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20-Year-Old Engineering Student Converts Grandpa’s Petrol Car Into an EV in 3 Days

By Gopu S K
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20-Year-Old Engineering Student Converts Grandpa’s Petrol Car Into an EV in 3 Days

Mihir Vardan was always keen on using hardware tools since he was just 3.

Mihir's parents knew that he was fond of technological things, and they introduced him to the world of engineering after his secondary schooling. He has been given a toolbox by his father. Since then, he's been wandering around with his screwdriver and taking on projects to build robots, LED panels, and 3D printers.

“My father would purchase small lights, bulbs, and batteries for my brother and myself. He would show us how to connect them. I used to receive a tool for my birthday every year. I began accumulating my collection when I was six years old, and I still do. My room became a workshop in its entirety,"he says.

Mihir started his "Making with Mihir" YouTube channel when he was in Class 8. Through his channel, he wanted to express his enthusiasm for engineering.

Although he began with little initiatives like making a torch, his work has since expanded. Consider the gasoline car he transformed into an electric vehicle.

His recent video titled ‘Simplest EV Conversion under $3000 – Convert Your Car in 3 Days!’, has drawn a lot of attention.

Rapid electric vehicle conversion in just three days

Almost ten years ago, the concept for this was conceived. Mihir says family friend James Abraham was the one who first suggested the idea.

" When I was in fifth grade, James' uncle informed me that we needed to replace a gas car with an electric one, and he frequently suggested that we buy a cheap automobile like a Maruti 800 and modify it. "At the time, I didn't take it seriously, but he reminded me of this project every year," Mihir says. 

Mihir is currently pursuing electrical engineering at the University of Illinois and is in his third year. In September of 2021, he took a trip to Gurugram for a while, and while there, James brought up the project again. Mihir gave it his full attention and decided to proceed this time.

Interestingly, Mihir decided to give a try on his grandfather's old Hyundai Santro car. Yes!He decided to convert it to an EV.

“The Santro was just parked in our garage and I had the bright idea, "Why don't we take the engine out and make it a completely electric car?" ’. It’s a beautiful car, only the engine is a little tired. When I needed to see how other people had modified their vehicles, I looked online for clips. Mihir says, "I could have just copied what others had done, but I opted to make some modifications instead."

According to him, selecting a motor, controller, and battery are the three most crucial steps in the conversion process.

While the wheels were set in motion in September, they came to fruition in January 2022, when Mihir returned to India for a short trip.

"I went on the Indiamart website and reached out to sellers of items I needed. Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place. As my trip to India was a very short one in January, I had to execute this in a short period. Mihir chuckles and says, "I love tight deadlines and the challenge."

Simpler and Cheaper Conversion

A new motor, controller, battery, and converter were all ordered as soon as he landed in India in January. These items finally arrived after almost 10 days. There were only three days left before his return flight.

Mihir had two main requirements for the conversion: ease of use and minimal cost.

I tried to take as few steps as possible while still making good use of the vehicle. He continues, "I also wanted to reduce the amount of welding and machining involved and came up with a method that can be carried out in the basement of your building without the need for expensive equipment."

He actually made the adjustment with nothing more than a standard toolkit, a floor jack, and a couple of bricks.

In such modifications, the engine is typically taken out in its entirety and replaced with a motor. Mihir, however, opted to take out only the left half of the motor.

“Since the power steering pump and air conditioner compressor cannot be operated without additional motors, these must be installed before the engine is taken out. Also, you'll need to design brackets to mount everything, and you'll have to run a lot of wires. It's an arduous and pricey process with a long learning curve. I decided to leave half of the engine in and attach the motor to the other half,"Mihir says.

Mihir claims that even though it will be inefficient and reduce performance, it will be fine for driving around town. This is beneficial because it allows you to run the car's wheels, power steering pump, and air conditioner compressor. While doing so, he estimates he has saved Rs 1.5 lakh.

Alterations Made

Mihir began disassembly by removing the motor. The engine's weight was reduced after he had the head and pistons removed, but the block was kept. On top of this engine block, he installed the L-shaped motor block that houses the 6 kW brushless DC motor. A Kelly 350A controller was used to power this motor.

A 72V, 100Ah Lithium Ferro Phosphate (LFP) battery was installed in the trunk. The fuel pump is now the location of the charging cable.

He installed an electric brake booster vacuum pump because stopping was a concern and he wanted power braking. He installed a 72-volt DC-DC converter in order to recharge the battery that operates the door locks, headlights, and windows.

Mihir shelled out 2.4 million ($41,000) for the service. The car has a top speed of 60 kilometres per hour and can travel for up to 80 kilometres without needing to refuel.

He also claims that the cost per kilometre is less than Rs 1, while the cost of running a petrol vehicle, including maintenance, is around Rs 8–10.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) predicts that by 2025, India will have over two crore scrap vehicles. According to the report, these vehicles will have a devastating impact on the environment.

These alterations can put these cars to good use for both us and the planet.

Mihir hopes that his advocacy for electric vehicle conversion will inspire others to do so. "There is a richness of information on the internet. Customers can shop for components on sites like Indiamart, and local mechanics are a good resource for information, he says. 

Mihir also enlisted the aid of Ustad, a local mechanic, who was there for him the entire time. He thinks more people should pursue engineering careers and put their skills to good use. During the height of the pandemic, he worked on two projects that helped the general public a lot. 

After completing his engineering degree, he plans to move on to sustainability-related projects and eventually launch a sustainable startup in India.