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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So I'm starting my adventure into the EV world with a 1971 VW Sand Rail Buggy (No motor):

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Thus far I've been reading and watching a lot about EV conversions, but haven't had hands on experience yet (A big part of this project is a fun way to learn about it). I am a metal working hobbyist (Welders (Stick, MIG, and recently TIG), grinders, bench and belt grinders, a mini lathe (a starter/learning lathe), horizontal metal cutting bandsaw (Currently restoring this beautiful bastard, and then I can start work on the Buggy)), etc. I have experience and access to a bunch of tools to shape and fabricate. I am new to automobiles in general, I usually restore tool machinery and other metal items.

I have the basic concepts down for EV conversions/EVs in general (I know I'll need an electric motor (AC or DC), controller, contactors, batteries, etc.), and I am currently reading DIY Lithium Batteries by Micah Toll. If y'all have other suggestions for threads/books/videos please let me know, I'd love to learn more.

As of current, my plan is to completely strip down this Buggy and start cleaning everything up, starting with the frame (Checking welds, rewelding as needed, sanding it down, and then prime it (To prevent rust while I modify it for EV conversion). It'll take some time to do all of that, but while that's happening I'd like to start gathering recommendations for parts for the conversion. I like going to salvage/junk yards and if that's a cheaper route then even better (I like taking things apart and restoring it all... I think its the OCD in me or something).

Parts: What I do have with the purchase is:

- Sand Rail Buggy Frame (Can be restored)

- Steering: It turns, so I'm assuming it'll work for the build but it could definitely be cleaned up.

- Suspension: I am not sure how good in shape the shocks/dampeners/I will know the proper names soon I swear! are. If I need new ones, I'll definitely need recommendations for those too.

- Electric Motor: I don't have one, and I don't know what I should get, I'll definitely need help with this one.

- Transmission: This one is interesting, this purchase actually came with a VW Bus transmission. It definitely needs to be cleaned up, but it also comes with newer axels. I haven't gotten a close look at it, I've only found where it actually has VW stamped on it.. but I'll see if I can get a clear identification on it soon). I am not 100% sure if I even need the transmission, but I've seen one being used more often than I would have thought in EV conversions.

- Electricals (12V): That all needs to be replaced quite frankly, it looks shot to all hell.

- Brakes: Something I am probably most green in. It has two levers for brakes by the shifter (I don't know what they're actually called)

- Pedals: They surprisingly look okay

I'd love to hear recommendations for places to find parts (Do salvage/junk yards have EV stuff? Are other places like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, etc. good sources? Are there other online places I should consider?), and if I can't find what I need used then I'll probably get new if it's holding up the build (Meaning there is nothing else I can do for it until I get that particular part).

Thanks!

Christian
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Hi everyone, so I'd like to start a plan and use the time it will take restoring the frame (and other useable parts) to start finding the needed parts for the EV conversion. I figure once I am near restoring what can be used, I'll most likely need to modify parts of what will be restored (Especially the frame/body) to fit the new electric parts. My current plan is basically find the motor (and transmission if my current one doesn't work for this build), get the rest of items but either buy or make the batteries last.

Again, I am brand new to this and automobile mechanics in general. My strengths are in metal working (grinding, sanding, and welding). Should the motor be the first thing to look for? As mentioned previously I did get the VW transmission (Supposedly comes from a VW bus) with the purchase.

If the motor is the first thing I should look for, what motor would y'all recommend for a Sand Rail? I am open to suggestions and am not looking for a very specific performance spec.. basically what motor would be similar to the ICE version? With this being my first EV conversion (A learning project) I'm definitely all ears with advice, but if I can I'd like to salvage as much of the parts that I can and fix them up if need be. I like fixing things up in general, but it also helps with learning how it all ticks. There are of course limitations for me like deep electronics (I'm guessing things like controllers I'll just hope to buy used and intact or new if I have to).

From my limited knowledge, if I was asked to give my first take on what to find here's what I would say: I would go to a salvage/junkyard and find a forklift motor (DC) or if available grab a motor (and transmission?) from a salvage EV like a Leaf or Bolt? I'm not against AC motors or anything but many of the builds I've look at so far seems to be DC motors so far, but I admit that much of the builds I've seen are pretty dated.

Thanks!
 

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- Transmission: This one is interesting, this purchase actually came with a VW Bus transmission. It definitely needs to be cleaned up, but it also comes with newer axels. I haven't gotten a close look at it, I've only found where it actually has VW stamped on it.. but I'll see if I can get a clear identification on it soon). I am not 100% sure if I even need the transmission, but I've seen one being used more often than I would have thought in EV conversions.
Bus transaxles are commonly used in buggies because they are more durable than Beetle transaxles; they also have different gear ratios which might be more desirable.

