Rising energy costs make the search for affordable transportation options more important now than ever. One option, which might appeal to the do-it-yourself set, are electric vehicle kits. These kits allow people with knowledge of automobiles to covert traditional gas powered vehicles to one powered by electric current.
Converting to electric is not for the faint of heart, however. Extensive modifications must be made to nearly all mechanical parts of the automobile, from the engine, radiator, air conditioner and heater, to the gauges on the panel. Because electric cars must be recharged, converting a car using an electric vehicle kit also necessitates the purchase or use of a charging station, unless alternative energy sources (such as solar power) can be used.
Can you convert any car to an electric vehicle?
The answer appears to be no. While converting any car is technically possible the most common electric vehicle kit seems to be the Chevy S-10 pickup kit. Several examples of successful conversions can be found online, and many of them utilize this model. The Chevy Geo is also a candidate for conversion using an electric vehicle kit, at least for model years 1989 – 1999. Cars that are similar to the Chevy Geo Metro (e.g. Chevy Sprint, Suzuki Swift and Pontiac Firefly) may also be suitable for conversion using this kit.
What are the downsides to using an electric vehicle kit?
Although many people associate electric powered vehicles with slow performance and reduced power, modern electric vehicle kits are the product of significant advances in electric automobile technology. At this point, most kits provide cars that appear to have top speeds of between 70 and 75 miles per hour. Nonetheless, converting to electric power does have its costs.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is the necessity of frequent charging. The Chevy Geo Metro kit referenced above typically produces an electric-powered car that must be recharged every 20 – 40 miles, depending on battery quality and driving habits. This makes the electric vehicle kit a less than optimal choice for anyone with lengthy commutes, however it could be useful for those who primarily use their car within a city setting.
Converting the Chevy S-10 with an electric vehicle kit might be slightly more promising – not only does the S-10 seem to run longer on a single charge (between 40 and 60 miles, again depending on the size and quality of batteries and driving habits) but some models can also be equipped with solar panels to provide the electricity needed to power the car. These panels obviously can be a great energy source and reduce the frequency of charging, at least when driven in daylight hours.
Finally, converting automobiles using electric vehicle kits is costly. Most kits available at various Internet sites appear to cost between $8,000 and $10,000. This cost would increase if professional installation was required, and does not include the cost of batteries (which can be significant) and access to or the purchase of a charging station.
While electric vehicle kits have come a long way recently, they are still probably not a practical choice for most consumers, especially those with long commutes. However, for the person who loves to work on cars, has some experience with electricity and wants to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, an electric vehicle kit could be a good choice.