The Rise Of The Electric Vehicle Conversion Shop

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Up until now, automotive enthusiasts have only been able to bolt on new modifications to vehicles to make them better. Whether getting faster speed through a supercharger, more quickly stopping a fast car via better brakes, or body roll improvements from upgrades to the suspension, making cars better and faster has driven gear heads for decades.

That same passion for improving our vehicles is spawning an entirely new generation of automotive enthusiasts, who are using the same set of tools that dad used to use … but instead of using them to upgrade components on their cars, they’re using them to rip out the internals. The stripped down cars are then increasingly finding themselves as the receptacles for new and improved powertrains and battery packs. These improvements are substituting clunky engines that burn things for high-tech batteries, motors controllers, battery management systems, batteries, and laptops.

In contrast with their internal combustion ancestors, electric vehicles are shockingly simplistic. Very few moving parts and only a handful of major components, electric vehicles are rapidly becoming the darlings of automotive enthusiasts looking to bring the cars they love into the future with a jolt of electrification under the hood.

EV West

The crew down at EV West in San Marcos, California, has been tearing down EVs for years and using their innards to build all sorts of electrified creations from the resulting bounty. They have built up an impressive store of knowledge that overflows into their parts selection on their virtual shelves.

The selection at EV West includes everything from a Model S motor kit with aftermarket controller to all the fuses, switches, connections, and terminations you need or think you’ll need or wish you could need for an EV build, including the elusive “Danger High Voltage” stickers that add a few horsepower each to any EV build.

Building on their selection of DIY EV components, they build 4-wheeled custom creations in their shop, with a core competency in old VW conversions of bugs, vans, and even Karmann Ghia’s. They’ve also taken on a few Porsche conversions in what could be seen as an attempt to offset the emissions mess the VW Group has made of its deployed fleet of vehicles.

What’s especially exciting about this “Electric Vehicle Performance Shop” is that they’re about the performance and the technology first. Said another way, they’re not doing this to save the planet. President of EV West Mike Bream was a bit more blunt to Road and Track: “F*** the environment. Save the cars! Oh wait, we also saved the environment? That’s good too – but it’s all about having your priorities straight.” It’s an important distinction that electric vehicles are going mainstream and dominating the automotive world in yet another important segment.


Over on the other coast of the US, Polykup is just getting off the ground, with only a handful of projects under the startup’s belts. Impressively, even with admittedly little experience with electric vehicles, these guys were able to get their Audi S5 up and running on a Tesla motor, inverter, and battery system in just a few months. That’s exciting because it shows the world just how much more straightforward electric cars are.

They aren’t the complex beasts our grandparents drove around in, but rather, they are the very simple motors and batteries we’ve used for decades in other applications, just hooked together a bit differently. The possibilities to tap into these technologies and port them from a wrecked EV into what was formerly used as an internal combustion vehicle are endless. Need more range? Add more batteries. Want more power? Just bolt on a new motor. It’s a new realm and seeing experienced and inexperienced alike dipping their toes in or diving in head first is thrilling, to say the least.

Polykup’s Audi was running when Rich Rebuilds spent some time with it (video below) but it was already apparent that the team at Polykup was more than excited about what they had already achieved.

Modders seem to use Tesla’s motors, inverters, and batteries as their top choice. Though, providers like EV West do offer motors, controllers, and other components from a handful of other suppliers as well. Not everyone needs the power of a Model S in their car so a bit of variety is a good thing.

What do you think? Do you have an old ICE vehicle that you’d consider ripping the guts out of for an electrified upgrade? Have you done this already? Let us know in the comments!

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

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