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Cheap Electric Car Conversion Possible?

by John McCarthy
(Detroit Michigan USA)

What would it take to convert a Saturn SC2 to electric?

The information on web sites is all over the place. Some want $5,000.00 for a kit while another tries to sell instructions for $40.00 claiming it can be done for under $500.00.

I am willing to spend $1000.00 or so on parts and do some of the work myself and then hire mechanics or electricians (I have friends in these fields) to do whatever work I am not comfortable with.

Am I kidding myself or is this a possibility?

Hi, John -
You've stumbled on one of my pet peeves, actually. Look out.

The folks selling you instructions for 40 bucks on how to convert a car to electric for under 500? Scam.

The Forkenswift project, Darin Cosgrove's beer budget EV experiment, is NOT a scam, however, he really did manage to do an EV conversion for not very much money.

So here are Lynne's Principles of Cheapo EV Conversion: The good thing about these principles is that, unlike your average EV conversion scammer, they don't invite you to break any laws of physics or, alternatively, any law of the land.

First principle: the lighter your donor vehicle, the cheaper your conversion is going to be.

Your Saturn SC2 seems like a pretty decent choice in the early years of production, the 90s, but in the early 2000s got kinda big-butt American heavy. If you've got one of the lighter ones, good, if you've got one of the heavier ones, get something else. It's one of those cases where "free" (as in, I already own the vehicle) actually costs too much in the long run.

Second - the lower your EV budget, the longer your conversion going to take, the more work you're going to have to do yourself, and the more equipment you're going to have to borrow from kind friends or complete strangers.

That's because you're going to look for your components in strange places, like forklift salvage yards.

You're going to have to do your own heavy lifting, like getting that engine out on your own. I'm glad you've got a mechanic friend, because you're going to be needing him or her.

You're going to be doing your own welding and fabrication, too, so hopefully you've got expertise, equipment, and/or friends in that field.

You're going to be selling the gas guts of your donor car on ebay or craigslist or whatever, and using the proceeds to defray the other costs you can't avoid, like a new set of golf cart batteries.

And will you wind up with a homegrown Tesla when you're done?

Probably not.

Good question, and best of luck with your project!


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