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A story of
How a Dutch firm fundamentally changed classic car conservation.
Using all-out digitisation to create a true analogue experience.
“When I finally got that car of my dreams, it was practically unusable.”
There are several factors to overcome when finally getting that classic that has been your poster car since you were 10, and when you finally lay your hands on one, it appears that you can hardly ever use it. Not only you realise its highly vulnerable and it needs maintenance every other ride, but you notice that it’s not really suited to be your daily drive at all. On top of that, you can’t reach your preferred destinations as your car is banned from an increasing number of city centers.
Voitures extravert co-founder, Martijn van Dijk, knows first-hand the challenges of driving your poster car as a daily drive. Along with co-founder, Jurgen Moerman, Martijn has spent years of development attempting to build the perfect future classic, suited for all-day driving. The goal was to outperform what many consider to be the pinnacle of classic driving: the original sixties Porsche 911.
“When we started, we really only had this dream of being able to daily enjoy the level of reality distortion that driving a classic creates: the world around you turnes into slow motion, with all smiling people giving you a thumbs up when you pass them by”
But even when you manage to keep your dream car at a technical level that allows for extensive use, increasingly many European cities are banning old, polluting cars from their streets. Making the use of it less and less attractive.
It appeared that to keep on enjoying classic design and style, we radically needed to rethink the entire concept of the car. How to reduce vulnerability, increase comfort and get rid of emissions at the same time. The answer was to completely rebuild the car and fundamentally alter it to meet modern day requirements. It was to become fully electric.
For Martijn and Jurgen, the ability to drive a classics into every city - without worrying about the car, comfort and the environment - became a must. But only under one condition: the experience had to be authentic, analogue to the the original. A monolithic entity, 'aus einem Guss', not a Frankenstein hobby project.
The goal of the company was to enhance the overall experience which included remaking the classic car itself as authentic as possible. Electrification was certainly part of that, but changes to the fundamental electronic design of the car itself would be instrumental to achieve that goal.
They also realised one important thing: to cater for a true analog, authentic classic experience of the car, while introducing state of the art modern day technology in the batteries and drivetrain, the entire car would have to be digitised.
Many examples of todays classic conversion depend on hobbyists, waiting for Teslas to crash and then preying on the remains. Their enthousiast efforts often result in extreme performance in rusty old non-restored classics, without any real solution when it comes to battery safety, charging, maintenance, software and hardware support. Pure hobby projects, with substantial concessions on quality.
Teaming up with a control expert from California enabled them to take up the next challenge. Integrating all technology, both from the 1960s and from the 2020s, into one control platform that determines the entire car experience.
To that end, Voitures Extravert introduced AutoCRAT, the state-of-the-art vehicle software at the centre of its vehicle experience for a new modern icon, the quintessenza. AutoCRAT controls the entire vehicle, including all of its functions. It’s not only the main subsystems, such as battery and drivetrain, that run on its ARM processors but also all of its classic technology. It offers a cutting-edge electric vehicle that carefully maintains the user experience of a classic car.
The entire system has double - and sometimes even triple - redundancy and is future-proofed by its ability for new feature expansions and over-the-air updates to current functionality. The Ethernet backbone makes it almost endlessly scalable. Meanwhile, the original inefficient large cable cluster, with its dedicated ‘hard’ connections, is replaced by a small and efficient wiring loom. Also, the bespoke Battery Management System (BMS) delivers the highest levels of individual cell protection. AutoCRAT collaborates seamlessly with BuroCRAT, the highly graphics-oriented testing and analysis suite for installation and maintenance.
Written using Swift in Apple’s Xcode and deployed in the all-electric classic quintessenza, AutoCRAT is a classic Project Titan. Within Apple’s Xcode environment, it was developed through the highly object-oriented modern Swift language on top of embedded Linux and uses ARM processors for all main subsystems, such as motor management, vehicle controls, user interfaces, etc. A shielded Gigabit Ethernet with a proprietary high secure protocol is the main communication backbone. Also, the BMS is implemented using ARM processors, delivering maximum cell protection for each individual battery cell.
Martijn van Dijk, commercial director of Voitures Extravert, explains: “We believe that people who are really serious about analogue should go all-out digital. Combining classic and future technology often leads to a ‘Frankenstein’. To ensure a monolithic analogue experience, both worlds need a base-level integration. Only the all-out digitisation of classic technology can recreate a true analogue experience. That includes a redesigned instrument cluster, which delivers new feedback in a classic way. The new gauges can display any info and are fully customisable. Integrated with the all-new Head Unit, it’s an out-of-this-world experience. Once you’ve driven this classic beauty with over 700 Nm of peak torque, you'll simply never look back.”
AutoCRAT is written in Swift, the powerful open-source programming language that Apple uses for all of its applications. It is the result of the latest research into programming languages combined with decades of experience building Apple platforms. AutoCRAT is developed using Apple Xcode as its main tool. It’s the same developer toolset that’s used to create apps for Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV and Linux. Apple Xcode brings user interface design, coding, testing and debugging all into a unified workflow.
Jurgen Moerman, technology & operations director of Voitures Extravert, says: “With AutoCRAT, we have created a platform that is extremely adaptable and agile to work with. Swift code produces software that runs lightning-fast and, most importantly, is safe by design. That is one of the main reasons for our choice of Swift. Swift eliminates entire classes of unsafe code. It’s the perfect solution for mission-critical applications such as driving and vehicle charging."
