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Approaching EVs with Fellten Systems

Meet Dave Budge — the co-founder of Jaunt Motors, an off-road vehicle EV conversion shop and supply manufacturer in Melbourne, Australia. Jaunt just merged with a like-minded firm in the UK to form Fellten, a bigger, more capable shop within the growing EV conversion space. At Fellten, Dave serves as Chief Product Officer. 

“I must admit, I'm not a car person. I don’t come from a car background, in fact, it’s very much the opposite. I didn’t get my license until I was 27, and I tried my whole young adult life to take public transport and ride my bike as much as possible to avoid driving. When I finally did get a car, it was only because I had started making my own biodiesel with a club in town. That’s when I went four-wheel-driving for the first time — and discovered what I had been missing out on my entire life.” – Dave Budge

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As you might imagine, Dave did not begin his career at the forefront of automotive technology. For decades, he worked as a design leader in the marketing and startup worlds, taking a special interest in emerging technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality. His goal was always to take new, unfamiliar technologies and make them feel as approachable as possible — a skillset he brings to his position at Fellten today. 

Dave loved working as a digital product designer. He loved the people and the individual things he was creating with them. But there wasn’t a strong why behind the things he was doing. And that is an okay situation to be in for a chapter of one’s career, but after a few decades, that lack of a strong personal mission will chip away at your day-to-day satisfaction with work. And sure enough, whenever he had the chance to step away for a while, Dave found himself daydreaming about doing something else. 

On a camping trip with his wife in remote New South Wales, Dave made a joke about retiring from his day job and building an electric 4X4 in their shed. (Despite rumors of Rivian and the GMC Hummer arriving soon, there are to this day no OE electric vehicles that are off-road capable available for sale in Australia, so if you want one, you have to build it.) Over the course of their trip, the joke made reappearance after reappearance, and they started to realize, “‘we want this vehicle now, not later when we can retire.”

The conversations they had on that trip reminded Dave of the Japanese tool Ikigai. It’s a Venn diagram tool that asks an individual: 

1. What are you good at? 

2. What do you love? 

3. What can you get paid for?

4. What does the world need? 

In the center of these answers lives your Ikigai. Your “reason for being.”

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Making the Unapproachable Approachable

At the center of Dave’s Ikigai was Jaunt Motors, the EV conversion systems shop he founded in 2018. At that time, EV conversions were at a point where, if you could obtain and craft all the right materials and plug everything in correctly, the car would work. The scene was very DIY. All of the builds were created by highly technical hobbyists for themselves or other highly-technical hobbyists. They were so complex, you had to have a strong mental concept of the whole electrical circuit to even turn a car on. 

Conversions have always made a lot of sense when it comes to reviving classic cars, and getting them to a place where they can be highway-safe again. Adding in all of the complexities of electrification only compounded that, making classic car EV conversions one of the most unapproachable arenas Dave could have possibly wandered into. But wander, he did. 

The good news was, making the unapproachable approachable is Dave’s favorite thing to do. 

“When we started out, we didn’t want to just contribute to the hobbyist community. They were doing fine, and frankly were enjoying how complicated all of this was. We wanted to create systems that enable EV classic car conversion at a massive scale for everyone. Not just hobbyists. Not just mechanics. Everyone.”

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The Fun Route

David Jackson is one non-hobbyist, non-mechanic to have his classic car dreams made a reality thanks to Dave’s shop. Together, the two built this electric 1970 Land Rover Series 2 with a charming custom patchwork paint job. David’s electric motor translates power through the Landy’s original manual four-speed gearbox and transmission. Solar panels mounted to the roof supply consistent power, at least for what David knew we would regularly need. As this car was designed to be David’s daily driver, they weren’t particularly worried about range or efficiency. This became a crucial factor when it came time to choose a tire. 

“The Trail-Terrain T/A® tire is a really popular option for the builds we create in our shop because it offers the best of both worlds with dirt or gravel-road readiness but also a lot of commuter-friendly features. For David, whose Land Rover is completely solar-powered, he wasn’t as concerned with efficiency, so there was little downside to amping up the capability and cool factor by going with the Mud-Terrain T/A® KM3 tires.”

