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Converting Gas Cars to Electric

Nathan Hutchison manages Hutchison Electrics in Albany, California. He used to work at a green car dealer in Berkeley doing repairs, but that company went under, so he started his own electric vehicle and hybrid car service. He first started working on cars when he was four years old with his dad.

Today, he has his own business converting old gas vehicles to electric motors and batteries. He also repairs vehicles. Recently, his all-electric Volkswagen Bug was on display at the Green Cars Expo in Richmond, California. Luckily, I had the chance to interview him. Below is an interview with Mr. Hutchision.

1. How long did it take you to convert your gas VW Bug to all electric?

The Company car we have now took approx 5 weeks to convert and partially restore.  I have converted a VW beetle in as little as 24 working hours.  A “conversion” from gas to electric can range from 20-30 hours to 50-150 hours, there are many different cars out there and there are many different options that our customers can choose from that determine the amount of time a conversion would take.  In addition we provide restoration services and any repairs that may be needed on the car being converted.  That said, you can imagine how many hours it may take to restore a classic car to new.

2. If a customer brings in a gasoline-powered vehicle, how long does it usually take you to convert it to electric?

Again, depends on the car and what is being done, but typical lead time is anywhere from 1.5-2 months to 3 or 4 months for the most extensive conversion and restoration.  In addition to building the car, each car is tested extensively to ensure there are no issues once delivered.

3. What kind of batteries do you use in your conversions and how long do they typically last?

We use a lithium battery in all of our conversions.  The batteries we use are some of the safest in the industry.  They have a life rating of 7-9 years before you have half of the energy or “range” than what you started with.  We can provide as little as 30-40 mile per charge in a vehicle to as much as 200-300mi per charge.

4.  How many conversions have you completed so far?

From scratch we have done 12-15 conversions, though it is not all that we do.  We offer repair on existing electric vehicles and often “take over” conversions that other people have started and or completed.  In addition we work with other companies in this industry that are developing ideas such as add-on hybrid systems to hybrids and gasoline vehicles.  We also offer service on conventional vehicles and emphasize “fuel efficient” upgrades and repairs.

5.  Purchasing a brand new EV can be very expensive, such as the Tesla sedan, which is $50,000 or more. Why do think there doesn’t seem to be as much interest in the media about converting existing cars to electric motors and battery packs?

I am unsure as to why “conversion companies” are not shown more in the media, but what I do know is that conversions and or new electric vehicles are only recently growing in practicality and affordability.  A Tesla may be more than $50,000 but a car similar from my company may cost more, again depending on the car.  If you ask me the electric vehicle industry has come a long way in the last 5 years and is accelerating at a very fast rate.

6.  Which gasoline cars are easiest to convert to electric motors?

The easiest cars to convert to electric would be VW and Porsche air cooled vehicles such as Beetles, Karman Ghia, Bus, Squareback, Fastback, Porsche 912, 911 etc from 1950s to 1975+.  Mainly because of the size and weight of the vehicle, but also because of the design and ease of installation, not to mention the initial cost of the vehicle.  Though, like we advertise, we can build you an electric car out of any car you want.  With that said, you can imagine the different prices there could be.

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