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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone and welcome to my first EV conversion project. I love cars. Driving and modifying them and everything that goes with them. I like racing and autocross, taking relaxing drives on twisty mountain roads, and driving on gnarly 4x4 trails.

My conversion is a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser FZJ80.





For my first project I have chosen a large, heavy, inefficient, 4WD SUV. Makes sense right?! To me it does and this is my rationale:
-There is a lot of space to mount things.
-There is not just space for lots of batteries, but the GVWR of the vehicle allows for 1400lbs of cargo in the original configuration.
-The original 6-cylinder engine is unreliable (for a Toyota) and underpowered, why keep it?
-The chassis and axles of the Toyota Land Cruiser are legendary due to its incredible off-road prowess and durability.
-EVs work just as well at sea level as they do at 13,000ft on a mountain.
-Land Cruiser values, especially 80 series, have been going up and up and up so now is my last chance to own one and an EV conversion justifies it to my wife!

-Most importantly, as a dedicated off-road rig this vehicle will be driven almost exclusively at very slow speed less than 20mph and very short distances. The normal 4x4 trails I do are 5-10 miles long, a really long trail is 20 miles. The appeal of silent running, no fumes to smell, and smooth torque delivery appeal to me in a 4x4 vehicle. With Rivian, Hummer EV, F-150 EV, Alpha EV Truck, etc I think the writing is on the wall about 4x4 EVs and how effective they can be. Better jump on the bandwagon!

Your skill level with auto mechanics and fabrication
I have had 4 or 5 dedicated "project cars" in the past with various stages of upgrades, modifications, and custom work. I have rebuilt engines from a bare block, assembled cylinder heads, rebuilt suspension, brakes, exhaust work, etc. Rebuilt engines stock and also rebuilt them with aftermarket parts for big HP. I swapped the engine and transmission in my daily driver and drive it all of the time. All of my vehicles run on E85 fuel (cuts your carbon emissions by about 40% believe it or not and it's cheaper and makes more power). I can weld, cut, grind, paint, and turn a wrench. I currently own 9 or 10 cars (I think I am forgetting one).

I have a lifetime of experience with RC vehicles and I build and fly UAVs. Soldering, wiring, designing circuits, and crunching amperage and voltage specs is what I do nearly every day. I'm pretty much 100% self-taught or learned from mentors, I have no degrees or certifications except from the FAA so please be kind if I am doing something wrong :whistle:

The range you are hoping to get (how many miles/charge)
20-30 miles range with my initial build would be a good starting goal or about 2 mi/kwh.

What level of performance you are hoping to get
Enough to drive around town and drive on local 4x4 roads and trails and eventually go to Moab for the real terrain. I will tow it if needed.

How much money you are willing to put into your project
Whatever it takes but likely will cost $10k or so before it drives under it's own power.

What parts you've already considered, if any.
I have already acquired a 2013 Nissan LEAF SV which I will use as a donor for my motor, inverter, DC-DC, chargers, and battery pack.


Short term I just want to get it running. Long term I have lots of ideas. Assuming I have a fully functioning fully electric 4x4 truck there is a lot of stuff that I could do with it. I am now researching DIY wind turbines and river water turbines and of course have been messing with solar for years. All of which I eventually want to harness and do a fully-electric "Overland" trip through the wilderness of Colorado and Utah and maybe beyond. Of course that is probably years in the making, but it is my long term goal.

My own personal EV history: I have owned a 2013 Nissan LEAF SV similar to the salvaged car I bought. I owned it for a year and then sold it as the battery degradation started to really take hold. I really enjoyed the EV lifestyle on those perfect weather days when I could drive everywhere I wanted. In the middle of winter when the heater would barely keep the windshield clear on those dark nights trying to coast down hills in order to make it home....didn't enjoy that so much. During my EV ownership I got to understand what it is like to live with an EV, charge at public places, get ICEd at the charger, plug in at home every day, and check a location's elevation before driving there.

