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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I bought one of these buses from an online government auction website. The school district have listed three of them for sale. Sacramento Area Schools Type A Buses

I need help deciding what to do with it. It doesn't have a regular J1772, CCS or CHAdeMO connector. I talked to the sales guy at Motiv, and he didn't give me specific info about the connector. Just that the bus has to be charged with the ClipperCreek charger that comes with the sale, and the charger requires 3 phase electricity. I don't know if it's possible to install J1772, CCS or CHAdeMO connectors. I think it should be possible because Motiv's website listed the specs of their latest buses with J1772 and CCS. I tried to get Motiv to give me a quote, but it feels like they don't want to deal with me.

I'm planning to convert the bus into an RV and travel across the country. So installing the charger at home is not a possibility, since I plan to sell my house next summer and move into the bus full time. The range of these buses are around 45 - 75 miles. That's not going to work for traveling. I also cannot drive it home, this bus is currently non-operable. According to the school district, they listed them for sale because the batteries are not charging. These buses are only 2 years old. The bus I bought only had 3,452 miles on it. According to the sales guy, brand new bus cost $300,000. The shell alone cost $70,000 and there are 4 batteries that are $15,000 each. I bought the bus for about $10,000, in case anyone is curious. 2017 Ford Econoline E450 - govdeals.com


Bus specs (from what I can gather from the sales guy)
  • 45 - 75 miles range
  • 106 kWh battery capacity
  • Uses SoNick batteries (I thought they use BMW Lithium-ion, but that's only for newer buses: School Bus)


These are my options so far:
1) Find someone to install more batteries to add more range. and install J1772, CCS or CHAdeMO connectors.
2) Tow it to my mom's house and build a backyard tiny house and just use the batteries for energy storage
3) Sell it for parts. Keep one battery and add it to my current camper van.
4) Convert it back to gas or diesel engine. Can't find any mechanic that would consider doing this. According to Motiv, when they converted it to electric, they've remove the engine, gas tank, transmission, and exhaust system.
5) Buy a regular Ford E450 cutaway truck with gas or diesel engine and have the bus body mounted to the new truck. I feel like this is the best option if I want a reliable vehicle for traveling.

Option 4 and 5 seems like a fail for an EV enthusiast. I bought the electric bus because I wanted zero emission.

I have a reservation for a Cybertruck with the tri motor. I was planning to use it to haul a camper trailer or put a camper top on it. But I think the bus will work much better as an RV if I could add more range. So the Cybertruck is about $70,000. If I throw $70,000 at the bus, is option 1 doable?

If you've read this far, thank you so much! Would like to hear everyone's opinion.
 

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I think you will need to build from scratch the battery and charging side.

I doubt that can cost any less than $20K to do it right.

And even doing it right, I doubt you will end up with enough range for cross-country tripping stopping at public charging stations, without carrying a big FF powered generator.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I think you will need to build from scratch the battery and charging side.

I doubt that can cost any less than $20K to do it right.

And even doing it right, I doubt you will end up with enough range for cross-country tripping stopping at public charging stations, without carrying a big FF powered generator.
Let's say I build the battery and charging from scratch, would I be able to charge the existing batteries with the new batteries through a DC to DC charger or something?
 

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I thought you made it clear the included batteries were past EoL!

even if only "almost scrap" the time money and energy to try to reverse engineer those opaque systems

would be better invested in a new setup that you understand completely because you built it, or at least particpated, learning from paid helpers

and thus know how to care for properly

recycle responsibly
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I thought you made it clear the included batteries were past EoL!

even if only "almost scrap" the time money and energy to try to reverse engineer those opaque systems

would be better invested in a new setup that you understand completely because you built it, or at least particpated, learning from paid helpers

and thus know how to care for properly

recycle responsibly
I'm actually not sure what's going on with the batteries. I haven't picked up the bus yet. I'm still trying to decide where to tow it to. If I go with option 4 or 5, will have to find a mechanic or body shop to tow it to.

According to the supervisor at the school district, there's a 12volt starter battery that he thinks is not working. The drivetrain batteries are 48volt. I'm not sure if those still work. I hope the 48v batteries still work.

I can't imagine the school paid $300,000 for each of these buses and not get any support from the manufacturer.
 

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I am sure they did, and the reason they're sold at scrap value is they determined it was not worth proceeding even with that support.

The primary motivation being "zero emissions" is fine for "green PR", experimental playthings for entities with bottomless budgets.

Such vehicle I'm sure can become practical if not cost effective in a "last mile" short-trip neighborhood scenario.

Cross country #vanlife better off just buying a FF bus from the start.
 

