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-   -   Viability of an EV conversion business? (http://www.fuelly.com/forums/f18/viability-of-an-ev-conversion-business-3597.html)

MetroMPG 01-03-2007 03:56 PM


Originally Posted by SVOboy
I wonder what the market is for custom EV conversions...you could start (another) business, :p

This just came up as a topic on the EVDL. The response so far has not been encouraging to the guy who asked. One parts seller estimates the potential market for "regular" commercially converted EVs (ie not Teslas, and not NEVs) to be only in the hundreds.

thread starts here:


My favourite quote so far:


Fortunately, you didn't list making a living off of the conversions as a goal ;^> As others have been happy to point out, the conversion business has historically proven to be a very effective means of turning a large pile of money into a much smaller pile ;^>

The Toecutter 01-04-2007 02:27 AM


One parts seller estimates the potential market for "regular" commercially converted EVs (ie not Teslas, and not NEVs) to be only in the hundreds.
Sounds about right.

When you're trying to sell people a $15,000 1985 Toyota, you're definately not going to get many bites. Believe me, Steve Clunn is trying his *** off! Even when he offers to extend the purchase period to a long length where payments of $100/month are all that's needed, he doesn't get much response. In a financial sense, most people see it as a 1985 Toyota, regardless of its new drive system.

However, the market for a real EV of the 'new car' variety is huge. With mass production, we really could have an affordable midsize sedan that has 200+ miles range, 0-60 mph < 9 seconds, able to seat 5 adults, < $25,000. But the major automakers refuse. See a study by Cuenca and Gaines, which gauged the mass production costs of a NiMH EV in the 1990s. Later studies by others comparing the mass production costs of Li Ion EVs and HFCVs also found that in theory, a $20,000, 65 kWh battery + inverter + motor system is possible in mass production. Just add chassis. This would give a 300 mile range EV in a Ford Taurus sized and shaped car.

A study titled "The Current and Future Market for Electric Vehicles" found that in California alone, the minimum market for an 80 mile range EV capable of freeway speeds and a comparable price to their gasoline counterparts was at least 150,000 cars, or 12% of the new car market. The 95% confidence interval was 12-18% of the market share; for those who haven't studied statistics, basically there was a 95% chance that the real market for an affordable EV with at least 80 miles range and freeway capability was between 12% and 18% of new car sales.

This study needs to be redone, IMO. The technology at the time the study was completed allowed 100-150 miles range with NiMH batteries(250+ miles range with an aerodynamically efficient car). Now we have 250+ miles range with Li Ion(400+ miles with aerodynamic efficiency). Imagine what the potential market would be with those new numbers.

With range figures like that, the worst case scenario is that an EV would be a second car for virtually 100% of households.

Silveredwings 01-04-2007 07:55 AM

Good info. It's no wonder companies like Solectria (Azure) now produce only for the commercial/mass-transit market. Still, I think their model of retrofitting engineless Metros was a good one.

MetroMPG 01-04-2007 08:36 AM


Originally Posted by Silveredwings
Still, I think their model of retrofitting engineless Metros was a good one.

I'm not so sure it was. The guy who started the EVDL thread proposed basically the same business model, but starting out with a Honda Fit as the host.

But I suspect low volume conversion businesses based on new cars will fail for the same reason Steve Clunn isn't getting rich selling $15k 1985 Toyotas: people will inevitably compare the ICE equivalent to the EV conversion (on price, or range) and the EV will almost always lose.

Not too many people will pay $30k for an electric Fit, and as AC Propulsion surely knows, very few people are going to pay $50 or $60k for a L-Ion xB.

Even the Forkenswift NEV at around a thousand bucks all in would lose on cost comparison to an equivalent ICE car. After all, we got a valid safety certificate when it was still an ICE car with just $79 invested :p. Another couple hundred would have had us through emissions and on the road (with a good heater to boot!).

Silveredwings 01-04-2007 09:02 AM

Sobering but true.

Selling 1985 electric Toyotas at $15k may be tougher than selling $25 - 30k 2006 Honda FIT EVs (assuming atleast some economy of scale). Last I saw 10 year old Rav4EVs fetched around $45k.

I know there will always be a smaller market for something that costs more and offers lower utility to many, but there is a growing market for alternatives, especially as a second vehicle.

MetroMPG 01-04-2007 09:23 AM

Comparing the Tesla roadster to AC Propulsion's E-Box is instructive: it leaves me with the impression that the key to success in the EV conversion market (even in low-volumes) isn't technology, or even the cost of the technology, but marketing.

Both companies will produce quality conversions with above average range (for EVs), and better "performance" than their ICE versions.

