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1964 Corvair EV conversion (EM-EV)

10824 Views 22 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  MattsAwesomeStuff
Greetings all.

I am new to the forum and thought I would share my project. I have been looking around for Corvair conversions, but it seems few are complete. I completed mine in July 2020 and I can tell all of you first hand, it is totally awesome. I never had the nerve to drive the car terribly far, or terribly fast especially with my family riding along. Old cars are just not as safe. So, since I always use it for short, local trips, and I love to tinker and engineer stuff, it seemed a perfect candidate. No longer do I have to start the car, let it run the gasoline intensive warm up routine for a few minutes, just to complete a 10-15 minute drive.

I added an under dash heater box to keep the window fog down. I installed seat heaters to keep us warmer. Its now a 3 season car, for the most part. I would say my heating system works as well as the stock system, at least. I completely changed the weight distribution of the car. It is now nearly 50/50. This means it handles much more like a typical car, but i gave up the super light steering. It also means the brakes need some pretty big modifications. The weight distribution during braking is now very front heavy, so care has to be taken to keep the rear wheels from locking up. The springs and dampers also had to be changed. I went with the SBC springs from Clarks in the front and springs from a 63 that I cut for the rear (I removed the leaf spring). I have yet to do any super dramatic driving to see how it understeers now. I will likely do that on a rainy day first.

I installed a 120hp Hyper 9 AC motor in the back. Its coupled to a 3:55 diff and a 3spd that I leave in 2nd gear (all the time, I don't shift). It means its not a rocket off the line, but very fun from 10-50mph and has a top speed of 77mph. All totally acceptable for me.

I used 7 salvaged battery modules form a 2012 tesla model S that was in an accident. I feel good about this, since I used something already manufactured and didn't demand more resources from the earth. These batteries are very resource intensive to manufacture, but.. so is aluminum and folks seem ok with that. I calculate a range of 120miles. I only charge them to 85%, so I would guess I get 90 miles at most on a charge. That is a week of going to work for me. I don't know the range just yet because my odometer has never worked and I haven't taken the time to figure it out yet. We had been just having so much fun this summer and fall, it hasn't been a priority.

I used a Orion2 BMS and a 2,5kW charger. Like most others, I would not recommend using any LiPo-like batteries without a battery management system. I located most of the electronics on top of the battery pack for easier installation and troubleshooting. I ran the wiring harness from the motor controller through the central "tunnel" where the former gas lines were and e-brake cables, etc.... i ran the high voltage lines through one of the HVAC ducts (the passenger side) since they were no longer in service. There is a cooling system stashed behind the battery pack, where the gas tank used to live.

I wired up the dash warning lights as well. The EM corvairs only had two. One lights up if the BMS asks the cooling pump to turn on. I just like to know. The other light is wired up to the current limiter in the BMS. I have found that its a great indicator of remaining battery capacity, since my BMS happily limits current based on my settings. Now, when that light comes on, i know to a charger soon.

Here are some pics. I hope this inspires some folks to give it a try. It was a fun challenge and very rewarding (though expensive). Also... I rebuilt my differential during the project. Now I can officially say, the car leaks more oil as a EV than it did running on gas. I guess that will be a project for another day.
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Great conversion...I'm working on a Rampside conversion now. I plan on direct drive. We'll see how it goes. I have the mechanicals installed and am now working on the electrical portion.
The gas gauge and shifter configuration you have is exactly what I wanted to do but could not figure it out with my limited knowledge. Would you share your process?
hey @mitchhodge Thanks! It continues to be a great experience for me. I am glad to hear you are on your journey! I am also happy to share more info on my shifter process. As for the gas gauge, I can share the code and the CAD file with you for the servo motor mount. Send me a DM and we can exchange contact info?

My "direct drive" solution, using a 3spd in 2nd is working out fine. I did end up swapping in a 4.11:1 gear set from Clarks in my differential for better acceleration, at the expense of top speed. If you do lots of prolonged highway speed driving, you might need to actively cool the motor. Running continuously at those high RPM can warm it up a lot. I added some vents to get more passive cooling for my motor and it seems to work, but i live in a very mild climate.

For the shifter, this is what i did. I ordered three of these hall effect sensors: 55100-3H-02-D - Littelfuse - Hall Effect Proximity Sensor, Flange Mount, 55100 Series ( I chose these cuz they are a great size for this application, seems rugged and have the right operating voltage. I wanted something in a larger package so i could mount them with doubled sided molding tape.

These are the three wire proximity sensors. They take 12V in, and ground on the red and black. The blue is the signal... either on when a magnet is present, or off by default. I would suggest you get a small breadboard setup like the pic above and test it all with LEDs. It might need some tuning. They connect the negative leg of the LED to ground when the "on". The pic above is high res enough to see how i wired up the LEDs.

Magnets: i drilled small holes in the white slider part inside the shifter mechanism. I placed 3 magnets that were about 1/8in diameter and 1/8in long. I get my magnets from here (along with everyone else, i reckon): K&J Magnetics: D22-N52 ( You may want to get a small selection of magnets around that size, just in case you need to swap in something stronger or weaker. Its important you get the axial magnetization.

The plan: I figured out three spots on the white plastic slider that will accommodate magnets, then i noodled on where to place the hall effect sensors on the black cover. This is the theory of what i did:

Here is the setup: Those are the approx locations of the magnets and sensors for my setup. This explains my theory.
Font Line Machine Engineering Auto part

Neutral, none of the sensors are "on":
Line Font Machine Auto part Engineering

Reverse, the right sensor is "on":
Font Machine Auto part Engineering Automotive exterior

Forward, bottom sensor on, right sensor off and top sensor off: This is D for my car.
Font Engineering Machine Automotive exterior Bumper

Forward with regen on neutral, top AND bottom sensor is on, right sensor is off: this is L on my car.
Product Font Machine Auto part Engineering

So, as you can see, this whole thing will need some tuning. Like i mentioned above, the reason i like these sensors is that they are in a nice package. One of the ways i planned to tune it was to add space between the sensor and the black housing with extra layers of double sided tape. The sensors can be moved left and right and up and down, so that breadboard is really important to tune the system. You will also want to spend time jiggling the handle, trying to get the sensors to trigger with vibration or super slow/fast shifter motions. This is required to make sure your setup is robust to variation. I dont remember the sensors have tons of hysterisis, but that is something to keep in mind.
Like this:
Product Font Machine Engineering Automotive exterior

I was able to tune my setup with just moving the sensors left and right, without the need of extra layers of tape to increase the distance from the magnet. After I got all the positions all right, i cleaned up the surfaces, and use some strong 3M molding tape to hold them in place. Then i put a zip tie around them all to secure them during installation and wiring.

It takes some work for sure! but the stock look is worth it to me. Good luck and let me know how it goes! I hope this helps.
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Thread has been purged of ancillary moderation-related discussion. @aportlandsummer can have his thread un-hijacked now. Carry on.
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