Demand for electric vehicles is ramping up across Australia amid expectations petrol prices will reach $2.20 a litre before the end of the month.

But supply constraints and hefty prices are driving aspiring EV owners to turn to less conventional methods to secure fuel-free wheels.

Michael Lunn is one of only a handful of Australians who converts ordinary piston engine cars into EVs.

“To run an electric car, it’s within cents – 30 to 40 cents – to do your running around every day,” he said.

Michael Lunn converts classic and more common cars into electric vehicles.(ABC North Qld: Jade Toomey)

Mr Lunn said interest in his Townsville-based business had grown by up to 500 per cent in the last year.

His workshop is cluttered with cars with New South Wales registration plates that have travelled from Sydney – more than 2,000 kilometres south – as well as a couple from Cairns and Magnetic Island.

“Since petrol prices have been going up, we’ve seen a marked increase in enquiries,” he said.

This beauty of an era gone by has a new lease on life.(Supplied: Michael Lunn)

Classics get the spark back

Mr Lunn and his auto-electrician Graeme Manietta started out converting classic cars like Morris Minors and Volkswagens.

“There are people who have their own collectable cars they want to keep on the road, and it’s very expensive to buy and get parts now,” Mr Lunn said.

More recently the pair has seen an uptick in demand to convert more common cars, like the Holden Commodore Mr Lunn is working on at the moment.

“Petrol prices are that added incentive,” Mr Lunn said.

This Commodore will be a lot cheaper to run that it was in its previous life once its wires have been properly crossed.(Supplied: Michael Lunn)

A battle at the bowser

CommSec chief economist Craig Jones said motorists were paying an extra $35 to fill up compared to 12 months ago, when fuel prices were sitting at an average of about $1.40.

He says there would be more to pay as prices soared beyond record highs amid global uncertainty spurred on by the war in Ukraine.

“We’ll rise from around $1.84 to $1.90 next week,” Mr Jones said.

“If these prices at the petrol pump are sustained for a longer period, certainly we will have more and more motorists saying, ‘What are the alternatives? Where can I go to to get my cost of transport down?'”

There’s no shortage of work at Mr Lunn’s business.(Supplied: Michael Lunn)

What’s the cost of converting?

A full conversion costs about $20,000, but Mr Lunn says it all depends on the type of car and how much range the driver needs.

“Long range means lots of batteries, short range means fewer batteries,” he said.

A typical overnight charge would generate enough to power the car for 120-150 kilometres, but charging stations spread across the east coast could easily power a car from Brisbane to Cairns.

“The biggest problem we have is if you want to head out west,” Mr Lunn said.

This Kia Rio, a Land Rover Defender and a Morris Minor are among the cars being converted at Mr Lunn’s workshop.(ABC North Qld: Jade Toomey)

Busy as a bumblebee

Some cars in Mr Lunn’s workshop would otherwise be destined for landfill, like the Kia Rio “bumblebee” that was written off with a busted engine.

Mr Lunn picked it up for $1,000 and says it will run for five to 10 years before it needs a battery upgrade.

With a full workshop, a long waitlist, and a shortage of skilled labour, conversions are taking between four and six weeks to complete.

“We’re getting busier and busier,” Mr Lunn said.

“To do a job like this, you’ve got to have mechanical ability, machining skills, welding skills, auto-electrical skills and CAD — computer aided drafting.”

Beginning of the end?

Transport costs are rising on all fronts in Australia as supply chains hamper the availability of new cars and bikes and force up the price of used vehicles.

Mr Lunn says it could be the beginning of the end for internal combustion engine vehicles.

“There’s servicing, there’s oils, there’s petrol and the pollution, you name it,” he said.

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