But more people will scoff at paying $60K for a converted Scion xB, than will scoff at $100K for a converted Lotus Elise (or Europa - I forget which it's based on).

The difference between the early apparent sales success of the Tesla is that (to North Americans) it appears to be a novel automobile, so the inevitable ICE vehicle range/cost comparison isn't readily available. The eBox, on the other hand, instantly invites comparisons to the ICE version. If Tesla had decided to convert Corvettes instead of Lotuses, I don't think they would even be a blip on the public's radar screen to the extent they are now.

(This argument would seem to fall flat in the face of your RAV EV example, but I think that specific car commands high prices partly because it's become a collectible, and partly because it's a corporate conversion that still has Toyota's backing for service.)

It would be interesting to see the British response to the Tesla. I suspect it's going to be a lot less glowing than it has been here.

The lesson as I see it: For a low-buck, low-tech conversion business to work, I think it has to pick a unique chassis that has a lot of novelty factor and isn't commonly driven, thus not instantly inviting the ICE comparison.

Something like: the original Mini, any air-cooled VW. Others???

CoyoteX 01-04-2007 10:53 AM

Instead of looking at the normal production car market how about looking at how the kit car market works. Take a car that is interesting looking and not common on the road and make something similar. When my Manta was powered by a pretty weak VW motor nobody cared and they still assumed the car could do 250mph because of the speedometer :D The car is different enough that it does not easily compare to a standard car. It also gives you great aerodynamics compared to a normal car. The kit car market is set up to do a pretty low volume business and there are companies that survive fine selling maybe 5-10 cars a year. Getting together with one of those companies so they supply a body to go over a custom electric chassis might be the simplest setup.

Another option would be to something totally different like an electric 4wd. I thought about converting my jeep cj7 to electric if I could find an electric motor to mount to the front and rear diffs. Thereby getting rid of the transfer case and everything, as well as letting the thing still be able to drive on its side or climbing a very steep hill without running out of oil pressure. My plan was to use a small battery set with the stock motor driving a large alternator and get horrible mileage but it would still get better than the ~8mpg the thing gets now when I try and drive it over 45mph or use 4wd. I could see a pretty good demand for an electric off road machine to compete with the gas powered rock crawlers and mudders. Imagine being able to go through mud totally underwater or have large enough tires the thing could right itself when on its side or top.

I cant help it I never was much for having a normal car :)

Silveredwings 01-04-2007 01:25 PM

Well... as 4wd EVs go, I think the ProEV Imp is kinda impressive in both it's simplicity and it's performance as well.

The Toecutter 01-04-2007 04:20 PM

The problem with kit cars is that most people want to be able to buy a car and drive it off the lot, without having to build or assemble it. And if some small company tries to sell normal cars with 4 wheels in the US, they will run into a lot of red tape due to all the regulations pushed in place by larger automakers to stall competition.

If it were that easy, AC Propulsion, Solectria, Commuter Cars, UEV, and others, would have a $20,000 EV with long range and highway capability on the market right now. The demand is definately there. Sadly politics conspire to keep EVs off the market, instead of economics or technology as is commonly assumed.

Wheras the American public wants an EV, they do not want to give up aesthetics, stability, safety, affordability, performance, or comfort. Wheras many small businesses have the desire to build such an EV and wheras the technology is certainly there and would be affordable in mass production, they don't have the resources to do a mass production run and get the price down.

Jerry dycus is going the route of a 3-wheeled vehicle. You can register them as motorcycles and bypass much of the regulation. However, the American public at large wants normal cars; Jerry has thus confined himself to a niche market.

If someone were to invest $400+ million into someone like Tesla or ACP, that would be enough money to meet all regulations, crash tests, R&D, to get a mass produced, $20,000 EV sedan with 200+ miles range built. Indeed, that's about the cost to develop a gasoline car for the mass market.

If that car were available? With few or no compromises? The consumers would flock to it like flies on ****. Instead, we get halfassed attempts from Toyota, VW, and Honda and no attempts from GM, Ford, and others.

The mainstream automakers just won't budge. They don't want us driving in cheap to run, low-maintenance EVs. There's less profit to be made in it. They don't want competition replacing them; hence all the regulations and import restrictions that went into place in the 70s and 80s.

They call that a 'free market', while denying the consumers their say in the market.

GasSavers_Ryland 01-04-2007 10:13 PM

there are also alot of people who look at a $40,000 electric vehicle, then think to them self "I could build my own for less then that", so write a book and sell it to those cheap people who want to fallow your foot steps, after all there are more people out there buying books on electric cars then people who are driving them, my shelf devoted to electric vehicle books is proof of this.

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