How to Convert Your Old Gas Guzzler Into an Electric Vehicle on the Cheap
Converting an old gas vehicle into an electric vehicle (EV) can be an economical and environmentally-friendly way to get around. Here’s my guide on how I did it on the cheap.
Assessing Vehicle Compatibility
Before getting started, determine if your vehicle is a good candidate for an EV conversion. The best vehicles to convert are:
- Small and lightweight – Less than 3,000 lbs is ideal. The heavier the vehicle, the more batteries you’ll need which increases costs.
- Rear wheel drive – Easier to replace the gas engine with an electric motor.
- Manual transmission – Automatic transmissions are more complicated to adapt.
SUVs, trucks, and 4x4s are not recommended as they are heavier and harder to convert.
To assess your vehicle, look up the curb weight and drive type. Inspect the engine bay and transmission – more room makes the conversion easier. Ideally choose a vehicle with few miles that’s in good mechanical shape.
Sourcing EV Conversion Components
The main components needed are:
- Electric motor – Look for a used forklift, golf cart, or EV motor from a salvage yard.Aim for an AC induction motor rated for your vehicle’s weight.
- Motor controller – Matches the motor and batteries to the vehicle drivetrain. Get one capable of at least 500amps continuous current.
- Batteries – Lithium ion batteries provide the best range but are expensive. For budget builds, use lead acid batteries from forklifts or solar storage banks. Plan for at least 10 kWh.
- Battery charger – Choose one compatible with your battery bank voltage. Minimum 3kW rated power.
- DC-DC converter – Steps down high voltage from the battery bank to power accessories.
- Wiring, fuses, contactors, gauges – Essential safety and monitoring equipment.
Check online EV forums, Craigslist, and scrap yards to source used and recycled parts. Building battery packs from old laptop batteries can also save money.
EV Conversion Process Step-by-Step
Converting a gas vehicle into an EV is an intensive process. Here are the key steps:
1. Design and Planning
- Calculate vehicle weight, daily range needs, and electrical loads to size motor and battery bank accordingly.
- Draw up schematics for the electrical system and component layout.
- Research applicable safety standards and local regulations. Permitting may be required.
2. Prepare the Vehicle
- Drain all fluids – oil, fuel, coolant, transmission, etc.
- Remove the gas engine, exhaust, fuel tank, radiator, and unnecessary accessories.
- Thoroughly clean the engine bay. It will house the batteries and electrical components.
3. Install Motor and Electronics
- Bolt in the electric motor aligned with the transmission or driveshaft.
- Mount the motor controller and secure batteries, wiring harnesses, charger, and dc-dc converter.
4. Wire Power System and Controls
- Connect components with rated cable following safety guidelines.
- Install a master cutoff switch and fuses.
- Wire up gauges, warning lights, and the charging port.
- Connect the throttle to the motor controller.
5. Test and Troubleshoot
- Verify wiring connections and torque bolts to spec.
- Power up and test at low voltage to check direction of rotation.
- Gradually increase voltage testing motor and brakes. Resolve issues.
- Confirm gauges and control systems function properly.
Maintaining and Charging Your EV
Once the conversion is complete, just plug in and charge up to drive emissions-free. I charge overnight on a 220V outlet installed in my garage. Depending on your battery pack size and charge capacity, charge times may vary from 2-8 hours.
Routine maintenance is required – check tire pressure, inspect and tighten connections, lube drivetrain, test charging equipment monthly. Change battery coolant yearly.
With proper care and maintenance, a converted EV can offer reliable transportation for years to come while producing zero emissions and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Let me know if you have any other questions!