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Technical discussion on converting internal combustion to electric
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Thalass
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Post by Thalass » Tue, 14 Aug 2007, 06:11

Hey all. Thought I'd do an intro post and put down on paper exactly what I'm looking for in an EV. I'm making this up as I go, more or less, so please bear with me!

I have been thinking about converting a vehicle to electric power for a little while now, but I hadn't really done any research until I saw Who Killed The Electric Car a few months ago. Since then I've been doing some reading, attempting to find information, and decide what kind of vehicle I want.

At the moment I'm tossing up between a bike, or a small car (a Mini, most likely, if I can get a hold of one), though I'm leaning towards the bike.

From what I've gleaned the bike would be an easier conversion - but of course I don't have a bike license yet, so that's another step in the process compared to a car.

Whatever type it ends up being, my EV would need to have a range of at least 50km. This would give me the range to get to work and back, with a few kms spare just in case. It would also obviously need to be able to keep up with traffic, the limit is 80km/h along my route, mostly. But 110km/h (or so... heh) would be preferred.

I'm not sure which is better: DC or AC, but I don't much like commutators or brushes or, for that matter, potentiometers. All that wear and tear, and pots get a bit jumpy as they wear out, which wouldn't be much fun if I'm riding along in traffic and the poor bike isn't sure how fast I want to go. heh. So I'm leaning in the direction of AC. (and possibly some kind of optical sensor for throttle/accelerator control)

As far as batteries go, I'd like to go for something denser than lead/acid. Lithium Iron Phosphate looks interesting, but is probably a bit out of my budget. No offence to those who built them, but I'm not a fan of a bike with four big blocky lead/acid batteries hanging out in front of the rider's legs. I'd like to keep roughly to the bike's original shape, where possible. I'm a fan of sleeper cars. The dodgy looking, but fast, rocketship appeals! Image


Anyway, I don't expect to be able to match a petrol vehicle for performance, especially in range, but coming close would be nice. And, of course, this would all be subject to budget constraints (and the missus' approval!).

Huh... Didn't expect this post to go this long. I hope I'll be able to gnaw on your collective brains to find much info!
Last edited by Thalass on Sat, 14 Aug 2077, 06:13, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by jpcw » Thu, 06 Sep 2007, 02:39

My conversion is based on fairly much the same requirements as yours. I based it on the Charade in the following link.
http://www.evmotors.com.au/vehicles/index.html

I talked to the guy who did it (Doctor Michael Simons) and he gets a top speed of 130kmh, acceleration as good if not better than the original car and between 80 and 100km range.

My battery configuration is a bit different but I’m hoping for at least 50km per charge.

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Post by Thalass » Sat, 08 Sep 2007, 19:33

Nice! *saves link*

I'm still tossing up between a bike and a small car. Most likely an old Mini or maybe a MightyBoy ute. Given the weather in Perth lately, a bike is looking less fun with every raindrop :P


I'm think I'm going to have to get as much info as I can for both (or all three) possibilities, and compare. At the moment I'm logging my fuel usage in my 1999 Subaru Outback, though it's only been three fillups so far, so what I have isn't the most accurate. That'll work as a baseline to compare the EV to.
Last edited by Thalass on Wed, 08 Sep 2077, 19:37, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by jpcw » Sun, 09 Sep 2007, 06:07

Tip for you. Try talking to your local car yard, preferably the ones that deal in new or near new cars. I got a Charade for $400 it was in excellent condition. Basically it was a trade-in and they gave it to me at what they can get for it wholesale as they didn't deal in anything under $6000. It helps if you know someone there but even if you don’t you would be surprised how many people are interested when you say you’re doing a conversion and want to help out.

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Post by Thalass » Sun, 09 Sep 2007, 10:24

That's not a bad idea. I'll keep it in mind, thanks!

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Post by Thalass » Tue, 25 Sep 2007, 05:32

A quick update!


After much deliberation, I've decided that a Mini would be the best donor vehicle. It has more room for batteries, while still being quite light, and can carry passangers or cargo (Namely: Wife and Bub, also toolbox since I take that home at night (you can claim that on tax >.>))

Minis are also awesome, especially the older round-nose style. And, I wouldn't have to get a new license.


So I've asked some mini enthusiasts for some petrol use figures, range and such, so I can compare, and I'll start looking for a donor while I firm up my choices of motor and controller and such. I'm still leaning towards lithium batteries, but I'll see what works out to be practical.