While owning the LEAF I read about a guy in Arizona who set the record for the longest distance driven in a 24kwh LEAF and it was over 180 miles! Yes that's right, a 24kwh LEAF drove 186 miles on a single charge. The kicker? He did so at a maximum of 24mph and drove for nearly 8 hours! Link: 100 Mile Club, 200 km, 300 km, 200 Mile Club (24kWh LEAF) - My Nissan Leaf Forum

When I was a kid I loved RC trucks. I loved the fast ones that could hit the big jumps. Unfortunately, the little NiMh batteries wouldn't run very long at all, 10 minutes or less. Then I got into RC rock crawlers. Little trucks that were geared really low and built to drive very slowly up rocks and other challenging obstacles. Well, guess what? That same crappy NiMh battery that only lasted 10 minutes in my fast truck, actually lasted well over an hour in my rock crawler! Guess what I learned that day.

The biggest enemy we have as EVers is speed i.e. wind resistance. There is no wind resistance to speak of at less than 20mph. So if my EVJ80 Land Cruiser can go 20-30 miles around town, maybe it can do 30-40 miles offroading?
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Before cutting things I'm getting my ducks in a row. Learned that it's so much easier and enjoyable to start a vehicle project when you have enough parts to keep you busy. If you are always waiting on orders then things drag out forever.

First I acquired my Land Cruiser. I got it for $1000. It had no Colorado title when I bought it which is why it was so cheap. Luckily the Cruiser is now registered in my name!

I also purchased my donor LEAF from Copart. It's a great place to buy salvaged vehicles and cars like LEAFs are still very cheap on there but you gotta account for about $1000 in fees on top of the winning bid. Still can get a good deal. I got this LEAF for $3400 out the door.



The car was advertised as an S, but I could tell from the wheels and headlights it was an SV.

6.6kw and Chademo chargers, score!



Both chargers still work! The car even runs and drives!



I checked out the battery: 17kwh. Not great but it'll work for now.




Thank you to the great state of Vermont for allowing 25 year old cars to be registered with no title!



I thought it would be interesting to weigh the vehicle now before I start any work and I can weigh it as I go and see what the final result will be. When I tell people about my project it seems like the #1 question is "how much heavier will it be?" My bet is that it will be lighter apples-to-apples with a single LEAF pack. The cast iron engine weighs almost 600lbs and the transmission an additional 250lbs. Not to mention the exhaust and gas tank and all other assorted ICE stuff.

The weight of the vehicle is 5080lbs. Note this scale is certified accurate to every 10 lbs. It was weighed at 5080lbs which means my truck is between 5080 and 5089.9lbs.

 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks Swing!

Happy day today! Super fast shipping from Resolve-EV can't wait to plug this thing in. Resolve-EV controller + Nissan LEAF do you actually need anything else to build an EV conversion?

122626
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Shake down run today. It goes through mud just fine! I wanted to get a baseline before switching to EV.







After that a few buddies and I went back to the shop and dissected the LEAF. It came apart way easier than anticipated. Just get in there and start pulling it apart!





 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Big day today! The old iron beast has been removed! Holy hell it put up a fight too. I had to drop the t-case and will have to fab some new mounts to hold it. There is so much old oil and junk stuck on the motor and the chassis it is ridiculous. Will be saving the planet just getting this leaking motor off the road!













I managed to save the AC without it leaking out or smashing up the condenser too badly. I will try to build an accessory plate to run a serpentine belt for the AC and PS off an auxiliary motor. I'm going to need hydraulic PS so either I'll do it this way or I'll get a dedicated electric PS pump.







I will repurpose some of the radiators for the reduction gearbox and motor/inverter, though the full size rad is probably overkill.





Now starts the hard part!
 

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Nice. You could also run a dedicated motor for the AC (and PS). Either directly coupled to the compressor or on a belt driving both AC and PS. Nice for when the car is not driving.
 

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Amazing project. I have a '91 Land Cruiser which is destined for the same conversion when time and finances permit. I'll be following your project quite closely!

Out of curiosity, where do you intend to mount the leaf battery pack? Are you going to maintain it in one pack, or distribute the modules to maximize space utilization? While my plans are only napkin based at this point, I was looking at splitting the batteries within the engine bay to better utilize space.

