A small British farm makes the final step in becoming “off-grid”. Electrifying their trusty old Landy.
Ivan and Owena, who run a “large small holding or small farm” on the outskirts of Lewes, East Sussex, came to us with a problem. Their red Series 3, from 1984, which is used as their farm workhorse (alongside a twice as old tractor!) was the only thing stopping them from living completely off grid, and completely sustainably. We were tasked with her electrification.
By Barnaby Birkbeck - Founder of Electric Car Converts
I often visit Ivan and Owena at their home on the farm, which is a beautiful, work-in-progress barn conversion. This was initially to discuss their own conversion, but has become meeting their friends, discussing new conversion ideas or just sharing our mutual passion for sustainability.
I’d slam the door to my old Defender to signal I’d arrived (the electric drivetrain makes too little noise on this occasion) and would be instantly met by Ollie, a collie-lab cross who was already laying up-side-down at my feet, ready for a full-on tummy tickle. After this, it would be a case of hunting down Ivan and Owena, who were either in the cupboard under the stairs playing with their copper pipework, messing around with the settings on their solar battery bank, laying underneath a tractor older than my grandmother or sitting in the garden with their new grandson whose family had conveniently moved in next door. There’s always a hive of activity, whether that be power tools at the ready, a freshly capsized kayak in the driveway or a pile of something that was on its way somewhere!
Clearly, the family are practical and use their Land Rover daily to keep up with the tasks of their barn conversion, their farm and everything in between. However, with an air-source heat pump, a driveway sized solar panel array, a flock of sheep and a couple of acres of vegetables to support them, Ivan and Owena are an ode to sustainable, simple living – not something that quite suits the bellowing smoke coming out of the exhaust of their 38-year-old Landy.
So, it was clear that an electric conversion to their Land Rover was a good idea to realise the dream of energy independence.
Beyond the matter of sustainability and into the realm of reliability, their 1984 Series 3 had the original 2.25 petrol engine in it, meaning usability wasn’t always as easy as it should be. At 70 horsepower (when new!), the car wasn’t up to keeping up with modern traffic (0-60 in 25 seconds), making it a nuisance to drive, and often times dangerous when pulling out at junctions, especially with a trailer full of sheep on the back! It was lumpy, smoky, unreliable, struggled to start and was a pig to maintain and service so regularly. This meant the car wasn’t always used to its full potential, there was always a back of mind thought for the couple, “what’s going to break on todays journey?”.
This fear of unreliability was so evident that Ivan had even fitted a large shackle to the front bumper and had a tow pole which went everywhere with the car, so that they could be rescued – perhaps confirming a distinct lack of trust in the vehicle, and if it would make it home.
Despite all this, there was an immeasurable love for the Land Rover, one that would not be broken by a bit of unreliability. As genuine member of the family, she couldn’t be replaced by a modern electric vehicle, she couldn’t be parked up in a barn for 20 years, and certainly not sold or scrapped!
So, much deliberation was to be had by the family and ironically, as this was ongoing, the starter motor gave up. “The final straw!” exclaimed Owena, and the car was bought to us for electrification.
Ivan and Owena had a number of requirements for their conversion:
When not on the farm itself, their Landy is only used locally around the towns and villages of East Sussex. Due to this, a short-range battery pack would be sufficient. We decided to put in five Tesla Model S batteries, making a battery pack of 26.5kWh, good for around 70 miles of everyday driving. As with all of our conversions, there is an option for double the range, by adding another battery pack down the line if they feel they need it.
Another desirable outcome was to make the car a little easier to drive for the couple, who wanted to drive this vehicle well into their retirement. The first way that this was achieved was through eliminating the need to change gear. Although the clutch pedal and gearstick are still present, their electric Land Rover now stays in 3rd gear at all times. This is suitable for accelerating as well as for sitting at a constant 60mph on a faster road. If they want to change gears, they can as usual, but there’s absolutely no need to! Further to this, an electric conversion takes around 150kg of weight out of the vehicle, meaning there is less strain over the front wheels, and the steering is therefore lighter.
As a genuine working vehicle, the Landy had to be able to tow a livestock trailer for moving sheep to shows or neighbouring farms. Due to this, we opted to install a 120-horsepower motor, which is almost double what the car had in it originally. This was bolted to the original gearbox of the car, meaning that the original gear ratios are used, four-wheel drive systems are maintained, and high/low ratio is still usable. This, along with 235Nm of torque, means this Land Rover will happily tow a cattle trailer, uphill, in slippery English mud!
As mentioned, Ivan and Owena generate their own electricity with the solar panels on their driveway. It was crucial that this energy could be used to charge up their electric Land Rover, meaning no reliance on the national grid. Therefore, the charging system in their car was designed to be able to be charged through a standard 13-amp socket in their home. Charging from their solar panels charges the car from 0% - 100% in 9 hours, although most of the time the car is simply topped up from 60-70% in just a few hours. The Landy can also charge from EV charging sockets dotted around town, such as at their local supermarket – this allows for much faster charging but doesn’t keep them off grid!
“Converting our Land Rover to electric was a big decision but the team at Electric Car Converts were perfect at explaining how it would all work, and therefore made us comfortable with the unknown, we didn’t even know it was possible when we came across them! We were able to test drive one of their previously converted Land Rovers, so to see how it drove made all the difference. Thanks to them we’ve fallen in love with our Land Rover again and always have a smile on our faces as we potter around in it each day.”
Now that Ivan and Owena’s trusty Series 3 Landy is back at work on their farm, it is exactly that, trustworthy. She does everything she used to, just better, more reliably and crucially, with a far smaller environmental footprint.