In recent years, a growing number of classic car owners have converted their vintage car to electric – something which might sound unthinkable to many of you out there. But can such a drastic change bring any benefits to how you drive and run a classic car?
To find out, we’re taking a balanced look at this divisive issue to see if there really is any benefit in converting to electric, or whether the whole thing is as inadvisable as it sounds.
Are There Any Benefits to Converting a Classic Car to Electric?
Here at Redex, we’re great lovers of classic cars, so it’s hard to be impartial on the topic of electric conversion. Removing an original engine from a vintage car sounds like sacrilege to us, but can it bring any benefit?
Let’s take a look at some of the reputed benefits of converting a classic car to electric.
In our book, nothing compares to the original when it comes to performance. But if your classic car has lost some of its power and performance over the decades, an electric conversion could add a bit more pep to your leisure drives.
Whatever you think of them, it has to be said that electric motors deliver outstanding power delivery, so you could enjoy improved acceleration and speed when compared to the original. Most electric motors will also be slightly lighter than the original engine, which could help things out through the corners too.
It’s worth remembering, though, that pushing an electric motor hard will mean you run out of charge very quickly – so all that excitement may be short-lived when you find yourself down on power.
Reliability and Maintenance
While classic car owners enjoy working on their cars, it’s no fun when things keep going wrong – especially if persistent faults lead to breakdowns out on the road. The nature of vintage engines means that regular maintenance and upkeep are required, and even then, there’s still a chance you could find yourself at the roadside, steam billowing from beneath the bonnet.
With all that said, then, converting to electric could be a good option for those who want to spend more time driving and less time tinkering. A new electric engine could provide a greater sense of reliability and confidence at the wheel, so you can drive your car with less fear that something’s about to go wrong.
Not only that, but fewer faults could mean more money in your pocket. Maintenance accounts for a big portion of the cost of running a classic car, so it’s important to factor in these cost savings as a potential benefit.
Fuel Cost Savings
A key benefit to electric conversion that few classic car owners could dispute concerns the cost of fuel. Most classic owners would admit that old cars aren’t the most economical, with MPG figures falling way short of what their modern counterparts are capable of.
By converting your classic car to electric, you’ll be able to charge your car at home and avoid frequent trips to the fuel station. Depending on the electric motor you opt for, you’ll get decent range for those leisurely trips.
Of course, you do need to factor the cost of the conversion into any prospective fuel cost savings – something we’ll touch on later in the guide.
Why You Should Think Twice Before Converting Your Classic Car to Electric
You’ve read the benefits of converting your classic car to electric (possibly through gritted teeth), so now it’s time to look at the drawbacks. Electric conversion is a risky and expensive undertaking, and you’ll definitely want to consider the following before making a decision.
The biggest and most significant pitfall of electric conversion is cost. Converting an old car to electric is a huge project, and the price reflects this. So, even taking into account the potential cost savings we mentioned earlier, it will take a long time to recoup what you’ve put in and feel any financial benefit.
While it’s impossible to put an exact figure on any specific conversion, our research came up with a few ballpark figures which can give you an idea of the cost of converting your classic to electric – we’ve listed these below:
- Buy an electric conversion kit – some companies offer off-the-shelf conversion kits, which cost around £4,500-£7,500. This is for the kit alone, and doesn’t include any additional costs, like tools or pro help.
- Have a professional carry out the conversion – there are many firms out there offering a full conversion package, whereby they carry out every element of the job. Costs for this vary widely, but you’re looking in the region of £12,000-£50,000 depending on the scale and complexity of the project.
- Buy individual parts and do it yourself – this is the cheapest way forward, but also the most complicated. You can buy individual components and essentially come up with your own conversion solution, but you’ll need plenty of know-how. Sites like Electric Classic Cars offer parts and components and can give you an idea of the total cost for your project.
So, converting your classic car to electric doesn’t come cheap, so you’ll have to do your sums to see if it’s really worth it. Remember, you could sell the original engine which could help to cover some of the cost of the conversion. Beyond that, it’s just a matter of working out how much you stand to save in fuel, tax and other running costs.
No one buys a classic car for convenience, safety, economy or practicality. Instead, we drive vintage cars for the sheer joy of driving, and the pleasure of owning something from the past. For these reasons, converting to electric can be an unequivocal no-no for classic car purists, who care more about the thrill of driving and running a classic than things like cost savings and other benefits that converting to an electric can bring.
Electric cars have come on a long way in recent years, but range still remains an issue for many all-electric models. The UK is still way behind when it comes to rolling out electric car charging infrastructure, meaning that ‘range anxiety’ is still a major concern for those who cover a lot of miles in an electric car.
For modern cars, one way manufacturers get around this issue is by fitting a range extender engine in alongside an electric motor. This small petrol or diesel unit helps to keep the car running, effectively removing the issue of losing charge miles from your destination.
If you replace a fuel engine with an electric motor, you’ll need to change your mindset about driving and be constantly aware of your car’s limited range. Diverting to a fuel station will no longer be a failsafe option, either, as many electric motors take hours to charge from empty. This, of course, depends on how much you’re willing to spend on an electric motor, and what its quoted range is.
Something you might not think about until you start the process is all the paperwork needed to ensure your car is legal and roadworthy. When you’ve completed the conversion, the car will need to be checked over to assess its safety by the DVLA. You’ll also need to change the information on the V5C document which relates to the car’s capacity and powertrain.
While these small changes aren’t huge setbacks, they do highlight issues with electric conversion which you may not have considered. For example, depending on the type of conversion, you might lose boot space which is suddenly taken over by batteries and other components, or the seating configuration inside the cabin may need to change slightly to accommodate different parts and components.
So, there you have it, a thorough look at converting your classic car to electric. Despite the potential benefits an electric conversion can bring, we’re still not convinced it’s worth it, and we’re sure most classic car owners would agree.
Driving a classic car isn’t about fuel economy, practicality or even reliability. It’s about celebrating motoring heritage and putting your all into ensuring that both you, and others, can continue to enjoy these wonderful machines.
What are your thoughts on classic electric conversions? Have your say by becoming a member of the Redex Club Facebook group. Alternatively, to find out about our fuel additives and system cleaners, visit the Redex homepage today.