With instantaneous torque, fewer components, and compact motors, are electric conversions the future of hot rodding? No, they’re not. But chances are they’ll be a piece of that future. And to show off that potential, both Chevrolet and Ford put electric conversions in the spotlight at the 2019 SEMA show, with two different takes on battery-powered performance. Chevy’s effort, dubbed E-10, is a 1962 C-10 pickup truck that previews a potential future crate kit. Across the Las Vegas Convention Center Central Hall, Ford drew a crowd with a modern Mustang–converted by Webasto to electric power–that kept the factory six-speed manual.
Putting the EV in Chevy
This Chevy was built in only 18 weeks. What’s possibly more amazing is that it’s fully-functional will participate in next year’s Hot Rod Power Tour. To make a trip like that possible, the E-10 has two battery packs from the Bolt EV stacked on top of each other in the truck bed, which adds up to about 250 miles of range. Both can charge at the same time, like the electronic equivalent of the twin fuel tanks on older gas-powered GM pickups. The downside is that the bed is full of batteries, with almost no storage. Practicality (and affordability) are not really the point here.
Much like last year’s eCOPO Camaro, the E-10 is a step on the path to components that will eventually land in the GM Performance Parts catalog. While there are no current plans to sell what’s been titled the Connect & Cruise Crate Propulsion System, and not even a wink towards a timeline, there are enough hints that say GM is serious.
The E-10 is powered by a pair of prototype electric motors, similar to units already in development. A key feature is a modular housing, which means they can be stacked up to three in a line. They also have an LS-friendly bolt pattern, so that standard transmissions–like the 4L75e four-speed automatic used here–bolt right up. GM says that two motors weigh 350 pounds with the inverters, 100 pounds less than a supercharged LT4 V-8. With the current battery pack, output is listed as 450-plus horsepower and 470-plus pound-feet of torque. Using next-generation 800V batteries, a single motor could manage 400 hp according to GM.
There’s an elegant simplicity to the E-10, because all of the accessories are electronic. There’s no routing a belt drive or making parts fit in the engine bay (although there’s no power steering here). The A/C compressor, borrowed from the Bolt like most of the electronics and hardware, can mount tucked under the dash. The same goes for the water pump that runs thermal management for the batteries and motors plus the cabin heater. In terms of custom car builds, EVs offer a lot of packaging freedom.
As for the batteries, it’s likely that instead of a single 60-kwh pack like the one that sits under the Bolt’s floor, GM would offer smaller modular units to lower the price of entry and make it easier to put the batteries wherever they can safely fit. Even with battery prices regularly creeping downward, a crate electric powertrain won’t be cheap in the near future; a replacement pack for the Bolt EV still costs more than $10,000. That said, like some crate engine projects, cost isn’t necessarily the object.
The electric pony
While Chevy demonstrated an electric take on a classic vehicle, Ford’s SEMA stand suggested that electric cars could still appeal to enthusiasts with more than just straight-line speed. The Mustang Lithium, built by automotive supplier Webasto, swaps out the Coyote V-8 for a motor and batteries, but retains the six-speed manual transmission. The Lithium and its see-through hood, however, is not destined for showrooms. Josh Lupu, Webasto’s Director of Marketing, says this Mustang is “a demonstration for how fun an electric car can be.”
With a claimed 900 horsepower and 1,000 pound-feet of torque, some improvement to the driveline was required. “We sourced the beefiest, most robust components we could find,” says Lupu. The MT82 transmission here is the Calimer Stage version with billet internals, the driveshaft is a custom carbon fiber unit, and the half shafts and Torsen rear differential come from Ford Performance.
All that power comes with some extra road-hugging weight: The Lithium tips the scales around 4,400 pounds. The one upside is that positioning the heavy 800-volt batteries between the front and rear enables a 50-50 weight distribution. And because it’s electric, all the torque is available immediately. There are four power modes, in 25-percent increments: Valet, Sport, Track, and Beast. Lupu says the Lithium can roast the tires in second gear even in Sport mode. The electric motor in this Mustang spins to 6,000 rpm, which is a reasonable equivalent to a conventional gas engine. And even the most novice driver can’t stall an EV.
Performance has always been about progress, from the first V-8s to forced induction and fuel injection. These two SEMA specials point to the next step in that evolution. The proliferation of electric propulsion just means more options when it comes the power we put under the hood. Choice, in general, is a good thing for the automotive world.