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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello I'm somewhat new to electric vehicles, but know a lot about working on cars in general. Efficiency was not a thought when older cars were produced, heavy engines, heavy bodies etc. So I think replacing a gas guzzler with a powerful electric motor might be pretty cool. I'm looking for a general guide on what parts I might need. I know I need a motor, controller, and battery packs. I'm looking to go with lithium packs but that's about all I know so far. Any input is appreciated.
 

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I think that you have a lot of reading to do. :)
Maybe the easiest approach would be to pick a similar project (an older car, of any make or model) in the All EV Conversions and Builds section and see what topics come up. The significant components that you haven't mentioned are connecting the motor to the axle (transmission? reduction gearbox? adapters?), a battery management system (BMS), charger, and DC-to-DC converter.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sure I'll take a look. I'm hoping to keep the original transmission if possible to keep things simple. I've seen a lot of people mentioning Nissan leaf battery packs. Would it make sense to buy an older leaf and transfer the batteries and charging system over? It seems like the least expensive way as just the battery packs seem to cost more than a whole car.
 

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Is there some practical reason why you are doing this? Do you plan to use this as your daily driver, offsetting petrochemical use in another car, and reducing greenhouse production? If not, here's the problem: The batteries (and to a lesser extent, the other EV components) will now be tied-up in a vehicle that just mostly sits unused. The batteries, in particular, are a problem because they have, at this time, in general, a limited calendar life. That is to say, after 10-15 years no matter how little of their cycle life is used-up, the batteries will probably be dead and need to be replaced. Elon Musk has recently talked about "million mile" batteries. If these become a reality, the calendar life problem will be less of an issue.

For now, this problem is compounded by the general shortage of batteries for new EVs and secondary uses of the batteries from salvaged vehicles. I'm constrained by the limited number of new and secondary batteries available, and their resulting high prices, for the practical real world uses I'm working on. This includes lawn, garden, and farm equipment that uses a battery system for year round(not just seasonal) use. Also, general and commercial use light to medium utility vehicles = pick ups. These are salt of the earth, practical, real world applications that try to make the best use of the limited resources available. I just don't see this is the case when using these limited resources in unused or lightly used conversions of classic vehicles, luxury cars, sport cars, ego and feel good projects.

A short time ago, I was at a classic car show talking with a fellow professional builder fabricator about his classic car customers and their preferences for EV conversions. He said most customers realized the issues outlined above, and very few even considered to do EV conversions of their classic cars. Totally messing-up the antiquity of their cars was another big factor. But, he did say a lot of his customers had Teslas and other OEM EVs as their daily drivers!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You make valid points. I am doing this to learn more about electric vehicles and to have a car I can drive around town without using gas. I'm not out to ruin the originality of a restored vehicle, and even if I wanted to it would be way out of my budget. My goal is to recycle used components instead of getting a new electric car. My main vehicle is a 2014 Passat TDI that gets decent fuel economy which is my daily driver. The amount of waste that the US generates in broken but repairable electronic goods is astronomical. I'm trying to take two things that would be left to rot and make a fun project that I can learn from and enjoy.

Essentially I will be taking a mid 1940's car in "last ran in '66" condition and a wrecked leaf to make an EV. I'm not trying to tie up used components in an unused vehicle. I fully intend to use it for sub 100 mile trips. Potentially down the line when solid state batteries or whatever comes after is an affordable upgrade, it may become my daily driver for the long term.

Right now I'm just trying to gather information to get started but I definitely get where you're coming from. Thanks for the insight.
 

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I've just seen too many of these vanity projects tie up resources that could be better used in more practical applications. I don't want to sound too pie in the sky here, but there are a lot better ways of recycling used EV components than in a vehicle that may be used probably at most a few thousands miles a year. For example, recently there was discussion here about converting (possibly damaged) Nissan Leafs to light utility vehicles. This vehicle would probably rack-up 5-6X more miles traveled than the vehicle you are proposing. That's a better use of recycled resources.

As I mentioned, the shortage and cost of batteries is a particular problem right now. For example, I need recycled Leaf battery modules for a practical, high use battery system I'm working on. The market price for these modules has gone from ~$75 up to close to $200 and back to ~$100 each. The availability has likewise fluctuated over a wide range. New batteries from China, that could be substitutes for the Leaf modules, are also suffering somewhat from these wild fluctuations in price and availability. I believe much of this problem is from people buying-up and holding these modules for their vanity and /or not very practical projects. Please stop doing this people!

RobM2k, my first suggestion is to fix up the potential conversion car in its present ICE form and see what it is like to drive around as your daily driver, or otherwise. You may find as many people have found with these older cars that the drivability, comfort, and safety features just not acceptable by today's standards. This is not a good candidate for a conversion!

