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Picture of Build your own Electric Car!
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The "Electro-Metro" Project.

Can't afford a Nissan Leaf? No Problem!

Build a cheap electric car yourself by removing the the car engine, replacing it with a forklift motor, and adding batteries.

I have plenty of videos about this project at:
http://www.youtube.com/user/BenjaminNelson
and 300MPG.org

The primary "build blog" for this project is at:
http://ecomodder.com/forum/showthread.php/ben-nelsons-electro-metro-build-thread-848.html
but watch out! That is a good read for when you have WAY too much time on your hands.

For a good intro to basic electric car construction, stick with this Instructable.

For more in-depth construction information, check out the instructional Video DVD available at 300MPG.org

 
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Step 1: Get a car.

Picture of Get a car.
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The first thing you need to do is get a car. They are not all equal.

I was looking for something lightweight, with no power anything.

Heavier cars need more energy to push down the road, thus limiting your range on batteries.

Things like power steering and power brakes run off the engine, which is going to be removed anyways, rendering them useless. Power windows and locks add weight and complexity to the vehicle.

I ended up finding a Geo Metro for sale, for $500. The engine ran fine, and the body wasn't too bad, but I couldn't drive it home because the clutch was messed up. Oh well, this conversion isn't going to use a clutch anyways!

Make sure the car doesn't have anything major wrong with it (other than maybe a blown engine!) You want to do a Conversion, not a Restoration!
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MinzM made it!15 days ago
Ever put a solar panel on electric car????
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JustinW63 months ago

How do you change gears without a clutch?

It's surprisingly easy. Just rev the motor up to the right speed, and push it into gear. It took about a day to get used to for me.

MPaulHolmes, does changing the gears in this way not damage the gears? I'm asking, not to be critical, but because I am hoping to build my own EV. I'm wondering whether I need to try to keep the clutch. It seems like most people don't use a clutch, but to me, that sounds like it would damage the transmission pretty quickly.

That's how most truck drivers do it...

jupiler011 month ago

hello

i wanted to now more about it

i like elec car wil you help me

greetings sam

mjustus1 month ago
why try and build some type of altenator that way while u drive it can charge batteries and drive unlimited
IGOTROLLED1 month ago
IGOTROLLED1 month ago

Hi guys,

you are the pioneers of electric cars so I would like to invite you to join 80edays, the hardest EV endurance test driving around the world!

I would like to make a link exchange with this great website.

Kind regards

Rafael de Mestre

www.80edays.com

jolaniyan2 months ago

Hi Ben! The ecomodder and 300mpg links aren't working.

bennelson (author)  jolaniyan1 month ago

They worked when I clicked them. Maybe try a different browser or check again later. You can always do a google search if you needed to.

omars36 months ago

the motor u used is a universal motor(ac/dc) or a PMDC motor??? nice work.

bennelson (author)  omars36 months ago

It's a series-wound DC motor, 10.5" diameter, Nissan brand, originally out of a full-size electric forklift.

Thanks for all the great information. Have you found another electric engine as a power source other than from a forklift?

collin.druz2 months ago

Hey thank you for this intractable! Definitely puts the idea in perspective. The question I have is what do you think would be the weight max of a car you wanted to convert to electric and still be efficient/practical?

birddseedd3 months ago

Where do you find the batteries that cheap?

mbsB3 months ago

With gas being $2.10 a gallon, why would you want to ruin a perfectly good running Geo Metro, which has 3 cylinder engines and averages 50 MPG anyhow?

bennelson (author)  mbsB3 months ago

Gas is only $2/gallon at the moment. In my area, a few years back, it's been as high as $4.50/gallon.

Electricity is cheap. At my electric company rate a "gallon of electricity" works out to about a dollar, so it's still HALF the cost of even "cheap" gasoline.

Also, I can make my own electricity, but I can't make my own gasoline. (For example, I can charge a vehicle from this: http://www.instructables.com/id/Solar-Swing-Set-PV...

Lastly, the Metro actually wasn't in working condition when I bought it. It had a some problems, including the starter and the transmission. The engine did run. When I converted the car, I sold the engine to a Metro owner whose engine had died, so that he could fix his up and keep it running.

