Gavin Shoebridge – an electric vehicle nut, a keen environmentalist

                Electric Car Conversion Blog By Gavin Shoebridge

February 24th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Converting Gasoline Cars to Electric

Almost every major auto manufacturer has plans underway for all-electric cars to be manufactured within the decade, yet it’s not soon enough for hundreds of ordinary car owners from around the globe.

Every year, they take matters into their own hands, remove the engines from their existing gasoline cars, and replace them with a stack of batteries and an electric motor. All in their effort to save money on gas, help the environment, or both.

The USA is king in this arena according to EValbum.com, with the highest number of home conversions in the world: well over 1,500 cars registered with the number constantly growing.

Part of the reason for this is that most of the components required for a typical conversion are American made, making them convenient and affordable without high shipping costs. Items like the electric motor which attaches to your car’s existing gearbox, the wiring, the fuses–even lead-acid batteries themselves–are usually manufactured inside the USA.

While the rest of the world may quietly snicker at the reputation of American-made cars, the quality of American made electric car components is a whole different story.

Companies like Advanced DC, which makes large electric motors, and Zilla, which makes high performance motor controllers, build their equipment in the United States yet export internationally to eager buyers.

The internationally known reputation of American-made electric vehicle components is one of the main reasons Chinese manufacturers, while offering much cheaper alternatives, are having a hard time breaking into the home-conversion market.

Another reason Americans are adopting home conversions is due to financial incentives: Electric conversions are eligible for a Federal income tax credit of 10 percent of the cost of the conversion (up to $4,000), and some states offer their own additional incentives.

California, for example, offers anything from discounted insurance to discounted electricity, all the way to carpool lane access for electric-car drivers.

It’s not all “puppies and rainbows,” however. Before you run into your garage with a wrench in one hand and a battery in the other, there are downsides to home conversions you should know about. The main issues are the cost and the weight of the batteries.

To cut costs, many converters use lead-acid batteries, similar in weight and size to the ones used to start cars.

Problem is, in order to drive about 40 miles, you’d need around 800 lbs (362 kg) of batteries in the back of your car. To drive 100 miles with lead batteries, you’d end up with more weight in batteries than most vehicles could handle.

It gets worse. Every three to four years, the average lead battery pack needs to be replaced, at a cost of around $2500 US. While much cheaper than three or four years’ worth of gasoline, this lump sum is enough to put many people off converting their cars.

The only real solution to the range and replacement problems is to use lithium cells in your home converted electric car, like those in your laptop or cellphone. This isn’t a cheap option, but the batteries are far superior.

At around a third of the weight of lead batteries, with more capacity per pound and a 10-plus-year lifespan, these batteries seem the obvious choice. However, expect to pay around $12,000 US for enough lithium batteries to travel 100 miles.

In short, if you want a converted car capable of traveling 100 miles on a charge, you’d better be willing to spend up large on batteries.

But it may not be all doom and gloom though, when put into perspective. General Motor’s compact 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle is expected to start selling in limited supply at the end of this year at a retail cost of $40,000. This could mean that home electric car conversions may still be the cheapest option for years to come for those on a budget.

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  • bruce
    7:10 pm on February 10th, 2013 1

    I have a 94 firebird. I plan on using the engine to recharged the batteries on longer runs. about 80 percent of the trips I do are fairly short, between 10k to 40k. any help on the type of electric motors to use and how to set things up would be great

  • Ben
    8:44 am on August 31st, 2017 2

    Good day,

    I would like to build an electric car out of an old mini. Where can I find more info, (I know very little), but before I spend lots of money on my car I would like to do the math first. So please help me with all the things I need to take in consideration.

    Thanks

  • Joe Nardella
    9:58 pm on October 28th, 2017 3

    Converting 1991 Geo Metro to electric

  • Joe Nardella
    7:26 pm on November 3rd, 2017 4

    Need conversion for 1991 Geo Metro from gas to electric

 

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