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Prediction: Many Vintage Cars Will Soon Be Converted to Electric

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author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2018

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.

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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Prediction: Many Vintage Cars Will Soon Be Converted to Electric - Autotrader