Kyle Palmer and Martine Prouty are new to the business of giving classic cars a modern spin.
After years in the corporate world, the former college roommates decided to pave a new career path, and, at 42, the duo is fulfilling a longtime goal of working together.
“The pandemic hit,” Palmer said, “and while we both still had positions, we just kind of reevaluated what we wanted to do.”
During a weekend of snowboarding in Brighton last year, they fleshed out the idea for their new business: Find old Porsches, rip out their gas-guzzling guts and replace them with new battery packs and salvaged Tesla electric motors.
Now, the two behind The Current Exchange are working alongside their shop dog, Marley, in an old boiler shop at 1159 S. Richards St. in the Ballpark neighborhood, converting their first car, a white 1989 Porsche 911 Cabriolet, into a fully electric vehicle.
Palmer and Prouty are hoping 35- to 60-year-olds with money to spend — think six figures — will bite at the opportunity to own an electrified classic.
“It’s all about updating it,” Prouty said, “keeping that retro vibe, but making it modern.”
How much would an electric Porsche cost?
Owning an electrified classic car is easier than traditionally renewed classics with combustion engines, he said, because they’re more reliable. Plug it in, do some basic maintenance every 50,000 miles, and owners are ready to zip around in their weekend cruisers.
The battery packs The Current Exchange gets from a supplier in Georgia will get drivers about 150 miles of range, but flooring the accelerator and blasting the air conditioning will lower that number.
On top of getting to skip the gas pump, the revived Porsches will gain speed, torque and some 21st-century creature comforts like a Bluetooth-enabled radio, so drivers can wirelessly connect their phones.
And when battery technology improves, Palmer said, owners can swap their old packs for new ones.
Aside from a $100,000 loan the startup is seeking from Salt Lake City, The Current Exchange is a self-funded endeavor by Palmer and Prouty. They plan to use the loan, which still needs City Council approval, to buy inventory.
And that inventory can be pricey. The car they’re working on now, for example, cost north of $60,000. The electric conversion kits tack on another $50,000.
When complete, The Current Exchange’s first car — which already has multiple prospective buyers — will cost about $150,000.
The drive to expand
Prouty hopes to keep developing the product, hire locally and be a part of the revitalization of the Ballpark area.
The company plans to stick with specializing in retrofitting Porsches, for now, but looks to expand to converting other classic models in coming years.
Within the next three years, Prouty said, The Current Exchange wants to add an SUV to its lineup, hire at least two technicians, and bring a design engineer in-house instead of using a consultant.
Eventually, the company aims to ramp up production to one conversion a month.
Palmer and Prouty landed on electric vehicle conversions because they see a future in the business, which they say is still in its first wave in the United States.
They’ve always been car guys, but didn’t study automotive engineering when they attended Arizona State University together. Palmer, who has some experience in the auto industry, took courses at Weber State University last year to prepare for a new career in electric vehicles.
At first, Palmer said, the two worried about pushback from Porsche purists. But the response has been positive, they said, and they even have some Porsche enthusiasts on a waiting list for more information about getting a converted car.
The Current Exchange’s business is, after all, a continuation of something automotive junkies have been doing for decades.
“This is hot-rodding,” Palmer said. “It’s taking a small car and putting a bigger engine in it. It just happens to be an electric motor instead of a big, V-8 engine.”
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