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G. David Felt
Alternative Fuels & Propulsion writer
www.CheersandGears.com

 

Electric Conversions, Worth it?

 

The electric movement is on and anyone that loves the auto industry and stays abreast of what is going on tends to keep an ear to the ground about all forms or power trains. Many here know that I am all about CNG, a much greener cheaper form of energy and one I believe is the next logical step away from normal gas. But this is not about CNG, but conversions to electric. Cities all across America are pushing for delivery trucks to change to CNG or Electric. Public transportation to go CNG or Electric and any and all ways to reduce air pollution from the streets of your beloved city.

 

The movement to do away with air pollution in the city had me looking out my own office window and observing the City work trucks that are cleaning the drains. These trucks are 1 ton heavy duty trucks and full size Suburban like SUV's. I myself have a work in progress of converting my Suburban over to CNG. Like the city work trucks that had trailers being pulled, I also pull trailers.

 

If I or the city was to go electric could it be done for my suburban or these city work trucks?

 

We know we have many small compact electric auto's. We also know that unlike a fuel driven engine that has to build up the Torque and HP, Electric motors are 100% torque from the beginning for the most part. What would it take to power America's love affair with full size HD trucks and SUV's? Can the current batteries handle this?

 

In this regards I started to research and what I found was surprising, exciting and for those with the coin, very doable. The whole research made me realize that in the future, we will see a change to electric auto's. Many driven with generators and many without.

 

So what did I find that excited me you ask?

 

First off, you have to understand that there are two camps of thought. The DC motor camp and the AC motor camp. DC motors have come a long way to compete but due to concerns by some about having to replace bushings and brushes, you will find that the Auto industry has gone with multi-phase AC motors. Does this mean that the DC motors are not worth the time and money? No just that it is a different train of thought. 

 

With this bit of information I found the following on DC motors from a company in Florida.

 

http://grassrootsev.com/motorsdc.htm

 

Prices I did find to be pretty reasonable. In fact for the Pike's Peak race, EV West built a BMW racer with the following engine system shown below, a dual motor drive train.

 

Dual Motor Electric Drivetrain 1000 lb/ft of torque and 600+ horsepower

 

 

Accessory kit video for AC, Power Steering and Brakes. The heaters on any auto are replaced with an electric heater box in place of your traditional heater box with blower.

 

 

Here is a Video which is part of a series of converting VW auto to electric using the DC motors from the Grassrootsev.com web site.

 

 

What I have found to date is that for small cars and if you are not in a steep hilly area you are probably more than fine with a DC motor. Yet for the original thought of this writeup, what would it take for HD trucks or full size SUV's, I found an answer with AC motor's. AC motors are better for use due to how they handle the torque and deal with the added work put on an auto when it comes to hills or mountain roads.

 

EV West had a motor that is perfect for the full size HD trucks and SUV's as well as the performance enthusiast. 

 

AMR 250-90D Liquid cooled AC Motor. 560 lb/ft of torque and 420hp, weight 180lbs, 360 Volts, Max RPM 10,000, Regenerative motor.

 

post-12-0-99234000-1420656549_thumb.jpg

post-12-0-59891300-1420656550_thumb.jpg

 

Batteries come in a large assortment but EV West focuses on Lithium Iron for maximum performance and long life. The batteries start small at only 40 Ah and go up to 260 Ah. They can be daisy chained to allow for long distance driving if needed.

 

Top of the line battery is the Voltronix 260 Ah Lithium Iron Phosphate battery.

 

post-12-0-94627400-1420656983_thumb.jpg

 

So after researching this, I talked with Michael Bream from EV West. As he stated, large HD trucks and full size SUV's pose a bit of a challenge due to the size and the fact that they need much larger battery packs to move these heavy auto's. Pulling a trailer, being in water is not a problem for the setups.

 

I asked him to quote me a conversion kit that would equal what I have in my Suburban. So the end result was the AMR 250-90D motor, Accessory kit for AC, Power Steering and brakes along with the electric Heater box and a series of 260 Ah batteries. The batteries would be under the suburban in holding trays on either side of the drive line. I could add another tray in place of the gas tank between the rear differential and bumper. Estimate is if I did go with all space used for batteries, I could get 300 mile range.

 

For making the suburban a daily driver, I settled on a 100 mile range with the conversion costing about $40,000.

 

So a quick recap of what I get for $40,000.

 

AMR 250-90D motor

Accessory kit and heater box

Electronic controller system to connect dash to motor and the rest of the auto electronics.

260 Ah Lithium Iron battery pack.

Misc other parts to go with installation.

 

So does an Electric Conversion make sense? Many I feel would say no to my Suburban conversion and yet with current Suburbans running 50-60K or more. If you love your old auto and want a certain custom version, this might be your way to a 21st century old but new again ride.

 

So in asking this question in the sense of compact auto's or other smaller cars, EV West says the typical person spends for a small 2 or 4 person auto 5 to 15K dollars to convert to total electric. That might make sense for many more.

 

So ask yourself, does it make sense for you?

 

Only you can decide.

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If I had an excellent condition '82-'85 Seville or Eldorado with a blown HT4100 or 350 diesel motor, and a winning lottery ticket I'd seriously consider it.   Batteries up front and batteries in the trunk should give it a decent range. Put the plug in receptacle under the rear license plate where the case filler is.... 

 

I think as the prices for this equipment come down, we'll see more and more older cars brought back to life or having lives extended in this fashion. 

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Apparently quite related:

 

>"On the morning of November 9, 2010, a fire started in LincVolt's charging system while it was recharging at a warehouse belonging to Young. The car was damaged, but is in the process of being restored."<<

 

There's a wikipedia page for 'Lincvolt'.

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I think one would be better off buying a new electric car rather than trying to do a conversion. If your car runs of petrol it's because that's what it was designed to do, and any conversion is going to be really awkward and it's not going to deliver very good results. Where do you stick all those batteries for example? Buying parts for cars yourself is also more expensive than it is for manufacturers, so you're further reducing the financial reward of converting your car.

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I think one would be better off buying a new electric car rather than trying to do a conversion. If your car runs of petrol it's because that's what it was designed to do, and any conversion is going to be really awkward and it's not going to deliver very good results. Where do you stick all those batteries for example? Buying parts for cars yourself is also more expensive than it is for manufacturers, so you're further reducing the financial reward of converting your car.

 

Where the engine was. Electric motors produce a lot more power for their size than gasoline engines do.  The motor in the Tesla Model S is about the size of a large watermelon. 

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I think one would be better off buying a new electric car rather than trying to do a conversion. If your car runs of petrol it's because that's what it was designed to do, and any conversion is going to be really awkward and it's not going to deliver very good results. Where do you stick all those batteries for example? Buying parts for cars yourself is also more expensive than it is for manufacturers, so you're further reducing the financial reward of converting your car.

In researching this for my suburban, I found that the Electric motor I show above AMR 250-90D takes only 1/3 the space under the hood compared to the existing motor and connects to the current transmission. I then loose my exhaust system and fuel tank. So space on both sides of the drive line is where you can have battery packs as well as behind the rear differential as they can have battery cells there also.

 

You have a wiring harness that connects to the existing harness in the dash so you do not loose anything, your gas gauge becomes the battery charge indicator and if you want you can change it out to be very accurate with a new digital unit.

 

With Cheaper insurance on older auto's and styles that I like, there is valid reasons to convert.

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