A Different Approach To EV Conversions

An open engine bay for a small car. The wheels are off so the hubs and brakes are visible to the side and the electric motor mounted on top of the vehicle's original engine block is in the center of the image.

While there are a lot of exciting electric vehicles finally coming to market, many of us feel nostalgic for the fossil cars of our youth. [Mihir Vardhan] restored his grandfather’s car with an unusual gas-to-EV conversion.

While this conversion starts in the usual fashion by pulling out the gas engine, [Vardhan] takes a different tack than most by not just bolting an electric motor up to the transmission. Instead, he and his crew removed the head and pistons from the petrol burner and bolted the electric motor to the top on an L-shaped bracket. Using the timing belt to transfer power to the crankshaft, there is no need to figure out additional motors for the A/C compressor or power steering pump, greatly simplifying implementation.

[Vardhan] did need to add a vacuum pump for the braking system and used a DC/DC converter to step down the 72V traction battery voltage to the 12V needed to charge the accessory battery. While it doesn’t exactly boast the performance of a Tesla, his bargain-basement conversion does yield a converted vehicle that can get around town for only around $3k US, even if it does mean your EV still needs oil changes. We think this could work even better on a vehicle with a timing chain instead of a belt, but it’s certainly an interesting way to go about the conversion process.

We’ve covered our fondness for EV conversions in the past for cars, motorcycles, and boats if you’d like to dig deeper. Have your own EV conversion you think we should cover? Send us a tip!

53 thoughts on “A Different Approach To EV Conversions

  1. many modern cars are built so cheaply they lack a keyway on the crankshaft cog. I think this is a terrible idea because a timing belt or chain is not rated to the torque it takes to pull a car loaded with people around.

    1. It’s not a cheapness thing per se, it’s an assembly thing. IT’s a lot easier to assemble the timing setup robotically if you don’t have to carefully align keyways on multiple locations, you just blast the parts on and use friction.

    2. This is because keyways can lead to stress risers and also keyway backlash which is very prevalent coming out of the crankshaft. It also reduces effective crankshaft width, requiring a thicker crank. Modern doctrine favors friction fittings including clamping.

      The stresses on the timing belt or chain should only support the frictional requirements of the valve train (occasionally and slightly dumbly, some accessories like water pumps). These are meant to be low friction and nowhere close to vehicle load equivalent.

  2. This is a very creative idea, but yeah probably a timing chain would be better, or a direct coupling between the nose of the crankshaft (if accessible) and the motor. I’ve seen hybrids made this way, where someone stuck an electric motor onto the front of a longitudinal engine, and got regeneration and assist (and starting) out of it.
    One thing to note is that in some engines, mostly overhead valve ones not overhead cam ones, the oil pump is driven by the camshaft, so you can’t remove the chain and swap it over to your electric motor, but would need to extend the chain.

  3. I’ve always been curious about the ability to convert an existing hybrid vehicle to EV-only, by “simply” removing the gas engine (and related components), and installing more battery capacity. In an e-Four car where the gasoline engine is only used to charge the battery, I wonder if a huge supercapacitor bank+big battery would be sufficient to charge the smaller battery already inside the car.

    1. Make sense. If thermoelectric generator soon become more efficient then most ICE it’s just become dead weight unless you convert it into linear generator or even low-speed “low” power diesel linear generator.
      But now frame/body too heave in comparison to modern material so…

    2. If the original motor isn’t directly part of the power train, and you are only adding capacity to the power bank instead of more wattage throughput, it should be much more trivial (and far more structurally sound) than this

    3. Lexus GS450h…both motor-generators are in the transmission case, you just need a plate to keep the input shaft stationary…should work on other Toyota hybrids as well…

      1. The plug-in hybrid version of the Prius has enough inverter cooling to do this, a regular prius risks overheating this way, especially Gen2 without the cooling firmware update. But it has been done, yes. To do this for more than a few miles might just be a matter of a bigger cooling pump and also using the (now removed) engine’s radiator as well. And expect to set *all* the engine codes. There’s probably something like “P0999 Engine Missing”. :-)

    4. In Back to the Future part 2, there were ads to hover-convert your old car. Maybe we can have ads for converting old car to electric soon? I can see in year 2030, Model T Ford running along on electricity with simulated chugging and backfiring sound.

