A electric car for $6,000? Yes, but there’s a catch…

Yesterday, we told you about an Ohio company that offers electric Mercedes SUV conversions for $75,000. That’s more than most people in the U.S. make in a year.

Even the compact EV options aren’t cheap. The 2012 Nissan Leaf starts at about $35,000. Tax credits and incentives can push that price down into the low-20s depending on where you live and assuming you make enough money to actually take advantage of the credit. But that’s still not going to be an option for a lot of people.

So what about used electric cars?

EVs are rare enough that you’re unlikely to spot one at your neighborhood car dealer. But there’s always the internet.

Ebay, for instance, allows you to search by “fuel type” and select “electric.” Just navigate to the Ebay cars-and-trucks page, and scroll down the left column to refine the search. As of this writing, there were 25 EVs for sale on the site.

Another source is the EV Tradin’ Post, which, despite its dated design is updated regularly and features another two dozen or so cars from around the country.

The offerings are limited, but diverse. There are a handful of modestly priced, ready-to-drive conversions, like a 1994 Prizm in California for $10,000 that has new batteries and promises a range of 35-40 miles. Or a 2003 S-10 in Ohio for $8,500.

If you’re handy, there are also some interesting “as-is” conversions that need some work. In Newton, Kansas, there’s a 1976 VW Beetle for $6,000 that runs but could use new batteries. Or this 1981 Ford Escort in Ohio that needs a new controller (bidding currently at $206.50).

Now, these are all used cars, so caveat emptor and all that. And even the professionally-done conversions will require a visit from an electrician rather than a trip to the repair shop should anything go wrong. And good luck trying to find brake pads for a 1975 Citicar down at the ol’ AutoZone.

But it’s also worth remembering that while we’ve been waiting for big automakers to embrace the electric car, backyard mechanics and small shops around the country have been figuring it out on their own for years.

The fact is, while electric cars are a niche product now, there’s nothing terribly complicated about them. It’s all about the batteries – in theory, as technology improves, range will increase, charge times will be faster, and prices will come down.

So if you don’t find something you like in the classifieds, be patient.

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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