The most talked about segment of the automotive world these days is undoubtedly the electric vehicle sector. For better or worse, governments around the world have doubled down on plans to electrify the majority of vehicles on their roads, and in some cases are even planning to ban non-electric vehicles. Automakers also appear to be enthusiastically jumping on the bandwagon, if the dizzying array of new electric car models currently on the way are any indication.
In addition to new launches, a lot of attention is being paid to adapting existing cars to fully electric operation. The European Union, in particular, is pushing hard for its Clean Vehicles Directive and is looking specifically at areas such as public transport to lead the charge for change. According to Hans-Georg Herb, head of electric vehicle conversion specialist Elerra, EV conversions on older buses make good economic sense because the conversion can be done at a cost of between €300,000 and €350,000 ($299,000-$348,000). half the price of a new bus. Thanks to their large size, the buses have room for eight battery packs, giving them a range of around 250 km (155 miles), which is more than enough for urban applications, according to DW.com.
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Given that electric vehicles generally require less maintenance than vehicles with internal combustion engines, combined with a significantly lower cost per kilometer traveled, this means large potential savings for transport companies.
The question of whether converting private cars to electric vehicles is a practical proposition is more complicated. Herb believes that almost any vehicle can be converted, but it takes a lot of time, effort and resources. Purists may want to turn a blind eye at this stage, he says vintage and classic cars are good conversion platforms. They have less integrated electronics than more modern cars, and in some cases this can be as simple as removing the internal combustion engine and gearbox and fitting a suitable electric motor and batteries.
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However, even the simplest transformations do not come cheap. Herb estimates that a complete conversion of the classic car would set you back around €60,000 (about $59,700) if it were done in his shop, with just the conversion kit to install the electric motor and accumulators (without the actual engine and batteries) alone can cost over €10,000 ($9,955)!
From a purely economic standpoint, this doesn’t make sense, as classic and retro cars don’t get as many miles as needed to recoup conversion costs, which Herb often tells his customers. However, there is a growing number of devotees who find the allure of classic design combined with smooth power irresistible, and Herb is more than happy to give them what they want.