Crate EV Motor Hits Market: The Swindon Powertrain

Last year brought some exciting news from the unlikely quarter of an unexciting industrial estate in the British town of Swindon, the company Swindon Powertrain announced that they’d be marketing an all-in-one electric motor and transmission. Essentially this would be a crate engine for EV conversions, and since it’s pretty small it would be able to be shoehorned into almost any car. So often these announcements later prove to be vapourware, but not in this case, because Swindon Powertrain have announced that you can now order the HPD as they call it, for delivery in August. It’s not entirely cheap at £6400 ($7846) exclusive of British VAT sales tax, but when its integrated transmission and differential is taken into consideration it starts to seem more attractive when compared to engineering a random motor onto an internal combustion engine transmission.

They provide a product page with links to a load of data, installation information, and even a CAD model, as well as an ordering page in their webshop from which you can pay the deposit with the rest presumably payable in August before delivery. There is also a range of optional extras including matched inverters, drive shafts, a limited slip differential, and a coolant pump, which makes the whole ever more attractive as a package. 80kW should be enough to lend sprightly performance to all but the largest of cars, so we’ll expect to see this motor ever more often in years to come.

There is already a thriving home-made EV scene which we don’t expect this unit to displace. Instead it will find a niche at the professional and semi-professional conversion level, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see an aftermarket springing up offering ready made subframes to fit it to popular cars. If it is a success there will inevitably be copies and probably at a lower price, so it could be the start of a wave of very interesting conversion options. We hope that Swindon Powertrain will do well with it, and will manage to stay one step ahead of the upstarts. You can read our coverage of its announcement and their electric Mini prototype here.

Thanks [Carl Pickering] for the tip.

82 thoughts on “Crate EV Motor Hits Market: The Swindon Powertrain

  1. >80kW should be enough to lend sprightly performance to all but the largest of cars

    Well, depends on your definition of “large”. 80 kW is pretty much the power of a 1989 Volkswagen Passat, and with 500 pounds of batteries on-board the performance will be roughly the same.

    1. Remember you have to be sure where you are trying to compare power and even like for like electric motors have torque to spare compared to ICE of similar power rating. So performance probably will be pretty good.

      Its going to really fly in a classic MINI, Austin frogeye etc and just feel good in more massive and modern European/Japanese style cars I’d think. Wouldn’t suggest it is enough for the stupidly heavy iron boxes that the USA is famous for, though get rid of those massive inefficient engines they tend to have and you loose so much weight maybe it would work.

      1. Swindon got started doing EV conversions for the MINI, so they’re probably targeting smaller/lighter conversions with this, but as you say, it’d be perfectly fine in a much larger vehicle with a much higher HP original engine.

        Torque matters, as the diesel enthusiasts have been arguing for years, and the difference between gas and diesel engines is tiny vs. ICE and electric. As a point of comparison for the original post, the VW *diesel* engine options in a 1989 Passat started at 51kW. Diesels of 80kW or less were a standard option on Passats up until the late 2000s. *Plus* the diesel vehicles are heavier than their gasoline counterparts (though of course not as heavy as an EV loaded down with batteries).

        And with the EV, you have peak torque and horsepower *from a dead stop*. No need to get up to a few thousand RPM to reach those numbers.

        As for those heavy iron boxes, if you look at engines *before* the horsepower wars of the late 60’s and 70’s, many of the iconic American cars of the time started out with ~100hp engines, so you probably *could* do a 1964 Mustang EV conversion, for example, that exceeded its original specs.

        Of course, the people with money to burn on crate EV motors may want to create vintage cars that smoke the tires off the competition, not ones that just slightly exceed gasoline equivalents…

          1. Attention everyone, I’ve jut been to the specs page, somehow this one does not have torque to spare, it’s 136Nm which is like 100ftlb, real base model econobox 4 banger figures.

          2. Yeah, this is more like Citroën Berlingo électrique level of performance, and it had 200 Nm on tap – but only 49 kW of power. That was a postal delivery van.

          3. sussed it, the 136Nm would be at crank on base model econobox, 1565/861 is at hub, so, not fairest comparison unless you calculate hub torque on the econobox too but yeah, not a monster, even with EVs making better use.

          4. Should get a much better torque curve out of the electric though, so while it might not have the huge numbers on paper it should feel reasonably good. Biggest problem with trying to compare any drive technology is the big number better type mathmatics isn’t the whole story – how it feels in use is subjective but important!

            I’d not like to bet anything hugely valuable on it without actually testing but I’d expect it feels pretty good as a normal European/Japanese family car type replacement. Probably not got anywhere near the same top speed – but on roads what does that matter when you are in most places in the world limited to less than half the theoretical top speeds of these standard cars all times. In real life what matters is how smoothly and easily it gets up to road speed, what it costs to run, and if it avoids pitfalls like torque steer. EV’s should win out there in general (though looking into the stats I’m surprised it is quite so anemic – didn’t expect huge numbers but did expect a little more than that).

