Converting a car to electric: is it worth it? (2023)

Converting a car to electric: is it worth it? (1)

Building a project car has been a staple of people's lives for decades. Now you have the option of getting an EV out of your project - something slick and fast enough to rival the fastest Tesla on the road. If you're about to convert your ICE car into an EV, you've come to the right place.

Converting a car to "electric" is worth it for the right person. You need a lot of free time, dedication to the project, knowledge and experience and patience. In the end, you have a fully customized EV for a fraction of the price. If you're planning on hiring a mechanic to do the project, I don't think it's worth it - that would cost a lot more money and you're better off just buying a standard EV.

In this article, I really go into this topic. I'll start with some definitions, outline the conversion process, and tell you what it takes. From there I will answer whether it is worth converting a car to electric yourself.

What is involved in an electrical conversion?

I'll get into the details later in this piece. An electric conversion is when you take a standard gas-powered car and turn it into an all-electric car. You take an internal combustion engine (ICE) and turn it into an electric vehicle (EV).

Although the idea sounds relatively simple, it is a complicated and difficult process. The process almost involves a complete disassembly of your car, followed by a complete installation of electrical components.

After a successful conversion, your car will be plugged into a power outlet to charge just like a Tesla. From now on you will drive past gas stations with a smile on your face.

Converting a car to electric: is it worth it? (2)

Why not just buy an electric car?

There are manyreasons to get an electric carnowadays. If you really want one, then converting your car to "electric" might not be right for you.

People converting their vehicle into an EV are looking for a custom car and a passion project to work on. The truth is that with just a fraction of the money you can build a car that is faster than a Tesla.

It just takes a lot of time.

If you buy a standard electric car, you lose the ability to choose the components you want. In the end you have an EV anyway, it's just how you want to get there.

The ideal car to build

There is a big debate whether you should start with a car kit or a purchased vehicle. For reference, a car kit is just a crate of parts. You can think of it as an adult Lego kit. You put the parts together and you have a functional vehicle.

If you choose a kit, you need the mechanical prowess to build a car from scratch. It also means you don't have to remove anything in your car - you just replace ICE components with EV components as you build it.

If you go with a purchased vehicle, you will need to remove the ICE parts and replace them all.

Regardless of your decision, you want to look for a specific type of vehicle: something lightweight with space under the hood for EV parts.

Heavier cars need a more powerful engine and a larger battery pack. A large vehicle like a truck or SUV probably isn't worth all the extra weight that comes with a massive motor and battery.

The ideal car would be something like a Smart Car. Small, lightweight and has plenty of space under the hood.

Within the ICE to EV conversion community, there is a lot of love for converting old classic cars.They are easier to work onand simpler in design, so that this whole process can be accelerated.

Converting a car to electric: is it worth it? (3)

The conversion process: from ICE to EV

So you have a combustion engine car in your driveway and you want to convert it into an electric car. The process looks something like this:

Step 1: Choosing the car

If you already have the car, skip this step. If you want to make this a project for a new vehicle, then you should start by buying that new vehicle.

I would highly recommend going for an older sedan in this case. Buying a brand new vehicle is going to waste a lot of money.

The best case would be to find an old beater that doesn't even need to run. After all, you are replacing a large part of the drivetrain.

Converting a car to electric: is it worth it? (4)

Step 2: Stripping the Inside

Time to strip almost all internal parts of the vehicle. Essentially everything goes under the hood:

  • Motor
  • Transfer
  • Dynamo
  • Silencer
  • Exhaust pipe
  • Radiator
  • Beginner
  • Gas tank

It is a good idea to carefully remove these components. You might be able to sell them to a junkyard and make some money back in the process.

You are actually left with a body, frame, interior and wheels. Not quite a car yet.

Step 3: Find and buy EV parts

Now you want to start picking up EV parts. Specifically, you need an electric motor, a battery pack, some sort of controller, the rightcharger for electric cars, and additional electrical equipment.

There are a number of sources to purchase these parts, but I'd suggest sticking with specialist sites that focus on EV conversions.

Converting a car to electric: is it worth it? (5)

Step 4: Install everything

With the parts (and probably some spares) in your possession, you can start installing them. This process is very specific to your vehicle. In general, you want to install pieces where they fit and do the wiring carefully.

You may need to make special mounting brackets or cut holes in your car to run wires. This is where the required expertise comes in handy.

Once installed, you need to test different components and make sure everything is set up correctly.

If you buy a big name motor and battery kit, you will probably find some troubleshooting guides online to help you.

Step 5: Go through the inspection process

Before you can officially go on public roads, you must go through and pass an inspection. This is the same inspection that a regular ICE undergoes. It checks the legality and safety of your car and officially considers it "street legal" when your car passes.

If you pass, you will receive a certificate to keep in the new EV. To save time before the inspection, learn what your local DMV looks for during an inspection and what you need to do to make your vehicle street legal.

Converting a car to electric: is it worth it? (6)

Can you convert a car to electric yourself?

