Conversions vs. Purpose-Built EVs

Electric vehicle purists love to argue, as does anyone with a strong belief in something. One of many arguments EV enthusiasts engage in is whether or not a car needs to have a purpose-built chassis or can it use a “glider” from a gas-powered car. Let’s look at the positives and negatives.

Purpose-built chassis

  • + Typically doesn’t have any odd intrusions into the cabin for the battery, motor, etc.
  • + Can have a more compact overall dimension because EV components take up less space than an ICE.
  • – For lower-volume vehicles (as EVs are currently), the price of making a new chassis is not cost-effective.


  • + Costs less because you can modify an existing chassis to fit your needs.
  • + Can use body panels and parts from the high-volume gas-powered car, saving money.
  • – Many times, conversions have intrusions into the cabin for the battery.

At the current time, there are only a handful of manufacturers making purpose-built chassis for their EVs: Nissan (LEAF), Tesla (Model S), and BMW (i3). Even the i3 has a negative for the EV version — the space allocated for the range-extending ICE is left empty! (They should have put an auxiliary battery pack in that space, IMHO.)

These manufacturers are seen as committed to electric vehicle technology because of their use of a purpose-built chassis. The other manufacturers are seen as going into the EV field as an afterthought. ┬áMaybe that’s why conversions aren’t seen or rated as positively as purpose-built cars.

2 Thoughts on “Conversions vs. Purpose-Built EVs

  1. jamiegeek on October 3, 2013 at 5:54 pm said:

    Not sure I would count the Leaf as a purpose built car as they did start with the Versa chassis and modified it to produce the Leaf.

  2. Hmmm. I’m not so sure about that. The Versa (and new Versa Note) have a 102 inch wheelbase. The LEAF has always had a 106 inch wheelbase. This implies it’s a different chassis.

    You are correct that the Versa was used as a prototype for the LEAF.

Leave a Reply

Post Navigation