          5. >Should get a much better torque curve out of the electric though, so while it might not have the huge numbers on paper it should feel reasonably good.

            Well, it only has one gear, and it has to go all the way to 80 – 100 mph with it, or however fast you want the top speed to be, so 136 Nm torque is nothing to write home about. Try launching your car on the third gear and report back how it went.

          6. Luke your normal ICE has damn nearly zero torque all the way up to half or so its its rev range, so starting in third would be either hard or impossible. The ev motor world however will have basically all the torque at any revs – so starting ‘in third’ might not be keeping the motor in its best efficiency window but it will work just fine. That is the point of comparing the torque curve! And why in many cars just when you are getting some acceleration you run out of revs and have to change gears and wait to get back into that sweet spot again.

            Also who needs to get to the speeds you mention. Far as I’m aware about 3 roads in Germany you might realistically and legally get that fast on, and that is about it in the entire damn world. So no need to push for such a top speed at all, as you can never use it legally and rarely safely!

          7. I had a “fun” week once, when a vital part of the shift linkage popped out on one car I had, could only put it in 3rd or 4th.. (Or I could open the hood, force it over with pliers and get 1&2 instead, but that wasn’t much use) … I could get it moving, but not very quickly.. and probably took a few thousand miles off the clutch having to slip it a bit at times.

        1. You can always trade power to torque – that’s what the transmission is for. It just may be impossible if you’re trying to get away with a single speed gearbox.

    2. Just comparing peak power between an electric and gasoline engine is not very useful.
      You will at least have to compare the torque over RPM range to get any insight in performance variations.

      1. Well, that the depends on the gearing. Do you want to smoke tires, or do you want to overtake other cars on the highway at 70 mph? The motor has one gear with two options from the factory, so you have to choose.

        The motor itself has a torque of 136 Nm. The Passat had 140 Nm @ 2500 RPM for the 75 kW 1.8L engine.

        1. “The motor has one gear with two options from the factory, so you have to choose.”

          And that confuses me,
          Jenny said it comes with a transmission, and you say it has one gear.
          I would not consider a one speed transmission, a transmission at all.

        2. And, the efficiency peak for the HPD E is attained at 8000 RPM, while the top speed is 10500 RPM. The top speed is where your output torque goes to zero, so that’s an inconveniently narrow range.

          With the available power dropping rapidly towards the top RPM, you really only have fraction of the power available at highway speeds, so it has the same problem as small diesel engines: good pick-up at low speeds, but as you speed up it’s like you hit a wall and the car just won’t go any more.

          1. Do we know for sure that their top RPM spec is the max achievable at zero torque, rather than a mechanical limit of the motor or transmission? I’m not too familiar with EVs, but some of the smaller motors I work with for drones, etc., still generate some torque at their max rated RPM (and are perfectly happy to exceed it as long as you don’t mind a risk of cooking the bearings or catastrophically disassembling the motor). I don’t think it changes your argument if so, just curious.

          2. That’s the common definition – it’s the point where the back-EMF meets the nominal input voltage, thereby reducing current and torque to zero. Since theirs is a permanent magnet brushless motor, this is what happens.


            It’s a feature of BLDC motors. If it’s a limitation by the bearings or the transmission, that’s different, but it looks very characteristic so I’m betting it is the true top speed at the rated voltage.

      1. I assume he’s talking about the standard 1.8L engine, not the CLI, which was available in ’87 too. VW also added the VR6 to the Passat in ’91, which had 128Kw, and the base horsepower of their car lineup has generally been increasing ever since. A brand new low-end Passat has 129kw with a 4-cylinder engine, slightly more power than that VR6. So more time, more power, not to mention more efficiency and much cleaner emissions. Not necessarily better in other ways, though…

    3. The 2011 LEAF has an 80kW motor, is heavy for its size at about 1500 kg all-up including ~230 kg for the battery. It’s enough to pass safely at highway speeds but the performance off the lights is definitely sprightly. They didn’t install traction control as standard for fun. If you drop the hammer and make a turn then it loses its feet every time even in perfect road conditions.

    1. I agree, homebuilt EVs are definitely built for fun and not to save money. I’ve priced out converting a 72 VW Bus three times over the years and it’s always come out the same – expensive! And now I’m considering the possibility of shoving a Smart driveline and controls into a bus.

      But it’s great for those serious about the hobby.

        1. My Dad had an original style VW camper van w the pop up top back in the late 70’s / early 80s. We lived at the top of a fairly steep hill (nothing CRAZY, just about 1/4 mile, bike-able as a kid) and we killed a NUMBER of air cooled VW 4 cylinder engines. On the positive side I got pretty good at rebuilding them.

