Is converting combustion engines to EVs worth it? Classic car enthusiasts are not convinced

The Classic Car and Restoration Show in Birmingham's NEC
The Classic Car and Restoration Show in Birmingham's NEC Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Roselyne Min with AP
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While some classic car owners are converting to electric, not everyone is ready to do so.


As some classic car enthusiasts opt for greener and cheaper choices, converting classic cars to electric is becoming increasingly common.

At a car show in Birmingham, UK, a Gordon-Keeble boasts an electric motor under the bonnet.

Only 99 Gordon-Keebles were built, so it's already a rare sight but this unique model is the only electric version in existence.

"I'm not a great lover of electric cars, to be perfectly honest. But this one had a new lease of life because it had an electric motor put into it. I don't think it really wouldn't have been out and being used if it hadn't have had that happen," said Stephen Kirby, a member of West Berkshire Classic Vehicle Club.

Why are some enthusiasts converting their classics?

One of the main reasons people are converting their classics to electric is because electric motors have fewer moving parts than a traditional engine, making the car more reliable.

It’s also cheaper for people driving in cities as they can avoid emissions charges.

With a Nissan electric motor, an electric-converted Austin Healey showcased at the Practical Classics Classic Car and Restoration Show is completely silent and emission-free.

With a conventional 2.6-litre inline-six petrol engine, a journey around central London for a day would cost £12.50 (€14.60).

"You do take some of the soul out of a car when you swap the engine for an electric motor," said Danny Hopkins, an editor at the Practical Classics magazine.

"But I think actually people want to just enjoy, particularly in cities, their classic in cities, and keep it clean, and keep it cheap, and keep it maintenance-free on the whole then, yeah, an electric motor does make a lot of sense".

Classic cars have 'very limited use'

Not everyone is prepared to make the change.

Traditionalists, who believe all classic cars should be restored to their original specifications, say converting to electric is committing a "sin".

"I think we have to acknowledge that these cars have very limited use, so the emissions which they produce over a given amount of time I think is really small," said Mike Bindon, an owner of a Classic Triumph TR5 which has a 2.5 litre, straight-six petrol engine.

Electric cars are silent and for some, the sound of the exhaust note is an essential part of the driving experience and pleasure.

"It may become a thing we have to do in years to come. If you want to take a car like this out on the road. But if those of you have experienced the six-cylinder exhaust note, you probably really wouldn't want to do it," Bindon added.

The large majority of classic cars still retain their original combustion engines and electric conversions of classics remain a niche area in the community.

More than 1,000 cars were displayed at the Practical Classics Classic Car and Restoration Show in March.

For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.

Video editor • Roselyne Min

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