I might have imagined it, but I’m sure that Kit Lacey has been eyeing up the Baby Shark. Not because he wants to buy it or covets the sheer wonderfulness of my E21 BMW. Nope, it’s because it has a state-of-the-art (in 1979) three-speed automatic gearbox, which will mate up to an electric motor and inverter and could easily house a battery pack under the cloth rear seats.
Lacey’s company, eDub Services, converts conventionally combustionengined cars into electric ones. Indeed, I’ve already spotted an immaculate Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk2. My heart misses a beat, not least because this king of hot hatches is also missing something fundamental: its 1.8-litre engine.
It’s all going to be fine, though, as Lacey shows me the 3D details of the unique Golf subframe on his phone. “Fabrication is the most difficult part,” he tells me. “But it’s absolutely crucial in getting the installation to work. Until we can engineer the position of the motor using the existing hard points of the bodywork, it isn’t going to work. Once the motor is in, we then install the driveshafts, batteries and all the other ancillaries.”
If rewiring an iconic Golf GTI for a battery pack makes you queasy, then hold tight, because eDub’s big project, due in a matter of months, is an electric Porsche 911. “It’s being engineered as a stand-alone kit,” says Lacey. “Customers can bring their cars to us for conversion or buy our own range of pre-built models.”
So how did it get to this point? Well, Lacey can blame his mum. Not only was she an early adopter of a Nissan Leaf in 2011 but also a senior university lecturer specialising in battery degradation. Although Lacey modestly claims he has no actual qualification or background for this sort of business, there’s no denying that he has a plan – and he employs all the right engineers to make his ideas happen.
“I’ve always been a fan of the Volkswagen T2 and was familiar with the Porsche and Subaru engine upgrades, but I became fascinated by a full battery conversion,” he says. “There weren’t many options available, but I came across a converted American import that had been mostly restored and was in grey primer. I had it swapped to righthand drive and went for a full camper look. The technology wasn’t fully there, as the battery management system was designed for solar power so quite basic and flawed.”
Things have moved on massively since then. In the workshop is a customer’s grey T2 with a Nissan Leaf motor, gearbox and inverter re-engineered for rear-wheel drive. The holy grail, though, is a Tesla unit. Conveniently enough, there’s one on the workshop floor, and it’s tiny. In the footprint of a spare wheel are a motor, inverter and gearbox. Not only that but Tesla batteries, says Lacey, are the most energy-dense.