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Discussion Starter #1
First of all, salutations everyone. I look forward to engaging with and learning from this lovely community. No doubt I will be needing a lot of your guidance, because I am a totally clueless babe in the woods here. I bought a tiny van with an electric motor and after two months of making the brakes work, I arrived at the part of the project where I try to make it go and suddenly realized I had no inkling of how to proceed. I guess I'm an Electric Car Guy now, but the title unfortunately doesn't come with any applicable knowledge.

So here it is:


As the topic title has no doubt informed you, this little gadget is a 1969 Subaru 360 van. It's hard to grasp a sense of scale from this picture, but this van is outrageously small. It is less than ten feet long from bumper to bumper, and it weighs about 900 pounds. This confounding quality of smallness is no doubt what made it an attractive candidate to convert to electric by someone, some indeterminate but surely long time ago.

So they did this:


It had batteries at some point. There was a tray for them and lots of cables. I don't know if the batteries were used in conjunction with that Kohler generator or were replaced by it, but the generator is all that remains. I see no good reason to keep it in the van, even if I can facetiously call it a "hybrid."

The motor doesn't seem to be very big.

But that's okay, because I don't want to go very fast. I just want to toodle down to the grocery store, not take the gold at Le Mans.

It's a Baldor! Is that good? I don't know. It's a great name though; makes me feel like I should roll initiative.

Tag says it's 48 volts, which sounds pretty good. I have no idea if it's series wound or permanent magnet. You can just make out a spot on the tag where it says "CONN" with a "SER." stamped beside it. The only way I can parse that is "Connection: Series," and I hope that's correct and that it means the motor is series wound.

My initial questions:
Is this motor enough?
How do I make it go faster than a golf cart?
Does it all hinge on the power controller, Or is it how many batteries you have?
How many batteries should it have?
Am I going to spend all of my money?
Seriously, how does any of this work? What is an Amp?
Why can't I see my own forehead?

Basically, I just want to know, if this was yours, what would you do?
Thanks for reading. I hope I have inspired some lively discussion and an outpouring of ideas.
 

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Cool little van. Looks to be an early DIY Hybrid and it should work as such. So with 48 volts it would need 4 12volt deep cycle batteries if you were going to use lead acid batteries. We around here now frown upon lead acid and would tell you to go with at least some LiFeP04 Lithium cells. That would require 16 LiFePO4 Prismatic cells for 48 volts. The Baldor motor is most likely a series motor and would make this little beastie go. Not sure if it would go faster than a golf cart but it should at 48 volts. You should get more photos of the whole motor/generator/transmission and all the electrical stuff that looks like it belongs to the electric drive setup. Good photos will be very very helpful. Unsure of the motor tranny setup in this little beastie would be fun to get back on the road. If the original transmission is in there you might be able to connect a more modern series DC motor or a smaller AC motor which I would vote to put in. That would give you regenerative braking and would be a good speedy around town vehicle and maybe even on the freeway. Rebuild the brakes to like new condition no matter what you do before being put on the road. Good brakes are a must. A good little series DC motor with a nice little controller and up to 72 volts would do fine for this little beastie too. Take out the generator, connect motor to the transmission and put in batteries and controller along with your asundry items like volt meter, amp meter and those little goodies that belong and your little beastie might be a screamer because it is so light weight. Have no fear, we are here to help. Such a cool little Van.
 

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Firstly I'd try to get that sucker running as it is. If you can Im sure you will have your fun little neighbor hood vehicle to go get groceries and impress the neighbors. But clean it up and do a restoration of the van so it looks good. Fix any rust issues as you go. Photos as I mentioned before. What is your budget?
 

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My initial questions:
Is this motor enough?
How do I make it go faster than a golf cart?
Does it all hinge on the power controller, Or is it how many batteries you have?
How many batteries should it have?
Am I going to spend all of my money?
Seriously, how does any of this work? What is an Amp?
Why can't I see my own forehead?

Basically, I just want to know, if this was yours, what would you do?
Thanks for reading. I hope I have inspired some lively discussion and an outpouring of ideas.

Hey Byron, that thing you found makes me smile. I am still very new to the conversion thing, but my advice to you is to read, read, read, and then read a bit more. Answer as many obvious questions for yourself by just googling and reading wikipedia. Follow all the links, look up anything you dont understand. That will bring up new, more interesting questions for people to discuss with you. Otherwise, you will get a lot of unsatisying answers like:


Q: Is this motor enough?
A: Yep, it is exactly as much as the installer intended it to be.



Once you read a little, you will get a sense of what is possible. Once you know that, you can start deciding where you want the project to wind up in the vast spectrum of outcomes available to you.


