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My brother and I recently acquired a 1960 Ford Thames Freighter Van. It has been rescued from a garage in Los Angeles and may have been sitting for the past 30 years. The van is quite complete. Here’s a pic of when we first pulled it out of the garage and after a wash and new tires.

Plan A – Get it running.

Original plan was to work on it myself and spend the least amount possible to get the little 4 cylinder motor running and rebuild brakes and hydraulic systems. Parts are scarce in the US but I could probably order most of the service items from a club in the UK. After a compression test yielded only 30psi per cylinder, we needed a new plan.

Plan B – ICE motor Swap

Research, locate and swap a motor from a younger donor vehicle. Benefits of modern technology, more HP and availability of parts got me excited. Options considered were Chevy, Ford, Toyota. @kevbarlas in the UK even put a Lexus LS400 motor in his. Amazing work by that lad. (http://retrorides.proboards.com/thread/89224?page=1) Unfortunately, I’m nowhere as mechanically inclined as he, so this would have to be done by a shop. Spoke to a local shop and was informed to have at least 10-20K ready :eek:.

Plan C – EV Conversion

Here’s where I would like to solicit some advice from the community. My goal is to have a weekend fun-mobile capable of at least a 60-mile range for driving around the city and speeds of around 65mph. I would like to start off with a package that will allow for future upgrades when longer distance commutes are needed. Here’s some background.

• Your skill level with auto mechanics and fabrication

I have basic mechanic skills and tools. I’ve worked on my own cars (brake jobs, oil change etc.) One of my biggest projects was doing a 1.6L to 1.8L motor swap to my Miata. Transplant was fairly straightforward without much fabrication. I learned how to use a lathe in high school but do not have access to one. My brother has welder we can use.


• The range you are hoping to get (how many miles/charge)

For starters, approximately 60 miles range should get me around most places in the city. Would definitely love to take it out to the beaches and some local campgrounds. I’m hoping I can add additional battery packs (range extender) if I need to travel further.


• What level of performance you are hoping to get

I don’t expect a high performing van but do not want to be in the slow lane of the freeway at all times. Should be peppy enough to merge onto freeway traffic and most importantly it has to be reliable.


• How much money you are willing to put into your project

I don’t have a big budget and cash available for parts but also don’t want to spend the next 1-2 years collecting parts. I am willing make purchases on my credit card of up to 10k on parts/services.


• What parts you've already considered, if any.
I figure choosing a motor and controller will be a good start. The factory brochure states that the Kerb Weight is 2,345 lbs and Gross vehicle weight with standard 6 ply tyres is 4,315 lbs. Here’s two systems I priced out from EVWest.


• $4,588 – HPEVS AC-51 Brushless AC Motor + Curtis 1239-8501
• $4,369 – Warp9 DC motor + Zilla Micro 1K controller

I chose these motors/controllers because they seem quite popular in a lot of the builds i’ve been reading. Not sure how comparable they are to the stock motor developing 53BHP. The AC51 is rated at 88HP while the Warp9 is 32HP. Am I comparing apples to oranges to tangerines here (ICE vs AC vs DC?) The higher HP rating and regen braking makes the AC kit more attractive. Am I missing something here? Why would I choose the DC system for around the same price? I somehow got the impression that building a DC system is cheaper.

The other pieces I need to research on are:

1. Batteries
2. Charger
3. Motor to transmission Adaptor
4. Shaft coupler
5. Throttle Potentiometer
6. DC-DC Converter
7. Gauges/Instrumentation

Am I missing any main components that will surprise me down the line? Now the price is starting to add up real quick and I know the batteries are my next big ticket item. It doesn't look like I will be able to stay within the 10K budget. What other motors/controller would you recommend?

I’m open to repurposing used parts from forklifts/salvaged EVs etc if that’s what it’ll take to stay within budget.

I’m interested in hearing what route some of you EV gurus would take with this vehicle and budget. Thanks for reading any feedback will be appreciated
 

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Welcome. Nice little van
Why would I choose the DC system for around the same price?
• $4,588 – HPEVS AC-51 Brushless AC Motor + Curtis 1239-8501 = 80-90 peak hp and 100-110 lbs-ft
• $4,369 – Warp9 DC motor + Zilla Micro 1K controller = 150-200 peak hp and 220-250 lbs-ft

But, IMHO if you have 10K$ budget, stay away from new high price motor/controller combo.

About battery, you can find used chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf battery to achieve your range requirement for 4-5K$
 

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You won't make it on a 10k budget without some used stuff, but you're close.

The DC motor will give you better performance- higher torque and top speed. The AC motor will give you less maintenance and regen braking- good for a 10-15% range increase as well as lower brake wear. There's nothing to replace on an AC motor other than the bearings.

