Sunday 18 August 2019

A guilt-free supercar that left me buzzing

Retrofitting classic cars with electric powertrains makes them both greener and faster, writes Geraldine Herbert

ELECTRIC: Geraldine Herbert and the 308. Photo: Kyran O’Brien
ELECTRIC: Geraldine Herbert and the 308. Photo: Kyran O’Brien

Traditionalists might baulk at the idea of an electric classic Ferrari but for fans of cleaner cars who have very deep pockets, this just might be their dream one. So reckons Norman Crowley, the entrepreneur behind a new Irish car company, Electrifi, which converts classic cars to run on electricity.

To showcase what can be achieved, the company launched with an electric Ferrari 308, a car made famous in the 80s by Magnum PI.

At first sight, the 308 may look like a conventional Ferrari, but beneath the sleek, red bonnet throbs an engine that is not measured in cubic centimetres. The only external clue to the car's true power source is the E on the registration plate. And despite maintaining the integrity of the car through the entire process, it is now faster than it was, and actually goes from 0-100 in half the time it did in its heyday. Slip behind the wheel and it is vintage Ferrari, but put your foot to the pedal and it's eerily quiet yet still shockingly fast.

The Ferrari 308 is just the first of many classics that Electrifi plans to modify. But Crowley's vision of the future doesn't simply rely on repackaging the past. Electrifi is currently designing a new range of classic cars that will be fully electrified and revealed in early 2020, making it the first company to manufacture cars in Ireland in almost 40 years.

The economics of converting vintage cars means, for now, it will have a niche appeal, with prices starting from €750,000 for the higher-end models, but cars in time will be available priced from €30,000. Crowley plans to invest €50m over the next three years and the first cars will leave the Irish plant by the end of the year.

Classic cars may boast timeless design but in these post-dieselgate times, high-polluting engines risk consigning them to the annals of history.

Converting petrol-guzzling oldies cannot only play a part in reducing emissions, but it is also a new way to breathe life into these classics.

Sunday Independent

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