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Why is it that you can get a $7,500 federal tax credit on your electric vehicle manufactured by a major automaker, but not on your converted EV or plug-in hybrid? EV conversion activists are wondering the same thing, and are looking for supporters to add their names to a petition that asks to make this incentive available. According to the "Equal Incentives for Conversions" petition on the White House website:

While the Federal government should continue providing Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicles (IRC 30D) tax incentives for new plug-in vehicles, they should extend the same incentives to EV / plug-in conversions. Conversions target 250M existing vehicles on the roads, can save over 40% of fuel use or no fuel at all, have a smaller carbon footprint than new car since they reuse most of the original vehicle, and cost less to buy as an incremental expense making plug-in more affordable.

Pure electric and plug-in hybrid conversions have been around a long time, though the total number of them on roads has not been tracked. CalCars, a California non-profit organization, has been pushing for tax credits and other incentives for years, for example, and the Electric Auto Association has been around since 1967. There are plenty of EAA members who have converted their own cars and motorcycles to run on battery power, because for most of the years since 1967, it wasn't possible to buy a plug-in car. Even today, consumers can become "do-it-yourselfers" with conversion kits they purchase and do in their own garage, or they can take their car to an established conversion vendor.

If you ask representatives of major automakers about conversions, the conversation becomes a bit stifled and awkward. Besides the competitive issues at stake, they also express concern about whether it's a good idea to support conversions unless they follow strict OEM guidelines, government mandates, and inspections. Then there are the concerns about potential negative publicity or recalls, should something go seriously wrong with a converted EV. It's likely the White House will have similar trepidations.

Nonetheless, the group is looking for 25,000 signatures in order to have the EV conversion petition considered by the White House. As of press time, the number was under 300.


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  • 30 Comments
      Rotation
      • 6 Months Ago
      I don't think it's a good idea. First on safety grounds, the conversions just don't go through the amount of testing that production EVs do, and the conversion companies aren't interested in doing so because it would make their cars too expensive. Second, conversion EVs are the ultimate niche item. They are generally even shorter range than a LEAF or Mitsubishi i and that's going to make it tough for them to appeal to anything but a narrow slice of the market. So I'm against homebrew conversions being subsidized.
        Dave D
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Rotation
        I completely disagree. I have two teenage daughters and I would LOVE to be able to buy an inexpensive conversion kit for an SUV so they could drive the 5 miles to school in a "tank" that went from 0-60 in 10 seconds and used no gas, with a range no more than about 40 miles. There is no where they need to go that is much further than that right now so it would be a built in safety mechanism for Dad :-) Where do I sign up for such a beast? If there was a subsidy for it, I bet someone would be offering kits like this for teenager's first cars, and parents could afford, and feel safe buying them.
      Rotation
      • 6 Months Ago
      You'd feel safe buying a conversion kit that didn't undergo safety testing for your kids first car? I think that's probably not a wise idea.
      Ryan
      • 6 Months Ago
      Isn't there a 10% home EV conversion credit (it might have gone away)? It is a small amount of people that is doing this, so the thousands who would build homebrew cars is pretty small. Having them pay less taxes on their income taxes for 1 year isn't a bad deal to get more EVs on the road. I think that it would be better to give the tax refund once your EV gets 20,000 miles though. And it should be based on the battery size. Safety is a non-concern. My production S-10 has gone through the safety tests. Kit cars might be something else. I'm not doing this for tax reasons though.
        Rotation
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Ryan
        The safety tests include the drivetrain. Changing the drivetrain invalidates the safety tests because, among other things, the drivetrain may catch fire in a wreck.
          PR
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Rotation
          Also the weight of the drivetrain, and the physical position and crush zone placement of the drivetrain can greatly change the results of safety testing.
        PR
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Ryan
        The old federal home EV conversion credit ended December 2011.
