Ready to take the step and do an electric car conversion on your ride, but don’t know where to begin? We’ll tell you all you need to know to get started.

Gas prices are soaring, and your wallet is roaring? Ready for the switch from a gasoline-powered ride to a hybrid electric ride but can’t afford the new Tesla? Try an electric car conversion. Converting your gas-powered car used to cost a pretty penny, but these days, it’s less expensive than you think. Your first step is researching your options. Although each model of vehicle is different, we’ve done most of the legwork for you. As you pursue your gas to electric car conversion, you’ll need to research in several different areas before completing the connection to a charging station.

The good news is that, as electric vehicles become more popular, many municipalities are installing charging stations. Some are free to connect to. Others use credit card and debit pay systems to allow you to pay onsite for a charge. Much like paying at the pump at your local gas station. Are you ready to live your dream?

Things to Consider Before Performing an Electric Car Conversion

The type of vehicle and amenities make a difference.

One of the first things you will want to consider is what type of vehicle you are looking into conversion for. The gas to electric car conversion can be done on just about every known vehicle. The hurdle comes when the weight of the vehicle enters the equation.

The light-weight Yugo that Aunt Susie had parked in her garage for the last 25 years with a blown engine would be optimal. The Old Hudson Pick-Up truck that Uncle Hank had in the other stall? Not so easy and definitely not so inexpensive. Also keep in mind that all-power vehicles will require extra power to run add-ons. Things to consider are air conditioning, power steering, windows, door locks, and those wonderful heated seats. Every addition to the power requirement will add dollars to the end cost of your project.

What will you be using your electrical vehicle for? Will this be your everyday, drive to work and do the grocery shopping ride? Or just a weekend cruiser to show off your beach bod in? Or your dad bod if that’s how you roll. Do you need something the will perform at highway speeds or just neighborhood roads? Will most of your usage be local, or do you plan on driving to your cabin in the woods every weekend?

Your answers to the vast checklist of questions you must ask yourself will determine the type of conversion you need and the cost. You will incur cost increases for each extra, so choosing wisely will allow you to set a realistic budget and avoid most surprises later (most… not all). There is an old saying around the race circuits:

Speed costs money. How fast do you want to spend?

Has anyone converted the same type of vehicle already?

If you select a vehicle that is common for gas to electric car conversion, your choices of available research are greatly improved. If you’re doing a conversion that has never been done before, you’ll have more hurdles to jump. Cars that are frequent flyers in the conversion world also have readily available parts, kits, instructions, and options.

You will have to take your new electric vehicle to the Department of Motor Vehicles for reclassification. They will perform inspections for safety, road viability, and whatever else is specified in their state requirements. Since each state varies, it is best to heck with your particular state to find out their exact requirements. If your type of conversion has been done by someone else previously and received good grades from the DMV in your state you’ll have an easier time.

You can also upgrade an older model electric vehicle. The cost savings over a complete gas to electric conversion might be worth looking into. Most older cars had lead acid or nickel cadmium batteries and inefficient charging systems. Replacing the old batteries with a newer lithium ion battery system will lighten the vehicle. A new, more efficient charging system will also decrease weight and increase performance.

What you Need to Convert Your Vehicle

Should you do it yourself or hire a professional?

If you’re a handy, backyard mechanic type of person and you enjoy working on cars, then DIY is definite money-saver. You will know your new electric car intimately. There aren’t any hard statistics, but some say that approximately 90 percent of all DIY conversions never see completion.

Hiring a professional will automatically add about $10,000 or more to your price tag. The benefits are that your vehicle will be road-worthy and pass that state inspection with flying colors. You won’t have the headaches associated with figuring out how to make everything work. If you do hire a professional, shop around. Check references. Speak with previous customers. Keep in mind the old saying, “Buyer Beware.” Doing research before signing a contract can save you from a lot of future headaches.

Related: “Building Your Own Electric Car: How to Do It and Save Money.

Cost Estimates for an Electric Car Conversion

Conversion kits can start for as low as $1,000 for common kits on vehicles that are frequently converted. The type of battery you select and the charging system will also figure into the cost. Depending on the level of performance you want, an electric car conversion can cost anywhere from $500-$25,000. Popular models for conversions are Volkswagen Beetlebugs, Hondas and Geo Metros because they’re small and light with plenty of parts and kits available. Lightweight pickup trucks like the Ford Ranger and Chevy S10 are also popular, because they can fit more batteries.

In a nutshell… If you have a smaller vehicle and plan on going just short distances at below highway speed, you can do it cheaper. Bud Wren, a mechanic from Illinois, converted his 1988 Mazda B2200 pickup truck for just under $1,000.

If you’ve got a larger vehicle and want to travel longer distances and expect your current level of performance, you’ll need to pay more. A lot more, as Richard Van White from EV4U explains. This guru and enthusiast runs a shop for custom electric car conversions, teaches workshops, and hosts a YouTube video channel.

Here’s his video on the cost of converting your car from gas to electric if you want high performance and all the bells and whistles.

Ways You Can Save

There are some ways to save a few dollars. Haunt your local salvage yard and look for an electric vehicle that has been in an accident but has an intact battery. Buying a used battery offers no warranty, but the initial cost savings might be worth it. Other bargains might be found by checking for supply companies that have failed. Their left-over inventory is often sold off for pennies.

One area you shouldn’t skimp on is your Battery Management System (BMS). This is basically the computer that controls the discharge of your battery during operation. A good BMS promotes a longer battery life and more efficient operation. Lithium-ion batteries require a “smart” BMS and a “smart” charger. “Smart” can add several thousand dollars to your costs.

Related: “Finding Parts for Your Electric Car Is Way Easier Than You Think.”

Issues You Might Discover Before, During, or After?

Cost is probably first and foremost on every list. The cost of a new electric car runs from $35,000 to $40,000 or more. The cost of converting an existing vehicle is half. According to Hybrid Cars:

The cost of doing an electric car conversion (DC system) on your own, according to our three experts, is between $8,000 and $11,000—not including the donor car. If you hire a company to do the conversion, expect to spend in the range of $12,000 and $18,000, including all the necessary parts and labor.

Don’t buy a kit and expect it to be absolutely complete. If you decide to DIY, expect to find something you will need that is not included. Going into a project with your eyes wide open will save a lot of headaches later.

One last caution — don’t forget that you will need to install a charging station. A slow charger can be less expensive, but will take longer to replenish your vehicle batteries. A quick charger will get you back on the road faster, but will cost more initially.

Enjoy your new electric car conversion!

Featured image CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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