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They'll turn your gas guzzler into an EV. But be prepared to wait

Ronald D. White, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

Car lovers like Wagner and Hawk are feeding an EV conversion boom, but there aren't enough companies to meet demand. Waiting lists are sometimes two years long.

For EV West, one of the West Coast's most popular EV and internal combustion makeover shops, it's much longer.

"Our shop has a five-year wait list," said EV West owner Michael Bream, who began his company 13 years ago, inspired in part by — you guessed it — an earlier leap in fuel prices.

"If you called us and you're like, 'Hey, Michael. I absolutely want to convert this car.' We can't get you in, so we're going to have to send you to one of our sister shops" that EV West works with on a collaborative basis, Bream said.

On a recent afternoon, Hawk's car was up on a car lift at EV West's San Marcos headquarters outside San Diego. That's also where Wagner's '62 Beetle conversion took place at a cost of $32,000.

Bream said a typical conversion starts at around $18,000. Some of the more expensive builds, for high performance, can run well past $30,000.

 

For comparison, a 2022 Toyota Prius starts at $24,625; a 2022 Chevrolet Bolt starts at $31,500; a 2022 Tesla Model 3 starts at $41,940. But supply chain problems have led to a semiconductor shortage, which means new EVs can be hard to find in some markets.

After the conversion, maintenance becomes primarily a matter of keeping the vintage parts of the car going, which can be handled by the car's regular mechanic, Bream said.

Turning a car electric is complicated and time consuming; it's not just dropping in an electric motor and battery and sending the customer on his or her way. Every type of car, truck or van requires its own intricate solution.

Bream has collected a huge amount of parts on site and 3D printers are used to fabricate other parts and for finishing touches that give the feeling that everything belongs. Some analog fuel tank gauges are there, but now the "F" to "E" is reporting how much battery charge remains.

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