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FIVA declares it won’t support electrified classic vehicles

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High school shop class-built electrified Volkswagen Rabbit. Photo courtesy Volkswagen.

FIVA, the global organization dedicated to preserving older vehicles in part by fighting legislation aimed at getting old cars off the road, has declared it will not advocate for electrified classic vehicles and that such vehicles are not considered historic.

“FIVA (the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens or international federation of historic vehicles) understands the motivation of some owners to electrify their vehicles – and acknowledges that, subject to legislation and regulation, all modifications are a matter of personal choice,” the organization wrote in a statement this week. “However, FIVA – as an organisation dedicated to the preservation, protection and promotion of historic vehicles – cannot promote, to owners or regulators, the use of modern EV components (motors and batteries) to replace a historic vehicle’s powertrain.”

The announcement comes amid burgeoning interest in electrifying older vehicles. While individuals have taken to adapting Nissan Leaf and/or Tesla drivetrains to their classics or building custom electric drivetrains to take the place of internal combustion engines for decades, companies dedicated to electrifying certain makes and models have cropped up in recent years and even the carmakers themselves have started to offer either conversion kits or in-house conversions for their historic products.

According to the FIVA statement, the electrification of an older vehicle disqualifies it from historic status because the vehicle is no longer “preserved and maintained in a historically correct condition,” one of the components of the organization’s own definition of a historic vehicle. The statement goes on to assert that electrified classic cars do not support FIVA’s goal of preserving historic vehicle culture.

“It is not, in our opinion, the shape or body style of a vehicle that makes it ‘historic,’ but the way in which the entire vehicle has been constructed and manufactured in its original form,” FIVA’s vice president of legislation, Tiddo Bresters, said in the statement.

Adam Roe, the founder of Zero Labs, the company electrifying first-generation Ford Broncos, said he concurs. “From a literal component, I think we should be strict,” he said. “(Restoration) means rebuilding the original manufacturer’s parts, using perfect period accurate materials, etc. I would call this more forgivably ‘functional preservation rather than transportation.’ Beyond the exact age of a Classic, Historic, Antique or Vintage, there is only one test, the exact mode of power is irrelevant. Is this vehicle restored or surviving in its original factory condition? Any answer other than yes means this vehicle is a resto-mod.”

While FIVA’s statement didn’t go so far as to call for a halt to all electrified classics, it did recommend that any electrification project be engineered so the changes can be reversible and that the original non-electric drivetrain be set aside for potential re-installation at a later date. However, as one EV converter told the BBC earlier this year, none of his customers have ever asked for the vehicle’s original internal combustion engine to be re-installed, nor have any of them asked him to keep it in storage for eventual re-installation.

The announcement comes nearly two years after FIVA, via its Charter of Turin Handbook, made similar declarations about over-restored vehicles and any vehicle not modified in period. Patrick Rollet, the president of FIVA, said shortly afterward that FIVA leadership struggled with how to define historic vehicles. “We kept it open to interpretation,” he said. “For three days at a summit we talked about authenticity, and at the end of that meeting, nobody was sure what that meant. So we try to stick to principles which are wide and open to interpretation based on culture.”

However, as Rollet pointed out, defining historic vehicles is a necessary step in convincing governments to carve out exemptions in their road laws for historic vehicles. “If, in approaching the EU, we were defending cars far away from their original state, we’d have problems,” he said.

The European Union’s definition for historical vehicles (at least 30 years old; “historically preserved and maintained in its original state and has not undergone substantial changes in the technical characteristics of its main components;” and “considered to be hardly used on public roads”) closely aligns with FIVA’s (“mechanically propelled road vehicles which are at least 30 years old; which are preserved and maintained in a historically correct condition; which are not used as a means of daily transport; and which are therefore a part of our technical and cultural heritage”). That EU definition has already been used to determine which older vehicles can be exempted from roadworthiness testing by its member states.

FIVA made no mention of electrification of older vehicles in its FIVA Guide For Responsible Use of Historic Vehicles on Today’s Roads, a pamphlet that includes a section on “environmentally friendly behaviour” for owners of older vehicles.