We aren't afraid of exploring the contentious and in the classic car world today, the idea of a classic car being converted to electric power is certainly provoking discussion.
This article isn't intended to be a debate around the use of electricity to power vehicles; we're aware that this in itself is the subject of polar opinion within the motoring community. Whatever your view on this, the electric car is certainly now a fast growing part of the industry.
We're focusing instead on the relatively new and growing interest in the conversion of classic vehicles to electric power and we'll take a stroll through the industry and find out a bit more about why this is happening and what the future holds for this intriguing sector.
So, firstly, why? Surely, one of the most endearing things about a classic car is that it's resolutely, well, old-fashioned? Older cars have distinctive engine notes and the smell of fuel and oil is part of the experience – so why on earth would anyone want to remove that?
There are several answers to this and the first is environmental. It's no secret that fossil fuels are a source of pollution and car manufacturers have worked ceaselessly to make cars increasingly less damaging. There's an equally valid argument that says that classic cars are used less frequently then their modern counterparts and the engineering advances which have made most able to run using modern cleaner fuel helps to offset any accusations of harm.
Next, sustainability. With petrol powered vehicles being constantly subject to criticism, there can be little doubt that the preservation of older cars is a significant defence to these arguments. The replacing of fossil fuelled vehicles by conversion to EV status means that they can be used in places where pollution-driven restrictions where they would otherwise be banned or their use would attract financial charge.
Thirdly, future-proofing. The world is changing fast – faster than ever. Whilst we don't see petrol pumps disappearing by this time next year, we only have to see the commitments car manufacturers are making to switch entire car ranges to alternative means of power and the thought of a world without classic cars, or at least without the freedom to use them, is one we'd rather not dwell on for too long.
This will also broaden the appeal of classic cars to a younger generation who amazingly may grow up without the same acceptance of the motor vehicle as a means of both transport and enjoyment that many of us take as read. Whilst we find this almost impossible to comprehend, it's fair to say our parents probably felt the same way about computers – let alone phones and tablets.
Lastly, reversibility. We've looked at a lot of the companies offering EV conversions and most carry out the work without altering the structure of the vehicle so much that the original drivetrain can't be reinstalled at some stage. This may sound as if it defeats the object (certainly those outlined above) but it does enable the vehicle to be restored to fully original specification should the need ever arise – for resale perhaps as one example.
We mustn't forget the Cool Factor. In recent years, the popularity of classic cars has grown and grown – much like the renewed interest in vinyl records, enthusiasts want things which are older, perhaps to recapture an era where life was simpler, less complicated. We can certainly appreciate this factor.
So, where you can have this work done? What does it involve? Is it expensive and can it be done to any classic car?
There are numerous EV conversion companies – a quick Google search showed this. They're based all over the UK and many have been founded by people whose background is within the technology industry, partnering with automotive engineers. Many also have a love of cars in all forms.
We were lucky enough to spend some time with one company a little while ago and the process was eye opening, so say the least.
At this point, the majority of the cars being converted are what might be termed traditional classics – mostly British cars such as the Mini, Morris Minor and early Land Rovers. We've also seen Porsche and (cars and vans) and both Jaguar and Aston Martin produced their own take on an EV with the DB6 Volante and Concept Zero, famously driven by Prince Harry as he left his wedding with Meghan Markle in 2018.
The process centres on the removal of the original combustion engine and its replacement with an electric motor. In most cases, the motor is attached using adaptor plates to original engine mounting points. Batteries are installed in many cases where fuel tanks previously resided or in the boot or luggage area.
Motors are primarily sourced from written off EV's where the motor has suffered no damage. Many companies offer restoration services in parallel to EV conversion to ensure that the vehicle remains safe to use. Most conversions are subjected to an MOT test on completion of the work.
There is a growing market for DIY installation – it's no secret that the classic car sector is heavily populated by enthusiasts are who very mechanically aware and the removal of a vehicle's engine poses no issues for them.
Braking and suspension upgrades are also offered as in most cases the EV conversion will give the vehicle considerably greater performance than standard.
Whilst many cars are not subject to MOT test rules, we'd suggest an MOT be obtained for any self-converted vehicle to ensure that it remains safe to use.
The companies we found generally suggested a budget for the conversion of up to £25,000 if the work is being done entirely by them. Conversion kits cost considerably less.
Any restoration costs would be in excess of this figure and as normal depend on the extent of work required.
EV's are exempt from congestion charges and low emission rules in city centres. This produces an immediate benefit if you intend to use your classic EV anywhere usually subject to such charges.
They can be charged from a standard household socket so there is no requirement for an expensive charging station.
As most classics are used less frequently, the running costs are lower and in terms of electricity alone, the annual savings could run into many hundreds of pounds.
Should you consider converting your classic?
We said at the start of this article that this remains a contentious subject. We believe that the decision ultimately rests with you as the owner of a classic car.
For the reasons we've outlined, we can see the benefits and attraction in converting to EV and anything that opens up classic car ownership to both new owners and younger enthusiasts has to be a positive.
We also understand that many will regard the removal of a classic vehicle's internal combustion engine as being sacrilege and against many things that make a classic vehicle what it is.
Overall, ownership of a classic vehicle is a very personal and individual choice. Modernised classics and continuation and replica cars have become accepted as part of the classic motoring world and we genuinely believe that there is a place for the classic EV.
What about MOT and the DVLA?
If your classic car is exempt from MOT testing, then this remains the case.
You'll need to tell the DVLA that your vehicle has been converted to electric power – nothing else is required.
What about insurance?
If you have a classic EV, or you're considering one, then Lockton can help. We understand that a classic EV is different to a standard vehicle. Our insurer partners will want to know whether the work has been professionally undertaken, the cost of the conversion and whether any other upgrades or modifications have been made to compliment the work.
If you've undertaken the work yourself, then they would require an independent engineer's report and an MOT certificate irrespective of the age of the vehicle.
Our policies can offer agreed value cover and also reinstatement cover to commission a new build if necessary following an accident.
It's important that your agreed value reflects the cost of the conversion plus the donor vehicle as this will ensure accurate settlement should the worst happen.
You'll have the choice of repairer so that your vehicle can be returned to the builder where possible to facilitate repairs using correct parts, ensuring that the vehicle is returned to you looking and performing exactly as it did before the accident.
We can insure these cars in isolation or as part of a larger collection.