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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,
So I had the good fortune a few months ago of meeting ev legend Otmar thru our shared passion (?) of VW Vanagons. Otmar got me to thinking of converting one (or more) of my other
'works in progress' to ev propulsion. I own 'Vanomo' a DIY 'Doka' (double cab pick-up) I made out of a perfectly good vw van about ten years ago, a mk1 vw Jetta coupe, and a Suzuki Samurai.
I live on the Oregon coast where I feed my passion for riding fat tire electric bikes on the dunes, sandfields, and the single track paths connecting them. I've been doing the 'efats' for about three years now and have built three so far but those are pretty much just bolting together existing components without much fabrication work involved. Now I want to take the leap and starting with either the Suzuki or the Jetta swap in an electric motor, controller, and bunches of 18650 batteries (just kidding about the batteries!)
The argument for the Samurai conversion is pretty strong: I don't need anything with more than 60 miles range or more than 60mph, relatively light weight, enough space behind the seats for batteries?
The argument for the Jetta conversion is pretty strong. Really cool looking early 80's couple with a sizeable trunk and good sized engine bay. Would like to have greater range and more mph for occasional interstate jaunts but cost might be a limiting factor.
At any rate where should I start? Bought a book 'Build Your Own Electric Vehicle' a number of years ago but it's pretty dated (lithiums were just coming on-line when it was written) so I don't know how much good it will be beyond basic architectures.
Would love any suggestions!
Thanks in advance,
Mark
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Sweet vehicles! IMO if you build the Suzuki it would be a good runabout for town but not much range. It'd probably be excellent off-road and tons of fun, but you'd have to tow it to the trailhead. The Jetta is probably the best candidate for a roadgoing EV with maximum range potential with it's large spacious but lightweight body.
 

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The VW Transporter has a high floor over the engine, which drops down for the middle of the van. In the pickups, the bed is at that over-the-engine height, leaving a big empty space under the floor in the middle, behind the cab, which is often equipped with access doors to become a cargo space. At least one conversion has placed battery packs in that compartment. In the faux Doka, there is no compartment door (at least on the right hand side) - is there an empty space which could become a good battery compartment?

Also for the Transporter, Yabert found that a Chevrolet Bolt drive unit fit well in his Westfalia T3 with Chevy Bolt drivetrain project, an approach which leaves the entire engine compartment open for other components.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The VW Transporter has a high floor over the engine, which drops down for the middle of the van. In the pickups, the bed is at that over-the-engine height, leaving a big empty space under the floor in the middle, behind the cab, which is often equipped with access doors to become a cargo space. At least one conversion has placed battery packs in that compartment. In the faux Doka, there is no compartment door (at least on the right hand side) - is there an empty space which could become a good battery compartment?

Also for the Transporter, Yabert found that a Chevrolet Bolt drive unit fit well in his Westfalia T3 with Chevy Bolt drivetrain project, an approach which leaves the entire engine compartment open for other components.
When doing the conversion to 'Vanomo' (van no mo) I built a frame and large swinging door to securely accommodate tools for my construction business. The resulting space is pretty big and there's even more unused space underneath the rear seat.
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Sweet vehicles! IMO if you build the Suzuki it would be a good runabout for town but not much range. It'd probably be excellent off-road and tons of fun, but you'd have to tow it to the trailhead. The Jetta is probably the best candidate for a roadgoing EV with maximum range potential with it's large spacious but lightweight body.
Thinking of EV'ing the Sami first. Blew the head gasket on the tiny 1.3litre gas motor about a year ago and built a little turbo diesel to replace it. I was trying to find the time to do that install when I met Otmar who got me to thinking... "wouldn't I much rather make it an EV?" Really only ever going to use this as an around town ride and occasionally onto the nearby dunes. Wouldn't need any more power and/or range that could be had from an early model Leaf motor/battery combo. And I could learn enough from that swap to do an even better job on a subsequent Leaf swap on the Jetta (this time with a more powerful later model Leaf motor/battery combo.
 

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@22after there is another Sami that has been converted with a Leaf motor on here, the owner recently posted a video driving it around the block. That's my plan also! I am using the Resolve-EV controller, super inexpensive but has tons of features I can't wait to get started.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
At the risk of sounding like a complete moron (something I've been accused of before) are Leaf batteries completely modular? I.e. can I open the battery enclosure on a salvaged Leaf and take individual battery 'packs' and place them here and there in the recipient vehicle as long as I maintain cable connections to the BMS? or does each 'pack' contain its own BMS and modules connect to a main cable that then connects directly to the controller?
 

