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just bought a 1981 SANFU electric van

936 Views 6 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  djbills
Hi everyone, i just aquired a Sanfu electric van from 1981.

I only found very limited Information about it online,
just this article on barnfinds:

EXCLUSIVE: Rare 1981 SanFu Electric

it says something about 17 Batteries and only 24 cars made, in Taiwan,
and it seems to based on an early Subaru Sambar.

My car was bought by my cities technical university in 1981 and has done 800km since then.
it has all the documents, does drive with 6x12v lead batteries in it. mine doesnt seem to have the original battery tray in it,
it looks like someone has built a new one for more regular shaped lead acid batteries at some point, and i think it was last run with 8x12V.

What confuses me is that the motor says 90v on its plaque, but 17x (presumambly)6V batteries would be a 102v system.
i would like to build a LiFePo4 Batterypack for it but dont know about the Voltage, i dont wanna fry the motor controller, which seems to be working. (i just did a first testdrive today, using 6x 12V car starter batteries in variing stages of their service life,
and it only did walking speed. so i reckon the voltage is too low)

here are some pictures:








and a video:



So anyways, why this post?

I would really like to keep this funky piece of history alive and also bring it back on the road,
therefor i am looking for:

.) any Information regarding these Sanfu Vans, like operating Voltage for example.

.)Any tips for sourcing brake parts, steering parts, suspension parts for the subaru sambar third generation (1973–1982) van this is based on


thanks in advance,
greetings,
Alex
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Super interesting project.

You're probably not going to find any information on a 40 year old Taiwanese van that only ever had 24 built, not on an English forum anyway.

I hope you keep documenting and sharing here though.

Good news is that it's almost certainly a DC motor, and, the controller is almost certainly replaceable with almost any modern equivalent. The motor won't be that sensitive to a particular voltage, the controller will be, but, throwing it away and buying a different one is an option. You presumably have a DC-DC converter of sorts in there, or maybe a spun alternator? That might be sensitive to input voltage too.

Otherwise, just replace it with whatever you want.

I can't read the Taiwanese text on the motor plate, so, no guesses from me as to what it says.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
yeah, i know, the information about the car bit was a long shot, but i wanted to try anyways :)

the barnfind article mentions 17 batteries in the original configuration, assuming that those were 6v that would makeit a 102V system originally.
i thought about checking the original onboard charger´s output voltage for confirmation of that suspicion, based on only that article i linked in the original post.

if it turns out to be indeed a 102V system, then a 32s lifepo4 batterypack would be spot on, and i would leave the original motor controller in there, as long as it keeps working.


thanks for the participation, i will keep this thread updated! (but dont expect much progress over winter, gotta finish another project to gain neccessary space and sell some bikes to gain neccessary budget :))
 

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I take it you are in Vienna (from the Wien plate on the other van)... My wife is from Graz and I lived there for 9 years... She has a few contacts in the area that might be able to help you. Are you familiar with Project Ecarus (Project ECARUS )? Let me know via PM if you want a introduction or anything. Cool project!
 

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That's essentially identical to the Jet Industries Electravan, of which about 200 some (of the 600 model - we call it the 600 because it's a Sabaru 600 van as the chassis) were estimated to be produced in the early 80's. We estimate about 30 are still on the road. I have 1 and am rebuilding another.

The more prominent version of the Sanfu van was the propane model, I think. I actually didn't realize they also produced an electric one. Sounds like it was almost only a prototype, but looking at it, I'm definitely getting flashbacks to the original components on my Electravan.

