Sick of Gas?: Convert Your Car To Run On Electricity

  • Published on March 10th, 2008 by
 

battery pack, electric carIf you can’t buy the car you want, then build it.

Gregg Abott (aka Gadget) custom-converts cars for a living, but instead of tricking out cars to run on biodiesel or get better mileage, he’s hacking them to run on electricity. He’s the owner of Left Coast Electric, a Santa Monica based company with a simple philosophy:

“…if electric cars are going to make a difference, a lot of people have to drive them. They have to be made affordable.”

Which means these guys aren’t putting out $100K Tesla Roadsters, but are converting older models to have the same functionality:

So instead of building cars from the ground up, Gadget and his business partner, Roger Wilson, convert existing cars or shells of cars into electric vehicles by supplying or outfitting them with pre-configured kits loaded with everything an electric car needs except a new motor.

Admittedly, this isn’t for the faint of heart. Each kit costs $10,000 and requires the tenacity to dive into major auto electrical work. But if this type of conversion seems like a daunting task, Left Coast Electric will do the work for you—for $17,000 that is, including parts—which means that for the price of a Prius, your old car could be fully electric.

For $30,000, they’ll even convert your Hummer.





Abott uses nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) D-cell batteries, placed on top of where the motor used to be (and in the bed if it’s a truck) to create the battery array. LCE also buys and coverts old cars, which it offers for sale:

Gadget prefers to work with what he calls “Arcane British Cars, or ABCs — Triumphs and MGs and Austin Healys.” He picks them up at auctions for $200 to $300. “We’ll be converting those, and we’ll sell them on the lot,” he says, for the price of a new Prius ($25,000 to $30,000). But Left Coast also has modularized kits ready to drop into Mazda Miatas and Chrysler PT Cruisers for the “build-it-yourself market.” With NiMH batteries, he can guarantee a range of 60 to 100 miles. And one day, he adds, “We’ll move on to lithium ions.”

The biggest question in my mind is how long the batteries will last (landfill problem?). There are also simpler and cheaper solutions for do-it-yourselfers, like using biodiesel or converting a car to run on straight-vegetable-oil.

But there isn’t much question in my mind that if you want it bad enough, you can do it.

For more information, see the Left Coast Electric’s Website and the LA Weekly story from June 2006.

Related Posts:

Get 120 MPG Out of Your Prius (Plug It In)

The Sporty Future of Electrics Cars: the Lightning GT

Car Hacker’s Hummer Gets 60 MPG

How to Get 76 MPG

6 Ways To Find And Use Biodiesel Anywhere

Photo Credit: LA Weekly





About the Author

In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.

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  • TK

    If I could afford that then I could just get a new car!

  • TK

    If I could afford that then I could just get a new car!

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  • I didn’t think that it was that simple a process to covert a car to electricity. What are peoples thoughts on LPG gas?

  • I didn’t think that it was that simple a process to covert a car to electricity. What are peoples thoughts on LPG gas?

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  • R. Farmer

    Can this be done with a mini-van like an MPV?

    Do you know other reputable people who can do this in other states? I’d like to find someone in LV area.

    I think what you are doing is great but I’m not sure I can afford to come to So. CA…I wouldn’t do it myself after I saw you fry that battery terminal this week. Keep up the good work.

    RF

  • R. Farmer

    Can this be done with a mini-van like an MPV?

    Do you know other reputable people who can do this in other states? I’d like to find someone in LV area.

    I think what you are doing is great but I’m not sure I can afford to come to So. CA…I wouldn’t do it myself after I saw you fry that battery terminal this week. Keep up the good work.

    RF

  • Uncle B

    Somewhere in my dreams I saw a small 3 cyl turbo diesel designed specifically for an aircraft 400cps alternator. It was mega efficient at charging all kinds of really big batteries. It weighed in at about 130 lbs, alternator included and was just what I want for a spare tire for my battery car. I figure that hi-current hi-torque electric s handling driving variables combined with this neat little air force item in the trunk for charging might work out well.

  • Uncle B

    Somewhere in my dreams I saw a small 3 cyl turbo diesel designed specifically for an aircraft 400cps alternator. It was mega efficient at charging all kinds of really big batteries. It weighed in at about 130 lbs, alternator included and was just what I want for a spare tire for my battery car. I figure that hi-current hi-torque electric s handling driving variables combined with this neat little air force item in the trunk for charging might work out well.

  • Mike

    Seems like a good idea, but your just putting your money in electric bills rather than gas bills. And sometimes that is higher.

  • Mike

    Seems like a good idea, but your just putting your money in electric bills rather than gas bills. And sometimes that is higher.

  • CC

    $10,000??? In the mid-80s, there was a guy at FMC (in San Jose, CA) who ran his car on 7 car batteries. It can’t be that hard. Some electrical engineer with mechanical abilities and half a brain ought to come up with that old plan and put it on the web so we don’t have to continue paying these ridiculous prices – thank YOU mr bush – grrrrr

  • CC

    $10,000??? In the mid-80s, there was a guy at FMC (in San Jose, CA) who ran his car on 7 car batteries. It can’t be that hard. Some electrical engineer with mechanical abilities and half a brain ought to come up with that old plan and put it on the web so we don’t have to continue paying these ridiculous prices – thank YOU mr bush – grrrrr

  • Tim

    Watch the movie Who Killed the Electric Car then it will all make sense

    Electric is best, by far!

  • Tim

    Watch the movie Who Killed the Electric Car then it will all make sense

    Electric is best, by far!

  • Tim

    Watch the movie Who Killed the Electric Car then it will all make sense

    Electric is best, by far!

  • Roz

    To go electric I think that I will need a personal windmill in the back yard and to take care of the water issue, maybe the gray water home system could help offset that issue.

    I have thought of converting my car to something more green. Considerations have included going from gas to diesel/vegetable oil, biofuel, and electric with panels on the roof of my car as well as using home generated electric.

    I do appreciate ideas presented on this site. I definitely have more “new” ideas to mull over as I drive my gasguzzler.

  • Roz

    To go electric I think that I will need a personal windmill in the back yard and to take care of the water issue, maybe the gray water home system could help offset that issue.

    I have thought of converting my car to something more green. Considerations have included going from gas to diesel/vegetable oil, biofuel, and electric with panels on the roof of my car as well as using home generated electric.

    I do appreciate ideas presented on this site. I definitely have more “new” ideas to mull over as I drive my gasguzzler.

  • Roz

    To go electric I think that I will need a personal windmill in the back yard and to take care of the water issue, maybe the gray water home system could help offset that issue.

    I have thought of converting my car to something more green. Considerations have included going from gas to diesel/vegetable oil, biofuel, and electric with panels on the roof of my car as well as using home generated electric.

    I do appreciate ideas presented on this site. I definitely have more “new” ideas to mull over as I drive my gasguzzler.

  • I keep waiting for a little 3 cyl turbo diesel that will fit nicely along side some batteries and a nice 9″ electric motor under the hood. Has anyone found a really good one yet?

    I’ve asked the folks at DIY Electric Car but no one there seems to have a solution yet.

  • I keep waiting for a little 3 cyl turbo diesel that will fit nicely along side some batteries and a nice 9″ electric motor under the hood. Has anyone found a really good one yet?

    I’ve asked the folks at DIY Electric Car but no one there seems to have a solution yet.