Build a Small Electric Car from Scratch

Building a small electric car from scratch may sound like something only done in Detroit. But with the right tools and materials, you can build your own motor vehicle.

Materials Needed

  • Steel tubing: You should obtain 1/2- to 1-inch EMT electrical tubes because they’re lightweight and not too much trouble to sever. They are also well relatively cheap. However, you can also buy regular square steel tubes from companies that distribute such items. The kind you can get from steel tube distributors range between 20 and 24 feet.
  • Electric motor: You have the option of using either an AC or a DC motor, although DC motors are preferable. First see if you can find one in a scrap yard–not an auto junk yard. You might be able to buy up to three of these motors for less than $100. If you cannot find what you’re want at a scrap yard, try looking in a surplus outlet.
  • Drive: A drive couples the motor for your small electric car with the wheels. Though you can choose from multiple options, a belt and pulley system is probably best (especially if you're a first-timer).
  • Body: You can shape vehicle bodies in many different manners. With an electric sander, you can sand a big block of plastic foam into the optimal shape before using white glue with fiberglass. It’s neater and less expensive, however, to apply chicken wire mesh into the body shape atop a standard metal frame. Then you can apply fiberglass sheets to this wire mesh. It’s also a good idea to first coat the mesh with a fine plaster layer and strips of fabric, which strengthen the mold, before you apply the fiberglass cover. An auto body expert can help you perfect your finish, smooth out any bumps and holes and give your small electric car a good paint job.
  • Windshield: Standard car windshields are often too heavy for homemade vehicles. Therefore an unbreakable plastic may work better.
  • Electric wires and switches: Buy these items at electrical supply outlets.

Put your car design to paper and purchase the above components. Before you begin construction, don a face shield, ear plugs and protective clothes. Prepare a properly lighted, well-ventilated workplace.

Basic Steps for Making a Small Electric Car

Your construction process will consist of several basic steps:

  • Cut and weld. The first thing you’ll need to do is cut and weld together your metal frame.
  • Add steering. Add in the steering mechanism and electric drive.
  • Test it out. Only test your vehicle on private property, not public streets, and go slowly.
  • Make it legal. Check with local and federal governments, and make sure your new vehicle meets all their requirements.

If all goes as planned, you will now have completed your homemade small electric car.