When it is time to replace the old car, an electric car is often a top choice. But what if you have a classic car that you want to keep and use, but also prefer to go electric? Then the solution could be a conversion kit, where an electric driveline is installed instead of the old combustion engine.

However, the road is long for companies able to make such a kit. It goes right from developing the electric driveline through testing for EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) and electrical safety until the vehicle is finally approved and allowed on the roads.

From heavy vehicles to classic Land Rovers

Danish company Banke has been building large lithium-ion battery packs and electric drivelines for heavy-duty vehicles since 2010. The company's roots are in the development of electric power take-off (E-PTO) systems, which power the onboard hydraulic systems on heavy vehicles. Banke also makes complete battery-electric and fuel-cell-electric power trains for commercial vehicles.

Banke has now entered the market for the electric conversion of selected classic cars. Initially, this involves the classic four-wheel-drive Land Rover, where Banke develops fully electric drivelines that can transform a range of older models into more modern and environmentally friendly vehicles.

A niche solution – not a competitor to the electric car

Banke essentially provides a conversion kit that incorporates electrical systems into the car, ensuring optimal performance and off-road capability. The company LR Parts Denmark is responsible for adapting the chassis.

"We have chosen this niche because it's not cost-effective to convert 'ordinary' passenger cars. If you have such a car, it makes more sense to buy a new electric car. On the other hand, you can be quite sure that your neighbour doesn't have a classic Land Rover with an electric motor in the garage," explains Jesper Thun, Product Manager at Banke.

EMC testing the complete driveline for a Land Rover Defender.
EMC testing the complete driveline for a Land Rover Defender.
Electrifying and tuning up a Land Rover Defender.
Electrifying and tuning up a Land Rover Defender.

Tests of EMC, electrical safety and driveability

For an electrified classic Land Rover to be allowed on the roads, it must be approved by the Danish Road Safety and Transport Agency. This requires that the modified vehicle passes a series of tests. Banke chose to collaborate with FORCE Technology on testing – initially – EMC in accordance with the European standard UN ECE R10. Later, FORCE Technology will test electrical safety according to the UN ECE R100, and finally, a mechanical test will be conducted.

"It was important for us to get help for creating a tailored and accredited testing process, which we can later 'reuse' in other areas. That we could get the tests done quickly was also significant for us," says Jesper Thun.

How the tests of EMC, electrical safety and mechanics are conducted

The purpose of the EMC test of the components in the Land Rover was to ensure that the electric motor is not affected by – nor itself causes – electrical noise. In other words, the components must function safely and effectively. The result of the EMC test showed that they do.

The tests of the vehicle's electrical safety will include insulation measurement, shock test, and high-voltage test. The mechanical test includes a brake test, a steering test, and a thorough inspection of the car in a vehicle inspection station.

Merging testing and product development

Ensuring market access for an electric driveline is a comprehensive as well as complex task. Therefore, it is a priority for Banke to have a collaboration partner who not only offers quick access to the right tests but can also advise on how the testing process is optimally structured, which components should be included in the test, and how the components can be made as generic as possible.

"We have developed the driveline so that it fits nine different models of the Land Rover Defender. In that process, we have been sparring with FORCE Technology. So it has not only been a testing task but also a collaboration on optimising our solution and the testing process itself. Our ongoing dialogue cleared many obstacles before the actual tests began," says Jesper Thun.

Approval opens doors to new markets

Once all the tests at FORCE Technology are passed, the only thing lacking is approval from the Danish Road Safety and Transport Agency. Then the converted Land Rovers can hit the Danish roads. This will also pave the way for other markets beyond Denmark.

"Internationally, the requirements for approval are increasing, but they are also becoming more alike. For example, our solution could be approved outright in the Netherlands and Switzerland, which are markets we aim to enter after Denmark," says Jesper Thun.

Green innovation in high gear 

Banke is now taking the experiences and knowledge that the company has gained in the Land Rover project into other projects. Soon, the innovative company will test a newly developed electric driveline for sightseeing buses.

"Where a car typically has a lifespan of about 8 years, we're talking 20-30 years for a sightseeing bus, where you can put in new seats, weld rust, etc. Therefore, it makes sense also to upgrade the driveline to something more contemporary," says Jesper Thun.

Banke is, in other words, moving from a niche market to an area with great green potential. All in an interplay between technical innovation and effective testing and approval processes.