% EV Conversions Make Classic-ice Quicker %

Electric Conversions Can Save Classic Cars and Make Them Quicker
May 14, 2018  Brendan McAleer

[images  / Brendan McAleer

The aforementioned dog




EV guts

VW bus


VW bugs



The new breed of electric hot rodders.

“What's the range?” is the wrong question. Little Deuce Coupe doesn't have a
line about hypermiling. Nobody ever walked up to an LS-swapped 240SX and
asked how much fuel it could hold in the gas tank. Is it fast? Does it
corner hard? Can you rip off an epic burnout? These are much better
questions, and at a shop in California that swaps Tesla power into
lightweight classics, the answer is a joyful, “Hell, yes.”

Electric conversions have been around for decades, ever since the first
Birkenstock-wearing grumps loaded up the bed of their Chevy S10 with
lead-acid batteries, and flipped the bird to OPEC. Perhaps this image is
your first assumption, that the idea of changing a car's powertrain from
gasoline to electric is all about saving the environment at the expense of
originality, character, practicality, and fun.

“F*** the environment,” said Mike Bream, president of EV West, “Save the
cars! Oh wait, we also saved the environment? That's good too–but it's all
about having your priorities straight.”

EV West is based in an office complex north of San Diego, spreading out over
four bays. Everything you'd expect to find in a speed shop is here: the dog,
the race car, the employee wrenching on his own project. It's just that
everything runs on batteries. Well, not the dog.

The racing machine is possibly why EV West might be ringing a a bell for
you. A thousand-horsepower 1995 E36 M3 built to take on the Pikes Peak
hillclimb, it took a class record in 2012, running up the hill in under
twelve minutes with Bream at the wheel. It took four years for a gutted
Tesla P90D with a modified battery pack to go quicker, an eternity in a
field where energy density and power seems to change as quickly as computer
processing speed.

Having sat for years, the M3 was pulled out of storage for little other
reason than to lay a couple of 200ft rubber elevens out back of the shop one
evening. There wasn't much prep work needed other than charging it up;
compare this to the high-strung nature of your average internal combustion
racing machine, and you'll see one facet of the appeal to the
electric-swapped classics that are the bulk of EV West's current business.

Electric works, when you want it to work. Bream hops into a beautifully
restored 356 Speedster, and we head out for a couple laps of the
neighborhood. If you must know, this particular build spec has a range of
around 150 miles, more than enough for a morning spent mooching around town
after hitting up your local cars and coffee.

To some, this car is beautiful sacrilege. Part of the delight of an old
air-cooled Porsche is the rat-a-tat soundtrack, the smell of the exhaust,
and the Swiss watch mechanical feel. This is a bit like replacing the guts
of a manual-wind Omega Speedmaster with quartz.

That's the perspective from the outside. From behind the wheel, EV West's
builds preserve all the other elements of classic motoring–wind noise,
unfiltered steering, a delicate lightness–and simply make it capable of
handling regular traffic. The cars are improved in every metric,
acceleration, braking, road-holding, and handling.

“With an old car, getting beat off the line by a Prius is embarrassing,”
Bream said. “The only thing more embarrassing is being seen driving a

There's nothing wrong with the quiet competency of the Prius (the current
styling, on the other hand, needs to dial down the Nyan Cat a tad). Bream's
point is that even mundane modern cars are as quick as the sporty stuff of
old. Putting new guts in an old shell creates the kind of hybrid that'll
actually raise your pulse rate.

EV West's package includes regenerative braking and battery pack placement
such that it can be swapped out in a few years as energy density improves.
It's got all the everyday practicality of Toyota's appliance, but a sight
more personality.

Consider Bream's daily driver, a split-window VW Doka with paint weathered
like a lizard's skin and a slammed suspension. If you've never driven an old
VW bus, they're usually glacially slow to get going, alarmingly ineffective
at stopping, and just generally fun-but-slow. The EV West shop truck whirrs
up to speed faster than a modern GTI, stops and corners easily, and will
even hang the tail out a little if you jump on the throttle early. Best of
all, the silence from the outside doesn't have onlookers frowning at your
miscreant behavior. We hoon it around the block a bit without anyone
complaining, then hit the secondary horn, a cheery ding-ding chime that
makes a texting pedestrian look up from their phone and smile.