If you do go ahead with the project and acquire a wrecked Leaf, sell off the batteries. Unless you have deep pockets and can work very quickly, this project is going to take you years of work. You could use the funds for the project and I suspect better, cheaper batteries are on the way. Plus, you'll have people like me harping at you less for tying-up resources!
 

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I understand the concern about making good use of available components, but if that is the major concern it's probably time to cancel all DIY Electric Car projects and shut down the forum, since almost none of the vehicles created by these projects are daily drivers.
 

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This is a good point. And, this is a continuing discussion. Far from the Forum shutting-down, I believe it will shift to the less sexy, hum drum, daily driver, and more practical DIY EV and other projects that will predominate in the future. The recent Leaf/Bolt utility vehicle conversion discussion is an example of this. I believe high use electric commercial vans, and their conversion cousins, small Electric Recreational Vehicles (ERVs) for people that do a lot of traveling, are going to become very popular in the very near future. I've got a high use touring motorcycle conversion project on the back burner. Plenty of DIY potential here without building a little used, garage queen project that ties up needed resources. Mostly batteries.

We are not going to make a big EV changeover here converting rich people's low use luxury car, classic cars, sports cars, or DIYing little used vanity greenwashing projects. It's going to take a massive effort, making the best use of all of the resources available. Let's make it happen!
 

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I am currently experiencing the frustration of high prices on salvage EV parts, but I would contend that the big EV changeover happens with people buying new and used production EVs, not DIY-ing them in their garage.

In my city (in the un-EV-friendly Canadian province of Saskatchewan), I'm seeing more and more Teslas, Bolts and Hyundai EVs driving around. Our power utility company and parking enforcement group each have a fleet of Bolts. Until large-scale recycling of batteries happens, DIY pack repurposing is a nice secondary market, but it's not shaping the revolution.

RobM2k's project sounds fun. And a cool old EV conversion generates a lot more conversation than a Geo Metro conversion (which is also cool, but harder for a layperson to appreciate).
 

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I am currently experiencing the frustration of high prices on salvage EV parts, but I would contend that the big EV changeover happens with people buying new and used production EVs, not DIY-ing them in their garage.
What sacrilege! And on a DIY forum! I'll contend that many great ideas and inventions that lead to a changeover, come out of people's garages, basements and shops. That's my way of operating.
RobM2k's project sounds fun. And a cool old EV conversion generates a lot more conversation than a Geo Metro conversion (which is also cool, but harder for a layperson to appreciate).
I been through the early adopter " Wow, what a cool conversion" phase for ~ 15 years now with everything from powered toilets and couches to Rolls Royces. It's time to move on to more practical applications that are directly applicable to everyday people. To do this, we need a steady supply of batteries and not have them tied-up in "cool" impractical vanity projects or rich people's ego trips.
Until recently, I was fine with people doing what ever they wanted with the supply of batteries, used and new, that was available. But, with this latest run on batteries(used and new) and the wild price swings and shortages, I've changed my mind.
I realize what ever I write here is probably not going to sway some people from doing their impractical projects and tying up batteries. Hmm, a toilet. And I don't want you to think I'm singling you out, Robm2k. But until there is an abundant supply of batteries, this is going to be a problem.
 

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I been through the early adopter " Wow, what a cool conversion" phase for ~ 15 years now with everything from powered toilets and couches to Rolls Royces. It's time to move on to more practical applications that are directly applicable to everyday people. To do this, we need a steady supply of batteries and not have them tied-up in "cool" impractical vanity projects or rich people's ego trips.
Until recently, I was fine with people doing what ever they wanted with the supply of batteries, used and new, that was available. But, with this latest run on batteries(used and new) and the wild price swings and shortages, I've changed my mind.
I realize what ever I write here is probably not going to sway some people from doing their impractical projects and tying up batteries. Hmm, a toilet. And I don't want you to think I'm singling you out, Robm2k. But until there is an abundant supply of batteries, this is going to be a problem.
So everyone should cancel their EV 'vanity' projects so that the price of used batteries stays stable... for you?

I completely disagree. For every EV conversion project there is one fewer gasoline-powered engine on the road, one fewer consumer supporting the fossil-fuel accessories industry, one more customer supporting the EV conversion parts companies we all rely on, and one more gearhead who really understands and appreciates electric power. This is true whether it's a daily driver, a show car or a track car. Learning about and interacting with electric technology is what will propel car culture and the general public into more acceptance of and excitement about EVs overall. The benefit is in education, not miles driven. And this comes from someone who is also searching for used battery modules on ebay.