Essentially all vehicles have transmissions, because the need to connect the axles to a motor which should turn much faster than the axles... so they have reduction gearing (or a belt drive). What you might not need, depending on the choice of motor and battery voltage, is a transmission with multiple ratios (speeds).

Normal production EVs use a single-ratio (single-speed) transaxle. Some conversions are now starting to use both the motor and the matching transaxle salvaged from a scrapped EV.

An unusual (in the modern world) feature of many air-cooled VWs is that they have a swing-axle rear suspension which uses the axle shafts as part of the suspension, putting all of the lateral (side-to-side, cornering) force through the transmission output bearings. If you have swing axles, the most practical way to do a conversion is to keep the VW transaxle, or another variant of the same design, because no EV transaxle and few modern transaxles of any kind will work with the swing axles.

The other type of air-cooled VW rear suspension as constant-velocity (CV) joints at each end of each axle (so at the hub and at the transmission), and doesn't use the axles as part of the suspension. If you have that, you can use whatever transaxle fits in. Both of these types of suspension (swing-axle and with CV joints on both ends) are independent, so they are both IRS (Independent Rear Suspension) but it is common in the air-cooled VW world to call only the one with CV joints at both ends "IRS".
 

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- Brakes: Something I am probably most green in. It has two levers for brakes by the shifter (I don't know what they're actually called)
If the levers independently run the rear brakes, that's called "steering brakes" or "cutting brakes". On vehicles in which the front tires are often very ineffective for steering (tractors, sand rails) these are sometimes used (one at a time) to get the vehicle to turn. Sometimes it's just one lever, pushed one way to brake one wheel and the other way to brake the opposite wheel.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Lol you aren't kidding about that trailer, it's a hand made one from the previous owner. I am going to clean it up and modify it to be a more useful trailer for the buggy. 🤣

Looking at my sand rail previously, I believe it's a IRS type as you describe. If that's the case (I am not home to confirm it) what motor would you recommend for this build (Aiming towards a similarly performing ICE specs?)?


You're right about the brakes, that's exactly what they are
 

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Looking at my sand rail previously, I believe it's a IRS type as you describe. If that's the case (I am not home to confirm it) what motor would you recommend for this build (Aiming towards a similarly performing ICE specs?)?
I was trying to get people to not mis-use "IRS" - since even the swing-axle is IRS, all air-cooled VWs are IRS - but I assume you mean that you have double CV-jointed shafts, so the axles are not part of the suspension (not swing-axle). That means that you can use a different transaxle if you want.

I realize that this doesn't help much, but almost any recent production EV motor with transaxle will work if it fits, and they'll all have more power than a stock Beetle. If you go that way, it's largely a matter of which one you can get, which one fits (the suspension arms will likely be in the way for anything with the motor ahead of the axle line), and which one you want to work with on the controls side.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I was trying to get people to not mis-use "IRS" - since even the swing-axle is IRS, all air-cooled VWs are IRS - but I assume you mean that you have double CV-jointed shafts, so the axles are not part of the suspension (not swing-axle). That means that you can use a different transaxle if you want.

I realize that this doesn't help much, but almost any recent production EV motor with transaxle will work if it fits, and they'll all have more power than a stock Beetle. If you go that way, it's largely a matter of which one you can get, which one fits (the suspension arms will likely be in the way for anything with the motor ahead of the axle line), and which one you want to work with on the controls side.
Ack, I should have specified that yes I think it's the double CV jointed shafts.

Any ideas on how I could tell what/which would work (if I find an available salvage EV motor and trans-axel)? I'm thinking I need to measure out the space where it would go and see what needs modifying to make it fit properly.

When I get home I'll take more pictures of the area and post them.

btw Happy Thanksgiving!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
So I've been catching on Hunny-do-lists these past few weeks and of course a couple fixes to other projects but I am SO close to being done! I'm hoping to have my metal cutting 7x12 bandsaw done by tomorrow or Sunday (depending when parts arrive) and with that done I shouldn't have any time dependant projects diverting attention away from the EV build.

Now lately I've been really thinking about what it is that I want to do, especially with this build. Primarily I want to learn about EVs (mechanics, electrical systems, etc) and building them. I eventually would like to purchase a salvage EV, and repair it myself but that's in the future. With this build my decision keeps going from simply restoring it as is (the frame, wheels, and transmission) and then making it into an EV with motor, attaching it to the transmission, controller, batteries, etc OR getting a lot more creative and turning it into a reverse trike (enclosed with steering wheel, dashboard, etc.. basically a car on three wheels).

