring, and battery management systems included. This battery box (or multiple battery boxes) is then welded onto the chassis or subframe of the classic car being converted to electric power and connected to the main high voltage wiring loom.
After the motor and batteries have been installed, the next step is to install and connect all of the ancillary electrical components such as the DC/DC converter, charging system, battery management system (BMS) and control units into the car. This includes connecting the battery pack to the motor, as well as connecting the motor to the controller and all of the other high and low voltage wiring harnesses required. Each component of the electric classic car conversion has a role to play, and although a car may work without a key part, its batteries may get ruined, it could be uncontrollable, or it could not be able to charge up! It’s also important to ensure that the extra electrical components used are fit for the voltage range used in the conversion. This step is highly dangerous due to the high voltages involved, one wrong move could end in a severe shock or ruining a component.
Once everything is wired up, the final step is to configure the controller to the specific needs of the client and the car. This involves setting the maximum speed of the electric vehicle, as well as setting the acceleration, regenerative braking severity and ultimately how much power the motor will use. Once the controller has been configured it’s time for testing. All electric car conversions are taken out for stringent road tests to measure range, reliability and performance. From here, tweaks will be made to the configuration to ensure it’s set up to the optimal settings.
Register the EV with the DVLA
When changing the drivetrain of a vehicle you need to let the DVLA know, this is so that you can reap the benefits of owning an EV now! This process is complicated, involves a lot of paperwork and is something worth leaving to an expert, it’s much easier for classic cars than it is for more modern ones. The DVLA needs to know lots of the technical information about the conversion and may even need to do an inspection of the vehicle.
Can you convert any car to electric?
The conversion process can be done on just about any car. However, some cars are better suited for electric car conversions than others. In general, the less electronics and driver aids in the car, the easier it is – this is because you don’t have to deal with automatic breaking systems, power steering or onboard computers and ECU’s.
Here at Electric Car Converts, we love converting classic cars to electric power, creating the perfect harmony of heritage and 21st-century technology. We believe that converting a classic car is valuable and rewarding, and would always recommend classics as the best options for conversion. Classic cars are also a lot easier to convert to electric power, as they have a simple design, and are therefore more economical.
How much does it cost to convert a classic car to electric?
The cost of electric car conversions varies depending on a number of factors. Namely, the type of motor, batteries, and controller that you choose. It also comes down to things such as desired range, horsepower and charge times. Get in touch with Electric Car Converts to get a comprehensive quote for a customised electric car conversion.
Leave It To Electric Car Converts or Do It Myself?
The conversion process is difficult and requires extensive technical knowledge. Some try to convert their cars to electric power themselves, but we recommend avoiding the hassle and letting the experts do the work. If you’re not comfortable working on cars or with high-voltage electrics, it’s probably best to leave the conversion process to Electric Car Converts. However, if you have a deep understanding of how cars work and how electricity works and you’re handy with tools and have the specialist equipment required, you can always try to convert a classic car to electric power yourself, perhaps with our Land Rover conversion kits and guidance. Ultimately, the bulk of the cost of a conversion is in the parts, so you may find that you don’t actually save yourself very much money in doing the work yourself.
An electric car conversion is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and save money on petrol or diesel. Electric Car Converts are experts in this field and will be more than happy to chat about converting your classic car to electric power!
Reviewed by Barnaby Birkbeck, Founder & Head Electrical Engineer, in 2023.