Electric Car Conversion

Hey everyone,

Zac and I have been talking eagerly for a while about finding a dead engined car and going through the steps of converting it to an electric vehicle. Well we’ve finally found a surprisingly good and cheap candidate, leaving only two things standing in the way of this project.

  1. Neither of us have anywhere convenient to store and work on the vehicle, but the new MHV site with it’s large and private parking space seems to fit both these requirements perfectly, so I’d like to float the idea of having the vehicle live at MHV. I can think of dozens of reasons why this is a bad idea and would probably be very hesitant were someone else to suggest the same thing, so I won’t feel bad if it turns out to be a no. I also realise it could be prime to vandalism here but as just a project, and a cheap one at that, I personally wouldn’t be that phased if it took a few hits. Since we have nowhere else to store it we won’t buy the vehicle until we get permission from the committee to do this.

  2. It’s an idea we both have a huge amount of enthusiasm for but very little practical experience. MHV seems like the perfect community to nurture and learn from for this project, and of course we’d be more than happy to open it to the wider community and let those with more know-how take charge. We just want to see this happen and learn some things along the way.

So how about it? Please list all of your reasons why this would be a terrible idea below. =)

I think the project is a great idea - and one I’d be interested in helping with if you wanted another set of hands!

As for storing at MHV - I don’t immediately see any issues apart from what you’ve said above; but I would suggest it’s something worth discussing at tomorrow’s Community Meeting if you can make it?

I wonder if this would be be a good reason to further explore the idea of parking a shipping container in the car park?

We initially discussed this as a way to provide extra materials storage, but a project vehicle as a first resident would also make sense.

Did anyone ever raise this idea with the landlord?

@PaulG and others, did we ever find out how much a shipping container costs
to rent/buy?

A shipping container was discussed with the ACTPG. They thought it might be possible, but that we would have to put in a specific proposal and probably a report showing that the carpark could support its weight without being damaged.

I liked one of the early shipping container ideas - I think it was Tridge that suggested putting the shipping container out from the building and a shade cloth between the far side of the shipping container and the building to make a shaded outdoor work area and to shade the container.

I think it’s a great idea, and worth exploring.

Does anyone know any ?surveyors? or what the process is for ensuring the
carpark can support the weight?

I started doing an EV conversion myself in Sydney on an old van - but my project was stolen.

I was told that Engineering certification costs > $5,000 to make an electric engine-swapped vehicle certified.

It might be better to start with a broken Prius that’s already certified and can already go on the road. I’ve seen them around for $1200 from time to time.

Another option is to take a 4WD with a transfer-case, keep it petrol on one half and electric on the other half. That’s legal also.

@jambulance I’m afraid I can’t make it to tomorrow’s meeting as I’m
teaching, and Zac has the game dev meetup to go to. Would you (or someone
else here) be willing to raise the idea there and gauge the reaction?
Otherwise I’ll see if Zac can make it along to the next meeting, as I’ll
still be teaching.

I’m also fully in favor of all the shipping container suggestions, sounds
like a great idea.

No worries @Talsidor - I’ll bring it up :slight_smile:

Hey Guys, Zac here.
This is the donor car we’re looking at getting, the details on the add are pretty sparse so I’m planning on getting in touch asap. From the photos the interior and exterior look great, not sure what the exact mechanical faults are however. Also it’s automatic, most of the guides I’ve seen use manuals, not sure if this will make things harder.

After a first round of googling, I found this set of guidelines for EV’s, its dated 2011, so may be out of date now, will try and contact TAMS/RTA to find their exact requirements to register a converted EV.

On the storage front, I think just covering it in a tarp or similar might stop most of the impulse vandalism, I could be very wrong however.

Personally I’d be happy to leave registration as an after thought. It feels
like something that doesn’t need to be worried about until we actually have
something working, and I’d still be happy with the result of the project
were it not registerable. That said I doubt many others have this same
attitude =p

@Evellex Re: Tarp, car covers are cheap and could easily be thrown over the
vehicle, but I’m not very convinced it would actually do much to save it
from vandalism, just from the elements.

Also a friend has offered another vehicle with a broken engine if this one
doesn’t work out, although I believe it’s in slightly worse condition
over-all and I would prefer the one linked above.

Hi Calum,

If you’re thinking of even possibly registering it when done, I’d recommend you talk to a chartered engineer before you start any work and show them what you plan to do. They’ll tell you if anything in your planned conversion is a red flag, and what to watch out for. Even if they charge you for their time, it will only be a small part of the total project cost and it stops you wasting effort & money on something that turns out to be uncertifiable.