      Rick
      • 6 Months Ago
      Great idea gotta say l would go with that, you would not have buy a bland dull anodyne boring modern dull as ditchwater shaped car like a Nissan Leaf that l would not buy in a million years that manufactures impose on you that you don't want. You would get be hooked up with an electric car in an instant. Only problem in Europe is the EU are trying to go totally in the other direction trying to force you out of old cars love into boring dull anodyne modern FWD upturned bathtub junk net gain 10's of millions of perfectly serviceable cars will end up as an ornament, and folk will never drive again because they are so pissed of with the, EU auto workers will end losing more jobs with more plants closing down. Those left driving will have to pay higher taxes to for lost revenue to compensate those that stop driving forever. AUTO EXPRESS.. EU Going the other way, that will backfire on them folk will stop buying cars altogether? EU rules could mean modified cars could fail MOT. Even for tow bar and stereo upgrades Cars with any kind of modification could fail an MoT if new EU rules get the green light from member states, a motoring group is warning. The Association of Car Enthusiasts (ACE) says even aftermarket wheels or stereos would bring a fail, and mean cars would have to undergo costly, time-consuming vehicle approval testing before they could be considered roadworthy. It’s all down to an EU proposal to change the definition of the roadworthiness test so that “components of the vehicle must comply with characteristics at the time of first registration” – effectively outlawing any deviation from factory spec. ACE’s Barry Cornes told Auto Express that under the current wording, “potentially something as minor as changing the stereo could result in an MoT failure”. AA technical specialist Vanessa Guyll said: “The AA is very worried about this. It seems completely over the top.” She warned that the regulations would be too draconian even if watered down to include only parts that affect performance, safety or emissions. Owners would need to buy expensive original parts – even for older cars. And models made by defunct brands, where original parts are no longer available, would have to go through vehicle approval testing after any repair. Barry Cornes of the Association of Car Enthusiasts told us: “If this proposal becomes law in its current wording, then every car would have to stay as it was when it left the factory.” Cornes fears this will affect all car owners – not only those who go in for extensive modifications. “Unless parts of the ruling are relaxed, any change will make a car non-standard,” he added. “Even tow bars may be failures. If it’s not factory-fitted or approved, you’d be forced to go for individual vehicle approval tests with the car.” http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/consumer-news/60092/modified-cars-could-face-mot-fail
        Joeviocoe
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Rick
        quit quoting that rag of an online 'magazine' that doesn't seem to be citing any of their opinions with any credible sources.
          Rick
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          DAILY MAIL Millions of modified and classic cars could be banned from the roads as meddling European Union try to shake-up MOT rules. Under its plans, all vehicles would have to remain identical to the specification they were in when they left the factory - which would mean classic cars could not even be updated with safer equipment. The proposed new rules would mean any modifications - from different windscreen wipers to newer brake lights - would mean the car would automatically fail its MOT test. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2199311/Millions-modified-classic-cars-banned-roads-meddling-European-Union-try-shake-MOT-rules.html#ixzz266V77dyJ DAILY TELEGRAPH - Motorists face EU ban for modifying cars. Motorists who modify their cars could fail their MoT test under EU proposals.The European Commission is drawing up plans for a “roadworthiness test” which would mean that all components had to conform with those which were on the car when it was first registered. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/9526693/Motorists-face-EU-ban-for-modifying-cars.html BBC NEWS.. Bikers stage M1 protest over EU modification plans http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-15054139 DAILY EXPRESS.. A shake-up of the MoT test proposed by the European Commission would mean all vehicles must remain identical to when they left the factory. This would apply to everything from fitting improved brakes on a classic car to big alloy wheels on a hot hatch. http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/344491/EU-threat-to-classic-car-fans EU Document http://ec.europa.eu/transport/doc/roadworthiness-package/com%282012%29380.pdf
      throwback
      • 6 Months Ago
      I will gladly sign the petition that eliminates all tax deductions. Even the ones that I get as a middle class tax payer, as long as tax rates come down.
        Ryan
        • 6 Months Ago
        @throwback
        *Since you don't get the anymore, right? The baby boomers took all the mortgage interest deductions, but now that they don't get them anymore, they want to get rid of them.
          throwback
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Ryan
          Nice guess, but no, I still get mortgage interest and child deductions. A flat tax with 1 or 2 rates with zero deductions for everyone will ensure folks pay their share. I would also eliminate all corporate deductions and lower the corporate tax rate this way if the corporation makes money, they pay taxes. The tax code is ripe for fraud, and contains to many "deal" for every group imaginable. A simple no deduction code is the way to clean it up.
      PR
      • 6 Months Ago
      This shows how even green car/EV enthusiasts don't even understand why the government is providing strategic financial support of the EV industry. It isn't about getting cars converted to EV's one at a time just for the sake of getting that individual EV on the road. The government support is there for a much larger goal. The point is to jump-start the transition from using oil for transportation to using alternative fuels for transportation. Putting individual converted cars on the road does very little for the larger goal of making mass, large scale production of EV's a reality as soon as possible. This point of this money is to get a few hundred thousand cars on the road now, so that in the future there can be millions put on the road by these manufactures. So this money is being leveraged many times over. That is the real future of EV's for them to have any real impact. Conversions aren't the future. They are a stop-gap for anyone frustrated with the current EV choices, and are unwilling to wait a few years for more choices. If the programs we have now to encourage mass EV manufacturing are successful, conversions will be dead, or such a small niche industry that it will be a rounding error on mass production. That's not smart investment of tax dollars.
