battery pack, electric carIf you can’t buy the car you want, then build it.

Gregg Abott (aka Gadget) custom-converts cars for a living, but instead of tricking out cars to run on biodiesel or get better mileage, he’s hacking them to run on electricity. He’s the owner of Left Coast Electric, a Santa Monica based company with a simple philosophy:

“…if electric cars are going to make a difference, a lot of people have to drive them. They have to be made affordable.”

Which means these guys aren’t putting out $100K Tesla Roadsters, but are converting older models to have the same functionality:

So instead of building cars from the ground up, Gadget and his business partner, Roger Wilson, convert existing cars or shells of cars into electric vehicles by supplying or outfitting them with pre-configured kits loaded with everything an electric car needs except a new motor.

Admittedly, this isn’t for the faint of heart. Each kit costs $10,000 and requires the tenacity to dive into major auto electrical work. But if this type of conversion seems like a daunting task, Left Coast Electric will do the work for you—for $17,000 that is, including parts—which means that for the price of a Prius, your old car could be fully electric.

For $30,000, they’ll even convert your Hummer.

Abott uses nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) D-cell batteries, placed on top of where the motor used to be (and in the bed if it’s a truck) to create the battery array. LCE also buys and coverts old cars, which it offers for sale:

Gadget prefers to work with what he calls “Arcane British Cars, or ABCs — Triumphs and MGs and Austin Healys.” He picks them up at auctions for $200 to $300. “We’ll be converting those, and we’ll sell them on the lot,” he says, for the price of a new Prius ($25,000 to $30,000). But Left Coast also has modularized kits ready to drop into Mazda Miatas and Chrysler PT Cruisers for the “build-it-yourself market.” With NiMH batteries, he can guarantee a range of 60 to 100 miles. And one day, he adds, “We’ll move on to lithium ions.”

The biggest question in my mind is how long the batteries will last (landfill problem?). There are also simpler and cheaper solutions for do-it-yourselfers, like using biodiesel or converting a car to run on straight-vegetable-oil.

But there isn’t much question in my mind that if you want it bad enough, you can do it.

For more information, see the Left Coast Electric’s Website and the LA Weekly story from June 2006.

Related Posts:

Get 120 MPG Out of Your Prius (Plug It In)

The Sporty Future of Electrics Cars: the Lightning GT

Car Hacker’s Hummer Gets 60 MPG

How to Get 76 MPG

6 Ways To Find And Use Biodiesel Anywhere

Photo Credit: LA Weekly