The last several months have seen a barrage of articles, in the automotive and mainstream media alike, pointing out that electric vehicles (EVs) have become way too expensive for regular folks to afford. It's a problem not just for us regular folks but also for the many initiatives to electrify the global automotive fleet. And despite recent musings from people like Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda about widespread conversion of older vehicles to electric power as a way to future-proof the cars we enthusiasts dig, converted classics can easily run into the six-figure range these days.
On the other hand, I'm on track to build my Chenowth EV for less than what a no-frills, 10-year-old, what's-that-smell Camry costs.
How I budgeted my EV build
Those of you following this project might have noticed a distinct lack of updates since last summer. A number of other projects have demanded much of my time since then, and money's been tight lately, even for what I intended from the start to be a low-budget DIY project that anybody — somebody who had a lot to learn about EVs like me — could put together. And when I say low-budget, I mean no-budget. It's funded by couch cushion change and that five-dollar-bill I forgot in my pants pocket. I did get back to making progress on it recently — I'll provide an update on that below — but first, let's discuss what the project has cost me so far.
As with many of my car projects, I keep a spreadsheet of expenses, largely to keep myself honest when it comes to buying parts. It's easy to just throw parts at a car while only looking forward to the next purchase, convincing yourself that it's a low-budget project and that you really haven't spent that much on it to date, but that's also a quick path to getting in over your head on a project. So I set some ground rules with myself. One: No purchase that's necessary to get the project on the road, down to the nuts and bolts and even registration costs, is too small or extraneous to record. Two: I don't count tools, even ones I bought for a specific task on a specific project, but I do count supplies like shrink tubing and paint that I'll certainly have leftovers of at the end of the project. Three: I subtract from the total any money I've made off the car from selling used parts to the loose change I find under the floormats.
What I've spent to build my EV
In spite of my advice in the paragraph above, I bought much of what I needed for the Chenowth in 2021 well before I was ready to install it all. Brake lines, tires, shifter bushings, those sorts of things. I know I have a not-insignificant number of parts to get before I'm done — I still need to rebuild the beam, get a steering wheel, and install beefier transmission gears — but I'd say I'm 85 to 90 percent there. I'll also include the disclaimer that I have not used my position at Hemmings to cadge any free or discounted parts or services from parts suppliers. There's no inaccessible-to-the-common-man, secret-handshake, good-ol'-boys-club privilege at work here.
Grand total, so far: $9,980.26.
Keep reading to discover how I saved money on the build and to learn about recent progress on the project.