Introduction to converting a 200SX to electric
In October of 2003, a new acquaintance (and now friend), Brian Staffanson, told
me about his idea of converting his VW Bug to electric. The idea sounded
interesting. I asked a few questions, but somewhat brushed it off. In Novemeber,
we were walking back from a class we had together at Utah State University.
He was telling me about how he had replaced the engine in one of his cars a few
years back. I was interested in where he purchased the motor, and how the
replacement went as my Nissan 200sx was starting to show signs of engine death (it
has 204k miles on it!). He asked me, "Why don't you just convert it to electric?".
Brian continued to tell me that it would not cost much more to do an electric
conversion (we have both had our eyes open since! A well-done conversion runs in the $5k to $10k range). I began warming up to the idea of converting my 200sx.
Most people have a skewed view of how an electric vehicle would perform. I try
to remember how I envisioned an electric car running, although it's difficult
to remember now. An electric vehicle (EV), can have astounding performance!
For examples of high-performance EV's, visit
the National Electric Drag Racing Association. There you can view short Quicktime
movies of EV's that really move!
I won't go into great detail on the performance of EV's - there are lots of
resources on the Internet that go into this. Visit our
FAQ links page to see
some of these.
Most people get deterred by the small range that most EV's have. An average
conversion will get about 30 miles on a single charge. Again, this is average.
It's completely possible to get more. Range didn't concern me much. I have another vehicle that can be used for longer
drives. I only use the 200sx to get around town. This usually amounts to about 5 miles of driving. The longest trip I ever make is to my parents house which is
about 9 miles away. So I figured a 12-15 mile range would work for me.
I like to relate this scenario to Microwaves and conventional ovens. Almost all
households now have both. There are some things you can do in the conventional
oven that just can't be done in a Microwave - like baking a cake. But, a
Microwave is perfect for a quick re-heat or frozen dinner. Similarly, an EV
is not well suited for a cross-country trip, or a long commute. But, it is
perfect for a trip to the grocery store, or a short trip to work. How many of the
miles that you put on your car are made with such short trips? Based on the
information that most auto-accidents happen close to home, I'd guess that most average
car trips are close to home. In multiple-vehicle households, it makes sense to
have an EV!
With these facts in mind, I was convinced that I wanted to convert the 200sx. This
was mid-November, 2003. One day, I was curious if EV motors sold on eBay (I've
since found out that it's typically uncommon to see them for sale). There were
two Prestolite MTC-4001 motors being sold by the same person for $625 each. I
hadn't done much research on motors at that point, but I knew that most 20hp motors
were went for $1000 or more. I made a very impulsive decision to place a bid. I
asked for my wife's blessing on the decision. She said "I won't give you my
blessing, but I'll give my permission". Good enough.
There were no other bids
placed on the motor, so I "won" for $625 + $60 shipping/handling. Brian bought
the other motor, which had a tail shaft. Mine didn't. We have since swapped
since his VW Bug is tight on space, and I can see plenty of uses for the extra
Updated June 13, 2006