Upgrade Your Drive: 7 Steps to Convert a Gas-Burning Car to an Electric Vehicle
Owning an EV has never been more popular, and for good reason. Today’s electric vehicles are cleaner and more reliable, and they offer greater range than previous generations. They can also play an important role in combating climate change.
These go a long way toward explaining why the number of Americans who want to switch to electric transportation has risen to 38%. For many would-be EV drivers, however, there’s a major obstacle: cost. Even a lower-cost new EV can come at a price of tens of thousands of dollars, and while the used EV market is growing, they’re still out of reach for many.
The solution can come as a surprise: it’s possible to convert a gas car to electric power at a fraction of the cost of a new EV. Want to learn how? Then, take a look at the process in the guide below.
How Does Electric Car Conversion Work?
Electric car conversion involves removing the internal combustion engine and connected components and systems from a car. They’re then replaced with an electric vehicle crate motor, a controller, and an EV battery pack. Alternatively, the electric propulsion systems from a fully electric car can be transplanted into a vehicle in place of the internal combustion components.
The process usually goes something like this.
1. Remove the Old Equipment
First, you’ll need to remove the original gas-burning engine, gas tank, gearbox, exhaust, radiator, and fuel lines. If you don’t have an electronically controlled transmission, you’ll have to remove that, too. Hoses and wires connecting the original engine and connected systems will also have to come out.
2. Install the Electric Motor
Next, you’ll need to connect the new electric crate motor or salvaged EV motor to the transmission and secure it in the engine bay. It may be necessary to weld in a frame or supports to hold the new engine in place.
3. Install the Controller
A controller converts direct current (DC) power into alternating current (AC) power for use by the motor, distributes it, and regulates the torque generated by the battery pack. Installing this will give you the ability to accelerate and decelerate in your newly converted vehicle.
4. Install the Battery Pack
You’ll need to select a space within the vehicle large enough to accommodate the new battery pack. This may be the trunk, or it may be possible to install the new power source in the now-empty space where the gas tank was previously mounted.
5. Rewire the Car
Now it’s time to connect the motor and the battery pack to the controller and to reconnect secondary systems like the stereo and lighting to the battery.
6. Install New Power Steering and Brakes
The hydraulic power steering systems found in many conventional cars take up a lot of space under the hood, and they’re designed to draw power from the internal combustion engine.
Since you’re getting rid of that, you’ll need to install an electric power steering system to make driving more comfortable. It’s also a good idea to install a regenerative braking system to conserve and restore power to the battery.
7. Install a Charging Port
Finally, you’ll need to install a charging port to keep your new battery pack powered up. If possible, it’s best to install the port on or under the gas tank door. Alternatively, you can install it under the hood.
The Benefits of EV Conversion
Running and maintaining an ICE car requires a lot of money, from paying for fuel to regular oil changes and parts replacements. Fuel is a particularly relevant expense. The nationwide average cost of a gallon of gas is around $3.85, so to fill the average 12-gallon fuel tank, you’re looking at a cost of $46.20.
Compare that to electricity. The average cost of one kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity is $0.17. Americans drive an average of 14,263 miles a year, or 1,188 miles a month. Since you can travel about three to four miles per kWh, that works out to a cost of about $67 a month for level 2 EV charging.
A typical gas-burning car gets 24.20 miles to the gallon, giving it a range of 290 miles on a single tank of fuel. In other words, you’d have to fill up at least four times a month for a monthly cost of about $185 to keep an ICE car on the road—a clear advantage for EVs.
Furthermore, EV parts typically wear out more slowly than those in gas-burning vehicles due to heat and friction. To convert a gas car to electric power is, therefore, a great way to cut lifetime maintenance costs and extend the service life of your vehicle.
And beyond all that, EVs are more eco-friendly. Plenty of drivers care about the environment but don’t have the budget for or interest in buying a new EV. With an EV conversion, you can take advantage of lower expenses — a conversion can cost as little as $7,000 — while reducing your environmental footprint.
Electric car conversion isn’t for everyone, and as more EVs hit dealership lots, it’ll become easier to pick up a quality used EV for less. But if you have a car you’re especially fond of, or you want to cut down on waste even more, conversion can be the perfect way to make a positive impact without limiting your range.