Mihir Vardhan has been fascinated by tools since he was three years old. His parents introduced him to the world of engineering when he was six years old, and he received his first toolbox from his father when he was six years old. He’s been tinkering with things with his screwdriver and building things like robots, LED panels, and 3D printers since then.
“My father would buy me and my brother little lights, bulbs, and batteries. He would teach us how to wire them up. Every birthday, I would get some kind of tool. I started building my collection at the age of six and it continues till today. My entire room turned into a workshop,” he stated.
Mihir started his YouTube channel, ‘Making with Mihir,’ when he was in Class 8. He wanted to use this channel to express his passion for engineering.
While he began with small projects like building a torch, his work has evolved into something larger. Consider the petrol car he converted into an electric vehicle.
His most recent video, titled ‘Simplest EV Conversion Under $3000 – Convert Your Car in 3 Days!’, has received a lot of attention.
Converting a car to electric in three days
The idea for this was born almost a decade ago. Mihir credits his family friend James Abraham for instilling the idea in his head.
“James’ uncle is an engineer and used to teach me about electronics. He is a ‘green guy’ and runs a solar company. When I was in Class 5, he told me that we need to convert a petrol car to an electric one. He used to say that we should buy a small car like a Maruti 800 and convert it. At that time, I just laughed it off. But he kept reminding me of this project every year,” he says.
Mihir is in his third year of studying electrical engineering at the University of Illinois. When he returned to Gurugram for a brief visit in September 2021, James reminded him of the project once more. Mihir took it seriously this time and decided to go ahead with it.
Decided to convert his grandfather’s 12-year-old Hyundai Santro
“The Santro was just lying in our garage and I thought, ‘Why don’t we take the engine out and make it a completely electric car?’. It’s a beautiful car, only the engine is a little tired. I went on the internet and searched for videos of people converting cars. But instead of replicating what others had done, I decided to make some tweaks,” says Mihir.
He believes that the three most important aspects of conversion are selecting a motor, a controller, and a battery.
The wheels were set in motion in September, but they came to a halt in January 2022, when Mihir returned to India for a brief visit.
“I went on the Indiamart website and reached out to sellers of items I needed. Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place. As my trip to India was a very short one in January, I had to execute this in a short period. I love tight timelines and the challenge,” laughs Mihir.
Making the conversion simpler and cheaper
He began ordering the motor, controller, battery, and converter to replace the car battery once he arrived in India in January. These items took nearly ten days to arrive. He had only three days before he had to fly back. Mihir was adamant about two things when it came to the conversion: keep it simple and cheap.
“I wanted to keep the process as simple as possible, and use as much of the car as I could. I also wanted to minimise the welding and machining, and devise a process which can be done in the basement of your building without using fancy tools,” he says.
In fact, he only needed a basic socket set, a floor jack, and two bricks to complete the conversion. Typically, the entire engine is removed and replaced by a motor in such
conversions. However, Mihir chose to remove only half of the engine.
“When the entire engine is removed, you need to add two more motors to power the power steering pump and AC compressor. You also then have to come up with mounting brackets and add a lot of wires. It is time-consuming, difficult, and expensive. I decided to leave half the engine in, and mount the motor on the remaining part of the engine,” says Mihir.
While this will compromise performance and efficiency, it is enough for city driving, says Mihir. The advantage is that you can power the wheels of the car, the power steering pump, and the AC compressor. This way, he has also saved about Rs 1.5 lakh, he says.