It was only a couple of days ago that I was listening to one of my favorite automotive podcasts, and the subject about electric cars came up.
It’s obviously nothing new on the conversation table, but it got me thinking about what it is that makes us hurl at any thought of having purely electric cars in the future. After all, this is the direction that things are going in – see Dino’s EV story on Yamaha last week, if you don’t want to take my word for it.
Even more recently, Mark took a look at Bisi Ezerioha’s wild 935 K3V, making this a bit of an EV-centric week on Speedhunters. We’re not going to shun the tech, because there’s a lot coming for the enthusiast.
Back to the podcast… I pondered for a bit, and I realized that the key component that lures me towards older cars is the level of engagement you get from an overall driver’s perspective. And although that can be relayed back to many different driving components, I’d argue that having three pedals is the most important.
If you think about it, as the years go by and technology continues to progress, the amount of effort needed to drive a car has continuously become less profound. Electronic assists, tire compound, and all the like have resulted in effortlessly-fast lap times around a circuit, whilst simultaneously removing any ounce of soul left in the pleasures of being behind the wheel. And with companies like Tesla being the forefront to the madness, and other big-name manufacturers following, it’s clearly becoming obvious that driver engagement is pretty much a thing of the past. We hear constant rambles on about manufacturers creating a new form of autopilot, or how you can drive such and such’s car with only one foot, never having to use the brakes, ultimately relieving more and more necessary interaction as time progresses. For the masses, that may be all the rave, but for people like you and I, all of it is quite literally the opposite of what we want out of our cars.
That’s where people like Royce Hong come in.Queue Royce
Royce is another one of us. At the age of five, he made his first venture in automotive design, plastering the walls of his grandmother’s home in Taiwan with nearly 50 drawings of different cars before facing consequences. Some years later, his passion for design prevailed, leading him to obtain a degree within the industry, followed by the founding of multiple design firms in his home country. Although his passion had always been rooted with cars, these companies focused on leveraging new technologies amongst the realms of design.
But that all took a drastic turn in 2013, when Royce had the chance to drive the first Tesla Roadster. “The experience of driving through the Redwood California forests while still being able to hear the birds chirping blew me away,” recalls Royce, and it was at this point where he was convinced that electric propulsion would be the paradigm shift for automobiles of the future.
A couple of years later, Royce became acquainted with his now good friend and business partner Azizi Tucker, who was one of the early engineers at Tesla and also shared a strong passion for sportscars. Azizi invited Royce over to his at home workshop to view a tube chassis that he was developing for e-racing, and asked Royce if he could design the body for the car. Obviously Royce was overwhelmed with excitement and took on the project as a passion-driven side gig, which soon after led them to their first automotive venture together.The Development
Surely Royce sounds like an awesome guy, and so does Azizi, and of course we all dislike where the future is headed with electric cars. But what’s all this have to do with the Camaro pictured throughout the story? Well, if you haven’t figured it out by now, this isn’t your average ‘69 Camaro restomod.
Because Royce and Azizi are driven by the same fuel-filled craving for cars that we are, they understand the importance of having a pleasurable and engaging driving experience when behind the wheel of one’s favorite sportscar. Those distinctive characteristics and feelings of adrenaline rushing through your body as you mash on the throttle and row through gears are familiar for them, too. This premise is precisely what their company, Xing Mobility, was founded on.
As Royce and Azizi continued development on their e-racer, they were faced with numerous obstacles. Mind you, this was back in the early days of EV development, so sourcing batteries, drivetrains, and everything else needed to make a car move were quite scarce in the EV world. Their biggest setback was finding batteries that could be powerful enough for what they needed, whilst retaining a lower weight, and of course maintaining cool temperatures under heavy load. After months of searching for a distributor, they were left empty-handed, and decided to devise a solution of their own. They developed what was ultimately named IMMERSIO, an immersion-cooled battery system, which eventually proved successful in their e-racecar. It was light, made great power and torque, and most importantly, was easily configurable to any chassis. That last bit became the foundation of the Camaro.Vintage Meets Electrics
The Camaro started off as a restomodded SEMA car that Royce happened to stumble across at one of the aftermarket supplier factories in Taiwan. He fell in love with the Chevy, and purchased it to add to his eclectic collection of other cars. It was equipped with a small block 350ci V8, manual transmission, and the usual works found in any modestly-modified ‘69 Camaro.
The car had been sitting for quite some time prior to Royce’s acquisition, and as with any carbureted car, was running poorly because of it. Being that Xing Mobility was going through its emergence period, and was starting to get requests to retrofit other vehicles – both recreational and industrial – with their technology, it made logical sense to use this car as their demonstration vehicle for perspective clients. So they developed what they call the Xevo-Matic plug and play solution, which is essentially a crate engine that can be developed for virtually any vehicle platform.
But here’s where things get interesting. As Royce and his team were approached by clients, they weren’t only asked to deliver a conversion motor, but also so an entire drivetrain solution. So instead of coming up with something that would replace an entire driveline, they engineered an adapter that allows the motors to work with virtually any manual transmission on the market. And the best part of it all is that the motors, batteries, and accessories are designed to retain the factory mounting points of the original motor, which means that an owner could easily revert back to their conventional engine, should they choose to.Game Changer
To think that you can turn any conventional ICE vehicle into an EV is impressive in itself. And yes, I know that there are others in the industry that have and continue to make conversion kits as well, but for the first time, Royce and his team have brought back the missing pedal that others haven’t been able to deliver on. And I think we can all agree that that is the key ingredient that gives us that special bond with our cars.
So this begs the question: Is this going to be the way of the future? When put into perspective, we’d have virtually everything we could ask for, minus the smell and sound that comes with a traditional classic. Some may argue that those commodities are necessary, too. And while I agree, I can’t argue that if regulations forced out all ICE vehicles some day, I wouldn’t be completely disappointed knowing that I could retain my manual transmission – would you?