Projects

The heart of improving fuel economy on this web site is PROJECTS!

Individuals work on vehicles to make them better! Take a look through any of the projects posted here. Leave a comment. Let us know what you think.

Or, contact us, and get your project added!

Citicar

Ben’s Electric Motorcycle

Electric Geo Metro

Tom’s EV Dodge Neon

{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ryan May March 13, 2010 at 10:04 am

I really wish I would have pulled my head out of my arse and bought a Kaneka panel when you guys did. $90 is much better than the $150 I will have to spend now :( And I am in wisconsin.

Cheers
Ryan

2 robert January 7, 2011 at 1:19 am

1) how many HP is a forklift motor
2) what about bypassing transmition? Is there a good way to have 2 Smaller motors direct drive the front or rear wheels?
3) I have a car that when I replace it, Id like to try it on. A 2 door accent.

3 admin January 7, 2011 at 8:38 am

Forklift motors come in different horsepower ratings, but most of them are pretty beefy. By overvolting them, you can further increase the horsepower.

You could bypass a transmission, but then you get into building something fancy and custom between the motor and the wheels, and you still need gear reduction. If you use two motors, you need two motor controllers. The TROPICA was rear-wheel drive with one motor on each the rear wheels.

Good luck on your project Robert!

4 Michael January 9, 2011 at 11:08 am

What is the top speed of your fork lift motor?
Can you run on the autoroute or do you have to stay on the back roads?
Third don’t you get some kind of exhaust or something from your in car propane generator ?

5 admin January 9, 2011 at 12:13 pm

The speed of the motor depends on the system voltage. With 72V, it will go 45 MPH – the speed limit of the road outside my house. It’s all 25 mph roads in town, only 2 miles away. On 144V, I have gotten the car up to 73 MPG, which is illegally fast on our interstate highway.

The propane generator has an exhaust pipe that exits the bottom of the car, with a muffler on it.

6 Mike D January 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm

First of all, congrats on the win.
Did you ever do the project of putting a Merc diesel engine into small pick-up? I have a pristine 300 SD turbo diesel and tranny and was looking forward to the lesson.
Cheers,
Mike

7 admin January 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm

The diesel engine is sitting in my garage right now. That has, unfortunately, been my “back-burner” project. I still plan on doing it, it’s just a matter of time, money, and talent…
The 300SD turbo-diesel would be a GREAT engine to throw in a little truck. One of the reasons I am going with the engine from the 240D (besides it being affordable, and me not being able to find one from a 300SD…) is that it is the same physical length as the GM 2.2l 4-cylinder already in the truck.

Check back in the spring for further truck updates….

8 Johann January 20, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Ben –
After all your hard work, how much difficulty did you encounter with the WI Motor Vehicle Dep’t. in getting the car licensed ? Any requirement for smog certification (since it has a small-displacement ICE generator)? Also, how did you found a “sympathetic” insurance carrier ?

Thanks, Johann

9 Linda Durbin June 6, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Bought your metro conversion video. Great job. Wondering what differences if I buy on old VW ? I will have many other questions along the way. I am hunting down a forklift motor 1st. Then I will go on from there.

10 admin June 6, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Old VWs are great! They have been just about the most modded car in American history. The main differences are that it’s rear-wheel drive, and the motor is mounted longitudinally. That’s actually an advantage. It means you can use a really big motor. There’s plenty of room back there for just about any configuration of electric motor you want. My friend Paul has a VW he converted to electric. You can see it at: http://www.evalbum.com/3725 or take a look at his open source controller information at: http://www.paulandsabrinasevstuff.com/evmotorcontrollers.html

11 Bob July 18, 2011 at 10:28 am

Does anybody know where can I get instructions to convert my forklift motor to 144 volts?

I read about moving the brushes but I am not sure how to. So I will appreciate any help.

Thank
Newbie to the ev world

Bob

12 Ben N July 18, 2011 at 11:29 am

Hey Bob,

I also have found it very difficult to really nail down any details on exactly how to determine exactly how to mod a motor for 144V use. I do know a guy who works in the test lab at a carbon brush manufacturer. Even asking him directly, the best I really got was “Well, it really depends on a number of factors, speed, voltage, etc, etc.”.
I know that Netgain simply advances the brushes 15 degrees. Basically, remove the bolts that hold in the commutator end of the motor, and rotate the whole end 15 degrees INTO the direction of the motor rotation. Mark the new spots on the commutator end, then drill and tap the new holes and put everything back together with the CE bolts through the new holes.

