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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello, I am so happy to have found this group. I have been blundering around trying to find out what I could about turning an Austin Healey Sprite into an EV.
I am just finishing restoring a petrol powered version of the Bugeye Sprite. When I was gathering parts I came across a great deal for a bunch of parts but the deal was I had to buy everything including three more bugeyes. I sold one that had been converted to a race car and was full of rust.
Of the other three I have. One is nearing completion. One is a perfect shell and bodywork that will I probably do as a fully original restoration. The other is in reasonable condition and I am planning to covert this to Electric and keep. I am sure I will have a lot of questions along the way but at this stage I am looking at what others have done and trying to get a handle on the technology.
Cheers
Pete
 

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Welcome to DIY Electric Car. :)

I like this idea of building variations on the same model of car - you have the efficiency of knowledge shared between them, and you can use each of the components you have in the most appropriate build.

I don't know if anyone has described a Sprite conversion in this forum, but there has been at least one Midget, so there will be some examples of possible conversion choices.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi Brian,
Thanks for your welcome.

I have seen a few conversions or sprites and midgets and they have been very successful.

An outfit in Connecticut is offering to do the conversion but at a cost of $35k and you supply the car.
I read up on what they did and it was very encouraging (other than the $35k price tag).

The monocoque design is very strong. They found once they had taken out the engine and fuel tank etc and added the motor and batteries etc it only added 75lb to the total weight so there was no need to alter the suspension. There was room fore and aft for the batteries so the weight was easy to balance.

I am very excited about he prospect of this conversion. The more I read about EVs the more I like them.
I like the idea of converting a petrol vehicle because while there are new EV's available most of the cars on the planet are petrol powered and if we are serious about dealing with climate changing emissions then conversion is going to be key as most people don't have the money for a brand new car.

I would think there is a large market for an electric conversion kit that puts the electric motor in a casing that can be used to replace the BMC A series engines. These were long lived and used in a myriad of different cars.
 

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I would think there is a large market for an electric conversion kit that puts the electric motor in a casing that can be used to replace the BMC A series engines. These were long lived and used in a myriad of different cars.
There's no need for a special case - all you need is an motor-to-transmission adapter plate (which is specific to the bellhousing bolt pattern for the engine) and a motor mount that works with the vehicle.
 

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A Midget/Sprite is on my list. My advice is to plan everything out, then install the motor and major components, and buy batteries last. Quality is improving and cost is going down swiftly.

If a Nissan Leaf motor fits, that's what I'd go with. It's one of the cheapest motors you can buy, and it has more torque than the transmission can handle (torque can be easily dialed down). Cheapest way into anything is to buy a wrecked Leaf and use as much as you can.

A lot will come down to your range goals.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the advice. That all sounds very reasonable and good way to go. You make a very good point about the batteries. I have a car to convert as soon as I finish and sell the petrol powered version I am currently working on. Once I get going it should not take too long to have the project car in decent shape.

I am not looking to create a high performance rocket - rather a fun car for doing round town errands which is the majority of my driving anyway. If I want to go long distance I rent something comfortable.
 

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Glad I found this conversation. I have a '59 (was my high school car a ways back) that I have been thinking seriously about converting. I found the same great group in Connecticut that quoted me a similar price. I've been stalling for about a year hoping they would release a kit, but don't see any indication that it is going to happen. I have removed the CE and transmission, and now am pondering what updates should be made to the bugeye before doing the conversion such as upgrading the brakes or the rear axle. For the reasons you mention, I think the frame should be okay. I have a short commute so neither long-range nor performance are large requirements. Mainly, I am concerned about safety. I am hoping NZR1 might have some suggestions since he has been working on a few of these recently, but happy to hear from anyone. Last time I tore this one apart was to replace a clutch over 20 years ago, so my knowledge is rusty and dated.
 