So there will, in a year or two (I hope) be an EV Mini zooming around the northern suburbs of Perth! I also have the image in my mind of a trailer, made out of the rear end of another mini, which holds a generator and fuel for long distance trips. (the fuel would be free, since I can get Jet-A1 for free from work, and a diesel can be made to run on that without much fuss - one of the guys at work has an old diesel VW Golf that runs on 100% Jet-A1.)


S'gonna be fun! :P

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Post by jpcw » Tue, 25 Sep 2007, 15:40

Here is some information on a "push" trailer that you might find interesting

http://www.jstraubel.com/EVpusher/EVpusher2.htm
http://www.evconvert.com/article/ev-pusher
Last edited by jpcw on Sat, 25 Sep 2077, 15:41, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Thalass » Tue, 25 Sep 2007, 16:29

Hrm... I see their point about efficiency, but to me having an ICE push you around is kind of like admiting that an ICE is better, or that you made a mistake in your conversion, or something like that. (Even though it is the same thing as a generator-trailer :P)

But it's something to keep in mind.
I'll drive an electric vehicle one day.

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Post by jpcw » Tue, 25 Sep 2007, 19:03

Just think of it as a true hybrid, just one that you can take the ICE motor out when you don't need it. In fact you could call it a "Hybird Plugin" instead of a "plugin Hybrid" ;)
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Post by Thalass » Sat, 13 Oct 2007, 04:18

Arr.

I've set up a site, of sorts. OK so it's a blog on GreatestJournal, but that's close enough for my purposes right now. There's not much there yet, as I've had various real life things drag me away from the project. But it's something, at least. Good enough for now :P

Here it is!

Oh, and I came up with a name, since that seems to be traditional. I thought "MiniVolt" was amusing, since it'll a Mini - a small car, and a millivolt is a measurement of small potential difference. :P
I'll drive an electric vehicle one day.

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Post by jpcw » Sat, 13 Oct 2007, 04:55

Link bookmarked, Looking forward to seeing it progress.
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Post by ckas » Sat, 13 Oct 2007, 23:13

Have to say I am looking at very similar conversion goals to you, though I have gone the other way and decided to convert a motorcycle. Though this is influenced by the fact that I have a motorcycle license and an old suzuki GN250 chassis. I should be ordering some lithium ferrous phosphate batteries next week ill let you know how they go.

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Post by Thalass » Sun, 14 Oct 2007, 03:52

Awesome!

I think I'll still do a bike, one day. Maybe a dirt bike or something. :P

First I have to fix my subaru, and then I'll be able to move on to the EV. heh.
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Post by Mark T » Wed, 09 Jan 2008, 01:53

An old Mini could be a bit of a challenge because the gearbox is in the sump on the ICE. You could always try to use a gear from some later model jap car. But your right a mini would be great.

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Post by Thalass » Wed, 09 Jan 2008, 10:14

I'm actually looking at direct drive AC motors at the moment. Depending on the price I'll probably go with that.

Though I've changed my plans for the choice of donor car. Minis, especially the earlier round-nose ones, are pretty damn rare in Perth. And rather expensive. But I should be able to get an early model Subaru Liberty sedan for a decent price (there was one advertised a few months ago for $1000 with a dead engine and no rego - perfect for me!) and there is a large parts market out there. I'm also much more experienced with Subarus and I know a few people with even more experience with them. The Lib is also larger, and more practical for a family than a Mini.


So yeah, "minivolt" isn't very accurate now :p But I'd like to do a mini one day, they are nifty little cars.

I'll drive an electric vehicle one day.

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Post by Hale Family » Mon, 31 Mar 2008, 23:29

Hi Thalass,

One point I have picked up over the last few days of reading (I also am very new) is that Subaru's are a bit heavier because of the AWD, which will slow you down a bit.

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Post by Andrew » Tue, 01 Apr 2008, 02:54

Don't be put off Thalass... AWD's go sideways around corners better!

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Post by zeva » Tue, 01 Apr 2008, 03:24

Direct drive AC in a 4WD vehicle, phwoar sounds expensive!! If you haven't come across it already, check out http://www.proev.com who are doing exactly that.

I *think* the gearbox, transfer case and front diff are a single unit in Subarus, which complicates direct drive setups. The ProEV guys basically removed the whole lot and installed another rear diff up front, then had two motors; one driving the front two wheels and one driving the rear two through the respective diffs. Works a treat but yeah.. the cost will probably be a showstopper.

