The auto industry is slowly coming around to the idea that in the not too distant future running vehicles on gasoline or diesel will be unsustainable. and thus, we’re seeing more and more electric cars coming onto the market and edging ever closer to production. the reason for this transition is mainly down to fear of missing out on companies like Tesla and Rivian.
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Not to mention increasingly tough emission standards in most of the world. but whatever the reason that switches to electric is finally happening. it started for the most part with small commuter cars. and then 10 years after, it started in earnest. it’s only now really starting to embrace larger vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks. and while there is now more choice in the electric vehicle marketplace, more choice than we’ve ever seen before. those who prefer their vehicles a little older be they classic cars or hot rods are. also wondering what would happen if they convert their ICE cars to electric.
High-end conversions have been around for a really long time. simply put for the last 40 years or more. if you had a classic car or a hot rod that you wanted to convert to electric, and you had enough money to pay, there would be a company willing to make a competent conversion for you. but what if you are the kind of person who likes turning your own wrench or spanner. what if for you the pleasure of driving your classic car or hot rod includes the pleasure of knowing that you built restored or maintained it yourself.
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Traditionally, the answer of course for those wanting to carry out their own electric car conversion. and either not wanting or not being able to pay somebody else to do it. for them was to find off-the-shelf parts that they could combine into their car. building custom battery packs, and motor mounts, creating their own wiring looms, and spending hours into the night mocking up things with cardboard boxes and string. or if you happened to own a really popular car that was often converted to electric such as the erstwhile Volkswagen bug you could even sometimes buy a kit from specialist third-party companies that included everything you needed to carry out a bolt-in conversion in a matter of weekends rather than months or years.
These days there are more options, thanks to a rise in the number of production electric and hybrid cars on the road. and the ingenuity of open source communities dedicated to getting things like salvage motors power electronics and battery packs working with converted vehicles. a lot of these project cards just like our own Honda Insight EV conversion that we’re currently working on still rely on some ingenuity and technical skill on the part of the person carrying out the conversion. but for the most part, they are a lot easier to do.
In recent years we’ve seen another option teased crate motor drop-ins and conversion kits from mainstream automakers. rather than the third-party kits of the past, these are sanctioned by mainstream automakers. and use not salvage parts or off-the-shelf generic components. but the entire drivetrain battery pack and power electronics from modern in-production electric cars.
We’ve seen Jaguar postulate such a kit and Volkswagen has teamed up with e-classics in Germany to offer a kit for Volkswagen beetles and Volkswagen type 2 buses. in this case, they use the same power electronics from the last generation of Volkswagen e up.
General Motors recently unveiled its own product for GM conversion enthusiasts and hot rods. a crate motor package that it intends to start producing and selling next year, called the electric to connect and cruise. it will be virtually showcased at this year’s SEMA 360.
But while the kit includes everything you might need to turn your gasoline classic or muscle car into a zero-emission electric vehicle, it’s frankly something I don’t think will get hot rodders or classic car fans very excitedly. and I’m going to tell you why.
First, let’s look at the specifications for this thing. it is to all intents and purposes a Chevrolet bolt ev without the carpet. gm has taken the bolt’s 200 horsepower 150-kilowatt electric motor and paired it with the 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack found in 2017 through 2019 model years of the ball ev, the battery capacity went up to 66-kilowatt hours for 20 model year cars. and it throws in all of the other things you need to make the car work. it throws in a power inverter to turn the dc from the battery pack into ac to drive the motor. a dc to dc converter. to ensure that the car’s original 12 volt systems can operate as designed. and all of the necessary wiring harnesses and computer systems needed to make the car work. as well as the water pumps and controllers for the Bolt EV’s active thermal management system.
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Also included of course is charging circuitry for the battery pack, an electric power steering kit, electric vacuum pumps for the brakes, and even a microcontroller circuit to drive stock gauges on older internal combustion engine vehicle instrument panels.
So far so good right well. yes but then if you look at the Chevrolet K5 Blazer-E that has been built for SEMA 360 as a way to showcase the technology in situ a 1977 K5 Chevy Blazer, you might have a different idea. because it’s a little compromised. it leaves me and I suspect many classic cars and hot rod fans colt. not because of the technology put inside. but because of what feels like a complete lack of common sense about just how conversion could and should be carried out.
Now don’t get me wrong. the blazer is a fun conversion candidate, and it certainly has the space to accommodate a battery pack. originally the k5 blazer came with a 400 cubic inch or six and a half-liter v8 engine. in its place now this k5 blazer e has a much more compact bolt motor which is not only smaller but actually is more powerful. yes despite its displacement the stock v8 and the blazer only managed 175 horsepower. this bolt motor in the case is paired with a four-speed electronically controlled gearbox, which drives the all-wheel-drive system of the original car through its original transfer box and props shafts.
But my beef comes in the way in which the battery pack has been handled rather than come up with a way to mount the battery pack out of the way, gm’s performance team have literally plonked the bolt’s battery pack casing at all into the rear of the k5 blazer where the load area would be in the original vehicle. I say plonked, but maybe that’s a little unfair. it is bolted down to the floor and it does look secure the cable routing is neat and tidy and the cooling loop for the battery cooling system is nicely managed. it’s neat. it’s tidy. from an engineering perspective, it’s fine. but from an ascetic point of view?