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The problem with a Sprite/Midget - or my Marlin - is space for the batteries
Its relatively easy to get enough batteries for about 50 miles - then it gets more difficult

I already have a short range electric car - so I'm going for a dino burner in my Marlin

If the short range is not a problem then I would suggest simply throwing the gearbox over a hedge and fitting a 9 inch forklift motor in its place
That then gives you the whole engine bay for batteries
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Glad I found this conversation. I have a '59 (was my high school car a ways back) that I have been thinking seriously about converting. I found the same great group in Connecticut that quoted me a similar price. I've been stalling for about a year hoping they would release a kit, but don't see any indication that it is going to happen. I have removed the CE and transmission, and now am pondering what updates should be made to the bugeye before doing the conversion such as upgrading the brakes or the rear axle. For the reasons you mention, I think the frame should be okay. I have a short commute so neither long-range nor performance are large requirements. Mainly, I am concerned about safety. I am hoping NZR1 might have some suggestions since he has been working on a few of these recently, but happy to hear from anyone. Last time I tore this one apart was to replace a clutch over 20 years ago, so my knowledge is rusty and dated.
You raise an excellent question and one I have been contemplating. Having a sprite to take out for a fun run occasionally is a different risk to driving one, if not daily then at least several times a week.
My first concern is the steering column. I am look at replacing the original solid column with a collapsable one from a later model. The Sprite I am currently restoring will have the original column but I a going to test fit a collapsable column to see if the idea will work.
Even a low speed front on crash can send solid columns right into the drivers chest usually with fatal results.
Secondly I am thinking about the doors. My inclination is to weld up a frame to go inside the doors reinforcing them so that impact from a side on collision will be spread to the pillars and sills.
On my current restoration I am converting the driver's seat to electric adjustment fore and aft. This is not a gimmick. I have two fused vertebrae and while I am comfortable once in the Sprite I find getting in and out difficult at times. This modification will also more firmly fix the driver's seat to the floor pan.
Other things are pretty obvious. Decent seat belt, brakes in good condition, discs on the front and possibly the rear though there is some debate about the wisdom of replacing the rear drum brakes.
That is where I have to so far I will keep you posted on what else I come across as I progress.
 

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Wow! I'm so happy I found this forum! I can't believe that someone, anyone really, is doing exactly what I am!

I just purchased a 59 Sprite this weekend that was converted to EV in 2006. It was also restored at the time and appears to have seen very little road time. I've wanted this car since college and the fact that it is EV is just icing on the cake! It's only going to be used in town so range isn't super important. The original conversion used lead acid batteries so the range was only about 25 miles which is too low I think. The batteries are dead and I'm trying to puzzle out exactly what I have to work with. I have a bunch of pics of the motor other electronic boxes under the hood. Was hoping someone on this forum would have an idea how to proceed.

Instead of posting my questions here I'll start a new thread since it's already been converted.

I wish you luck on your conversion, but I think it's not going to be cheap! I have all of the paperwork from the company that did the conversion & restoration and the total price was $37k. I got mine for $10k so hoping I don't have to put another $27k into it. ;)

I also have a manual from 1967 which has the Drivers Handbook, Workshop Manual, and Special Tuning Manual. It's on a spiral binding so I'm thinking of cutting that off and scanning in all 243 pages.

BTW NZR1, I don't have any fused vertebrae and still have trouble getting in to the car with the hard top on. So you're not alone. ;)

I am interested in your collapsible column idea, please update when you have news.

Aloha,
Mark
 

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The main safety feature that you need is decent seat belts - a collapsible steering column would be a good idea - but is about 100 times less important
The cars that NEED the collapsible column are the ones with a single piece column and a steering box at the very front of the suspension - like the old Corvair
The Sprite has a rack mounted very solidly about two feet back from the front of the car
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
The main safety feature that you need is decent seat belts - a collapsible steering column would be a good idea - but is about 100 times less important
The cars that NEED the collapsible column are the ones with a single piece column and a steering box at the very front of the suspension - like the old Corvair
The Sprite has a rack mounted very solidly about two feet back from the front of the car
Hi Duncan, Good to hear from a fellow enthusiast from down under. I am a kiwi living in the U.S.
I agree decent seat belts are the first and most important safety feature. My concern about he steering column is that there are so many SUVs around these days that ride much higher than the sprite.
A front end collision with one could see the SUV riding over the top of the front channels and then hitting the steering column.
I must admit I need to research this more but I still remember the documentary "7/10ths of a second to die" from my youth that focused on the dangers of solid steering columns causing massive chest trauma.
That being said I am not an expert on car safety. My early background (when the world was young) was electro-mechanical engineering - a much simpler time when relays, solenoids, simple motors and switches were the dominant technology.
So converting the driver's seat to electric adjustment is a piece of cake other aspects I need to research more carefully - the penalty for day dreaming all those years ago during the lectures I was not interested in. I also changed careers just after qualifying so I am having to trawl back through the mists of time to things I thought I would never need to know again.
Cheers
Pete
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Wow! I'm so happy I found this forum! I can't believe that someone, anyone really, is doing exactly what I am!