Essentially I will be taking a mid 1940's car in "last ran in '66" condition and a wrecked leaf to make an EV. I'm not trying to tie up used components in an unused vehicle. I fully intend to use it for sub 100 mile trips. Potentially down the line when solid state batteries or whatever comes after is an affordable upgrade, it may become my daily driver for the long term.
Can you tell us which car exactly? Really old cars have the advantage that they don't have as many vacuum-powered accessories or accessories which are driven by a belt off the engine, which can require a lot of engineering to integrate. Fewer electric motors and gizmos also simplifies things. They can also have more spacious engine bays, trunks, etc... And importantly, (in my opinion) they were very slow originally, so you don't have to spend as much to get similar performance, and people are less irritated if you're sitting at a steady 55mph on the highway.

General disadvantages: Heavy, poor aerodynamics, so you'll be spending significantly more on batteries/motor/controller to reach your goals than you would for a similarly sized small car. Also, it will probably require a huge amount of work to get the body and suspension sorted out before you even get to the EV conversion part of the program.
 

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Learning about and interacting with electric technology is what will propel car culture and the general public into more acceptance of and excitement about EVs overall. The benefit is in education, not miles driven.
I believe we are well beyond the education stage and should move into the mass implementation stages. Tesla and other OEMs have taken care of the education stage. I recently spoke to someone that purchased a used Leaf with 11 of 12 bars on the battery, after tax rebates, for only $2000. She did not need to be "educated" about buying this EV. It was a screaming no brainer!
As she is driving to work and her kids around to school and other functions on a daily basis with the Leaf, many more people are being "educated" about EVs than an isolated classic car, probably mostly sitting in a garage somewhere.(Sorry again RobM2k, for the hijacking and I'm not singling you out here!)
 

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So, You don't care about how much batteries cost and their availability?
I care, but not as much as I care about more people being excited about electrification.

Also, hopefully the more people doing conversions = more companies popping up to support them with a variety of products and services, especially reverse engineering and making use of second-hand OEM EV components.

I do feel you though. I bought 8kwh of 2018 leaf modules for $1100 shipped last year. Unlikely to happen again anytime soon.

I believe we are well beyond the education stage and should move into the mass implementation stages. Tesla and other OEMs have taken care of the education stage.
I'm out here in rural Texas, and believe me, the education stage is nowhere near complete. You park at the diner with an old Studebaker with an EV conversion, you're going to make a lot of friends and get a lot of interest. You park your Tesla outside and you're just an asshole from the city.
 

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What sacrilege! And on a DIY forum! I'll contend that many great ideas and inventions that lead to a changeover, come out of people's garages, basements and shops. That's my way of operating.

I been through the early adopter " Wow, what a cool conversion" phase for ~ 15 years now with everything from powered toilets and couches to Rolls Royces. It's time to move on to more practical applications that are directly applicable to everyday people. To do this, we need a steady supply of batteries and not have them tied-up in "cool" impractical vanity projects or rich people's ego trips.
Until recently, I was fine with people doing what ever they wanted with the supply of batteries, used and new, that was available. But, with this latest run on batteries(used and new) and the wild price swings and shortages, I've changed my mind.
I realize what ever I write here is probably not going to sway some people from doing their impractical projects and tying up batteries. Hmm, a toilet. And I don't want you to think I'm singling you out, Robm2k. But until there is an abundant supply of batteries, this is going to be a problem.
I would be willing to lay money that at least some of those DIY projects that spawned ideas and inventions were meant to go fast, handle corners, or be fun. Are we supposed to be innovating or making practical daily drivers, I'm confused.

Practical daily driver electric vehicles are already available in the form of used EVs. If an "everyday person" asked me where to look for an EV, I would probably point them in that direction. I'm not going to build a better Nissan Leaf than a Nissan Leaf, so why should I spend time, money, and effort re-creating it?

I believe we are well beyond the education stage and should move into the mass implementation stages. Tesla and other OEMs have taken care of the education stage. I recently spoke to someone that purchased a used Leaf with 11 of 12 bars on the battery, after tax rebates, for only $2000. She did not need to be "educated" about buying this EV. It was a screaming no brainer!
As she is driving to work and her kids around to school and other functions on a daily basis with the Leaf, many more people are being "educated" about EVs than an isolated classic car, probably mostly sitting in a garage somewhere.(Sorry again RobM2k, for the hijacking and I'm not singling you out here!)
This sounds quite a bit like what I said here:
... the big EV changeover happens with people buying new and used production EVs, not DIY-ing them in their garage.
Anyway, Rob, if you're still here, do lots of reading, do some math and then do what you think is right.
 

