Building or Converting an EV

Last updated 1999.08.25

There is quite a bit of material now available on the subject of converting an existing vehicle to electric power, ranging from general books to detailed plans and kits. There is also some material on building an EV essentially from scratch using basic parts and components.

I recommend a conversion as a first project as a from-scratch vehicle is just too much work for most people. Also, find a light-weight vehicle with a high enough gross vehicle weight rating to accommodate a lot of battery weight, and that is in good condition for your base (donor) vehicle. With the information and components available today, there is no reason to do a conversion with substandard performance, so start with a vehicle you can be pleased to drive. I have converted one car and a motorcycle to electric power, and refurbished another from non-operational condition to daily-user commuter. I have worked on a few other vehicles belonging to others. My advice: study first, make your shopping list early, be flexible, take your time, shop carefully, spend your money as late in your project as you can.

Another option is to find a non-functional EV and bring it back to operating condition, if the price for the hulk is right and the vehicle is in good condition. This can save you some significant design and construction time and effort, and at least some of the components will already be with the vehicle. Older EVs are not likely to be hot performers without serious reworking, but it is a way to get on the road to pollution-free driving without spending a fortune. You always have the option of upgrading components later as funds permit, and there is often a market for your used parts as others start up the same road you have already travelled.

As an example, consider the story of Bob Wing and his 1959 MGA conversion project.

If you live in the Ottawa area, join EVCO, as it maintains a library of materials on the subject of EVs including conversions and building EVs. Membership also provides the opportunity to talk with others who have converted and built EVs and have experience with their operation.

On the Web, check out Chip Gribben's Home Page for information on conversions.

Also, Mike Chancey maintains a page titled So You Want to Build an Electric Car

There are also several sources for parts and components that are specific to EVs.

Subscribe to the Internet EV Discussion List or view the EV Bulletin Board archives. Check out Bruce Parmenter's Home Page for more on these sources of information.

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