Besides purely the cost of fuel, there's all sorts of other reasons to build an electric car, such as the great learning experience. Also, just test drive an electric car sometime - it FEELS different than a gas car. You can't help but smile!

bennelson (author) 3 months ago
It's different with an electric motor than with a gas engine. With the motor, there's not all that extra weight of the flywheel and the power of the engine still idling when your foot isn't on the accelerator. Just let off the accelerator, wait a moment, then shift. It's really easy. It's one of those things that's hard to explain, but if you experience it, you just go "Oh, that was easy."
transistor26 months ago

just a few things that might help, one take the batteries out and buy a cheap generator from harbor fright about 120 and that will give you over 5 hours of use per 1.25 gallons of fuel, and it would atomatically regulate its output based on the demand from the motor, also keep 2 batteries in to bridge the gap between the generator giving more power and the drain for the motor, and 2 buy a thing of 20 gauge nichrome wire and make a coil around a tube put a small fan at one end and attach it to the vent that would normaly be the input from hot air from the engine, and then wire it to a potentiomiter/switch and then 1 battery that way you can turn on off and controll its heat output, and then i want to do this type of project, how hard was it to adapt the motor shaft to the cars transmisssion?

absolutly no. buy a utility trailer and put a generator on it. only need to use the generator when driving over the charging range. then you'd never need to discharge the battery on long trips increasing the balling-ness of your road trip. in fact, get an old VW diesel for the generator. I know it would get good MPG, we took one from Vancouver to Alberta at 15.00 dollars spent on diesel. the Olds that we took that winter was 80 bucks every time we saw a gas station. EV cars plus diesel generator makes long ass road trip.

hola si el auto que tengo que convertir es manual no tengo que montal la volanta para hacer los cambios gracias alfredo

gerardo.munozherrera.5 made it!5 months ago

Mr. Nelson, i don`t speak english well but i need your help. I`m a Colombia Mechanical Engeenering, living in the north of Brasil -Amazonia-, working like mechanical automotive teacher, and I am looking for a course in USA about car conversion, including theory and practice. Please send me information. Thank you.

Gerardo Muñoz Herrera.

gerardo2502@yahoo.com

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radeq1 year ago
Hello, super inspiration and my big dream for many years! BUT, what about technical licence? I don't know US laws, but all european police patrols strictly check the "papers" of a car and "conersion" like this is direct order of very big fine :-(.
If it's easy or free in the US, I'm quietly envying, but I'm afraid, nor there is it possible...
forra radeq6 months ago

In which European country you live in. In Finland this is possible and if it is possible in Finland there should not be a place in a world where it is not possible :)

radeq forra6 months ago

The Czech republic. In general, it's the same, but it very depends on what "official vehicle inspection facility" needs in fact. I'm afraid (and listen to), it's very very complicated (and expensive) process. Do your authorities need no technical drawings (project), special mechanical test of your "self-built" car, etc.? The main argument of our authorities (officers) is, that changing of engine and adding a battery change driveability and also safety. It's tru in general, but they make it more complicated than is necessary. It's really horrible process, and most of people I know, they wanted to do it, rather finally bought some old official electromobile and change battery (it's much less problem). Hope, it'll change, but not yet, unfortunately ...

forra radeq6 months ago

Here is a link

http://ecars-now.wikidot.com/ecars-now:faq#toc32

this is how it is in Finland

bennelson (author)  radeq1 year ago
No matter where you live, make sure to check your insurance, title, registration, and any other legalities you need to take care of before doing an unusual car project.

You want to make sure ahead of time that you can legally drive your vehicle when it is all finished. The only issue that I had on my car was that it was difficult to pass pollution controls! Yes, even without an engine, I still had to do a smog test!
kleeem bennelson9 months ago

can you elaborate on the difficulties you had passing pollution controls? I thought it would only be a matter of showing the bureau of automotive repair that you had modified the car to run on electricity. do you have to pass some sort of electrical emissions test?