The level of integration this solution offers is beyond what most established car manufacturers can offer, much more comparable to the standards that Tesla has set for the new industry some years ago. In that respect, the recent announcements that Volkswagen has made for a multi billion investment in a dedicated car software company are illustrative for the trend Voitures extravert is fully tapping into.
Talking about the necessity to build a highly versatile and intelligent software solution, one would almost forget that such a system can only flourish in a car that can survive the investment, to which it makes sense economically. Putting components into grandfathers rusty old car you’ve found in a barn is a nice dream, but one that will never be shared by anyone else but the grandson.
Therefore Voitures extravert decided long ago that every vehicle, whatever make or brand they would pursue to reproduce, should be completely restored. Disassembled to the lowest level possible and thereafter rebuild at the customers preference, predictable and repeatable. At a very transparent level of restoration quality, all with an original experience in mind. As if it were a small industrial reproduction.
And at the same time prepare it for modern day requirements, like CCS AC & DC charging, complete new instrument cluster development, new head unit design integrating heater, airco, music, connnectivity and vehicle functions and iOS remote access/app.
Voitures extravert has always differentiated themselves from the rest of the pack by building its dream - colouring the streets with iconic classics with the technology of our future - on real customer insights rather than technology. And during their quest for funding, they’ve met with an incredible number of enthousiast car lovers and entrepreneurs that shared their vision of a classic future. Many of them voluntarily offered their expertise, network or other support. But to many, serious funding was not an option: the company was too small, they weren’t going to be the next Dutch unicorn…
Of course they did not give up and found their ‘angel’ who borrowed them €300.000 and bought the first car in May 2018! His rationale for investing in Voitures extravert '...the product appeals to emotion and the realisation is challenging: for me the most important thing in entrepreneurship...'.
“In all our conversations in search of funding one thing really came drifting afloat… a very strong desire to be even more involved in our future. So rather than keep on chasing them for investment, they took a moment to sit back and reflect on what they had heard in all these conversations. And figured how cool it would be to create something really special for these really passionate supporters, something that would perfectly match their desire to sit front-row and involve them in their adventure. The Classic Future Society…”
The Classic Future Society is a network of ambassadors, with direct access to the entrepreneurs, to the project and to the car, helping out on occasions, or reaching out to other members, but mainly sharing in the fun of rebuilding iconic classics. Members of the Classic Future Society are part of our adventure to color the streets with iconic classics, they provide critical support to the development of existing and new classic icons. And in return for their support, they receive a yearly DailyDrive: a full day unlimited use of the quintessenza!
“From the moment we started late 2018, we’ve see strong interest in the Classic Future Society. And as a result some 30 members, (top)entrepreneurs, creatives and enthousiast car, design and technology lovers, have already been registered. Of course, we are extremely pleased with their support in many ways, and we discover that we can offer them a very interesting and fun network. And direct access to the car…”
And finally, late 2019, they’ve added an additional investor to bring the prototype to series production.
Rather than starting with technology, either classic tech on the cars, or modern day technology around batteries and electric drive trains, the guys from Voitures extravert started their business by taking a diametrically different approach. They started with the market and the customer and by continuously focusing on small scale series production. That approach really sets them apart from any other player, where extreme customisation and project by project work has always been the dominant model. Always resulting in cars that were highly appreciated by their respective owners but not per se with generic market appeal, at exorbitant costs but always short on budget, and with lead times often exceeding 24 months rather than an order to delivery of less than six months at a tact of 3 per month!
And the customer response to their approach is also completely opposite from the mainstream classics lovers. Younger people, instead of 70+ and a much better balance between male and female best describe their reservations.
“We knew from the start, that we needed to radically distance ourselves from all dogmas that are extremely persistent in the classics world. The wonderful thing is that when you really dare to go that far, you start to discover that there’s a whole world of opportunities that you couldn't have dreamt of before you started. And turn ‘disadvantages’ of the approach into USPs, being freed from a small but very vocal purist point of view. And that helped us to take a giant leap into an industry that before we entered it, didn’t even exist or was barely holding out. I praise myself lucky every day that we’ve always maintained a very critical stance to the ‘advice’ of industry experts and traditional players. The day we start to follow their guidance, will probably herald te end of Voitures extravert…”
There's no other way to put it, the past years have been extraordinary with worldwide automotive and design coverage of the quintessenza and Voitures extravert. With extensive and ongoing attention from across the globe, lifestyle and car blogs & magazines reporting on the quintessenza, resulting in reservations from all over the world.
The current Covid-19 pandemic is having in some impact, with international customers unable to fly into the Netherlands to test drive the quintessenza and convert their reservation into a purchase. However, others take advantage of that situation by simply ordering from a distance, confident enough to know that the Voitures extravert vision is the only possible way of making a transition to a new era and thereby making sure to be one of the first to drive it once the crisis is over.
Although their customer and production focus is what explains their succes, the technological development of an embedded integrated control solution is a key enabler of their vision. It is clear that their solution is not only applicable to other models to convert, but also to entirely other applications and industries. The time of new mobility, with proliferation of technology and components at increasingly larger volumes and lower costs, enables new entrants to take a shot at the market from different angles and with completely different business models. But what they all face is a strong desire for an integrated solution that delivers their promise. The incumbent players seem to have lost momentum, power and vision to be able to deliver this, so it’s offering new opportunities for the likes of Voitures extravert.
“We already receive weekly invites to talk about our solutions and to implement that into other projects. And although we focus completely on execution of the quintessenza today, we clearly see plenty opportunities to expand into other businesses when the time is right. But will they be as sexy and compelling as their future classic? We can only hope so!”
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