What I would do with it if it was mine? I would try and see if I could figure out how many important pieces it is missing - try and figure out how much it would cost to make it run - and then decide if a weird little electric clown car was worth that price. :)



One way or another you have a project here. It will almost assuredly eat money and time, and teach you lots of interesting things. Sounds to me like you need to start by deciding what you actually want it to do. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Lithium was my plan. I understand that with lithium batteries, you don't slow down at low charge and that sounds essential.

As for photos, I took pictures of everything that's there. The original engine and transaxle are long gone. The motor is connected directly to a differential (that came out of something else, who knows what) via belts and pulley wheels, which you can see. If power was sent to the motor as it sits now, it would turn the wheels. The generator isn't connected to anything. I think it used to be hooked to the batteries but they too are lost to the sands of time. There was a power controller, but I already pitched it. It looked like a rusty hunk of Jules Verne technology and was clearly a paper weight.

I will never in a million years even toy with the idea of making this thing get on the freeway. I cannot overstate how small and trecherous this little garbage can on wheels is. Here's a human standing next to one to give you an idea of the toy-like proportions we're talking about here. The suspension would be a joke on a Radio Flyer wagon. 45 MPH is as fast as I ever want this thing to go with me in it, no to mention the fact that every other idiot on Texas freeways these days is driving some F850 Super Duty King Kong Edition truck which would flatten it like a paper bag in a crash.

My budget is middling. I'd spend a few K on it if I had too, because I owe it to the world. Everyone who sees this squeaky little clown car is filled with childlike wonder and delight, and the world needs this now more than ever. I am not a man of means though, and getting it running "as is" is definitely my plan A. I just want to throw in some batteries and a controller and see what it'll do. No idea what controller to get though, or if I should just make one myself. I could easily solder one up if I had a kit or something.
 

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Lithium was my plan. I understand that with lithium batteries, you don't slow down at low charge and that sounds essential.

As for photos, I took pictures of everything that's there. The original engine and transaxle are long gone. The motor is connected directly to a differential (that came out of something else, who knows what) via belts and pulley wheels, which you can see. If power was sent to the motor as it sits now, it would turn the wheels. The generator isn't connected to anything. I think it used to be hooked to the batteries but they too are lost to the sands of time. There was a power controller, but I already pitched it. It looked like a rusty hunk of Jules Verne technology and was clearly a paper weight.

I will never in a million years even toy with the idea of making this thing get on the freeway. I cannot overstate how small and trecherous this little garbage can on wheels is. Here's a human standing next to one to give you an idea of the toy-like proportions we're talking about here. The suspension would be a joke on a Radio Flyer wagon. 45 MPH is as fast as I ever want this thing to go with me in it, no to mention the fact that every other idiot on Texas freeways these days is driving some F850 Super Duty King Kong Edition truck which would flatten it like a paper bag in a crash.

My budget is middling. I'd spend a few K on it if I had too, because I owe it to the world. Everyone who sees this squeaky little clown car is filled with childlike wonder and delight, and the world needs this now more than ever. I am not a man of means though, and getting it running "as is" is definitely my plan A. I just want to throw in some batteries and a controller and see what it'll do. No idea what controller to get though, or if I should just make one myself. I could easily solder one up if I had a kit or something.
I was wondering about the transaxle. If you could get it back to original minus the engine you could build a nice little electric that even shifts. That would be ideal. A big motor is not needed for around town. You could keep the motor but that motor only has two connections so you can't set it up for electric reverse. Mmmmm. Hunt for an original transmission. Put in a small AC 20 from HPEVS and a Curtis controller. That would be good at 72 or 96 volts and scoot that thing around town just fine. That is what I recommend. Its not a clown car and I'm fully aware how small they are. I used to have an old 62 Mini Cooper. That was small and I did fit. Fun. The Subaru 360 Van would be a blast. Id build it to go fast. But remember you never have to drive it fast but Im sure you would. Get that suspension up to the task needed. It is a truck after all and can handle the loads. Its not a toy. Its not a clown car. A true classic. Worthy of a nice EV build.
 

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The motor tag says 95 amps at 48 volts to produce 5 hp at something between 2000 and 2900 rpm... and it will produce less power than that at any speed lower or higher than that ideal speed. With only 48 volts it will go... but very slowly. Even in its original form, this second-generation Sambar had 20 hp.

I'm not an expert on salvaged brushed DC series-wound motors, but that size (9" diameter) looks like it might be reasonable for the vehicle, given what others do in their conversions... but that assumes that you double or triple the voltage, so the motor can produce the same torque at higher speed, and thus deliver more power. But then, the 2-gang V-belt drive can't handle a whole lot more...

