Although plug-in electric cars have only been part of the mainstream for a few years, swapping out gas engines for electric mills is nothing new to a select group of hobbyists. As it turns out, the classic Porsche 356 is an excellent platform for doing just that.
“The fact that it’s 1,600 pounds and fiberglass, it was a perfect candidate” said Duke Altschuler of Duke’s Garage in Westminster, Colorado. “The geometry worked for the batteries, we’ve got good balance in both the rear and the front. We were shooting for 100 mile range and this car is the perfect car for that.”
Duke is an electric vehicle enthusiast who swaps out the drivetrains of both real and replica Porsche 356s, particularly Speedsters, with an electric drivetrain of his own design. It has a 39.2kW 3-phase AC electric motor lashed to a good old fashioned Pro Street four-speed manual transmission. Duke knows that even customers for an electric 356 want the engagement of a manual transmission.
When Duke electrifies a replica, he gets is from Beck. Beck is a company in Indiana that makes replica Speedsters with front and rear torsion bar suspension and coil-over shocks, a 3” tubular steel chassis, leather seats, and four-wheel disc brakes. This replica is a great platform for an EV because of how modern it is. Take it for a spin and you have a modern electric car with the convincing look of a true classic.
So how’s the performance? Duke’s eSpeedster can hold its own at about 50 horsepower and a top speed of right around 100 mph. Like other electric cars, you get 100% of your torque at any given time, even from a stop. All in all, Duke’s creation comes pretty close to the performance of a real Speedster.
As for range, it can go from 80-100 miles on a full charge depending on how you drive it. It plugs in via an outlet under the hood. Since the Porsche 356 isn’t exactly a long-distance cruiser anyway, the 80-100 mile range is sufficient for most motorists. It has regenerative braking to help give the range an extra boost.
You might expect something like this to be outrageously expensive, but Duke is only asking $35,000 for a turn-key, ready to drive eSpeedster. That’s significantly cheaper than the cheapest new Porsche and you don’t even have to feed it expensive gas!
If you’re feeling ambitious and want to build an electric Porsche 356 of your own, there are kits out there you can buy to do your own swap. One of the more popular kits comes from a company called EV West out of San Marcos, California. The kit comes with everything you need other than a battery system and the car itself. The great thing about this kit is that it all bolts together fairly easily for experience mechanics and it was specifically made for a 356 or 356 replica. It even comes with a battery monitor to tell you how much juice you have left. This kit comes in at just under $7,000.
Want to go green, but haven’t found any electric cars you like in your price range? A Porsche 356 EV might be closer to your budget and your garage than you think!
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