Electric Car Conversion

electric spyder with AC motor

The electric car conversion is the world's best kept secret! You can buy them already done, or you can do it yourself. (This is my favorite part! You can find someone who's done a conversion you like, and then just buy it.)

I don't know about you, but I'm not going to convert an ICE-machine (that's Internal Combustion Engine) into an electric-powered rocket in my spare time. I think I mentioned before that my mechanical aptitude is measured in negative numbers.

However, this is what I've found: There are people out there who actually LIKE doing this sort of thing...

...and are willing to sell them to you when they're done! I'm thinking, let's leave the sweating and grease to them and just pony up the CASH instead! Right??

Oh, OKAY...if you like sweating and grease, that's your business. You can build your own electric car if you're so inclined.

One of a kind vehicles

This can be a good thing...or a bad thing. The nice part about a one-of-a-kind, homemade electric car conversion is that nobody else has one just like it. It's the difference between buying that Oleg Cassini off the rack or having Oleg design it for you. I mean, if you could afford it, why wouldn't you?

Well, one drawback to having a one-of-a-kind car is trying to find parts for it later. If the parts have to be custom built because your car is a prototype, or they quit making it, or whatever...you might find yourself with an orphan car sometime down the road.


...the electric parts are less likely to need replacing than the other parts, like brakes and tires and headlights and such. So if you convert a Chevy S-10 or a Ford F-150, Passat or an Echo or a Legacy, you don't really have an orphan, do you? You can take it into any tire or brake shop and get the ordinary things replaced. The parts are cheap, because there are dozens of them out on the road.

Tesla motor controller rear

The electric bits that will probably need replacing down the road are batteries, and one battery can certainly be interchanged with another...

...as long as the dimensions are the same.

Motors and controllers for your electric car conversion can be purchased from companies that have been around for a long time and will continue to be around for a long time. The net result is that your car might be one of a kind...

...but it's not really "orphanable" in the same way a production car from a dead company might be.

It's just that the parents are only SHACKING UP.

Would you drive an electric car conversion?

I want to talk about some of the disadvantages of electric cars for a minute, now.

I'll let you in on the BIG secret of electric vehicles: An electric car conversion has almost none of the disadvantages you'll find in one of the neighborhood electric vehicles - those little cars sometimes unkindly referred to as "golf-carts on steroids". No, electric car conversions are the same as gas-burners in many respects - the insurance company will welcome you with open arms (mostly). The Department of Motor Vehicles doesn't treat you any differently (okay, maybe just a little). The police won't even notice you, except if you're speeding, which...

...you just might be; )

You'll probably be driving at freeway speeds in your conversion, because you'll have a higher voltage system than the NEVs have, and with most conversions, you can drive it for 50-100 miles between charges, depending on the batteries you choose. If you don't mind spending some money and doing some diligent searching, you can upgrade those, too.

auto parts swap meet

Your safety gear will work just fine. LATCH system, air bags, crumple zones...all meet government safety standards for full-sized, full-speed vehicles.

You can get tires, brakes, windshields, side-mirrors, et cetera at the local auto parts store, or auto glass store, or whatever. The point is that an S-10 is still an S-10, even if you don't have to put gas in it anymore; )

Oops, I'm supposed to be talking about the...

DISadvantages of an electric car conversion

leaf at dealership

So here they are:

  • They're not at the dealership.
    For those of us who are looking for electric cars to be lined up at the autoplex beside the Hummers, the conversion is bound to be a HUGE disappointment. You actually have to go looking for them. You might even have to have one built. If you're an enterprising grease-o-phile, you might even build one yourself.
  • No financing.
    You get financing through your credit union or bank for one of the production electric cars you find at a car dealership, but probably not for your conversion. They might cost a little less, depending, but the financing issue is a big one for most of us. I mean, how many people do you know with twenty thousand or so dollars cash laying around? The gas-guzzlers have the advantage of finance companies associated with their dealerships, and nearly anyone can get credit to buy a fume-farter.
  • They're not standard.
    Meaning not every electric car conversion perform equally well.


    Well, boys won't admit this, but they don't all know what they're doing. Shh; )

    It's NOT rocket science to convert a gas-gobbler to electric, in general, but there apparently IS a trick to getting the system to really work well together. The best amateur conversions seem to get built by electrical engineers, and that's probably because they already know a thing or two about how to optimize electrical systems.

backyard mechanics
  • If it breaks, who's gonna fix it?
    Well, the person who did your conversion, most likely. Or YOU. The good news is, this doesn't happen very often. But it's something to think about.
  • The best conversions are still small pickup trucks.
    Not everybody wants a pickup! Personally, I'd like a Lincoln Navigator converted to electric, but this isn't the best choice with today's technology. Conversions need to be relatively light and aerodynamic (sorry, Navigator; ) while still having the bone structure and storage space to support 750 pounds of bulky batteries. External storage is safest in the event of a crash!
  • If you need more room, more power, or more speed than the Zaps and NmG's can offer, the conversion might be your answer.

    Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? Well, that's up to you - but I love the idea of having a safe, familiar car that NEVER needs gas or a tune-up.

    Wouldn't you?

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