Can you turn your 1964 Ford Mustang into an electric vehicle (EV)? While the short answer is yes, there are many things to consider before you take the original engine and gas tank out of your collector car. If you want to create an electric classic car, you may not be worried about keeping all the original parts. But you might want to know if it’s a worthwhile endeavour.
How much does switching from a gas car to an electric one cost?
A few shops specializing in EV conversions, like EV West in California, are producing kits to get you started on this journey. The kits alone run from $15,000 and climb. They include a crate motor, battery pack, and some specially machined parts for your ride.
However, the kit is only half the challenge. Expect to double that investment for labour. Some major manufacturers like Rolls-Royce and Jaguar have converted antique machines from the ’30s and ended up with rides that list well into the six-digit range.
Right now, converting classic cars to electric is usually a curiosity reserved for the rich and famous.
Is converting classic cars to electric something I can do at home?
Installing an electric propulsion system is different than fixing the tuning on a carburetor. You need to know electrical systems, high-powered lithium batteries, and the equipment necessary for a safe installation. Finding the proper insurance to cover at-home installations can be tricky, so if you’re considering converting your classic car to electric, make sure you go to a professional.
What types of classic cars are best for EV conversions?
The weight of the original car has a lot to do with the success level of an EV conversion. Lighter cars like the Volkswagen Beetle and the 1980s Porsche 911 make excellent choices. The power produced by the batteries will be sufficient to deliver a more spirited ride. Heavier sedans like a Cadillac Fleetwood or a 1955 Bel Air will struggle with acceleration. There’s a point where the number of batteries needed to provide ample power cancels out the weight lost by the original engine block, so you end up with a sluggish ride. Think two-seaters, compact cars of the 70s, and sports car designs for the best performance.
Why is it harder to convert a post-1996 classic car to an EV?
Once the major manufacturers introduced the standardized onboard diagnostic systems in 1996, the car’s computer expects to see a certain engine, transmission, and other electrical connections to keep running. While you can convert a post-’96 car into an EV, it gets much more complicated. Not only are you replacing the engine’s mechanical components, but you also need to obtain programming for the new EV interface.
Currently, the Big Four are not creating the updates you’d need for the ECU to communicate with a new electric motor and battery system. You’re more likely to replace the ECU with a non-OEM part, which may have unexpected results.
What kind of range will I get on a classic car EV conversion?
Your range will depend on what type of battery and motor configuration you install, along with the weight and aerodynamics of the original car. Most conversion projects can expect to achieve somewhere between 75 and 150 miles on a single charge. You shouldn’t expect to see ranges of 225 to 300 miles like the new EVs on the market. Those ranges are attained through a complete integration of every component in the car, from the tires to the frame to the shape of the side mirrors.
Do I have to replace the transmission as well as the engine?
Not necessarily. You can use even the old 4-speed manual transmission on your electric classic car project. But you need to have an adapter plate and coupler created to match the transmission to the new motor. This will be a custom part. If you want an easier time of it, look for a crate EV motor that includes a transmission designed to fit into your vehicle.
Conversions Will Get Easier and Less Expensive
With the new EV market exploding and supply chains struggling to keep up, the conversion EV market will need some time to build up parts, knowledge, and resources for the collector car community. In ten or even five years, you’ll start to see the cost of an electric classic car drop, and it’ll be more accessible to source crate e-motors. For now, you may only see one of these conversions at the annual British Columbia Classic & Custom Car Show.
Can I get my classic EV car insured?
You may be able to insure your unique ride, but you won’t be able to opt for a standard collector car policy. You’ll need to work with your insurance broker to create a special policy that takes into account the cost and irreplaceable value of your special project.