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California is pushing full steam ahead with its EV plans to ban gasoline-powered new car sales by 2035. State-funded rebates are just part of the picture. Bookending this is a proposal by state legislatures to help those wanting to convert their gas-power cars to electric. And the automotive aftermarket is all-in on the EV conversion idea.

What does the EV conversion bill offer?

EV conversion
An EV-converted vintage Volkswagen Beetle | Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Two California state senators are proposing the state give those owners wanting to convert to electrification $2,000. California Senate Bill 301 is sponsored by SEMA, the aftermarket industry business association. Vehicle modification legislation is one of SEMA’s targets, as well as its annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas. SEMA says the bill “preserves California’s diverse and deep-rooted car culture” while helping to keep classic cars on the road. 

This rebate program has a name: Zero-Emission Aftermarket Conversion Project or ZACP. The ZACP program sets aside $2 million a year towards replacing their gas, or diesel, engines with a zero-emission substitute. But it must have a minimum range of 100 miles, according to KTLA5 in Los Angeles. 

Will $2,000 really lower an EV conversion?

EV conversion
Retrofitting ancient cars is now allowed in many European countries | CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU/AFP via Getty

California is well on its way to hitting its first zero-emissions goal. It set 2026 for achieving 35% of all new car sales being zero-emissions. Last year, 285,900 EVs were registered in the state, for a 15% chunk of total new car sales. As EV sales continue ramping up almost exponentially, that 2026 date looks doable. 

But while the extra $2,000 to help owners convert to electrification helps, it still takes a lot more to do an EV conversion, even for DIYers. It only covers around 10% to 20% of the cost of a conversion. Obviously, it goes further for those crafty owners that can do this in their garages.

There are quite a few companies selling kits to make this happen. As with new EVs, the costs vary based on the components that owners think they need. For air-cooled Volkswagen vehicles and pickup trucks, there are several kits available. Especially for the VWs, conversions also add more power and torque, besides emitting no emissions. 

EV conversion
Mechanics work on a vintage Volkswagen powered by electricity | Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty

MotorBiscuit reported three years ago about a company in France called Transition One, which handles EV conversions, and does it fairly inexpensively. At least in terms of what we’ve seen from other shops. It is franchising its components and methods globally. 

At that time, it was performing EV conversions on small European vehicles like the Fiat 500, Renault Clio, and BMW Mini for $5,700 out the door. The conversions also come with a warranty. Of course, now the Fiat and Mini come from the factory with EV power, and the Clio offers hybrid combinations. 

But there are hundreds of thousands of these small hatchbacks still with gas engines.  And while that price has assuredly gone up, it offers an idea of how low-cost conversions can benefit from what seems like a small rebate. For now, we look forward to the bill passing, and if so, if the rebates increase by then.


Electric Vehicle Conversions for Classic Cars Are Gaining Momentum