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Prediction: Many Vintage Cars Will Soon Be Converted to Electric

Photo Credit: EV West

Here’s a prediction you might be surprised by: I believe that in a few years, there will be an entire industry devoted to converting vintage cars to run on electric power. Really. I think there are going to be companies out there whose sole existence is based on taking an old Beetle, or an old G-Wagen, or an old Jeep, ripping out the engines, and installing an electric powerplant.

It may sound insane, but follow my thinking here: Over the last few years, a larger and larger number of jurisdictions across the world have clamped down on all sorts of emissions regulations — and some places have even gone so far as to ban certain vehicles, or cars of a certain age, from certain parts of cities. To me, it’s only a matter of time before the clamping down continues — especially as electric cars continue to proliferate and start to become "the new normal."

In 15 years, let’s say most new cars sold are electric or have some sort of plug-in component — or maybe call it 20 years. Either way, it’s something that’s not totally out of the realm of possibility. When this starts to happen, I suspect legislators (having normalized the idea of vehicles that don’t produce any tailpipe emissions) will start to wonder why their jurisdictions should support the continued use of dirty, old cars since most vehicles, by this "future" time, are so clean. I strongly suspect gasoline cars won’t really be banned — but I could see regulations tightening further.

Likewise, I could imagine a similar scenario happening at the same time: More people want to go green. I, personally, would love to drive around in a fully electric car, or at least one that gets something like 50 miles per gallon — but I love my 1997 Land Rover Defender 90 too much to stop using it, even though it probably gets something like 13 miles per gallon. But it’s not like legislators exist in a vacuum: Regular people, too — even car people — will want to "go green," and they’ll want to bring their beloved vintage cars with them.

And thus, the industry is born.

In fact, the industry has already been born. If you search the internet for "convert old cars to electric," a couple of companies already pop up in the search results, advertising conversions for old Triumphs, Beetles, Porsches and Volkswagen buses. A company called EV West is offering a kit that will convert your Porsche 914 to electric for just under $7,000 — or your Volkswagen Thing, or your Toyota MR2. I haven’t spent much time looking into what’s involved in the conversion or what kind of range we’d be talking about, but the point is clear: This is already happening. And my guess is, it’s going to happen more.

I got started thinking about all this because I actually began wondering whether it was possible to convert my Defender to run on electric power — so I started Googling to see if anyone’s out there doing it yet. I suspect today’s technology is relatively primitive and I wouldn’t quite get the range I want — but I also suspect there will come a time, in 20 years, when I rip the crappy, old Land Rover V8 out of my truck (which made a whopping 182 horsepower) and, in its place, stick in some batteries. And, frankly, I wouldn’t be too disappointed about having to do it. Find a classic car for sale

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve been thinking about this for years. A few months ago I got a 1980 Porsche 928 and I want to eventually put a super powerful electric drivetrain in it.

  2. This industry will grow, but to me you are basically turning your car into a dressed up go-kart. Fast? yes. Better for the environment? yes. Arguably cheaper to maintain? Maybe..  But to me there is more to owning a car than it being fast. It is the purring of the engine, the sound and smells that come with a internal combustion engine. Lets face it a lot of the character your car has is from its engine. When you go EV to me it takes away from the cars personality and character…just numbs the whole experience. 

  3. Interesting.  So I commented that I am not a believer in Global Climate Change and the comment gets deleted?  What is up with that?  We’re allowed to have our own opinions even if they differ from the comment checker’s.  My comment was that I’d do a replica ’69 Camaro and put a Tesla P85 drivetrain in it and drive it every day. 

  4. I get the purpose of EV cars and in some cases they are better for the environment, depending where your grid gets its power. Personally they don’t interest me, I don’t care about 0-60, they aren’t fun for me, and I’ll never buy one. So this converting beautiful classics with characterful engines seems sad to me. 🙁

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