Step 8: Other
This car can go for 20 miles on a charge, and has a top speed of 45 MPH, the speed limit right outside my house. In town is all 25 mph anyways. My typical ride is 10 miles for going to work, grocery store, post office, etc, and back home.
If I doubled up the battery pack, I should be able to go 30 to 40 miles on a charge.
This project has cost me about $1200 total, including buying the car in the first place. If I would have done the machining myself, I would have only spent around $800 for everything. This car charges at my house through a renewable energy program. All electricity comes from wind, bio-gas, and other renewable energy sources.
I kept the back seat and can carry four people total.
The original driver and passenger airbags are completely intact and functional.
I mostly drive this car in third gear. Turn the car on - put it in third - drive. It's really that easy. There's no engine to kill, so you don't have to push in the clutch before coming to a stop. The motor has so much torque that I can pull away from a dead stop in fourth gear.
I still need to come up with a heater. (EDIT: Please see below) I think I will wear an extra thick coat and gloves for winter driving and have an electric defroster on the dashboard to keep it from frosting. The heat issue has been on my mind since the start of this project. The inefficiency of a gasoline engine is a blessing in a cold Wisconsin winter.
I did gloss over a few steps of this project.
I skipped telling you how many times I took apart, and put back together, the electric motor. How many times I lugged it back and forth to the machinist's. A friend and I were up til 2 in the morning one night fixing the control arm mount! Or how I had to literally shorten the motor because it was too long to fit in the car! But those things are for another story at another time!
I made sure to have an interlock, so I can't accidently drive away while plugged in. Make sure to have a nice big fuse inline of your main battery pack.
All the little challenges of a conversion like this are part of what makes it fun and interesting. In my case, I did a fair bit of experimenting of the best way to run the power brakes.
Sure, gasoline engines aren't efficient, but all that waste heat sure is nice in the winter. Since this car no longer has the original engine, it doesn't have the original heat either. The blower motor is still there and works fine for defogging the windshield.
Some EV converters remove the original heater core and replace it with a ceramic heating element that runs on their pack voltage. That sounded like a lot of work, and I was already sick of tearing apart the dashboard.
I already had a household (120V AC) electric oil-filled radiator. I just put that behind the passenger seat, and run an extension cord out the window to a timer.
The heat comes on automatically in the morning and heats up the inside of the entire car before I get in it.
The mass of the oil in the radiator stays hot for about 10 minutes or so after I leave. Most of my trips aren't any longer than that anyways.
I like that with this heat system in that:
1) I didn't have to buy a darn thing
2) The entire interior of the car is already warm - seats, steering wheel, everything!
3) This also helps keep the batteries warm.
4) All the electric power comes from the wall, instead of the batteries
The only down side is that if I am parked all day somewhere that I can't plug in, I don't have that same heat for the ride home. On the other hand, most of my trips are pretty short, so it's not the end of the world.
This heat system consumes about 5 cents worth of electricity per use.
One of the reasons why I chose this car to convert was that it has manual windows, manual locks, manual transmission, non-powered steering,pretty much manual everything - except the brakes. The first time I drove the car as an electric conversion, I found the brakes to be a little hard. (You CAN stop the car WITHOUT power brakes, you just have to push really hard!) It was just a low-speed test drive, but it was pretty obvious that I had to work on the brake system. Power brakes work on vacuum created by the engine. Without an engine to make the vacuum, the brakes just don't work the way they should.
Some people say to find a different, manual, master brake cylinder and install that, or even just to punch a hole in a certain spot in the cylinder to convert it to manual. Neither of these sounded like great options. Really, I just needed an electric way to make a vacuum.
So, to start out with, I played around with an aquarium air pump, just to learn how the vacuum brake system works. After that, I starting looking around for a 12v air pump with a connection on the "In" end, so that it could be used as a vacuum pump. A friend of mine dug one up, along with an aluminum bottle that had a threaded connector already on it.
I connected the air pump to 12V+ power through a vacuum switch. The vacuum switch measures vacuum in the bottle - if there isn't enough vacuum, the switch turns on the pump.
Now the car has power brakes, just like it did originally, only it's driven by a tiny electric motor in a little pump, instead of by a gasoline engine. Compare this to newer versions of the Prius, where the air conditioning is driven by an electric motor. That way, you can have AC without the engine running!