DIY Electric Vehicles cost how much?!?!

The Internet produces so many rabbit holes to explore. I recently wandered down some of those paths as I found some classic vehicles with EV swaps. The one that got me the most was an all-electric Defender climbing stream and the only noise was the creek streaming by and the sound of the tires crunching rocks.

This sent me searching for more and more information on converting a classic to an EV. EV West and Electric GT are the two companies that popped up the most in the searches. EV West has had a land speed record EV and competed at Pikes Peak. Electric GT has had a Ferrari 308 conversion and is coming out with their own EV crate motor that even looks like a V8.

But how much does an actual electric vehicle conversion cost?

The cheapest EV West kit is $7,600 and that does not include the vehicle that you will be converting. Rich Rebuilds is a YouTuber with close to a million followers, so he’s either really knowledgable or a complete dullard who is entertaining to watch. I’m leaning more towards knowledgeable, but reserve the right to adjust that opinion. Rich breaks down in this video the actual cost behind building an EV from an Audi A5. He includes the donor car price.

If you are looking for a more spreadsheet-based explanation, the team at EV4U also has a detailed explanation of the total cost of building an EV. They leave out the donor car price.

Why so expensive?

The most expensive item in a DIY EV is still the most expensive item in a factory-built version: batteries. Batteries are becoming more and more in demand in all parts of our lives. Cell phones, Kindles, EVs, solar-powered everything, and more. Finding cheap components is the biggest hurdle and with EV builds becoming more popular the budget build is getting harder to pull off.

There is some hope in the form of solid-state batteries coming in the near future, but again, that’s in the future. Twice the range with half the time to charge would be amazing upgrades, but so far they do not exist yet in the consumer market. Maybe, this year in 2021. That’s refreshing to say, “2021.”

You can still pull off a budget EV, but it takes getting some amazing luck! Check out Rich’s Mini that he built for $3,000, including the car!

Would I love to build a squarebody Suburban EV? Yes, so much room for batteries! Someone will probably beat me to it while I’m still saving the money to build it…

18 Comments

  1. Batteries have always been the issue in EV’s like you said. I’m looking at classic EV’s myself like the seventies CitiCar/CommutaCar. If you keep it stock then you own a mid seventies Go-kart with an off/on switch that is barely usable. Okay then you can go into the rabbit hole and start to do upgrades but now you are looking at batteries, controllers, switches and what do you have? Well tiny wheels and bad brakes.
    Fine buy a cheap used electric. A used Leaf or stop yourself form giggling and get a iMIEV from Mitsubishi. Well you are still looking at batteries at some point. It’s a lose/lose.
    I’m looking at the CitiCar more as a classic collectible. So I can kind of justify it. Except that if you put any money into it then it is a net loss for resale. The basic classic car argument.

    1. around here i’ve noticed i3s with like 20-40k miles selling for as little as $10,000. for that kind of money, drive it a few years trouble-free and call it good when the battery is too dead to get you 65 miles. they’re just so cheap that when they battery’s dead, you can probably scrap the car without feeling too bad about it.

      i am curious which milestone we reach first, easily- and cheaply-replaced batteries or the car-as-service model that is becoming more popular, both through ride share services and car subscription services.

        1. checked Craigslist and i guess my memory was optimistic. but even 15-20k for that seems not too bad

      1. Aren’t you in SoCal, and if so, could that have been a temporary blip on account of the LAPD i3’s?

    2. Very interesting, I see some of that debate with the Th!nk, which also has maintenance-intensive batteries. But just as with classic cars, a lot of it seems to boil down to knowledge much more than price per se. If you know how to do it, a Leaf with a broken battery goes for 700-2500$ here, and you’re probably aware that “broken battery” means a cell or two are gone. It’s a fixable problem, just advanced work and you ought to know what you are doing. I most certainly don’t. But the prospect of this gets me really excited, as eery as that silent Landrover above was, for a certain segment of classic car lovers, this is just awesome.

  2. I still think we’re at the “wait for technology to improve” stage on EV conversions. Sure, it can be done, but it’s not yet hit the cost-to-benefit ratio that I’m looking for. As the batteries become more efficient, smaller, and cheaper to build, then my curiosity might be piqued enough to dive into such a project.

  3. Let’s say that you’re doing a restoration including an engine rebuild or a custom build with an LS. You’re going to spend 5 figures on that, so this doesn’t feel a lot different.

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