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Converting cars to all-electric is catching on, but slowly

Does that old Honda in your driveway need a valve job? Transform it with an electric conversion. A team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has come up with a kit to make your 2001-2005 Civic a zero-emission battery car. Converting an existing car instead of buying a new one is good for the planet, and the old beater will have a new lease on life.

Your mechanic can probably install the kit in 2 half days. It’s not a difficult job, and you can sell the used engine and transmission on Craigslist. That’s the good part.
Here’s the bad part: The conversion kit costs $24,000, plus the cost of the Civic (if you don’t already have one). Your total bill is likely to come in at $30,000. And you’re not eligible for the $7,500 tax credit that new EV buyers get. In fact, buying a new Nissan Leaf is actually cheaper than converting a 7-year-old used Civic.
Conversions are likely to catch on first in the fleet market, where what matters most is the long-term cost of keeping vehicles on the road.
Felix Kramer of CalCars said waiting for the automakers to market new EVs is going to take a long time. “There will be an insignificant impact in terms of petroleum reduction from the new plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles for more than 15 years – even if they come in at a rate 10 times faster than hybrids came into the market,” Kramer said. “That’s because we have 250 million vehicles in the United States and 900 million in the world.” Cars already on the road have a lot of “embedded energy,” he said., and about 15 percent of the total energy used by a car or truck in its lifetime was used to build it.


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