The conversions of thermal cars into electric are booming. From companies wholly dedicated to this work to individuals who decide to give a second life to their venerable classic with modern electrical mechanics, the truth is that this sector, until now almost unknown, is gaining strength in countries such as France or the United States.
Today we bring you the story of Damien Maguire, an Irish electrical engineer who has transformed a total of seven BMW models into electric cars during his spare time in the last ten years. One of his most outstanding creations is a Series 5 E39 from 2001, baptized as Project Land Yacht, with which he has traveled more than 160,000 km since his conversion.
However, today’s protagonist is his most ambitious creation, a 1996 Series 8 E31 derisively called “Der Panzer,” to which he has installed a Tesla origin engine. Originally this E31 was an 840Ci with a 4.4-liter petrol engine; However, as soon as he bought it, he adapted a Siemens 1PV5135 motor that he initially associated with a customized ZF automatic gearbox. The batteries for their part came from a Renault Fluence Z.E.
After a series of transmission problems, he replaced the torque converter box with a Getrag five-speed manual gearbox which eventually also succumbed to the electric motor. The next transmission was a six-speed ZF gearbox that lasted a whopping year until Damien purchased the power unit (engine, inverter, and differential) for a Tesla Model S.
The biggest challenge Damien faced was getting the powertrain to communicate with a non-Tesla-sourced control system, although with the help of the OpenInverter.org community, he achieved his goal. On the other hand, his friend Dave Gormley helped him design and build a custom rear subframe and install a new suspension system from a 5 Series E34 to accommodate the new power unit.
Renault Fluence Z.E. gave way to a 16 kWh pack from a 2013 Vauxhall (Opel) Ampera, installed in the front compartment of the BMW. Although it barely offers 80 km of range, it allows us to take full advantage of the Tesla powertrain (which offers 1,500 Nm of torque), making the 8 Series do the 0 to 60 miles per hour (0-96.6 km/h) in just 3.4 seconds.
Interestingly, the conversion has not increased the BMW’s weight, quite the opposite: it is now 195 kg lighter than when it had a heat engine (1,905 kg versus 1,710 kg). Also, the car now has 110 extra horsepower. The vehicle, which has a CHAdeMO fast-charging socket, has traveled about 42,000 km with the Siemens engine and about 10,000 km with the Tesla unit. Besides, Damien is already preparing his next evolution: installing a more capable battery pack to drive from Ireland to Munich in 2021.