Large numbers of people are discovering that, with some effort and a little money, a clean, reliable beast of transportation can emerge from ones own garage. Generally referred to as EVs (electric vehicles), these self-made conversions offer low cost of operation and low cost of ownership - a winning combination.

Electric Vehicle Conversion

Mark E. Hazen | EVHelp.com

A Rising Wave in Transportation
Large numbers of people are discovering that, with some effort and a little money, a clean, reliable beast of transportation can emerge from ones own garage. Generally referred to as EVs (electric vehicles), these self-made conversions offer low cost of operation and low cost of ownership – a winning combination.
by Mark E. Hazen – evhelp.com

The automotive industry is in the midst of great change as oil prices rise and the dependency on foreign oil is more than painful. More than the desire for ‘Green’, diminishing resources and public demand are driving auto manufacturers to morph their creations toward fuel-flexible and hybrid gas/electric designs. New technologies always have a price, especially relatively low-volume transitional ones.

While the auto industry is to be commended for their efforts and new offerings, this is an awkward time of high prices, still-developing technologies and transitioning infrastructure. The transportation-dependent public seems eager to embrace these new machines that lower the cost of operation, while increasing the cost of ownership. These are far from ideal circumstances.

Wrapped in the fabric of society are still those pioneers of invention and self-reliance that refuse to be dependent on top-shelf commercialism while wanting to go green. These are a capable breed from the shores of auto mechanics and/or high technology. Like connoisseurs of fine cigars, they prefer to roll their own when it comes to clean economical transportation. These are the men and women who build their own practical and reliable electric-powered transportation. Though many EV pioneers have gone before from the late 1800s to recent times, there is a new rising wave of dreamers and builders lifting their tools with the tides of necessity.

Large numbers of people are discovering that, with some effort and a little money, a clean, reliable beast of transportation can emerge from ones own garage. Generally referred to as EVs (electric vehicles), these self-made conversions offer low cost of operation and low cost of ownership – a winning combination. I have firsthand knowledge of this.

Just before Christmas of 2006, my beast emerged from my workshop after 4 months of giving birth (labor). My 1998 Chevy S10 pickup truck no longer contained a fire-breathing dragon whose hunger could only be satisfied from the bowels of the earth and that required continual pampering and grooming. Now, it has a heart of copper and a belly full of energy storage cells that are fed from a regular 120 VAC outlet. It is simple, capable and reliable – no belts, fluids, hoses, plugs, injectors, pumps, EGR, MAP sensor, etc., etc. and etc. It is by far my vehicle of choice for local transportation needs.

How much did it cost? The total conversion cost me about $10,000, including the truck. That’s not a lot of money when you consider that every vehicle has an initial purchase price, followed by cost of operation and cost of ownership. What results from this modest initial investment is very low cost of operation and very low cost of ownership.

How much does it cost to drive? The cost per mile is calculated from the following data: the real cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour (kWhr), distance driven and the number of kWhrs of energy needed to recharge the batteries. In my case, I pay $0.096 per kWhr of electricity and it takes 11 kWhrs of energy to recharge the batteries after having driven 20 miles. Simple math reveals my cost per mile to be about 5.3 cents. The original stock vehicle would go about the same distance on 1 gallon of gas – at $3.00 per gallon of gas, that’s 15 cents per mile. Greater detail on determining actual cost of operation can be found at evhelp.com.

How far can you drive on a charge? Each charge gives me a distance of nearly 35 miles without threatening the life of the batteries. In other words, the batteries aren’t totally drained after 35 miles.

What kind of batteries do you use? This is the beauty if it – I use regular 6-volt golf-cart batteries. There is no need to wait for Li-ion or other advanced, and expensive, battery technologies. Lead-acid batteries have been refined over many decades and offer great service at very low cost.

How many batteries do you use? I decided that sixteen 6-V batteries, wired in series, would meet my particular needs, meaning I would have more than adequate range and speed (60 mph max. with no need to travel the freeways).

Can you make an EV to go farther than 35 miles and faster than 60 mph? Absolutely! Speed is usually related to total battery voltage and distance is related more to battery type (capacity in ampere-hours). In addition, both speed and distance are affected by the total vehicle weight, including batteries. Small light-weight vehicles, such as VW Rabbits and Geo Metros, are loaded with deep-cycle 12-V batteries for high voltage and lower weight (compared to using all 6-V batteries). This enables both good range and high speed.

What kind of person does it take to successfully convert a vehicle to electric? Anyone with basic auto mechanic skills can do it. Parts, kits and a lot of help are readily available. In fact, I created a Web site just for that purpose – to help others ‘roll their own’. Please visit www.evhelp.com for all the right information. You can’t buy anything from me and I give you the information freely. Send me an email if you need help.

By the Numbers: The table below summarizes all of the key facts related to my Chevy S10 conversion. Much more detail is presented at evhelp.com.

Chevy S10 Conversion Facts

Vehicle

1998 Chevy S10, 2.2 liter, 4 cyl., 5-speed manual transmission

Vehicle cost

$2000

Stock weight

3040 lbs.

Final weight

3700 lbs.

Power train

Electric motor, clutch and 5-speed manual transmission

12-V system

Plug-in charger + deep-cycle marine battery (recharges at night when the HV battery bank is charging)

HV battery bank

16 series-connected golf cart batteries, 6 V, 220 AH, Johnson Controls (Energizer branding, Sam’s Club)

Battery weight

~65 lbs. each

Full-charge voltage

~102 V (full charge bank voltage)

Life of Batteries

Up to 3 years with good care and a good battery charger

Battery Cost

~$63 each battery

Battery bank location

Rack mounted immediately behind cab across truck frame with near perfect front/back weight distribution

Electric motor

Advanced DC, 9.1 inch, series-wound, industrial-grade

Motor controller

Curtis 1231C-8601, pulse-width modulation, 96 to 144 VDC operation, 500 A current limit, paralleled MOSFETs

Tires

Michelin X Radials, low rolling resistance

High-voltage charger

Self-designed 3-cycle 120 VAC, 15 A, 15-A starting constant-current cycle

Nightly charge energy

11 to 16 kWhrs (varies with distance driven)

Cost per mile

5 to 6 cents per mile depending on driving care, range and terrain

Stock S10 Cost per Mile

15 cents at $3.00 per gallon.

Range

~35 miles (max.)

Top speed

~60 mph (max. with 16 batteries) (~80 mph with 20 batteries)

Cost of conversion

~$10k (including 1998 Chevy S10)

I really enjoy driving my reborn Chevy S10 and have no plans for selling it. It gives me reliable transportation every day with never the interruptions of gas station stops or oil changes. The invitation is for you too to catch the rising wave of transportation and roll your own – go green - go EV. I designed my Web site to help you do just that – www.evhelp.com

About the Author

Mark E. Hazen is an electronics engineer and professional writer. He has written several college-level engineering textbooks, a paperback on alternative energy and innumerable articles covering analog circuits and communications. He holds a patent on PWM motor control. www.evhelp.com 

 

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