Although the sticker price on new EVs and hybrids still causes many to balk, the idea of converting existing gasoline powered vehicles to pure electric or plug-in hybrids might appear to make sense.

At Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, a team has come up with a relatively straightforward ChargeCar conversion kit that can transform a 2001-05 Honda Civic into a pure EV. According to the team that engineered it, the package can be installed by a mechanic in less than two days, plus you can then flog your old gasoline four cylinder engine and transmission to help cover the cost.

However, there’s a catch. Although converting your car might save you over the long term, the cost of the conversion is $24,000 sans donor vehicle, plus unlike new EVs it doesn’t qualify for the federal $7,500 tax credit.

So, even if the donor vehicle costs $6-$7,000, by the time all’s said and done your wallet will still be $30,000 lighter, which means financially, buying a new Nissan Leaf probably makes better sense, at least right now.

Illah Nourbakhsh, co director for the ChargeCar project said that the price of the kit would come down as volume goes up; the problem; is that due to the high purchase cost, that isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

Nonetheless, ChargeCar does make sense for fleet customers. By converting sizeable numbers of existing vehicles, cost savings could be realized, plus in terms of overall environmental impact, converting an existing vehicle reduces it’s overall carbon footprint, since energy required to manufacture a vehicle (around 15 percent of the total used during its lifetime) is eliminated.

The question is, convincing fleets to buy it. Michigan based ALTe, founded by some ex-Tesla Motors employees, might offer a more enticing solution, since it’s built its conversion kit around the Ford F-150, currently the most popular vehicle in North America and ubiquitous among many fleet operators.

In this case, the kit is actually a plug-in hybrid, since it uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline motor teamed with twin 60 kilowatt-hour electric motors and typically, 22 kilowatt-hour battery packs. Nevertheless, like with ChargeCar, the package is still around $30,000.

Nonetheless, considering that rival firms, such as VIA Motors are also investing in fleet plug-in hybrid conversions of used trucks and vans, with support by none other than Bob Lutz; such programs might just prove their worth in the coming years.

Mother Nature Network