That’s about the best info I have gotten so far. Right now, I have been running a 48V Nissan forklift motor in my Electro-Metro at 108V. I haven’t had any issues with it at all, but I mostly use my car at lower speeds in town. If I upgrade to 144V, I plan to change the brush timing, and take photos and video of the process and share my results.

13 Ken August 22, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Ben,

For my first project, don’t laugh, I would like to convert an old riding lawn mower. I am willing to purchase your DVD if you think this will assist me. I have zero knowledge of electrical and respect it immensely. I need maybe 4000 rpms to drive cutting deck and tranny. Would I need a motor as large as forklift motor, or could I use something smaller? I guess that I would have room to house 4 or 5 12 volt batteries. Thanks for you’re reply. Ken in Richfield Wi.

14 Ben N August 22, 2011 at 8:36 pm

A riding lawn mower is a GREAT first EV project!
The wiring for a mower is pretty simple. All of the same CONCEPTS of an electric car also apply to a rider. You would easily be able to use forklift parts for the mower. Mowers typically run 36 or 48 volts, the same as an electric golf cart or forklift. Also, you more that likely would NOT need a PWM motor controller, instead, just run the electric motor in place of the gas engine and use the clutch and gearing that the motor already has to control the speed. A small forklift motor would work fine. Etek and similar pancake permanent motors are also popular for mower conversions.
My friend Tim, who is a moderator at EcoRenovator built his own electric rider mower conversion. He documented it pretty well too. You can see that at: http://ecorenovator.org/introducing-ecorider-riding-mower-electric-conversion-project/

My lawn mower is a GE Electrak. It’s a factory-built electric riding lawn mower from the 1970′s. They are starting to get hard to find though. I think a modern conversion to electric is a great way to go!

-Ben

15 Allan Smith August 29, 2011 at 8:45 am

Ben,
I have been fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it) that an old boyfriend of my daughter has left a 1978 BMW 320i coupe in our garage (its mine now). It has the factory 4 speed. I was wondering if this would be a nice car to convert, and which electric motor would be a good choice. Thank You,

Allan Smith

16 admin August 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Hi Allan.
I am personally not familiar with the car, but it seems to me that BMWs have a reputation of good design and construction. Older cars (before computers ran everything!) tend to be a little better for conversions in that you don’t have to “trick” any onboard displays. Fuel gauge and other instrumentation can usually be modified easier as well. What I usually recommend for anyone asking “will this car work?” is to search for that same make and model on the EV Album. I saw two of the 320s on there. Take a look to see what those owners used for motors, batteries, and time and cost associated with the conversion.
http://www.evalbum.com/type/BMW/32

17 Pablo Arias March 20, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Hi,
I´m starting a nice EV conversion on my motorcycle, and I was wondering if have you ever tried to plug a dynamo on the front wheel, and that way at the same time you´re running around, you get a little charge-up to the batteries and so more distance range.

Thanks for any advice.
Pablo

18 admin March 21, 2012 at 9:11 am
19 Peterson March 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Ben I have a question, I came across this website that I am a fan of….http://opensourceecology.org/

In it they were wanting to do a open source electric motor and I came across nickel iron batteries….

Nickel Iron batteries seem very durable would they not be better option than lead acid?

http://www.beutilityfree.com/pdf_files/NiFeFlyer.pdf

20 admin March 25, 2012 at 9:46 am

Some friends and I visited the Open Source Ecology project a while back. We went down there both to tour and find out more about it, and to physically help out. We were laying up earthen bricks made on location with their brick-making machine.

I shot some video on it, which you can see at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNONgKlB0jo

I don’t personally have any experience with Nickle-Iron batteries, but they appear to have some advantages. While at the Open Source Ecology, I did see an old beat up VW bug parked in the bushes, missing the engine, and saw that the tip of the driven transmission shaft was cut-off, which is very typical for a basic clutchless electric car conversion.

When we did the tour, Marcin did mention how part of the overall concept includes minimizing toxic metals, and a lot of other great permaculture thoughts. He had some really cool ideas too about bio-mass powered steam engines.

21 Steve March 30, 2012 at 7:41 pm

I had the idea of building a Solar car and was not sure where even to start. I searched the internet and found a few different sites. You videos and comments were helpful.

So I ordered your DVD, so hopefully I can avoid some of the pitfalls you must have come across. So step one build an electric car. Step two apply Solar panels to some of the surfaces and see how much charge I can get from driving around on a normal windy and rainy day.

22 Samuel Maybury June 7, 2012 at 9:32 am

Hey, I’m doing a motorcycle conversion of my own and I was rather impressed by your work, its really cool. Have you ever tried using a hub motor though? They’re really efficient for light(er) vehicles.

23 Ben N June 7, 2012 at 10:22 am

Yes! I used a front hub motor on an electric bicycle kit, which is what eventually lead me to build an electric motorcycle. There are now starting to be available hub motors that are designed for motorcycles. The other great thing about a hub motor for a motorcycle is that it would free up space inside the frame for additional batteries and other components.

24 Samuel Maybury June 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Yeah, thats why I’m using one. I found one for about $230 that does for motorcycles and I’m using the Alltrax AXE-7234 and Magura throttle and I was really reassured that you had used the same products as now I know they’re trustworthy. On the battery front I’ve found and plan to purchase two 48V 20Ah LiPo batteries at $415 each and I’ll attach them in parallel to give me 48V 40Ah . Its a bit on the expensive side but lithium is worth its (lack of) weight. I’m also glad that the hub motor means that I can get rid of the chain drive completely. I’m in Britain and the new regs that are coming in on 19th Jan next year state that the motorcycles that i am qualified to ride are allowed to have an unladen mass of 350Kg not including batteries so thats an awful lot of leeway. I’m just putting together a big spec sheet before I buy anything to make sure that its the right purchase. I’m also trying to find a cheap bike that doesn’t sell off quickly before I’m ready to buy so that’ll be a while yet :’)
To be honest, I like superbikes because they’re the best basis to modify a powerful looking street fighter from but for practical and wallet-related reasons a second hand one will be hard to come by.

25 admin June 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Just double-check that the hub motor and the Alltrax AXE are compatible. The bike hub motor that I used had its own dedicated and matched controller that goes with it. An AXE will work great with any Permanent Magnet DC or Series-Wound DC motor. Hub motors may be brushless DC or some other style of motor. Again, just confirm that all your parts work together before buying.

26 Samuel Maybury June 10, 2012 at 9:47 am

Alright, thanks, thats a good point :’)

27 sam August 22, 2012 at 11:57 am

So i heard you can run two forklift motors in series if cost is an issue. Is it possible to run 4 in series maybe one for each tire all wheel drive, to get 96 volts?

28 Ben N August 22, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Anything is possible, but hooking up four motors to one car might be a bit much for the average do-it-yourselfer. There are a few cars out there that have had two motors physically connected in a row for more power. Most of those are electric drag-racers. The White Zombie comes to mind….
You can see lots of videos of that one on YouTube.

29 Bob September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Ben

I puchased your DVD on the ev good job on that.

Now do you have instructions or a dvd on how to make a hybrid.

30 Ben N September 17, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Thanks Bob,

I’m just starting work on building a Hybrid Pickup Truck. I plan to fully document that, make YouTube videos, a DVD, and more! Look for regular blog updates on that project. This link sort of summarizes the project.
-Ben

31 Shalash October 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Hi
Thanks for all info in your videos, very informative
The one charger one battery scenario any idea where to get a connection diagram for?
Regards

32 admin October 31, 2012 at 9:47 am

You don’t need a diagram for that one. You just put one charger on each battery. It’s that easy.

33 clewis.it November 7, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Hi,
I have been wanting to do an electric conversion to my suburban for quite some time. I just wasn’t sure how to.

34 clewis.it November 7, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Sorry for the split message, my phone is not cooperating. Anyway, I was thinking of using a dual motor configuration and had some questions. Would coupling the two motor shafts together effectively double the torque provided? (as compared to a single motor). With your metro, what was the max rpm you would get from the motor?
Thanks in advance for any input on this setup.

35 Ben N November 7, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Yes, coupling two motors together would double your torque. This is something that’s been done on EV drag-racers like the White Zombie. Typically, it’s only done on rear-wheel drive cars, as that’s the style used for drag-racing, and the motor orientation makes it fit under the hood. On a front-wheel-drive car (like my Geo Metro) the transverse-mount really limits the size and location of the motor, and makes it impossible to mate a pair of them end to end.

I did see a Fiero with a dual-motor setup. That car is rear-wheel drive, but with a transverse motor. In that case, two motors were mounted, one above the other, and then they were both chained/belted to the transmission.

I don’t know what the max RPM is on my Metro. The car doesn’t have an odometer, and I’ve never successfully hooked-up an add-on tach. I tried once with a mechanic friends “temp-tach”, but couldn’t get it to read right. On DC motors, if you want more RPMs, you just feed it more voltage. At 72V, my car will go up to 45 mph. At 144V my car will do up to 73 mph. There are some limitations to that, depending on the design of the motor, but for the most part, on the DC side, speed is proportional to voltage.

36 Lawrence H. January 24, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Hi Ben,
I am fascinated with your projects and would love to build one as well. My commute to work is 25 miles (mostly freeway). Work hour is usually 9 hours total. What would you suggest if my target is 80 mph top speed and can be recharged in 8 hours?
Thank you very much for any input.
Best regards,
Lawrence

37 admin January 24, 2013 at 5:34 pm

If you are in the market for a new car anyways, a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt would both fit the bill. If you want to build something yourself, you’ll want Lithium batteries (which are expensive, but always coming down in cost)

In terms of top speed, you’ll want high voltage – 144V or more for your battery pack. Charging time isn’t a big deal. The bigger battery pack you have, the higher power charger you will use, so you can DESIGN it for an 8 hour or less charge. With a decent size battery pack, you will need to make the jump from 120V to 240V for charging. You may or may not have access to 240V power at your work.

Like everything, it’s all a matter of how much time, work, and money you want to put into a project. Frankly, I HAVEN’T designed any project yet that goes 50 miles AND 80 MPH (Got the Electro-Metro up to 73 once….) My idea for the hybrid pickup truck is that it will have the advantage of long range (on fuel) AND clean and high fuel economy locally (using the EV system) More or less the same idea as a Volt, but with a much smaller budget.

38 Andrew Oborny March 17, 2013 at 12:00 am

Hey Ben, my name is Andrew im 16 years old. A teacher at my school built an electric car from a mazda rx7 or something. I thought it was really cool snd wanted to build one, so i asked him how but it cost him and he said 7-8000 dollars and i about fell over. Well i thought to my self, theres got to be a cheaper way of doing it tgen that. Then i found your videos on youtube, and when i found out you built a car for 1300 dollars i got really excited cuz i saved up money and can afford that. Well i want something small like a motorcycle but want more then 2 wheels in the ground ,… maybe more like 3, which is still considered a motorcycle in Nebraska. Im thinking im going to use the same controller uou have in your ev cycle, but have it be 72v system. Could you tell me a good cheap motor i could use for this? Is a fork lift motor too big?

39 Ben N March 17, 2013 at 9:41 am

Hi Andrew,
I’m a big fan of smaller and fewer-wheeled vehicles, as they are more efficient and can use fewer batteries and less expensive components. I haven’t converted a four-wheel ATV to electric yet, but think one of those would work fine with a 48 or 72 volt system, similar to what I used on my motorcycle project. A permanent magnet motor should still work fine for a three-wheeled cycle. If you are looking at something more like the three-wheeled garbage carts used in some areas, a series-wound motor would likely work better.
Seems like the Motenergy permanent magnet motors have been popular lately. http://www.motenergy.com/me1003.html Take a look at the various motor descriptions on that site.

If you can scrounge around at a good junk-yard, you should be able to find a not-too-large series wound motor from a small forklift or other battery-operated equipment. A friend of mine built a three-wheeler a while back, using the front half of an ATV and the back of a motorcycle with a series-wound motor. It worked fine. On a three or four-wheeler, you may have a little more room to arrange the batteries and other components than you otherwise would on a motorcycle.

Also, remember to check all your local laws on title, license, insurance, etc. to legally operate the vehicle in your area BEFORE you start building the project. Nothing worse then spending time and money building something you can’t legally use!

40 Brian June 23, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Hi Ben,

I attended several of your workshops at the Energy Fair this last weekend. I’ve been interested in building a electric vehicle for several years now. I have a 2000 Ford F250 diesel 4X4 thats is my personal transportation & business transportation, I’m own my own electrical contracting business. After attending your work shop on your Hybrid truck project I began thinking about doing the same with mine. There are many days when I only travel 10miles or less and don’t go over 35mph. To your knowledge is it possible for me to add an electric motor & batteries to my truck that would be able to propel a 8 to 9 thousand lbs. vehicle up to to 35mph at short ranges 10 to 15 miles between charges? I have a design in my head to add the electric motor to the trucks drivetrain by adding another transfer case, which would give me a two speed option for the electric motor. The big question for me at this time is whether a electric motor & battery set up will propel the truck at the limited range & speed that I frequently drive? Thanks.

Brian

41 admin June 25, 2013 at 9:46 am

It should work, but so VERY few people have built hybrid pickups, there’s little documentation out there for them. I shot an interview at the Mother Earth Fair of a guy who had a full-size 4×4 electric pickup truck. Look for that video in the next week or so!

42 Stefano July 22, 2013 at 2:24 am

Hey I am very interested in making an EV my self and I was just wondering if you had more batteries and more horsepower does that make the car go uncontrollably fast or can you have a speed limit of 80 mph and only go 25 mph in urban areas. And also how does the speed limit effect the acceleration. Thanks for your help.

43 admin July 22, 2013 at 8:18 am

It’s just like driving a gas car: having a bigger engine doesn’t make you go uncontrollably fast, pressing all the way down on the accelerator does!
In an electric car, you typically use an electronic motor controller which controls the speed of the motor. It is controlled by your foot on the accelerator. Electric cars have great response and control and go whatever speed you design them for, and yes, that includes being able to go nice and slow in the city.

44 Stefano July 22, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Ok I just found this looking for batteries for my EV and I found a battery that is 76v! One battery can power your whole car. I thought this was cool and should share this with all you EV builders! Not sure about the price.
http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/687675686/High_power_76v_105ah_PCM_lithium.html

45 John July 25, 2013 at 2:14 am

Do you have an instructional video on how to build the controller? That would be great help. Thanks.

46 Ben N July 25, 2013 at 7:59 am

I don’t have a step-by-step “how to build a controller video”, as I never built one from scratch. Mine was the first one used for design and testing, built by MPaulHolmes. I have repaired mine and show a little of that in a video or two.

I put together all the videos that I do have on the controller into a YouTube Playlist. It includes two videos of Paul giving a presentation at the Mother Earth News Fair about the controller.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmHss3DBZUikcNjgPDFxCjc9Pizu7BzZr

47 Tom Sherman July 29, 2013 at 2:25 am

I was at an auction today and bought an electric golf cart. Do you think I could use the motor and controller from it and put it to my ev? All I know of the cart is its a 2005 Club car and I bought it for the great price of 100$. Thanks for your help.

48 Ben N July 29, 2013 at 7:31 am

Yes, you could take parts from a golf cart and put them in a very light car. However, the car will then behave like a golf cart. If you would like a car with golf-cart power and speed, go for it. I’ve found that most people want a system a little more powerful than that. Keep in mind that the end of a golf cart motor is designed to be supported by the differential. If you mount it to something else (like a car transmission) you need to custom build some way to support the end of the motor.

For other basic EV options, considerer NEVs (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles) or early EVs such as the fully-street-legal Citicar. You can find those used on eBay, Craigslist, etc.

49 Pedro December 11, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Hi Ben,
Thank you for posting your introductory videos on Youtube, I’ve been looking around for some time and I’ve seen lot’s of “do it yourself” deals, but yours is the best one yet.
Congrats… great job.
I will be purchasing your videos, one question: I have an old 1986 Honda Civic 4 gears, no AC nothing fancy, just an engine and wheels. Do you think this type of car is good to convert thinking on saving electric usage? I drive about 15-20 miles per day. I live in Costa Rica now, and buying a car here is “extremely” expensive… your $500 Geo sells for about $2500 USD here ! Yeap that much.

Thank you
Pedro M
Semper Fi

50 Ben N December 12, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Hi Pedro,

An older Honda Civic is a very popular car for a DIY electric conversion. A 20 mile per day range is very reasonable and obtainable with a a lead-acid conversion. For anyone who lives where it can be difficult to find car parts, just make sure you choose a model or brand-name that you can get parts for.

-Ben

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