You should sign up and join the email list at texas christian university here - LISTSERV 16.0 - EV600-L List at LISTSERV.TCU.EDU ...most of us are on it and sometimes swap ideas for replacement parts etc. Mostly all of us have updated our vans to more modern components, since the original 80's stuff is pretty prehistoric at this point. The motors, however, generally work fine! Doesn't take much really to upgrade them, but then again I'm not sure how plentiful the 90's parts like Curtis controllers and the like are in your area. A new charger, a more modern DC/DC converter, and a couple of decent contactors, maybe rewiring the low voltage wiring + fuse block (and maybe thinking about running the high voltage wires at least through some conduit underneath there) and you're in business! Not that bad really. You can definitely spend a lot if you want to, but you could also probably try to source some used parts and maybe just get it running and on the road for a little local get around for fun, and not break the bank. Think about good batteries eventually though, once you decide you like it. I remember when mine had the lead acid golf batteries - they really make it sluggish with braking, and are hard to run in the winter. Lithium made it a much more valid vehicle as opposed to a toy. Mine (for what it's worth) is 144v lithium, with a Raptor 600 controller. Really has a nice feel vs what it had in it before.

You'll find a bunch of owners who list specs and updates on evalbum - EVAlbum: Search Results
That should give you some ideas! I will admit I don't care for how they did your battery box and the weird recessed rack, but when you see photos of how Jet did it and kind of turned it into a weird back seat that sat a few inches up above the rest of the "bed" in the back, you'll see why sanfu did it that way, they probably just wanted the batteries to sit flush. Your motor looks like a GE, it might just be badged for Taiwan.

The brakes will give you headaches, trying to find replacement parts outside of japan is difficult but not impossible. We have found brake shoes and the like from stores that sell generic parts like Napa Auto parts - they might ship if you don't have one near you and you can mine the list archives for part numbers, or if you need something specific I could probably look it up and post it here. There is a service manual for the Electravan that you should probably get a copy of - it's posted in the archives as a pdf and I bet it would do you some good.

There is one owner who did an extremely well documented 12" wheel swap and disc brake conversion - if I recall it's honda brakes up front (had to respline) and 80s subaru justy brakes in the rear. Complicated, but a much better more modern braking system once you're done! And you get to ditch those silly 10" wheels. I am fed up with my brakes and all the corrosion, going to attempt that coversion soon once I source everything, wish me luck!

Oh - one thing I should mention - we all BABY our vans in reverse gear. The subaru 600 has a design flaw where the reverse gear is known to strip out, and that's under "normal" conditions. I had a friend help me by designing an electric reverse, where you use a switching contactor to reverse the motor - so there is a path to a functional reverse even if it goes out. But just know about that - if your mechanical reverse still works, be gentle.
 

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That's essentially identical to the Jet Industries Electravan, of which about 200 some (of the 600 model) were estimated to be produced in the early 80's. We estimate about 30 are still on the road. I have 1 and am rebuilding another. The more prominent version of the Sanfu van was the propane model, I think. I actually didn't realize they also produced an electric one.
You should sign up and join the email list at texas christian university here - LISTSERV 16.0 - EV600-L List at LISTSERV.TCU.EDU ...most of us are on it and sometimes swap ideas for replacement parts etc. Most all of use have updated our vans to more modern components. Mine is 144v lithium, with a Raptor 600 controller. You'll find a bunch of specs and updates listed on evalbum.
I haven’t posted here for years. I have a dc motor from one of the Jet Subaru conversions. It’s a 9” series wound GE motor. It’s rated at 100 volts, but I have no idea what the pack voltage was on the original conversion. I didn’t even know what what the van looked like. I bought it out of the Seattle area about 10 years ago. Good luck with your restoration. The roller looks pretty good.
 

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The original Electravan was 102v. 17 6v golf cart batteries.
The 9” GE and Prestolite motors have a wider range they can accept - I think from 72-120 is fair game and what’s officially listed, but I’d have to look it up. I run mine at 144. Gets a little hot but then again mine is the 7” motor. I had the 9” in there previously and I don’t remember it running quite as hot. There is another reworked van up in Ridgefield that is 192v, and it also runs ok. So quite a range is possible as long as you’re staying vaguely within the “current” limit and watching temps
 
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