Low Cost EVs

In the March 2009 issue of Renew magazine I have written an article on Low Cost EVs. The main theme is that you don’t have to wait years for the big car companies or pay $40,000 for an EV. A simple EV for metropolitan 60 km/hr commuting can be built for as little as $6,000 today. The article talks about low cost ways to build EVs, and opportunities for small green business.

If you would like to ask questions or comment on the article, please feel free to leave them at the bottom of this post.


The Photo captions in the Renew article are incorrect. Photo 1 should read “The Author’s EV conversion”. Photo 3 should read “The Chinese kit after installation in Eugen’s Barina”.

My first Charade conversion cost far more than $6,000 (due to the use of American components, 120V design, and a few mistakes!). Eugen’s Barina conversion is the prototype for the $6,000 EV discussed in the text.

Having said that I am in the progress of building EV #2 around the low cost Chinese kit supplied by Eugen and another Charade – so I will soon have a $6,000 Charade conversion, making the captions correct!


David’s EV Page
Eugen Vajtauer is Queensland distributor of the low cost Chinese EV kit mentioned in the article.

22 thoughts on “Low Cost EVs”

  1. HIYA,

    read with great interest your renew article and wanted to get in touch with eugen re chinese kits.. I run a suzuki specialist workshop and am interested in getting very involved in one way or another.

    Eugen’s website doesn’t appear to have any contact details… if you can forward them would be appreciated, We also are in the process of building a motor cycle using the manta motor we purchased a few weeks back. When we get some progress and pics i’ll share that with you..

    If your down springwood way pop into the shop.

    Graeme Manietta

  2. Hi Graeme,

    Hey your workshop looks great and your business would be perfect for conversions I reckon. I have emailed Eugen re the contact details on his site, hopefully he will post them shortly.

    Would love to pop in to your workshop some time, will do so next time I am in Qld.


  3. Great article David.

    I have a 1994 Suzuki sedan which I always thought would be a fine candidate for an EV conversion. The photos on Eugens website picture exactly how my sedan might look. I gather the additional batteries are in the boot.

    I just spent 10% of the conversion cost of $6000 on a radiator replacement so it wouldn’t take much of a engine breakdown to make a conversion a viable alternative.

    Registration here in Qld I gather is not particularly difficult. This is where someone like Graeme who specialises in Suzuki vehicles would no doubt be in a good position to facilitate the project.

    An excellent article all round.


  4. Hi David, I liked reading your article in this month’s ReNew mag. At the moment I’ll stick with public transport, bicycling and walking, but I get the feeling that at some stage in the future I will investigate the converted EV option.

    Would you expect to run into on-road problems if/when your car breaks down. Do car insurance/roadside assist people offer support for EVs? I’m not a mechanically/electronically-minded person, so I’d hate to deal with the problems of breakdowns.

  5. Thanks Brian for you kind remarks, hope to see you Suzi electrocuted soon :-)

    @Stuart – road side assistance organisations would need some training to handle EVs. However an EV like mine is pretty simple – the average auto electrician (or regular sparky) would be able to handle it. EVs are certainly easier to understand and repair than regular cars, plus much less to go wrong.

  6. Thank you David for your project and work, a real alternative to petrol.

    Your project would be ideal for TAFE/tech students where the improved processes you stated could be incorporated, possibly with local businesses
    and donated uneconomic traded cars.
    TAFEs do provide low cost services to the public for training purposes.

    It would be good to see this promoted say on ABC’s New Inventors as well as recognition.

  7. Hi John – yes we hardly use petrol these days. A TAFE of high school project is a good idea, thanks. Re the inventors the idea of an electric car conversion is actually not very novel – a small number people have been doing conversions for years on a small scale.

  8. Thanks David,
    the innovation I see is your development of standards and an open source program model. The Linux of ev’s?

    However, promotion is perhaps the most important aspect, especially should petrol costs sharply increase. The New Inventors is not necessarily focused on novelty and maybe useful for the promotion of ev’s.

    Our local colleges appear interested in your project.

  9. Another Graeme! Hi I am Graeme Duder. 20 years in the renewables industry in NZ. Fantastic article in Renew Mag. You have inspired me to get cracking and do an EV conversion. A lot of info that has been previously published has been a little to follow. I like the concept of relating the vehicle weight, system voltage and battery type to suit the desired type of vehicle useage. “Over the top” battery banks shouldn’t be necessary if you are building a commuter, not a highway vehicle. Graeme Manietta’s suggestion of a Suzuki is very valid, I feel. I guess a donor car with 4 wheel disk brakes would be an advantage as there is no engine braking? I am dead keen to follow this up. My wife thinks I’m nuts, That’s good! I also have a close relationship with a Suzuki agency in Christchurch, could be looking for a suitable trade-in donor car!

