Australian Startup Improves Conversion Of Classic Cars To EVs

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Jaunt Motors' process could make the conversions more lucrative

Australian startup, Jaunt Motors, which has its headquarters in Melbourne has merged with Bristol-based Zero EV to scale up the conversion of ICE-powered cars to EVs. The merger was necessary to help Jaunt Motors to keep up with rising demand as well as to bring down the cost of conversion. With the merger, the companies changed their name to Fellten (a Welsh word meaning lightning).

The merger has made Fellten one of the biggest EV conversion companies in the world. Dave Budge, the co-founder of Jaunt Motors says the merger goes beyond just empowering the company to convert more classic cars to EVs but also to make it easier for mechanics and car owners to make the switch.

“We are expanding to fulfill hundreds of orders from next year onward,” Budge said. “The most important part of that expansion is awareness. A lot of people are still unaware that it is possible to turn their classic cars into electric vehicles.”

According to Budge, many motorists think they have to ditch their ICE-powered vehicles for electric vehicles without realizing they can just transform what they have into EVs. Since its establishment in late 2018, Jaunt Motors has seen a steady rise in demand.

Chris Hazell, the co-founder of Zero EV also expressed delight about the merger and gave further insights into what the new company would do differently. According to Hazell, the new company will equip enthusiasts and mechanics “with the right tools, technology, and knowledge to join the electrification trend”.

“This is the coming together of years of collaboration between two teams working from different sides of the globe with the shared ambition of modeling the future of EVs,” Hazell said.

Jaunt Motors has mainly focused its classic vehicle-to-electric transformation work in Australia. However, with the merger, the plan is to expand its market to the UK and North America.

Early days of Jaunt Motors

Dave Budge and Marteen Burger teamed up to create Jaunt Motors in early 2018. Together, they developed creative ways to transform ICEs into EVs using iPhones, Apple iPads, and apps like Procreate and Shapr3D.

From sketching the designs on his iPad, the company now has “iPhones throughout the workshop,” said Budge. The engineering and design team leverages augmented reality to model the components. However, Budge admits that the hardest part is always getting all the components to fit in the car.

The future of Fellten

Although Budge said “any car can be converted to electric,” Jaunt Motors has focused on converting mainly Land Rovers in Australia while Zero EV’s focus has been on converting Mini Classic and the Porsche 911. 

However, with the merger, the company wants to expand its offering with the transformation of the Toyota Landcruiser coming soon. On average, converting the Porsche 911 to an EV cost around $100,000 to 125,000.

On the other hand, swapping the ICE of the Mini Classic for a battery-powered system cost $50,000 to $70,000. Budge will assume the position of chief design officer of Fellten while Hazell will play the role of CEO. Fellten will have physical facilities in the United States, the UK, and Australia.

According to Budge, the demand for Land Rover Defender conversion is high in the United States. He said the death of Queen Elizabeth has brought the model to the spotlight again because of the queen’s close association with it for many years.

Budge opined that spreading the company to three continents will help the group to create an international supply chain that absorbs vehicle restorers and automotive workshops. Budge explained that it takes 60 to 80 hours to transform a Porsche 911 while Land Rover Defender needs about 100 hours for full transformation.

Budge said the bigger scale of the business will help to gradually bring down the price. The bulk of that cost is due to labor. The most time-consuming aspect of the conversion is “building the battery box”, he said.

Fellten has developed a universal system technology and design that allows the retro-fitting of Land Rover Defenders, Land Rover Series, Classic Minis, and Porsche 911 with a large battery without compromising any of its safety features or the characteristic performance that the driver feels. They plan to roll out similar solutions for retrofitting other classic brands and models.

The odd side of transforming a vintage into an EV

While Fellten said its transformed vehicles retain the feel of the initial vehicles, a few customers will beg to differ on that. For example, Fellten has struggled with replicating the distinct sound of the Porsche 911 engine once it has been transformed into electric. However, Budge said they were “experimenting with it”.

Earlier in 2022, Porsche executives estimated that over 70% of the 1.1 million Porsche 911 models that were created since 1964 were still on the road. In the next few years, Fellten will be building its demand around classic car enthusiasts, particularly those with expensive models.

However, the company is also looking at the possibility of diversifying its deliveries considering the fact that about 19 million ICE-powered cars are plying Australian roads. EVs in Australia make up only about 3.39% of new car sales.

“By 2050, every vehicle should be electric for us to accomplish net zero emissions,” Budge said. “Classic car owners want to make that transition earlier.”

Budge admits that there is a growing list of regular customers (not expensive luxury car owners) who want their cars transformed. “We are seeing farmers, families, and people from all walks of life,” Budge said. “I scanned through the workshop the other day and discovered seven cars in transformation and none of them belongs to someone with a classic car collection.”

Although there is a growing list of vehicle conversion workshops, Fellten claims they are the only one that has achieved ISO compliance in quality, environmental and health safety management (ISO 9001,14001, 45001).

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