        Rick
        • 6 Months Ago
        @PR
        Could not agree with you more, would never buy the boring dull anodyne Leaf in a million years, like the Tesla sports car but its expensive not practical enough for transporting my family, the Volt is FWD l don't like cars that understeer, and its not really my cup of tea but l still love the awesome E-REV technology. Via Motors light duty Silverado 100 MPG/40 on electric E-REV is a real swiss army knife, even uses its motor as an onboard power generator, it is a very useful practical vehicle. I could trimming my 100 ft hedge, trips DIYstore would be a breeze, you could pack 10 suitcases every thing including the kitchen on a vacation, put the families bikes in the back for a trips out in the county, would run it on electric nearly all year long,would buy it instantly even though its not cheap. But doubt if we see it Europe GM sell the Opel stuff you hate, the really useful Chevy trucks that you want to buy, they keep Stateside Would love to buy new but its just absolutely impossible in Europe, your right its very frustrating. What other options do l have of buying something new? Absolutely nothing at the moment in the UK. So this sounds a great idea modify something you like, not really interested in the handout to go electric myself personally, but if others go electric then l am all for it.
        SVX pearlie
        • 6 Months Ago
        @PR
        Conversions offer virtually nothing for others to build upon, nor broad consumer leverage to advance the state of the art and industry.
      SVX pearlie
      • 6 Months Ago
      A used full-size SUV starts at $15k. You need to pull the motor & trans, and install a custom BEV system capable of moving a 5,000+ lb truck that probably weighs closer to 6,000 lbs with batteries? That's a lot of parts and labor, along with one-off design work that spreads across how many vehicles?
      Dave D
      • 6 Months Ago
      I've always wondered when someone would step up and do this. It could spur a cottage industry here in the States to do conversions....and it sure as hell helps cut down on oil imports.
      Actionable Mango
      • 6 Months Ago
      "Why is it that you can get a $7,500 federal tax credit on your electric vehicle manufactured by a major automaker, but not on your converted EV or plug-in hybrid?" Because major manufacturers have lobbyists and make campaign donations. You didn't think it was done for the environment, did you? BWAHAHAHAHAHA...
      Dave D
      • 6 Months Ago
      I understand the point of view from PR and others below who say that the point of this is investment into mass production so that we will have more EVs on the road. But you're assuming this would be a credit targeted at a few individuals building their own cars. I am talking about building an industry here in the US that converts as many of the 250 million existing vehicles on the American road to EV as possible. 1) Those cars average life span is approaching 20 years now. They are not going anywhere soon. 2) I'm not trying to hit individuals so much as the industry that could sprout up to do these conversions....think Midas, etc all having a kit they could use to do these conversions on old clunkers. 3) Only people who can afford new cars will have a chance at EVs for the next 5-10 years the way things are now. 4) The older cars on the road are the worst ones to suck down gas and pollute, and make the most sense to convert/replace. I've been trying to get the funding together to do this my self and even set up a franchise model to go to shops so they could get the benefit of bulk purchases. But every time I've been close with investors, it comes back to the question of "how do we compete if they have subsidies for new cars and we don't get it for conversions?" Remember the law of unintended consequences? The subsidies are good for jump starting mass production, but they do nothing for the 250 million cars we already have a problem with and actually DISCOURAGE any attempts on that side.
        Dave D
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dave D
        Well, there is always more to the story so you shouldn't dismiss it without knowing a few more details: They were trying to do it for fleet vehicles so they could target just a few platforms to keep the cost down. The investors I was talking with had influence in some state and local gov'ts to try and get them to consider conversions of vehicles to extend their life rather than replacing engines or transmissions that needed work. It was a good cost trade off. But when you deal with those people, they ALWAYS want some angle to give them a better return and better opportunity to make the sale to the county gov't...like a federal subsidy. They wanted to close down one local gov't at a time and build momentum and once the volume was up, then target something really popular, like old crown Vic's or Ford pickups and then find a franchise like Midas or Meineke who might be looking for another revenue stream....and a way to build volumes to get our cost down.