  10. Hello Graeme,

    Great to hear you are starting a conversion. Yes a small light vehicle makes the job less expensive and easier. For lead acid batteries, choose a car that has a GVM 300-400kg more than the curb weight.

    Yes a car without power assisted brakes makes it even easier as no vacuum pump, switch, and tank is required. That will also save you several hundred $, and make the compliance process with your department of transport easier.

    If you like your wife is welcome to talk to mine – she loves the EV and takes it everywhere!

    Look for a car with a good body and (especially in your climate) no rust. If it has a dud petrol motor even better.



  11. I like how someone responded in the renew magazine electric cars should have a noisemaker on board to alert pedestrians. While part of me wants to say “duh, its a horn” I did think perhaps rather than an petrol engine sound, perhaps a variety of sounds ranging from steam train, tidal wave, herd of cattle, horse, tank, jet engine, missile, falling tree or a machine gun may do a better job of attracting attention.

  12. I am a farmer in SA with a 2wd ute that has blown its motor. The ute is of the smaller type with an aluminium tray so is light weight. Plenty of space under the tray for the batts and this would aid traction. (we could take the big concrete post off the tray after all these years)

    Shorter range and medium speed as in your low cost conversion would suit our farm work perfectly and fuel costs are a big problem for us these days.

    How stringent are the requirements for registration ?

  13. Hello Craig,

    The ute is an ideal for an EV conversion – it already has plenty or GVM allowance for lead acid batteries (if you want to go for lead acid that is).

    The registration procedure is close to what they put you through for a defect. Most of it is common sense and making sure the vehicle is road worthy. You also need an engineers report (about $1000). There is a document called information bulletin 74 available from the Regency Park people.

    – David

  14. Hello David,

    I’m just starting to do a conversion of a Charade (95 model) and I would be interested in the adaptor plate details etc. I intend to use Eugen’s motor with regen. Have you have any experience or knowledge of of his regen motors? I will be using gel batteries initially but intend to use lithium in the future.


  15. Eric, the CAD files for the adaptor plate are or on my EV Page. Check carefully – it’s possible your bell housing is different to mine. I have no knowledge of the regen kits, but would like to play with them. I would be interested to hear how you go with gel batteries.

    – David

  16. Regarding my ute conversion above, would it be possible to use a 96 or 120 volt motor but run it on a 72 volt batt. pack. The idea being we would mobile a lot cheaper for unregistered farm paddock use but would retain the option of higher speeds if we wished to register it for public road use later on. Although 95 percent of our road travel is on unsealed, uncared for surfaces and 80 ks would be plenty.
    Another plus has come mind with EV is there would no fire danger using it summer time when we have drive in the dry stubbles as there is no hot exhaust system. (wont even be a cold one under there)

  17. Hello Craig,

    Sure you can run at a lower voltage, the trade off will be lower top speed, lower acceleration, higher current and shorter range. But fine for driving around a farm at 40km/hr.

    The 72V conversions I have seen have been very small cars like a Sherpa or Mira (600kg before the conversion), used mainly for driving around smaller towns with 50 km/hr speed limits. They are great for that purpose. We have found 96V to be the minimum for 60 km/hr metro driving in our Charade. For any serious driving above 80 km/hr I would recommend 144V.

    The lack of fire danger is an interesting one (I am a member of the Country Fire Service here in S.A.).

    – David

  18. Hi David,
    I have been wondering about battery life. Am building a 144v system in a 2wd ute. Most trips would be 20 kms and parked at the sheds again plugged in. On very rare occasions trips might be 45 kms before plug in to recharge.
    Would it be better to buy large batteries which would not be discharged beyond three quarter full, or smaller which would be discharged down to half way.
    A saving on weight and dollars, unless the occasional extra draining of the smaller batteries shortened their life so that replacing them more often meant no better dollar efficientcy.
    The cost of larger batteries is quite significant and one would hope they last at least four years. AGM matinence free are the type I am setting up for. Will be very interested to hear any info. you might have on this subject. Thank-you.

  19. Hi Craig,

    For the best life time and total lifetime km from a lead-acid pack the rule of thumb is no more than 50% Depth of Discharge (DoD). So either pack sounds OK.



  20. When you quote ranges in your artical in ReNew are you refering to 50% DoD, or to the point of the vehicle losing preformance or the distance it would finally dribble to a stop at ?
    My motor kit has arrived form China. I am amazed how small, yet heavy the 144 volt motor is. There’s going to be a lot of space under the bonnet, I guess some of the batteries should go there to keep the weight over the front wheels similar to what it was.
    Although it would be very easy to place them all in the same frame under the ute tray.

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