Electric vehicle interest is at an all-time high, with new EV sales increasing by 55% in 2022 over the previous year. However, there are still a lot of gas automobiles on the road today, and there will be for a long time.
By converting internal combustion vehicles to electric, a growing industry is giving them new life and power. To satisfy the rising demand, both the retail and aftermarket communities are expanding significantly.
CNBC spoke with Michael Bream, the creator, and CEO of EV West – “This is a 1976 BMW 2002 — really fun-to-drive car but underpowered. This particular customer decided that he wanted to go what we call ‘the whole hog,’ and he’s doing the 550 horsepower Tesla drive unit in this.”
Bream’s store, located in San Diego, California, was one of the early pioneers in EV conversions and has a four-to-five-year waiting list. According to Bream, “Being involved in electric cars right now is like being involved in computers in the ’90s … we want this transition to sustainable fuels to be fun and exciting for people that are a part of car culture and automobile enthusiasts.”
Aside from conversion shops, there is a rapidly developing group of DIYers who are tackling these tasks on their own. Although the intricacy of electric automobiles can be overwhelming, 14-year-old Frances Farnam is working on converting a 1976 Porsche 914. She bought the car three years ago and has been recording the process on her Tinkergineering YouTube channel.
“I’ve always wanted an electric car, and my mom has a BMW i3,” Frances told. “I hope what I’m doing with this is I’m proving that it’s not too challenging … I’m just doing this in my backyard with my dad.”
She just completed priming the car for paint and is about to reassemble it. A 914 internet community has been quite helpful in guiding her and her father during the entire process. She took training with Legacy EV, an electric car aftermarket firm, that taught her the ins and outs of performing a conversion, to learn how to work with the electrical systems.
The aftermarket ecosystem appears to be exploding with EV-focused parts to let consumers like Frances build their own electric cars. Both Ford and GM sell components for EV conversions, and several more businesses are entering the market. According to the Specialty Equipment Market Association, a trade association that represents automotive makers and distributors, the number of EV-focused products on the market has increased tremendously.
Quoting the president and CEO of SEMA, Mike Spagnola – “We started two years ago at SEMA with having an EV section at the show. It was 2,000 square feet. This last year it was 22,000 square feet … I’m sure in the next five years it’ll be 100,000 square feet.”