Removing the Batteries from the Smith Electric Truck

by Ben N on April 15, 2019

Well, it’s been an adventure so far…
I was originally asked by my friend, Seth, to accompany him on a road trip to buy a commercial electric truck.

The Copart auction had already taken place. He just had to drive 900 miles to get the truck and drag it back home. In the highlight of the trip, we were able to get it to run and drive. After that, we transported it over to a local business where we could work on it.

The first thing we did was take a LOT of measurements – total height, width, wheel-base, etc. We also didn’t know the exact weight of the truck. (It appears that commercial trucks just list their GROSS weight, not the weight of the vehicle itself!)
Based on the size of the truck, the size of the trailer we had with, and the advice of the professional auto transporter whose place we were working at, we decided that we could NOT tow the truck home.

Of course, this was a major disappointment.

We threw around a lot of ideas, none of which were ideal. Every option we could come up with was less than perfect in one way or another. We also still had to get home soon. We were on a tight budget and schedule.

In the end, we decided the best course of action was simply to REMOVE the batteries. The truck could be stored at that location temporarily until we could return and transport it properly, or at a minimum, dismantle all the EV components.

Out comes one of the two 1,000 pound batteries.

The batteries themselves are inside two large black cases, one on either side, in the approximate location where a diesel fuel tank would otherwise be. Each one weighs about 1,000 pounds for a total of a literal TON of batteries.

To remove them, we had to undo the stainless steel straps that wrapped around the cases. We applied penetrating oil to the screws that tensioned the straps. On a few of them, we were able to loosen the screws pretty easily. Others were rusted in place and even the head was filled in with rust, so that we needed to use vice grips to get them to budge at all.

Once the straps were unhooked, we disconnected the electrical. On the side of each box is a mechanical manual disconnect. This opens the circuit inside the battery box, and makes sure all power at the cables is dead. Some of the wires were easy to remove. The BMS cable simply unscrewed. On the other hand, some of the high-voltage power cables just went right through the side of the box. There’s a weatherproof strain relief there, but NOT a quick disconnect. That meant we would have to simply cut the cables.
As terrible as that sounds, it’s just cable, and new parts are available in the welding supply aisle of my local farm and truck store.
*Snip* *Snip*

A view of the High Voltage cables at the master battery box.

Next, we had to physically remove the battery boxes.
One of the reasons we moved the truck to a local business to work on it was that they had a forklift there. (OK. Technically a tractor with a forklift attachment…)
Using the forklift, we could gently lift the box and then slide it OUT from the sides of the truck. We put the batteries on the trailer and strapped them down.

After that, there was nothing left to do except make the long return trip home. Our plans had certainly changed from the start to the end of the trip, but at least we didn’t leave empty-handed. We had 80 kWh of working lithium batteries.

Until next time, stay charged up!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dan January 11, 2020 at 2:08 am

Do you recall (or have even a real rough guess/estimate) of the scale weight (curb weight) of one of these smith trucks? I can find the gvwr , (and realize they were sold perhaps as incomplete chassis and the boxes could be different, but just curious about the type of box/configuration you have experience with) ……would love to estimate actual payload. I’m going to finish watching your youtube video series about this project and see if you mention anything. Thanks for your time/consideration!

2 Dan January 18, 2020 at 5:00 pm

The weight of these as used by office supply company is ~12500lbs as far as I can tell

3 Dan January 18, 2020 at 5:01 pm

~12500lbs as far as I can tell

4 dan maranon February 27, 2021 at 10:16 am

where can i get the battery for this truck

5 admin February 27, 2021 at 8:27 pm
6 CHARLTON July 22, 2022 at 1:29 pm

i noticed you guys jumped the vehicle with regular batteries, can i run this truck on reglar car batteries?

7 Ben N July 25, 2022 at 10:18 am

Nearly all electric vehicles still use a lead-based traditional battery for the 12V system. Many large trucks, busses, etc use a 2-battery, 24V system.
That system was dead on this truck, and we jump-started it with a pair of Walmart batteries we carried in. The truck itself is electric, and runs from two very large and powerful lithium battery packs.

While you COULD run the truck on lead-acid batteries, it would be extremely heavy and short range.

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