You can now buy an electric Rolls‑Royce Cloud or Jaguar XK120
A new company, named Lunaz, has joined the ranks of specialists offering to convert classic cars to electric power, future-proofing them so new generations can keep them on the road in a likely petrol-restricted future.
“For Luna, my daughter, not to have access to a car like the Mercedes-Benz 190SL when she is of driving age would be a tragedy,” says classic car fan David Lorenz, whose Silverstone-based company Lunaz he has named after his daughter.
Lunaz says it has assembled an engineering team staffed by people from Formula 1, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Jaguar, Volkswagen and McLaren and headed by Jon Hilton, former technical director at Renault F1 during the Fernando Alonso years. Their stated mission is to design, engineer and manufacture in-house bespoke electric powertrains to replace the combustion engines in a range of high-end classics.
High end? Lunaz says prices start at £350,000 (excluding VAT) for the battery-powered beauties. So far three cars are being converted: a 1961 Rolls-Royce Phantom V, a 1953 Jaguar XK120 and a 1956 Rolls-Royce Cloud. Battery packs range up to a mighty 120kWh for the Phantom, while the XK120 gets an 80kWh battery and twin motors delivering 375bhp and 700Nm (516lb ft) of torque.
Lunaz says all its cars have fast-charging capability, regenerative braking systems and the “sensitive integration” of modern conveniences like traction control, cruise control, satellite navigation, WiFi and infotainment. Dials are updated to suit the new powertrain.
Re-engineering the cars involves 3D scanning the original car and weighing each corner so weight distribution can be replicated once the engine, ancillaries and fuel tank are removed. As well as the lithium-ion batteries and electric motors, the cars get new air conditioning and electronic heating systems, and by-wire throttle. Brakes, suspension, steering and electronics systems are upgraded and the body gets a bare-metal restoration with tweaks where needed – chief among them being incorporating the charger plug behind the fuel filler flap.
“The Lunaz solution takes cars that are under threat and gives them new purpose,” Jon Hilton tells us. “These cars will be true to the original in their aesthetic, peerless in their performance and effortless in their day-to-day use. To breathe new life into these classics represents vital engineering in the purest sense.”
While ditching the glories of quad cams and triple Webers for an electric motor will be desecration for many, it is being seen as a viable way to guarantee that the treasures of the automotive world can continue to be used in an increasingly carbon-aware world. With booming new electric-car development and penalties and restrictions looming on combustion-engined cars, the aftermarket conversion of classic cars to battery power is growing.
Jaguar, with its electric-converted E-type Zero, and Aston Martin with its “reversible” DB6 conversion to a battery-powered motor, are high profile advocates, but in addition there are classic car electric conversion specialists at the more affordable end of the market.
Newest is an electric VW Beetle from German firm eClassics, previewed at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. The VW-approved electric bug – which is fitted with the electric motor, battery and gearbox from the VW e-Up – has 81bhp for 0-50mph in eight seconds, a top speed of 93mph and a range of 124 miles. It can be charged up to 75 per cent capacity in an hour, they say.
British company Electric Classic Cars, which will also electrify the Beetle, specialises in converting classics from the ’50-‘80s. It offers conversions for the Range Rover and VW campervan, while sportier offerings include the Fiat 500 (47bhp, 50-75 mile range) and an electric Porsche 911 with 130bhp and 54kWh battery pack offering a 200-mile range. Prices start from around £20,000.
London Electric Cars offers DIY conversion kits for cars like the Land Rover Defender and Morris Minor. The electric Minor does 45 miles on a charge – and costs £1 to recharge, as well as (like all electric cars) avoiding some charges, taxes and parking restrictions levied against combustion-engined vehicles.