Forget what you know about modifying internal combustion engines. Tuning an electric vehicle (EV) is a whole different ballgame.
When you work on a traditional car, you might be upgrading the cylinder heads, turbos, superchargers, motor and more. With an EV, however, there are no turbos or superchargers. You won’t be replacing rods or valves with stronger metal. Nor will you be replacing the engine — because there isn’t one. In its place is a simple battery pack.
Of course, you may take the easy route and modify for aesthetic purposes only. However, if you want to turn your EV into a powerful beast of a car, you’ll have to think outside the box.
Which Mods Are Compatible?
While it may be more difficult to modify an EV, it is entirely possible to do so. In addition to a fresh paint job, window tinting and other basic upgrades, there are a number of options for boosting the performance and power of your EV. Here are just a few ways you can tune and trick out your electric ride.
The high-voltage battery pack is the heart of any EV. However, the pack that initially comes with your vehicle will dictate — and limit — its performance and range. Thus, battery upgrades are the key to a faster, more powerful vehicle.
Already, modders are testing the boundaries of this specific modification by installing high-power Tesla batteries in small cars like the Kia Soul and Chevy Volt. Of course, high-performance modules will improve the vehicle’s overall performance. However, there is a chance the drivetrain may not sustain the extra voltage.
Therefore, if you want to safely boost your EV’s power without sacrificing range, visit an aftermarket shop that specializes in battery upgrades. You might also consider upgrading as battery technology improves and automakers release new models.
Electic motors include very few parts, making them much simpler than combustion engines. However, they sit deep within the machine in dense, sealed cylinders that possess no discernable entry point. This complex “black box” is enough to scare away even the most dedicated modder.
Yet, if you have the willpower and the know-how, you can add more motors to your EV. Doing so will multiply its horsepower, making it faster and more impressive, albeit a bit less efficient.
Some of the fastest electric-powered vehicles have four motors — one for each wheel or axle. Thus, if yours only has one or two, there’s obviously room for improvement. Plus, as more EVs hit the road, there will likely be even more motor upgrades to choose from, allowing you to modify to meet your needs and personal preferences.
Electric vehicles need efficient and compact electronics, which is where inverters come into play. Inverters take the battery’s DC current and convert it to AC current to power the motor. The faster the motor spins, the faster the switching rate, so voltage peaks must be consistent and strong.
Each vehicle comes with a preset optimum switch rate to ensure a safe, economical drive that supports efficient energy consumption. Modders, however, can alter the settings so they switch at a quicker rate, allowing for a more powerful motor.
Tesla has already begun switching out inverters to increase the switch rate and raise motor torque. This simple swap translates to a faster zero-to-60 time and more responsive acceleration. Plus, making the inverter more efficient automatically minimizes the battery size and increases range, both positive improvements for EV lovers.
Electric vehicles demand a lot from their tires. Since EVs lack a roaring engine, the tires must be quiet. Plus, their torque and range demand rubber strong enough to keep up.
Many new EVs come with 18″ wheels, so there’s room for improvement in terms of range. However, if you aren’t worried about noise or the smell of burning rubber as you peel out of parking lots, there are quite a few modifications you can make to the tires.
Use higher-performance tires for better acceleration and handling and a larger, stickier contact patch to grip the pavement while cornering. The latter will also improve traction from launch, allowing you to speed up fast and stop quickly.
For everyday driving with a bit of spirited canyon carving, opt for a rain-ready tread pattern and higher treadwear ratings. If you have a need for speed and plan to enter drifting competitions, consider tires with higher treadwear, a large center rib and more rain channeling.
Also, note that some EV manufacturers like Tesla provide you with the option to choose the tires and wheels that come with your car, but you may have to select the performance or long-range package to select this option directly from manufacturer.
Software and Interiors
When it comes to modifying EVs, the true aftermarket is in software and custom interiors. For software, most manufacturers use it to trim power output and ensure the vehicle doesn’t bypass safety standards. Manufacturers usually encrypt this setup to protect it from people like modders who want to change it.
However, if you can access the management, it’s possible to override these settings to extract more power. Of course, you may sacrifice range and battery life, but you’ll get more power from your EV in return.
Interior modifications are also compatible and common with EVs — just as they are with conventional cars. Add custom upholstery, seat trim, carbon fiber resurfacing, door kick plates, an inductive phone charging pad and more to improve interior aesthetics. You can even DIY install a new stereo system using a manual as a guide.
Risks and Challenges
Nothing good comes easy, and the same is true of tricked-out electronic vehicles. As with any car mod, the changes you make to your vehicle will come with their own set of risks and challenges. Therefore, it’s best to prepare — both mentally and monetarily — for a few bumps in the road.
Most auto manufacturers don’t recommend that tuners make changes to their vehicles, as doing so can be a dangerous endeavor. This is especially true of electric vehicles. Working with high-voltage electrical systems in modern EVs can be incredibly dangerous, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing or completely understand how the battery works.
Consequently, the stakes can be much higher when modifying electric vehicles — and no one should take the risks lightly. If you simply can’t resist modifying the internal workings of your EV, take it to a professional aftermarket tuner or seek the advice of a renowned modder. Odds are good they have more experience and can safely make necessary adjustments.
In order to tune a traditional car, all you need to do is swap out engines, transmissions and other body parts for a more powerful vehicle. EVs, on the other hand, require a complete system override in order to make upgrades. Before replacing parts, you must hack into the car’s computer software and modify the engine control unit.
Therefore, in order to upgrade your ride, you must either find a specialized computer programmer or be one yourself. Then, someone has to hack the system and install an aftermarket computer to allow for specific adjustments.
EV powertrains also pose a series of challenges for tuners and gearheads. While they may have 60% fewer components than that of an internal combustion engine vehicle, they aren’t any simpler to modify. In many new models, an all-wheel-drive system taps specific elements of the battery, suspension and motor to fine-tune driving capabilities. This comprehensive system makes it impossible to simply boost the turbos or put in new gear ratios.
Instead, you must make a series of changes to ensure each part works in harmony with the others. Failing to do so will weaken performance and efficiency. Plus, you’ll likely risk your own safety — and the lives of everyone else on the road — if you fail to make all the correct adjustments. Seek out a professional to fine-tune the powertrain to ensure it functions harmoniously.
The Future of Electric Mods
As technology advances and electric vehicles continue to replace conventional gas guzzlers, EVs will only get better. Manufacturers will design cars that further emphasize the user experience, possess more power and range and extend battery life. Already, this shift is underway in companies like Tesla, which is working on longer-lasting batteries and will likely release wireless charging in 2022.
Meanwhile, aftermarket companies and individual tuners will undoubtedly rise to the occasion and set to work modifying new models with all their bells and whistles.
About the Author: Oscar Collins
Edited By: Hugh