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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Saying hello to fellow diy enthusiasts. I just bought the rv, and picked up a motor that's a beast. 12*16.5 Yale. I'm converting it to electric and it's gonna be an amazing adventure full of all sorts of ups and downs. I'm new to this so I'm learning the hard way but it will happen cause I'm stubborn. Feel free to ask questions
 

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RVs are generally poor choices for conversions, and I think I've only ever seen one pulled off, and it had a 40 mile range. But... whatever, you're already in with both feet so, share your progress. Maybe you'll be the first success!
 

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RVs are generally poor choices for conversions, and I think I've only ever seen one pulled off, and it had a 40 mile range. But... whatever, you're already in with both feet so, share your progress. Maybe you'll be the first success!
The only reason I think it will work is because I can lift the front end off the ground, total this thing weighs about 3000lbs fully loaded, and it's 27 ft long 8 foot wide, I was blown away. Cost will hinder me on the battery side of things. 32k just for batteries!!!!and that will weigh more then the rig. I'll update with pics of how I'm doing it (probably wrong) but doing it.
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The Ultra Van is a very interesting thing, and it's light (which is good) but it's not designed to carry a lot of battery weight (potential problem) and I doubt that it has enough space anywhere for a useful amount of battery (definitely an issue).

Traditional motorhomes have ladder-style truck frames and (once the engine, driveshaft, exhaust system, and fuel tank are removed) lots of space for battery... but this is anything but a traditional motorhome. It's low because the body is not sitting up on top of a big frame, and so there's no extra space in the "basement".

I suggest thinking in detail about both energy storage requirements (and thus battery size), and specifically where that battery will go, before getting in too deep. Maybe you have an innovative solution...
 

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I was thinking of reinforcing the floor and the walls using the space in the walls left over after insulation. The byd batteries I believe can be used for structural components. Don't know if anyone has gotten ahold of em but thinking about it.

Can I move this to a build topic or admin? Or start a new one?
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Those are interesting stripped interior shots - I had never seen this view of an Ultra Van before, and it appears that they are using the tanks as floor structure: innovative, but leaves no room for battery. Details of the plumbing system are given in a plumbing diagram from ultravan.org, but vary depending on when the unit was built... in at least early units, apparently the front tank was the fuel tank.

I was thinking of reinforcing the floor and the walls using the space in the walls left over after insulation. The byd batteries I believe can be used for structural components.
No, battery modules don't work as structure, and none are thin enough to fit in the walls. Real battery modules are thicker, require substantial structural support, and need a protective enclosure.

Can I move this to a build topic or admin? Or start a new one?
Certainly start a new thread in the build area when you start, and ideally post a link in this thread to the new one.

I think you need to learn a lot more about real battery requirements and what is actually available (rather that fantasies promised for someday "in the near future") before committing to construction.
 

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welcome, luv yer attitude, and I say this with the best intentions, lol... but that thing is FUGLY ha ha, could it be the Oscar Myer Wiener prototype van?
Couldn't tell ya about the weiner mobile, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you look up finished ones, painted and buffed what do you think of those? When I found the ad I instantly thought the Herkimer battle tank from the movie mystery men.
 

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welcome, luv yer attitude, and I say this with the best intentions, lol... but that thing is FUGLY ha ha, could it be the Oscar Myer Wiener prototype van?
It's a blob... and a very rough one. By the standards of recreational vehicles, it is unusually plain and rounded, but not exceptionally unattractive - they're all awkward boxes or blobs. Most are shaped primarily for function, and ones which attempt some sort of styling are usually awkward and less attractive than a plain box or blob.
 

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I was thinking of reinforcing the floor and the walls using the space in the walls left over after insulation. The byd batteries I believe can be used for structural components. Don't know if anyone has gotten ahold of em but thinking about it.

Can I move this to a build topic or admin? Or start a new one? View attachment 123574 View attachment 123575
It looks like the tankage has triple duty as tanks, floor support, and beams/ torque tubes as part of the frame structure. Maybe that's four uses. With the fuel tank removed and the remaining tanks unrivited or unbolted(to be reattached later) and slid together fore and/or aft along the side frames, how much space is available? Length, width, and depth. Don't forget to leave space between the tanks for the attachment flanges and plumbing access on the sides of the tanks.
 

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Also, the fresh water tank could be removed and replaced with a tank in another location. This could free up more battery space between the frame rails. The other tanks would probably have to remain at their current height in the vehicle, for drainage purposes. The measurements of the space with the fresh water tank also removed would be useful to have. Length, width, and depth.

A battery box added between the frame rails, for sure, would have to have some provision to support the floor over the box. The frame beams/ torque tube structural aspects of the battery box would have to be evaluated as a replacement for the removed tanks.
 

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It's true that a battery box could be built to provide structural support for the battery modules, enclosure for the modules (including protection from road hazards), support for the floor, and a crossmember function for the frame. In looking at whether there is space to do this by removing or moving the tanks, consider
  • a useful RV requires a substantial fresh water tank - where would it go if not under the floor?
  • a water tank (especially in such a light RV) should not be to one side of the vehicle, for balance
  • the tanks currently under the floor of the RV may all be for fresh and waste water (since fuel was in some cases above the floor)
  • waste tank positions may be restricted by plumbing configurations
If you can work a battery pack into the underfloor structure this way it will be just about the slickest DIY EV battery mounting done yet. :)
 

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  • a useful RV requires a substantial fresh water tank - where would it go if not under the floor?
  • a water tank (especially in such a light RV) should not be to one side of the vehicle, for balance
Just with a quick look, I would turn the FW tank on its side and place it up against the bulkhead supporting the front of the rear bed. This would block the step built in for easier access to the upper cabinets and the bed(s) in the rear bedroom. This seems like an acceptable tradeoff for more room for the battery box. (copyrighted photo removed)

the tanks currently under the floor of the RV may all be for fresh and waste water (since fuel was in some cases above the floor)
I'm willing to bet the first tank behind the driver seat in this model, is a fuel tank. So, it can go.

waste tank positions may be restricted by plumbing configurations
This vehicle is gutted, so there is probably a lot more flexibility in locating the plumbing.

