Could Electric Updates Get Younger People Driving Vintage Cars?
The personality and nostalgia of classic cars are tempered by their unreliability, but electric updates solve that
While much of the news surrounding electric vehicles is focused on the future, there’s another angle involving classic cars that is also very interesting. At the 2018 New York International Auto Show, MINI debuted a restored 1959 Cooper that has been converted to run on electricity. The car is primarily meant to draw attention to MINI’s launch of a new all-electric MINI 3 Door model in 2019. But it’s also a sign of a whole industry forming around converting vintage cars into electric vehicles.
MINI isn’t alone in transforming one of its well-known historic models into an EV. Jaguar’s E-Type Zero from 2017 is a 1968 Series 1.5 Jaguar E-type restored as a battery powered roadster. San Diego-based Zelectric specializes in converting vintage VW Beetles and Microbuses to electric drive. Voitures Extravert is doing the same thing to Porsche 911s from the 1970s and ’80s.
So what’s the appeal of taking a vintage car, ripping out the gas engine and replacing it with batteries and electric motors? One of the biggest headaches of owing a classic car is fickle reliability. Older cars have a lot of older parts, many of which weren’t made to today’s manufacturing standards. There are just more opportunities for parts to fail or not work correctly. Converting to electric solves most of those problems. It also makes the car produce zero emissions while running and keeps it from going to the scrap heap, which saves resources. It also keeps a bit of history alive—although not in a 100% accurate state for the purists.
These vintage models are never going to be manufactured again due to modern safety standards, so the cars that have been already made are all that are going to remain. For a new generation to enjoy the spirit and quirks of driving a vintage car, this might be the best option.
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Erica is a humanitarian and a technologist who Co-Leads UNICEF's Innovation Unit. UNICEF Innovation has recognized success in innovative design of development solutions. In 2013, she was chosen by Time Magazine to be on the Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.