Top 7 Issues for an Electric Car Conversion HybridCars com

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Yank out the Install a motor, converter and And off you go in your electric car. But There are issues to consider. by:

Consumers eager to get the wheel of an electric car have crushing disappointment for many But now, they may finally their chance. Major companies—like Ford.

Chevy and —plan to roll out the next of practical, affordable plug-in in 2011 or 2012. Niche like Tesla. Fisker. and are also hitting the market.

But if you can’t wait two or three for an EV? Or if you don’t have deep pockets for a Tesla? What if you believe car companies press

There’s an answer for those and impatient souls: An electric car . But be prepared for major compromises to the limits of your skepticism and

A Test of Patience

“It all depends on how you are,” said Steve president of the Seattle Electric Association. In fact, Lough—who has active in promoting electric for almost 30 years—is anguishing the decision to convert now or wait it Fellow Seattle EV association are encouraging Lough to convert his Honda Insight into an car, but he’s got his heart set on the new EV scheduled for release in 2011.

frankly, I’m on the fence. Do I spend on a used converted Honda or on a new Nissan?” pondered Lough in an with As the previous of five electric vehicles, is well aware of the tradeoffs it comes to driving range, battery replacements, and safety “It all comes down to the urgency. can work and be less expensive a new car, but it’s not a new car.”

Mark Hazen, of Florida-based also has his eyes wide regarding the pros and cons of car conversions. His website provides reference material and hands-on for backyard tinkerers doing EV “I am an EV advocate, but I’m also realist,” he “I’m not one of the EV advocates that snow you, and talk about all the wonderful things it. I’m also going to tell you the things, and let you make an intelligent for yourself.” Hazen believes some people will go after knowing about the costs and drawbacks—mostly motivated by a to be green, and for the sheer joy of driving a gas-free electric car that attention and admiration from and passers-by.

Cost is a major according to Mike Moore, who South Carolina-based Ampmobile with his wife Paula. The and wife team converts or six vehicles per year for its customers. Chevy Volt is going to about $40,000, but a conversion about $15,000,” said “Until the car companies can get the prices control, people will conversions. It’s going to be that for quite a while.” sees dramatic interest in from all across the country.

His list includes people Texas to New Jersey.

After with Lough, Hazen and we identified these 7 key issues in decision-making process.

1 Choose A Car

To state the obvious, you’ll a donor car to use as the basis for your The gasoline engine will be removed and replaced with a controller, and lots of batteries. any four-cylinder manual transmission can work, but you’ll probably to use a model that others converted many times In this way, your wheels won’t need to Moore recommends using an compact car, like a Aveo, Geo Metro, or Honda if economics and efficiency are your top

If you are trying to maximize driving go with a small pickup has room for all the batteries. A Chevy S10 or Ranger are common choices.

If you your heart set on your electric dream car, any car can work. But each level of and uniqueness requires more and consideration—and therefore probably cost. It’s not impossible to do a from an automatic transmission,” Hazen. “It just wastes and is not practical.”

The extensive database of cars—mostly conversions—at can as an informal shopping guide. The is searchable by make, model, and location. Each entry the basics of how the vehicle was converted.

2 Costs

The cost of doing an car conversion (DC system) on your according to our three experts, is $8,000 and $11,000—not including the car. If you hire a company to do the expect to spend in the range of and $18,000, including all the necessary and labor. There are reports of car conversion as high as $25,000, but above $20,000 is price

It’s hard to get more about costs, because a broad range of issues to the specific vehicle being the quantity and technology of the batteries, the system, and the quality of the work and charged by the conversion company.

said there’s virtually no especially if you make sure cables are tight and secure. said the electricity costs are about $100 to $200 per although Hazen warns the common figure of $0.02 per is overused and exaggerated, and that all utility costs and efficiencies are the price per mile is closer to to $0.07.

The only “gotcha” is the cost of the car’s battery pack. electric car conversions, almost exception, use lead acid which will last two to five years. The cost to the pack, depending on the number of will range between and $5,000.

3 Make Technology Batteries and Electric System

all the buzz about lithium ion and the proven success of nickel hydride in today’s hybrid cars, you should expect converted EV to run on lead acid It’s simply too hard to reliable and affordable lithium or batteries. Moore has tested ion batteries, loves how they but can’t promise that will last long to make them cost-effective at time.

In terms of various acid batteries, the group recommends Absorbed Glass Mat batteries over flooded which require monitoring and

With lead acid expect overnight charging of approximately six to eight hours.

the limited energy and power of acid batteries, and rudimentary or battery management systems, a DC is recommended. An AC system, which an inverter-controller (and provides the for regenerative braking), will add as as $5,000 more to the conversion—and is considered too costly for the benefits. Moore thinks it’s strictly a matter of cost.

He going from DC to AC is like from six-cylinder to an eight-cylinder gas “If you have the money,” he said, “I the AC system is the best bet because of its Faster performance and the ability for braking are the chief advantages of an AC

4 Consider Major Technical Battery Weight

An example of the you can find on Mike of Mountain View, Cal. his 1991 Geo Metro into an electric car. He writes, car is very fun to drive and very People are amazed when I them a test drive.” drives in third gear about 0 to 60 mph, and says Bluie will burn in first gear and reverse. installed a new bank of batteries his old set of “Marine SMR 31s” died only 1,000 miles.

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The new batteries (right) are bolted with a metal rod, and tucked away under a and the back seat.

“There are no challenges whatsoever on the motors, and chargers,” said Lough. all been perfected 20 years Perhaps the biggest technical is finding a place for a thousand or pounds of batteries. “The part is figuring out where to the weight around the car. We a lot of weight by taking the engine said Moore. “You to put some in the front and some in the to get it as close to original as possible, so it drive right.” He warns putting too much weight in the and the front “is going to go all over the Put too much in the back and it’ll be to steer.

5 Confront Limited Speed

The limited range of electric cars remains a issue. Steve Lough is upfront with perspective EV who will accept nothing than 50 or 60 miles of range. “I them, ‘I don’t think is going to work for you.’” the driving range between can be as high as 50 miles, Hazen it clear that you don’t to run your batteries all the way down to state of charge. That significantly decrease the life of batteries, and besides, it’s to not know if you are going to make it home. In driving in Central Hazen says, “Lead batteries will take you the freeway maybe one exit, and you have to find a place to get off and up.”

So, while converted EVs are commonly of 65 to 70 mph, driving at that will quickly drain batteries. “It takes a lot of energy to run at speed,” Hazen said. acid is really not for freeway But for around town, on streets at 40 you can go a long way. That’s the longer range numbers in.”

6 Shop for Conversion

If you are sold on the economic, environmental, and benefits of an electric car conversion, but want to get your hands there are dozens of companies the country that will do the for you. But how do you find a good Steve Lough recommends through your friendly electric auto association.

In one swoop, you’ll get advice and from dozens of local who have already been the process.

Beyond that, sense prevails. Check the of the company owners, and get a long of previous customers. Then them, and try to arrange a time to ride in—their work.

suggests that you determine “if the is neat, clean, and well Moore adds, “Don’t be to check references and do research. the Internet, it’s easy to see if a has complaints.”

7 Pass Up on Conversion Kits

The common advertisement on the web is for “electric car kits.” But our three experts that the kits will get you so far. The panel agrees no kit is complete and comprehensive. Even if you buy a kit for a specific vehicle, there are to be a number of small components and that you’ll need to get on own. Moore said, “I to call it a component package—not a by step set of instructions with you need. Most do not include or chargers.” He also warns to be of the driving range and max speed many kit providers promise.

a do-it-yourselfer, thinks it’s a lot to buy the components yourself. Basically, you are somebody a big premium to assemble the components into one package. Of if you are using a conversion company, a kit help you.

As you can see, a little commitment and a fair of cash, an electric car could be in immediate future. Do not pass go. Do not $200.

Go directly to emissions- and EV.

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