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Behold, The Cleanest EVs On The Road. Why Aren’t Banks Jumping On This?

In a previous article series, I compared the lifetime emissions of various real EVs and PHEVs on the road, as well as several hypothetical EVs. I even compared power sources (renewables vs. dirtier grids) to see how that all stacks up. I’m not going to go through the methodology and assumptions involved, as I previously discussed this and even gave readers a copy of my spreadsheet they can copy and use to plug in their own assumptions and data, so please feel free to challenge me on any of this and run the numbers yourself!

In this article, I’m going to use my handy dandy spreadsheet again to take a look at one of the cleanest possible EVs you can get. Then, I’m going to discuss one of the biggest financial hurdles to getting these super-clean EVs on the road and how banks should work around them. I know all banks won’t go along with my idea, but the ones that do can make some serious money while helping give the environment and global climate a leg up.

Lifetime Emissions of EV Conversions

For this chart, I put the data from the Tesla Model 3, Ford F-150 Lightning, an EV conversion with the same electricity consumption as a Tesla Model 3, and an EV conversion with the same electricity consumption as an F-150 Lightning.

For the EV conversions, I assumed that 100 lb of new chassis would need to be constructed, to account for the production of custom mounting hardware, transmission adapter plates, and battery enclosures. I didn’t assign any other chassis production emissions for the conversions because they get the chassis from an existing ICE car, so there’s no new production needed. The same is also true of batteries for most EV conversions these days, as the batteries come from salvaged wrecks of factory-built EVs, so there’s no need for battery mineral mining, refining, or production.

This means that the conversions get to start on the chart at only about 505 kg of CO2, and on the scales we’re considering, that’s practically zero. The Tesla Model 3 starts at 21,494 kg, and the F-150 Lightning starts out at 33,514 kg. So, the conversions get a huge jump on the factory EVs, by sheer strength of recycling.

Graph by Jennifer Sensiba.

This means that it takes 200,000 miles of driving before the factory Model 3 gets cleaner than the EV truck conversion, and conversions are always cleaner than a comparable factory EV, even over a lifetime of service. Plus, because conversion vehicles tend to have a collectible, sentimental, or historical value of some kind, they’re likely to be repowered with new batteries and not put into the junkyard once the battery pack gets too degraded to be useful in the future. So, the recycling advantage will likely happen over and over.

The inescapable conclusion: EV conversions are the cleanest EVs on the road, with the possible exception of remarkably efficient future vehicle like the Aptera.

Conversions Are Out Of Reach For Many People

There’s one big thing keeping EV conversions out of reach for many people: the cost. While they don’t cost what they used to, they still cost tens of thousands of dollars. My family’s shop starts truck and SUV conversions off at $34,900 for around 100 miles of range and a basic motor that’s comparable to an older stock engine (but with far better torque response).

If you’ve got great credit and income, you can probably get a bank or credit union to extend you a personal loan to cover the cost of an EV conversion. If you’re really well off, you might just pay cash for a conversion. But, if you have average or a little below average credit, have lower income, and can’t cash out your savings and investments (assuming you have any at all) to pay cash, you’re probably out of luck.

When it comes to vehicles, banks and credit unions always have lending requirements not just for the person taking out the loan, but also for the vehicle itself. New cars are always considered a safer bet because the car is unlikely to become dead non-transportation weight in a person’s driveway during the life of the loan, plus there’s warranty if it does. Used cars generally have to be less than ten years old and under around 100,000 miles to qualify, as the risk is lower, but these loans cannot greatly exceed the book value of the vehicle.

This means that EV conversions are very unlikely to be eligible for a normal car loan. They’re very unlikely to be less than 10 years old because newer cars mostly haven’t had a chance to become a classic yet. Plus, the more complicated electronics make them harder to convert than an older vehicle, where you can basically start off fresh. Even if the vehicle is new enough, the cost of doing the conversion takes the vehicle’s price pretty far above book value.

Image by Jennifer Sensiba.

For EV conversions, the bank doesn’t consider that the vehicle is pretty much mechanically new post-conversion and is likely to run with little to no problems for longer than a rebuilt ICE car (due to few moving parts). They don’t consider that the vehicle has likely gained a lot of long-term value now that it’s an EV. This makes the vehicle a lot safer to lend on than a 5-year old used ICE car, and possibly even safer than a bottom-of-the-barrel cheap new ICE car.

Speaking of newer vehicles, tightening emissions requirements are likely to make an EV conversion an even safer bet. We’re already seeing the increased complexity of ICE vehicles take a hit as manufacturers try to squeeze out better and better mileage with things like dual-clutch transmissions, CVTs, and increasingly complex engines with lower margins for electronic error in fuel metering, timing, and turbo boost. EVs don’t suffer from that problem, regardless of what age of car the EV system is installed in.

So, it’s high time that banks get with the program and come up with better requirements that allow their dependable but lower-income and average credit customers to take advantage of this option. They should look for proof that the conversion was done by or inspected by a certified shop, or have some other set of requirements that a decent EV conversion can qualify for.

Featured image provided by Rugged EV. Image by Jennifer Sensiba.

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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.


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