For $250 extra it's a no brainer- given your stated objectives, I'd buy the AC motor and controller. But that assumes you can come up with the couple thousand more than $10k you'll need to do this all in. Otherwise you will need a used motor and or a home built kit controller.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the response Yabert.
I'm a bit confused as to how you came up with the 150-200 peak hp and 220-250 lbs-ft torque for the Warp9?
http://www.evwest.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=8&products_id=49

Ok... I'm beginning to realize 10K is not going to be sufficient to build an EV from new/off the self products.

I just found a 24kwhr leaf battery off craigslist for $5,500 or a 48kwhr for $6,500
Where do i begin to search for motor and controllers? What should i look for?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
You won't make it on a 10k budget without some used stuff, but you're close.

The DC motor will give you better performance- higher torque and top speed. The AC motor will give you less maintenance and regen braking- good for a 10-15% range increase as well as lower brake wear. There's nothing to replace on an AC motor other than the bearings.

For $250 extra it's a no brainer- given your stated objectives, I'd buy the AC motor and controller. But that assumes you can come up with the couple thousand more than $10k you'll need to do this all in. Otherwise you will need a used motor and or a home built kit controller.
I agree. Lower maintenance, brake wear and range is more attractive to me in this build than hi performance and torque.

Let's see:
- $5,500 on used Leaf batteries
- $4,500 on motor and controller

Roughly how much more are we talking about? 2K-5K?
 

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16 Kwh Chevy Volt batteries go for $1600.00 and up, according to where you are located. ALSO, DON'T FORGET TO HAGGLE. So for $100.00-125.00 per Kwh, Volt batteries are you best buy.

Get 1, build for placing a second one later, and you still might have money left over from the battery buy, up front. They are also water coolable, depending on configuration, and, are slightly smaller in size than Leaf modules.

Check in the battery forum for Chevy Volt battery threads, to see what you get.

Check out car-part.com. They list all over the USA.
 

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I'm a bit confused as to how you came up with the 150-200 peak hp and 220-250 lbs-ft torque for the Warp9?
It rated 32 hp at @ 72 Volts And 335 Amps (2158 RPM). More volt and more Amps mean more power/torque
Many member here know that kind of motor can output serious torque and power with proper battery and controller.
To lower the cost of your build, you can probably find a used forklift motor for 200$ to 500$ and use a lower cost (Zeva MC1000C) or used controller (Zilla 1K, Soliton 1) for 1200$ to 2000$.

If no, for 10K$ or less you can probably find a wrecked Nissan Leaf and reuse all the parts from it.
A 6,6Kw charger, chademo input, high quality motor and some other stuff are nice features really hard to obtain on a regular diy e-car.
 

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16 Kwh Chevy Volt batteries go for $1600.00 and up, according to where you are located. ALSO, DON'T FORGET TO HAGGLE. So for $100.00-125.00 per Kwh, Volt batteries are you best buy.

Get 1, build for placing a second one later, and you still might have money left over from the battery buy, up front. They are also water coolable, depending on configuration, and, are slightly smaller in size than Leaf modules.

Check in the battery forum for Chevy Volt battery threads, to see what you get.

Check out car-part.com. They list all over the USA.
Thanks for the tip and link.

Yabert said:
It rated 32 hp at @ 72 Volts And 335 Amps (2158 RPM). More volt and more Amps mean more power/torque
Many member here know that kind of motor can output serious torque and power with proper battery and controller.
To lower the cost of your build, you can probably find a used forklift motor for 200$ to 500$ and use a lower cost (Zeva MC1000C) or used controller (Zilla 1K, Soliton 1) for 1200$ to 2000$.

If no, for 10K$ or less you can probably find a wrecked Nissan Leaf and reuse all the parts from it.
A 6,6Kw charger, chademo input, high quality motor and some other stuff are nice features really hard to obtain on a regular diy e-car.
Ok. that's starting to make sense. 32hp @ 72 v. If i use a 360v Leaf battery to power it, i should net aprox. 160hp.

The wrecked EV car route sounds pretty good too. I see used ones going for 10-12K. I imagine a wrecked one should fetch around half that? Would the motor be strong enough to push the van around? Assuming its a running donor car, besides motor mounts, transmission adapter and shaft coupler would i need any other high priced items to complete the swap?
 

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Fwiw my manager totaled her leaf and she salvaged it out (whole car) for 3 grand. Granted the batteries were down 2 bars whatever that means, but the car was driveable.

Good luck scrounging. The nice thing about fords is they tend to be standardized.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Fwiw my manager totaled her leaf and she salvaged it out (whole car) for 3 grand. Granted the batteries were down 2 bars whatever that means, but the car was driveable.

Good luck scrounging. The nice thing about fords is they tend to be standardized.
Thanks for the info.

