Driving the MGA into the future

Driving the MGA into the future image

Unwilling to accept the possible fate of fueled classics being pushed into museums, the MG Car Club is determined to move with the times to ensure that their cars are still able to run over the hills with the top down for years to come. They have been working with one of their trade members who have created an electric version of the iconic MGA Roadster.

Sixty years later, the MGA still stands out as an icon, meant to be driven and enjoyed on the open road. As automotive technology has continued to evolve over the years, we have grown accustomed to far better standards in reliability, sustainability, and performance in our vehicles. Combine this with the growing environmental concerns and stricter emissions standards on the horizon for the world's great cities and the possibility of this car being relegated to museums and memories is becoming very real.

Unwilling to accept this fate, a small group of mechanical, electrical and software engineers, and seasoned automobile restoration experts got together in a garage in Helsinki determined to come up with an innovative solution. What if it was possible to marry the best of modern automotive technology, with the best of classic style? With this goal in mind, and success as the only option, they set out to create a world-class electric drivetrain that would draw inspiration from the original MGA that has withstood the test of time. Sure, they had heard of backyard mechanics doing electric conversions by cobbling together heavy batteries recovered from the wrecking yard with simple electric motors to make an old car run without creating greenhouse gasses, but they wanted to do something so much more. What if today's technology had been available back when the MGA was originally being designed? What might a factory MGA e-Roadster have looked like?

To do this, they started with a set of strict design rules: the total weight and power output should be within 10% of the original design and the EV drive system should be easily upgradable to be able to keep up with future technology advances. The electric drivetrain would provide completely emissions-free power, with the famous instant torque availability, fast-charging, and regenerative braking ability of modern electric vehicles. To deliver the best driving experience, they also wanted to integrate modern suspension geometry and the weight distribution of a racecar. These guidelines would allow them to create a classic MGA with all the character of the original, but with unparalleled performance, reliability, and the ability to be legally driven on Europe's roads for decades to come.

To meet the weight requirements, the team developed a unique modular lithiumion battery network which they called 'PowerPods', 3 of which were mounted beneath the new alloy floorboards, and under the full-size boot, in place of the fuel tank. This results in evenly distributed weight and a very low-center of gravity for exceptional handling.

The power is provided by an appropriately British, YASA axial-flux EV motor, the same ultra-compact, aluminum, oil-cooled electric motor used in the top performance and racing applications by Williams, the Koenigsegg Regera, and more.

To make this MGA-EV future-proof, they implemented an innovative "Virtual Engine" in place of the original petrol twin-cam. This unit contains all the high voltage electronics and controls required to operate and recharge the EV Drivetrain. The Virtual Engine is intentionally engineered to be easily be removed, serviced, and upgraded as new EV technology becomes available. The battery packs are also easily upgradable by a local restoration partner as technology progresses, significantly increasing today's range and recharging speed.

The suspension was replaced with a fully adjustable, independent front and rear suspension system developed by specialist firm, Hoyle Suspensions, again from the UK. This robust system, combined with the improved weight distribution, makes this the best handling MGA we've ever had the privilege of driving.

The 22kWh PowerPod system provides an operating range of 100-150km, and CHAdeMO fast charging (40 kW) at any public station delivers a 90% charge in just 25 minutes. The direct drive system and high-reliability electronics ensure that there is almost zero scheduled maintenance. Even the brake pad life is greatly extended by the clever use of regenerative braking, tuned in software to feel like the familiar engine braking of the original piston engine.

The first time the team were able to take our new classic MGA e-Roadster out on the open road, they knew they had outdone ourselves. The goal was achieved in a package that looks and feels like it rolled off the line in 1959, but with the tasteful upgrades and performance afforded by modern technology. It doesn't feel like a new car, nor does it feel like a delicate museum piece. The perfect balance has been struck here as every bit of passion for driving has been preserved while eliminating those familiar issues that classics are known for. No more carbs to tune, oil to check, air/fuel mixture to ad just; just slide behind the wheel and enjoy pure driving pleasure.