The concept of crate engines is nothing new; rather than spending years of tinkering upgrading individual components, you can simply buy a shiny new OEM powerplant and stick it beneath the bonnet of your current pride and joy. For many years, of course, that's tended to mean splashing the cash on a high-displacement V8 lump from a US manufacturer, something like Chevy's 755hp ZL1 V8 or Dodge's 1,000hp Hellephant.
But the industry is changing, and the aftermarket with it. British firm Swindon Powertrain - which PH visited earlier this year - has plenty of internal combustion expertise manufacturing engines for over half of the BTCC grid. Nonetheless, it's the company's High Power Density electric unit which it has been inundated with requests to make available as a standalone product.
Described as a "ready to integrate electric powertrain for light commercial, sports, classic and recreational vehicles," the 80kW motor is a development of the one found in the firm's resto-modded Mini EV, the Swind E Classic, which puts out the equivalent of around 110hp. At just 600mm wide, 440mm deep and as little as 280mm tall, the company claims the 70kg transverse unit offers the highest power/volume ratio on the market.
Swindon Powertrain hopes the system will "ease the transition for manufacturers currently frustrated by the lack of compact, high power EV systems available to buy in low volumes." Applications could include everything powering a pure EV or supplementing an existing combustion engine in an OEM's hybrid setup, to running a quad bike or the loading platform of a commercial vehicle.
"To date, niche manufacturers have not had access to compact, high-power EV powertrains they could source in low to mid volume, leading to a vacuum of supply," says Swindon Powertrain's managing director Raphaell Caille. "When you factor in development costs, specialist OEMs haven't been able to electrify their vehicles as quickly as they would like. Our ready-to-install 'crate' powertrain will accelerate EV adoption in sectors poorly served by the larger tier one manufacturers and integrators."
Multiple mounting points and flexibility when it comes to inverter and cooling pack locations are said to enable the unit to fit a wide range of vehicles, while waterproofing options make it suitable for off-road leisure and recreation applications as well. From a PHer perspective, though, it'll be its potential for use in DIY conversions which generates the most interest; enthusiasts have been pulling electric project powertrains from Twizys, Zoes and the like for a few years now, the crate option being a much simpler way to go.
"Some of these classic EVs currently use second-hand parts of unknown provenance. The HPD project draws on our engineering expertise from over 48 years in motorsport to offer a reliable, compact and durable solution for this sector too." says Caille. So, which car are we sticking it in first?
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