Elec­tric vin­tage cars

VW plans its last fos­sil fuel en­gines, As­ton Martin retrofits elec­tric mo­tors

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - AL­WYN VILJOEN • al­[email protected]­ness.co.za

SEN­SI­TIVE fans of a V8’s fuel-guz­zling bur­ble may find the fol­low­ing news dis­turb­ing — Volk­swa­gen and As­ton Martin are go­ing elec­tric.

As­ton Martin Lagonda an­nounced a plan to fu­ture-proof in­creas­ingly valu­able col­lectible cars with a “re­versible” EV pow­er­train con­ver­sion, while VW is mak­ing its last gen­er­a­tion of in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gines.

Bloomberg quoted Michael Jost, strat­egy chief for Volk­swa­gen group, who said at an in­dus­try con­fer­ence in Wolfs­burg, Ger­many, that VW’s en­gi­neers “are work­ing on the last plat­form for ve­hi­cles that aren’t CO2 neu­tral”.

“We’re grad­u­ally fad­ing out com­bus­tion en­gines to the ab­so­lute min­i­mum,” Jost said.

VW is the world’s largest au­tomaker with 12 au­to­mo­tive brands in its stable — from bikes to trucks — and the group has al­ready in­tro­duced sev­eral elec­tric cars, from the VW Golf to the 2019 Porsche Tay­can.

Jost ex­pects the roll­out across the 12 brands in its stable to com­prise some 15 mil­lion ve­hi­cles, as the com­pany ear­marks $50 bil­lion over the next five years to spend on its trans­for­ma­tion to self­driv­ing, elec­tric cars.

As­ton Martin Lagonda is not look­ing for­ward with its plans, but back­wards in or­der to save old cars us­ing cas­settes.

Only, these cas­settes are flat bat­tery packs and elec­tric mo­tors that are fit­ted in place of the old fos­sil fuel en­gine.

As­ton Martin claims it is a first, but Mahin­dra has been con­vert­ing its cars for fru­gal driv­ers in In­dia, while As­ton Martin Lagonda plans to do it for well­heeled buy­ers of col­lectible cars — start­ing with a 1970 DB6 MkII Volante, which was orig­i­nally hand-built at New­port Pag­nell.

Sit­ting on the orig­i­nal en­gine and gear­box mount­ings, the cas­sette is en­closed within its own self-con­tained cell. Um­bil­i­cal cords from the power unit then feed the car’s elec­tri­cal sys­tems. Power man­age­ment is op­er­ated via a ded­i­cated screen, which is “dis­creetly fit­ted to the car’s in­te­rior”.

As­ton Martin said in a state­ment: “Given the his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of these col­lec­tors cars, it’s vi­tal any EV con­ver­sion is sym­pa­thetic to the in­tegrity of the orig­i­nal car.

“The cas­sette sys­tem of­fers the per­fect so­lu­tion, of­fer­ing own­ers the re­as­sur­ance of know­ing their car is fu­ture­proofed and so­cially re­spon­si­ble, yet still an authen­tic As­ton Martin with the abili- ty to re­in­state its orig­i­nal pow­er­train if de­sired.

Andy Palmer, As­ton Martin Lagonda pres­i­dent and group chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, said of the Her­itage EV con­cept: “We are very aware of the en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial pres­sures that threaten to re­strict the use of clas­sic cars in the years to come.

“Our Sec­ond Cen­tury Plan not only en­com­passes our new and fu­ture mod­els, but also pro­tects our trea­sured her­itage. I be­lieve this not only makes As­ton Martin unique, but a truly for­ward­think­ing leader in this field.”

At the lo­cal Vin­tage Sports Cars Club, the re­sponse to the ad­vent of qui­etly hum­ming elec­tric mo­tors in­stead of the roar of a straight six were met with scorn.

Re­tired me­chanic and one of Wheels’ most avid read­ers, Mike Smith, said his Jaguar and MG will keep burn­ing fos­sil fu­els un­til his last breath.

“There is no soul in an elec­tric mo­tor, it does not make you grin when you drive it,” he said.

Hav­ing built with Jens Denks the world’s first, only and thus fastest all­wheel drive elec­tric-fuel hy­brid Atos, and as rider of an elec­tric scooter, I had to dif­fer.

“One gets a very wide grin each time you pass the fuel pumps in an evee,” I told Smith.

As­ton Martin plans to usher in the clas­sic elec­tric car, as it did with this 1970 DB6 MkII Volante that has a bat­tery pack in place of the en­gine.

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