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Aston Martin joins Jaguar in building future-proof “reversible” electric classic cars

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Aston Martin DB6 MkII Volante, converted to battery electric power. Photos courtesy Aston Martin.

What if, in a dystopian version of the future, internal combustion engine vehicles are verboten? Using an electric autonopod for daily transportation is one thing, but what becomes of our beloved classic cars? Aston Martin Works is taking steps to answer this question, and it will soon offer a reversible battery electric conversion to “future-proof” its range of classic cars.

Using what it describes as a “Cassette” powertrain concept, Aston Martin Works in Newport Pagnell, England will extract the engine from your classic Aston Martin (or, a limited range of classic Aston Martins) and drop in an integrated battery pack and electric motor that bolt to the attachment points of the outgoing engine and transmission. A display screen “discreetly” mounted in the cabin provides the driver with information on power management and range, but otherwise, there are few clues that propulsion is no longer hydrocarbon-based.

1970 Aston Martin DB6 MkII Volante

The conversions build upon the knowledge Aston Martin gained during the genesis of its Rapide E, the luxury brand’s first electric sports car. Developed in conjunction with Williams Engineering, the Rapide E uses dual electric motors to produce a claimed output of 610 PS (602 hp) and 950 Nm (701 lb.-ft.), while still maintaining a targeted range of 200 miles. Performance-wise, the Rapide E should be capable of running from 0-60 mph in under 4.0 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 155 mph. Production will be limited to 155 units, with customer deliveries beginning in late 2019.

The first heritage model converted to battery power as a proof-of-concept by Aston Martin Works is a 1970 DB6 MkII Volante, a car originally assembled at the Newport Pagnell factory. Aston Martin isn’t yet releasing details on its performance and range, but installing a single electric motor from the Rapide E would deliver roughly 300 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. That’s on par with the internal combustion engine variant, which produces 325 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque from a 4.0-liter inline six, enough to deliver a 0-60 time of 6.0 seconds and a top speed of 150 mph, figures the electric-powered conversion could likely match.

1970 Aston Martin DB6 MkII Volante

Aston Martin isn’t the first British automaker to introduce reversible electric conversions for its classic cars. Based upon consumer demand, Jaguar announced in August that its E-type Zero would see limited production, complete with a fully-reversible battery-electric powertrain, should the owner – or future owners – seek to return the car to its original internal combustion engine. The electric Jaguar E-type is slightly lighter (by around 100 pounds) than the original, and is expected to deliver similar performance.

There’s a key difference in marketing between Jaguar and Aston Martin, however. Jaguar is building electric E-types based upon existing consumer demand, while Aston Martin is planning for a future – and a not-too-distant-one – where internal combustion engines are banned outright. Oslo, Norway, is poised to prohibit all gasoline and diesel vehicles from its city center beginning in 2019, and by 2030 this list will include Auckland, New Zealand; Barcelona, Spain; Brussels, Belgium; Cape Town, South Africa; Copenhagen, Denmark; Heidelberg, Germany; London, England; Los Angeles, California; Milan, Italy; Oxford, England (by 2020); Quito, Ecuador; Seattle, Washington; and Vancouver, British Columbia.

1970 Aston Martin DB6 MkII Volante

Even before internal combustion vehicles are banned – assuming this happens – the number of places they can be driven will shrink, and this is an eventuality of which Aston Martin is well aware. Paul Spires, president of Aston Martin Works, echoed this in his statement on the new program:

We have been looking for some time to find a way of protecting our customers’ long-term enjoyment of their cars. Driving a classic Aston Martin on pure EV power is a unique experience and one that will no doubt be extremely attractive to many owners, especially those who live in city centres. We also foresee collectors adding another dimension to their collection by commissioning EV-converted heritage cars.

Aston Martin Lagonda president and group CEO Andy Palmer agreed, saying, “We are very aware of the environmental and societal pressures that threaten to restrict the use of classic cars in the years to come. Our Second Century Plan not only encompasses our new and future models, but also protects our treasured heritage. I believe this not only makes Aston Martin unique, but a truly forward-thinking leader in this field.”

1970 Aston Martin DB6 MkII Volante

Like Jaguar, Aston Martin has not released any cost information regarding its electric vehicle conversions, nor has it specified which heritage models would be eligible for the program, which begins next year. Presumably, those with the means to own and operate a classic Aston Martin will care less about the cost of the conversion than their ability to continue driving their classic car, even without a melodious exhaust note.