Reprinted with author's permission from Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
My previous post about an up-coming electric car conversion class here in Seattle got a lot of interest. I have been asked several questions; the main one being "can I convert my car?"
Well, here is an answer and some basic information.
I'm no expert on converting gasoline cars to electric, but it's my understanding that if you are going to do a conversion, you are better off using a light-weight vehicle instead of a heavy one. Now, what do I mean by light or heavy vehicle?
Think of compact and subcompact models as light-weight vehicles. Used cars like the Geo Metro, Honda Civic CRX, and VW Rabbit (all of which are no longer produced) are compact vehicles that are great for converting to electric because they each weigh less than 2,000 pounds.
Heavier cars such as the Toyota Camry, all Subaru models, and any other mid-size sedan are not ideal for a conversion. The 2008 Honda Accord, for example, weighs about 3,200 pounds. Subaru models not only are not compact, but are heavier by design because they carry the extra parts necessary for the All-Wheel-Drive system they all feature. The AWD parts weigh about 300 pounds. That is largely why Subaru models have a fairly low gas mileage. I owned a 1996 Subaru Legacy that would get an average of 19 MPG. I also owned a 2001 Impreza, and the gas mileage was better but not by much. I also owned an Acura Integra, which weighed only about 2,600 pounds. The gas mileage I got with the Integra was about 28 MPG. The conclusion here is simple: lighter vehicles require less fuel to move, generally speaking, so they are better for converting to electric.
To find out how much your vehicle weighs, I recommend going to the MSN Autos web site.
If you are thinking of converting a car to electric, a knowlegeable person who has done a conversion can help you choose a good car to convert. If you come to a SEVA meeting you will meet lots of people who can answer questions, and you will even be able to see lots of cars that were converted and have been running on electricity! These cars don't have an engine - they have an electric motor and a battery pack. By the way, if you convert a car at the present moment you can enjoy the benefit of being able to sell the engine for a decent price, and use the money to help pay for the conversion.
For now, just keep in mind that a small car is your best choice for converting to electric. Why?