So you’ve made it big. You’re living in a particularly posh part of London and you’ve got a classic Aston to ferry you between appointments with tailors and fund managers whenever Jeeves is on holiday. It’s just too bad that the writing’s on the wall: more and more city centers are banning gasoline-powered cars in favor of human-or-battery-powered means of transportation, and there are already some hefty fees levied on internal combustion in the run-up to our all but inevitable future of silent driving. You could go out and find a shop that will cut up your pride and joy and excise its heart in favor of some jerry-rigged batteries, but then there’s no going back. Unless you take it to Aston Martin directly.
In a press release earlier today, the British automaker announced that in the wake of its modern EV engineering projects like the Rapide E, they are testing a program of reversible conversions for classics under Aston Martin Works’ Heritage EV department. In other words, they will soon offer—for no measly fee I’m sure—a service wherein an “EV Cassette” of batteries are fitted in place of the standard engine and transmission, but Aston says the whole thing will be reversible. To me, this is the crucial bit, the ability to go back. Using the standard engine and transmission mounting points, the company’s novel solution is to create a more or less plug-and-play swap with minimal modifications—the batteries are all contained in a neat package that requires no cutting to fit, and the Cassette features what Aston is calling—weirdly—”umbilical cords” that are easily routed to power the original electrical components.
The option is not yet available to the small slice of the public that own these cars, but it seems like a vital part of Aston Martin’s Second Century Plan, and the first customer conversions are expected to commence sometime in 2019. The demo car pictured here, a 1970 DB6 MkII Volante originally assembled by hand in the company’s original Newport Pagnell factory, was the first to receive the conversion.
Andy Palmer, Aston Martin Lagonda President and Group CEO, on the topic: “We are very aware of the environmental and social pressures that threaten to restrict the use of classic cars in the years to come. Our Second Century Plan not only encompasses our new and future models, but also protects our treasured heritage. I believe this not only makes Aston Martin unique, but a truly forward-thinking leader in this field.” It’s a statement full of PR fingerprints, but it’s hard not to agree.
I’m not sure how I feel yet about hearing all the little rattles and clanks inherent in classic cars without the engine noise to make up for it, but besides a discreet information and control screen fitted in the interior, there is nothing that says you can’t swap the EV Cassette with the original motor and back again as many times as you please. We’re still a long, long ways from internal combustion’s complete disappearance, but how can you not applaud Aston’s proactivity here? Sure, they’ll make some money on it—it’s amazing how people seem to forget that’s always been the goal of automakers selling road cars—but it feels like a sincere commitment rather than any kind of cash grab (looking at you, DB5 007 edition). What do you think?