This Man Has Been Doing EV Conversions for Decades
March 5, 2020—As auto shops look toward the service and repair of the next generation of complex electric vehicles, it’s a wonder that some do-it-yourselfers have been tinkering in the EV space for decades.
Florida-based Steve Clunn is one. He’s been running an electric conversion shop for more than a decade, but his interest started during the first Gulf War, when he was looking for alternatives to foreign oil.
His first conversion of an internal-combustion engine vehicle into an EV was a Volkswagen. This was because a third-party manufacturer produced a crucial part for only a couple models.
“I did the VW because at the time, there were only two adapter plates that were being made to adapt the transmission to the electric motor,” Clunn told ADAPT. “And one was for VWs and the other was for Chevy S10s.”
Clunn converted that VW using a weighty power source: 20 6-volt golf cart batteries. He says that was needed to reach the maximum 120 volts that the controller could handle.
The conversion worked so well that he used the VW to tow his lawn service equipment about 30 miles per day. The rest is history.
Clunn’s conversion business launched around 2007, and he has since been lending advice, doing custom jobs and selling parts alongside his wife, Audrey. He estimates that he’s done more than 100 conversions to electric motors.
Some of his highlighted projects include a C4 Corvette, multiple S10s, Porsches, utility trucks and much more. The technology has improved so that his conversions can take up less space, generate more power, adn go farther.
Clunn has been in the EV space for a long time now, and he’s getting more attention due to the EV boom that’s sweeping the automotive industry. His customers’ preferences have changed, too. Before the proliferation of electric models from OEs, customers wanted modern conversions. But now with modern EVs available from the factory, customers are looking to convert their classics.
“It’s been a funny flip flop of things,” he says. “Back in the ‘90s and early 2000s, people would pick newer cars that they were thinking would be a nice car to have as an electric. Now, almost everything is some classic car, because if you want a newer car, you’d just go get a (Nissan) Leaf or (Chevrolet) Volt or Tesla.”
Though he’s been in the EV game for decades, Clunn is quick to point out that his work is different from what’s coming out of OE production plants today. His conversions actually simplify the drivetrain, and that’s not the case with modern factory EVs.
“They’re not like a conversion at all. A conversion is very simple. Everything is open to the public, how to fix it, what to do,” he says.
He likens his early work to the hot rod craze of the early 20th Century. Modifiers were taking regular internal combustion vehicles and adding performance parts and tweaks. Eventually, the OEs realized the popularity of the movement and started doing it themselves.
“The car companies started making sports cars and high performance muscle cars to capture that audience,” Clunn says. “And that’s kind of where we are now with the eclectic cars. We’re now in the state where car companies are making high performance, go-fast electric cars.”
Of course, wherever the EV market goes in the future, there will only be one way to get your 1998 Chevrolet S10 onto the electric grid, and that’s through aftermarket conversions like Clunn’s.
Image: GreenShed Conversions