Hagerty – Antony Ingram – classic Mini 

“Not once did I find myself wishing for petrol power during the day. Equally, not once did I wish I was driving anything other than a Mini. Like all the best cars, whatever fuels them, the motive force feels appropriate to the vehicle it’s powering, and the car feels appropriate to its environment.” 

Original article published 11 March 2022 

https://www.hagerty.co.uk/articles/classic-car-reviews/electrogenic-mini-review-perfecting-the-perfect-city-car/

Electrogenic Mini review: Exploring London in the perfect city car 

London loves a Mini. It coos over a Mini parked, cheers over a Mini in traffic, and allows of a Mini far more legal-speed silliness without a hint of scorn than it affords to say, a flatulent modern supercar. Wrist-flick into a side road and scoot up the next straight and people smile. Smartphones come out to capture the moment, not to capture the inevitable V10-powered accident for their next viral TikTok. 

Two things help this Mini’s cause even further. One is its driver, and that’s not to blow one’s own trumpet. It’s just that it’s impossible not to return the favour of London’s sunny disposition when you’re in a Mini; even if it wasn’t now recommended by the Highway Code, you feel inclined to beckon pedestrians on their way, guaranteed a smile and a wave. 

The second, and probably more relevant here, is that this particular Mini is electric. Cue whining more shrill than the idler gears in an A-series transaxle. I get it; why bother with a classic, the engine’s the soul of a car, you’ll never make up the cost in fuel returns, so-on and so-forth. 

I won’t try to change your mind. If you’re not already sold, it’d waste your time, and mine. But I will report as I find, and I found it… a breath of fresh air, in more ways that one. 

This particular Mini has been converted to electric power by Oxfordshire-based Electrogenic. If the name’s familiar, you’ve probably seen their Triumph Stag, or Morgan 4/4, or that rather pretty Porsche 356 that we reviewed in December.  They’re making real cars that are getting used by real people; one client, a local farm, has had four Defenders converted – they’re better to drive than any diesel one ever was and will work off their conversion costs in fuel savings in a matter of years. 

The client for this Mini is Small Car Big City (SCBC), a company that operates Mini-based tours around London. Named Rosie, it’ll be their first electric Mini, and is currently undergoing final approval by Transport for London before being pressed into service. 

The practical benefits are manifold. Wear and tear, for instance: Tom from SCBC tells me they currently get around 45,000 miles from a gearbox, changing one in the fleet roughly every year, and numerous clutches. It’s not that the cars are fragile, more that someone with the clutch control of Zebedee and an uncompromising city environment can be a mite tough on a dear old Mini. 

You can change gears in the Electrogenic Mini (which uses a five-speed Peugeot ‘box, as the gears-in-sump A-series one can’t be adapted, and the Pug box is tougher anyway), but you don’t really need to. Nor do you need to slip a clutch to pull away, and in motion, if you choose to swap cogs, it’s more like operating a switch. 

Fuel costs are obviously reduced, and range isn’t even slightly an issue; after a day of bouncing around the capital, the battery gauge (utilising the old fuel needle) still had much more than half way still to drop. You can thank the stop-start nature of an urban environment for that, as it suits the motor’s ability to regenerate charge while decelerating. Factor in no Congestion Charge and no ULEZ wallet-emptier and that’s another 30-odd quid a day in your back pocket. 

Time to scoot. Driving in central London is usually an experience that invokes unprintable words. Driving the Electrogenic Mini invokes un-spellable whooping. It takes all of three or four seconds to not care that there’s not an A-series shrieking away up front, and another ten, max, to abandon all intentions to change gear. Second is so rangey there’s no point, even though Rosie has been detuned to avoid squealing its ten-inch gumballs at every green light. 

There’s no real plan for today; just a chance to see whether the perfect city car is even more perfect when it’s not giving kids asthma. We buzz around celluloid-friendly Roupell Street first, somewhere that feels built for Mini-mayhem. It probably felt wider in the 1960s without SUVs cluttering up the parking spaces, though whichever local owns all those regularly-photographed Citroëns is doing their best to inject some classic character back into the neighbourhood. 

Rushing around behind Tom in one of SCBC’s fossil-fuelled cars the Electrogenic Mini hop-skip-jumps through the potholes just the same, but doesn’t threaten to clang its nonexistent exhaust on speedbumps like the petrol car. It’s handy too doing laps of Lambeth bridge, the roundabout at either end a chance to test that Paddy Hopkirk-approved turn-in. 

