2000 Porsche Boxster S Gets New Life as an EV, Thanks to Gifted Teen
It takes time, money, coding skills, and a whole lot of passion to bring something like this to life.
Classic cars have an intrinsic historical value that cannot be denied. But owners have to remain vigilant if they want to keep their older cars running smoothly, which is not always easy. Grappling with the inherent complications that arise when trying to acquire long discontinued parts is simply a fact of life for enthusiasts, and a reality that forces many to abandon their projects. That’s why turning an old vehicle into an electrically powered one is an increasingly popular trend.
Discarding a “classic” internal combustion engine in favor of a modern EV unit is a relatively novel and somewhat controversial idea, especially because the technology is still in its infancy. It’s even more peculiar when a 16-year-old takes it upon himself (with some help from his dad) to embark on a quest to create a bespoke electric powertrain for a 2000 Porsche Boxster S. That’s the subject of a piece from the Napa Valley Register, which spoke to St. Helena, California, teenager Isaac Kelly about his very unique endeavor. His entire motivation for performing such complicated surgery on the Porsche is the exact reason why so many people restore vintage cars: because they’re fun and interesting vehicles.
‘It isn’t a very useful car in a lot of ways. You can’t go very far and you can’t carry very much. But it’s a fun car, which is mostly the point.’
Only a select group of individuals would have thought to combine the battery technology of a Japanese hatchback with the chassis of a 20-year-old German convertible, but that’s exactly what the budding EV engineer did. Kelly used 92 batteries from a Nissan Leaf, or about half of the 192 total that were equipped in first-generation models. The system enables the Frankenstein Porsche to travel 0-60 mph in six seconds. More importantly, the Boxster was designed to be compatible with electric vehicle charging stations. Range comes in at an estimated 60 miles, which isn’t a terribly high number, but it’s still extremely impressive, as the original Leaf achieved 73 miles on a single charge, according to the EPA.
Of course Nissan had a team of engineers and the resources of a multinational corporation at their disposal. Kelly just had himself and his dad. Papa Kelly financed the project and ultimately chose the Porsche because of its style and its safety equipment. They built a number of custom components for the car, including the boxes needed to house the batteries and the frame necessary to hold everything in place, which was connected to the engine mounts. The duo also removed the engine itself, plus the clutch and the exhaust system, which aren’t needed with an electric powertrain in place.
Kelly also got to flex his intellectual muscles when developing the software required to manage the system, which includes functions like data transmission, charging regulation, and battery monitoring. Four Arduino microprocessors work their magic to govern the system, and Kelly programmed three of them by himself.
The resulting system ended up being remarkably similar to a lot of conventional amateur car projects, because only Kelly really knows how to get the car up and running. Sure, the 400-volt battery system can shock anyone who gets too close and the hardware isn’t tidied up, but it works.
With a price tag of around $18,000 and many months spent coding, welding, and troubleshooting, Kelly’s project was far from rational. Not many restoration projects are. Completion depends on a lot of passion, because cars, especially a Porsche from almost two decades ago, create emotional connections that are hard to break.
“It isn’t a very useful car in a lot of ways,” Kelly said. “You can’t go very far and you can’t carry very much. But it’s a fun car, which is mostly the point.”
Photo: Napa Valley Register, Porsche