Convert Your Car to Electric: A How to Guide

February 21, 2012

It's cheaper to convert your car to electric power than to buy an electric car. Learn about conversion costs and components that need to be replaced.

Electric Car Sign
electric vehicle parking sign

There are a number of companies that can help convert your car to electric power. Some of these companies offer complete electric car conversion kits to assist you in your DIY electric car conversion. If you buy a complete electric car conversion kit, everything you need will be delivered as a unit and you will receive complete instructions and plans to help you along the way. The starting point of any conversion is the donor car. It is highly recommended that you use a rear wheel drive car with a manual transmission.

Preparing to Convert

Before you start the actual conversion, there are a few things you have to do.

  • Determine where you're going to do the work
  • Gather all of the tools you will need. Don't forget rags and hand cleaner
  • Rent an engine puller/cherry picker
  • Drain all of the fluids from the car into approved containers. Recycle oils and coolant
  • Pull the engine out of the car
  • Remove the exhaust system and discard, recycle or sell
  • Thoroughly clean the engine compartment and undercarriage. Pressure washing is best
  • Carefully remove the previously drained gas tank

Batteries and Rack
This is a good time to determine where you want to put all of the batteries that will power your electric car. You need somewhere that they will be out of the way, yet easily accessible. If you're up to a bit of metal cutting and welding, you can mount the battery rack where the gas tank was and fabricate a cover to go over it. Putting the charging adapter under the fuel fill door gets it out of the way, protected from the elements.

Install the New Parts
Most of the new parts for your DIY electric car conversion come with instructions and pictures to help you through the process. is imperative that when ordering this kit you give accurate information as to the year, make and model of the donor car. These are some of the steps you'll be performing.

  • Install motor mounting brackets. In combination with the transmission adapter, these keep the motor secure
  • Mount the controller somewhere convenient. Remember that a cable needs to go from the accelerator pedal to the controller
  • Mount the motor-transmission coupler/adapter
  • Mount the new vacuum pump and route wiring to power and vacuum hose to power the brake booster

Install the New Motor and Transmission
This step requires the use of the engine puller or cherry picker you used when removing the engine.

  • Attach the motor to the transmission using the supplied adapter plate
  • Bolt the motor in properly. Make sure it is secure
  • Connect the driveshaft to the output shaft of the transmission and then attach to the differential
  • Use of threadlocking fluids is highly recommended

It isn't difficult to convert a car to electric. Especially if you have all the right tools and parts before you start the conversion process.

Electric Car Conversion Costs

There are a very wide variety of conversion kits available. These range from relatively mild 36 Volt, 60 Amp motored kits, up to 200 Volt, 100 Amp wild rides. How much you pay for your kit all depends on what type of driving you're going to do with it. For those just looking to get around town economically and relatively slowly, the most basic of kits will cost around $2500 plus shipping. On the far side of this scale are those people looking for a sporty and fast ride. Kits to make cars like that will range from about $5000 on up, plus shipping.

Piecing It Together
There are a number of different parts that come with a complete kit. If you're planning on buying the parts separately, you may get lucky and be able to save some money, but you will want to be extra careful that you buy everything you need for the conversion. This is a partial list of what you will need, along with some average prices:

  • Controller.This is what tells the motor how fast and on some models, even what direction to spin. This will run an average price of between $400 and $600
  • Motor.A motor will cost between $500 and $800
  • Adapter plate.This adapts the transmission to the motor and also mounts to the motor. It will run an average of $200 to $300
  • Batteries.These will to be matched to the motor. Figure almost $1000 for these if not more
  • Output-input shaft coupler.This couples the transmission to the motor and will run about $250
  • Throttle box. This acts like the accelerator on a gas powered car. A good one will cost around $75 to $100

This is only a partial list of required electric car conversion parts, but they are the main parts you'll need.

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