Hale is correct, though in my opinion it's more the extra transmission losses in a 4WD which will chew up your efficiency as opposed to extra weight - particularly if you have an AC system with regenerative braking. (Heavy vehicles do take more energy to accelerate to speed but then there's also more energy for the regen to recover while slowing down.)

Unless you're building a sports car or have very particular taste, I'd highly recommend a small(ish) front wheel drive vehicle. Gives you the best performance from whatever parts you use. (A cheap donor is no good if it requires more expensive parts, e.g I wouldn't convert a Hummer even if it the car came free!)
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Post by acmotor » Tue, 01 Apr 2008, 03:57

Ian, don't forget to read AWD rather than 4WD. Real performance requires AWD to get the power to the road and control the car. True this consumes power but there is no point in having power if you can't get it to the road. 4WD is usually a heavier construction designed for off road abuse than AWD.

Four motors and no diffs would be more efficient than 1 motor and 3 diffs to get AWD even allowing for the economy of scale of the larger motor. Four motors also allows for intelligent control of power distribution without the need for LSDs etc. Diffs are around 85% efficient at their working load but chew several kW just to turn them around at 100kmph. If they ever get light weight hub motors (low unsprung mass) then that will be even better.

I like what proev are doing.

Spend as much as you can on the donor car so you don't spend all your time fixing the old bomb.

I'd convert a hummer if it came free !!
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Post by zeva » Tue, 01 Apr 2008, 04:49

Well I always say the difference between AWD and 4WD is just semantics and marketing-speak. If your car has four wheels, they mean the same thing Image But yes I acknowledge that they usually refer to different types of vehicles.

I also kind of disagree with the idea that 4WD/AWD is universally superior.. often the extra weight & transmission losses aren't worth the extra grip under acceleration, especially if you have good tires. The quickest vehicles around any given race track (or drag strip) are usually rear wheel drive. One notable exception is rally of course, where there's so little grip that you need the front wheels to help pull the car along. And similarly on wet tarmac, 4WDs have a definite advantage. (I like to think I come from a position of experience on the subject, having owned three FWD, two AWD and.. er.. six RWD cars!)

But one electric motor per wheel is definitely the holy grail. Four small motors wouldn't be appreciably heavier than one motor 4x the power, and wouldn't suffer the usual transmission losses that 4WD ICE vehicles inevitably have. I'd definitely like to build such a vehicle one day.
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Post by a4x4kiwi » Tue, 01 Apr 2008, 05:00

Silicon is just sand with attitude.

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Post by acmotor » Tue, 01 Apr 2008, 06:31

Yep, that's the one.Image

Stealth may be questionable. What about the electromagnetic signature of 1000Amps at 288V. A real glow in the dark in the RF spectrum ! Image

It was reading OK until they said lead acid so I had to check the date as it is April now.
Then the weights didn't add up. 24kWh of lead acid maybe 800kg. The GVW is the same and payload has only reduced by 540lbs (whatever they are).
If I was spending $200k on this I would hope for more upmarket batteries. Even the Chinese use thunderskys in their tanks.

Is that increased range because they started with charged batteries ?
Ok, so you fill the tank and keep driving after the first 350 miles (or is that US km). What a slug for the next 300(?) miles with a 55kW motor !!!! Image
What is the point ? just use better batteries. Swapable or fast charge if you must.

Oh and Ian, you didn't say you have owned a 4WD ? I think they are VERY different to AWD each for a different purpose.

     
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Post by AgentSpanky » Thu, 17 Apr 2008, 16:06

Unless zeva has been driving chassis designs resembling a
Image
, a
Image
, a
Image
, or a Image

then he has driven two 4WDs.

If I'm mistaken, and he has been driving these types of cars, then the two AWDs he states he's driven are only 3WD, and he is yet to drive a 4WD. So that would be two 3WDs, and nine 2WDs. No 4WDs.

Image

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Post by Thalass » Sun, 20 Apr 2008, 23:52

Ahaha Corbin Sparrow!


As far as I can tell, the difference between AWD and 4WD is that AWD is a bit more active, shifting the power between the front and rear as needed or somesuch. Whereas 4WD is more limited. something like that.

My car will be 4WD, then, by that definition. But I do hope to venture off road with it once I can work out how to make a series-hybrid out of it so that it has a decent (burnity) range. 50 or 60km is enough battery range for 90% of the driving I'll do.
I'll drive an electric vehicle one day.

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Post by woody » Sat, 21 Jun 2008, 14:33

Early Subaru Libertys were available with front wheel drive, they only went all AWD mid-nineties.

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