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An Alternative to Electric Vehicle Conversion Kits

Ben Parker

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Disclaimer: I’m not an engineer or mechanic. The following suggestions are just thoughts from someone else going along the path to convert a car to electric. Please consult a trained professional.

Like countless others before me, the allure of doing an electric vehicle conversion has cost me hours of scouring the internet for ways that I could make it happen. From paying someone else, to doing it myself. This leads many to electric vehicle conversion kits. These kits provide the closest you can come to a bolt-on conversion. But even still these kits require you have some base knowledge electric circuits, potentially fabrication, and obviously some mechanical skills. 


For most of the kits you can find out there they may not even deliver on everything you want. There are two types of electric motors available for cars, AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current). Many conversion kits come with either a small AC motor or a DC that has <150hp. They also require an adapter plate to link up the motor to the transmission which can prove tricky and relies on the quality of the donor car’s transmission. So what’re you to do?


Well, may I present the farthest thing from a novel idea: Tesla-fy your car. 


The Tesla drive unit will allow you to rid yourself of nearly all of the donor car’s components and drop in a Tesla drive unit that -- with some finagling -- can connect directly to your axles. The Tesla drive units come in multiple sizes with varying outputs. The drive units come in two sizes for both RWD and FWD. The smallest drive unit having an output of up to 250hp with the largest (the Ludicrous) output being 645hp. There’s definitely a price difference between them and if I’m being honest here the price of even a small drive unit is the cost of a whole conversion kit. 


So this is only for those who want the power and engineering of Tesla in their old classic.


What do you need to run a Tesla Drive Unit?


To get it to run on a bench, and theoretically, in your car you need:

  • A Tesla Drive Unit (Roughly $1800 - $10,000)
  • A Controller 
  • Batteries ($1500 - $10,000)
  • High Voltage Cables


You can also buy a Tesla Drive Unit with a controller that’s already programmed from companies like 057, or StealthEV. There are also some opensource solutions if you’re up to a more DIY approach.


From what I’ve figured though, the cheapest you could get everything you need (with a small drive unit) is roughly $11,000. So it might be a bit more than a standard conversion kit, but it may offer you more power and more space.


I personally haven’t done this, nor am I an electrician, mechanic, or do I profess to have any real technical skill. I am a fellow wanderer through the wild west of electric vehicle conversions. There are a few people who have done this themselves, I recently wrote about ZeroEV’s R32 Skyline, they’ve documented the whole process of the conversion here on their YouTube. The Teslorean is another build I’ve featured where they’re undertaking the same process.

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Conclusion


Again these are just some thoughts of someone who’s considered this many a time. Conversion kits do provide a certain level of surety and convenience. But for some, like me, there may be a want to have more power, and Tesla engineering. If you want to learn along the way as I do make sure to subscribe for some e-mail updates. If you know more on the subject or have something to add, please shoot me an e-mail here: ben@onvoltage.com