As we have recently seen at the IAA Mobility Show in Munich, automakers are experimenting to find the perfect approach to the emerging EV revolution. OEMs are pushing boundaries with materials and designs in order to attract new customers and secure a share of the upcoming electric market.
However, there are other companies that might not be known as well as the big players on the market but have already found a perfect formula that combines the best of the past and the future of the automotive industry. One of these unique and exciting businesses is an Oxford-based company called Electrogenic, where the past meets the future.
The past, only better
Electrogenic has recently gained notoriety as it has been transforming iconic classic cars into electric vehicles and according to Steve Drummond, founder of the company, this has made them even better.
“You choose beautiful cars from the past, and you introduce new technology to make them drive so much better,” he says. “So, they're much more pleasurable to drive in modern traffic. And we're about the technology of how to make [the driving experience] smooth and seamless.”
The company has worked on some of the finest cars in the history of the automotive industry such as the Jaguar E-type, the Citroen DS and the Porsche 356. All these incredible conversions are engineered and designed by the company, but they always start in the same way: from the vision of the customer.
“We have a very special method. It is called doing what the customer wants us to do,” he says with a smile. “Electrogenic is a technology company. We buy in the motors and the batteries, and then all of the rest of the technology is 100% ours.”
The owner of the car usually brings in the classic beauty and sits down with the team to see first if the conversion is feasible. If the assessment is positive, then it is all about satisfying the customer and making sure that his/her vision is implemented, according to Drummond.
“You look at the car, you look at physically what space you have available. You work out if the customer wants to use the gearbox or doesn't want to use the gearbox, this then tells you about what motor you need,” he says. “You look at the motor sizing because of power requirements so you know what performance you're going to get to see and where you're going to have the batteries.”
How long does a classic EV conversion take?
The process of transforming an internal combustion engine vehicle in a state-of-the-art battery electric car takes few months as there are some important steps in order to achieve the conversion. The first one is to remove what is not needed on the car and take precise measurements, according to Drummond.
“We strip out the bits that we don't need, like the engine for example, fuel tank and exhaust and all the fluids,” he says. “And then we go into a big design phase. So very typically what we'll do is a 3D scan of the gearbox housing and also the engine bay.”
The scans are used so that they can have the most accurate images for the design team to create the parts that they need and to know the exact specifications for what electric motor to use.
The team then starts working on the car and they fit the newly designed parts that they have fabricated in-house and make sure that everything perfectly works in the car. They sometimes have to find creative solution to problems that might arise in the conversion. For example, the hydropneumatic suspensions of the Citroen DS are activated by a mechanical motor in the engine. In order to be able to give the customers the possibility to raise and lower the DS in the same way as the ICE version, the company has created an electric pump that can simply be activated through a switch.
After the mechanical team has fitted all the parts, the car moves to the electronics and commissioning team, which will put in and make all of the gauges on the dashboard work. In the end the conversion will take about two months in design and at least six weeks in the mechanical workshop.
Faster, more fun, more practical
The finished product, depending on what the customer has asked, can usually be more powerful and fun to drive than the original version. In fact, as WhichEV reported, Electrogenic offers different types of conversions depending on the power requested by the customer. For example, the E-type has a ‘Tourer’ conversion with similar performance to the original, a ‘Sprint’ one producing 470Nm of torque which is more performant. It also offers a high-performance ‘Grand Tourer’ conversion with an electric powertrain that delivers 300kW, and 600Nm of torque.
“I think the reality is that once you have driven a car that's been converted, you're never going to put the petrol engine back in it,” Drummond says.
The main reason to switch a classic to electric is because older cars require a lot of care and maintenance as they can easily incur problems. Also, repairing a classic vehicle is costly and time consuming as the skills to fix these types of cars are quickly disappearing, according to Drummond.
“The first thing about owning classic cars is that they break down all the time, and you have to be able to fix them. If you can't, then you can't use the car,“ he says. “So, a lot of our customers either have owned the car for a long time and are getting older or for whatever reason they don't want to do the maintenance anymore. Or they are younger people who want to own a classic but don't have the time to or don't want to do the maintenance.”
Another reason why it makes sense to convert a classic into electric is because it combines the beautiful design of the past with the power and smoothness of modern driving which is an absolute win-win situation for the driver, according to Drummond.
“The other thing is that most classic cars are not great to drive. They're hot, they're smelly, they're all over the place,” he says. “They're unreliable. The thing is that they don't have much power very often or if they do, it's very fuzzy and the gears are a very different driving experience from a modern car.”
Electrogenic is the perfect place to transform for the better your classic car as the company clearly explains on the website what its job is all about: “We put an irrepressible smile on your face every time you step into your Electrogenic classic.”