Additionally I'm looking at the feasibility of using the underslung spare tire space to mount a 'detachable' auxiliary battery. The aux pack will be mounted in a mobile enclosure than can be dragged like a suitcase into buildings for charging (think like a larger pelican case). I figure that I can drive to work on the aux pack, plug it in at the office, and then drive home on aux pack. I'm not 100% on the electrical bus interface, mounting or attach/detach procedures, but the volume of space would have sufficient energy density to do short distance travel.

Where did you find an interface adaptor for the leaf motor to the LC drive train? I'm assuming you're keeping the leaf transmission and not doing the standard EV motor direct to LC transmission conversion.

Finally, are you looking at any range extender modifications? Again napkin designs, I want to see if I can finagle enough space in the engine bay for a small generator for those SHTF moments.

Anyhow, I'm in love with your project and I look forward to watching it unfold!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Nice. You could also run a dedicated motor for the AC (and PS). Either directly coupled to the compressor or on a belt driving both AC and PS. Nice for when the car is not driving.
Yeah that is my plan. Unfortunately the stock PS pump on this truck is built into the oil pump and not really feasible to run independently. I'll either adapt a belt run PS pump from another vehicle or get an electric pump. I like the idea of having it on a separate auxiliary motor that I can control with a simple knob and turn off when not needed. Also should be able to run the AC full blast while charging.

@x78163 I am going to use one of these EM57 motor couplers and my EM57 adapter plate I had machined. Then I will have a custom driveshaft built and tap and thread it onto the coupler on one end and use a Chevy 27-spline shaft on the output. The driveshaft will input into a Blackbox-C "doubler" that I will run in Low range 100% of the time (2.7:1 reduction, ~75mph top speed). I will add an electric pump and cooling radiator to manage heat in the planetary gearbox. I already purchased the Blackbox and it should be here by the end of the month. I will then have to build custom mounts for the transfer case and motor. Then I can also shift the stock transfer case into Low range for offroad driving and have an additional 2.4:1 reduction for ultimate offroad rockcrawling :D

Next thing I will do is get the truck up on the lift and remove the fuel tank exhaust etc.

I will package the LEAF battery under the hood. I will build a battery box to hold it. There is ample room for all 24kwh and then some. I think a welded steel frame with aluminum panels riveted and sealant to keep it watertight. I will then focus on refining the rest of the vehicle. After awhile I want to add more and more LEAF batteries in the places you mentioned and other places too but that will be pretty complicated and hard to do.
 

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I didn't realize until seeing this transfer case that the J80 rear axle has an offset pinion. That means that the propeller shaft is well off-centre between the frame rails, so if an expansion battery pack were placed under the floor, there would be room on side of the shaft for a wider pack than would fit with a centred shaft. It appears that extended-capacity fuel tanks take advantage of this in the J80.
 

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Additionally I'm looking at the feasibility of using the underslung spare tire space to mount a 'detachable' auxiliary battery. The aux pack will be mounted in a mobile enclosure than can be dragged like a suitcase into buildings for charging (think like a larger pelican case). I figure that I can drive to work on the aux pack, plug it in at the office, and then drive home on aux pack. I'm not 100% on the electrical bus interface, mounting or attach/detach procedures, but the volume of space would have sufficient energy density to do short distance travel.
That's an interesting scheme, but it would be a heavy thing to drag inside, and you would need to either build a battery charger into the auxiliary pack, or leave one in the office.

For this to make sense, you would ideally want to discharge the auxiliary pack first while driving, so you were not dragging a partially-charged battery in to be topped off. This brings up the potentially complex issue of managing two batteries of different capacities in parallel in the vehicle.
 

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I was skimming too fast and missed the part about the BlackBox gearbox, so I posted (and have now removed) a question about transmission plans.
 

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That's an interesting scheme, but it would be a heavy thing to drag inside, and you would need to either build a battery charger into the auxiliary pack, or leave one in the office.

For this to make sense, you would ideally want to discharge the auxiliary pack first while driving, so you were not dragging a partially-charged battery in to be topped off. This brings up the potentially complex issue of managing two batteries of different capacities in parallel in the vehicle.
100% agree. Definitely heavy, but the modularity and ability to drag would help my range anxiety fears.

