A Czech company is now offering an EV converted Soviet-era off-roader from Russian carmaker UAZ, calling it the MWM Hunter EV. The conversion company starts with a UAZ Hunter, which is just an update of the 50-year old UAZ-469, and swaps its four-cylinder combustion engine for a 120kW electric motor. The UAZ was already a neat off-roader, but adding a dead-simple (reliable) electric drivetrain to an ageing but useful platform makes this conversion into exactly the kind I can get behind. Almost.
The MWM Hunter EV is held back by its price, which is more than double that of a combustion model from UAZ. The excessive cost is a shame because there’s plenty of life in the old design.
The Hunter’s design is classic, and almost half-a-century old. The Hunter EV’s upgraded specs are just good. Of course, it’s still a 4X4, but the old 2.7-litre four-cylinder engine made about 135 horsepower and could push the Hunter to a max speed of 129 km per hour. The incoming electric motor bumps the output up to around 161 HP, and the max speed up to 96 MPH.
There’s a weight penalty that comes with the conversion — the combustion-powered Hunter weighs a little over 2,495 kg, while the Hunter EV weighs 2,700 kg.
It is available with either a 56kWh or a 90kWh battery pack. The max range is just shy of 241 km, which is pretty good, and sounds like enough for the intended use. It’s not clear if that range is for the smaller or bigger battery.
What isn’t pretty good is the price of the MWM Hunter EV, which starts at €39,900 or just over A$63,324 before tax. In its native market of Russia, the UAZ Hunter starts at ₽1,070,000 or A$20,420 before tax. If that comparison is unfair, we can compare it to the upgraded combustion Hunter MWM sells, which starts at €19,775, or about A$31,347.
An affordable platform that’s still in-use like this UAZ seems like a good candidate for ICE to EV conversion, but the MWM Hunter EV is not all the way there. Until EV conversions reach price parity (at least competitiveness) with their ICE counterparts, not a lot of people are going to take them seriously.