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Electric Cars

Electrifying British Classics: Lunaz Designs Converts Old UK Icons Into EVs

The idea of taking a classic car like an old Jaguar and converting it to run a new powerplant isn’t new. Heck, even the idea of a bespoke company rebuilding an ancient piece of automotive iron with a new engine isn’t novel. What makes Lunaz Designs unique is that they aren’t taking a Tesla motor and battery pack and adapting it to fit these old chassis. Instead, Lunaz builds on their own experience in electrification with their own motors and batteries to create a completely new, modular powertrain for use on these old cars. Beyond that, Lunaz does more than just electrify these classic British cars and trucks. We spoke via email with James Warren, director of communications at Lunaz to find out more about these conversions and the company itself.

Lunaz began its formation in Silverstone, Northamptonshire, England, (yes, the same Silverstone where the infamous British raceway is located) in 2018 with the intent of restoring and electrifying old British metal. Their first cars were a Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and Jaguar that were all in less than pristine condition. Though, when you look at them, you wouldn’t immediately realize that nor would you be able to tell that these cars were electric just by looking at their exterior.

Well, that’s unless you see that they are parked beside a public charging station in the UK and notice the bright orange cable leading from that charger to one of these classic machines. Even without that cable sticking out, the only way would be to notice is by seeing that the gauges are different from the original cars. That would, however, require that you’re able to not distract yourself from the beautifully crafted interiors of these bespoke machines.

These are more than just simple restorations with EV powertrains shoved into them. They are handcrafted using parts and materials hand selected by the owners of these machines and Lunaz Designs team of designers. “The completion of these cars follows an exhaustive restoration, re-engineering and electrification process involving more than 150 highly skilled engineers, designers, software engineers and technicians,” said Warren.

That bespoke craftsmanship also goes beyond the skin of these vehicles and involves Jon Hilton as Lunaz managing director and technical lead. If Hilton’s name sounds familiar to you, that’s because he was a part of the Arrows and Renault Formula 1 teams, with the latter he was integral to winning the F1 World Championship in 2005 and 2006 with Fernando Alonso. He and Doug Cross were also involved with the Flybrid, a flywheel-based kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) hybrid drive that teams utilized in the Le Mans Prototype fields in the U.S. and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s safe to say that these cars are in safe hands at Lunaz.

We mentioned that Lunaz was more than just rebuilding British classics and their electrical system is modular. That’s because much of what’s used for converting these Astons and Jags to electric are also used to convert 28-ton garbage trucks (or 26-tonne refuse trucks as the Anglos call it). “Our modular powertrain is built in-house here at Lunaz,” said Warren, “and is designed to be adaptable for multiple applications and power outputs.” That doesn’t mean that these garbage trucks are under capacity or these classics have too many batteries in their packs.

Each vehicle gets a battery pack designed just for that vehicle. “For example,” Warren continued, “a Jaguar XK120 by Lunaz is fitted with a 72-kWh battery pack. The largest is 117 kWh for our Rolls-Royce Phantom V.” The other good news is that they are capable of using DC Fast Charging, as Warren pointed out, “Fast charging capability is engineering into the vehicles at 50 kW as standard and 100 kW on request.”

The reason they can boast this is their use of Tier 1, OEM level battery cells from a “leading UK giga-factory.” While Warren wouldn’t tell us who that supplier is, he did say, “Our cells are sourced from the leading UK giga-factory. These are tested over hundreds of millions of miles across passenger car OEM applications.” Take that for what you will as there are several manufacturers in the UK with giga-factories that fit that description.

The only bad news is that Lunaz won’t offer their conversion as a full-on kit to the enthusiast. “This sort of engineering program does not lend itself to being sold as a consumer kit for home conversion,” said Warren. Though, there might be something more coming from Lunaz in the near future, “Lunaz Powertrains does work with leading OEMs on white label vehicle electrification programs. However, these projects are highly confidential until they are ready to be announced.” We don’t think that will lead to a universal, one-size-fits-all solution, but maybe there is something that an OEM could offer for their classic vehicles designed by Lunaz. We’ll just have to wait and see on that one.

Now, we here at MotorTrend know all too well how fans of a certain segment of classic cars feel when one is converted to an EV. We had to ask, knowing that the UK has an amazing car enthusiast crowd, how the reception of electrifying Britain’s iconic, classic metal was on their side of the ocean. Turns out, they have been a very positive bunch.

“From the company’s foundation in 2018,” said Warren, “we have engaged with owner’s clubs to bring them into Lunaz so they can see the exhaustive levels of restoration and re-engineering each car undergoes. From this they understand that these cars are being prepared for use for many more generations.” As a final point, we asked Warren what other vehicles Lunaz Design is looking to convert and if any American cars are on their radar, especially since they do export their conversions from the UK to major markets around the world. Warren responded by saying, “We have builds across every one of our model portfolios destined for the U.S., but our focus remains very much on British marques.” Even so, he closed with this, “But we would never rule out an iconic American classic in the future.”

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