Electric cars are nothing new. EEV’s have been around for more than 100 years, but the internal combustion engine won the race for mass consumption because of Henry Ford and the Model T. However, EVs are coming back into fashion. Folks like Elon Musk of Tesla are betting big on EVs, and so are the major car manufacturers like VW, Volvo, GM and Ford.
When we spoke to Eric Hutchinson of Electric GT last month, the company’s base in California was surrounded by wildfires, which many are saying are primarily due to climate change.
“In the midst of the wheels coming off the bus, we’re trying to put them back on the bus and have more fun driving,” Hutchinson says.
Climate change is on many people’s minds, especially out west, because they see the forces of nature playing out right now. California is even trying to pass legislation that would ban the internal combustion engine (ICE) by 2035. The law would not affect the current fleet of ICE vehicles, but new sales would be prohibited. California has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to climate change and emissions regulation.
If the ICE were effectively banned in the next 15 years from the most populated state in the nation, where would that leave engine builders? In the electric vehicle (EV) world, they are called motors, not engines, and they are not something that can be rebuilt (at least not yet). But there is one area where interested builders/installers may find a niche that would also complement their current focus on internal combustion engines – electric conversions for classic cars.
Hutchinson says the EV conversion market is very segmented. There are mostly mom and pop shops, and a few companies experimenting with conversions. The profile of EVs has been raised because many celebrities and media moguls are buying them, but not many have done any EV conversions. However, Hutchinson believes there would be a healthy niche market for conversions if there were more common suppliers such as what we are used to in the performance aftermarket.
“There’s no uniform approach to conversions of classic cars,” says Hutchinson. “Aside from Zero Labs’ electric Bronco or Gateway Bronco, there’s no one taking a repeatable approach to producing OEM quality. And that’s our bulls-eye.”
Hutchinson says he started Electric GT sort of on a whim back in 2014 when he bought a well-used Ferrari 308 GTS. He got the idea to go electric because the original engine was not very powerful by today’s standards. Hutchinson learned a lot about EVs during that conversion, and the company has grown steadily since. Today, there are a couple of things happening that he says could be a huge market boost.
“There’s actually a huge market segment that’s kind of in the niche,” says Hutchinson. “It’s not mainstream Mopar, Coyote or LS, but it’s huge because people are starting up small car companies under 500 cars that want to go electric. And then there are companies such as Gateway with their classic Bronco. People love the classics but want something reliable. These guys aren’t usually making a 400-mile road trip in their Bronco anyway – it’s their weekend car.”