“If this is the future, I’m not that worried.” ~ Jay Leno (after driving the Tesla electric car)
Have soaring gas prices driven you to the point of desperation?
Are you incredulous watching those numbers go up as you patiently pump that black gold stuff into your gas tank? Are you convinced that renting a horse and wagon to commute back and forth from work would be cheaper than using your own car?
Well, you are not alone, even though that won’t help or lighten your expenses in any way.
The painful reality is that this year gas prices are soaring out of control and nearing in some places $5 per gallon. To fill the average gas tank by these standards can roll up to $60 and $70 bucks per vehicle and even higher sometimes. That’s a lot of green stuff for that black stuff and the situation is not likely to improve in the near future.
Are you looking at the vehicle parked in your driveway and crying, why are you doing this to my family and me? Well, why not is one answer, or at the very least, part of one. Why not convert the car you have into one that is both more economical and truly sustainable?
In 1996 there were only 3,280 electric vehicles in the entire United States.
By 2007, there were more than 55,000!
President Obama has established a national goal for the year 2015 as one marked by one million all-electric vehicles on American highways.
What are the costs and real benefits of an electric conversion?
The cost of an electric car conversion involves a broad range of issues, which include: the specific vehicle being converted, the quantity and technology of the batteries and the drive system.
Many experts estimate the costs between $8,000 and $11,000, although Les Oke from Convert 2 Ev (convert-to-ev.com) claims many of those implementing his unique method have done it for $500 and less!
A typical conversion, if using all new parts, costs between $5,000 and $10,000, but this is excluding the cost of the donor vehicle and labor. If you are planning to hire a company to do it, the cost may fall anywhere between $12,000 and $18,000, including all the necessary parts and labor.
The cost of replacing the car’s battery pack is the only drawback. Lead-acid batteries are the most common type used and they are known to last approximately two to five years.
These figures can also be adversely affected by ambient temperature, air moisture, terrain and the way a driver operates the vehicle. Depending on the number of batteries needed, replacements costs could be as high as between $2,000 and $5,000.
Again, these are just industry estimates (it can be done for MUCH less) and like with everything else in life, those that know the tricks and secrets of the game are the ones to learn from!
Anyway, back to industry standards…
Before you pass out, consider what is involved and what you are getting for your money. The entire internal combustion engine from a vehicle must be removed and replaced by an electric motor. This takes time, and time as we all know, is money. If you make sure that all cables are tight and secure, your converted vehicle will become a zero-emissions vehicle that will require little or no maintenance, have a range of 60-80 miles, a top speed of 50-90 MPH, and above average acceleration capabilities.
Operational costs are lower with electrical vehicles as gas- powered cars cost the owner on average about $1,800 per year for fuel, not to mention, the added expense of engine maintenance and oil changes. Electric cars resell better as well, and are more reliable due to the fact that they have fewer parts that can fail.
The engine of an electric car has an infinite lifespan, which most humans would die for (forgive the pun). It usually takes about 6-12 hours to completely recharge the car. All of the above factors will vary, based on the weight of the car you convert, and the type of engine and batteries you install.
Any four-cylinder manual transmission can work, but common sense dictates that the best choice for a donor car is a model that has been converted successfully many times before.
Michael Brown, author of Convert It, recommends a car that is light and roomy if economics and efficiency are your primary priorities. The best options include a small affordable car, like a Chevy Aveo, Geo Metro, or Honda Civic.
If maximum driving range is your goal, a small pickup such as a Chevy S10 or Ford Ranger that can accommodate all the batteries are workable choices.
How do you begin to convert your car from gas to electric?
Handymen and backyard mechanics perform most electric car conversions, but don’t panic if you are not a mechanic (hey, that rhymes). You do need, however, to have a lot of patience and some basic skills and knowledge (or a qualified next-door neighbor who is always available for consultation. An insomniac is best, as there’s no disturbing such a person ever.)
