Currently reading: Forward to the future: Driving an electric DeLorean DMC-12
Future-looking firm Electrogenic has converted a DMC-12 into an EV – and, yes, it will still do 88mph

Swapping oily powertrains for cleaner, simpler electric set-ups is becoming huge business. 

Depending on the scope of what sort of EV-swapped classic you’re in the mood for, there’s likely to be a shop out there for you. Some will sell you a fully restored car without an ICE motor to move it, others will build your dream car, and places like Oxfordshire’s Electrogenic are in one game only: powertrain.

Set up just before the Covid-19 pandemic, Electrogenic started out with a mission to convert commercial vehicles from ICE to EV propulsion. But when the world changed overnight, so did Electrogenic’s plans.

Steve Drummond, Electrogenic’s founder and CEO, remembers the switch well. “We hired our first people 10 days before the 2020 lockdown, and the B2C (business-to-consumer) business we had planned couldn’t happen,” he says. “We had people to pay and no income, so we made a proper website with what we do on it, and people were enthusiastic enough to share their dreams with us.”

Companies like Lunaz and Everrati, both UK-based EV classic specialists, offer fully restored and retrimmed electric reimaginings of existing cars. Pick your model, spec it and they will cover the rest. Electrogenic is a touch different.

There are four pillars to its business today. The first is military work. There are four Electrogenic converted Land Rovers undergoing testing with the British military to see how well they would suit active service. The second is tied in with OEMs, something that Drummond, understandably, can’t talk much about.

Kits make up the third arm and are an extension of the company’s early work. Cars that are likely to be converted more than a handful of times – such as Minis, Jaguar E-Types and Land Rovers – have pre-developed kits that owners can buy and then install at their leisure. Electrogenic will ship a box with all the bits and an instruction manual for the person manning the spanners to work to, making it a more cost-effective way of going electric in a classic car.

The final pillar is the bespoke arm of the business. People with cars that haven’t been converted before or with special requests get to choose their own adventure. “Bespoke is about customers’ dreams,” says Drummond.

Tying the pillars of the business together with the company’s software nous, Drummond doesn’t see his firm as an aftermarket shop any more. “Where we’re at now, we’re truly an OEM,” he says. “We buy parts from tier one suppliers. We manufacture EV powertrains for all sorts of specialist purposes.”

Back to top

A specific dream is what brings Autocar to Bicester Heritage’s test track in a DeLorean DMC-12. Not John Z DeLorean’s dream, but one belonging to a mystery Electrogenic client who wanted to give their car the kick it always deserved.

You can hardly blame them: the PRV V6 that powered the DeLorean through the gates of DMC’s Belfast factory wasn’t world renowned for being efficient, perky or… very good at all. 

While it suited the original car’s character as a low-stress cruiser, it left room for improvement, which is where Electrogenic stepped in.

The idea behind any Electrogenic powertrain swap is to retain as much of the original car’s character as possible. Drummond, walking around the car, is proud that the DMC-12’s ‘frunk’ is still a ‘frunk’ and not full of batteries.

The motor and battery pack sit in the hole formerly occupied by the V6, where there are now also some Back to the Future-inspired decals.

Inside, the car is broadly the same as an original DeLorean, except that there’s a dial to change gear and another to switch driving mode, as well as a new head unit and a flux capacitor (not standard fitment in the 1980s, but rapidly becoming a must-have aftermarket item).

Back to top

Powering the car is a 215bhp, 229lb ft motor that’s fed power by a 42kWh battery. Electrogenic says you will get about 150 miles of range from it and you can pop it on a CCS charge to brim the battery in around an hour. It takes a suitably brisk five seconds to dispatch 0-60mph (roughly half the time the original car took) and its top speed is an estimated 130mph.

All of the extra gear adds about 40kg to the ICE car’s weight but notably ups performance.

This is an Electrogenic project, though, so the rest of the car has been left alone. These guys are a powertrain business, not a resto shop or dynamics engineers.

Powertrain work, especially with electric ones, means dealing with hardware and a huge amount of software – and that’s what Electrogenic seems to have nailed. No matter which cells power which motor in which car, the code that makes everything speak to everything else is common across all of the company’s projects.

“When you plug our diagnostics screen into any one of our vehicles – if it’s a sports car, a military Land Rover, whatever it is – it’s the same information, same operating system, all repeatable,” says Drummond.

The software that makes Electrogenic’s DeLorean project work is impressive. There’s no faff involved in starting it up. Simply twist the key, wait a beat, select ‘drive’ and roll away.

Throttle response is, of course, instant. There’s no clunky V6 taking its time to find peak torque any more. Instead, you have a punchy EV powertrain driving the rear wheels.

Three drive modes are available – Eco, Normal and Sport – and each affects the powertrain in a different way. Eco makes the car feel more in keeping with its original 1980s self, because responsiveness is dulled and performance is on the sleepier side, but it’s there to use as little power as possible. Normal is for day-to-day driving and gives the throttle pedal some feel, letting the car seem more alive. If you give it a tickle, it will react too. Sport is the mode that turns it, as Drummond says, into a proper sports car.

Back to top

Pointing the DMC-12 down Bicester’s back straight and giving it a bootful, the car moves with pleasing urgency. You’re not battered with the violent punch that some mainstream performance electric cars throw at you, but you’re quickly pushed along the Tarmac. Your torso is pressed gently into the DeLorean’s pillowy seats until you either hit your desired speed or run out of road.

So the car goes as you had always hoped it would, and with the type of powertrain that John DeLorean would probably have investigated, were he still around. And it will convincingly reach 88mph in case you want to see some serious… ahem, stuff, though its Federal-special speedo goes only as high as 85mph.

Power delivery is smooth, punchy and exciting. The car itself is wide and you are positioned so incredibly low that it can feel less like sitting and more like lying down. In period, lots of people had it pegged as a sports car, but the faithful refer to it as a GT designed for comfortably (but not necessarily quickly) crossing the US. 

Viewed as a sports coupé, even one from the early 1980s, the handling has never been stellar. As a GT, it’s still not great but allowances can be made for prioritising comfort over speed. 

Because Electrogenic doesn’t touch anything beyond the powertrain, the car has standard suspension, damping and steering. Even taking gentle corners slowly results in some quite incredible lean and pushing on through tighter corners gets you understeer.

Back to top

Combining its new pep with a modernised set of springs would almost certainly turn the DMC-12 into a bit of a weapon. That said, if you just want to use it to cruise silently around town, keep it soft. Your back will thank you.

Electrogenic’s use of tech is impressive, especially its seeming mastery of the software to get it all working properly. The UK is a hub for electrifying classic cars because of teams and vision like Drummond’s. The tech itself is in constant development, and who knows how far it will be pushed in the coming years?

Today, though, it can turn a stainless steel vision of the future into a desirable EV. Not many people – not even Dr Emmett Brown himself – can do that. 

By Alex Goy

Join the debate

Add a comment…
xxxx 10 July 2024

The only conversion that is an overall improvement on the original.