If you can work a battery pack into the underfloor structure this way it will be just about the slickest DIY EV battery mounting done yet.
With this, I agree with you. Unfortunately, this vehicle is very light duty. You'll have to be very careful about adding weight to it with a conversion and other modifications. The front suspension appears to be off of a Chevy II (Nova?). Something heavier duty and more modern could be grafted on. Heavier duty rear suspension? You'll probably want to ditch the auto Corvair set up for all kinds of reasons. Any ideas? Moved back and beefed up Leaf? Tesla?
 

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Unfortunately, this vehicle is very light duty. You'll have to be very careful about adding weight to it with a conversion and other modifications.
I think this is an excellent point. It was designed to be as light as possible, using the lightest components available, and was essentially amateur-built in a time when even real production automobiles did not meet the safety and durability standards expected today.
 

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The front suspension appears to be off of a Chevy II (Nova?). Something heavier duty and more modern could be grafted on.
The actual front suspension is really unclear to me. The prototype used a Corvair front suspension with the track widened by cutting the crossmember and splicing in more tube, but the "production" units - which were built in several versions by several companies over the years - could have used anything.

Clear photos of the Corvair front suspension are easy to find, but I have seen no indication that it was specifically Chevy II components; however, that's about the right weight class and it would have followed the conventions of the time. There are detailed parts diagrams available of the Corvair and Corvan suspensions. The Corvan/Greenbrier was the van version, and used some different components of the same general design - if they were sane (and they were) GM would have used stronger components in the van, and if the Ultra Van builder were rational (unknown) and the van components were available (likely, but maybe not), the Ultra Van would use those.

Whatever GM components were used, for at least part of the history of the Ultra Van the front suspension has custom-fabricated control arms, intended to allow a greater steering angle than usual; in photos, they look longer. These look really good, but may be of questionable structural design and construction. In the linked forum discussion, the various component origins are given (including Chevy II spindles).


Whatever the original components, and whatever is in this vehicle now (previous owner modifications are likely), it certainly deserves careful examination and assessment. And the brakes are probably drums that are outright scary by today's standards.
 

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Heavier duty rear suspension? You'll probably want to ditch the auto Corvair set up for all kinds of reasons. Any ideas? Moved back and beefed up Leaf? Tesla?
The Ultra Vans generally used first-generation (up to 1964) Corvair/Corvan rear suspensions; later units apparently used the better-handling but essentially unrelated second-generation (1965-) design and some (the ones with V8 engines) may have had Corvette rear suspension (which is similar to the later Corvair). The Corvan/Greenbrier always used the first-generation system - it never made it to the second generation, as it was replaced by the G-van (front-engine Chevy van), so there was no GM vehicle with significant carrying capacity providing a rear suspension after the first generation Corvan.

In the first generation Corvair, the suspension and powertrain are separate, so the transaxle can be tossed without changing the suspension, allowing various EV drive units to be used with the stock suspension or various other suspensions; however, for the swing-axle shafts to work the joints (there are only inboard joints) must remain in the same place relative to the arms.

The second-generation Corvair (and C2/C3 Corvette) uses the axle shafts as suspension links, causing problems for any modern drive unit. The Ultra Van apparently had extended axle shafts to give it wider track. Several of them also had this rear suspension installed backwards (the longitudinal arms were leading instead of trailing), for no discernable reason.

Any suspension change implies substantial structural work: this is unibody vehicle, so it doesn't just have two big frame rails to attach to.
 

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however, for the swing-axle shafts to work the joints (there are only inboard joints) must remain in the same place relative to the arms.
From a factory photo of the engine/transaxle used in the van (bottom of the page): Ultra Van Factory Photos ⋆ Ultra Van Motor Coach Club , it looks like the Gen 2(double u-joint half shaft) is being used on later models?. Interesting how this design uses the half shaft as the upper control arm - like in the Corvette.

Any suspension change implies substantial structural work: this is unibody vehicle, so it doesn't just have two big frame rails to attach to.

This van is a nice study in transferring aircraft materials, construction techniques, and designs to road going vehicles. The suspensions(F and R) and transaxle/engine are partially enclosed in stout, easy to build. and seal-up box structures. These parts are attached as much as possible to the boxes where 2, or even better, 3 sides of the boxes meet. This is similar to how aircraft motor mounts are attached to hard point angles where the outer skin and firewall meet. From photos, it looks like it would be a real nightmare to work on the engine in its tight fitting box!
 

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I have edited my earlier posts as I worked out some of the information, which may have caused some confusion...

From a factory photo of the engine/transaxle used in the van (bottom of the page): Ultra Van Factory Photos ⋆ Ultra Van Motor Coach Club , it looks like the Gen 2(double u-joint half shaft) is being used. Interesting how this design uses the half shaft as the upper control arm - like in the Corvette.
Yes, the second-generation Corvair suspension was used once it became available. It is very similar to the C2 and C3 Corvette.

I didn't know which suspension Carrgodd has, but it says "1967" in the thread title, so I realize that it would likely be this later design. Also, apparently the factory put a ridiculous dual-wheel setup on the early units that had the first-gen Corvair suspension, just to fill out the wheel wheels because they didn't modify the suspension... and this one doesn't have that.
 
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