Ever since I converted my Chevy S10 pickup truck into an electric vehicle, I’ve become a celebrity of sorts. My red truck with its custom-built, aluminum battery bed has been known to turn some heads. And the name of my Web site—www.evhelp.com—in big, bold red lettering across the tailgate is hard to miss. Admittedly, I’m not exactly shy about owning an EV. In fact, I love the attention, and I am thrilled to have people stop me and ask questions about it. It’s my way of getting the word out about the practicality and reliability of these custom conversions.
How much did it cost?
Not counting the cost of the donor vehicle, expect to spend between $6,500 and $9,500. The actual amount depends on the type of vehicle you are converting, which partially determines the motor size, controller, and number of batteries. The total cost also depends on how much work you can do yourself. The total conversion cost me about $10,000—including the truck. That’s not a lot of money when you consider that every vehicle has an initial purchase price, followed by cost of operation and cost of ownership. What results from this modest initial investment is very low operating and ownership costs.
How much does it cost to drive?
The cost per mile is calculated from the cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour, distance driven, and the number of KWH needed to recharge the batteries. I pay 9.6 cents per KWH of electricity, and it takes 11 KWH of energy to recharge the batteries after driving 20 miles. That puts my cost per mile at roughly 5.3 cents—a per-mile savings of nearly 11 cents over the original vehicle’s performance. The original stock vehicle with an internal combustion engine used 1 gallon of gas to drive the same 20 miles. At $4.00 per gallon of gas, the cost comes to 20 cents per mile.
How far can you drive on a charge?
I have found that my truck, which has 16, 6-volt golf-cart batteries and weighs a total of 3,700 pounds, has a 35-mile maximum range and a 20-mile range if staying within a 50% battery depth of discharge. Keep in mind that driving habits also affect range.
What kind of batteries does the truck use?
The beauty of my truck is that it uses standard golf-cart batteries. I saw no need to use more expensive lithium-ion or other advanced battery technologies that require a costly charger and protection electronics for each battery. Lead-acid batteries are the most affordable option for do-it-yourself conversions. The technology has been well-refined over many decades and offers great service at a relatively low cost.
How many batteries does the truck have?
I decided that the 16, 6 V batteries, wired in series, would meet my particular driving needs, meaning I would have more than adequate range and speed (60 mph maximum, with no need to travel the freeways).
Can you make an EV go farther than 35 miles and faster than 60 mph?
Absolutely! Speed is related to total battery voltage while distance is related to total battery capacity in amp-hours. In addition, both speed and distance are affected by the total vehicle weight, including batteries. While a full-size pickup truck has a lot of space for batteries, it is also fairly heavy. On the other end, a tiny sports car like a Mazda Miata or MG Midget may be very light but doesn’t have much battery space. These cars often have to use lower-capacity, 12 V deep-cycle batteries to get enough voltage for highway speeds, which limits their range. The best-performing vehicle will be something in the middle—a smallish car or pickup truck that is lightweight but still has a good deal of room for batteries.
Who can successfully convert an internal combustion engine vehicle to electricity?
Anyone with basic mechanical and electrical skills can do it. You don’t have to be an engineer. All the conversion components are available off the shelf, and there is plenty of help available—not only from many component suppliers, but also from people who have converted their vehicles and are happy to share their experiences. That’s why I created www.evhelp.com.