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17 July 2007 @ 05:18 pm
Electric vehicle conversion  
I know cz_unit is knowledgable about EV stuff. Anyone else? Here's what I'm wondering:

We need a pickup truck for various reasons. I found a place online that sells EV conversion kits for the manual Chevy S-10. The kit costs $9000, and includes batteries and detailed installation instructions. Is this a fair price? Is this something you'd recommend for people who have no automotive experience whatsoever? They say it'll run 40-60 miles, which is likely enough for a local vehicle. They also say that an EV conversion must be a manual transmission, because you won't get enough range with an automatic. Can you explain why, in small words? :)

I found an S-10 with a bad motor for $200. Worth towing and storing until we save enough to convert it? Or should we buy a working truck, use it for now, and do... something... with the engine once we convert? (On that track, I'm seeing "gas saver" in ads for the S-10 4-cylinder. Really? A gas-saver pickup?)

I tried looking at EV forums, but they seem mostly geared toward people who already know what they're doing. I know nothing. Anything anyone can tell me would be a help.
 
 
 
Spam: Dremel™ sparksmadbodger on July 17th, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
I would only recommend it for someone without automotive or general machinery experience if they have access to someone with such experience (and some really nice tools). There are a lot of gotchas involved with large heavy objects and large forces, and the fact that your results will directly affect your safety in the future. Someone familiar with those gotchas will save you a lot of frustration and injury (minor and otherwise).

As for the automatic transmission, the big bugaboo is a device known as a "torque converter". This is what allows the transmission to be in gear while the engine is running and the vehicle is not moving. It is basically a magic coupler that will transmit force without being a rigid link. If you're curious, I can explain how it works. The drawback is that this magic is lossy. The power coming out is less than the power going in (wasted power). This is why cars with automagic transmissions get worse gas mileage than cars with manual transmissions, too. An EV has to be very frugal with its power, as the power density of batteries is (enormously) less than that of gasoline.

The $200 truck with the bad motor sounds like an excellent candidate, if you don't need use of it for a while (even if you have an expert do the conversion, it's gonna take some time).

Elletheletterelle on July 17th, 2007 11:03 pm (UTC)
Argh. I was worried about that. Hmm, I don't know if I know anyone down here with automotive experience. My uncle might. Hmm.

Thanks for the automatic trans explanation. Rarg. Itellyawhat, I'm looking forward to the new generation of EVs coming out. The Chevy Volt is supposed to start manufacture in 09, and I imagine that other (foreign) companies might be earlier than that. And hey, electric smartcars are being sold in Europe (for fleet use) right now. Argh! I want one!

Man, if only I could afford a Tesla. :)
whc on July 18th, 2007 11:32 am (UTC)
Also, an automatic will be set up to shift at the ideal speeds for the gas engine, which will not be correct for an electric motor.

Modern automatics are computer controlled and may not even work if the engine control computer has been removed or disconnected from the engine.
Elletheletterelle on July 22nd, 2007 02:28 pm (UTC)
Oh, good to know. I guess an automatic is right out, then. :) Thanks for the help!
Baron Aloha: Deputy Fife at your serviceultramang on July 17th, 2007 10:54 pm (UTC)
Double your money ;)
Hey, if you can get 16-20mpg out of your pickup compared to 8mpg, that's gas savin's.

I would guess the manual vs. automatic choice is about the lesser of two evils. An electric built from the ground up would have a motor for each drive wheel rather than have a transmission at all.

Speaking of electrics, we have a 'weird car' dealership in town, they sell these 3 wheel electric trucks.



Elletheletterelle on July 17th, 2007 10:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Double your money ;)
I've seen those! They're adorable, but I'd need something that moved faster than 40 mph.
Baron Alohaultramang on July 17th, 2007 11:52 pm (UTC)
charley horse-power
S-10s are light enough, you might consider the Flintstone conversion. :)
whc on July 18th, 2007 12:53 pm (UTC)
Are you familiar with the EV mailing list? You can join by sending an email to listproc@listproc.sjsu.edu with the following
text:

JOIN EV (your name)


There are a lot of experts there, but beginners can ask questions too.

Here are a few random thoughts:

There are a few terms that pop up on the list (and other electric car discussions) that you need to know to follow the discussion:

EV - Electric Vehicle
ICE - Internal Combustion Engine
glider - the donor car/truck with engine removed

There are a lot of specialized terms for batteries, but the kind most simple conversions use is the flooded lead acid cell (golf cart battery)

Many of the S-10 manual transmissions have a weak bearing on the input shaft. It's easy and cheap to replace if the engine and/or transmission is out of the truck, so it should probably be replaced while you are doing the conversion.

You don't do much shifting in an EV, and don't use the clutch to start off, so don't let a manual transmission scare you off if you don't have much experience driving one.

Air conditioning and power steering increase the cost and complexity of the conversion. Stay away from them if you can do without.

I've never done an electric conversion, but I've been reading up on it and have a pretty good electronics and automotive background. Feel free to contact me with questions.
Elletheletterelle on July 22nd, 2007 02:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you for all of this. I hate being a newbie, argh!

Many of the S-10 manual transmissions have a weak bearing on the input shaft. It's easy and cheap to replace if the engine and/or transmission is out of the truck, so it should probably be replaced while you are doing the conversion.

See, this is why I am afraid to go into an established EV group. I don't know what an input shaft is. All I know about cars is they have four wheels and an engine.

You don't do much shifting in an EV, and don't use the clutch to start off, so don't let a manual transmission scare you off if you don't have much experience driving one.

Oh, that's VERY good to hear. I've driven a stick exactly once. In a parking lot. Fifteen years ago.

Air conditioning and power steering increase the cost and
complexity of the conversion. Stay away from them if you can do without.


Unfortunately, I'm in Florida. I have to have AC. Rats!

I've never done an electric conversion, but I've been reading up on it and have a pretty good electronics and automotive background. Feel free to contact me with questions.

Thank you so much. Looking at this list, I wonder if I can do this at all. Crums. I guess I'll keep reading up on it before making a final decision.
whc on July 22nd, 2007 02:51 pm (UTC)
>See, this is why I am afraid to go into an established EV group

The EV list I mentioned seems to be very helpful, even with very basic questions.


>I don't know what an input shaft

Basically, it's how the power gets from the engine to the transmission.

>Unfortunately, I'm in Florida. I have to have AC. Rats!

Then you will need to find a kit that can deal with the A/C. I can give you details on what it takes to have A/C in an electric car, but it's probably more technical info than you want right now.

(when looking for air conditioning info on an EV forum, be aware that AC can refer to a type of electrical system. Air conditioning is lilkey to be written A/C, or spelled out)

>I wonder if I can do this at all

I'd say that depends on how much interest you hane in learning more about cars and electric conversions. Here's what I would do if I was in your situation:

1) Post to the EV list asking if there's anyone in your area offering classes or assistance. Some of the parts vendors and/or electric car evangelists offer a lot of help.

2) See if a local community college offers a basic class in car repair.

3)Get the instructions for a kit and ask questions until they make sense. I can answer the questions that you think are too basic to ask in an EV forum. (and probably some of the harder ones too)
Jerlugonn on July 18th, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC)
I'll check on this for you. I have a friend who owns only electric vehicles, belongs to an EV list, used to run an EV club, etc. She's very environmental. Anyway, she'll probably have some info.
Elle: Cagefightingtheletterelle on July 22nd, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
*loves you* You are the MAN!