bennelson (author)  kleeem9 months ago

I live in one of the counties in south-eastern Wisconsin that requires emissions control testing. Usually, this just requires going to a specific location and having a test run using the ODBII port. Without the engine, the ODBII port has nothing to talk to! I originally mailed a letter to the state, explaining what I had done to the car, including photos showing the conversion process. The letter was returned, apparently unread, with a rubber-stamp response of "Please take your vehicle to your local emissions testing station." When I did that, the person there plugged in to the ODBII, which of course would NOT connect. She then said, "Let me try again...." thinking it was a bad connection, rather than the fact that THERE WAS NO ENGINE IN THE CAR! The local folks at that test center had NO idea how to deal with it. Even on all the forms, it listed GAS and DIESEL as the only choices for fuel types. Eventually, I was able to find a real person, with an actual job title, business card, and desk. With him, I was able to make an appointment at a "Technical Assistance Center", which was also further away than I could drive to, so I had to tow the car there. When I FINALLY got the car back into their shop and has somebody of authority look at it, the entire "inspection" consisted of me popping the hood and a man looking into the engine compartment and saying "Yep, there's no engine in there." He then signed the bottom of a form and faxed it in to the state and told me I should be set forever on pollution testing on the car. No joke, pollution testing on the car really was the hardest part of building it! It's a little different from State to State, and maybe even which county you are in. Some places no pollution testing. Also, many places exempt vehicles older than 1996, because that's when ODBII came in to play.

Moral of the story? Just figure out what you need to do before you start your project. The last thing you want is not to be able to legal drive the project you put so much work into. Does anyone here drive a Volt or Leaf? What did you have to do for emissions testing or pollution control? (Keep in mind that my project was built BEFORE those cars were available.)

bennelson (author)  bennelson9 months ago

Here's a photo of me in the middle of winter, posing happily as I just passed the "Yep, there's no engine in there," test.

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bennelson (author)  bennelson9 months ago

For the full story on emissions testing, please visit: http://www.300mpg.org/projects/electro-metro/emissions-testing/

If I understand well, your car is really completely legal? May I ask what all did you need to do (and what to pay for it) for registration ability? We in Europe need for this action an army of lawyers connected to bribed officers and policemen.

Sumary: It's quite easy (and relative cheep) to physically convert, but quite impossible (and/or expensive) to legalize. So, finally nobody try it there (although there is gasoline more expensive than in the US!), because of legalization problems and/or fees :-(
bennelson (author)  radeq1 year ago
Yes, this car is completely legal.

It still has all the original safety features. This car has "daytime running lights", which have not been modified.

It has driver and passenger-side airbags, which have NOT been changed or modified.

The original seatbelts are all intact. Although I cut around the back seat, I make sure not to alter where the seatbelts mounted.

Before starting the project, I called my insurance company and told them exactly what I wanted to do. They had no problem continuing my insurance. Their thoughts were that the car had a lower top speed and would only be used closer to home would actually make it a BETTER insurance risk.

I already had a clean title for the car.

Registration in my area requires a pollution test. I wasn't able to pass it (even though the car doesn't make pollution at point of use) because without an engine, the ODBII system used at the emissions testing was not able to communicate with my car. It took me a while to find the correct government official for me to get an exemption, which required a mechanic to inspect the vehicle. That man looked under the hood, said "Yes, there is no engine in there", and signed a form.

The United States has a long tradition of people working on and modifying their own cars, so it tends to be pretty liberal on making changes, as long as they are still safe. That said, exact laws can vary quite a bit from State to State and even which County you are in.

For NEW cars, it is EXTREMELY difficult to begin a new car brand, and it is one of the most highly regulated industries in the U.S. (Thank you Tesla Motors for all the hard work you have done! shaking things up!)

BEFORE starting a project, make sure to check over what things will be required for you to legally drive your vehicle and that you meet all your requirements.
Yes, it sounds very logical, safety should be only required for successful conversion legalization, but european laws aren't logical. As I said, I'm envying liberal laws (needed a pollution test is only a dry fly). In EU, mission impossible ;-).

P.S. In fact, no wonder, that EU make individual GAS-EL conversions so unpleasant. The hole EU stands on gasoline excise taxes. Better labor mobility is not interesting topic (to ban cheep traveling is much easier way to fill a budget). So, there'll may be a chance until it runs out of oil, ..., but then EU will certainly make double (or quadruple) electricity tax :-D
Rob3606 months ago

Hi Bennelson,

We are planning to build an EV based on an old Volvo 360 to do the Nordkapp challenge in December 2015 (7000 kilometers from Amsterdam (The Netherlands) to the Nordkapp (Norway) and back. Do you have any advise?

bennelson (author)  Rob3606 months ago
Wow! That's a long race. You'll need a really good large capacity battery pack and a good (fast) charger.
Good Luck!
-Ben
Hey! Bennelson! I'm attempting to build a car with four power sources that'll hit 80mph at least. What would be your opinion and what would I need to know about such a project? I look forward to your feedback.
bennelson (author)  instructableduke8 months ago

What are your four power sources? Do you just want to charge an electric car four different ways, or are you designing a hybrid?

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