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At the risk of sounding like a complete moron (something I've been accused of before) are Leaf batteries completely modular? I.e. can I open the battery enclosure on a salvaged Leaf and take individual battery 'packs' and place them here and there in the recipient vehicle as long as I maintain cable connections to the BMS? or does each 'pack' contain its own BMS and modules connect to a main cable that then connects directly to the controller?
Yes, and the term that you need - rather than "packs" is "modules". There are 48 modules in an original-style (24 kWh, 30 kWh, or 40 kWh) Leaf pack (a pack is the whole set in a box), but in all but the early ones they are adhesively bonded in pairs, meaning that they come apart into 24 double modules. The power connections for all of the modules are connected in series; the BMS taps 9three connections per module) are wired to a BMS separate from the modules.

The 62 kWh pack of the Leaf+ has different modules; instead of 48 identical modules, it has 16 modules of three different sizes.

The battery modules never connect directly to a controller in a production EV: there are contactors (relays) and a fuse in the battery pack, and often a high voltage distribution terminal box (because high voltage needs to go to the charger, fast charging port, DC-to-DC converter, and air conditioner... not just the motor controller).
 

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You can use a controller like the Resolve-EV or Thunderstruck to control the LEAF components including the BMS or you can dismantle the battery pack and use your own configuration and custom BMS.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you guys soooooooo much. Been watching youtube vids for the past hour on battery modules...motor configuration...and generally how they all work together in the Leaf. Tons of stuff on Youtube. Another couple of dumb newbie questions:
- since my first swap will prolly go into my '87 Suzuki Samurai could I increase the number of modules (with custom made 'containers') at some point to increase
the KWh to give more range? Just curious.
- I'm leaning towards going the 'copart' route to buy a 'salvage title' leaf locally. Is there any way to check the health of the battery if the vehicle doesn't power up? And if it does 'power up' can the dash indication of 8/12 or 7/12 be trusted? And at what point do the people doing swaps say...'Yeah, that one just isn't worth it?'

here are links on the three Leaf Youtube vids I've watched so far:
 

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I would get only a 2013 or newer. The early cars had worse batteries, and even the 13+ aren't great. 15+ are better still. You can test health by using LeafSpy app and a Bluetooth OBD2 module. Personally I got a 10/12 bar 13 Leaf I'm kinda wishing I held out for for capacity and newer LEAF. Either way it's still great value and the motor, DC DC, charger etc is all still very usable or sellable.
 

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Combining the ideas of later battery expansion and the desirability of newer Leaf battery modules, I suppose one could do a conversion using components (including battery) from a cheap early Leaf (even 24 kWh) then upgrade battery capacity later to 40 kW by swapping newer modules in place of the originals.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Combining the ideas of later battery expansion and the desirability of newer Leaf battery modules, I suppose one could do a conversion using components (including battery) from a cheap early Leaf (even 24 kWh) then upgrade battery capacity later to 40 kW by swapping newer modules in place of the originals.
Could somebody upgrade battery capacity by adding more modules to the existing modules? I'm assuming it would require a new 'programmable' controller but if space was available and it were possible would that be an easier upgrade? I warned you - I'm gonna ask stupid newbie questions.
 

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Could somebody upgrade battery capacity by adding more modules to the existing modules? I'm assuming it would require a new 'programmable' controller but if space was available and it were possible would that be an easier upgrade? I warned you - I'm gonna ask stupid newbie questions.
Yes, you can double-up the cells so to speak, or even triple, quadruple etc. I am not sure if you could double up the cells in a LEAF pack and still use the stock BMS, though I think it should work.

There are three very important things to think about:

1. Lithium batteries need to be highly respected and handled with care. They are a huge fire risk when out of their normal operating parameters.

2. When paralleling cells in your battery, you need to match the pairs. They need to be as close as possible in voltage, total capacity, and internal resistance. If one cell has significantly different internal resistance than the other it will cause one cell to overwork, or could cause a cell to discharge into it's partner cell, or they could become unbalanced and go out of their normal voltage range causing damage to the cell or worse a fire.

3. All cells in the pack need to have their voltage balanced as close as possible to eachother before connecting to the BMS.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
@22after there is another Sami that has been converted with a Leaf motor on here, the owner recently posted a video driving it around the block. That's my plan also! I am using the Resolve-EV controller, super inexpensive but has tons of features I can't wait to get started.
Any idea on how I might find that builder or his video?
 
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