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Editor's Note: we are preparing for the second Holley High Voltage Experience on July 9-10, 2022 at Sonoma Raceway in California. Our inaugural event in 2021 brought out a bevy of vehicles built by engineers, hot-rodders interested in EV power, and backyard mechanics who see electrification as another form of power for these machines. Whether the conversion took place for economical reasons, performance reasons, or simply "just because", we're excited to see that enthusiasts are taking the new technology head-on. We look forward to seeing everyone at Sonoma Raceway this year!
After developing one-off, purpose-built high performance EVs like the wheel-standing Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 drag car and the tire-melting Mach-E 1400, and then later putting vehicles like the 2022 F-150 Lightning and Mustang Mach-E into mass production, Ford has made it clear that it’s serious about bringing EV technology into the fold in a big way.
The latest evidence of this comes to us in the form of the Eluminator Concept. The all-electric concept truck made its debut at the 2021 SEMA show last fall and serves as a running and driving example of what’s possible with today’s EV tech – not only for the OEMs, but also for those who’re looking to retrofit an EV powertrain into a project of their own. The Eluminator concept started life as a 1978 F-100 that originally got its motivation from a fairly anemic inline six cylinder engine – good for about 120 horsepower back in its heyday – and that made it an ideal candidate for the project.
“We had the Eluminator crate motor, and we were trying to figure out a way to connect with potential customers; just putting a motor on a pedestal didn’t seem like enough,” says Ford’s Mark Wilson. “We felt like that didn’t fully explain what we’re trying to do here. And we thought that if we came up with a vehicle build that could resonate with enthusiasts, it would also be a lot easier to illustrate the benefits of a swap like this. We’re looking at this as part of the natural progression of hot rodding. If you look back to the 1980s, when carburetors were being replaced by fuel injection, a lot of people were saying it was going to be the end of the performance market. And look at where we are today – we now have vehicles that we couldn’t have even dreamt of back then. So I see this as part of the evolution of performance.”
As interest in vintage trucks as seen a significant uptick in recent years, the folks at Ford also felt that the F-100 pickup was a timely option for this kind of swap. “Trucks are hot right now,” Wilson points out. “So we figured we’d go after something that’s really resonating with the market today. You can imagine someone pulling into a Cars and Coffee with this truck and it grabbing attention right away because it looks really sharp. And then their interest is piqued even more when they start noticing that it’s silent.”
And Ford felt that the online classified-sourced F-100 was the right machine for the job for another important reason as well. “I think this especially makes a lot of sense in applications where the engine isn’t necessarily the focal point of the vehicle,” Wilson says. “The truck is cool, but it’s not defined by that inline six, so swapping over the powertrain has less of a potential impact to the nostalgia and value of that vehicle.”
Designed and created by Ford Performance, the Eluminator was built in collaboration with the team at MLe Racecars and rides on a custom Roadster Shop chassis. Avalanche Gray paintwork with Cerakote Copper accents applied by Brand X Customs and 19x10-inch billet aluminum three-piece Forgeline wheels help to give the Eluminator its clean and mean aesthetic, but the changes are far more than skin deep. “It would probably be easier to list what we didn’t touch,” Wilson says with a laugh.
As you’d expect, the most extensive work focused on the powertrain. Two of Ford Performance’s new Eluminator e-crate motors are now installed at the front and rear of the truck to replace the internal combustion engine. The motors are more or less identical to the units that Ford equips to the Mach-E GT Performance Edition production EV, and here they deliver a combined 480 horsepower and 634 pound-feet of torque.
“There are four main things that you need in order to make this work – the motor, the controller, the inverter, and the battery pack,” Wilson explains. “There’s other stuff as well, of course, but those are the big, top-level components. And when we started talking about the timing and availability for some of these parts, our partners on the project basically said, ‘just give us the motor now and bring in the other stuff as you can.’” The team opted to use Ford’s controller, inverter, and the battery pack from a standard Mustang Mach-E as well, which gives the F-100 concept a range of about 200 miles on a charge.
“On the software side, we decided to use the factory calibrations,” Wilson tells us. “But most folks that are looking to do a swap like this would probably use an aftermarket inverter, controller, and battery unless they could find a Mach-E that they could source parts from. But the aftermarket for those components is already pretty robust, so it’s not difficult to find what you need.”
While the Eluminator Concept was clearly designed to turn heads, Wilson is quick to point out that it was built to do more than sit on show floors. “Although it’s been used at shows, this truck was built to be driven – we had it available for drives at the Chicago Auto Show, and I’m sure that over the summer you’ll see it at other events being taken out for a spin. The important thing is that it’s not a static showpiece; it illustrates what’s possible right now.”
Although the conversion wasn’t a simple, bolt-in process, Wilson notes that the compact packaging of the Eluminator e-crate motor (which offers as much as 281 horsepower and 317 lb.-ft. of torque) makes it highly versatile. “This motor can go in just about anything you can think of, honestly. We haven’t found a platform that people have said this won’t work in. And at 200 pounds per motor, it’s a pretty light weight, power-dense design as well.”
Going forward, Wilson says that he expects Ford’s aftermarket EV support to follow a well-established path for the automaker. “We have a really good track record of supplying and supporting both the pushrod V8s and the Modular platform as that developed over the years, and I think this will unfold similarly.” While he remains tight-lipped regarding future EV performance machines from Ford, Wilson does offer some optimism on that front.
“The reception to Eluminator F-100 concept was even better than we expected, I think it really resonated with a lot of people. Folks who thought they’d never want to put an electric motor in their vintage vehicle have told us that this concept has helped to change their perspective. I think that people are starting to understand that there are some clear advantages here.”