9 People Who Designed and Built Their Own Electric Vehicles

Here are 9 examples of people building their very own electric vehicles.
Christopher McFadden

With the often excessive cost of buying an electric vehicle, there is a growing trend for people to attempt to build or convert old ICE's, by themselves. While this can be a big and potentially dangerous undertaking, here are 9 people whose labors really paid off. 


Home-build EV's are becoming pretty popular

According to AEVA's Queensland branch chairman Graeme Manietta, there has been a surge in interest of people investigating and building their very own electric vehicles. This appears to be for two main reasons, Manietta explained to ABC: 

"The main reason they want to do it is [that], (a) it's cheaper than buying an off-the-shelf unit, and (b) they've got something unique, so they might pick an older vehicle or maybe a classic and they will convert that to electric.

"People are putting down the money to buy the components to do the conversions themselves or employ someone else to do it for them."

As commercially available EVs can be ridiculously expensive, the growth in interest makes complete sense. 

"If you really want an electric car and you can't afford $50,000-$240,000 for some of the cars, this would be a good alternative as you'd probably spend somewhere around $16,000-$25,000 and you'd have a pretty decent electric vehicle," he said.

While building your own EV will save you a pretty penny, it is not without its own risks. The battery packs, for example, have fairly high currents and voltages that could pose a serious health risk if the right precautions are not taken. 

For this reason, it is usually better to hire some professionals to do the conversion for you.

What are some examples of DIY electric car projects?

So, without further ado, here are some examples of great DIY electric cars. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.

1. This guy's solar-powered electric bike is awesome

diy evs bike
Source: electrek

This guy took some old PV panels and an electric bike to make his very own DIY electric vehicle. His choice of an EV bike is a savvy one as they are famous for their energy-efficiency and range.

In most cases, you can squeeze out 160k for somewhere in the region of $1 in charging costs. The EV DIY-er, Richard Drumm, had a previous interest in EVs and had long wanted an electric car of his own -- but the prices were far too high. 

But when he found a RadMini electric bike, he simply couldn't resist the urge to buy it. By modifying his existing PV array, charging his e-bike was easy as pie. 

2. This company made an EV from spare parts

diy evs bmw
Source: Design Boom

A California-based company, ITAP, managed to convert and old 1997 BMW into a cool DIY EV with an impressive 382 mile (615 km) range. Called the "Phoenix", their ex junkyard BMW was completely stripped down and built anew. 

To reduce weight, they removed all non-essential interior features except for the driver and passenger seats. 

They fitted three types of recycled batteries with a total of 130-kilowatt capacity as well as an electric motor. The batteries were recovered from old laptop lithium-ion batteries, among other sources.

The total build costs around $13,000 and took them only 35-days to complete. 

3. This guy converted his old Toyota Hilux

diy ev hilux
Example of a 2000 Model Toyota Hilux, Source: OSX/Wikimedia Commons

Trevor Richards, a North Queensland teacher, decided to convert his old 2000 model Toyota Hilux into an EV. He completed the project in 2007 and has been using it as his main transportation ever since. 

His converted Hilux is legally roadworthy and registered while it was stripped of its old combustion engine parts and retrofitted with EV buts in less than a few months. 

Richards charges his car for free at home using his off-grid solar array, but there are also free charging stations up and down the Queensland coast. 

4. These chaps converted an old Ferrari 308

diy evs ferrari
1984 Ferrari 308 GTB, Source: Sfoskett/Wikimedia Commons

Eric Hutchinson and Brock Winberg made the news a few years back when they converted an old Ferrari 308 into an EV-supercar. Their conversion was so effective that their EV-Ferrari was actually faster than its combustion-engined compatriots. 

"I really was dying to know how this 308 compared to a stock 308," Hutchison told CNN Supercharged.

"We had a professional driver drive both cars in a timed environment on the same track -- about a mile and a half -- and the professional driver did that lap in 1:26 with a gas Ferrari."

5. This EV DIY-er fought the law and the law won

ev diy volvo
Source: Jesper Berggreen/cleantechnica

While many DIY EV enthusiasts have inspiring stories of their projects, not everyone goes to plan. This chap's hopes and dreams of their very own home-built EV were crushed pretty quickly. 

He was attempting to convert an old 1977 Volvo 242DL into an EV-version. Sadly for this EV enthusiast, the law was not really on his side

6. This DIY electric car cost a paltry $9,000

Warren "Boyler" Boyles from Hobart, Australia converted an old Daihatsu 3-cylinder into a fully functional and fun electric vehicle. He completed the task about 8 years ago, and the entire project cost him just shy of $9,000.

Mr. Boyles charges the car using solar panels on his garage roof as well as mains power. 

7. This guy is working on an open-source EV

diy evs zwheelz
Source: Sierra Club

Gary Krysztopik of San Antonio, Texas is working on an open-source EV kit to help others build their own EVs at a fraction of the cost of a commercially available one. His company, ZWheelz, hopes to revolutionize the world of build-your-own electric vehicles. 

"My goal is to make building an electric vehicle as easy as possible," Gary told Sierra Club. "It's mainly for people who want to commute back and forth. It allows for a very easy entry point to get an EV."

8. This Tesla motor-powered VW van is awesome

A small Irish company working out of an isolated industrial uint in Arklow, County Wicklow, Ireland, is giving old ICE cars a new breathe of life. Called New Electric, the company also provides training courses into how others can do the same.

One of their test beds for their conversion process was an old split-screen VW campervan. By installing a Tesla motor and some batteries, the VW van is now one of the most stylish EVs on the road. 

9. This chap converted an old Ford Model A into an EV

One well known YouTube mechanic, Rich Benoit, converted an old Ford Model A into an amazing retro-EV car. On his YouTube channel "Rich Rebuilds", Benoit takes viewers through the process as he removed the old Chevy 305 engine to bring the "Rat Rod" into the 21st Century. 

While he first considered using Tesla parts, the costs were pretty steep. For this reason, Benoit decided to use junk parts instead. The finished EV Ford A is something to behold.

So, if you fancy building your own EV from scratch, or converting your beloved old gas-guzzler, we hope these stories provide you with some much-needed inspiration. 

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