How to Convert a Normal Car into an Electric Car

Electric cars can be an expensive investment and one not many can afford. The idea of having a car that runs on electricity is a popular one that many want to make a reality. So, many people wonder if they can turn their existing gas-powered car into an electric one and how to do it.

Luckily, there is an option for those who want an electric car but cannot afford to buy one. It takes a fraction of the cost and a little work to make it happen. Read on to discover how to convert a normal car into an electric car.

Can a Normal Car Be Converted to Electric?

The first question someone may ask when considering converting their gas-powered “normal” car into an electric one is whether or not it can be done. For many, it may seem like something that is too far-fetched. However, it may not be as far-fetched as people think.

It is possible to convert a normal car into an electric car. At its simplest, it requires the removal of the combustion system, which includes the engine, and the fuel tank. It requires the person to replace these components with an electric motor and a series of batteries, respectively.

There are several reasons why you may want to know if a normal car can be converted into an electric one. Some of them may include:

  • You want a more efficient vehicle
  • You want an electric car but cannot afford one
  • You like DIY projects on your car
  • You have a classic car you want to convert

Whatever the reason, luckily, it is possible to complete this project. Many people like to convert classic cars into electric vehicles. It is a popular incarnation of this project because older cars require a lot more attention and gasoline than modern cars.

Nevertheless, converting a normal car into an electric car is not limited to just classic, old cars. It can be done with whatever vehicle you happen to own.

Why Convert a Normal Car to Electric?

As mentioned, there are several reasons why you want to convert your car to electric. However, the last can get extensive. Gasoline-powered cars can be a headache for a lot of people, especially with all the pollution they create.

Converting a normal car to electric is a great way to help the environment while also helping your wallet. The benefits of an electric car extend to a converted electric car, too. Consider these reasons why converting a normal car to electric is advantageous.

  • You will save money on maintenance. Your car has a lot of costs associated with it, especially having to fill it up with gas each week. There are oil changes, engine repairs, and more. An electric vehicle disposes of all that. All you need to worry about is charging it and changing the batteries every few years. 
  • Your engine will last the lifetime of the car. The engine in a normal car can last a long time, but it can also suffer some cataclysmic failure. Moreover, regular engines need fossil fuels to keep running. An electric motor (engine) will last, essentially, forever when taken care of properly.
  • An electric car is a green alternative. Converting a normal car to an electric one is great for the environment because it will no longer emit dangerous toxins into the air. It is one of the most popular reasons people want to convert their cars.
  • Converting your car is not too expensive. Buying a new electric car can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Converting your existing car into an electric one, however, should not cost you more than $10,000. It costs a fraction of the price of retail electric vehicles, and it will save you money on gas, too.
  • It will extend the lifespan of your car. This is especially true if you decide to convert a classic car to be electric. Classic cars are far less efficient than modern ones, and they require a lot of work. Oftentimes, they are not reliable on the road. Converting them will extend their lifespan and make them reliable once more.

Regardless of the reason, converting a normal car into an electric one may be the best choice you make for your situation.

What Cars Can Be Converted?

The best thing about converting a normal car into an electric car is that it does not matter what car you have at home. All cars can be converted as long as you know what you are doing.

Any car can be converted into an electric one. Many people choose older cars because they benefit the most from a conversion. Older cars tend to have less-efficient parts comprising their inner workings. Replacing those parts will make the car run much better.

However, this does not mean that only classic cars from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s can be converted to electric. If you have an old car from twenty years ago that you want to bring back to life, you can convert it. Moreover, it does not matter if the engine of your car does not work because you will be removing that anyway.

How to Turn a Car Into an Electric Car

Turning a car into an electric car may seem like a simple process. It seems that way because, on its face, all you need to do is remove the internal combustion system and the fuel tank and replace them with electric parts. However, it is a bit more complicated once you begin the process.

The first thing to remember is that removing an engine from a car is not the easiest thing to do. It requires time and patience and certain tools to hoist it out of the frame of the car once it is detached.

Consider these points that make converting a car into an electric car a little tricky.

  • The engine needs to be drained. Remember, car engines require fossil fuels to run, so before you can detach it, you need to drain it, which can get messy.
  • The engine needs to be detached. You need to know all the connections that keep an engine in place so you can detach them.
  • You need to know how to connect the new motor. The new electric motor will be simpler than the gas engine, but you will need to know how to hook it up.
  • A general working knowledge of cars is needed. It is best if you know where most things are located under the hood of your car. It makes the process go quicker.
  • The engine of a car can weigh upward of 400 pounds, maybe more. One of the biggest obstacles is the weight of the engine. You will need a small hoist to remove it.

However, just because it can get a bit tricky when converting a normal car into an electric car, does not mean you should not try it. Moreover, several auto body shops are willing to do the conversion for you if you are not comfortable enough with the project yourself. Expect to pay more, however, if you go this route.

An Overview of the Process

The process of converting a normal car into an electric one will take you some time. You need to be dedicated to converting the vehicle to make the process go as quickly as possible. The process will probably also include some trial and error because you need to make sure everything is working properly.