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I bought one of these buses from an online government auction website. The school district have listed three of them for sale. Sacramento Area Schools Type A Buses

I need help deciding what to do with it. It doesn't have a regular J1772, CCS or CHAdeMO connector. I talked to the sales guy at Motiv, and he didn't give me specific info about the connector. Just that the bus has to be charged with the ClipperCreek charger that comes with the sale, and the charger requires 3 phase electricity. I don't know if it's possible to install J1772, CCS or CHAdeMO connectors. I think it should be possible because Motiv's website listed the specs of their latest buses with J1772 and CCS. I tried to get Motiv to give me a quote, but it feels like they don't want to deal with me.

I'm planning to convert the bus into an RV and travel across the country. So installing the charger at home is not a possibility, since I plan to sell my house next summer and move into the bus full time. The range of these buses are around 45 - 75 miles. That's not going to work for traveling. I also cannot drive it home, this bus is currently non-operable. According to the school district, they listed them for sale because the batteries are not charging. These buses are only 2 years old. The bus I bought only had 3,452 miles on it. According to the sales guy, brand new bus cost $300,000. The shell alone cost $70,000 and there are 4 batteries that are $15,000 each. I bought the bus for about $10,000, in case anyone is curious. 2017 Ford Econoline E450 - govdeals.com


Bus specs (from what I can gather from the sales guy)
  • 45 - 75 miles range
  • 106 kWh battery capacity
  • Uses SoNick batteries (I thought they use BMW Lithium-ion, but that's only for newer buses: School Bus)


These are my options so far:
1) Find someone to install more batteries to add more range. and install J1772, CCS or CHAdeMO connectors.
2) Tow it to my mom's house and build a backyard tiny house and just use the batteries for energy storage
3) Sell it for parts. Keep one battery and add it to my current camper van.
4) Convert it back to gas or diesel engine. Can't find any mechanic that would consider doing this. According to Motiv, when they converted it to electric, they've remove the engine, gas tank, transmission, and exhaust system.
5) Buy a regular Ford E450 cutaway truck with gas or diesel engine and have the bus body mounted to the new truck. I feel like this is the best option if I want a reliable vehicle for traveling.

Option 4 and 5 seems like a fail for an EV enthusiast. I bought the electric bus because I wanted zero emission.

I have a reservation for a Cybertruck with the tri motor. I was planning to use it to haul a camper trailer or put a camper top on it. But I think the bus will work much better as an RV if I could add more range. So the Cybertruck is about $70,000. If I throw $70,000 at the bus, is option 1 doable?

If you've read this far, thank you so much! Would like to hear everyone's opinion.
How much of the work are you willing/capable of doing yourself? If it were me, I'd try putting a model 3 pack in your bus/rv along with its charging parts. If you're not doing it yourself, I'd try to talk with someone like 'Rich Rebuilds' and see what they would quote you. I suspect it can be done, but will take some time to find the people with the right knowledge.
 

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Nice find!

john61ct pointed exactly at the right explanation why a 300k vehicle is now sold for 10k. Green projects are often living in a dimension where money is a relative thing.

1) What about actually paying Motive to repair the vehicule to a roadworthy state.
2) Then, with a working vehicle, it will be easy to understand configuration and basic inner works and change that 3-phase onboard charger for a more common 1-phase one (that will support regular J1772 charging).

The fact is that step "1)" requires the inner knowledge of the manufacturer themselves. While step "2)" is what most of the guys here are doing as a hobby.

I worked on many "heavy-ish" EV like this one (from pickup truck conversions to electric 40ft city buses) and, depending on Motiv philosophy, there is a possibility that this battery will be in the range of 700-900V instead of 350-425 like our more common EV cars. This would really limit the DIY capabilities of that vehicle.

(I forgot step 3: get back your deposit on that Cybertruck and use your money for a good purpose 🤭)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks everyone for your input. Really appreciate it!
According to the sales guy at Motiv, the bus is out of warranty. It's why the school is not trying to get it fixed.

1) What about actually paying Motiv to repair the vehicle to a roadworthy state.
I have been trying to get a quote on how much they will charge me just to do a check up and to install J1772 and CCS, since their newer buses have those. They haven't got back to me on that.

