The automotive industry is changing rapidly. The technological changes are directly linked to the climate changes that we have observed in recent decades. New cars have to become more and more economical to comply with the legal guidelines. It goes so far that in certain cities, some cars are no longer allowed. We call this a low-emission zone (LEZ). A LEZ is a well defined area where access by some polluting cars is restricted with the aim of improving the air quality. A zero-emission zone (ZEZ) goes one step further. Here, only zero-emission cars are allowed. All internal combustion engine vehicles are banned, even hybrid vehicles. All these measures endanger the survival of our beloved classic cars. The solution could be an electric car conversion, also called an EV conversion.
What is an electric car conversion?
An electric car conversion is the modification of a classic internal combustion engine to an electric propulsion, creating an all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric car. Very technical stuff, but here is some good news: almost any vehicle can be converted in electric, also old Volkswagen classics.
How much does it cost to convert a car to electric?
One of the most important things you want to know is probably the price tag. How much does it cost to convert a car to electric? Since each car is different, we can only provide a target price. Many things have an effect on the price: how big is the car, what is the load capacity for the batteries, which batteries are used, which engine parts are used, is it a DIY job,…
The cost to convert a car to electric on your own is between $8,000 and $11,000. This doesn’t include a donor car. If you hire an electric car conversion company, the cost is between $12,000 and $18,000. This includes all necessary parts and labor.
These prices are an indication based on EV conversions in the past, so the price can always be higher according to your wishes.
The battery pack usually lasts 2 to 5 years. The cost to replace the pack, depending on the number of batteries, will range between $2,000 and $5,000. Certainly something to keep in mind.
What motor is used in electric cars?
An electric car can us a DC or AC engine. The DC engine may run on anything from 96 to 192 volts. Fun fact: many of the DC engines that are used in electric cars come from the electric forklift industry.
An AC engine is probably a three-phase AC engine running at 240 volts AC with a 300 volt battery pack.
A DC engine installation is often simpler and less expensive. The engine will be in the 20,000-watt to 30,000-watt range. The controller will be in the 40,000 to 60,000-watt range. DC motors have the nice feature that you can overdrive them (up to a factor of 10-to-1) for short periods of time. That is, a 30,000-watt motor will accept 150,000 watts for a short period of time and deliver 5 times its rated horsepower. This is great for short bursts of acceleration. The only limitation is heat build-up in the motor. Too much overdriving and the motor heats up to the point where it self-destructs.
AC engine installations allow the use of almost any industrial three-phase AC motor, and that can make finding a motor with a specific size, shape or power rating easier. AC motors and controllers often have a regeneration feature. During braking, the engine turns into a generator and delivers power back to the batteries.
How much money can you save with an electric car?
A electric classic car conversion, or any electric car conversion, can save you a lot of money. An EV conversion is a big investment, but it is certainly worth considering. You invest in many electrical components to convert the engine, but on the other hand, you save a lot on fuel in the long term. Below is a prognosis based on an American (age: 35-54y) who drives an average of 15,000 miles a year. We’ve used the current cost of gas per gallon ($) at the time of our calculation (3.10). As you will see, the net savings are very high.
|Cost of Fuel
|Cost of Electricity
DIY with an electric car conversion kit
As we mentioned before in this article, you can convert a car to electric by your own. Therefore you have to buy a DIY electric car conversion kit, also named an EV conversion kit. These kits consist of the following components:
- Transmission adapter kit
- J1772 charge
- Cooling system
- DC/DC converter
- Controller mount
The EV conversion kit is perfect for those looking for a professional fit and finish on the drive components, but are willing to build and install their own battery system.
What is the best electric motor for a car conversion?
The AM Racing AMR Dual Stack 250-AC Motor is the best electric motor for a car conversion. The motor is designed for long life use and is perfectly suited for high output daily driving applications. This high efficiency permanent magnet motor is housed in a billet aluminium case with an integrated oil pump and water / glycol heat exchanger. This is one of the most dense and powerful electric motors available on the market.
Issues when you are doing a DIY electric car conversion
When doing a DIY electric car conversion, you will run into a few issues during the decision-making process. We identified these 6 key issues for you. If you need extra information, you can read this handbook with tips and tricks.
Choose a donor car
You need a donor car as the basis for your electric car conversion. If you have a classic Volkswagen (or another car), you can use that one. If not, you probably want to use a model that others have converted many times before. Nearly any car can work. The complexity of the car will influence the total cost of the EV conversion. Be sure to look for a donor car that has enough space for the batteries to fit in.
Calculate the costs of the EV conversion
Don’t rush into things. Earlier in this article we were talking about the costs for a DIY electric car conversion. It is a heavy investment and not a simple job, however if you map out all costs in advance, it will save you a lot of frustration during the conversion process.
Decide which components you are going to use
This choice will determine the performance of your car. Will you opt for a DC system or an AC system? Which batteries will you install? Which motor meets your requirements?
Not only will these questions determine the performance of your car, they will also affect the total cost of the EV conversion. For example: an AC system will add as much as $5,000 more to the conversion. However, this system ensures a faster performance and the ability for regenerative braking.
Right now, the weak link in any electric car are the batteries. There are a few significant problems with lead-acid batteries. First and foremost, they are heavy and bulky. In addition, you have a limited capacity (a typical lead-acid battery pack might hold 12 to 15 kilowatt-hours of electricity, giving a car a range of only 50 miles or so). A consequence of this is that you have to charge them very often and they are slow to charge (typical recharge times for a lead-acid pack range between four to 10 hours for full charge, depending on the battery technology and the charger).
Batteries provide an enormous amount of extra weight
The electric car conversion requires a lot of batteries. During the process you remove a lot of weight by taking out the engine. To drive the car as original as possible, you have to put some batteries in the front and some in the back of the car (so it will drive right). If you put too much weight in the rear or in the front, the car will go all over the place.
Range and speed restrictions
A converted car is capable of driving at a speed of 65 to 75 mph. However, driving at that speed will quickly drain your batteries. That limited range remains a major issue in the EV industry.
Electric car conversion kit
When searching the internet for information about conversions, the most common ad on the web is for electric car conversion kits. These kits are often very well composed, but be aware that there are always a number of small components and pieces that you’ll need to get on your own.
Electric VW Bus conversion
An VW Bus electric conversion is not a miracle. A handful of companies have already succeeded in doing an electric VW Bus conversion. Classic cars are timeless and deserve to be driven. So in order to keep them on the road, an EV conversion might be the ultimate solution. A few years ago, Zelectric motors converted a 1964 VW bus into an all electric car. The result is really fantastic. The Bus has a clean electric motor and the batteries are housed in the custom seat base. In the past, several VW Beetles have already been converted.
Electric car conversion companies
Zelectric is an electric car conversion company that specializes in selling ready-to-drive EVs, no assembly required. They are based in San Diego, California, and they are pioneers in terms of EV conversions. Other well-known electric car conversion companies are EV West and EV Source (both US). Electric Classic Cars is an electric car conversion company based in the UK.
We hope that this article was an eye-opener for you. Electric classic cars are coming, they are already here. Without any doubt, they are the future. There are still a few flaws, but the technology will only improve in the near future. For more information, please read the Electric Vehicle Conversion Handbook.
Interested in more? Discover the new electric VW Bus or I.D. Buzz.