Keeping it more standard but with EV parts makes it an Electric Sandrail.. a fun vehicle in its own right. This would probably be a good fundamentals focused build without the eccentrics of something far less standard like a reverse trike. It would mean more weight.

Building a reverse trike would definitely require more in figuring things out (adding/making a motorcycle fork for the back wheel) but it would be less weight. What I like about this option is with the less weight I could use a less powerful motor, use the vehicle as a fun in city vehicle, plus I'd feel more adventurous in experimenting with different add ons and looks (body/panel making, etc). It could also let me possibly use the idea of buying a salvage electric motorcycle and use it's parts for the build).

Being that I'm a hobbyist metal worker I'm drawn to option two. I think it would be fun as all get out to not only make an EV, but to also design and build the body that goes along with it plus experiment with different options (retracting solar panels, in-car comforts, systems management (efficiency, sport, etc), tilting front suspension and more).

I've got the tools for all of this (being a metal hobbyist/restorer you get quite a collection!). Speaking of, for Christmas my wife is getting me a plasma cutter! Among other things, that would make body work a heck of a lot easier.

Anyway here are some photos of a more gutted Sandrail frame (a lot of the things on it were truly fubar). I am hoping to finish cutting it today and may possibly start wire brushing the frame as well.
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Building a reverse trike would definitely require more in figuring things out (adding/making a motorcycle fork for the back wheel) but it would be less weight. What I like about this option is with the less weight I could use a less powerful motor, use the vehicle as a fun in city vehicle, plus I'd feel more adventurous in experimenting with different add ons and looks (body/panel making, etc). It could also let me possibly use the idea of buying a salvage electric motorcycle and use it's parts for the build).
That's a perfectly good project, but it would logically use almost none of the existing buggy... just the front suspension and steering, and they're not very desirable for anything other than a VW-based buggy, especially if you're serious about a cambering (tilting) design. The proportions are also wrong: a reverse trike needs a more front-biased weight distribution than a sandrail. Even if the best project to do first is the trike, it doesn't make sense to me to base it on this vehicle.

I think you'll find that electric motorcycles in salvage are so rare, and so unsuitable due to the higher mass of the trike, that using an electric motorcycle powertrain doesn't make sense.

And a caution about trikes - depending on your location, they can be good because they get you out of some of the regulations which apply to cars, but they can also be challenging due to the rules that apply (do you need a motorcycle license? do you have to wear a helmet?) and potential insurance issues (because it's a highly unusual vehicle type that insurers may not have in their standard coverage types).

I also don't see trikes as much lighter than four-wheeled vehicles - a differential and two-wheeled rear suspension instead of one-wheeled don't make that much difference. Some people have actually improved the Polaris Slingshot by converting it to a four-wheeler, although that's a car-like design and I assume yours would be designed more like a Campagna T-Rex.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
That's a perfectly good project, but it would logically use almost none of the existing buggy... just the front suspension and steering, and they're not very desirable for anything other than a VW-based buggy, especially if you're serious about a cambering (tilting) design. The proportions are also wrong: a reverse trike needs a more front-biased weight distribution than a sandrail. Even if the best project to do first is the trike, it doesn't make sense to me to base it on this vehicle.

I think you'll find that electric motorcycles in salvage are so rare, and so unsuitable due to the higher mass of the trike, that using an electric motorcycle powertrain doesn't make sense.

And a caution about trikes - depending on your location, they can be good because they get you out of some of the regulations which apply to cars, but they can also be challenging due to the rules that apply (do you need a motorcycle license? do you have to wear a helmet?) and potential insurance issues (because it's a highly unusual vehicle type that insurers may not have in their standard coverage types).

I also don't see trikes as much lighter than four-wheeled vehicles - a differential and two-wheeled rear suspension instead of one-wheeled don't make that much difference. Some people have actually improved the Polaris Slingshot by converting it to a four-wheeler, although that's a car-like design and I assume yours would be designed more like a Campagna T-Rex.
Hi Brian, thanks for commenting (Even if you're a party pooper who is absolutely correct in many ways!) :ROFLMAO:

First, As much as I hate to admit it, the Facebook marketplace purchase was a bit of an impulse buy. I felt like it was a good deal (At first) because of the amount of time saving I predicted to have by not needing to make a frame (Originally for a reverse trike). I also love restoring (Metal stuff like tools and machines) a bit more than from-scratch fabrication which contributed to my motivation for the buy. I saw the frame and thought that I could modify it to a design I'd like and go from there, assuming I didn't end up doing an electric buggy. What I also like about the buggy frame is with an open frame like that, it leads to a world of car-body and interior possibilities.. but typical me (Made worse that I am new to automotive mechanics and engineering) I tend to put the carriage before the horse.

