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The Electrification of Historic Vehicles - FIVA release their position

Published: 18/10/2019

The subject of converting existing historic vehicles from internal combustion engines to electric motive power has been one that has sparked great discussion and debate amongst the FBHVC community in recent months. The discussions have been generated, on the whole, by an increase in the number of companies appearing in the UK offering conversion work on historic vehicles. This is also reflected across Europe, so much so, that FIVA (the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens), have released a statement clarifying their position on the matter.

The FBHVC, as a member of FIVA, who are the worldwide organisation dedicated to the preservation, protection and promotion of historic vehicles and related culture were consulted fully in the creation of the position statement on electric vehicles and as such we support this stance entirely. David Whale, Chairman of the FBHVC said; “Whilst we must fully accept that owners are free to do what they wish with their historic vehicles, we must make clear our definition of those converted vehicles in terms of their historic status. We, like FIVA, feel that the combustion engine and related engineering, is a key part of the heritage of a vehicle and is crucial to how it looks, sounds, smells and feels in order to represent the era in which it was constructed as a historical piece.”

In addition to our support for the FIVA statement, the FBHVC is keen however to make it clear that electric vehicles, manufactured in period, of which there are many examples throughout history, are very much supported as a key part of our transport heritage and will be represented equally alongside internal combustion and steam as pivotal to transport history. The FBHVC recognise that there are some superb examples of electric motive power amongst historic vehicles.

David Whale continues, “Electric cars are not a new thing, especially within the passenger car industry; indeed, we will be exhibiting a 1912 Baker Electric at the forthcoming Classic Motor Show at the NEC and I own a rare electric motor and bespoke gearbox produced in 1940 to substitute the internal combustion engine fitted to Lucien Rosengart’s cars in the 1930s. These are all integral to the richness of transport history that we will continue to represent and support.” Furthermore, this position also excludes vehicles that have been produced as modern tributes to older vehicles, often by the OEMs themselves, with electric power to emulate, replicate or look like historic vehicles – these are considered simply as modern cars regardless of what external styling they may have.

Position statement from FIVA:

Background

An increasing number of commercial outfits are offering to convert historic vehicles to run on electric power, replacing the entire drivetrain with an electric unit and batteries. In this way, they claim, it’s possible to retain the classic appearance of the vehicle while meeting modern environmental standards. As an additional benefit, the conversion might also increase power and performance. Some conversion companies have even obtained permission from the type approval/certification authorities to retain the original Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the donor vehicle, despite more or less replacing the entire drivetrain. 

Impact on the historic vehicle movement

Conversion of historical vehicles from their original internal combustion engines to electric power does not comply with the FIVA definition of a historic vehicle, cannot be carried out in accordance with the Charter of Turin, and does not truly achieve the goal of preserving historical vehicles. Vehicles so converted cease to be historic vehicles, except for “in period” changes.

FIVA’s Position

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. 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. Conversion of historic vehicles from their original internal combustion engines to electric power doesn’t comply with the FIVA definition of a historic vehicle, nor does it support the goal of preserving historic vehicles and their related culture. In FIVA’s view, vehicles so converted cease to be historic vehicles, unless they are subject only to ‘in period’ changes. According to FIVA, a historic vehicle is ‘a mechanically propelled road vehicle’ that is:

  • at least 30 years old
  • preserved and maintained in a historically correct condition
  • not used as a means of daily transport
  • part of our technical and cultural heritage

Concludes Tiddo Bresters, FIVA’s Vice President, Legislation, “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. Hence if any owner, motor engineer or manufacturer chooses to make such conversions to a historic vehicle, FIVA would strongly recommend that any changes are reversible, with all the original components marked and safely stored. In this way, the vehicle may – if so desired in the future – be returned to its original state and may once again become a historic vehicle.

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