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I'm out here in rural Texas, and believe me, the education stage is nowhere near complete. You park at the diner with an old Studebaker with an EV conversion, you're going to make a lot of friends and get a lot of interest. You park your Tesla outside and you're just an asshole from the city.
I recently heard a story of some Texans, of a somewhat libertarian, conservative bent, signing up for Cybertruck EVs with their house plug-ins, and installing solar on their houses. They were so pissed off about the sad state of the utilities in Texas they wanted to be off-grid or, at least have a good back-up. Who knows what's going to motivate people.
 

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I would be willing to lay money that at least some of those DIY projects that spawned ideas and inventions were meant to go fast, handle corners, or be fun. Are we supposed to be innovating or making practical daily drivers, I'm confused.

Practical daily driver electric vehicles are already available in the form of used EVs. If an "everyday person" asked me where to look for an EV, I would probably point them in that direction. I'm not going to build a better Nissan Leaf than a Nissan Leaf, so why should I spend time, money, and effort re-creating it?
By innovation and invention in practical daily drivers I mean also, for example, a modified Leaf or Bolt with a flat bed on it for one of my farmer customers. Or, an EV converted delivery van for their produce. Or, small scale(for now) electric tractors, tillers quads, etc. The batteries in these vehicles and equipment would get heavy use in a farm situation. I for one think this is a higher priority use of the batteries than you putting them in a vehicle to "go fast, handle corners, or be fun". But that's alright, it's just me and probably most of the rest of the world that thinks this way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Can you tell us which car exactly? Really old cars have the advantage that they don't have as many vacuum-powered accessories or accessories which are driven by a belt off the engine, which can require a lot of engineering to integrate. Fewer electric motors and gizmos also simplifies things. They can also have more spacious engine bays, trunks, etc... And importantly, (in my opinion) they were very slow originally, so you don't have to spend as much to get similar performance, and people are less irritated if you're sitting at a steady 55mph on the highway.

General disadvantages: Heavy, poor aerodynamics, so you'll be spending significantly more on batteries/motor/controller to reach your goals than you would for a similarly sized small car. Also, it will probably require a huge amount of work to get the body and suspension sorted out before you even get to the EV conversion part of the program.
I haven't decided on exactly what but something like an older 4 door car or station wagon circa the 1940's. Rust has taken many of the cars on the market into yard art territory so choices aren't too vast sadly. Having all the storage space of a car back then should give me plenty of room for batteries and I hope to get around 100 miles of range. I love the look of classic cars but as you said they suffer from poor performance and also poor reliability so an ev conversion to me is a great choice for driving a classic without the damaging emissions of cars of that era. This is going to be a long term project for me as I'm currently a student so time and money are scarce for me, but in the future more modern suspension and other improvements may be on the table.

Would you recommend getting a wrecked leaf for this kind of project? The weight difference between a leaf and a car of that age has me concerned if it would have enough power.
 

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I haven't decided on exactly what but something like an older 4 door car or station wagon circa the 1940's. Rust has taken many of the cars on the market into yard art territory so choices aren't too vast sadly. Having all the storage space of a car back then should give me plenty of room for batteries and I hope to get around 100 miles of range. I love the look of classic cars but as you said they suffer from poor performance and also poor reliability so an ev conversion to me is a great choice for driving a classic without the damaging emissions of cars of that era. This is going to be a long term project for me as I'm currently a student so time and money are scarce for me, but in the future more modern suspension and other improvements may be on the table.

Would you recommend getting a wrecked leaf for this kind of project? The weight difference between a leaf and a car of that age has me concerned if it would have enough power.
The Leaf likely has more power and far more torque than anything you'll find of that vintage. The Nash 600 had 82 horsepower and weighed around 3000 lbs:


It depends on what you want it to do. If you want a slightly zippier performance than stock, the Leaf would do nicely. If you want to match modern cars for acceleration, handling, and braking you'll have quite a bit of work to do on top of the EV conversion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
The Leaf likely has more power and far more torque than anything you'll find of that vintage. The Nash 600 had 82 horsepower and weighed around 3000 lbs:


It depends on what you want it to do. If you want a slightly zippier performance than stock, the Leaf would do nicely. If you want to match modern cars for acceleration, handling, and braking you'll have quite a bit of work to do on top of the EV conversion.
Now that is my kind of car! I always thought Nash had a unique look with the front wheels being covered, but going in a direction other then straight seems like it would be difficult lol.

I'm going to start look at used Leafs to see what's available. Thanks for the input it helps a lot.
 
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