Kharkiv Engineer Can Electrify Any Vehicle. What Do You Say to That, Elon Musk?
For more than 10 years an engineer from Kharkiv has been converting old cars to electric propulsion, and driving them every day. His latest project is a classic Volga 21. Our reporters have the details.
Oleh Rubanov is very proud of his electric Volga. The EV conversion of the Soviet classic took around two years and was done with the help of his friend Yuriy Lohvyn, who did the bulk of the engineering and programming.
Under the hood, a 90-kilowatt electric motor sits in place of the 4-cylinder petrol engine. The engineers kept the original 3-speed manual gearbox but somehow managed to do away with the clutch.
“We did experimentation to try and see how gears would shift without the clutch. And we were spot on. It went very well. Because the gearbox has synchro-mesh for the 2nd and 3rd gears, on the move they shift smoothly without the need for the clutch,” Rubanov said.
The batteries take four hours to achieve a full charge. The electric vehicle weighing 1.6 tons has an electronically limited top speed of 100 kilometers per hour, which the owner finds to be sufficient for a car more than 50 years old. The car’s main advantage is that is very low-maintenance.
“With a conventional internal combustion engine a car like this would be in constant need of maintenance. You’d have to change oil, check the spark plugs, keep the battery alive… with this one, there are no problems whatsoever,” Rubanov said.
The vintage Volga is the 3rd car converted by Yuriy Lohvyn. His first conversion mule was a 90-s ZAZ Slavuta. It also looks completely stock, until one opens the fuel filler flap.
This project was carried out back in 2008 when there weren’t any mass-market Electric Vehicles on sale in Ukraine, therefore many of the components had to be designed from scratch.
“Practically everything you see here was developed by me. The control unit here was designed by me and Oleksandr Melnyk,” Lohvyn said, pointing.
The investment into the conversion paid off within three years. Inspired by his initial success, the engineer went on to electrify every vehicle in the household including a pair of electric scooters.
The next candidate for EV conversion is already waiting in the yard—an old Volkswagen Passat should become the most practical electric vehicle in Lohvyn’s fleet.