Tom Spousta 3 minute read

The fastest way to your new electric vehicle: convert your gas guzzler


It’s a classic dilemma faced by car shoppers: Buy new, or buy used?

But as climate change fuels the popularity of electric vehicles and the world’s automakers roll out revolutionary EV models, another emerging trend should be factored into the gas-guzzling equation. 

An old van that has been converted into an electric vehicle with a charging cable connected
Even a golden oldie like this Volkswagen camper gets the electric conversion treatment. (Getty)

Why not convert to an EV? 

It could be a clunker (a remodel would allow the vehicle to stay on the road with zero emissions). 

It could be a timeless classic (that old VW Beetle, Mazda Miate or Corvette Stingray engine can easily be converted into a clean, mean modern machine).

It could be a commercial truck or van (some companies are converting existing vehicles as part of their strategy to cut emissions).

Some municipal governments might even find refurbishing fleets into EVs more cost effective than buying new ones. But as technology advances and battery breakthroughs continue at a strong pace, the electric vehicle conversion market appears ready to at least help accelerate the transition to clean transportation.

Environmental Defense Fund recently commented on EPA’s proposed heavy-duty vehicle standards stressing the urgency of transitioning to zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles. EDF analysis finds that standards that ensure near-term electrification of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles would prevent up to 9,600 premature deaths through 2050. 

Those standards would also keep more than 1.6 billion tons of climate pollution and up to 2.2 million tons of ozone-forming nitrogen pollution out of our air through 2050, and save the U.S. up to $680 billion total through 2050, while at the same time growing well-paying jobs in states across the nation.

Recent blowout U.S. numbers were mind-boggling and mirrored a big spike in EV interest based on Google search trends. Sales soared 76 percent in the first quarter of 2022, which doubled the U.S. market share to 5.2 percent from 2.5 percent in 2021, based on Kelley Blue Book’s report. Sales of all new cars and trucks slumped 15.7 percent, meaning EVs carried the market, according to Inside Climate News.  

Additionally, a recent report by EDF and ERM shows the rapidly accelerating momentum for electric vehicle development and production both globally and in the U.S. Those new-car numbers are industry-standard figures reported on a quarterly basis. How many used gas-engine cars switched to electric power, and how those conversions will contribute to the growing EV revolution, remains uncertain at least for the near-future.

But the electric car conversion business worldwide is booming with orders backlogged for at least two years, according to most reports, as more shops continue to open and meet demand. What’s now a niche market is seeing increased investment; scaling up could lead to lesser wait times for converting that prized ride, more customers, a drop in price AND a bigger role in lowering emissions. 

In general, a basic EV conversion can cost from $5,000 to $20,000. But like any custom job based on an owner’s preferences, a car’s make and model, upgrades and specifications could carry a conversion beyond that.

For now, though, it’s still an affordable option with comparable or lower costs than buying some of the new popular 2022 EV models like the Chevy Bolt ($32,000), or Tesla Model 3 ($44,000). The heavily-hyped Ford F-150 Lightning truck ($40,000) recently debuted with a long backlog of orders. All these prices figure to drop in the coming years as the industry churns out more models.  

And what about all those gas-guzzling trade-ins and clunkers being replaced by EVs? Conversions could play a significant role in making them clean and keeping them on the road.

That alone could be a powerful incentive to create a mass EV conversion market and a bold, potentially cost affordable alternative in the quest to cut carbon emissions as quickly as possible. 

It might even make car shopping a much cleaner and emissions-free proposition.

Hope for a warming planet

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