          Eventually the gas crisis hit and he bought a VW bug, installed a rewired surplus generator from a B52 (canal street NYC find) and build at plywood and angle-iron box for about 24 lead acid batteries. He kept the 4 speed manual tranny. Hand painted a virulent shade of orange, dubbed The Orange electric (we lived in South Orange NJ), it would get up to about 50 MPH and he used it to commute to work on Staten Island. He plugged it in when he got to his job as an engineering professor (of course) and recharged it for the ride home.

          My main memory of the Orange electric was the jerky throttle (a clever mechanical linkage that brought progressively more batteries into play as it was depressed) and the whining noise of the motor.

          Later I asked him how safe it was for us kids to sit in back, on top of the battery box. He said “I guess in retrospect sitting on 1000lb of lead and sulphuric acid wasn’t the best plan”.

          Thanks Dad.

          1. Great story. As always define safe – I’d be happy enough to sit on the box of Lead Acids – assuming it was boxed up and well secured – might be heavy, and hold less power but even if they go wrong not going to be as lethal as fires from lithium chemistries can be.

            Worst a lead acid can do is let the acid out the relief valve.. If its boxed up its not getting to you for a very long time.. A lithium fire can easily ignite the whole damn car very fast. Some very safe lithium chemistries out there, and for it to be a problem something has to go badly wrong anyway. So I’d not call a lithium EV unsafe either. Lets face it petrol burns lovely too, and diesel is almost like napalm if things go wrong. So either nothing that moves fast enough to be fun/useful is safe or realise that safe is an illusion or relative measure… and this sounds safe enough to me.

          2. Diesel is nothing like napalm – except at very low temperatures when it starts to gel up.

            The issue is that the safe lithium chemistries are expensive and heavy, while the unsafe ones are cheap and powerful. Relatively speaking. Tesla uses cells that go into thermal runaway at around 160 C, which is why they have to encase them in thermally expanding foam to try and stop the fire from spreading. They can and have self-ignited a couple cars, which neither gasoline nor diesel can do.

          3. @Luke Lots of cars with fossil fuels have burned because of their fuel load – its just a different style of failure, but all it takes is leaking fuel onto hot exhuast/block or sparks through a largely empty tank from poor wires etc.

            Which is very comparable to the battery faliure through over temp.

            So saying “They can and have self-ignited a couple cars, which neither gasoline nor diesel can do.” is rather disingenuous. Failure of fuel containment happens in fossil fuel cars as well!

            If you had said current EV’s did it more readily than ICE cars maybe I could believe that. But I’m not even sure that is true. The one thing that is true is a runaway battery fire is something fire services are not as familiar with and probably not well equipped for.

          4. Diesel is a bit like napalm in that it’s really hard to put out when an oil/water fire gets going, as might happen if the dry side of your wreck catches fire in a ditch, or the coolant line wants to join the party. Rare, but can happen.

  2. The link below is a youtube vid of a pretty deep teardown of a Chevrolet Bolt EV Traction Motor.
    It’s not a hack in any way but because of all the details mentioned in the video I thought it was related enough to post a link.
    The thing weighs 77kg (Inclusive gear train and differential) (mentioned @12:36) and it’s a 150kW motor @10:59.

    “WeberAuto” also has similar “Deep Dive” video’s of a lot of other Electic vehicles.

    1. You need to tune the control parameters to get the most power and efficiency out of it. You can drop a generic controller on the motor, but due to manufacturing tolerances all the timing and motor constants will be slightly off and cost you that top 5% of performance.

  3. Oof, over 7K for just a motor, and a measly 80kW one at that. You can get a few year old fiat 500e which has essentially the same thing made by Bosch (85kw integrated motor/transaxle) and also get the inverter, battery, charger, accessories… and the rest of the car… for less that that.

    That said, the 80kw power level is enough for a small ev conversion, the bmw i3 and fiat 500e both have comparable power and while they are not speed daemons (top speed of only 88mph for the fiat) for city driving they do just fine with a 0…60 time of about 8s and a 50 mile range with the 25kw*hr battery pack for the 500e.

    1. Care to share where? I’ve been looking, and the drive unit alone usually goes for >$5k on eBay, craigslist and the EV salvage/conversion sites I know of.

      1. You can buy Tesla small or front drive units all day for 5k. You can hot and read up on open source replacement control boards for said drive units.

        You can also get a lexus gs450 transmission, lock the input and inverter for like 1500.

    1. VAT (Value Added Tax) is what sales tax is called in UK & Europe. It’s usually embedded in the sticker price, but can be claimed back by eligible companies.

      1. When I was in London in 1987, I had my first encounter with VAT,
        At a Burger King, Ketchup/catsup packets were “free” but their were several pence VAT on each.

        1. That’s not right. Free items are zero VAT as long as they’re not bundled to the product. This is usually the case with condiments.