The general process of converting a normal car to an electric one is not the longest list, but it is a list that is worth looking at first. Once you have gathered all your tools, you will be ready to do the following steps.

  • Remove the combustion engine
  • Remove the fuel tank
  • Install an electric motor
  • Install a battery pack
  • Get the vehicle inspected

It is important to remember that each step requires time to complete, especially the earlier stages that require completely removing large parts of your current car. Therefore, it is advantageous to plan ahead for a period of not having the car available to drive. You will probably not complete this project in a day or two. Trial and error are necessary to make sure all the electrical parts work.

The best thing to do is to always plan for more time than you probably need so that you do not run into any conflicts.

Remove the Combustion Engine

The first step in converting a normal car to an electric car is removing the combustion engine and anything that goes along with it (except the transmission, which can be used later to help hook up the electric motor).

However, before you can remove the combustion engine, you should first take note of the car you are trying to convert. It is best to use cars with more manual features, such as the windows, because it will require less battery power later on.

Nevertheless, if you are satisfied with the car you are going to convert, you have to remove the engine. However, there is more to the engine than just the main component. You should also remove the following:

  • Fuel lines
  • Fuel filter
  • Radiator
  • Exhaust mechanisms

Essentially, you are removing anything related to gasoline or the engine. You will have zero need for them once you have converted your car into an electric vehicle. So, when you are removing the engine, keep this in mind.

You need to open the hood of your car and take note of where everything is. If you need to, refer to the owner’s manual of your vehicle to help locate all the parts. Moreover, you will need to jack the car up because you will be draining the engine and its parts later.

The Process of Removing the Engine

Before you begin, you should remove the hood of your car. This will make removing the engine much easier. Luckily, removing the hood of your car is not difficult as you only need to remove the bolts on the back. It may be a good idea to have a second person help you remove it. Once the hood is removed, and the front of the car is elevated, you can begin the process of removing your car’s engine.

Disconnect the fuel linesThe first step is to disconnect the fuel lines. This step is important because it will help depressurize the fuel system. Once you remove the fuse, run the engine until it uses all the fuel in the lines.
Disconnect the batteryNext, you must disconnect the battery. You can do this by releasing the battery cables that keep the battery in place. Make sure the battery is fully disconnected before continuing.
Drain the entire engineYou must drain the engine of all its liquids. Using drip pans, make sure to drain both the motor oil and the coolant that is present in the engine. Most importantly, recycle these liquids responsibly.
Disconnect the hosesDisconnect and remove all coolant hoses that are in both the front and back of the engine. Furthermore, disconnect any transmission hoses. Some additional liquid may exit the hoses.
Drain the A/C systemIt may be a good idea to have a professional drain the A/C system before you begin as it is illegal to let A/C refrigerant into the air. However, it is possible to do this step yourself.
Disconnect the exhaust systemNext, you must disconnect the exhaust system, and to do this you may either disconnect the header pipe or the entire exhaust manifold.
Attach the engine to the craneAssuming you are using an engine crane, you will use chains to attach it to the engine. An engine crane is your best option to lift the engine out of the car.
Disconnect the motor mountsBeneath the engine are motor mounts and these must be disconnected, too. First, lift the engine a little bit, and then you can disconnect them.
Disconnect the transmissionThe transmission is still connected to the engine, so you will want to disconnect that next. Once it is disconnected you are ready to remove the engine entirely.
Remove the engineUsing the crane, hoist the engine up and out of the car.

It is important to note that you may remove the radiator of the car to make removing the engine easier, although it is not necessary. It is best to not complicate things too much when removing the engine.

Once you have removed the engine, you just need to remove all the components, besides the transmission, that has no bearing in an electric vehicle, such as the exhaust system. Once you do this, you can move on to the fuel tank.

Remove the Fuel Tank

Since you have already disconnected everything regarding the engine, you can move to the fuel tank, which is located in the rear of the car. Since your car will be running on batteries, there is no need for a fuel tank. Now that you have removed the engine, its only current purpose is adding unnecessary weight to the vehicle.

To remove the fuel tank, follow these basic steps:

Raise the back of the carFirst, you need to raise the rear of the car onto jack blocks. Remember, the gas tank is concealed, so a lot of your work will be done beneath the car. 
Relieve gas tank pressureOpen the gas tank’s filler cap to relieve the pressure inside the gas tank. This will also relieve pressure in the entire fuel system.
Drain the gas tankNext, you must drain the gas tank. You can use a hand siphon to drain the gas tank. The gas tank should be completely empty when you remove it.
Remove anything beneath the tankThere may be components beneath the fuel tank that will block it from being removed. Make sure you check and remove anything that may be obstructing the gas tank.
Place a jack beneath the gas tankPlace a jack beneath the gas tank and have the tank rest on it. This will allow you to remove the gas tank much easier than without. It will let you remove it slowly.
Unbolt the gas tankYou must unbolt the gas tank to remove it. Straps hold the tank in place and are bolted in place. Remove the bolts that are keeping these in place. The tank will then be loose.
Lower the gas tankNow, using the jack, slowly lower the gas tank until it is completely free from the car.