I just purchased a 59 Sprite this weekend that was converted to EV in 2006. It was also restored at the time and appears to have seen very little road time. I've wanted this car since college and the fact that it is EV is just icing on the cake! It's only going to be used in town so range isn't super important. The original conversion used lead acid batteries so the range was only about 25 miles which is too low I think. The batteries are dead and I'm trying to puzzle out exactly what I have to work with. I have a bunch of pics of the motor other electronic boxes under the hood. Was hoping someone on this forum would have an idea how to proceed.

Instead of posting my questions here I'll start a new thread since it's already been converted.

I wish you luck on your conversion, but I think it's not going to be cheap! I have all of the paperwork from the company that did the conversion & restoration and the total price was $37k. I got mine for $10k so hoping I don't have to put another $27k into it. ;)

I also have a manual from 1967 which has the Drivers Handbook, Workshop Manual, and Special Tuning Manual. It's on a spiral binding so I'm thinking of cutting that off and scanning in all 243 pages.

BTW NZR1, I don't have any fused vertebrae and still have trouble getting in to the car with the hard top on. So you're not alone. ;)

I am interested in your collapsible column idea, please update when you have news.

Aloha,
Mark
Hi Mark,
Great to hear from someone who is doing the same thing and already has one converted though I think the lead acid batteries and the forklift motor may have to go.
If you want to send me the pics you have then I would be happy to have a look at them and see what I can remember from my training, oh so many years ago, in electro-mechanical engineering - think of the old style phone exchanges with relays, uniselectors, motors, solenoids and not a microchip in site - I switched careers soon after qualifying but some knowledge still sloshes round the brain. Fortunately the other skills I was taught such as metal work, machining and welding have stayed with me.
Cheers
Pete
 

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Hey Pete,

Well, at least you have some formal electrical training, all of my background is in computers so not super helpful here. I dabble with microcontrollers but nothing that draws more than 5v. ;)

I started a new thread on my project with a bunch of pics and will keep it updated with my progress:

Aloha,
Mark
 

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Thanks for all the feedback. The vehicle I have has a roll bar but will need seat belt upgrades and disk breaks upfront. Our friends in Connecticut appear (from the pics of the e-bugey: Electric Bugeye – Page 4 top pic) to have an upgrade that uses a single cylinder since we no longer need a clutch line. Noot sure if they will sell that as an upgrade package. Will definitely follow the other thread to see what you decide about the steering column. I hadn't thought about that.

My other concern was upgrading the rear axle. I don't need the car to fly, but I can see how the acceleration torques could make a racing axle a required option. I am curious if your project car has the original differential/axle and springs or upgrades? Certainly possible given what they spent on it.

Cheers, Mitch

PS Mech Eng who does SFW for robotics. Never been to NZ, but played rugby for 20 years. Jealous of the full stadiums right now.

PSS On the collapsible column: this discussion is not an exact match, but informative. Collapsible Steering Column : The Sprite Forum : Austin-Healey Experience Car Forum : The Austin-Healey Experience
 

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You figure the stock Sprite put out maybe 72 ft-lb of torque through a 3.20 first gear, so you're looking at a minimum torque-handling capability of 230 ft-lb for the diff. These aren't fast cars by any means, but if you have first-gear acceleration all the way to top speed instead of 25mph...that is pretty quick. I'd probably just limit torque and drive the car some before committing to a new rear differential.

You may want better brakes for a faster car, but keep in mind that regen can slow the car down quite a bit as well for "free". You might be good with what's there.
 
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