For many decades, so-called crate engines—most often V-8s—have been the basis for adding more excitement or a life extension to old cars and trucks, fresh out of a shipping crate and with a minimum of fuss.
So how about a "crate" electric motor system that’s disguised as a V-8?
Electric GT, of Chatsworth, California, is in the process of doing a “TLC build” electric conversion of a 1970 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser. This conversion, which is nearly complete, also happens to be a testbed for an all-in-one modular “crate” system.
Eric Hutchinson and Brock WInberg are partners in Electric GT, which started a few years ago with a project to replace a Ferrari 308’s V-8 with an all-electric powertrain—creating one very quiet (and quicker) version of the car made famous on Magnum P.I..
The idea, at its core, Hutchinson explained to Green Car Reports, is to create a modular crate engine kit that can be assembled according to a number of customer choices, then sent to a builder, where it can reduce the amount of labor and setup time. The crate kit will include the motor all the power electronics—everything except the battery pack.
Electric GT has built a number of on-off conversions. For instance, it recently put together Volkswagen’s recent Type 20 Microbus concept, which served as a retro showcase for some future user-interface tech. Hutchinson said that while Electric GT will keep taking on such projects, it doesn’t want to go big on the conversion process per se but instead deliver electric powertrains to builders.
Electric GT crate electric V-8
Winberg said that with all the attention paid to high-profile conversions again the past few years, “no one’s quite made it easier,” which was a goal with this project.
Although Electric GT might be the first to capitalize on plans for an electric crate engine, it's not the first one to have concocted a version of the concept.
For instance, at last year’s Specialty Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas, Chevrolet revealed an all-electric eCOPO Camaro that not only showed off the potential of 800-volt battery systems but also teased the potential for making the motor and power systems available as off-the-shelf parts for would-be electric racers (bolting directly to most GM automatic transmissions).
With Electric GT’s product, it should be a matter of dropping the “crate engine” in as you might an engine swap of a V-8 into an old car, then attaching harnesses and installing the battery. The goal is to have something that greatly reduces the number of conversion hours while offering something that’s “very stylistic, all functional,” according to WInberg.
According to the conversion company, the setup will make 140 hp and 240 pound-feet of torque, with an option to produce 240 hp and 340 pound-feet with two motors.
The dimensions of the setup aren’t exactly like a typical crate V-8, but they’re close. Electric GT’s “engine” is about 34 inches long, whereas a standard GM small-block V-8 is 29.4 inches. And the spacing of it all affords that, perhaps with some minor adapting, it can be used with the existing transmission and drivetrain of the vehicle—allowing the FJ to retain its stock transmission and 4WD system.
They’ve used 3D scanning tools to make sure everything fits cleverly within the “crate” constraints.
The crate uses twin AC50 motors (upgradeable to AC51 or HyPer9), with a Lovejoy coupling. Controllers are housed on top, with contactor boxes, and an accessory unit at the front. Under the “valve covers” are functional items, including the DC-DC converter and a 6.6-kw onboard charger. Also packaged within are all coolant lines and a coolant pump.
The FJ40 Land Cruiser was never offered with a V-8, although it’s not an uncommon swap. Next up is an FJ60 (a 1980s-era Land Cruiser), and they’re thinking of doing a package for the Ford Bronco. Given all the attention electric trucks like those from Bollinger have been getting, that sounds like a recipe for success.
Electric GT isn't yet ready to talk pricing, but expect more details by the end of the year (and watch the video below). We think they’re on to something.
[h/t - John Voelcker]