          If the Burger King requires you to buy the burger before they’ll give you the ketchup, then they have to pay VAT for the item’s stock value.

      2. It’s a lot more than a sales tax. VAT is charged at every level. The producer pays VAT, the distributor pays VAT, the retailer pays VAT and then the customer pays VAT.

        Imagine how oppressive a VAT tax would be for retail in the US. Each level would pay its tax and then pass the cost on to the next level.

        1. It’s called a “Value Added” tax because each step in the chain only pays tax on the value they add to the product. Someone in the middle of the chain pays the full VAT on the products they buy, adds value, and then collects the full VAT when they sell it to the next.

          But when they file their taxes, they can deduct the VAT they paid from the VAT they collected.

          So, even though everybody in the chain is responsible for filing their part, it’s only the consumer at the end that makes the net payment.

    1. You can lift up the front of those with the stock motor installed. Can’t imagine the wheelies if you take that out and put the motor between the rear wheels….. Good case for cheap surplus milk float batteries under the hood I guess, you NEED that weight.

      1. Oh damn, was going off what I read earlier today for Leaf, this one is around 100lbft must be something to do with high RPM and high efficiency design, but not really going to burn tires in the small stuff with that. Get good mileage I would imagine.

        1. Not really. The efficiency peak is really close to the top RPM. It looks rather like they went for low cost and weight, or they’re limited by the transmission not handling enough torque.

  4. Only mass production makes sense for EV’s and, even then, they should be hybrid rather than pure EV.

    It’s difficult and expensive enough making an LPG conversion (justifying the costs) let alone an electric one – who is going to certify its safety for example? Would you trust your DIY friends enough to travel in a vehicle with 300V under your backside that they’ve had a hand in wiring?

    This idea – although an interesting option for those that can afford it – seems based on a hope that Government will introduce legislation to make it an affordable choice. Sadly t(for the rest of us) they are probably right.

    1. “It’s difficult and expensive enough making an LPG conversion”
      Is it thou? 4th gen LPG kits with installation run at around 900USD, it isn’t that much. Electric conversion don’t come close to that.

  5. I notice the image on the front page of their… press release?… shows a Lotus 7 as one of the vehicles it’s powering. That’s where my mind went immediately as well, I don’t know how practical it would be in a car so small and light but dang it I want a kit car with an electric crate motor

  6. I like how they put Swindon and Train in the name. For US readers: Swindon used to be the main steam engine shop and HQ of Brunel’s Great Western Railway company and is now home to lots of automotive companies ike Honda. It also has the reputation of being the most boring town in the UK but that’s not true at all.

    1. For that matter, I’ve sometimes wondered what it would cost to source a used locomotive traction motor for an EV build. Should be a lot more entertaining than 80 kW.

  7. I test-drove for comparison a 2017 Nissan Leaf (107hp 186ft/lb torque) to the 2017 Ford Focus Electric (143hp 184ft/lb torque) which is an adequate comparison although not perfect- this Swindon has less torque than either. The Leaf was sprightly at a stop but above 40MPH, you would have a hard time passing anyone on a highway.

    The Ford is somewhat less aggressive from a standstill (suspect software limiting here but might just be the motor’s design) however it can HAUL hard enough to pass most American vehicles on a highway, up to its max speed of 86 MPH.

    Obviously I bought the Ford, but I can attest this Swindon motor is going to have a lot of trouble finding a niche over here. Except for really slow city commuter cars, where it might be useful, those specs are just too anemic.

    1. Especially since this doesn’t include inverter or any other support, and 150 kW Bolt EV motors can be bought new as a replacement part from GM Parts Direct for $3500

      GM part number 25199842 – interestingly, it’s labeled as “transaxle” but the details say “includes motor” :)

  8. My mind immediately leapt to: ” I wonder if I could put this in a boat?” Compact, relatively light, … (And yes totally aware of potential for corrosion, etc)

  9. Lexus rx450h or the highlander rear hybrid drive sell for $100-400 on ebay or in your local yard. Run great on modified prius inverters $100-200 +~$200 for the open inverter board….. $500-800ish total

    Okay so its ONLY 50kw
    You should totally spend $7000 more for the “extra” power LOL

    1. Nice, might look into that, have crazy ideas about cheap through the road hybrids out of AWD models. (Through the road sucks you say, I hear “Interesting problems to solve.” )

    2. If you’re going to spend $7000 more for “extra” power, why not spend $3500 for even more (nearly twice as much at 150 kW)

      Look up GM part number 25199842

  10. Perfect for converting a classic car as they tended to have small engines anyway. This could be an interesting hybrid project. Add rear wheel drive to a petrol FWD car. Small battery for 20 miles on EV only. Could make a cool ‘sleeper’. :D The greenest car (not cheapest) is an end of life car converted to EV. Just a thought.

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