Switching to an electric vehicle is an easy way to get around fluctuating fuel prices while reducing your carbon emissions, but if you want to stick with your old school classic car, going electric can be much more tricky.
Working out how to fit in electric drivetrain components, where to put the battery pack, sourcing electrical components, factoring in a new electrical architecture and making OEM functions work with the new EV system are just some of the challenges to be solved in any EV conversion.
The good news is that Eric Hutchinson and Brock Winberg, owners of California-based electric vehicle conversion outfit Electric GT, are on a mission to make EV conversion kits for owners of classic vehicles easier.
The mission started in 2014, evolving out of the wish to bung the first ever electric powertrain in a Ferrari 308.
Now the pair are working to create a “modular crate engine,” starting with replacing the engine in a 1970 Land Cruiser FJ-40 (which by the way, never came with a V8 engine as standard, but often had one added).
The idea is that by creating a modular kit that can be altered to fit engine bays of just about any classic car by 3D scanning the bay and making a motor kit that mimics the size and shape of the original engine.
End result: a 4×4 electric motor that can be dropped into the engine bay in exactly the same place as the original, and even looks to a certain extent like the original.
This means that the conversion doesn’t have to replace other components, such as the original 4WD drivetrain and transmission.
Hutchinson and Winberg’s plan, which first took form in February 2018, includes twin HPEVS AC-50 electric motors assembled end-to-end “in-line” and coupled to the original transmission shiftable with the FJ-40’s “three-on-the-tree” column shifter – according to posts made in 4WD forum IH8Mud.com.
Powered by 42kWh worth of Tesla battery modules, the creators say that the twin-motors will deliver “a base of 182 horsepower (wired 30s 124v on 650 amps) and 240 ft/lbs of torque (adjustable to @200HP & 300 ft/lbs) at ZERO RPMs. (OEM specs 125Hp/210 ft/lbs).”
Progress is now coming along at a cracking pace – in May, a full 360 degree video was posted of the “e-crate motor”, and all that was needed was the full set of components to build it with.
“Can’t wait to have the full buildup. Crazy town fun,” wrote the creators.
Latest developments have now been posted via YouTube, showing the electric motor build coming along nicely and true to the 3D render’s form.
It won’t be long before this conversion is ready to head off to its new owner, and no doubt the finished product will generate as much interest as did the electric Ferrari 308.
While Electric GT are not the only outfit converting old Toyota 4WDs to electric drivetrain – take Australia’s Jaunt for example, which is creating not just electric 4WDs, but a whole new tourist experience – it will be great to see the modular kits come out of this project for other converters to use.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.