The fact is that step "1)" requires the inner knowledge of the manufacturer themselves.
I've also been trying to get them to send me the full specs. The only thing I got out of the back and forth email was that it uses 48v SoNick batteries. The other info I kinda piece together from their website and watching their YouTube videos.

depending on Motiv philosophy, there is a possibility that this battery will be in the range of 700-900V instead of 350-425 like our more common EV cars. This would really limit the DIY capabilities of that vehicle.
Their newer models of the buses use BMW i3 batteries.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
How much of the work are you willing/capable of doing yourself? If it were me, I'd try putting a model 3 pack in your bus/rv along with its charging parts. If you're not doing it yourself, I'd try to talk with someone like 'Rich Rebuilds' and see what they would quote you. I suspect it can be done, but will take some time to find the people with the right knowledge.
Thanks! I will check it out. I am willing to do it myself, not sure of my capability yet. The only electrical projects I've worked on are changing out light fixtures in my house and replacing a car stereo.
 

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I doubt Motiv will be willing to help, even paid.

They certainly have no reason to do so for free

so much liability involved!

For OP too, even a so called professional could easily get killed.
 

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I've also been trying to get them to send me the full specs. The only thing I got out of the back and forth email was that it uses 48v SoNick batteries. The other info I kinda piece together from their website and watching their YouTube videos.


Their newer models of the buses use BMW i3 batteries.
SoNick? Do you mean Sodium Nickel Chloride, aka Molten Salt Batteries? Haha, if that is the case, I want to see pictures! Reading about them on wikipedia they sound like they are going to be the absolute worst possible battery for a long range RV project. The "electrolyte" will freeze into solid metal at 315 degrees F, and then need 12 hours to reheat and charge! It might explain why they are selling them at scrap prices, though.

At least you wont electrocute youself when you remove those batteries! Although at 48 volts, that would be sort of hard anyway. I am guessing that the system voltage also explains why you are not getting much help from the supplier. To switch to a newer battery would also need a complete overhaul of the drive system. Probably cheaper at that point to shell out another 300k for a new bus.

Surprisingly, those batteries are about on par with LiFePo in terms of wh/kg, so adding range is going to cut into the cargo capacity. You should probably budget 20-40k for a new bank that gets you about the same range, and as much again for each additional 50 miles or so (up to whatever your max cargo limit is).
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
SoNick? Do you mean Sodium Nickel Chloride, aka Molten Salt Batteries? Haha, if that is the case, I want to see pictures!
Yes, that's the one.

I'm beginning to think I should contact the other bidders who were bidding against me and try to sell it to them. The sales guy at Motiv said he has their contact info. They are a bus resale company. They are probably more equipped to deal with this.
 

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Easiest thing to do is charge it from a NEMA 6-50 via the 3-phase charger. eBay is chock full of "spindle drives"....these make 3 phase from single phase and a 10-20kW unit should do nicely since your vehicle is usually stationary and it's not horrific to stay in an RV park to charge it. You can also use a "rotary converter" but those are too heavy to lug around.

An additional option imo is to go hybrid. Small 150hp diesel running a 3 phase generator to charge the pack. You can undersize the engine because you can suck power from the batteries, which you charge using RV park or home power.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Although at 48 volts, that would be sort of hard anyway. I am guessing that the system voltage also explains why you are not getting much help from the supplier.
Actually, I don't think they mentioned 48v. They just said SoNick. I think I typed 48v because I was googling SoNick batteries and most of the results I found were 48v.
 

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I would definitely investigate the cells yourself to determine if they're ruined.

It might be something as simple as they got discharged and abandoned, and then the software won't attempt to recharge them because they're too low.

Or maybe there's 1 or 2 bad cells and it goes into safety mode and refuses to charge.

I'd bet almost all of the cells are good and you got a hell of a bargain on an EV.

...

That said, EVs excel at people travelling short amount of miles every single day, I.E. Commuter boxes. Engines excel at people travelling long distances occasionally. You have the latter use case, an EV isn't a great choice.

I'd say install an engine or a genny trailer, but then at that point, why do you need it to be EV at all?

There have been many attempts at an EV RV, 100% of them have failed as far as I know, except for one family who drives 40mph and only goes like 40 miles per day and spent so much on their rig they could be taking taxis from city to city and never run out of money.
 

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I would definitely investigate the cells yourself to determine if they're ruined.
Haha, how would you propose he do that? Put them in the oven on BROIL? Their operating temperature is like 500+ degrees! I am guessing the reason the bus needed 3 phase power was to provide enough juice to run the 4 giant pizza ovens needed to melt about a ton of salt.

I think trying to get out from under this thing is going to be a good call - Its certainly not sounding like a good place to start your DIY adventure. If you really want an RV, gas or diesel is just going to make a lot more sense. I really would love to see someone make that thing run, but this is a triple black diamond slope, friend, and it sounds like you have not even signed up for your first skiing lesson yet.
 
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