A basic knowledge of wiring and electricity is necessary. How many projects earnestly started have ended with the fatal question: what’s that switch for? Even if you can team up with someone who has more skills than you do, it behooves you to do some research to increase your knowledge about electric car conversion.
There are many web sites that discuss techniques and where to get parts; check out EValbum.com.
There are two options when it comes to motors. You can use either an AC or a DC motor, but the latter is preferable. You might even be able to find one in a scrap yard.
Avoid Electric Car Conversion Kits
According to experts, the problem with most of these kits is that while they come equipped with most of the essential components, they are rarely complete and comprehensive. They do not contain step-by- step instructions and most of them do not include batteries or chargers. In the long run, it’s a lot cheaper to buy the components yourself.
Let the conversion begin
To begin the process, you will need: a donor car, a dry secure location to work, as the process may take many months depending on the amount of time you can dedicate to the project and a wide assortment of different sized band-aids and hand tools (but not necessarily in that order).
A typical conversion uses a DC controller and a DC motor and the typical voltage utilized is anything between 96 volts and 192 volts. This is an important decision as this choice controls the number of batteries required and the type of motor controller the car will eventually use. Usually, the electric forklift industry is the source of the motors and controllers used in these conversions.
Proceed without passing go or collecting $200
1. The first thing to do is remove the engine from the vehicle as well as the gas tank, clutch, exhaust system and radiator.
2. Using custom mounting brackets mount the motor and attach an adapter plate to the transmission.
3. Create a gear reduction by pinning the existing manual transmission in first or second gear. This is vital for an electric motor as it allows for maximum efficiency.
4. Mount the controller.
5. Install the batteries and build brackets that will safely store all the batteries in reserve. Batteries that are sealed are very versatile in terms of storage as they can be turned on their sides and fitted into many unexpected corners.
6. Use #00 gauge welding cable to wire the batteries and motor to the controller.
7. You will need to wire up and mount an electric motor for the power steering pump if the car has power steering.
8. Unless you really like to drip sweat and swelter in the summer heat without air conditioning, you will also need to wire up and mount an electric motor for the A/C compressor.
9. For heating purposes (whenever you are not dripping and/or sweating) you can install either a small electric water heater and plumb it into the existing heater core, or a small ceramic electric space heater.
10. If the car has power brakes, you will have to install a vacuum pump in order to properly operate the brake booster.
11. Install a charging system.
12. In order to power the accessory battery, you will need to install a DC-to-DC converter.
13. Instead of a gas gauge, install a volt meter in your new conversion. This is necessary because it will enable you to detect alterations in the battery pack.
14. Install potentiometers (like a joystick) by hooking to the accelerator pedal and connecting to the controller.
15. Depending on whether you use an AC or DC motor for your conversion, you may need to install some sort of reverse switch and wire to the controller.
The majority of home conversions using DC motors utilize the reverse gear which is built into the transmission, while AC motors with advanced controllers run the motor in reverse and require only a simple switch that sends a reverse message to the controller.
16. The car’s battery pack must have the ability to connect and disconnect from the controller, which is accomplished by installing a large relay (also known as a contactor).
This relay acts as an ignition as it turns the car to on mode when you are ready to drive it. It must be able to transport hundreds of amps and break without holding an arc 96 to 300 volts DC.
17. The ignition switch has to be rewired, as it must be able to turn on all the new equipment, including the contactor.
The new electric car is ready even if you aren’t, once everything is installed and tested.
The most obvious reason to convert a car to electric is to save money. But there are other secret, inner victories as well. You will find yourself feeing as if you are a part of the coolest, greenest, most sustainable household on the block. And there’s more.
Now you will be able to grasp the unique power of driving past gas stations with your tongue sticking out just as far as the law will allow. This is also of primary significance, as some things (triumph and revenge for example) are far more important and satisfying than saving money.
Before I end, I mentioned this earlier: there are FAR easier and cheaper ways to convert your car to electric with magnificent results. Les Oke from Convert 2 Ev (convert-to-ev.com) shows you one of them (plus a cool video of an actor you would never imagine uses this method!).