Environment Transportation Converting Your Gas-Powered Car to Electric By Justin Thomas Justin Thomas Writer Justin Thomas specialized in reviewing products and techniques for Treehugger from 2004 to 2008. He is the editor of MetaEfficient, a guide to efficient living. Learn about our editorial process Updated May 22, 2022 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Cavan Images / Getty Images Transportation Automotive Active Aviation Public Transportation In This Article Expand How EV Conversion Works Benefits of EV Conversion Cost of an EV Conversion Which Cars Can Be Converted? EV Conversion Kits Frequently Asked Questions Upgrading from a gas-powered car to an electric vehicle (EV) comes with many benefits. Not only are EVs better for the environment; they also last longer, and customers can save money in the long run after making the switch. Sometimes, though, there are barriers to putting down that initial investment, and potential buyers are turning to EV conversion for a more cost-effective option. How is a gas-powered car converted into an electric one, you ask? It's a complex but manageable process that a growing number of people are considering for their wallets and the planet. This guide will give you a run-down on how a gas-powered car can be converted to electric, whether it's worth the cost, which cars are best for it, and more. How EV Conversion Works Akintevs / Getty Images Electric conversion involves replacing the pipes and hoses used for a combustion engine with wires. The entire internal combustion engine, transmission, gas tank, and exhaust system must be removed and replaced with and an electric motor, controller, and EV battery. This type of work requires a lot of mechanical and electrical experience. Most people don't have these skills, so they hire a company to handle the conversion or purchase a kit that contains all the parts and walks them through it. Benefits of EV Conversion In 2015, the American Automobile Association estimated that the average American spent $1,681.50 per year on fuel alone. And besides being at the mercy of fluctuating gas prices, there's also the burden of maintaining an internal combustion engine, which includes regular oil changes. Electric cars require no gas and less maintenance, they have better resell values, and they're more reliable overall because there are fewer parts to fail. Most of the components are solid-state electronics with no moving parts. The engine of an electric car has a virtually infinite lifespan; the components will probably outlast the chassis. The only real expense that comes with EVs is the electricity itself and the batteries, which need to be replaced about every three to four years. You can expect your converted vehicle to have a range of 60 to 80 miles, a top speed of 50 to 90 mph, and good acceleration capabilities. It will take about six to 12 hours to completely recharge the car. All of these factors vary based on the weight of the car, the engine, and the battery. Cost of an EV Conversion Converting to an EV costs about $6,000 in parts and about $1,000 to $3,000 for batteries and installation. A more expensive retrofit could set you back $20,000 or more. But, for all this, you'll get a low-emissions vehicle that costs only a few cents per mile to run. Your electric car will also be more reliable and require much less maintenance than a conventional one. Which Cars Can Be Converted? What type of car is the best candidate for an electric conversion? A light car (around 2,000 to 3,000 pounds curb weight) with a manual transmission is ideal. Heavier vehicles can restrict the range of the electric engine, and automatic transmissions use up too much power because they require the engine to be constantly idling. As far as body style, you need something that can hold all the batteries you'll be installing. Experts recommend a car that is light and roomy like a Volkswagen Rabbit, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Ford Escort, or light pickup truck. The ideal donor car will have a good body and interior and sound transmission but could have a dead engine. Converting a gas-powered car to electric is a great way to give the body of an older car new life. EV Conversion Kits Tanaphot Iamjaro / Getty Images There are two types of electric conversions kits available: custom kits, which are tailored to specific vehicles models, and universal kits that can be installed in a variety of vehicles. Universal kits contain all the essential drive-system components but rely on the builder to create custom parts like battery racks or boxes. Custom kits include the entire drive system and battery racks and boxes, customized to suit a particular model. Frequently Asked Questions How much do electric vehicle conversion kits cost? The cost of EV conversion kits vary, but generally you can expect to pay a minimum of $8,000 not including the battery, which is another $1,000 to $3,000. It's pricey but still much cheaper than hiring a conversion company, which could easily charge the cost of a new car. Are electric vehicle conversions legal? After-market EVs are legal so long as they "meet emissions and safety standards instituted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and state agencies like the California Air Resources Board," according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Other rules and regulations around conversions are made at a state level. Most states require that a vehicle be re-registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles as a converted EV. How long does it take to convert a gas-powered car to electric? Converting a gas-powered car to an EV takes three months or longer. Conversion companies often take six months to complete the job. Best EV Conversion Companies View Article Sources "Annual Cost to Own and Operate a Vehicle Falls to $8,698, Finds AAA (2015 Your Driving Costs)." American Automobile Association. 2015. "Alternative Fuels Data Center." U.S. Department of Energy.