Then there's the driving experience of a manual-transmission electric
vehicle. These things aren't go-karts, they're just cars that are harnessing
a different mode of motive power. The instant-on surge of electric torque is
addictive, but here it's combined with the ability to row through the gears.
You can't stall it, and you can hold the car at a stop in first gear without
having the clutch in, but aside from these weird (and handy) quirks, it's
much like driving any of the tossable manual machines you might know and

First misconception dismissed: a battery pack isn't a boat anchor for a
classic. EV West works well within gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR), and
while they could physically build heavier machines with greater range,
they're not looking to compromise the drive. Later, I drive an EV-swapped
'66 Porsche 912 on the Angeles Crest highway, and despite it having three
times the power of the four-cylinder original, it only weighs as much as a
contemporary 911S with a full tank of gas.

Did the car drive like a classic Porsche? Not really – the front-mounted
battery pack changes the weight distribution and eliminates the pendulum
effect of the standard car's rear engine. As a result, the little 912 was as
balanced as a modern MX-5, and just ridiculously quick. It hustled flat
through the corners, with brakes you could lean on, and plenty of grunt to
blast uphill. Then you get out at a pullout and look back at the machine and
it's still 1966.

“We build these for the customer who says, 'I want new tech, but I don't
want to sell my soul,'” Bream said.

Second misconception dismissed: the conversions aren't permanent. Bream and
his team aren't looking to hack up bodywork, but to preserve the spirit of
the original with more modern underpinnings. It's not much different than
your standard resto-mod, just that it's Tesla power being used.

“Any of our builds, we could put it back to gasoline within about a day,”
Bream said.

“Maybe half a day,” opined Trent Wonsley, a mechanical engineering grad with
a background in off-road racing .

A known phenomenon in the Porsche community is for something like a
numbers-matching 911 2.7RS to have its original engine pulled and set up on
stands, and a tribute motor swapped in for better reliability and
tractability. This is that same idea.

It makes perfect sense, but that's not the takeaway feeling you get from EV
West. Instead, you clock the racing trophies on a shelf, see “Gigawatt”
written on on the window of a dust-covered DeLorean in the back, note the
EV-swapped Fiat 124 out front. Wonsley has a laptop hooked up to his
personal-build 912, searching for controller issues; it looks like it should
be flashing Danger To Manifold. 

A guy with an electric Thing drops in, headed up to LA with plans to stop
and surf. Bream fields calls, talks about his kid's new electric dirtbike,
and shows me videos of a client's drag-car electric Cobra and a Factory 5
based kit car that runs a nine-second quarter mile. Dogs wander in and out
at random. 3D printers whirr away creating cable connectors. A couple of
techs are working on tweaks for the electric M3. One section of the shop is
filled to the rafters with Tesla motors and batteries, lifted from salvaged
cars and ready to be fitted to something about a thousand times better
looking than a Model X.

This shop is speed first and EVs second. There's a care taken here that fits
right into any gearhead ethos, a love for the cars, the desire to build,
tinker, and create.

“Any real car guy doesn't care what his car runs on,” said Bream, “He just
wants to be faster than the guy next to him.”

It's an ethos that appeals to gearheads who have the wherewithal to buy
pretty much anything. Noted adventure motorcyclist and Anakin Skywalker
surgeon Ewan McGregor recently brought his 1954 oval-window Beetle in for a
full electrification. Once the swap's completed, he'll hold the higher
ground against modern traffic. Someday, range won't be an issue for electric
cars. The roads will probably be full of competent little electric
crossovers that are quick and clean and about as boring as oatmeal.

It's a future that might look bleak to any enthusiast, but the work that's
being done here ensures that something remains constant. Combustion is only
temporary. Burnouts are forever.
[© 2018 Hearst Communications]

Fire-proof case to transport lithium-ion batteries safely
May 18, 2018  Chosen for their low weight and high efficiency, lithium-ion
batteries are a central part of electric cars, battery-powered tools and
smartphones. However, their ...

For EVLN EV-newswire posts use:


Sent from: http://electric-vehicle-discussion-list.413529.n4.nabble.com/
UNSUBSCRIBE: http://www.evdl.org/help/index.html#usub
Please discuss EV drag racing at NEDRA (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NEDRA)

Reply via email to