Once you have removed the fuel tank, you are ready to begin adding the electrical components to make your vehicle an electric car.

Install an Electric Motor

Once you have removed all the fuel components, like the fuel tank and the combustion engine, you can begin the final stages of converting your normal car into an electric car.

Electric motors are much more reliable than regular engines. Part of this is because they do not have the same amount of moving parts as a regular engine. Instead, they rely on technology that converts energy that keeps your car running.

An electric motor is not the same as an engine, but it is the heart of your converted electric vehicle. An electric motor consists of the following two parts:

  • The stator. This component takes energy and uses it to create a magnetic field. It supplies this energy to the rotor, which then rotates.
  • The rotor. The rotor uses the energy to power the car.

It is also important to remember that the batteries, which you will also be installing supply the energy the motor needs to function. The batteries will use direct current (DC) energy. An inverter will convert it to alternating current (AC) energy. This energy will power the vehicle.

You want to use the transmission in the car to help hook the motor up to the gears that make the car move forward. Once the motor is installed in the front of your car, you can then begin installing the batteries.

Install the Batteries

If you want your converted electric car to run, you will need to install a pack of batteries to supply energy to the electric motor that you installed in the front of the car. Many people install these batteries in the rear of the vehicle in the trunk area.

You have a few options when choosing the batteries for your newly converted electric car. The three most popular ones include:

  • Lead-acid batteries. These are the most popular types of batteries used in a converted electric car because they are cheaper and readily available in many stores. They may not be the best option, but they are the most popular ones.
  • Batteries used in golf carts. The batteries used in golf carts can also be used to power the electric motor in the converted vehicles. You can buy golf cart batteries readily, too.
  • Sealed batteries for high performance. Sealed batteries are high-performing batteries that are well-suited for electric vehicles.

It is also important to note that batteries can have three types of electrolytes that can affect the quality and the price of the battery. The three types of electrolytes are:

  • Flooded electrolyte
  • Gelled electrolyte
  • AGM electrolyte

Additionally, if the batteries you are going to use operate with the flooded electrolytes, then it will be the cheapest option. However, this also means that their peak power is also the lowest. When you choose your battery system, these points are important to keep in mind.

Install Additional Motors and Mechanisms

Once you have chosen your batteries, you will need to secure them and wire them to the electric motor. However, you may need more than one electric motor. While the electric motor that was placed in the front of the vehicle is the main power of the vehicle, there are other parts of the car that need power, too.

For example, if your steering wheel is powered, you will need an electric motor that can provide power for it. Just one electric motor may not be enough. Likewise, if you have powered windows, you will need a motor for that, too.

The motors will not necessarily be the same size as the main motor. They will be smaller ones. However, it is important not to forget these motors. You will also need to install some other mechanisms to help power the car. Some of the additional things you will need to install include:

  • An electric motor for the steering wheel. You only need to install this electric motor if the vehicle you are converting has powered steering.
  • A controller to connect the batteries with the main motor. You need a controller installed in the vehicle to allow the batteries to connect with the electric motor at the front of the car. This controller will also help hook up other wirings.
  • An electric motor for the A/C system. If your car does not have an A/C system, then you do not need to worry about this.
  • A relay to “turn” the car on. A relay, also known as a contactor) is used to connect the batteries with the controller. When you are ready to drive, the relay will reconnect them, allowing you to drive.
  • A charging system to charge the batteries. When you are driving, your batteries will deplete their energy reserve, which requires you to charge them. Think of this charging system as what is replacing your fuel tank.
  • A power converter to convert the DC energy into AC energy. As mentioned, the electric motor needs AC energy to power the car, so a converter is necessary.
  • Install a voltmeter. A voltmeter will measure the charge of the battery so you know how much of a charge you have as you drive.

These additional mechanisms are just as important as the main motor and the battery pack you installed. Once they are all put in place, you just need to connect all the wirings between the batteries and motors and their respective components.

Once this is completed, you have successfully converted your normal car into an electric car. However, the entire process is not over yet.

Get the Car Inspected

In the United States, when you convert a gas-powered vehicle to an electric car, you do not need to get it re-certified by either the EPA or CARB. Therefore, once you convert your vehicle, you can drive it without issue. It is important to note, however, that other countries do require your car to be recertified, so it is best to check first.

Regardless, it is important to get your car inspected at some point after converting it. There are a few reasons you are going to want to do this.

  • Make sure everything is running properly. When you modify your car yourself, you want to make sure you did everything properly. You want to know that everything is working properly. Getting your car inspected will let you know that your car is operating properly. 
  • Make sure the car is safe. Related to the first point, you want to make sure your car is safe to drive. The last thing you want is to be driving and something bad happens. Getting your car inspected after a big modification is a good thing to do.
  • Alleviate any worries you may have. If there are any minor worries you have about driving on the road with your newly converted car, a passed inspection sticker should alleviate those worries.

Now you are ready to take your newly converted electric car on the road. You will find that you save money and get good mileage, depending on the quality of the batteries you chose.

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