          PR
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Dave D
          Fleet operators aren't going to sink huge bucks upfront for conversions. That is completely upside down from typical fleet operation. They are more likely to lease, just because of the benefits of year-over-year expense handling. Many fleets probably don't even own their old crown vics or ford trucks. Did you know that Ford won a lawsuit involving consumer complaints about their cars (like the old crown victoria) where they successfully claimed that the useful life of their cars was just 80K miles. That defense meant that they had no obligation to any owner who had gotten at least 80K miles from their vehicle, even if Ford was completely negligent in any other matter. As long as the Ford owner got 80K miles out of their Ford vehicle, they had received the useful life of the vehicle, and could not claim any monitary loss, because the courts essentially ruled that the car had zero real value and therefore there could be no monitary loss. This was appealed all the way up to the supreme court, where it was upheld. My point? I wouldn't sink 10's of thousands of dollars into a car that is already past it's useful life. I wouldn't put a brand new engine in the same car either. The seats are going to be trash, the steering parts, the suspension, the brakes, the axles, the paint, etc. Not to mention that these heavy junkers are very poor candidates for conversion because of the power steering and power brakes. You would have to retrofit electric boosters for both of these operations that the gas motor would do. I have a funny feeling that if you really were seriously proposing this to anyone, that they were just using a convenient excuse to walk away from a half-baked idea.
          Dave D
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Dave D
          LOL I didn't mean "close down" but rather "close one local gov't sale at a time". Watching the stupid Monday Night Football game and they're talking about a shut down corner back...the two kind of blended together. :-)
        Rotation
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dave D
        Given that charging setups cost over $1K to install in your house (and you better have a house), only people who can afford new cars will have a chance at EVs for the next 5-10 years anyway.
        SVX pearlie
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dave D
        Retrofits are always more expensive, simply due to the extra labor of stripping the old stuff before installing the new stuff. So given the inherent inefficiency, why should there be any expectation of being competitive? And if you're going to do this, for which cars are you targeting? There are a myriad of older platforms out there, so you probably can't get 'em all. Going corporate raises serious Federal / State / Local safety & emissions compliance questions. Not to mention automotive liability, which is just waiting around the corner. Blaming Federal subsidies is a smokescreen.
        Dave D
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dave D
        Rotation, I belong to the EV Club of the South here in Atlanta and there are a load of people there who did their own conversions and they all just plug straight into whatever is available in their garage. So it would be more accurate to say they are limited to people with garages...which still covers 70 million US households holding well over 100 million cars.
        PR
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dave D
        Dave D, The economics for converting the existing 250 million car fleet doesn't work. Either you are taking a relatively new car with perfectly working motors that are still under emissions warranty (and removing these perfectly good parts) or you are spending 10's of thousands on an older car worth a fraction of what you are putting into it, with little life remaining on the rest of the chassis. It is much more economical and more reliable to put federal money towards new EV's, and then let them work their way into the used market to replace the existing fleet of gas cars. I understand the urgency of Now, but these big-dollar EV incentive programs are long term projects, not short term. I agree that the oldest cars make the most pollution and need to go. But the same folks who can't afford $32K after rebate for a Volt also cannot afford dropping 20K into converting their current 12K car either. And unlike the Volt, no bank is going to be crazy enough to finance that, because in the end the converted car has only a fraction of the open market value of the conversion cost. The economics of conversions just don't work enough to justify investing federal dollars. Because the problem isn't just "how do we compete if they have subsidies for new cars". It is "how do we compete when the prices of brand new EV's drop to where they are cheaper than our conversion kit + the donor car's value". Especially when the brand new EV will have a full bumper-to-bumper warranty and much better resale value. Converting lots of gas cars to EV's would only make sense once battery prices drop significantly, and the problem then is that brand new EV's will also be much cheaper because of the significantly lower battery prices. If you want a good example of this, take a look at the EV bicycle market in Europe. You can get a brand new EV bike from major manufactures like Ghost, or Scott, for less than the cost of a conversion kit + a used bike. Converted bikes have very little value in the resale market, while EV bikes from the factory hold their value much better. Conversions are really cool. I've done the hard research into what it would take for me to convert a number of different cars using kits that are available on the market right now. But the economics just don't work. Converting them to Natural Gas or to E85 or B20 biodiesel for their remaining years before they die would be so much easier and more cost effective that it isn't even funny. I would like to see instant EV gratification as much as the next guy. But putting the few federal EV bucks we have available to us towards conversions just isn't the best use of that money.
      brotherkenny4
      • 6 Months Ago
      I don't think we should be subsidize electric vehicles more than we do the fossil energy industry. Oh wait, we don't, not even close.
        Dave D
        • 6 Months Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        LOL I think you're sarcasm is lost on the locals :-)
      • 6 Months Ago
      I'm all for EV incentives especially paid for by taking away fossil fuel subsidy. This money will be better used helping lower barriers to mass produced EV products rather than low volume conversions
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