I'm not the type of guy to turn down a challenge, so answering this question is a bit difficult. It is humanly possible to do the conversion on your own, but it will be very difficult.

Many people who converted their car to an EV did so on their own. However, this is not as simple as changing your car's oil yourself. You need a good understanding of mechanisms, electricity, manufacturing, running tests and cars.

If you are not comfortable with the revision, you can find a specialist shop dedicated to EV conversions. By the way, I wouldn't trust a general mechanic to do this project. Look for one that has experience with EV conversions or you'll be wasting time and money.

The short answer is that you can convert your car into an electric car yourself, but that requires a lot of knowledge, patience and understanding of multiple disciplines.

Converting a car to electric: is it worth it?

Now it's time to address the question of what you came here for. Is it worth converting a car to electric? Let's talk about it by tackling some different categories. To be clear, this section is only about whether the conversion is worth it, not whether it's worth driving an EV instead of an ICE.

Costs for associated parts

I haven't mentioned the cost yet. It will vary quite dramatically depending on the battery, engine and car you start with.

If you buy a car kit and make the motor and battery components yourself, you can spend less than $5,000 for everything.

If you buy a car, buy a Tesla battery pack, and buy a Tesla motor kit, you can easily spend over $40,000.

  • Astandard drop-in Tesla motor kitis$ 11.900.A self-sufficient engine costs$ 2.000-5.000instead of.
  • Asingle Tesla battery packis$ 1.580. You will probably need 5 or more, which is a minimum of$ 7.900.Self-produced battery packs will cost$2,500 to $5,000instead of.
  • A donor car will range from$3,000 to $70,000(depends on what you start with)
  • If you want new wheels, seats or interior upgrades, consider another one$500 to $6,000

Maximum total cost: $95,800

Minimum total cost: $7,500

Required time

The next big component is the time required. If you do this conversion yourself, there's no telling how long it will take.

It may take half a year to a few years to complete the project. If you use a store instead, it will probably take 3 to 9 months.

The use of a store also entails a considerable bill for the associated labor and time. Again, this is really hard to predict, but it could easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars.

If you are converting a car, I strongly recommend that you do it yourself to save on these major costs. After all, you can just buy a stock EV with that extra money you'd otherwise pay a shop for the conversion.

Converting a car to electric: is it worth it? (7)

Knowledge and experience required

It is not worth converting your car if you do not have the right knowledge and experience. Personal experience in topics such as electrical design, mechanical understanding and manufacturing is necessary for this project.

This is one of those "jack of all trades" types of projects.

Do your bit for the environment

I'm actually a bit torn on this category. Clearly, driving an electric car does a lot when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint. But some people say doing the conversion yourself reduces the need for fossil fuels that would otherwise be burned by a factory building the EV.

In my mind, the car parts are still manufactured using environmentally harmful processes. I see no environmental benefit in converting to an electric car instead of just buying a regular electric car.

Converting a car to electric: is it worth it? (8)

Start with a solid foundation

Since you're building the car yourself, you can start with a really solid base. This means hand-picking features your car needs, fine-tuning performance and getting exactly how much equivalent horsepower you want.

You also ensure that no corners are cut during the production process.

Amount of trial and error

I can't stress this idea enough - there will be a lot of testing and trial and error during this process. If you're not prepared for things not to work the first time you turn the key, then this project isn't for you.

The added frustration of this fact could mean it's not worth it for many people.

Giving Your Car a Massive Performance Boost (Possible)

Conversion really has no limit when it comes to improving your performance. For example, you can take that 2008 Smart Car with a 0-60 time in 14.4 seconds and a top speed of 90 mph and turn it into a high-performance car. Imagine pulling a 0-60 time in 5.0 seconds with the same car and reaching a top speed of 240 km/h.

After the conversion, this is perfectly realistic. You can throw oneridiculous amount of horsepowerin a lightweight car and drive it like a rocket.

Converting a car to electric: is it worth it? (9)

Having a "Tesla" without the Tesla sticker price

Even though there are a lot of costs associated with this conversion, you can still save a lot of money. With this conversion you can realistically 'build your own Tesla'.

For example, you can spend $30,000 and a whole lot of time and get a car with better specs than a modern Tesla S, a $90,000 car.

Final verdict: is it worth it?

Is it worth converting your car to an electric car? I think it certainly is. It's like any other project car someone could be working on. Instead of repairing an old classic, you build a car with brand new technology. It doesn't get much better than that.

However, this project is not for everyone. If you just want an EV quickly and aren't interested in specs or the build process, go to a Chevy dealer andgrab a Bolt.

If you want a hands-on project to build your vehicle from the ground up, start the conversion process today.

This is what I have to say:if you're not salivating right now thinking about this project, then it's probably not worth it to you.


Converting an ICE car into an EV is a great project for the right person. I've just outlined some of the most important information you need to know to perform this conversion. If you want to read even more how-to's, manuals and EV articles, check out the rest of my site.

I also have a list of themproducts that every car owner should have. Leave a comment below if you're interested in this project or if you've successfully converted a car in the past — I'd love to hear your story!

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