We thread the needle down Page Street in Pimlico, whose checkerboard buildings seem appropriate for a car whose history includes similarly-patterned flags. It starts to rain. The Mini’s wipers are as geriatric as ever. And they say EV conversions remove a car’s character! Pedestrians seem unperturbed by the drizzle; a few stop and take photos. Despite wearing my best roll-neck, I think they’re admiring the car. 

I dither over where to show off next, but snapper Charlie thinks Portobello Road might suit the Mini’s character. Central London disappears in a blur, five miles of elbows-out traffic dispatched in what feels like a few beats. 

Minis do that: lanes seem twice as wide, other cars twice as far away. You can get away with full throttle now and then, since you’re not making a racket either. I can’t be sure, but I suspect even the cyclists are pleased; must be nicer getting passed with room to spare by a Mini (a quiet one especially) than some block-of-flats Range Rover. 

A bike would be only marginally quicker across the capital. Everyone lets you out of junctions, for a start. Even a double-decker pauses and waves us ahead, despite looking big enough from the Mini’s perch to accidentally flick it up into someone’s windscreen like a pebble. 

Down Portobello a group of builders quickly twig it’s electric (SCBC’s graphics, plus the green flashes on the numberplate are a giveaway when it’s parked). Sneaking down the nearby, picture-perfect Holland Park Mews feels a lot less intrusive than it might be for an Instagram personality snapping their new six-figure supercar. The rattling trim is louder than wheels-on-cobbles.  So, that character bypass thing. Taking personal preference out of the equation – and to be clear, I still love, and still covet, petrol-powered Minis – I think it might be bobbins. 

After a day in the seat, I still got what I’m calling “Mini shoulder” from hunching over its laid-back steering wheel. My right thigh still ached from treading repeatedly on the high-set brake pedal. The ride is still unyielding, the otherwise perfect steering is still a workout at parking speeds, and you still need to crane your neck to look at traffic lights. 

Practically speaking, the boot is still small too, though a different kind of small from a normal Mini, since one of the battery packs is against the bulkhead, rather than the old fuel tank taking up one side of the boot instead. 

The usual Mini bits, both good and bad, are still present and correct. Not once did I find myself wishing for petrol power during the day. Equally, not once did I wish I was driving anything other than a Mini. Like all the best cars, whatever fuels them, the motive force feels appropriate to the vehicle it’s powering, and the car feels appropriate to its environment. 

If you can spare the £58,000 that we insured the Electrogenic Mini for, you’ll not regret it. If you can’t (and realistically speaking, not many can) then perhaps the best news of all is that you’ll soon be able to book an appointment with Small Car Big City and experience one of the most enjoyable experiences in motoring – driving an electric Mini around London – for a whole lot less. An eight hour day behind the wheel in a petrol model is £179. If a date with Rosie is much the same, it will be money well spent. 

Hagerty – Nik Berg – Porsche 911 kit

“Lovers of the classic car aesthetic who don’t want to dirty their hands or the air that they pass through, usable and entertaining conversions such as this are starting to make a lot more sense. 

And I, for one, can understand that.  I suspect that those who choose to make the switch from petrol stations to charging stations will have few regrets.” 

Original article published 14 March 2023  

Electric shock! This classic 911 is battery powered… and we like it

Four bolts. That’s all you need to undo to convert a vintage Porsche 911 from gas to electric power with a new drop-in conversion kit from Oxford-based specialists Electrogenic

Well, that might be a slight oversimplification. You won’t actually be able to do this yourself, since the kits will only be provided to garages that have been approved and trained by Electrogenic. 

The complete kit comprises an OEM-standard electric motor, reduction gearbox plus front and rear battery-boxes, and Electrogenic’s own control systems, together with all the cabling required. It’s a 15-man-day job to fit into a G-series (1973–89) or 964-era (1989–94) 911. That time estimate includes dropping out the original oily parts, and it assumes no additional upgrades are required. 

A ballpark cost for the conversion is £75,000, plus the original car – so this is not a cheap exercise and certainly would never offset running costs of a flat-fix. However, like most vintage vehicles converted to modern running gear, each Electrogenic restomod will most likely be tailored to its owner’s taste, with price fluctuating accordingly. 

Customisation options extend to the EV powertrain itself, as Electrogenic is offering a choice of two water-cooled motors: a 160-kW (216bhp) unit or a 240-kW (322bhp) version. A 9.6:1 reduction gearbox sends power where you’d expect it to go – to the rear wheels – and the entire setup sits on a replacement subframe that simply bolts into place where the original components would go. That straightforward install, incidentally, makes Electrogenic’s conversion completely reversible. 

A total of 62 kWh of batteries are positioned in the rear and under the front boot to provide a range of nearly 200 miles. The system accepts 50kW fast charging via a Combined Charging System connector, which allows for the Combo 1 port favoured by North America and the Combo 2 that’s standard in Europe and Asia. The weight penalty for the swap is around 120kilos (260 pounds), with a little more over the front axle than a normal 911 would have. 

Dive deeper into the EV options list and you’ll find various modes for energy recuperation under braking, and eco, sport, or traffic profiles for the powertrain. Want one-pedal driving? You got it. 

The car’s clocks are repurposed to show EV-related functions: Fuel becomes state of charge, for example, and where the gear lever once sat there’s a simple, rotary drive-selector. 

When I visit Electrogenic’s workshop, I just miss one of the chief mechanics from Xerbera in Dallas, Texas, who’s spent three weeks overseas learning how to install Electrogenic’s electronics. (Xerbera specialises in re-engineering Land Rover Defenders.) Meanwhile, inquiries continue to flood in from Germany, Australia, and New Zealand, plus Europe and the Far East. 

After building its business with bespoke classic EV conversions, ranging from Morris Minors to VW Campers, massive Daimlers and even DeLoreans, Electrogenic was facing a growing demand that it simply couldn’t satisfy. Resources were poured into developing conversion kits, steered by the converted models that were proving most popular. Alongside the 911, the firm now offers conversion packs for the Land Rover Defender and Jaguar E-Type, with several more in the pipeline. 

“Since we incorporated in March six years ago, my guess is about half of that [time] was always purely in R&D,” says cofounder Steve Drummond. “We’ve been continuing to do R&D like crazy since then and we’re now at a level of sophistication where we can reliably create systems that other people can install. We know they’re going to work first time without the installer needing the depth of expertise in the detail in order to make them work.” 

The proof is in the driving and, as fortune would have it there’s a rather lovely Irish Green over tan 1983 G-series waiting for me. It’s the first customer car to be completed. 

The car is tastefully backdated by the owner, and in keeping with that vision, carries the milder, 160kW (216bhp) powertrain in its simplest form. Given the wide range of driving modes available, the owner opted for just one, to keep the driving experience as pure as possible. 

Aside from some tweaks to the torsion bars, the 911’s chassis is standard. There’s no traction control or ABS braking. This is very much a classic that’s been converted and therefore a totally different animal than the carbon-fibre-bodied, adaptive-damper-equipped Everrati 911

After several reminders that this is a customer’s car, due to be handed over in a couple of days, I venture out onto the short test circuit at Bicester Heritage. It’s formed from part of the runway and perimeter tracks of a former Royal Airforce Base and its concrete surface is usually pretty grippy. Today, the rain is torrential and the temperature barely above freezing. Given the reputation of early 911s in the wet, this could be… interesting. 

Indeed it is, but not quite in the manner I expect. On paper the car’s 218-hp doesn’t sound like that much, but it’s complemented by 310 Nm (220lb-ft) of torque, the delivery of which is absolutely instantaneous. There’s a little work to do on the calibration of the CANBUS-driven speedometer, so I can’t say for sure how fast I’m actually going, but the 911 feels a lot more rapid than it ought to. The more powerful motor has been clocked at 0-60 mph in under four seconds, but I’d peg this at not much more than five. 

The standard brakes need a fairly hefty stand-on to slow the car; the regenerative effect seems quite minimal, and, on standard suspension, there’s a fair amount of body movement in every direction. Pitch, roll, yaw? Yep, that’s all boxes ticked. 

The unassisted steering is heavy, loads up further in the bends, and then unloads quite dramatically when I apply all the power on corner exit. This car doesn’t have a limited-slip diff, and, as it lights up a one-tire fire, the steering self-centres sharply. An over-correction could send the car the other way, but I do sense that the extra weight of batteries up front makes this less likely to happen than it would be in the gas-powered version. 

Slightly reduced pendulum-effect aside, much of the character of the original 911 remains. Of course, the driving experience is a little less involving without a manual transmission, and lacking in the aural and olfactory entertainment of a car fuelled and lubricated by big oil, but a lot is left. 

That will never be enough for those for whom petrol is the life-blood of driving. But for lovers of the classic car aesthetic who don’t want to dirty their hands or the air that they pass through, usable and entertaining conversions such as this are starting to make a lot more sense. 

And I, for one, can understand that. I run a Lotus Esprit S3 and bought it because I adore the wedge-tastic styling, enjoy the feeling of squeezing into its snug cockpit and marvel at the way the thing tackles corners, but I’ll be the first to admit that the Lotus-designed four-cylinder engine is nothing special and, living in London, the ease of driving an electrically converted car would have a certain appeal. 

It’s a divisive issue. But I suspect that those who choose to make the switch from petrol stations to charging stations will have few regrets. 

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