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I would like to convert a Ford Escort to an Electric Vehicle (EV). I would like to have a 40-60 mile cruising range and would not need to go faster than 55 MPH.

Can you recommend a conversion kit (or an electric engine)?

EDIT: It is a manual transmission. My budget is $3500.

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The biggest issue with electric vehicles is weight. Accelerating and hill climbing both take energy in proportion to weight. Batteries are really heavy; you end up with a lot of capacity just to haul around your capacity. Batteries are also expensive, tricky to charge correctly, and have a limited lifetime.

This is why the electric and hybrid production cars go to such great lengths to reduce weight (both in the batteries and in the chassis) and to use really expensive batteries.

You can cheat the game by starting with a lightweight vehicle. The less your chassis weighs, the less battery you need to power it, so the less battery you need to haul your batteries.

Your real goal isn't to get a car to your destination, it's to get yourself there (most of the time; sometimes you have passengers or cargo.) Your body weight is a fraction of the vehicle's weight!

About the best you can do here is an electric bicycle. The base weight is minimal compared to your body weight, so now all your energy is going to your main goal: getting you there.

Instead of converting a whole car to electric, consider converting a bicycle and using it for your shorter trips. You may be able to get 80% of the benefit for 20% of the cost.

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    When you say "really expensive" batteries, do you mean Lithium Ion batteries, golf-cart batteries, or something else? – rajah9 Apr 14 '11 at 12:57
  • @rajah9: I'm thinking of the Prius, where a replacement battery pack is $2200 - $2600 (goo.gl/bKMij). Deep cycle SLA is great for stationary applications (off-grid house) and are easier to charge and maintain. Lithium and NiMH batteries are a fraction of the size and weight at a multiple of the cost, which makes sense when you they have to carry themselves and the chassis weight is low. LiFePO4 is usually the right choice on a bicycle. – Jay Bazuzi Apr 14 '11 at 15:46
  • Might be that LiFePO4 is right for a light car, as well. I've been talking to an EV enthusiast who says that lead acid golf-cart batteries will jump out of the gate from 0 to 30 but wimp out from 30 to cruising speed. – rajah9 Apr 20 '11 at 18:41
  • @rajah9: I don't know what units you're using in "0-30" but regardless, there is no universal correlation between battery technology and vehicle speed. There are many other factors involved that make such a statement hopeless. – Jay Bazuzi Apr 21 '11 at 5:20
  • Sorry, 0-30 MPH, as electric motors generate the most torque at 0 RPM. He can accelerate quickly from stops but 0-30 takes much less time than 30-50 MPH. My limited understanding is that the lead-acid batteries do not handle large current drains as well as Lithium batteries. And from my limited understanding of batteries in series (e.g., 16 x 6V batteries to get 96V), the last battery gets drained first and gets charged first, and as a consequence, wears out first. Is my thinking correct? – rajah9 Apr 21 '11 at 12:48
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http://www.e-volks.com/ makes a generic conversion kit for cars up to 3500 pounds with a manual transmission. It would require machining a conversion plate and shaft coupler, but aside from that installation seems straightforward. Other concerns, however, are finding replacements for the A/C, heater, and vacuum brake-boosting systems, as the electric motor isn't configured to power them like a gasoline engine could.

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Congratulations on realizing the benefits and fun of an all electric vehicle. I am always excited to see someone wanting to convert!

A budget of $3500 is pretty limiting especially considering batteries are your biggest expense @ roughly $350 / kWh. A good EV conversion with the stats that you want would most likely end up costing 7-10k on the least expensive end. Consider selling your ICE (internal combustion engine), exhaust pipes, catalytic converter, and the rest of the unneeded parts to increase your budget (and lower your weight).
To keep within your budget I would suggest using SLA deep cycle battery (Solid Lead Acid), because they are currently the cheapest for the power output (but heavier and don't last as long as say LiFePo4 batteries). Also use a DC motor, since it is the cheapest option for the power output.

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