Electric MGB Is Another Glimpse of Our ‘Gattaca’-Style Automotive Future

a car parked on the side of a road: U.K.'s RBW plans to build 30 new MGB-style roadsters from scratch, featuring an electric powertrain. But it's not a conversion as these cars are new.

U.K.’s RBW plans to build 30 new MGB-style roadsters from scratch, featuring an electric powertrain. But it’s not a conversion as these cars are new.

  • RBW EV Classic Roadster features body from new MGB spare parts
  • Roadster has a 94-hp motor and a 160-mile range
  • Cottage industry of EV converters is emerging alongside larger automakers

The automotive future previewed in the 1995 film Gattaca, where classic cars from the ’60s whoosh around almost silently, making only cool electronic noises, is one step closer to reality. U.K.-based RBW EV Classic Cars has just taken the wraps off a pre-production example of its MGB-style electric roadster.

That’s right: this isn’t a conversion of a vintage MGB to electric drive, but a new EV wearing a heritage body shell from British Motor Heritage. The battery sits under the hood while the electric motor is at the rear sending power to the rear axle. Not only does this achieve good weight distribution, but should also replicate the the original MGB’s rear-wheel drive dynamics. Silently, of course. The roadster features a 94-hp and 167 lb-ft motor, and a 160-mile range. The MGB will be able to make the sprint from 0 to 60 mph in about nine seconds (not too quick, for an extra vintage experience) and will have a top speed of 80 mph.

“Our patented system places the electric motor at the rear of the car and Hyperdrive Innovation’s lithium-ion battery technology under the bonnet, which gives perfectly balanced weight distribution,” managing director Peter Swain says. “Not only does this give the driver much better handling of the car, retaining that sports car feel, but it also affords maximum battery volume to be housed.”

RBW’s EV Classic Roadster chassis features an independent suspension setup front and back and regenerative braking, while the interior features digital gauges and a Pioneer navigation system with a 7-inch touchscreen. The infotainment system includes an HDMI input for phone pairing, USB ports and even an SD card port. One other item you’ll get in the electric MGB that you couldn’t get in the original are electric windows, as they’re cheaper these days than crank windows, and like a lot of other systems in this car including an interior designed by Prototrim they can be sourced from suppliers.

a person driving a car: RBW will produce an initial run of 30 cars.

RBW will produce an initial run of 30 cars.

“What is even more exciting for us is that the RBW System and architecture can be installed into other body shells such as Austin Healey, Jaguar E-Type, Mini, and many more,” Swain added. “Each car can be built to the clients’ personal specification and requirements. The opportunities are endless and therefore safeguards the future of classic motoring.”

Gallery: Gallery: 2021 Jaguar F-Type coupe revealed (Autoweek)

How much does this future cost?

It’s not cheap, reflecting the machine’s hand-built nature. RBW says that the roadster starts at £90,000 or about $116,000. That’s perhaps a lot of money for small EV with this range, but of course it’s more about style and a roadster experience than pure mileage.

Is this a glimpse of our electric future, where skateboard platforms allow just about any classic or modern body shell and interior to be coupled with a battery-electric drivetrain?

There is now a small cottage industry of small-volume EV makers converting classic cars to electric drive, and given the availability of spare parts for classic roadsters like the MGB, perhaps it’s no surprise it’s possible to just about build a new MGB from scratch while giving it electric power.

Small-volume EV makers may soon face competition from the world’s largest automakers, as VW itself has already greenlit a retro-styled MPV paying homage to the original VW Bus. It won’t be a model identical to the original on the outside, but it’s not tough to picture a Beetle underpinned by the same MEB platform a few years down the road.

Of course, the MGB isn’t the only classic for which replica body panels can be sourced easily; there are plenty of classic American muscle cars that also have a small industry of replica part-makers supporting them. Couple that with a modern interior, an infotainment system and a long-enough range, and you have a new vehicle you can pitch to buyers old and young alike.

What do you think of an electric MG? Let us know in the comments.

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