You are absolutely correct about salvage electric bikes not very available. I was going to be patient and keep searching sites like iaai, marketplace, etc while working on restoring the frame and whatever else I could save from the original purchase.

I did look at Florida laws regarding Trikes before I started the project, and it's all things I was fine with. To be honest, what got me started in wanting to build an EV in the first place was seeing the Vanderhall Edison2. Not only did I like the design (I find it absolutely beautiful) but I figured it was a bit simpler than a more common four wheeled EV (smaller, possibility of using electric motorcycle motor which are smaller and a bit easier to install in a frame in terms of simplicity especially when using a belt/chain instead of a transmission.. and I know the Edison2 does not do that, etc).

The trikes I was looking at (Ones like the Morgan, Edison2, OR more modern ones that are enclosed and less weightier ones) are lighter than ones like the Slingshot or the T-Rex, but probably aren't that much heavier (I should have probably paid closer attention to weights of the ones I was looking at).

With all that said now I'm inclined to make the Sandrail into an experimental street legal 4-wheeled car of some sort. Maybe try to make it into fun racing strip EV? Do you have a recommendation for parts off other EVs that I could use with the Sandrail (Maybe something off of a Nissan Leaf, Bolt, etc.) like motors, controllers, etc.? There seems to be plenty of used EV parts nowadays (Ebay, Marketplace, Craigslist, or even auctions). It's either that, or I restore the frame and whatever else I can and then sell it and try something else?

Christian
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I was able to do a bit of more work on disassembly, got the back shocks off, and tried to get some of the front suspension off but despite my numerous tools, I apparently don't have a large (bigger than anything I've got) hex bit 🤬
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With all that said now I'm inclined to make the Sandrail into an experimental street legal 4-wheeled car of some sort. Maybe try to make it into fun racing strip EV?
That's an interesting idea: there are certainly similarities between a sand rail and a rail dragster (the former being named after the latter), with the common idea of putting a high proportion of the weight on the driven rear wheels. Of course the buggy frame is too wide for a rail dragster, but that's just extra aero drag which won't make it any less fun. :)

Drag racing is well-suited to EVs, because while high power is needed, high energy storage is not (because a run is so short) so the battery size can be reasonable.
 

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With an understanding and acceptance of the issues with trikes, a trike could make a great project - assuming a single driven rear wheel, the trike configuration certainly can simplify suspension and drive design, especially for a single-ratio drive system. Some projects even use a single stage chain or belt drive, although the drive ratio is limited by going that simple.

I just think that a frame designed for this configuration makes more sense than adapting anything four-wheeled, and especially compared to a rear-engine four-wheeler. Even with a custom frame, this can still be a first EV project for a properly equipped and skilled builder.
 

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... tried to get some of the front suspension off but despite my numerous tools, I apparently don't have a large (bigger than anything I've got) hex bit 🤬 View attachment 121144
That is apparently just a set (grub) screw, with a hex nut around it to lock it on, as shown in this sample of replacement parts: Grub Screw Kit For Front Trailing Arms To Torsion Leaf Springs For 1958 To 1977 Standard Beetles 14M
It is reportedly an M14 screw, so the hex socket is presumably 7 or 8 mm (across the flats), although it is so large that it is right off the end of all of the metric set screw size charts that I found.

If you just loosen the nut, does the screw come out with it (solving the problem for now), or does the nut just come off of the screw, leaving the screw in place?

Fortunately, 3/8" drive hex bits only cost a couple of bucks each, so it's just an annoyance that the right bit isn't on hand right now. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
That is apparently just a set (grub) screw, with a hex nut around it to lock it on, as shown in this sample of replacement parts: Grub Screw Kit For Front Trailing Arms To Torsion Leaf Springs For 1958 To 1977 Standard Beetles 14M
It is reportedly an M14 screw, so the hex socket is presumably 7 or 8 mm (across the flats), although it is so large that it is right off the end of all of the metric set screw size charts that I found.

If you just loosen the nut, does the screw come out with it (solving the problem for now), or does the nut just come off of the screw, leaving the screw in place?

Fortunately, 3/8" drive hex bits only cost a couple of bucks each, so it's just an annoyance that the right bit isn't on hand right now. :)
I first need to be able to loosen the nut, but it's by far the most frozen one I've found since disassembly!

What would you recommend for the basics (motor, controller, batteries) if I did go for the street legal buggy racer route? Should I consider used parts off other EVs (eBay, marketplace, etc.) or maybe a full salvage EV (iaai, auctions)?
 
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