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Homemade Electric Car

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As manufacturers slowly begin releasing electric cars onto the market, many people have instead converted their own vehicles to electric. Now, kits and components are being sold in a thriving EV conversion market.

To build your own homemade electric car, you don't need nearly as much electrical or mechanical knowledge as you used to. Today, kits, DIY manuals, and more proliferate the Internet.

Here's a basic run-down of the parts and skills you'll need to convert a vehicle to electric operation.

Establish Driving Patterns

The first step is to establish your average driving pattern so you can be sure to have enough power storage to get you there and back everyday. Do this by recording your daily driving mileage (using the odometer on your car) for at least two weeks - a month is preferred.

Average those daily drives. As a rule of thumb, it's a good idea to add 10% to this to account for battery storage changes and how weather might affect your mileage. For most people, this average will be under 50 miles per day.

Choose Your Conversion Vehicle

Older vehicles, especially those in relatively good shape that have engine troubles, are prime candidates. Smaller vehicles will have a longer range due to lower weight and better aerodynamics. The Volkswagen Beetle, Geo Metro, and similar cars are popular conversion fodder.

Whatever car you choose, the chassis and body need to be in good working order. Expect to have to change out some ball joints and bearings on some of these vehicles. These things tend to deteriorate with age.

Now remove the engine, gas tank and lines, etc. per manufacturer's safety recommendations. For higher-speed electrics, you will want to leave the transmission in place (or swap it for a standard shift trans).

Acquire the Parts

There are many sources for getting EV parts to do your conversion. You can buy them new from various distributors, pillage them from old electric machines such as forklifts and golf carts, or do a little of both.

Batteries are the largest concern. For cost reasons, most EV conversions use lead acid batteries, which are readily available. They have a relatively short lifespan in an electric car, however, and may not power the car well enough to get it to high speeds. Most use a standard 6 or 12 volt setup in series to match their controller and motor's inputs.

The Costs

Costs vary widely. One Canadian converted his Geo Metro to electric using an old golf cart and a purchased forklift for a total cost of about $650. Most of his costs were saved because the batteries he used were donated by another electric car enthusiast.

Another conversion cost nearly $50,000, but resulted in a long range, highway speed-capable vehicle.

Most can expect to pay about $2,000 or so for a competent DIY conversion, assuming the vehicle is not included in those costs.

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