Early this week, Mitsubishi announced that the U.K. purchase price of the 2010 i-MiEV would be a hefty £33,699 ($50,465). With prices for plug-in vehicles on the high side for the foreseeable future, is conversion a better solution for drivers who don't want to wait to plug in?
Granted, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV qualifies for a U.K. government grant scheme that gives buyers up to a £5,000 ($7,450) discount on eligible plug-ins. But the prices of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, the 2011 Nissan Leaf, and the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid all look to be similarly high. And the first modern EV, the 2010 Tesla Roadster, costs more than $100,000.
Electric vehicle (EV) conversion, via Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield
These costs are well beyond the abilities of many regular motorists. And used EV options are equally limited: You'll be hard-pressed to find a second-hand "previous generation" EV, such as the aging 1997-2003 Toyota RAV4 EV. And the only other option, a neighborhood electric vehicle like the 2006-2009 Zap Xebra, has limited performance and can only be used on public streets in some areas--let alone highways.
Many electric cars on U.S. roads today have been successfully converted from existing gasoline-powered vehicles. EValbum.com contains hundreds of such vehicles, showing that the electric-car revolution has been going on for years fueled by ingenuity and a little bit of hard work in garages.
Some converters stop at one car. Others, such as John Wayland (aka "Plasmaboy"), have gone much further. Wayland's first simple EV conversion ultimately led to such extreme, drag-race-winning vehicles as the "White Zombie," the world's fastest street legal electric car.
The prospect of converting a vehicle to electric may not be something that many EV fans relish. After all, while our parents' generation may have been quite happy to tinker with a few wrenches, how many people willingly work on their cars today?
But while the thought of converting a car to a plug-in may be daunting, a well-converted vehicle may even be easier to maintain than an aging early generation plug-in. While older EVs may be more refined in operation, due to their more complex circuits and designs, those same designs may cause issues once OEM support has ended and the vehicle needs fixing.
Whether converting an existing hybrid to a plug-in hybrid, or a gasoline car to a pure EV, it is possible to produce a highway-capable vehicle from as little as $5,000 if you're adept at sourcing components.
Doubling that to $10,000 will yield a competent highway-capable car with a reasonable electric range. With excellent support from many sites--including EValbum.com and contributor Gavin Shoebridge's EVsecrets.com--anyone with spare time and the willingness to learn can convert a car.
I'm no physics graduate, but I've already helped to convert two gasoline cars and a plug-in hybrid. So, what are you waiting for?