The van could be good fun, and while not a highway vehicle, there are actually quite a few running around local roads in North America. Although they're usually newer, they're bigger, but not by much - Kei trucks are sort of an automotive subculture, and there are a lot of enthusiasts.
 

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You could use that motor and a nice little controller and still dump in 500 amps if needed. You would soon figure what you could do with that power. Yes, you can increase the amperage and you could increase the voltage but 96 would be more than plenty and 72 would likely do just fine. 48 is a bit weak but with the setup it might be just fine. Until you get it running you won't know what it is able to do for you. I'd say with 48 volts and a decent little controller you'd have a winner. Not sure of the gearing with those belts and differential. Speed will be determined by the final gearing and acceleration will be dependent upon amperage. Being it is so light it might just be a little 45 mph little beast as is without the generator
Just get it working with what you have. The motor only has two connection points. A standard Series Motor will have 4. Your motor is totally directional. You can't reverse the motor.

Here is a controller you can get that won't break the bank and allow you to use your 48 volts and up to 500 amps. Should be fine. Read up on how to mount these and be sure you get a good finned heat sink for the controller or else it will heat up too much.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/48V-0-5k-P125M-5603-500A-DC-Motor-Controller-for-CURTIS-1205-1205M-5601-5603-US/164026800165?hash=item2630c25825:g:yG8AAOSwbAZeGUjU
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Actually, it does go in reverse. There is an external reversing switch connected to the gear shifter.

This voltage multiplication is one of the things I have questions about. I understand that adding more batteries gives you more volts and more power, but what does the 48v rating of the motor mean exactly? Why can I run 96v through this thing and not just blow it up? How do I know how much to advance the brushes, if that's a thing I have to do?

And thank you for the controller recommendation. That's what I need most of all at this point, the right parts. any other controller advice will be well-taken.
 

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Actually, it does go in reverse. There is an external reversing switch connected to the gear shifter.

This voltage multiplication is one of the things I have questions about. I understand that adding more batteries gives you more volts and more power, but what does the 48v rating of the motor mean exactly? Why can I run 96v through this thing and not just blow it up? How do I know how much to advance the brushes, if that's a thing I have to do?

And thank you for the controller recommendation. That's what I need most of all at this point, the right parts. any other controller advice will be well-taken.
Adding voltage to a point is not an issue for these electric motors. There would be an issue if you had a very high voltage and a no load runaway. That would spin the motor fast enough to blow it apart. They are limited to about 4500 rpm to be safe. 48 volts is a continuous rating and the amperage is in that continuous rating. So it could run all day long at 48 volts and 90 something amps that the tag says it can do. For short periods of time they can handle much higher voltages and amps. The peak amps is usually only for a brief time but they do run higher amps while driving but the amount is not terrible. Most motors have cooling fans. Sometimes you need extra cooling to help. Sounds like you have a manual contact switch as your speed switch and a reversing contactor so you can use electric reverse. If you have the stuff for that then you can connect it up. I did not see any controller or contactor switches or anything like that. .

This is my fun little Cushman Truckster. This project was put on hold but I still have it and it still works. Because of the weight when you give it power it does not burn rubber but slowly picks up speed. So it has a reversing contactor for reverse. It is pretty quick. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZx4dkWCcPM
 

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Here is a great source to learn a bunch and to see what many others have done with their vehicles. Many are older conversions with lead acid Batteries. But a huge repository to search and browse around. I found this place early on before I started my first build. It was the inspiration I needed to jump in and build my first all electric conversion.

http://www.evalbum.com
 

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I have a bunch of electrification parts for that thing that used the original trans and a nice 9" motor with a clutch. If you combined it with a 500A curtis or Alltrax you could make a neat little driver that is as quick as you would ever want to go in that thing. I'm a few states away in Gainesville FL but I could make you a tasty deal if you wanted. I'm sure it will have to wait until the Kung Flu dies down.

The stuff came from a guy who was a mechanic for them in the military and salvaged a bunch of parts before they pushed the old ones into the ocean and closed the base. Manuals, spare parts, etc...
 

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There is an Subaru 360 club that can help with all the mechanical stuff and may have some background on your rig

Good Luck
 

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That's a 9 inch DC series motor in a tiny light machine
It does NOT need gears!

Just a single speed drive to the diff will give you far more "go" than you need

You will need more than 48 volts - 96 volts would be great

Throw away the generator
Get 96 volts (ish) worth of Lithium - two Chevy Volt 12S modules would be good

A half decent controller - the Paul & Sabrina 500 Amp one would be lovely

Then see how much of the 500 amps you can use without scaring yourself

One area of concern - if you snap the drive belts the motor will instantly self destruct
 
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