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Do-It-Yourself Electric Vehicles

Do It Yourself Electric Vehicles

Oz-DIY electric vehicle conversions.

“I love Teslas,” says Graeme, owner of Oz-DIY Electric Vehicles, “they make great spare parts!” Graeme knows a lot about cars, both fossil fueled cars (ICE cars) and EV. He was the chairman of Australian Electric Vehicles Association Queensland for 7 years. Wandering around his workshop, I see a multitude of cars in various stages of retrofit. There is a drag racing Suzuki Swift with a Tesla powertrain and battery, a Volkswagen Kombi up on the hoist, and Graeme’s own 2003 General Motor’s Cruze, which he drives every day. An indestructible Toyota Land Cruiser sits waiting for a new drivetrain for the hollow under the bonnet. A BMW i3 and a Nissan LEAF are booked in for a battery upgrade.

Do It Yourself Electric Vehicles

Fossil fuel engine parts removed from converted cars and ready for resale.

The EV side of the business is doing well. Since 2008, Oz-DIY Electric Vehicles has converted 24 cars, and sold over 40 kits for owners to DIY. He is now exporting his vehicle control units to Europe and the USA. He has converted Volkswagen, Suzukis, MINIs, iMiEVs, and Hondas from petrol power to electric drive. A MINI Cooper shell sits bringing back memories of my youth when I roared around Brisbane in the ’70s in my red MINI Cooper S.

Do It Yourself Electric Vehicles

Graeme with electric drivetrain about to be fitted to a classic car.

Over 500 iMiEVs have been sold in Australia, and Graeme is converting many of the ones in Brisbane over to new batteries to double their range. Even with 11 employees, he has a two-year waiting list for conversions. Many of his current employees are university students working part time, getting a taste of the future that you can’t find in a textbook or a lecture hall.

I asked him if there was a future in converting older cars compared with buying the new, cheaper Chinese models coming onto the Australia market. His response was quite thoughtful: “If a BYD Atto 3 gets ‘T’ boned, it will provide cheaper EV parts to the market, so conversions will become cheaper.” Good point!

At the moment, a basic kit to convert a small petrol car (for example, a Suzuki Swift or a GM Cruze) costs about AUD$12,000 (USD$8,473). Graeme was at pains to point out that this was indeed basic — low range, low speed. Over the past ten years, the price of the kits has dropped 40%. At the other end of the scale, Graeme recently answered a request from the Queensland Governor’s Office for a quote on electrifying the governor’s ceremonial 1972 Rolls Royce Phantom. The plan is to restore the car and make a documentary about the process — keeps your eyes peeled for that one.

Oz-DIY EVs has come a long way from the hobby that Graeme started in 2007. He watched what others did and then started working on converting 3 cars — “one for me, one for the wife, and one for a friend.” Graeme’s business was importing spare parts for Suzukis, so, naturally, those first three cars were 1990 Suzuki Swifts. He proudly points out that they are still being driven.

Do It Yourself Electric Vehicles

Batteries powering Graeme’s daily drive, a GM Cruze.

After doing conversions for 15 years, he tells me that there is still nothing better than that first drive … that first drive down the road in an EV that used be ICE.

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Written By

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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