Cars > Electric

This company can transform classic cars into EVs

Zero Labs has a modular platform for use in a wide range of vehicles

This regular-looking Ford Bronco has a high-tech powertrain. PHOTO FROM ZERO LABS

All the recent talk about electric vehicles being the future is probably making some owners of classic cars slightly nervous. With times changing and the world seemingly turning its back onto planet-polluting internal-combustion engines, there is a real risk that automotive works of art from days gone by will soon no longer be allowed on our roads due to increasingly strict emissions regulations. One company is now trying to prevent this from happening by proposing a solution that combines the best of both worlds. Could this be the way forward?

Zero Labs retains the classic-car styling, which should make the EV conversion more appealing. PHOTO FROM ZERO LABS

EV workshop Zero Labs has recently unveiled a modular electric-vehicle platform that promises to go further than a simple engine swap. The company is developing a one-stop solution that essentially takes the body of a classic car and places it atop brand-new battery-powered underpinnings. To entice owners of old cars into embracing its system, the firm is throwing around some impressive-sounding numbers. For starters, it claims to be able to convert vehicles that were built as far back as the 1940s, and promises to put 200% to 400% more power into the old shells, or up to 600hp. The 85kWh and 100kWh battery packs are claimed to be good for almost 400km of range, and once commercially available, the whole process of converting a car apparently only takes 30 days.

Just imagine the experience of dumping the clutch in an EV. PHOTOS FROM ZERO LABS

As nice as the idea sounds—keeping the looks of your car while making it super green—the whole system does leave some questions open. While there are companies that simply swap the drivetrain but leave the rest of the vehicle largely intact such that the car still feels and handles like the original, Zero Labs is essentially creating a whole new automobile. Yes, it may still look like the old one, but with a completely new chassis it will likely drive nothing like the original. The tech firm hasn’t published a definitive list of cars it can convert yet, and instead says that it will offer four separate categories:

  • Classic 4x4s from 1947 to 1975
  • Muscle cars from pre-1975
  • Two-door coupes from 1948 to 1975
  • Classic pickups from 1947 to 1975
EV retrofits will ensure the survival of classic cars in the future. PHOTO FROM ZERO LABS

Silhouettes on the company’s website hint at cars like the Ford Mustang and even air-cooled Porsche 911s being among the candidates for electric conversion, but we will have to wait and see if that’s really the case—or if owners of such cars would actually be willing to have them ripped apart and turned into juiced-up Frankenwagens. This is also where the ambitious plan of the California-based outfit might come unstuck: With many classic cars being highly priced objects these days, turning one into an EV would likely wipe out much of its value. Probably not a prospect many owners are excited about. Only time will tell if this business idea will succeed.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.