Posted 08/31/2015 in Reviews by Steve
If people weren't already intrigued by the little silver 1966 Porsche 912, then the quiet crunching of the tires against the asphalt as it is pulled out of its parking spot will make them take notice. It's unusual to not hear a classic car as it pulls away.
Ian James Corlett's Porsche 912, which originally was the 4-cylinder little brother to the 911, is a one-of-a-kind head turner thanks to its electric drivetrain.
Electrification and Porsche are getting lots of press with the introduction of the 918 hybrid supercar. Ian James Corlett knows his classic Porsche, which he's given the moniker ElectroPorsche, isn't the cutting edge, but that's what he wanted.
"There’s still all the little things that make owning a classic car fun," he says. "There are squeaks and rattles and little things you’ve got to pay attention to, but I love the specialness."
He says that beyond a few things that had to be dealt with simply because it was an older car, "some issues with the original wiring and fuse box along with some suspension sorting," the car has been trouble free and fun to drive around his hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Ian is the first to admit that he wasn't an EV guy to start. He's a car guy. A Porsche fanatic. In fact, he's owned many late-model 911s. In his words, he was "addicted to the new."
But during something akin to a mid-life crisis he acquired a 1966 Vespa. A desire to own a Quadraphenia-style Vespa led him to get the 2-stroke Italian machine.
"I wanted a vehicle I could fall in love with," he said.
Quickly though, he found that the love affair wasn’t there. "It took lots of tinkering to keep that little, loud, smelly thing going." The dream didn't quite live up to reality, so he found a company that offered an electric conversion and had the work done.
"It was then that I really fell in love with that little Vespa," Ian said with a smile. And it's here that the spark ignited that started the quest for a classic electric car.
Ian had decided to get off the new-Porsche treadmill after finishing the Vespa conversion. They weren't tied, just kind of happened in sequence. "Every year Porsche got better but I didn’t love any of them," he said. "So I decided I should get an older car and make it into something I would love and keep forever."
Initially the plan was to convert a classic VW Beetle. There were kits readily available and he'd seen several well-done examples. But, being a Porsche fan, he though he might as well really go for it and just do a Porsche. He figured that if the VW could be done then it just made sense that an old Porsche should be possible too.
"I saw a 912 for sale on eBay that was already electrified. I bid on it but lost out at the last minute. And I think the fact I didn't win bugged me a little. It was then and there I decided I was going to do my own electric 912."
So the search for a classic VW was abandoned and the search for a 912 was on. A donor was found in Arizona.
"I thought buying a car from the desert would mean less rust," he says. "Unfortunately, this car might have been found in Arizona, but that's not where it had spent most of its life."
The plan was always to do the conversion in two stages: first the restoration and second the conversion to electric.
After a rough start with the bodywork, a second quality builder was found and the 912 was brought up to Ian's standards. The original white was changed to silver and the interior was changed to a deep red.
To keep costs down, the bodywork was done in Arizona and then the car was handed off to Todd Barlow of Green Motors Inc. in Phoenix to do the conversion to an electric drivetrain.
The finished drivetrain includes Sinopoly lithium batteries. There are 48, 3.2V, 200 amp hour cells for a total capacity of approximately 24kWh. The motor is a NetGain Warp 9-inch series-wound DC motor.
"Obviously I love it" says Ian. "It’s got more power than a 911 of the era." An added benefit is what Ian considers to be more balanced handling. "With the batteries mounted in the front and rear, the car has a 50/50 weight distribution and handles nicely."
According to Ian, the drivetrain has been trouble free too. "I’m not that mechanical. I am a driver. I can sort things out if needed, but I want to get in and go. This car has been perfect."
Todd Barlow of Green Motors is seeing a growing number of people converting classic cars to electric drivetrains. He is doing fewer daily driver conversions due to the major automakers offering a variety of good-quality autos. He is seeing a growing number of auto enthusiasts opting to convert their classic cars to electric. "They’re doing it for a lot of reasons," he says. "They want to be green. They're tired of getting six miles per gallon and having gas costs kill the fun. They want to be different then everyone else."
Whenever the car is out on the town, Ian can't help but get into conversations. "Overwhelmingly the response has been positive," says Ian, adding that every passenger in the ElectroPorsche gets the same big smile he does while driving it. One of his favorite moments came when he took one of his good friends, who just happened to be an accomplished Porsche mechanic and self-professed hater of electric cars, for a ride. "He just sat there for a few minutes looking around and taking it all in," Ian says.
Then the passenger sprinkled in a few well-placed expletives and a big grin, expressing his surprised pleasure with the electric 912.
This car has changed expectations. The biggest converts to electric? Ian and his family. "We recently added a Kia Soul EV to our family," Ian says. "It fits our lifestyle perfectly. My wife loves it. My son, who just got his driver's license, loves it."
Ian laughs and continues, "We just took the Kia to IKEA, and my wife mentioned how much she just loves driving past gas stations."
With an even larger smile, Ian says, "Electric cars were right there at the beginning. It was kind of like VHS versus BETA. The best technology doesn't always win. I think in this case though the one that didn't win is coming back. Think about it. Every subway is electric. High-speed trains in Europe and Japan are electric. I think that's the direction cars are going. The future will be electric."
This article originally appeared in the Q2 2015 issue of Electric Car Insider. The current print magazine is available on independent newsstands throughout the U.S. and Canada including Barnes & Noble, Hastings and Chapters Indigo. Never miss an issue by subscribing.