Converting Gasoline Cars to Electric | Electric Car Conversion

Electric Vehicle Conversion Kit Company

Vehicles / June 25, 2021

I was completely sold on electric drive as a viable, accessible and sustainable form of propulsion.While a growing segment of the population eagerly awaits the arrival of the affordable, long-range electric car, there exists a parallel universe. A restive, grassroots movement of. Driven by deep disdain for US oil-based foreign policy and long term environmental concerns, I was intent on ditching gasoline and contributing my own conversion activities to the ‘database’. Instrumental in accomplishing this monumental task was the enlistment of 30-year conversion expert Bob Batson of Electric Vehicles of America (EVA) and several local, talented tradesmen I would come to know.

Fate led me to my first refit candidate, a 1968 Saab 96 literally rotting in the weeds of my auto mechanic’s boneyard. Ultimately I would purchase two of these cool classics for very cheap, due to faulty engines. Working out of the two-car garage on the alley behind my house, on a musician’s budget, I started by genetically splicing the donor vehicles into a single healthy specimen. Qualities that made this model attractive for electric conversion were: low curb weight, manual transmission, decent aerodynamics and its timeless charm.

The excitement was real. Three months of working in a feverish frenzy in the dead of winter produced the desired outcome. With the help of one of EVA’s carefully planned conversion kits and a half a ton of deep-cycle, lead-acid batteries, I produced an electric car that could drive 50 or 60 miles per charge, or about 35 miles at highway speeds.

The bi-colored eSAAB proved both extremely fun and useful for three years and 8000 miles, even with the limited range, and earned itself a slick paint job and new interior. The damage was done:

Now the owner of an upgradable car, I replaced the lead-acid batteries with lithium-ion cells. Installing a higher voltage system and other more capable components allowed me to fully reap the benefits of the Li-ion chemistry — superior energy and power densities, better cycle life by an order of magnitude and a barely detectable self-discharge rate.

This profound upgrade effectively redefined the car, granting it double the performance and triple the range per charge.

Meanwhile, attention from the media and the public has been encouraging. I always enjoy talking with people about the merits of electric drive, from the minimal maintenance and neck-aching torque, to the economics of driving for 2-3¢ per mile on domestic, ever more sustainably-produced electricity. It’s the inevitable transportation solution for the foreseeable future, and with a retrofit, can assume virtually any shape you wish.