Whether we like it or not the world is slowly moving towards Electric Vehicles (EVs), every major manufacturer is developing a whole raft of new electric-powered models over the coming years and some have even done electric conversions on older cars too. While some petrolheads will want to hang onto their petrol-powered relics, there are plenty of internal combustion engines (ICE) that are best left consigned to the history books.
From creaky old classic cars that break down with monotonous regularity to stinky diesels that leave a cloud of smoke in their wake, the ICE is not always the best option around. That big old SUV with its gas-guzzling V8 would make far more sense as a daily driver with a silent electric motor under its bonnet.
Some older cars that are in otherwise great condition may be one MOT away from the scrap heap thanks to their polluting engines and even newer diesels may find themselves banned from city centres before long, so in an attempt to breathe new life into some of our favourite (and not so favourite) cars, we have selected the worthiest candidates for a full EV transplant.
The original Beetle used to be a common sight on our roads, with production having ended in 2003, the attrition rate of this once ubiquitous car has seen their numbers thinning.
Despite their cult status in certain circles the air-cooled four-cylinder engines were only really liked because they were easy to fix. They weren’t particularly fuel efficient and they leaked oil from new.
Now a maintenance-free electric motor would not only improve its performance figures but also give these cars a new lease on life, in fact there are already specialists like Zelectricmotors offering just such a conversion.
Aston Martin DB5
The DB5 is arguably Aston Martin’s most famous and recognizable model ever. Its timeless lines and regular appearances in James Bond films have kept it popular decades after it ended production.
Suggesting that we strip out its 4.0-litre inline-six for some silent electric motor may seem like the height of automotive treason but aside from the lack of noise, it would improve the DB5 in every way.
A similar conversion is already available for owners of another British icon, the Jaguar E-Type, so our suggestion is not quite as radical as you might think.
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
The Silver Shadow was first released in 1965, offering unparalleled levels of luxury and effortless performance from its big V8 engine.
That was quite a long time ago though and these once peerless machines are now worth no more than a Dacia Sandero. The main reason tends to be the costs that are associated with maintaining a 50-year-old car equipped with a 6.75-litre V8. We think that this car would be the ideal candidate for an EV conversion, imagine gliding along silently as you enjoy the timeless elegance of this fine machine without worrying about a looming repair bill.
An Electric Silver Shadow may even end up being worth more than its unmodified counterpart.
Jaguar has already started offering the E-Type Zero so there seems little reason not to include the 1990s XJ-S as well.
Production spanned an impressive 21 years and while the cars were always lovely to look at, early examples had electric issues and they were all rather thirsty especially in V12 guise.
Prices have slowly been rising for the best ones but with an off-the-shelf EV kit you could buy an average one on the cheap and have the quickest and smoothest XJ-S around.
Land Rover Defender
The Defender (developed from the 90 and 110 models) became one of Land Rover’s most cherished models over its extremely long 26-year lifespan.
Safety and emissions laws finally caught up with this old workhorse and production finally came to a halt in 2016. Over the years the Defender used a range of engines from Rover and Jaguar V8s to a brace of turbodiesels and even the 2.8-litre straight-six out of a 1990s BMW 3 Series. With the instant torque of an electric motor to aid the Defender over tricky obstacles, even the oldest examples could be revitalized.
They would also make for great game-viewing vehicles where the near-silent running wouldn’t scare off the wildlife.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class (the old ones)
Each successive generation of S-Class ushers in a host of new technologies with it but within a few years they inevitable sink down the used car rankings in a wave of depreciation.
Maintenance costs remain prohibitive with every subsequent owner less willing and able to keep these big barges in good condition. Let’s strip out the big old lump from under the bonnet along with the other oily bits and stick in a low-maintenance electric motor instead.
A smooth and serene ride is what an S- Class is all about so a lack of exhaust noise is no issue here.
Porsche Cayenne - First Gen
The first-generation Porsche Cayenne is not exactly a looker, but underneath those awkward lines is a very capable sporty SUV.
Petrol-powered V8 models, especially in Turbo trim, were as quick as some sportscars but massive fuel consumption and a few mechanical issues on early V8s means that they can be found for peanuts these days.
With an EV conversion you could find a cheap high-miler and enjoy driving a luxury SUV without the associated running costs.
Audi A4 Diesel Convertible
There aren’t many convertibles around powered by diesel engines seeing as not many people buy them, but that doesn’t stop manufacturers from offering them.
The combination of open top motoring and frugal fuel consumption may sound too good to be true and it is. The smelly exhaust emissions and rattly diesel soundtrack are not the sort of thing you want accompanying you on a weekend drive and with an EV conversion that will be a thing of the past.
The Toyota GT86 has long been praised for its engaging driving experience thanks to its well-sorted chassis and low kerb weight.
The 2.0-litre boxer engine has always been the weak part in an otherwise great package, underpowered and coarse, it really needs to be shown the bin. Now imagine in its place an electric motor and a battery pack placed low down to further improve the handling.
With instant responses off the line and zero emissions, this may just be the ideal sports car of the future.
Take a look at the sort of used cars you can find on AutoTrader around the £2,000 mark and you will be waist-deep in dodgy looking old city cars and accident damaged Korean saloons.
Amongst this automotive detritus you will spot something low-slung and sporty looking, that will be the Mazda RX-8. Introduced in 2003, the RX-8 was a revolutionary little sportscar with handling to match the best in class and offering up to 228 bhp from its high-revving rotary engine. And it is exactly that rotary engine which is to blame for its current fate.
Premature seal wear and other mechanical issues resulted in engine failures and recalls that lowered customer confidence in the product. We see the RX-8 as the ideal budget EV candidate.