Australian EV conversion startup merges with UK firm to turn classic cars electric | Electric vehicles

An Australian startup adding modern technology to classic Land Rovers will become part of one of the biggest electric vehicle conversion companies in the world this week after merging with a British firm.

Melbourne-based Jaunt Motors will partner with Zero EV to create Fellten, which will operate across Australia, the UK and North America.

The co-founder of Jaunt Motors, Dave Budge, said the merger was not just about converting more classic cars with electric motors themselves but helping car owners and mechanics to make the switch too.

“We’re scaling up to deliver hundreds of units next year and beyond,” he said. “And the biggest thing is awareness. Most people don’t know that this is even possible.”

The co-founder of Zero EV, Chris Hazell, said the new company would provide mechanics and enthusiasts “with the technology, tools and training to be a part of the growing global demand for electrification”.

“It’s the culmination of years of work from two teams working on either sides of the world, coming together with the shared ambition in shaping the future of electric vehicles,” he said.

Electric vehicles represented just 3.39{e3fa8c93bbc40c5a69d9feca38dfe7b99f2900dad9038a568cd0f4101441c3f9} of new car sales in Australia until September, but the new firm will convert existing petrol vehicles, including Porsche 911s, Mini Coopers, Land Rover and Land Rover Defender vehicles, into EVs to boost their numbers.

Budge said demand for the service in Australia was already high, with bookings “stretching into 2024”, and its customers were mostly Land Rover enthusiasts who wanted to bring new life to their vehicles.

“I was looking around the workshop yesterday and we’ve got seven cars in build and none of those cars are going to someone who has a classic car collection,” he said.

“We’re seeing families, farmers, all kinds of different people. If you want a true full-drive electric vehicle on the market in Australia there isn’t one. Even though the conversion is expensive … it’s comparable with the price of a new Land Rover.”

Restoring and electrifying a Land Rover typically cost $125,000, he said, and was made easier by its shape that he likened to a “garden shed on wheels”.

He and Marteen Burger, who created the company together in 2018, had developed creative ways to upgrade the vehicles using Apple iPads and iPhones and apps including Shapr3D and Procreate.

“From day one, I was sketching this stuff on an iPad,” Budge said. “Now we have iPhones throughout the workshop.

“With [augmented reality], the design and engineering team models components. Squeezing everything in is the hardest job.”

The pair will share some of their tricks with Apple users, and let them customise a 3D Land Rover model, at a free workshop in Sydney this Wednesday.