I ran across this older EV on Craigslist.
https://losangeles.craigslist.org/wst/cto/5401333514.html

and this incomplete trike build ad.
https://inlandempire.craigslist.org/mcy/5389245795.html

Would any of these be a viable option? Assuming i can use and transplant all the electronic components to my van. I should still have enough for a battery upgrade and stay below my budget.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Spoke to the gent with the trike. Nice fella, knowledgeable and willing to advise even if i don't go through with the purchase.

Thinking out loud here...

If i start with this package @$3K:

-Soliton Jr motor controller + radiator
-Advanced DC 6.7 in 120 volt-500 amp motor
-China Aviation Lithium Iron Phosphate battery pack 36 cells in series for 120 volts (5kWh, 130lbs)
-Elcon 1500 watt charger

I know that i will need a bigger battery pack, so maybe i can configure this to be my 'Range extender pack' in the future.

Allocate $5K for a used Leaf/Volt battery pack and I should have $2K left in the budget for the remaining items.

I know the motor is under rated for the van (estimating ~4500lb after conversion) but i'm hoping with the 360v battery pack it will meet my initial criteria.

Any thoughts?
 

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I cant see where a used volt pack goes for more than 2500.

My ranger was at about 4700 using FLA and I used to mess with honda idiots at stoplights. Range went to heck, but for a couple of lights it was funny.
 

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I cant see why a used volt pack goes for more than 2500 from a wrecker.

My ranger was at about 4700 using FLA and I used to mess with honda idiots at stoplights. Range went to heck, but for a couple of lights it was funny.

I do have a Sol1, and it would over current limit in 3rd through 5 th.
 

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If i start with this package @$3K:

-Soliton Jr motor controller + radiator
-Advanced DC 6.7 in 120 volt-500 amp motor
-China Aviation Lithium Iron Phosphate battery pack 36 cells in series for 120 volts (5kWh, 130lbs)
-Elcon 1500 watt charger
This 6,7" motor is WAY to small for your vehicle. Just good for a kart, don't waste your time with it.
This type of DC motor can't run at high voltage (+170v), so is not as easy than: 32hp at 72v mean 160 hp at 360v.

Soliton Jr: ok it can do a good job for your conversion.
Batterie: well... used, small....
Charger: super slow charge. 8h to 20h depending of your battery pack capacity. I have one ;)

Anyway, I just start to realise how much cheaper is to do a reliable conversion there's days compared to five years ago.
Really, you can have ALL the excellent quality parts you need for a conversion when you buy a wreck Leaf for 5K$
In the past we needed to find motor, marching controller, adapter, battery, battery support, matching bms, matching charger, DC-C converter, J1772 plug, wires, connectors, fuse, accelerator pedal, capacity display and many other things.... for 15-20K$

Today, you can buy a wreck Leaf...:rolleyes:

Maybe start here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCOi19S71W4
http://www.diyelectriccar.com/forums/showthread.php/re-using-complete-leaf-drive-system-151458.html
It can seem complexe, but you should realise than starting with all those disparate parts (DC motor, Soliton controller, etc) can finish to be more complex and above all less reliable.
The hardest part for you could be to find the proper way to integrated the leaf motor and inverter in your van.

About the power capacity of the Leaf motor for your van: Leaf weight 3300 lbs and your van less.
You are in business!
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I cant see why a used volt pack goes for more than 2500 from a wrecker.

My ranger was at about 4700 using FLA and I used to mess with honda idiots at stoplights. Range went to heck, but for a couple of lights it was funny.

I do have a Sol1, and it would over current limit in 3rd through 5 th.
Thanks for the info. Good to know that batteries are more readily available and cost less these days. I'll keep this in mind when shopping.

Yabert said:
This 6,7" motor is WAY to small for your vehicle. Just good for a kart, don't waste your time with it.
This type of DC motor can't run at high voltage (+170v), so is not as easy than: 32hp at 72v mean 160 hp at 360v.
Dude, thanks for your input. Glad i checked with yall.

Yabert said:
Today, you can buy a wreck Leaf...
The hardest part for you could be to find the proper way to integrated the leaf motor and inverter in your van.
Yeah this sounds good. I found a couple on ebay that are local to me. Buy it now around 5K. I'll need to do more research on this. Thanks for the links.

Contacted another gent over the weekend. He is selling an almost complete EV. He says it'll move under its own power but batteries are dead. He was willing to part with just the electronics.

Solitron Jr. motor controller
Manzanita Micro charger
Warp9 motor

He wanted $3K. I was very tempted to strike the deal and get started on the conversion. Maybe offer him a bit more to see if i could take everything else related to the conversion.

Yabert said:
It can seem complexe, but you should realise than starting with all those disparate parts (DC motor, Soliton controller, etc) can finish to be more complex and above all less reliable.
Good point. I am a bit worried about this since this is my first conversion and trying to put parts together under a budget usually means cutting corners somewhere.
 
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