How Electric Car Conversion Kits Work

By: John Fuller

The Electric Conversion

Conversions can be tricky endeavors, so electric car conversion kits aim to make the process easier for those without technical and mechanical experience.
Conversions can be tricky endeavors, so electric car conversion kits aim to make the process easier for those without technical and mechanical experience.
David Silverman/Getty Images

Before we discuss anything else, we need to realize the difference between all-electric cars and gasoline-powered cars. The conventional cars you see on the road run with the help of an internal combustion engine, which is built using a large number of moving parts. These parts are set into motion when gasoline burns, creating energy that moves a series of pistons and rods. The linear motion provided by the pistons and rods is converted into rotary motion at the crankshaft. The rotary motion is transferred through the transmission, driveshaft, differential, axle and eventually the wheels, which makes the car move.

An electric car, on the other hand, has three key elements that set it apart from a typical gasoline-powered car:


  • An electric motor in place of a gasoline engine
  • A controller
  • An array of batteries

An electric motor is significantly different from a gasoline engine for many reasons. Perhaps the most notable of these is that it doesn't burn fuel and it only has one rotating element. The motor runs with the help of a controller, which gets its power from a set of batteries. If a vehicle is a hybrid, which means it operates with both an electric motor and a gasoline engine, the gasoline engine typically charges the batteries while the motor is running. But pure electric cars are plug-in vehicles -- they don't have a gas-powered engine to charge the batteries. They use extension cords and take power from your household or office current.

So while a gasoline engine is a big tangle of pipes and hoses, an electric motor relies heavily on a complex connection of wires. Installing an electric car conversion kit often involves ripping out that tangle, which includes the engine, transmission, gas tank and exhaust system and replacing it with an electric motor, controller and battery array as described above.

Since most people don't have the experience to perform this kind of task, a few companies are offering various kinds of conversion kits that put everything into one neat package. What types of conversion kits are out there? Will they work with any car, or would you have to buy a specific make and model? Do they really work, or are they just expensive add-ons that don't add up to much? Find out on the next page.

AutoHybrid CarsHow Electric Cars WorkAutoHybrid CarsElectric Car PicturesAutoFuel-efficient VehiclesWill I get shocked if I drive an electric car through a big puddle?AutoFuel-efficient VehiclesHow Electric Car Batteries WorkAutoHybrid CarsWhat is a potentiometer in an electric car?AutoHybrid CarsHow Electric Car Labs WorkAutoPorschePorsche Joins Electric Vehicle Race With 2020 TaycanAutoOther Makes & ModelsCould Electric Motor Conversions Save Classic Cars?AutoUnusual CarsHow the G-Wiz Electric Car WorksAutoHybrid CarsHow Electric Car Charging Networks WorkAutoHybrid TechnologyCan I buy an electric car at Sam's Club?AutoHybrid CarsIs there a way to create an all-electric car you don't have to plug in?AutoHybrid TechnologyHow Electric Car Conversion Kits WorkAutoHybrid TechnologyWhat is the history of electric cars?AutoUnusual CarsHow big is the world's smallest electric car?AutoFuel ConsumptionHow can a speed bump harvest electricity?AutoFuel-efficient VehiclesThis Woman's Job Is to Figure Out Why People Don't Buy Electric CarsAutoHybrid CarsIs an all-electric car a bad investment?AutoTypes of EnginesHow Does an Electric Water Pump Benefit Your Engine?AutoPlug-in HybridsWhat is the plug-in electric vehicle credit?AutoFuel ConsumptionIndia Plans to Switch All New Cars to Electric by 2030AutoTech and TransportShared Electric Scooters: Commuter Solution or Urban Nightmare?AutoHybrid CarsCan Electric Car Batteries Be Recycled?AutoHybrid CarsWill Electric Cars Require More Maintenance?AutoHybrid CarsChallenges Facing the Electric Car IndustryAutoHybrid CarsAre electric cars safe in accidents?AutoHybrid CarsAre Electric Cars Cheaper to Run?AutoAuto ManufacturingHow old is the electric car?AutoConcept CarsToyota's Newest Electric Concept Car Is Made of WoodAutoFuel-efficient VehiclesElectric Car Charging Goes Super FastAutoHybrid CarsElectric Cars vs. Hydrogen Fuel Cell CarsAutoHybrid CarsTop 10 Electric Car Frequently Asked QuestionsAutoHybrid CarsHow Does Horsepower Figure Into Electric Cars?AutoFuel-efficient VehiclesTesla's New Model 3 Aims Squarely at the Electric Car MainstreamAutoFuel EconomyWill all vehicles eventually be all electric?AutoTransmissions & DrivetrainGas-powered vs. Electric Cars: Which Is Faster?AutoHybrid CarsHow Long Does it Take To Charge an Electric Car?AutoHybrid CarsHow Much Does It Cost to Charge an Electric Car?AutoHybrid Cars12 Myths About Electric VehiclesAutoConcept CarsUnveiled at CES: The Electric Car Hoping to Beat Tesla at Its GameAutoFuel EconomyGas vs. Grid: Gasoline and Electricity Face OffAutoHybrid CarsCharging an Electric CarAutoHybrid CarsInside an Electric CarAutoHybrid CarsDoing a Conversion - Electric Car ConversionAutoHybrid TechnologyThe First Electric CarAutoHybrid CarsAn Electric Car ExampleAutoHybrid CarsElectric-car Motors and BatteriesAutoConcept CarsHow the Tesla Roadster Works