Tom Cheesewright drives a BMW Z3 (converted) 1999 electric car.
This is Tom’s first electric car, he’s owned the Z3 2-3 years and drives under 5,000 miles annually. The current mileage of the car is over 1000,000 miles and he achieves 25 miles range from a full charge.
Rate your Z3 out of 5.
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Why did you convert the Z3 to electric?
This car was the coming together of two passions. I’ve always loved making stuff. Through my work as a futurist, researching the future of cars for a client, I stumbled across people building their own EVs on the OpenInverter forum. I thought, “I fancy a bit of that.”
Around the same time (lockdown 2020) my passion for cars was rubbing off on my kids. They spotted some 50s roadsters in the Petersen museum on a video we were watching and asked “Can we have one of those?!?” I said, “No, but we could build one…” and the idea was born.
It took about 15 months to get it finished and road legal, though much of that was restoring the rather rotten donor car. It’s a real Frankenstein’s monster with EV parts from Mitsubishi, Toyota and BMW with other bits from Vauxhall and Audi. But it passed its MOT (eventually!).
Right now it’s mechanically sound but doesn’t look much like a 50s roadster, however, there is a complete body transformation in the works.
Positives – List 3 or more reasons why you love your electric Z3.
- There’s nothing like driving something you’ve built
- My eldest daughter helped me build it, including doing some of the welding. Now the youngest is getting involved in the next build.
- It’s about as green a car as it can be! I call it a ‘recycled retro (hot) rod!’
Negatives – List 3 or more things that you really don’t like about your electric Z3.
- It’s too slow! I’m working to fix that with a motor upgrade now.
- The range is poor. Again though, I can fix that. An extra battery pack is on the way.
It’s cold in winter! Version 1 has no heating (another ongoing project).
Have you experienced any faults with the car? If so, what have they been?
It doesn’t have a battery gauge at the moment, so I have once run out of juice. Fortunately, I wasn’t far from home so could just swap the pack out by the side of the road.
What are the standout tech features of the Z3?
Probably my favourite part is all the things I’ve 3D-printed for it. High voltage connectors, cable shrouds, a wireless phone charger, pipe elbows & circuit board cases. Even the adaptor that allows me to use an electronic throttle pedal from a BMW 1-series (without modifying the original Z3 mounting) is a 3D print of my own design.
Surprise us! Tell us something people wouldn’t readily know about this car? (Stupid question!)
That it’s electric! I get so many double takes from people walking past or next to me in traffic when they see the green flashes on the number plate or notice the lack of noise. It makes me chuckle every time when people say, “Wait, is that electric?”
What are you interested in doing next and why?
The next project is already under way. It’s going to be another body-swapped Z3 but this time with a hard top, three times the power and a target of 100 mile range plus fast charging.
I enjoyed the first project so much that I’ve rented a garage to work on projects and I’ve started a YouTube channel around it. I suspect the next project may not be my last either!
What home charging unit do you use? Would you recommend it to others and why?
My first gen Pod Point came off Facebook Marketplace for £30 and was installed by my local sparky. It’s perfect for my needs even though it’s only a Type 1 and fairly slow.
Rate your home charging unit out of 5.
What home electricity supplier & tariff do you use? Would you recommend it to others and why?
Octopus Energy – we’re not on any special tariff yet, though we’re getting a full solar installation plus storage in the next few weeks so that will change. The ideal will be setting the car up to charge only off excess solar unless I’m in a rush.
Rate your electricity supplier out of 5.
What public charging networks would you recommend to others and why?
Don’t know yet as I’ve not tried them! Right now charging is still a little…manual. As in, I have to control it with my laptop. That will all be sorted in this round of upgrades and then I’ll give the local chargers a test.
List your top 3 favourite public charging networks (in order of preference).
Who do you insure your electric car with? Would you recommend them to others and why?
Adrian Flux because they are literally the only company in the whole of the UK who will insure an EV conversion! At least, in my somewhat challenging postcode (urban Manchester).
They were very good, though the insurance has been just about the priciest part of the whole project. It cost less than £5k to do the conversion, including the purchase of the car, lots of restoration work and a load of spare parts that are going into the second build.
But insurance is currently £1,500 a year with full no claims and a clean record. Other people around the country are paying much less, it’s where I live as much as the nature of the car.
Rate your insurance provider out of 5.
Estimate how much money you save per month owning and running the converted Z3 compared to a petrol/diesel car.