I think that's what EV conversions can do for a lot of people. When carbon emissions aren’t an issue, there are no highway-mileage considerations to be made when choosing to go the fun route with your build, or your tires. It's a really freeing experience.” 

We first reached out to “the Daves” (David the owner and Dave the builder)  while planning a group off-roading excursion in the Australian outback. We knew we wanted to put an electric 4X4 to the test alongside more traditional rigs out on the trail. When we found out that this particular vehicle was designed to be a commuter for David, not an off-road touring rig, the first question we had to ask them was: do you think this vehicle is up to the challenge? 

“We didn’t have a ton of off-roading experience between us, but we knew our vehicle did. It’s a 1970 Land Rover, one of the last Series 2 to come off the line. And when you think about it, that actually makes it a 1950s vehicle, because that’s when this model was introduced. In those days, Land Rovers were the only 4X4 vehicles available in Australia. It was trucks like ours that built the roads and trails we drove on for this shoot. And they did it traversing much tougher terrain than there is now. We had that history giving us confidence, along with our tires. So we said ‘yeah, it can handle it.’ And we were right.”

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Handling It 

When it comes to EVs and off-roading, the biggest obstacle is getting there. The big question is: does your vehicle have the highway range to get you out to the trail, and if not, is there charging infrastructure along the way to extend that range? That was a tall ask in Australia, where EV adoption is still quite low. But Dave had a few tricks up his sleeve.

“Even in some of the most remote communities, there's power. It doesn’t have to be a listed charge port on an app. Most communities have a space where they might hold a county fair. In all of those locations, there'll be three-phase industrial power available with which you can charge an electric car quite fast.”

Once you get to the trailhead, those range-related EV downsides become off-roading upsides. On the first full day spent off-roading “as slow as possible and as fast as necessary” in their Land Rover, the Daves used only 4% of their battery. Fun fact: That old beloved phrase is actually an old Land Rover catchphrase. They used to include it in their training manuals as a driving tip for navigating rocky terrain. 

“At Fellten, we really latched onto that phrase because it’s our approach to driving, but it’s also your approach to our impact into the world that we are traveling in. When you off-road in an EV you’re removing the fumes that a traditional engine would create, but also you’re removing a lot of the potential impact that bringing extra fuel or oil for your engine could create. Finally, you’re removing much of the sound you introduce to wild spaces. It is very cool to be off-roading and to actually hear the birds squawking and the wind in the trees, and the water rushing. You get to more fully experience the world.”

The whole group enjoyed driving a leg of the trip in the EV, which had undeniable power out on the trail. The other vehicles in our convoy were mostly larger, heavily-modified manual four-wheel-drives. The EV was smaller in comparison, a little more maneuverable, and came with instant torque that never stalled. 

“The great part of it is again, that it made off-roading so approachable for the less experienced folks. You just keep your foot on the throttle, hold it steady, and the car does the rest. We took that Landy up some impossible hills! To be able to do that without that fear that you might stall or roll backward created some magic first-timer moments.”

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Mission: Approachable

Dave understands that EVs aren’t for everyone, especially not yet. He’s not out to convert everyone. He just wants to show the world what’s possible. And for those who are ready to drive an EV, he’s out to make it as easy as possible to start a build. That’s where Fellten really shines. Most EV swap kits on the market include an engine, a charger, and a few battery packs. Maybe a dash-mounted display, too. But the 2,800 other pieces of the puzzle are up to the builder to source, customize, and install. 

With a Fellten system, you get everything that you need to build a legal, road-ready EV that delivers what that a customer might be looking for in a vehicle in 2023. You’re also not just swapping an engine, you’re updating everything, creating a classic build that isn’t for a car show or magazine spread — but for daily use.  And all the new stuff is designed by Dave and his team to fit right into that vehicle’s original aesthetic. Today, Fellten offers systems for Land Rover Series 2, Porsche 911, and Classic Mini Coopers. Learn more on their website. 

Fellten systems are designed to be something that a classic vehicle enthusiast or shop can purchase and bolt into an existing vehicle’s frame. Instead of spending months (and let’s be honest, sometimes years) sourcing parts, researching circuit boards, and comparing charge controllers, begin a Fellten conversion and you can be on the road in just a few weeks.

All that’s left to do is to turn the key. 

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