It also pays to ask around in the local EV community and find a chartered engineer who is interested/sympathetic to EVs. Less likely to just take your money and mess you around.

FWIW also, $5000 for an engineer’s report sounds like a lot. This post on the AEVA forums suggests $1100 in NSW in 2009, and there’s an EVAlbum post from SA which says $500. I’ve found unusually high quotes from technical professionals are often code for “I don’t want this job”.

Anyway, I look forward to watching this vicariously from afar. I really want my next car to be electric, and I’ve gone through the “what if…” speculative planning of an EV conversion far too many times… :smile:

This could be quite a fun project for MHV.

The major risks I see are:
-Lack of interest/progress means that car is essentially “abandoned” in the MHV carpark.

The proviso I’d like to add is that Calum and Zac agree to remove the car if requested by the Committee, as a guard against those two above points.

I’m happy to agree to that proviso.

And thanks for the info Angus!

We didn’t really talk about this last night at all - but from the discussions here it seems people support the idea (with the given provisos).

@brenda suggested to me in a Hangouts message that you might be able to get the engine and fuel tank removed before bringing it onsite, which would reduce the possible mess created (with oils and fuel and whatnot).

If no one objects, I guess we start investigating shipping containers? (<-- This is me volunteering :P)

I support that, I should have some time to do some research about them on
the weekend too

I had a look at the car today, there is some sun damage to the roof, but that’s a non issue for the project.
The only mechanical damage is that the engine has seized, transmission, suspension ect is all good.

There is a meeting of the AEVA Canberra branch this coming Monday (2-3-15) I’m panning on going and would like to encourage anyone else interested in coming along too. I havn’t been able to find a contact or registration page so am planning on just showing up and saying “Hi”. Link

Hmm… I might try to get along too @Evellex

Had a bit to do with electric cars ( FSAE ) and looked seriously at doing a conversion myself.

  1. The ADR is fairly restrictive and the cost of getting it engineered is significant.
  2. Select a FWD vehicle and pick one that is fairly old. Second generation Suzuki Swift for example. The fewer modern options that it has that you have to power and integrate with the better. No power steering. No ABS. No aircon. Manual gear box…
  3. You will be throwing all of the engine and a good portion of the transmission and coolant and brake system away. This results in a gigantic pile of rubbish that is going to be laying around while you do the conversion.
  4. The car restorations I have done were some part archeology some part putting things in bags like a library. This generally results in shelves and shelves of bits waiting to get put back where they came from taking up space and doing nothing else. An electric vehicle conversion wont be as bad but even with most of the mechanicals gone it takes more space to do this than just the space that the car fills. You need a table for the engine and other parts to get built on and that will take time. You cannot really pack up a car project at the end of each day and put it away.
  5. Contrary to the general rules of car land a runner isn’t required for this sort of project. Generally you would be looking for a complete vehicle but in this instance it is better to go to a wreckers and to find a vehicle that is in just the right age group and has just the right bits left on it.
  6. This means that you will need to be able to arrange to get said vehicle on to a trailer and to the location that it will be going to and that it wont be leaving that location again until it is running ( and if you wish to drive it legally ) engineered and registered.
  7. After going through all of this evaluation myself I decided it was going to be easier just to do convert one of my motorcycles. Takes up a lot less space. Less to throw away. Faster. All around a better package for an electrical conversion.
  8. Get somebody on board who has taken apart a car and put it back together. Cars are dense complicated things with a lot of annoying parts. I am happy to take a trip with someone to a wreckers to do a show and tell about the innards and look at what is available.

Thanks Damien!

After considering the advice provided by everyone, I’m thinking of finding
a way to maintain the soul of this project while reducing the costs,
paperwork, space requirements and other bothers associated with it.

I’ve talked briefly with Zac and he feels the same way, so we’re thinking of
pivoting to build one (or even better, two) electric go-karts.

There are already lots of detailed guides for these online that we can
follow, borrow and merge, and perhaps try different paths for two different

This would also be a non-road vehicle avoiding the downsides of pursuing
registration. (As for where to operate them, I can’t see anything wrong
with using public ovals, same places we fly drones. Just means adding good
enough suspension etc which sounds like a good idea anyway.)

Would also require less space so any shipping container or other solution
that does happen, more of it should be left available for other projects.

Lastly MHV likely has the tools and skills to construct our own
frame/chassis, but procuring one could be a good idea as well. I’m going to
keep an eye out.