California Legislature Passes Bill to Encourage DIY EV Conversions

Gateway Bronco

California has passed SB 301, legislation introduced by State Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank), which earmarked at least $2,000,000 from the state’s clean vehicle rebate program to be available to EV conversions rather than new vehicle sales. When proposed, the legislation planned on offering up to $2000 per vehicle for those converting gas- and diesel-powered vehicles into zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs). The current bill, as amended and passed by the legislature, now offers up to $4,000 per vehicle.

The SEMA Action Network supported the bill, toting its benefits to small businesses. “Governor Newsom has the opportunity to create new jobs and support small businesses by signing SB 301 into law,” said Christian Robinson, SEMA’s senior director of state government affairs and grassroots. “This bill will also help California reduce emissions and make zero-emissions vehicle conversions more accessible to all residents. SEMA urges the Governor to recognize the tremendous benefits SB 301 brings to the Golden State and sign it into law.”

Brandan Gillogly

We spoke to Michael Bream, EV land speed racer and owner of EV West, an EV conversion company, about his thoughts on SB 301. He was grateful that SEMA and the California legislature had put some effort into incentivizing these DIY conversions, noting that small businesses and builders with smaller budgets will be able to benefit. “All these incentives were aimed at traditional automakers,” said Bream, referencing the rebates for new-car sales. He felt that the move would spur more hands-on involvement in EV swaps, noting that SEMA’s influence was a big part of the legislation. “I can speak for most of the conversion shops, we’re all grassroots people,” said Bream. “The DIY industry isn’t large enough to have a lobby.”

1967 VW Bus EV motor
Zelectric Motors

Bream sees EV conversions as an opportunity to give vintage vehicles with lackluster powerplants a new lease on life and make them viable once again. Not every vintage car is a fire-breathing muscle car or low-slung exotic. Many run-of-the-mill utility vehicles would benefit from an EV conversion, such as Bream’s own VW Bus, which can now keep up with traffic.

Putting modern components into classic cars is nothing new, and there are plenty of EV motors and batteries in salvage yards that can lead a second life. “The time, effort, and engineering that goes into a modern car is immense,” said Bream. Putting those complex and well-crafted parts into new vehicles without breaking them down into their components for scrap is often the best use for them. Remember, hot-rodders were recycling before recycling was cool.


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    Of course, this program is a net polluter, due to the manufacture of the batteries.

    I wonder how many miles you have to drive to offset the manufacture of the batteries.

    That’s a bold claim to call this “net polluter.” Can you show the numbers that support your stance?

    How could it not be? The manufacturing emissions cost associated with the original drivetrain was amortized over 40 years (or however old your classic is) and is negligible, whereas there is a large manufacturing emissions cost associated with the batteries, electric motors, etc.

    With EVs I’ve heard estimates that you need to drive 30-70k miles versus equivalent miles in an ICE car before the greater initial manufacturing emissions cost is offset. Granted this threshold would be lower for a classic conversion since the classic pollutes more and they usually have smaller batteries. Suppose the number is 10k miles. How long does it take for the average weekend classic to cover that many miles? How long until you have to replace the battery with a new one and incur more manufacturing emissions?

    I think the idea of EV conversions being green is dubious considering the total lifecycle emissions and typical usage of most classics. Lack of parts availability and fueling infrastructure may eventually force conversions, but they are not green, at least with the current battery manufacturing tech.

    So you don’t have numbers. Feelings and “I’ve heard estimates” are not facts. If you want to make claims as bold as you have, knowing what you are talking about is a good idea.

    You think it’s not “green,” but without some research and understanding, that’s just feelings.

    Here you go, Randy.

    It’s out there, but you need to dismiss politifact, Snopes, or CNN, as I’m sure you dismiss any decidedly conservative source.

    It all starts at the EPA which bases the MPGe on the thermal energy equivalent of 3412 BTU per kWh of electrical energy. But this itself creates a false premise because the actual thermal (heating) energy needed to deliver 1 kWh of electricity to a residence or commercial charger is about 10,000 BTU. (US department of energy)

    Further, the battery, motor and controller assemblies are not using the thermal energy, they are converting it to the electromotive force via the electric motor.

    So, the true measure of efficiency is the amount to BTU used to travel 1 mile.

    With ICE, it is easy. BTU per gallon of fuel, divided miles per gallon.

    Example: 120,000BTU/30mpg = 4,000 BTU/mile

    With BEV, it is BTU/kWh delivered to the energy storage device, over mileage.

    10,000 BTU/kWh * 0.4 kWh/mi = 4,000 BTU/mile.

    When you take all that into account, the breakeven for a BEV car is around 30mpg (0.3-0.4 kW/mi), for a truck, around 22mpg (0.4-0.6 kW/mi).

    Not exactly a huge savings. CO2 emissions are slightly less per mile, depending on the fuel source. When considering this one must factor of the BEV triggering battery heating or cooling depending on the environment.

    I’d love to know why when I post facts and links, my posts are flagged for moderation?

    Your site, your rules. Rather interesting how much false information is allowed here, with flags thrown up for any refutation.

    Within your same post how about the facts about how green is it? There are no facts or figures given either. Batteries and landfills don’t appear from thin air. So maybe before you instantly sign onto this without any facts to back its green is very naive. I’m not against the new tech and i do think taking an old cars and keeping it out of the land fill is great. But to state its green and people agree without looking down the road at how we make and dispose of things is very dangerous. So before you pin somone to the wall for facts you might want to know yours. These batteries are made in foreign lands that have zero regulation of environmental issues. And why should they, we buy the batteries here in the US and bury the waste here. So there are some simple facts to start with. Wait till landfills begin having fires because people are chucking cellphones, electric scooter and bicycle batteries in the landfill. Show me how green recycling all these different types of batteries is going?

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