Hold on to your Huey Lewis and the News cassettes: An all-electric DeLorean DMC-12 will be rolling through the country roads of Italy just in time for the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future's original European release.
Our friends at Wired Italy are big fans of the movie. They're also fascinated by electric cars, so the combination just seemed right. They've partnered with the open source car conversion experts at eCars Now! Italy to make it happen. "This is all real future, not back to the future," said Wired Italy Features Editor Massimiliano Ferramondo.
Technically, a complete electric DeLorean is about a week in the future. Right now they've got a garage full of a DeLorean shipped over from Dallas and a turnkey electric car conversion kit that includes a 1.21 jiggawatt 90 kW engine and custom designed Lithium-ion batteries that fit the DMC-12 perfectly.
"We made a calculation of what the car needs to travel properly - how many batteries, what kind of engine - and then we made plastic mockups of the parts," Ferramondo said. "We started to consider where they could squeeze and how they could get in the car and if putting the pieces in that place was proper for the balance and performance of the car."
The team ordered custom batteries from South Korea and shipped to Germany to a company that molded them into a more DeLorean-friendly shape. Over the course of the next week, the team will be putting all the parts together and documenting the process on their website.
"This week we're going to put the electric ingredients in the car, the first time we're going to start the engine is the 12th," Ferramondo said. Barring any unforeseen problems, the car will be ready for testing before the official journey. Ferramondo isn't concerned about the electrification process, but he is nervous about finding parts for an extremely rare 28 year old car that was sold primarily in North America."If you're going to face a problem, it's mechanical, not electric," he said.
When it's complete, they're leaving the Wired offices in Milan and heading through country roads to Rome in time for the Rome Film Festival. "We'll bring this in-between reality and cinematic experience to the festival," he said. Along the way, Universal Pictures is sponsoring Back to the Future marathons in towns where the car plans to stop.
The team won't be taking highways on their 435-mile, three-day journey to Rome. Not only do they want to show off the car in as many places as possible, but Ferramondo said the silent electric motor will help them better enjoy the pastoral landscape along Italy's rural roads. It may sound like heresy, but the snarl of a V12 isn't the only soundtrack for carving up the Italian countryside. "The way from Milano to Rome is very beautiful," he said. "We want to do this driving safe and rediscovering a different experience with driving."
Safe and pastoral are great, but the car will also be as much of a performer as its early '80s design can offer. Ferramondo estimates that the 0-60 time will be cut to 4.2 seconds, and the range of the car is estimated to be between 125 and 135 miles.
The team plans to charge the car while stopping for lunch and luckily have gained the sponsorship of a major Italian electric company so they don't have to fight off Libyan terrorists to access a power supply.
The choice of Italy's capital as an endpoint is deliberate. According to Ferramondo, the Italian government is one of many that only allows homebrew EV conversions to be registered as prototypes, which adds many onerous regulations and headaches for getting insurance. "If you customize your car into electric in Italy and many other countries in the world, it's illegal," he said.
This is a problem because there are already a lot of gas guzzling and diesel burning cars on the road that will still be in running condition after the electric revolution. "If we all go electric in ten years, what happens to all the other cars that we've accumulated in the past hundred years?" asked Ferramondo. "The eco-disaster of these cars existing now could be a bigger problem than keeping them going."
After the trip, Ferramondo hopes for forgiveness from Back to the Future fans and an even bigger stunt involving the car.
"We expect the fanatics of the movie to consider our conversion very unorthodox," said Ferramondo. "We'll need to re-get along with Back to the Future fans. Probably, it will go back on the street hopefully and will be the first one of a bigger project. The reason we have the website is that we want to reuse this and we hope that it will become a real race and maybe have ten of our readers who have made the most bizarre electric cars to join us."