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Conversions to Electric Vehicles


Conventional original equipment manufacturer (OEM) vehicles altered to operate on propane, natural gas, methane gas, ethanol, or electricity are classified as aftermarket alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) conversions. In the United States, all vehicle conversions (except pure battery electric vehicles) must meet current applicable U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. EPA instituted these standards to assure unimpaired emission control of motor vehicles throughout their useful life. Vehicles operating in California must follow conversion rules issued by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

In addition, vehicle conversions that require the addition of heavy battery systems or additional fuel tanks that may alter a vehicle's center of gravity, payload capacity, or handling characteristics may also need to be safety crash tested and certified to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and/or other National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulations.

Electric Vehicle Conversions

The cost of converting a gasoline-powered vehicle to an electric vehicle can be high. Electric cars can run on either alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC). If the motor is an AC motor, it will probably be a three-phase AC motor running at 240 volts AC with a 300-volt battery pack. A DC motor may run on anything from 96 to 192 volts.

DC installations tend to be simpler and less expensive. For a typical DC system conversion, the cost will be $6,000 to $10,000 for parts, including a motor ($1,000 to $2,000), controller ($1,000 to $2,000), adapter plate ($500 to $1,000), and batteries ($1,000 to $2,000), plus $3,500 to $8,000 for labor. AC system conversion will cost $10,000 or more for parts and $2,000 or more for batteries for these higher-voltage systems. The cost of conversion can be partially offset by lower operating costs.  Because conversion to all-electric power does not require U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certification, conversions are often performed by amateur mechanics and high school and college automotive training facilities.

The most popular vehicles for electric conversion are vehicles with manual transmissions, including the Volkswagen Rabbit, Porsche 914, Honda Civic, Honda CRX, Ford Escort, and air-cooled Volkswagens.