Crate engines have been wildly popular for decades with car enthusiasts, giving them a way to beef up stock vehicles. Chevrolet has a long history of offering these powerplants, but now is honoring that tradition with a modern twist: eCrates.
In fact, some of those doing electric conversions are using old EV1 motors, General Motors’ long-dead first attempt at electric vehicles. However, there are several options available for those looking to get the instant torque only an electric motor can provide while keeping those vehicles on the greener side.
At this year’s virtual SEMA show, called SEMA360, Chevy will be showing what it thinks can be done with their eCrate motors by revealing a 1977 K5 Blazer that has been converted to an all-electric powertrain. The setup used in the K5 Blazer-E should be available from the company sometime next year, pushing aside the aforementioned EV1-powered conversions.
“As GM introduces a new fleet of electric vehicles, it creates an exciting opportunity to bring EV technology to the aftermarket,” said Jim Campbell, GM U.S. vice president of Performance and Motorsports.
“Our vision is to offer a comprehensive line of Connect and Cruise systems from Chevrolet Performance – delivering a solution for every customer ranging from LSX V-8s to eCrate conversions,” Campbell said.
The K5 conversion uses a 60-kWh battery pack sitting the cargo area behind the driver and front-seat passenger to provide the power for a 200-horsepower electric motor as well as all of the necessary power inverters, converters and additional equipment needed to make it a fully functional 33-year-old vehicle — with an electric powertrain.
This isn’t the brand’s first foray into the eCrate conversion segment. It’s already done two other vehicles: an eCOPO Camaro in 2018 and an E-10 pickup last year. The efforts acted as development projects for the brand’s Electric Connect and Cruise electric vehicles. The converted vehicles also attracted plenty of attention.
“Minutes after Chevrolet showed the E-10 concept, customers started calling to ask how soon they could build their EV project,” said Russ O’Blenes, Chevrolet director of engineering, Performance and Racing, in a statement.
Often vehicles SEMA are wild takes on the original machine, but the goal of the K5 conversion is to make it look as close to normal as possible. However, the upgrades are the latest technology offered by Chevy with 90% of the new parts coming from the Bolt EV.
Obviously, the first thing that had to go was the K5’s 175-hp 400 cubic-inch V-8, three-speed automatic, fuel system and exhaust. Aside from the previously mentioned 200-hp electric motor, Chevrolet Performance installed an electronically controlled four-speed automatic. The rest of the Blazer drivetrain is original, including the transfer case, driveshaft and axles.
The battery pack providing the juice to the system is a 400-volt Bolt EV battery pack. The system uses so many of the Bolt’s components, it retains many of the benefits of the system, such as shock protection, battery heating and cooling, battery-overcharge protection and even regenerative braking, GM engineers added.
Anticipating demand for these conversions, Chevy created a certification program for dealers and aftermarket companies. Performance vehicle stalwart Lingenfelter Performance Engineering is piloting the training and certification program. As part of that, they will get the tools and equipment needed to work with high-voltage systems and charging stations used by the vehicles, GM officials said.
“The K5 Blazer-E demonstrates what is possible for customers who want to convert their vintage truck to a daily driver with the instant torque and unique driving experience of an EV. For customers who want more extreme performance, the modular eCrate system will have virtually limitless applications,” O’Blenes said.
As the program moves forward, GM will find ways to incorporate its Ultium batteries and supporting technology, the company noted. In addition to the K5 conversion, the brand is showing off several Tahoe and Suburban aftermarket performance parts at the show.
Joseph Szczesny contributed to this story.