      With more places pushing for all electric option in the next few decades, demand for gas will dry up and gas stations would be as scare in the near future as electric charging station was a decade ago.

    1. You should see version 1.0 (converting the alternator to a DC motor, transmitting the full torque of the drive train through a rubber belt and a junked engine+transmission)

  4. Not a single view in the video of the installed motor, transmitting drive power through the cambelt, Tiny (for EV) battery in the boot for claimed range of 80-90km. This smells a bit fishy to me.

    1. If only for an edit button: not to mention the apparent lack of any discussion about throttle input, or wiring, or contactors, or charging (apart from dangling an RC connector out of the car), or… anything of substance. Also that the bodged on electic motor fits perfectly under that always closed hood. If this isn’t n outright faked video, then it’s for certain a very very VERY glossed over proof of concept.

      1. Yeah, the entire thing seems like it’s either video magic, outright lying about specs, or extremely poorly hacked together. Maybe it’s all three but this is not passing the sniff test. I’ve converted a 1976 Austin Healy to an EV and I’m very skeptical of everything here.

  5. I will have to call BS on this video. Wayyyyyy to many details omitted. The tiny “motor” we see in the last shot of the engine compartment won’t be able to move the car at that pace. No way. Something smells very fishy.

  6. This is the first time my negative comment have been deleted on Hackaday along with the other guys negative comment about what is wrong with this idea. Echo chambers are bad for society how would we learn if all you want to see is how great you are?

    1. I don’t think it’s echo chambers, it’s maybe controlling the quantity and quality of arguments. A website showing interesting projects and hacks won’t last long if its entire commenting audience is canning every other article with negative responses – that’s Youtube. We can all see the negatives, but it might be better put as a positive with feedback, the way you do to a person you know and like who asks your opinion. Consider deletion of a negative comment as advice to work on how you communicate negative things in a positive way!

    1. That was just about as real as this “conversion”. Who makes a high production value video of an EV conversion without ever showing the new drive system? This is 100% fake.

  7. This is a terrible way of doing a “conversion” timing belts are made to drive a light load (camshaft) not an entire drive train, the instant torque of an electric motor is also too much for a small belt. Why keep the heavy block as dead weight as well? I highly recommend avoiding this idea and use a proper adapter to transmission instead.

    1. For some reason I would love to drop a big block V8 into a Tesla or even better an old dodge viper V10. I just think it would be a funny piece of performance art. I’d just roll around town going like 20 mph

      1. “I’d just roll around town going like 20 mph”
        Sure. Might as well put a diesel powered generator in their to power a big sound system that just plays engine revving noises and tire screeches. People will think they’re at the movies. Extra points if you route the exhaust out the back where the tail pipe should be. :)

        1. Kenworth style diesel stacks. Just in front of the doors. Rolling coal.

          Build it on a pre 1975 chassis (Just mount the Tesla body, less batt, on the frame). 12 valve Cummins.
          So you can flip the state ref the bird.

          Should be running on at least mid 40s.
          Westinghouse diffs, fat pigs that they are.

    2. Been done a few times. But that’s like the worst of the worst combination – lose the torque and control of electric and put it in a chassis which is a compromise for electric. Not a smart move.

  8. Seriously? Is no one going to call out that this is BS? There are no shots of the new motor/engine coupling, no videos of the car driving with audio (to prove it’s running on a silent electric motor) no discussion about throttle controls or motor controller, he’s magically bypassing all of the ECUs/interlocks, his “technical” paper is written like a kid who read the cliffs notes on diy electric cars without any actual info… this is like one of those Kickstarter as campaigns with a bunch of fluff talking points.

    I expect hackaday to vet their stories a little better.

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