Meet the world's first electric Ferrari

He sunk his savings into making 'the world's first electric Ferrari'
He sunk his savings into making 'the world's first electric Ferrari'

Anyone who stands within earshot of a Ferrari will notice the earth-shattering engine noise. But commercial real estate broker Eric Hutchison is changing that reality by introducing the world's first fully electric, and fully silent, Ferrari.

"The option to get classic cars that are electric [doesn't] exist," 47-year-old Hutchison told CNBC. "We don't have choices, and that's not cool. I don't want to drive a Prius."

He realized that over a few beers with neighbors, and posted in an online Ferrari community chat to see if it had been done. Could a Ferrari be made that way?

"All we got back was crickets."

The next day, Hutchison found the "hot, stinking, burned-out mess" of a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS. He bought it in a salvage title for $13,000. When people recycle cars, he says, most have an "R" in the windshield of the circle, which means it runs.

"Clearly someone got the 'R' wrong, because this thing barely rolled," Hutchison said.

Eric Hutchison runs Electric GT, a car company that converts gas-powered luxury cars into electric vehicles.
Mary Stevens | CNBC

Hutchison now runs Electric GT, a company based in San Marcos, California, and partners with engineers at EV West to refurbish luxury cars. The "Ferrari GTE" project involved 18 months of tearing the car apart and breaking down every piece of the engine. The team ended up selling excess parts online and shipping them all over the world, which he says helped fund the project.

Hutchison, who has worked in commercial real estate for 20 years, also turned to his retirement fund to kick start the project. He hadn't see much progress in that investment account over two decades, and decided this project might pay better long-term dividends.

"I liquidated a lot of it, and put it where my heart was: into something I thought could really make a difference and actually be something that would grow," Hutchison said.

What they ended up with is a fire-engine red Ferrari that has beaten its gas-powered sibling in multiple road tests. According to their research, the electric Ferrari goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in an average of 5.5 seconds. A comparable gas-powered Ferrari reaches 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, he said. The Electric GT team is installing a new battery in its current Ferrari, and aims to get the same acceleration in under five seconds.

"You've got a beautiful, classic car that handles twice the capacity that it used to as far as horsepower torque," Hutchison said. "It's an insane experience."

Who wants a silent Ferrari?

Batteries inside the 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS that Eric Hutchison converted to electric
Brandon Ancil | CNBC

Despite equal or better performance, Hutchison said the idea of an electric Ferrari is anathema to most classic-car enthusiasts. The community is completely "gas-oriented," as Hutchison puts it.

Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne is no exception. Marchionne told journalists at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show that a Ferrari without an internal combustion engine was "an almost obscene concept," and it would never, ever happen. He added that a self-driving version was also out of the question: "You'll have to shoot me first."

Consumers are adapting, though, and others in the car industry have followed suit. Mazda, Nissan, Chevy, BMW, Ford, Kia and Toyota have all stepped into the electric vehicle, or "EV," realm.

"It's really neat to see people interacting with the conversation of electric and gas and going forward with the change in the evolution of the car industry of gas consumption," Hutchison said.

Batteries in the converted electric 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS
Brandon Ancil | CNBC

The main impetus to go electric, according to Hutchison, is the annual cost. Yearly service fees for a new Ferrari are typically around $6,000, plus an $800 oil change, he says. The electric GTE upkeep is mostly on the tires every five or six years.

"We love the idea of driving a classic car every day, and being able to enjoy it without the maintenance is incredible," Hutchison said.

He likens his project to what Elon Musk is doing with Tesla: pushing public perception toward electric vehicles. Neither company skimps on performance.

"You've seen the performance of [Tesla's] cars against Ferrari's and everything else on the road," he said. "Once you drive it, it's like getting the Kool-Aid bug. It's absolutely ridiculous."

Global ambitions

The company's business model is now mostly commission-based, and the team is currently refurbishing a Fiat to ship to Seattle. Down the road, Hutchison expects to work on five to 10 cars per year, with most of the demand coming from China. The classic car market in the world's second-largest economy is expanding, and it's turning to electric-power because of vehicle emission standards.

"This opens up the door to take cars into China that are 100 percent green, and high-performance electric," Hutchison said. "I think it's a real opportunity."

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