Finding parts for electric cars is hard enough. But when it comes to narrowing down the best car parts for your specific model, this can become a near-impossible task.
To get around this, we put together the ultimate guide to finding the top car parts for your electric car, hybrid car, or gas to electric conversion. So read on to discover the best tips and tricks for locating not only the best, maximum-value deals but also the most reliable and efficient components for your ride.
The Anatomy of the Electric Car
There are many parts for electric cars. Most of these overlap with your traditional gas guzzler, such as the brakes and transmission. However, it is important to understand where the internal components of an electric car differ from their gas-powered counterparts.
For gas to electric conversions, the various parts of electric cars attach to the existing transmission system. For this to work, several important parts need to be compatible with the transmission that comes with your base model car. Check with your local mechanic or electric car parts company to confirm that the parts you select are compatible.
There are seven main electric car parts that differ from the standard gas-powered car. To make it easy for you, we put together a definitive electric car parts list. Each item on the list will have to be purchased and installed in order to convert a car to electric. Check it out below.
- Motor (AC or DC system)
- Power Inlet
- Charging Cord
- Heater (optional)
Remember, electric cars still consist of all the same components as gas powered cars. Braking and steering systems, for example, are largely identical to those found in all other car models. So while they are necessary features, we excluded these components from our guide.
There are few electric vehicle parts more essential than the motor. Plain and simple—without the motor there is no car. Alongside the batteries and the controller, the motor makes up the heart of the electric car.
When the motor receives power from the batteries via the controller unit, the motor housing begins to pulse at roughly 15,000 cycles per second. This pulsation is undetectable to human ears, and we at NoFillUp find that pretty awesome. It is this rapid pulsation that propels the wheels of the car to spin, thus bringing the car to life.
Finding the Right Motor
Personally, we have had luck using both new and secondhand motors. If you can find a lightly used DC motor in your local classifieds, we suggest checking it out. If there are no immediate signs of wear and tear, it might be worth taking a chance on it. In most markets, electric motors are rare yard sale or Craigslist finds, so don’t hesitate to check it out if you find one available.
If you want to err on the safe side, there are loads of reliable DC motors to choose from. For the maximum torque for the lowest price, we recommend the D&D ES-15-6 72V DC Motor. If you’re after something a bit more heavy-duty, then we suggest the DLC-28 Brushless PMAC 24-120V.
When it comes to finding the right parts for electric cars, it all comes down to finding the perfect adapter. This is because the motor won’t be of much use to you unless a proper adapter can connect it to the transmission system. Basically, the adapter is a metal plate that links the manual transmission to the electric motor.
Finding the Right Adapter
Since adapters are critical for any gas to electric conversion car, we do not recommend building your own. Although they may look like relatively simple pieces of equipment, the slightest construction error can ruin your whole drivetrain. You can, however, buy a used model even if it shows signs of general wear. These things last a long time, so you should not have to worry about longevity.
Whether you decide to buy one new or used, make sure that the adapter is specially made for your base model. If you’re driving a Nissan, you will need a Nissan adapter; if you drive a Mazda, you will need a Mazda adapter, and so on. We recommend EV West’s motor adapter page for top-quality plates at competitive prices.
The coupler is among the smallest parts for electric cars. It is a tiny metal device that connects to the ends of the motor shaft and the direct-drive transmission. It serves an important function, as the coupler will break to protect the motor from damage if the drivetrain seizes up. This makes couplers your best friend, as they can save you lots of money if disaster strikes.
Finding the Right Coupler
In almost all cases, the coupler will be included with either your motor or your adapter. Since the coupler needs to be compatible with these components, we do not recommend buying them on their own. Instead, always insist that your coupler come bundled with either of the other two parts.
In our opinion, there are no electric vehicle parts more important than the batteries. The batteries provide all the power necessary to fuel the motor and propel the wheels of the car.
The quality of batteries varies widely, and cheap ones can sever the range of your vehicle. For this reason, we always recommend new, premium-grade lithium batteries. Unfortunately, battery technology is still in its nascent stage of development. This makes the batteries one of the most expensive aspects of electric car ownership.
Finding the Right Batteries
Here at NoFillUp, we recommend going no lower than 72 combined volts when it comes to your total electric vehicle energy supply. This means you will need approximately 24 units of CALB 180 Ah SE Series batteries to fuel a compact electric car, or for more power-intensive cars (>96V systems) you could opt for the Enerdel MP320 22 kWh Battery Pack.
Also, don’t forget to pick up a metal tray that can be welded under the hood. This provides a necessary compartment for the batteries to be stored in alongside the controller and motor.
The controller unit is essentially an intermediary between the DC motor and the batteries that fuel it. In fact, it is located under the hood specifically between those two components, as it must connect to both. Essentially, the controller is responsible for taking the full 72 or 96 volts of power stored in the batteries and delivering them to the motor.
The driver’s pedal is also attached to the controller. This is critically important, as the pressure applied on the accelerator pedal determines exactly how much voltage the controller delivers to the motor. In a max 96V system, if the driver pushes the pedal all the way down then all 96V will be transferred. By contrast, only 48V will be delivered if the pedal is applied 50%.
Clearly, the controller is a crucially important element to any electric car. As such, you should never cheap out on a good controller. After all, a motor is only worth as much as its controller.
Finding the Right Controller
We recommend buying a new controller off of a reputable vendor such as EV West or Canadian Electric Car Parts Ltd. For maximum value, we suggest going with something that retails between $1,000 and $2,000 US. We think the ZEVA MC600C DC Controller or the HPEVS Curtis 1234e 72V Controller would perfectly suffice for those looking to power a small-to-midsize electric car.
Power Inlets and Charging Cords
In an electric car, the power inlet (or power receptacle) replaces the gas tank. The charging cord transfers energy from a power source, such as the socket in your garage, to the receptacle within the car. These parts are both necessary for recharging your car’s batteries.
Finding the Right Inlet and Charging Cord
We’ll be honest with you—any old extension cord will get the job done. Most of the charging cords sold specifically for electric vehicles are no more than glorified, flashy backyard extension cords. When it comes to inlets, however, we recommend going with a reliable J1772 32A and a J1772 mounting plate to install it in lieu of a gas tank.
Tips and Hacks for Getting the Best Deal
Now that you know the ins and outs of electric vehicles, you need to be able to find the best deal to maximize the value of your investment. For this, we have put together a quick list of some of our best advice for snagging that “too good to be true” bargain on electric car parts.
- Know when to buy used and when not to
- Check out your local junkyard and scrap yard for clunkers
- Search local classifieds for throwaway bolts to use during installation
- Know when to consult a professional (i.e. don’t bite off more than you can chew)
- Call a local electric car parts company about off-season discounts
- If you’re converting, sell your old engine, radiator, and muffler for extra cash