3rd June 2020

Ask An Expert: Classic Vehicles & Fossil Fuels

For this instalment of Ask An Expert, we answer Andrew Peacock’s question: What are our options when fossil fuels are banned?

We spoke to Harry Metcalfe, Evo founder and star of YouTube channel Harry’s Garage, and William Allen of Classic Restoration & Services Ltd.

“As for the question on options with classic cars when fossil fuels are banned”, Harry comments, “the sale of fossil fuels is not going to be banned, only the sale of new cars powered purely by fossil fuels are set to be banned in 2035. But this is only a proposal anyway, so could well change as we get closer to this date.“

“Then with regard to classics; even if they do ban the sale of new IC [internal combustion] cars post-2035, the supply of fuel to power the existing IC car, van and lorry fleet will continue for at least another twenty years, perhaps more. So we are looking at sometime around 2055-2060 before fossil fuels stop being available but I can't see countries like USA, S.America, Africa, Japan and poorer EU countries sticking to this timetable, it might only be UK, Germany, France and Scandinavia type economies who could cope with stopping the sale of fossil fuels by then. I also think new biofuel equivalents will be available by then anyway, so I can see classics being converted to run off these, as a way of being more environmentally friendly. In short, a ban of fossil fuels is a long, long way off!”

If you did want to stop your classic from being reliant on fossil fuels, one option is to convert it to electric. It’s certainly a divisive topic amongst classic enthusiasts with FIVA and the FBHVC stating that electric classic cars should no longer be viewed as historic vehicles. A poll we conducted on FJ’s social media accounts, however, revealed that 32% of people thought that classic cars should be converted to electric. Many of those shared the opinion that they would be open to converting their classic as is it meant future-proofing a vehicle that had become part of the family.

In a previous post, we’ve explored the positives and negatives of converting to electric but Classic & Restoration Services are working on a novel approach to conversions. William Allen and his team are currently developing prototype conversions for a classic Bentley and Rolls-Royce. The conversions are especially sympathetic to the personality and driving style of the original car. For instance, a modern electric motor can generally provide much more torque than would have been possible when the classics originally rolled off the production line, so they are looking at limiting this with the aim of keeping the driving experience the same. William comments that "the power is controlled by an onboard electronic control unit and can be adjusted to achieve the original driving characteristics. We also use regenerative braking where the motor effectively generates power under braking, slowing the vehicle down. This can also be adjusted to suit your style of driving."

Similar progress is being made with replicating the rate of acceleration and retaining the overall look of the vehicle. For many of us, our classic vehicles are more than just machinery, so being able to retain their core personality traits would certainly make electric conversions more appealing to owners.

William also stresses the important point that electric conversions do not need to be permanent. Any changes they make in creating an electric vehicle can be undone at any point in the future.

But no matter what owners decide, we are all united in wanting to keep our classics on the road for years to come.

Are you open to the idea of converting your classic to electric? Let us know in the comments below!

The information contained in this blog post is based on sources that we believe are reliable and should be understood as general information only. It is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any specific or individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such.

I cover around 1000 miles a year in my classic Bentley, my Co 2 contribution is therefore minimal . The whole enjoyment of running a classic vehicle is to keep it as original as possible. Converting it to electric would destroy the whole principle.

Arthur, 06/06/2020

If someone want to convert their classic it should be up to them, but for me classic cars are about the sound and smell the whole experience. I don't really want to drive around in a fridge with wheels.

simon, 05/06/2020

No, I would not convert my classic car to electric traction. It would be an abomination and completely contrary to my purpose in running a classic. I don't believe for a moment that petrol will cease to be available in my lifetime.

Old surgeon, 04/06/2020