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Should you convert your car to electric? That’s what an EV technician thinks

The most sustainable thing we can do for our environment is to use less, so why aren’t electric car conversions more popular?

In the next few years, more and more automakers will commit to deadlines by which they can handle fossil fuels. Chrysler announced an end to its fossil fuel vehicles, and companies like Mazda and Cadillac have also committed themselves to an all-electric future within the decade.

While it is to be welcomed that no carbon dioxide will be emitted from cars in the future, switching to electric vehicles does not solve all sustainability problems. The production of new electric vehicles requires tons of newly sourced materials, especially for the batteries, electrical components and the chassis.

This is exacerbated by the considerably short lifespan of electric cars, in which batteries lose their effectiveness after around 10 to 20 years. So far, electric cars have not been able to beat gasoline-powered vehicles on this front.

So how about converting your car to an electric car? Much of the parts are already there (the chassis, wheels, dashboard, and seats) so there is a sustainability argument. Well, it’s a little more complicated than simply converting.

Jacques Hickey is the lead electric vehicle technician at Oz DIY Electric Vehicles and has been with Oz DIY Electric Vehicles for about a year. He leads a small team of technicians who maintain and upgrade electric vehicles and who specialize in converting gasoline vehicles into electric cars.

“I only see the biggest problem in training,” Hickey told Gizmodo Australia.

“This does not only apply to EV retrofits, but to EVs as a whole. We’re now looking at how electric vehicles come out and are serviced and serviced – it just doesn’t happen.

“Right now, half of our business is servicing electric vehicles that dealers won’t touch because they don’t have trained staff.”

A converted Suzuki Sierra. Image: Oz DIY electric vehicles

Oz DIY Electric Vehicles have a few different lines of business, although the company calls itself “The Car Conversion Experts”. The company’s first line of business is providing electric vehicle kits that customers can use to turn their cars into electric vehicles themselves.

The second does these conversions for customers in workshops in Townsville and Brisbane. Hickey said it takes over 100 man hours to do this.

The third is to keep existing electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi I-MiEV.

“The hardest part of it all is the packaging and the clips. 90 percent of what we do with a conversion are components, consoles, parts that put everything together. Finding a place to pack everything properly – that’s probably around 70 percent of our working time that we spend on it, ”explains Hickey.

“The remaining 20 percent is for cabling and then 10 percent for programming and troubleshooting, testing, and so on. the [other] Perhaps the hardest part is getting the parts. “

As you can expect, the electric car retrofit business has been hit hard by global scarcity, with Hickey saying “chip shortage” is a term often heard in the office.

Even so, Hickey says his business is booming during the pandemic, doing more business than his company (and other EV companies) can compete.

Still, given the supposedly booming business and supply shortages, what’s holding the EV retrofit business from becoming more mainstream? In short, it’s expensive. Too expensive.

I asked Hickey what it would cost to convert a car to a similar range to the Tesla Model 3, the cheapest Tesla in Australia (and one of the cheapest electric vehicles in the country) which costs $ 59,990.

He told me that for a similar experience it would cost $ 40,000 for a package of essential parts, $ 10,000 for the motor, and $ 10,000 for accessories – before paying for either installation (which is more than $ 10,000) or install it yourself.

“I’m not talking about her, I love her, I would do it right now, but if you just want to run from A to B you can get a MG in Australia for $ 45,000, that’ll do that,” he said.

Conversion of electric carsA battery pack in the back of a converted car. Image: Oz DIY electric vehicles

While Hickey agrees that converting a vehicle to electric is far more sustainable than buying a completely new electric vehicle (he bet it was between 30 and 40 percent more sustainable, even more so when used cells and components were used), it makes no economic sense.

I asked Hickey what, between the government’s ideas and the subsidy plans, might help the electric car conversion industry make it more economically viable. He said the biggest problem was actually more raw: it was about the issue of education and training.

He sees great potential for the EV retrofit industry in training more people to do the job, and that creating government incentives similar to those for an electrical company could be a worthwhile area to explore.

“If I don’t have to bill someone $ 200 an hour to employ a highly specialized, trained technician, it’ll be a quarter the cost,” he said.

“If people are trained for this, then that increases the quantity, reduces the supply parts and the costs, and then there is simply supply and demand.”

Right now, Hickey says it makes most sense to do an electric car conversion on a classic car (where the cost of the conversion is actually lower than buying old parts), a special vehicle (such as for mining or agriculture), or for motorsport.

Apart from that, he encouraged buying a used electric vehicle of older models and upgrading it with modern technology to give it a second life and consume less overall.

Electric vehicles are here to stay, but we could do more to help the entire industry.

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