It's Time To Get Excited About Homebuilt EV Hot Rods

Illustration for article titled Its Time To Get Excited About Homebuilt EV Hot Rods
Screenshot: Speed Academy

There was a time when homebuilt EVs were the realm of ridiculous nerds shoving a half-ton of lead acid batteries into a Ford Festiva and running it through a 30 kW fork lift motor for a max speed of 49 mph and a range of about 30 miles.


These days those same ridiculous nerds have access to serious horsepower and lithium ion batteries sourced from wrecking yards! Obviously there are some shops (like EV West) which have been able to build controllers for these one-off projects. But now there is a slick way for the home-builder to run everything with stand-alone EV control units, which AEM debuted at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis this week.


I watched in awe as stand-alone ECUs helped democratize the tuning world in the 2000s. As cars got more complex and difficult for the average car person to build big power, the aftermarket stepped up and offered lots of options to break through that hardware wall. Now it seems that the time is ripe for a new generation of controller.

AEM started a new EV division to launch this line of product. From the outset there are two different levels of “Vehicle Control Unit” which includes an inverter controller, battery management system, an on-board battery charger, a DC-DC converter, and more. Then there is the CAN-style Power Distribution Unit, which replaces traditional fuses and relays. And finally the electronics company has offered an 8-button panel to control the on-off, charging, traction control, and “shifting” between park, reverse, and neutral.


AEM hasn’t released much information on this new lineup of products yet, but presumably this will allow EV hot rodders to make a number of changes to their electric vehicle of choice. Have a Tesla track car and you want to crank up the juice? Presumably this will help you. Have a Porsche Taycan motor you want to swap into a Porsche 928? Here’s your answer.

Of course, pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but I don’t expect it to be very cheap, at least initially. But this should help home-builders make the connection between their various electric propulsion projects.


This is all particularly exciting for me, as this year I purchased a Nissan Leaf motor to swap into the front end of my Boxster to create an AWD over-the-road hybrid. I was looking at ways to get the stock Leaf motor controller to work, but if I can easily wire it up to an AEM motor controller and dial in how it reacts to throttle inputs, that would absolutely make my life a million times easier.


I also have an idea running around in my head to piggyback a Buick LaCrosse eAssist belted alternator starter mild hybrid unit onto my Porsche 912E’s aircooled flat four for an extra 25 horses and 89 lb-ft of torque on-demand. I wonder if something like this could help that idea become a reality.


The possibilities are nearly endless. My mind is racing. The world of EV tuning is about to hit hyperdrive when the kinds of folks who build hybrid Honda CBR-powered vintage roadsters or Porsche race cars powered by six Zero Motorcycle motors get hold of this, we’re gonna see some serious shit, my dudes!

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

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“This is all particularly exciting for me, as this year I purchased a Nissan Leaf motor to swap into the front end of my Boxster to create an AWD over-the-road hybrid.”

This being Jalopnik, I assume that you are going to do this in your garage with a flat-blade screwdriver, a pair of slip-joint pliers, and a $100 welder and have it ready for Moab next Spring. :)