Zero Labs' Modular EV Platform Brings New Meaning to BYOB
BYOB, as in "Bring Your Own Body."
Stick your head in the sand all you want, classic car fanatics—there's a reckoning on the distant horizon. As much as we like to think the rising swell of both EV legislation and the sporadic bans on new vehicles powered by fossil fuels will not extend to our beloved classics, something's gotta give.
Now, we don't believe a blanket ban on gas-powered cars both new and old is in the immediate future, considering the overwhelming majority of existing car and truck owners in this world cannot afford to upgrade to a shiny new EV—reasonably priced or otherwise—nor does the current charging infrastructure support such a drastic paradigm shift. Expect sales of gas-powered vehicles to be banned in some major metropolitan zones, but the ICE business to continue as usual in less population-dense areas—at least for a while.
Still, if you want to get ahead of the curve, California-based EV workshop Zero Labs just pulled the covers off an all-new modular skateboard EV platform for a wide array of classic vehicles. Er, maybe don't call it a "skateboard" platform; the launch page for the new chassis specifically derides this label, and instead categorizes it as a "classic electric platform." Like the full-scale production skateboard—um, production electric—platforms we've seen from automakers such as Rivian and Tesla, Zero Labs' powertrain chassis presents the opportunity for a "one size fits all" approach, with assurances that the classic electric platform is ready to convert a wide array of body sizes and styles.
Zero Labs' isn't quite ready to release a full list of eligible cars and trucks, but it confirmed four distinct categories; classic 4x4s from between 1947-1975, muscle cars built pre-1975, two-door coupes from 1948-1975, and classic pickups from 1947-1975. On the new platform's landing page, there are silhouettes of an air-cooled Porsche 911, 1950s-era Ford F-100, and a late 1960s Ford Mustang fastback, giving us a small hint at what type of conversions we can expect. Given Zero Labs' prior electrified Ford Bronco and Series Land Rover high-concept projects, there seems to be an emphasis on the 4x4 category, with conversion packages already confirmed for the Bronco, Land Rover Defender 110, International Scout, Toyota FJs, Series Land Rovers, Ford F-100, and Ford F-150.
Turning your 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser into a silent plug-and-play EV won't reduce it to a glorified golf cart, either. Each platform is customizable, powered by an integrated 400V battery in either 85- or 100-kWh specification. Up to 440 kW and 600 hp is on-tap depending on spec, with both single- or dual-motor setups, returning a maximum range of 235 miles with the biggest battery. All the cutting-edge tech that makes production EVs so alluring is present on the Zero Labs platform as well, including DC fast charging, regenerative braking, and 24/7 thermal management.
Aside from all that insta-torque and a lower center of gravity, most conversions should see a significant improvement in handling, as every iteration of the platform features "perfect 50-50 weight distribution" and four-wheel independent suspension with optional Fox shocks and air ride. Of course, an. upgraded Brembo brake package is also available.
Here's the kicker—each purchased platform includes the 30-day "seamless transformation" conversion by Zero Labs itself, so it seems like this will one of the more trouble-free ways to turn your old gas guzzler into an electron huffer. Prior to this platform, the majority of classic electric conversions were performed as a complex electric heart transplant, and not a full body-on-frame swap.
Admittedly, all this comes with a few caveats. We suspect the 235-mile max range is entirely dependent on the type of car you choose, as we can't imagine an electric 1967 Porsche 911 to have the same range as a swapped 1956 Ford F-100 on account of both weight and aerodynamic profile. Speaking of weight, Zero Labs' trumpets the ditching of "heavy gear sets and moving parts" as one of the biggest benefits; fair play, but batteries and electric motors don't exactly have a proven track record of featherweight construction. Also, expect some of the more complicated projects to run pricier than simpler stuff like the Bronco or Land Rover.
No pricing as of this writing but look for more information on both the checkbook damage and a full list of conversion-ready vehicles closer to the platform's "limited" launch in Fall 2021. If you can't wait until then, head on over to Zero Labs and register your interest.