Frankly, I think it’s the worst possible thing I can imagine for any originally v8 powered classic car sure this conversion is complete and it’s a drop-in replacement for any v8 powered chevy or sibling brand vehicle of a similar age. it even has regenerative braking. I’m guessing it has rapid charging. but it also takes up the entire rear of the vehicle with the battery. and those high voltage cables, they’re in there in the cabin. seemingly within reach of anyone who fancies a tug.
It forgets that while many classic cars are trailer queens which are never driven anywhere except in nice weather and maybe around classic car rallies some classics are still used and loved by their owners. like the Chevrolet e10 electric pickup showcase last year for SEMA which again was based on a bolt ev drivetrain and battery pack, and was apparently part of the development process into bringing the Kinect and cruise kit together. the k5 blazer e is a conversion that removes all practicality from the original vehicle.
There is some joy in being able to see the parts of the conversion on display. especially if it’s combined with a really impressive performance. in much the same way that engine blocks are sometimes polished on hot rods and trailer queens. so too could a battery pack on display give you some nice aesthetic to look at especially to show what’s powering the thing that just wiped the floor with whoever you were quarter-miling against.
But at the same point, the battery case from the bolt isn’t really a piece of art to look at. it was designed to fit underneath the car. not sit there on display. maybe that is the seat of my frustration. maybe it could also be fixed with a false floor above the battery.
But personally, I don’t get it from an engineering point of view I can totally understand why the battery pack was kept whole like this. battery cooling is possible if the battery pack is kept in its original form in a way that’s a lot harder to do if it isn’t. and because it’s in one piece, you can replace the battery pack far more easily. and as I’m guessing we all know by now battery packs that have active thermal cooling have a much longer life and have better thermal stability over time than ones that don’t. but for a conversion project well really the battery pack needs to be split up to make it more easily movable and to make it easier to put it into places where it’s not going to be taking up unnecessary space. like you know, putting some of it in the engine bay with all of the space that’s no longer taken up by a massive v8 engine and massive air filter.
To be fair, GM has said in its announcement of the v8 e-crate motor project that it is investigating the possibility of developing other battery configurations to use alongside a cratered motor. gm says that when its ultim battery system is in production. it could offer Altium-based crate systems. and because ultim is designed in a modular way with each module having its own wireless battery management system and closed thermal management system. it could actually mean that we’ll see more practical kits in the near future. for now though I love the concept of using contemporary technology from in-production cars in ev conversions. especially as it lowers the point of entry and means parts are easier to find. although I’m still expecting a kit like this to be 15 to 20 000 us dollars or more. but next time let’s find a more creative way to hide the battery eh. I mean in the case of this car the k5 blazer you could have a twin motor setup with new front and rear axles with electric motors. there would be no prop shaft or transfer box and that would leave you a place to sling the battery underneath. I mean that would be more fun.
Bonus: Tesla Electric Crate Motors with EV West
Swap your old gas engine with an electric vehicle motor. recent announcements of Tesla electric crate motors will be sending chills down the spines of muscle car and classic car enthusiasts. these tesla electric crate motors will drop right into your classic muscle car. gas guzzlers must be shocked right now.
The company EV West recently announced on social media the release of their new revolt tesla crate motor. which will be able to quote mount to your small block motor mounts and attaches directly to your driveshaft allowing you to use your existing rear axle.
However, also keep in mind that it looks as if the battery and the control unit for the setup could be sold separately. and so keep that in mind and look further into that before you make your decision to switch over to EV.
I went over to the EV West website for you and found this page it looks like the cost for their drive unit starter kit will be $11,900. so if that’s something that you’re interested in doing go for it. if you can afford it. I’m not sure how cost-effective it would be yet to drop that much cash into your vehicle. but also I mean you’ll have an entirely new engine of electric crate motors. and b you’ll save on gas. so I mean there will be some savings there. that could offset the cost. but I haven’t looked enough into that yet. let me know what you think below um do you think it’ll end up being cost savings uh in a smart financial move if that’s what you’re looking for.
How much is a Tesla crate motor?
A Tesla Crate motor will cost around $30,000 and estimated that adding a battery pack and other necessary components could bring the cost of a complete powertrain to around $50,000.
How much does an EV conversion cost?
Currently, you can expect to pay from $30,000 for an EV conversion (excluding body restoration). This covers conversion project phases of research and development, component fabrication and fitting, and final testing and refinement of the electric drive system.
Who makes the best crate motor?
For now. it’s Chevrolet Performance 6.2-Liter LS3 V8
How long do Crate engines last?
GM recommends that the rods, camshaft, lifters and valve springs be replaced after two years or 300 hours of use. The current tracks that are using crate engines find most teams elect to purchase a new engine after the second year. Some competitors have three years on their crate engine.
What is needed for EV conversion?
As one might guess, the first step in converting a conventional vehicle into an electric car is to strip it of all ICE-related hardware, including the engine, fuel tank, muffler, exhaust, starter, and radiator. They’ll be replaced by myriad components, the most significant of which is the electric motor