Refitting Old Cars Might Be the Solution for the Electric Off-Roader We Want

Rivian, the all-electric truck (and SUV) with 4×4 capability, is supposed to go into production next year. The prototypes look terrific and the company has hundreds of millions in funding to help see it through its initial builds. That doesn’t, however, mean all-new designs from Rivian and other companies like them (Bollinger, we see you), as well as traditional big automakers getting into making electric-powered 4x4s, are going to be the only options for a gas-free overlanding rig.

What if you could just drop a motor into an existing 4×4? Preferably a classic? We’ve seen a company in Australia called Jaunt work through the crowdfunding process to begin the conversion of old Land Rovers into electric trucks for rent to traipse around the Outback. But a smaller operation here in the States may be an even more intriguing option. A Los Angeles company called Electric GT is producing a modular “crate” electric motor that can be dropped into a vintage FJ. They’re testing it in a 1970 model as this piece is written.

The idea behind a crate motor is that it’s a fresh bit of juice that can be delivered to a shop on a shipping crate, then plopped into the engine bay of a vehicle with minimal effort. Typically, these are V-8s like the small block Chevy 350. Vehicles that were originally fitted with six-cylinder engines can swap that out for a crate V-8 for gobs more power and torque.

But Electric GT asks: What if the crate engine was electric?

They know what they’re doing. The first all-electric Ferrari conversion came courtesy of the company. They plan to eventually sell a modular system that can be tailored to the specific needs of a buyer that they can then ship with everything a shop or a wrench-savvy customer needs to install the new motor. For the FJ conversion, Electric GT has 3D scanned the engine bay and sized the motor to be able to swap in directly, attaching to the FJ’s existing component structure. Incredibly, the build plans call for using the original transmission and transfer case, something that, if duplicable, would be huge in reducing the costs for vehicle owners who want to swap out a gas engine for an electric one.

Power numbers for this build are 182 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque, with the option of upgrading to 240 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque by adding a second electric motor in the engine. A Tesla battery pack (what else) provides the electricity.

Electric GT is rumored to be considering refitting an original Ford Bronco with a crate motor as well as an FJ60 in the coming months.

This seems like an awfully intriguing possibility. If electric motors can be made that are modular and can fit widely available vehicles, just like the crate gas engines this concept is based on, and it can be done relatively inexpensively, why fork over the $80 grand for a Rivian? Assuming of course, you have a rig already that would benefit from an e-conversion. Imagine if they made one that would fit a 2nd gen Toyota Tacoma? There are, what, 450 billion of those driving around backcountry dirt roads?

Of course, the matter of cost looms. Electric GT has yet to reveal prices for its concept motor package. It also doesn’t ship with batteries. But they expect to provide everything a customer would need to outfit an older rig with the most modern engine technology available.

You can see a real-life cast of the motor below.






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