Theoretically, yes, the module needs to be self contained. As far as the bus integration in the vehicle, I'd look at something similar to an aviation fuel selector switch-> main tank or aux tank. But clearly battery packs instead. So that would be the workaround to prevent back charging one pack from the other in parallel.

Regarding the total discharge prior to charging, I'm not sure. I know the chemistry is largely dependent on ideal DoD for battery longevity. I do remember the ye olde NiCad batteries where memory was an issue. I think one of the larger safety issues is selecting a chemistry and design that doesn't make me an arsonist.
 

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@x78163 I am going to use one of these EM57 motor couplers and my EM57 adapter plate I had machined. Then I will have a custom driveshaft built and tap and thread it onto the coupler on one end and use a Chevy 27-spline shaft on the output. The driveshaft will input into a Blackbox-C "doubler" that I will run in Low range 100% of the time (2.7:1 reduction, ~75mph top speed). I will add an electric pump and cooling radiator to manage heat in the planetary gearbox. I already purchased the Blackbox and it should be here by the end of the month. I will then have to build custom mounts for the transfer case and motor. Then I can also shift the stock transfer case into Low range for offroad driving and have an additional 2.4:1 reduction for ultimate offroad rockcrawling :D
That's crazy! This forum rocks. I can see the cooling definitely being an issue with the gearbox, that is a lot of energy transmission with a small surface area.

I will package the LEAF battery under the hood. I will build a battery box to hold it. There is ample room for all 24kwh and then some. I think a welded steel frame with aluminum panels riveted and sealant to keep it watertight. I will then focus on refining the rest of the vehicle. After awhile I want to add more and more LEAF batteries in the places you mentioned and other places too but that will be pretty complicated and hard to do.
I didn't know if you'd have crack the leaf battery module case or if it could be dropped in as is with custom bracketing.

The big limitations I've seen with distributed batteries is charging cable looms and discharge cable resistance. You'd have to have some beefy copper to keep those remote batteries from turning the discharge cables into cabin heaters lol.
 

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Regarding the total discharge prior to charging, I'm not sure. I know the chemistry is largely dependent on ideal DoD for battery longevity. I do remember the ye olde NiCad batteries where memory was an issue. I think one of the larger safety issues is selecting a chemistry and design that doesn't make me an arsonist.
Yes, that's all valid (and hilarious :)) I meant to discharge the auxiliary pack to the normal service limit (which might be as high as 20% of nominal capacity), to make hauling it in for charging worthwhile. Of course, this is a small pack so when running on it in a one-pack-at-a-time scheme allowable discharge power would lower than with the larger main pack.
 

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The driveshaft will input into a Blackbox-C "doubler" that I will run in Low range 100% of the time (2.7:1 reduction, ~75mph top speed).
What is the input shaft speed limit for the BlackBox gearbox? It is designed to take the output of a transmission, which will never be more than the speed of the engine... which is typically much lower than the maximum speed of the Leaf motor. Is the ~75 mph top speed based on the J80's tire size (275/70R16, 665 rev/mile) and axle gearing (4.10:1), multiplication by the 2.7:1 reduction ratio, and the allowed input speed?
75 mph * 665 rev/mile / 60 min/hr * 4.10 * 2.7 = 9200 RPM​
That's workable for the Leaf motor, but sounds high for the gearbox.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
@x78163 yes I have opened the leaf battery. There's no real way to install it as-is, but luckily the stock wiring has a lot of slack and I can probably maintain most of it. Also the low current wires can be extended with no penalty. I am thinking about trying to run a water cooling loop through the cells, not only for cooling the pack but to use the coolant for cabin heat.



@brian_ it has no rating for input rpm. I asked the manufacturer and gave them my idea and they strongly recommended against it and gave no guarantees. So what. I didn't expect them to either. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Like I have said many times the top speed is theoretical only and I plan to drive most of the time 40mph or less. If it fails I know what needs upgraded. If it fails that means I drove a homebuilt EV of my own creation. Progress either way. I will monitor gearbox temperature and hey it may even be another good source of cabin heat. It may not be a long-term solution but it will give me a starting point and LC parts are easy to re-sell.

I got the engine bay all cleaned up time to start de-ICEing the rest.









Huge amount of space for all the hardware:



 
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