Electric Vehicle Conversion: Saving Money by Reducing Emissions
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Electric Vehicle Conversion: Saving Money by Reducing Emissions

Image showcasing Ignition Lab Chevrolet Chevelle SS EV Tesla conversion at Electrify Showoff Austin
  • Companies sell complete electric vehicle conversion kits for vintage Volkswagen and Porsche models. 
  • EV conversion projects cost less than buying a new electric vehicle.
  • New companies are providing education and parts for EV conversion projects. 

If you want an EV, but you don’t want to spend a small fortune, you have another option. You can convert your gas-powered car into an electric vehicle. The cost of an EV conversion is a fraction of the cost of buying a new EV, and you can save even more money if you do it yourself.

For cost comparison, one of the least expensive EVs on the market today is the Tesla Model 3 with a base sticker price of just under $40,000. Converting a vehicle from gas-powered to electric ranges in price between $8,000 and $20,000.

After the conversion, your vehicle maintenance costs will drop and you’ll spend less per mile to run your EV. Best of all, you’ll give your older vehicle new life and keep it out of the junkyard.


Best Vehicles to Convert

Image care of Zelectric Motors

While any vehicle can be converted from gas to electric, lightweight vehicles with a manual transmission are preferred. Vehicle weight directly affects the battery range, as heavier vehicles require more energy.

EV conversion experts prefer vehicles with room for batteries. Cars like a Honda Civic, Ford Escort, or VW Golf have extra space for batteries. EV car conversion companies suggest choosing vehicles with good bones (minimal rust and plenty of life left in the body), a clean interior, and a dead engine.


Passion for Project Cars

Project cars have been labors of love for generations, and some of the resto-modders have been turning to EVs. They are looking for ways to push their creativity and engineering prowess.

Resto-modders have been converting their vehicles for years, as curious mechanics and DIYers wanted to see what they could accomplish with electric performance. Some got into EV conversions to stick it to OPEC, as gas prices started to skyrocket along the West Coast.


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The early adapters struggled to find parts, so they had to develop unique solutions with what was available. For example, innovators used vacuum pumps to create power-assisted brakes. Now, they can turn to electric hydraulic pump technology from General Motors or Nissan. Ironically, the OEM parts are more affordable than the early DIY parts.

Whether you hire someone to do the work for you, or you do a DIY electric vehicle conversion, you’ll need four major parts: the motor, the inverter, the battery pack, and a charger. These components determine your EV’s performance. Everything else is optional. For example, you don’t need cruise control, regenerative braking, or dashboard gauges. Once you’ve got the major component installed, the rest can be added like icing on a cake.


Parts and Education for EV Conversions

Image care of Legacy EV

While some people choose lightweight, inexpensive vehicles as their EV project cars, others are converting their vintage vehicles by working with innovative EV conversion leaders like Legacy EV. Mavrick Knoles and Rob Ward founded Legacy EV in Tempe, Arizona with the goals of honoring the past and protecting the future.

Their EV conversion kits give drivers the option to upcycle their gas-powered cars. They remove the cost barrier so more drivers can have electric vehicles. The company has curated a collection of high-quality parts along with a list of authorized installers and build-support technicians.

Legacy EV can help you convert an entire fleet of vehicles, and they provide EV education for professional and amateur mechanics, tech schools, high schools, and junior colleges.


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EV West is another leader in electric vehicle conversion kits. You’ll find EV kits to convert your Volkswagen Thing or Porsche 356 Speedster, along with instrumentation and parts for any make and model. The EV West website includes technical support, schematics libraries, and savings calculators to help you get the most out of your EV car conversion project.

Another company offering innovative conversion kits is Zelectric Motors in San Diego, CA. This small company focuses on mid-century Volkswagen and early Porsche vehicles. Their boutique shop designs “retro-futuristic experiential art on wheels.” Zelectric Motors and EV West collaborated to give a stock 1968 Porsche 911 a 400kW Tesla Model S Drive Unit. The Irish Green Porsche travels up to 145 miles on a single charge.

Image showcasing Tesla-powered VW Beetle at Electrify Showoff New York

Meet EPA Guidelines

If you decide to convert your ICE vehicle to an EV, you must make sure it meets EPA standards. For example, all vehicles that weigh less than 10,000, use more than 48 volts, and travel over 25 MPH, must meet safety standards that prevent electrolyte spillage and electric shock.

The EPA does not require certification for fully electric conversions, but the organization asks that the chassis be able to support the weight of the electrified components while still maintaining crashworthiness.


See EV Conversions at an Electrify Expo Near You

Toyo Tires booth at Electrify Expo Austin featuring electric converted vehicles

As more drivers look for ways to extend the lives of their favorite vintage cars, more EV conversions are certain to be on the horizon. You can check out some innovative EV conversion projects when Electrify Expo comes to your town.


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FEATURE IMAGE: ELECTRIFY EXPO

FTC: We use income-earning auto affiliate links. Learn more.

AUTHOR: 

KRISTEN BENTLEY

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