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So assume I have the mechanical and fabrication expertise to mount up a model S motor, build some custom half shafts to withstand torque, and to put Volt batteries in a suitable location.

In general, what electrical components do I need to put it all together? I take it I need some kind of controller, a battery management system, coolant pumps, and so on?

Like, what is a DC to DC inverter, and why do I need one (or do I)?
 

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Like, what is a DC to DC inverter, and why do I need one (or do I)?
A DC to DC converter (not "inverter") converts DC power at one voltage to another voltage. In an EV, it is used to replace the 12 volt battery and alternator of a conventional car, getting power from the high-voltage battery instead of from an engine.

12 volt DC power is needed for lots of stuff not related to the powertrain, such as the lights and radio.

You need one unless you also have a 12 volt battery that stores enough energy to get you through all of your driving until you charge it again at the same time as you charge the main high-voltage battery.
 
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