Electric Car Conversions: The Benefits for You

Electric cars aren’t a pipedream or decades-away option. In fact, it’s possible to convert a car to electric power for the same cost, or less, than buying a gas car. In this excerpt of a comprehensive resource for electric car conversions, you’ll learn why an electric car may be right for you.

| October 28, 2009

(The following is an excerpt from Build Your Own Electric Vehicle by Seth Leitman and Bob Brant (McGraw-Hill, 2008). The excerpt is Chapter 1: Why Electric Vehicles Are Still Right for Today! The book is a comprehensive resource for anyone interested in electric car conversions, covering the advantages of electric cars, choosing the right car for a conversion, the components of an electric vehicle drivetrain, batteries, maintenance, and resources to learn more and engage with other electric car conversion enthusiasts.) 

Why should anyone buy, convert, or build an electric car today? Simply put, they are the cleanest, most efficient, and most cost-effective form of transportation around — and they are really fun to drive. When I worked for the State of New York, we always used to say that electric cars were almost maintenance free: they never require oil changes, new spark plugs, or any other regular repairs. When a person would say, “Really?” I would then say, “Well, not quite — you need to change the washer fluid for the windshield.” 

Electric vehicles (EVs) are highly adaptable and part of everyday society: Electric cars are found on mountaintops (railway trams, cable cars), at the bottom of the sea (submarines, Titanic explorer), on the moon (Lunar Rover), in tall buildings (elevators), in cities (subways, light rail, buses, delivery vehicles), hauling heavy rail freight or moving rail passengers fast (Pennsylvania Railroad Washington to New York corridor). Are they all electric vehicles? Yes. Do they run on rails or in shafts or on tethers or with nonrechargeable batteries? Yes. 

EVs were designed to do whatever was wanted in the past and can be designed and refined to do whatever is needed in the future. What do you need an EV to be: big, small, powerful, fast, ultra-efficient? Design to meet that need. General Motors’ EV1 is an excellent example of what can be done when starting with a clean sheet of paper. Closer to home and the subject of this book, do you want an EV car, pickup, or van? You decide.

As car companies continue producing sport utility vehicles (SUVs) that cannot meet federal fuel standards or reduce emissions that are harmful to our environment, think about some of the statistics and facts from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and various notable sources: The DOE states that more than half of the oil we use every day is imported. This level of dependence on imports (55 percent) is the highest in our history. The DOE even goes on to say that this dependence on foreign oil will increase as we use up domestic resources. Also, as a national security issue, we should all be concerned that the vast majority of the world’s oil reserves are concentrated in the Middle East (65 to 75 percent), and controlled by the members of the OPEC oil cartel.

Further, DOE goes on to state that 133 million Americans live in areas that failed at least one National Ambient Air Quality Standard. Transportation vehicles produce 25 to 75 percent of key chemicals that pollute the air, causing smog and health problems. All new cars must meet federal emissions standards. But as vehicles get older, the amount of pollution they produce increases. 

Sandy S._2
1/1/2010 12:43:02 AM

I live in Illinois where every other interstate is a toll road. I have an I-Pass that takes the toll without me needing to slow down. In the near future I could see cross country EV lanes that have the electricity in the roads that could pay tolls and cost of the electricity to drive across country with the speed steering and breaking done by the smart grid. A high speed lite rail system, like the inner city transits, could get me to my destination fast. I could program my car, go to sleep and set it to wake me when I arrive at my destination with my batteries fully charged and all cost charged to my I-Pass or a similar credit system. When the smart grid is built and most of our power generated by practical renewable energy we can phase out coal and any other non renewable fuel source. That seems like a nice part of a viable road to a sustainable energy future. We need to pick a direction and head towards a sustainable destination. I believe all the technology is here already to accomplish this. We just need to bypass all the self intrest lobbies and start to build a better world now!

Matthew Taylor
10/31/2009 5:49:24 PM

The recurrent battery cost is really the essential personal finance issue. The conversion cost amortizes out, so it becomes negligible over time. The article states that the batteries cost about $2,200 and last about 3 years. That equates to $71 per month, if you assume a 5% interest rate for the cost of money. I'm considering converting my old Chevy S-10 pickup truck, which I will guess gets around 18 mpg, and gas costs about $2.80 right now in my area. So that $71 monthly battery cost equates to 25 gallons of gasoline, which equates to 450 driven miles per month. So, ignoring the cost of conversion and the cost of electricity to charge those batteries, I would have to travel more than 450 miles per month (or 5,400 miles per year) to make it worth my while. Hmmm, that sounds pretty good. And the cost of gas will probably go up, making it look even better.

t brandt
10/30/2009 10:22:08 PM

Time out. About 90% of American elec power is generated by coal or other fossil hydrocarbon with a 60% conversion efficiency and a transmission efficiency of about 90%. The energy required to move your plug-in elec vehicle down the road, therefore, produces about 70% more CO2 than your 20mpg auto. An elec vehicle would make environmental sense in France where almost all elec is generated by nuclear plants, but would be counterproductive in the US where obstructionist TreeHuggers have retarded our power industry for the last 30 years.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: September 14-16, 2018
Seven Springs, PA

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard