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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey, friends! My buddy and I recently decided to try an electric conversion.

We found a working base-model 1994 Honda Acty in a used car lot, and it seemed to be a good fit. Manual transmission, manual steering, manual windows. Light, small frame. Plenty of room for batteries in the pickup bed. Rear wheel drive, right under the batteries.

Neither of us has much experience working with cars, but we used to kit-bash old computer parts together to get them to run operating systems they were never meant to run. We once turned a 1991 Mac LC into a web server. We were looking for a more 21st century engineering challenge, and settled on this. I am quite sure we will screw something up horribly, but that's part of the fun!

For me, the goal is not to make the World's Greatest EV, but to make an EV that starts and stops and does not catch fire.

As far as components we have so far - just the Acty. Everything in it seems to work great. We are researching parts, but thought it was smart to post here before we spent more money.

So, if this were your conversion project - where would you begin? :D

Please don't judge us for being beginners! We're committed to doing the research, and we don't mind if we fall short. We figure the worst thing that can happen is we ruin a 1994 Honda Acty.

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Plenty of room for batteries in the pickup bed.
It would be nice if the battery would fit under the bed rather than in it. The mid-engine configuration isn't bad for that: if you put the motor where the engine was it takes some of the space in the middle that should be battery, but at least it doesn't have a shaft running down the middle like a front-end one truck would.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
It would be nice if the battery would fit under the bed rather than in it.
Yeah, I saw a YouTube video where a guy did this. It makes sense if we're trying to keep it from getting top-heavy. But it does seem more involved, since we'd probably have to make our own battery boxes for mounting them that way.

What budget batteries and motor would you recommend for a tiny car like this? (I'm pretty sure it runs off a motorcycle engine right now.)
 

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Hey, friends! My buddy and I recently decided to try an electric conversion.

We found a working base-model 1994 Honda Acty in a used car lot, and it seemed to be a good fit. Manual transmission, manual steering, manual windows. Light, small frame. Plenty of room for batteries in the pickup bed. Rear wheel drive, right under the batteries.

Neither of us has much experience working with cars, but we used to kit-bash old computer parts together to get them to run operating systems they were never meant to run. We once turned a 1991 Mac LC into a web server. We were looking for a more 21st century engineering challenge, and settled on this. I am quite sure we will screw something up horribly, but that's part of the fun!

For me, the goal is not to make the World's Greatest EV, but to make an EV that starts and stops and does not catch fire.

As far as components we have so far - just the Acty. Everything in it seems to work great. We are researching parts, but thought it was smart to post here before we spent more money.

So, if this were your conversion project - where would you begin? :D

Please don't judge us for being beginners! We're committed to doing the research, and we don't mind if we fall short. We figure the worst thing that can happen is we ruin a 1994 Honda Acty.

View attachment 122481
I would say the cheapest would be to use a wreck Nissan Leaf. However, assuming you want to keep the manual transmission, there is a far amount of effort involved in matching a Leaf motor to a different manual transmission, and a learning curve on how to control the Leaf systems. On the other hand, depending on the dimensions, you might be able to make the Acty a front-wheel drive using the Leaf front-end, depending on how much you are willing to cut and weld to the Acty. Looks like a fun project for sure.
 

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Yeah, I saw a YouTube video where a guy did this. It makes sense if we're trying to keep it from getting top-heavy. But it does seem more involved, since we'd probably have to make our own battery boxes for mounting them that way.
It's not just to avoid being top-heavy (although that's a good point); it is a truck so it would be good to keep it functional for carrying cargo. If you put the battery in the box (or on the bed, as it's really a flatbed with folding sides), you need to build a structural floor over it to carry cargo on top if you still want to carry anything.

You might consider something like the current S-10 project (1996 chevy s-10 conversion (part 2)) in which the battery is in a simple box on top of the frame, with a flat load deck over the battery, not using the stock box. If you can mount the box low enough, you can incorporate wheel wells into the box.

It might make sense to start with the battery on the original bed, planning to move it underneath when everything works (and leaving space to do that).
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Yeah, that's sort of what we're thinking right now! Get the electronics working while the batteries are in the bed, and then decide if we should move them below the bed. We don't really need to haul anything, so losing the use of the bed would be acceptable.

Thanks for the link! Will check that project out. :D
 

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You just don't think you have a need to haul anything because your friends don't know you have a pickup truck yet ;)

I think your plan is a good one, get it running first then start the permanent modifications.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
We've started making videos about this project. We're still really early in the planning phase, but we're having a lot of fun. Big news is we've bought a motor and tested it, and are picking up batteries we bought from a warehouse in a couple weeks.

Thought folks might want an update! 🚙⚡

 

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This is a very cool project. Looking forward to seeing it come together. I'm in the same boat as far as not really knowing what I'm doing but willing to learn.
 

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I watched the video... I hope you realize that Kei car and truck engines are not actually motorcycle engines, although they are within the displacement range of motorcycle engines.
 

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I apparently missed this when it was originally posted...
I would say the cheapest would be to use a wreck Nissan Leaf. However, assuming you want to keep the manual transmission, there is a far amount of effort involved in matching a Leaf motor to a different manual transmission, and a learning curve on how to control the Leaf systems. On the other hand, depending on the dimensions, you might be able to make the Acty a front-wheel drive using the Leaf front-end, depending on how much you are willing to cut and weld to the Acty.
Although the Leaf drive unit (motor and transaxle) is in the front of the Leaf, there's no need to use it in the front. The Acty has the engine just ahead of the axle which it drives (the rear), just as the Leaf motor is just ahead of the axle which it drives (the front). Since the Acty is rear-wheel-drive, and doesn't use a live beam axle, it would probably be easier to use a Leaf unit in the rear than in the front.

Since this came up a motor has apparently been chosen, but I haven't seen any indication of what it is.

Edit: apparently a new thread has been started, for no apparent reason, so this one is now pointless.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Edit: We deleted the other thread. Didn't realize that posting here would sort it toward the top in the forum.

The motor is a used GE forklift motor that previously was used in a Toyota conversion. We have a video where we describe and test it.
 

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The other thread was created just to share the videos. This thread is the one we're using to seek advice and input. If the video thread is in the wrong subforum, apologies, but we weren't aware there was a better place to put it.
If the videos are about your build, why not just put links to them in this thread? Otherwise, you'll have two threads, and people trying to help with any of your questions in this thread will be frustrated by only part of the information being available here.

The motor is a used GE forklift motor that previously was used in a Toyota conversion. We have a video where we describe and test it.
I saw that, which is why I made my comment. There's no point in running a thread "to seek advice and input" then sharing information such as your motor choice only in a different thread. If you have questions later about the motor, in which thread would you ask them? If it's in this thread, how would we know what you had chosen or done, since that's all in a video only mentioned in the other thread? One thread works.

I'll spare you my usual rant about videos instead of useful communication. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
The video playlist is also posted in this thread. We'll be updating this thread as we create more videos. All of the information on our project can be found in this thread.

If you have further thoughts on our use of this forum, please take it to DM, so this thread can focus on our conversion project.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Hey folks!

As we progress with our conversion (full update coming soon), we're having a discussion about heating the cabin. Considering that heating the cabin is usually the biggest energy hog in an EV, we're thinking about how - or even whether - to do it. We are in Pittsburgh, which can get quite cold.

We do need a defogger so it's street legal, but we're split on whether to include any heating mechanisms for driver comfort. I know some EVs get around this by heating the seats, but I'm curious if we have the skills to realistically achieve that without setting something on fire.

If we included no heating mechanisms, it would basically just be a non-winter vehicle, which is OK with us. But I think we could still extend its months of operations a bit by insulating the cabin. Right now, there is basically no insulation: just two layers of metal between you and the cold.

My collaborators think insulating the cabin wouldn't achieve much, since most of it is windows (which we're obviously not spraying insulation on). But I think that adding a layer to the roof and back of the cab, plus a layer inside the door panel, plus a layer under the dash, would be worth the slight weight added.

The cabin is very small, which leads me to believe that, with more insulation, body heat might make a meaningful contribution to keeping it warm.

Thoughts on insulation?
 

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In my old 1996 OEM Renault Clio Electrique it was a gasoline heater. Very efficient way of using the liquid energy. It was perfect during cold Swedish winters. It consumed something like 0.3 l/h at full power and did not use any of the battery’s energy (same range as in summer).
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
As promised, here is a text update on our progress!
  • We bought a used GE forklift motor. The motor has a SEPEX field and is capable of regen. I am not sure of the exact model number. It is capable of taking up to 120 vdc. We tested it, and it still works. Next step here is to disassemble and clean it. For those who like videos, we made a video about the motor here.
  • We bought a small quantity of 100 Ah 3.2vdc LiFePo4 batteries so that we can build a very basic circuit and start running tests. Wired in series, the batteries will total about 64vdc, which is about half what we expect to use, and we also roughly guess we will want 2 banks of them in parallel for 200 Ah. So, this is probably about a quarter of our final total of batteries. The batteries have a low charge and discharge rate: just 100 amps. But considering I can push the Acty uphill with one arm while there’s a passenger inside it, I think it will probably be fine. The calculation I did suggested that, even with the low discharge rate, 120vdc of these batteries would give us around 35 horsepower - almost exactly what the current engine offers. Anyway, if they don’t work for this, we’ll just sell them. Video about the batteries here.
  • We’ve built and installed an AM radio transmitter so that you can get phone audio over the car’s speaker. We’ve also installed a second speaker. (The car only came with one!) Videos about the transmitter are here: 1 2 3
  • We bought LED lights to replace the current lights in the car, and have been replacing them as the shipments arrive.
  • We’ve ordered spray insulation, which we’ll use to help the cab retain heat better in winters. Video about energy efficiency here.
  • We ordered this controller, which should also be capable of regen. I hope it works with our other systems. We don’t know much about how these things work. I’ll be coming back here for advice once it arrives. (If it doesn’t play nice with our batteries and motor, I’ll just hock it on eBay again.)
  • We ordered a cheap potentiometer pedal that I believe should work with the controller.
Next up, we need a battery management system, and we’re not sure where to begin on that. Any suggestions?
 

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Is that controller designed for Sepex motors? Sepex motors need a special controller that can adjust the field strength. Or I guess you can also run a fixed voltage field with a reduction in performance.

For BMS check out Daly. They have some good quality BMS with lots of features and nearly any voltage or cell combination you can think of.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
The controller's page said it could do regen. Not 100% sure I trust it, but it's easy enough to resell if it won't work. We definitely want to use the SEPEX field.

Thanks for the BMS suggestion!
 
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