G. David Felt
Staff Writer Alternative Energy - www.CheersandGears.com
Tesla has set the auto world on fire with their sedan and now their Tesla X CUV. While most of us cannot afford a $100,000 dollar plus auto, what about our older auto's? Does it make sense to convert a traditional gas powered auto to an EV? Should I wait till a lower priced EV arrives like the Chevy Bolt?
Many states have come out strong in their support for CNG home and business fueling equipment such as Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Texas. Other states have come out strong pushing to having people go electric and add electric chargers to your home such as Washington and Oregon. One large state pushing CNG, Electric and Hydrogen, is California. The average conversion on a petrol powered auto to CNG tends to run $10K to $15K depending on the size of the CNG tank and then you have fueling equipment if you want to fuel from home that runs from $5K to $10K depending on size. This means an average person converting an auto to CNG is looking at $15K to $25K price and can be even more if you buy a new CNG auto.
You have many choices in the EV field such as the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500 EV and a few others that all run in the 60 to 80 mile range of electric auto's. The upcoming Chevy Bolt is a 200 mile range EV which many feel will make an impact on autos sales. These are the EV's that are all in the $25K to $35K range depending on federal subsidies.
So with thinking about the current EV's on the market and what is coming, does it make sense to convert an existing auto to electric? What is the cost of conversion and what are my options as I hear about AC versus DC driven autos? What should I have at my home to charge the auto? This is what I took as I thought about my own auto's I own and realizing that a big 6'6" 280lb man who drives full size SUV's, GMC Suburban and Escalade, finds it hard to find a greener solution in the full size SUV arena. As such, I choose to research what it would cost to convert my 1994 GMC SLE Suburban which has a modified 402 V8 500HP, 551lbs of Torque engine that requires Premium fuel or CNG to drive.
In researching this I found that there are many pros and cons of AC versus DC motors. AC or alternating current electric motors and DC or Direct current electric motors are both able to achieve the job of moving an auto but are engineered a bit differently. DC current will not work with an AC motor nor will a AC current work with a DC motor.
AC motors are divided into single phase and three phase motors. Single phase AC is what you typically find in a home, triple phase is commonly found in factory or commercial space, but can also be installed at a home. Today OEM auto makers are mostly using AC motors.
DC motors also find themselves split into three types, brush motors, brushless motors and stepper motors. Brushed DC motors as found on Golf carts and many other small electric driven carts are easy to build and cost effective but their large drawback is that the carbon brushes used to transfer electrical current wear over time and eventually end in motor failure. Stepper motors are a brushless DC motor most commonly found in robotics/ automation. Not something you would use in an auto. The DC brushless motor eliminates brushes, is more costly to build and requires a complicated electronics system to operate but has long life and is usually what you find in EV's either converted or OEM built for the auto industry.
So now that we know what the difference is between AC and DC motors, what are the advantages and disadvantages of these motors?
Advantages of DC (Direct Current) motors are as follows:
1) Provide excellent speed control for acceleration and deceleration.
2) Easy to understand and design.
3) Inexpensive drive design.
Disadvantages of DC motors are as follows:
1) High maintenance
2) Vulnerable to dust which decreases performance
Advantages of AC (Alternating Current) motors are as follows:
1) Low cost due to simple design of the motor.
2) Generally smaller form factor.
3) Reliable operation, due to low maintenance, very rugged.
Disadvantages of AC motors are as follows:
1) Low speed challenges
2) Back EMF (electromotive force) issues. This is where current in the loop of the motor that slows down the motor and has to be overcome.
With all the advantages and disadvantages there are some situations that still demand a DC motor or a high performance AC motor. For long life and performance cooling is a requirement. This requires a premium efficient or energy efficient motor with proper air or liquid cooling.
So knowing what I have in my suburban and wanting to keep it as true as possible as an auto that has its heaters, AC and the rest of the electronics ended up leaving me with the following parts list.
EV Conversion Part List and Cost as supplied by www.electriccarpartscompany.com.
This is a parts list with cost not including shipping or installation.
2 - Warp11 72-156v 453amp DC Motors will cost $5810.00
1 - Dual Motor Siamese adapter for Warp11 motors will cost $599.00
1-Air Conditioner Compressor will cost $864.00
1-Electric Power Steering Pump kit will cost $985.00
2-1000amp Zilla Motor controller will cost $3717.00
1-PB2 Pot Box Throttle will cost $99.00
1-Motor Adapter Plate and Spacer Ring will cost $450.00
1-Interconnecting Hub will cost $365.00
1-55amp DC-DC converter will cost $124.00
1-500A Fuse will cost $65.00
1-Fuse Holder will cost $65.00
1-12v 500amp contactor will cost $72.00
1-Inertia Switch will cost $57.00
1-Amp/Voltage meter with 500amp shunt will cost $108.00
1-QET 2000 watt 144v model P charger will cost $603.00
1 - 250V, 10-30A Locking Plugs, sockets, inlets & Bezel - $105.00
1-Orion BMS configured for 48 cells will cost $1131.00
Part Cost $15,219 which gives me an EV motor solution of 1000lbs of torque with near identical HP.
90 mile battery pack
48 -180Ah Calb CA180FI cells with bus bars, bolts and washers will cost $11,448.00
200 mile battery pack
48 - 400Ah LiFePo4 Lithium Prismatic cells with bus bars, bolts and washers will cost $28,032.00
90 Mile Solution
Installation cost approximately $20,000.00
Part Cost approximately $15,219.00
90 mile battery pack $11,448.00
Total Cost $46,667.00
200 Mile Solution
Installation cost approximately $20,000.00
Part Cost approximately $15,219.00
200 mile battery pack $28,032.00
Total Cost $63,032.00
With an overview of AC versus DC motors and having researched the installation, parts and battery pack, I have two options, a $47K 90 mile option or a $63K 200 mile option. Knowing that a new Suburban can run from $40K to $75K dollars, which makes sense? Buy a new petrol suburban or rebuild my existing Suburban to be EV?
I think this really comes down to a personal choice as you have to decide if your old auto is worth more to refit as an EV or stay with petrol and drive a new one. Personally, I am leaning towards the EV conversion as my 94 GMC SLE Suburban is in mint condition, paid for and the cost of conversion would give me a 30Amp quick charging solution that long term would end up paying for itself I believe.
In the end if you are interested in converting your auto to electric, you have a number of choices. The following web sites offer a complete catalog of parts for those that want to engineer the complete solution. They also offer Conversion kits that cover many popular cars and trucks. Which is right for you, can only be decided by your own choice of what you want to accomplish.
The final alternative is a new Hybrid Suburban offered by VIA Motors. Pure electric for 40 miles, then gas kicks in to balance and you end up with a 24mpg suburban but at a starting price of $79,000.
Via motors web site is here:
TopSpeed review is here:
News on Via here: