Electro-Metro

Hey folks, if you are looking for information on how to build your own affordable, DIY, Electric Car, you’ve come to the right place.

A few years ago, I had gotten sick and tired of driving crummy cars that leaked oil and used too much gas. I started looking around and found out that people were building their own electric cars, and that it didn’t have to be complicated or expensive. I started hunting for a simple used car and eventually found a nice little 1996 Geo Metro.

The Electro-Metro Geo Metro as originally found for sale

Here’s what the Metro looked like when I originally found it. It had a few dents, rusty rims, and a bad transmission. I could only test drive the car by starting it in gear and making left-hand turns, as the hood was up so the seller could complete the starter circuit.

Dramatic re-enactment of the test drive

I bought the car for $500, rented a car dolly, and towed it home. I pulled out the engine (with a clothes line – seriously) sold the engine, gas tank, exhaust system, etc. for a total of just a little over $500. Including the car dolly rental, I still came out about $20 ahead on buying the car.

Of course, my phone had to ring the whole time while my hands were full pulling the engine.

“De-ICE-ing”, removing all of the Internal Combustion Engine system components, can be messy. I didn’t have a good way to drain the gasoline from the tank either. THAT was messy.

The project was much more fun to work on after that. The next big component was the motor. I found a rummage sale where a guy had half of a forklift in his garage. He was selling parts off of it. Inside was a big motor. Icky and rusty-looking, but very serviceable.

The car’s motor as it was found in a forklift.

I paid $50 for the motor, threw it in my trunk, and drove home. Even though I had never opened up a motor before, it was really easy to work on. It’s only a couple of bolts that come out, and there are very few parts inside. I bought new brushes for the motor, (another $50 from a forklift motor shop) degreased the whole thing, re-varnished the coils, threw a coat of paint on there, and put it all back together. I now had a car frame and like-new motor for only about $100 out of pocket.

EV Motor clean, with fresh varnish and paint.

To see a playlist of ALL THE VIDEOS I shot on this project, watch at: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2077F803C62CF0E5

The motor ended up needing some modification as well. To fit in the car, I had to chop off the tailshaft.

I’m currently adding in detail of all the work I put into the project. Please check back often for updates!

In the mean-time, check out my YouTube video account for videos on this and other projects!

http://www.youtube.com/user/BenjaminNelson

One big thing I’ve done on this project was that after I was done, I created an instructional DVD teaching about every step I put into this project. That DVD is two hours of “how-to” training and also included a ROM disc of all my YouTube videos, all my photos of the project, tips and tricks, web links and more. Check out the DVD at: http://300mpg.org/electric-car-instructional-dvds/

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brooks Marquette March 28, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Looking forward to seeing the posts. I have a 96 Geo Prizm I want to convert.

2 Donald Wright April 1, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Hi, I have a look throught the videos that you made on the conversion with Mr. Tom G. It is nicely documneted and Mr. Tom is a very good narator. I have a question, did you guys had enough room under the hood? I’m asking this question because you could of couple 300 v alternator/generator that good help into charging the batteries while the car is running and help to get more millage! I intend to do so with my car conversion project.

Thanks,
Donald W.

3 admin April 2, 2011 at 8:07 am

Hi Donald,

Thank you for your question. Please see the FAQ section of this blog for the answer.

-Ben Nelson
300MPG.org

4 Tony C. August 25, 2011 at 1:54 am

I’m glade to see people stepping up to the plate to push electric automobiles in home made applications. Ben you answered a lot of questions in your videos on youtube. I’ve been on the search for ideas such as EV and hybrid applications. I try to keep a low carbon foot print and try to encourage others to do so. i own two Honda Civcs that avg 40 mpg I plain on going hybrid with one of them the other is a point A to point B car. I have a rough draft if you will blue pint of how I plain to go about the project. It consist of an electric engine such as yours and LP with hydrogen set up retaining the gasoline 1.5l engine it going to take a lot more time and money than your set up but ill have better rage. I just wanted to say thanks for ideas and innovation you gave me. And from a mechanic’s point of view you did a great job on yours projects.
Tony C.

5 Pete Lonsdale October 12, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Hello

I am going to try and convert a triumph herald to electric next year. I have had a good read through a few guides now and was wondering if this controller (link below) would be any good?

thanks
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/POWER-CONTROLLER-SPEED-CONTROLLER-100v-240v-25Amp-/200661349804?pt=UK_BOI_Electrical_Components_Supplies_ET&hash=item2eb85935ac

6 admin October 13, 2011 at 10:47 am

No, that controller only does 25 amps. Electric cars use power in the range of hundreds of amps. The controller could be used for changing the speed of a power tool, not something as large as a vehicle. Also, that speed controller is for Alternating Current. Batteries produce Direct Current, so it wouldn’t be appropriate in that way either.

Recommended controllers would be larger, DC, Pulse-Width-Modulation, such as those available from the manufacturer, Curtis.

7 Clint Whitsett November 30, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Ben,

I see that you live in a cold Northern climate. I do too – Spokane WA. After watching your youtube videos, as well as many others, I was all set to go find a VW rabbit or Geo Metro carcass to get started on. However, when I went out to start my gas-guzzling old pickup this morning, I was reminded that I really need a heating system. I can tolerate the cold down to about 20* but after that it’s a problem. Also, how do you keep your windows from fogging up?

This time of year I usually drive to work in the dark and by the time I’m done running kids to practices and whatnot, it’s dark again. Do you find that the cold temperatures effects battery life and do headlights really eat up the juice?

I’ll check the FAQ for other dumb questions.

Thanks – Clint

8 admin December 1, 2011 at 9:21 am

Most of my trips in my car in the winter are rather short.

My car has daytime running lights, so it uses more or less the same power whether or not the headlights are on. I think typical headlight bulbs are around 50-60 watts each, so that’s 100-120 watts, or ten amps at 12v. If you are running a 144V pack and converting to 12V for your accessories, that’s only ONE amp – not a big drain.
Heat, however, CAN be a bit of a drain. In my car, I put a household 120VAC oil-filled radiator behind the passenger seat. I run an extension cord from it out the window of the car to the electric outlet on the garage wall, through a timer. I set it to turn on about half an hour before I would leave in the morning. When I get in the car, it’s already warmed up. I unplug the heater and drive. Since there is hot oil inside the heater, it stays hot for up to ten minutes, which is enough for most of my rides.

I’ve also considered using something like an engine block heater, going to a small coolant tank that would be plumbed to the original heater core. If your car is running voltage anywhere near 120V, the heater could most likely be set to run on either AC or DC power. That way, you could “preheat” from wall power AND keep continuous heat from your battery pack while driving.

Another alternative is a heated seat cover and heated steering wheel cover. By their nature, they are electric, and have a pretty low power draw. And most importantly, they put the heat where you want it.

9 admin December 1, 2011 at 9:44 am

Also for heat…..
Yes, cold temperatures effect lead-acid batteries. Insulate them! I have 3/4″ pink foam insulation around the batteries in the back seat battery box.

In addition, I have “heat tape” – the stuff used to keep pipes from freezing in the winter – UNDER the batteries, with an aluminum spacer/heat-spreader. By occasionally adding a little heat to the batteries AND having them insulated they work nearly as well in the winter as in the summer.

Also, keep your electric car in your garage, or at a minimum, as much out of the snow and wind as you can.

10 Brad November 12, 2012 at 9:39 am

Hi Ben, I have been thinking of making an electric car for a while now. I am in Australia and i have never seen one here. I think the main reason is fuel is still very affordable here. After seeing your how to make a electric motorbike video on youtube i have decided to tackle a bike first then move on to a ratty old VW type 3 later. Just one question, i noticed in the comments above some one was asking about a generator. Do you have one built into your car to charge as you drive? I have been wondering if it was possible to build into your car a petrol powered generator big enough to recharge as you are driving?
I am going to source an old bike and will keep the site updated from my progress down under.
Cheers BJ

11 Ben N November 12, 2012 at 9:58 am

Hi BJ,

Yes, it is possible to add a fossil-fuel generator to an electric car to extend its range. That’s more or less the concept of the Chevy Volt (Opal Ampera). At one point, I did add an LP generator to the back of my Geo Metro. It was fairly successful as an experiment, but would have been much better if the original design called for the generator, instead of simply adding it later. Also, that’s a pretty small car to cram a generator in.

You can see details of that project at: http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Plug-In-Hybrid-Car/

I’m now working on converting a pickup truck to a plug-in hybrid with a parallel arrangement of engine and electric motor.

As for electric motorcycles, they are great, and easier to work on than a car. For a great start to E-Motorcycles, check out my BUILD YOUR OWN ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLE DVD!

Take care, and good luck!

-Ben

12 Randy December 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Hi Ben,
Just wanted to say thanks for the good informatoin, after watching your youtube videos and doing a lot of other research I built my own.
Mine is a 97 neon, I bought a forklift motor and a 72v motor controller off ebay, I ended up with ten 6v golf cart batteries.
Works great for my 13 miles to and from work and it runs well at 40-45mph (35 up big hills), the farthest I’ve gone on a charge was 28 miles and it would have gone farther but I wouldn’t want to do that everyday (for the batteries sake). The only problems I’ve had in 2000 miles is one battery charger died because I bought a cheap one the first time and its getting cold to drive without heat in northern MN. Other than that I’m very happy with it.
Total cost for me was about $2500.
Thanks again, your videos helped me realize that my idea wasn’t so crazy after all.
Randy

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