Whether hardcore petrolheads like it or not, we appear to be living through the final years of the internal combustion engine. In many countries there are legislative timetables in place for their eventual phasing out, and even those which remain in production are subject to ever more stringent emissions legislation. If there’s a problem with the EVs with which we’re expected to replace our fossil fuel vehicles it’s the cost, those things are still very expensive. An Aussie student has an interesting idea that’s won the James Dyson Prize: a low cost conversion for existing vehicles that bolts onto their rear wheel hubs.
Electric conversion of fossil fuel cars is nothing new, indeed we’ve brought you news of units designed to replace the original engine and transmission. Neither are wheel hub motors new, but the difference with this system is that it doesn’t require significant mechanical modification to the vehicle. It retains the old engine, and this motor sits inside each rear wheel.
It almost seems too good to be true, but a closer reading shows the rotor bolted on one side to the old wheel hub and on the other side to the wheel. The stator meanwhile is bolted to the existing brake caliper mountings. This would lead to a slightly wider track and a greater unsprung weight, but we can see that it would work. Besides the motor there’s a battery pack for the spare wheel well and a set of electrically-powered systems to supply the brake servo vacuum and other services. The idea is that this whole kit could be fitted for 5000 Australian dollars, which is somewhere south of $3200 USD. It’s not perfect and it still involves hauling around the dead weight of an unused engine, but we can see it might still have a niche. If, and that’s a big if, it ever makes it to market, that is.
There are few production cars with as much geek cred as the DMC DeLorean. If you want to kick the nerdiness up a notch without doing a full Back to the Future prop-mod, then the next best thing is to make it an EV.
[Bill Carlson] took a 1981 DeLorean and transplanted the drivetrain from a Chevy Bolt to electrify this ride. With the DeLorean being a rear wheel drive vehicle and the Bolt front wheel, there was some amount of component reshuffling to do. The motor is now in the rear of the car along with the main contactor, charger, and motor controller while the batteries are split between a pack in the original engine compartment and another up front under the hood.
The electric power steering and brake booster from the Bolt now also live under the hood, and the accelerator and steering column from the EV were transplanted into the cockpit. [Carlson] still needs to tidy up the interior of the car which is currently a nest of low voltage cables as well as add the cooling system which will bring this stainless monster up to a hefty 3200 lbs (~1450 kg) versus the original 2850 lbs (~1300 kg). We suspect the total bill came in a bit lower than getting an electric DeLorean Alpha5.
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!
With electric vehicles such as the Tesla or the Leaf being all the rage and joined by fresh competitors seemingly every week, it seems the world is going crazy for the electric motor over their internal combustion engines. There’s another sector to electric traction that rarely hits the headlines though, that of converting existing IC cars to EVs by retrofitting a motor. The engineering involved can be considerable and differs for every car, so we’re interested to see an offering for the classic Mini from the British company Swindon Powertrain that may be the first of many affordable pre-engineered conversion kits for popular models.
The kit takes their HPD crate EV motor that we covered earlier in the year, and mates it with a Mini front subframe. Brackets and CV joints engineered for the kit to drop straight into the Mini. The differential appears to be offset to the right rather than the central position of the original so we’re curious about the claim of using the Mini’s own driveshafts, but that’s hardly an issue that should tax anyone prepared to take on such a task. They can also supply all the rest of the parts for a turnkey conversion, making for what will probably be one of the most fun-to-drive EVs possible.
The classic Mini is now a sought-after machine long past its days of being dirt-cheap old-wreck motoring for the masses, so the price of the kit should be viewed in the light of a good example now costing more than some new cars. We expect this kit to have most appeal in the professional and semi-professional market rather than the budget end of home conversions, but it’s still noteworthy because it is a likely sign of what is to come. We look forward to pre-engineered subframes becoming a staple of EV conversions at all levels. The same has happened with other popular engine upgrades, and no doubt some conversions featuring them will make their way to the pages of Hackaday.
Last year brought some exciting news from the unlikely quarter of an unexciting industrial estate in the British town of Swindon, the company Swindon Powertrain announced that they’d be marketing an all-in-one electric motor and transmission. Essentially this would be a crate engine for EV conversions, and since it’s pretty small it would be able to be shoehorned into almost any car. So often these announcements later prove to be vapourware, but not in this case, because Swindon Powertrain have announced that you can now order the HPD as they call it, for delivery in August. It’s not entirely cheap at £6400 ($7846) exclusive of British VAT sales tax, but when its integrated transmission and differential is taken into consideration it starts to seem more attractive when compared to engineering a random motor onto an internal combustion engine transmission.
They provide a product page with links to a load of data, installation information, and even a CAD model, as well as an ordering page in their webshop from which you can pay the deposit with the rest presumably payable in August before delivery. There is also a range of optional extras including matched inverters, drive shafts, a limited slip differential, and a coolant pump, which makes the whole ever more attractive as a package. 80kW should be enough to lend sprightly performance to all but the largest of cars, so we’ll expect to see this motor ever more often in years to come.
There is already a thriving home-made EV scene which we don’t expect this unit to displace. Instead it will find a niche at the professional and semi-professional conversion level, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see an aftermarket springing up offering ready made subframes to fit it to popular cars. If it is a success there will inevitably be copies and probably at a lower price, so it could be the start of a wave of very interesting conversion options. We hope that Swindon Powertrain will do well with it, and will manage to stay one step ahead of the upstarts. You can read our coverage of its announcement and their electric Mini prototype here.
A common project category on this site is “put a Raspberry Pi in it”. For people who wrench on their cars, a similarly popular project is the “LS Swap”. Over the past few years, the world of electronics and automotive hacking started to converge in the form of electric car conversions, and [Jalopnik] proclaims the electric counterpart to “LS Swap” is to put a Telsa Model S motor and a Chevy Volt battery into a project car.
The General Motors LS engine lineup is popular with petro heads for basically the same reasons Raspberry Pi are popular with the digital minded. They are both compact, very powerful for the money, have a large body of existing projects to learn from, and an equally large ecosystem of accessories to help turn ideas into reality. So if someone desired more power than is practical from a car’s original engine, the obvious next step is to swap it out for an LS.
Things may not be quite as obvious in the electric world, but that’s changing. Tesla Model S and Chevrolet Volt have been produced in volume long enough for components to show up at salvage yards. And while not up to the levels of LS swaps or Pi mods, there’s a decent sized body of knowledge for powerful garage-built electric cars thanks to pioneers like [Jim Belosic] and a budding industry catering to those who want to build their own. While the decision to use Tesla’s powerful motor is fairly obvious, the choice of Volt battery may be surprising. It’s a matter of using the right tool for the job: most of these projects are not concerned about long range offered by Tesla’s battery. A Volt battery pack costs less while still delivering enough peak power, and as it was originally developed to fit into an existing chassis, its smaller size also benefits garage tinkerers fitting it into project cars.
While Pi SBCs and LS engines are likely to dominate their respective fields for the foreseeable future, the quickly growing and evolving world of electric vehicles means this winning combo of today are likely to be replaced by some other combination in the future. But even though the parts may change, the spirit of hacking will not.
Many of us have tried our hand at the ol’ electric car conversion hack. Yank the engine, throw in an industrial DC or AC motor, and bob’s your uncle. Simple stuff. But if you can’t find just the right motor for your application… why not design and build your own brushless DC motor?
This mind-blowing build is by an electrical engineer who decided to design a 45kW motor (that’s 60HP). That’s not a typo. Design and build a 45kW motor! He has a video series on the design process which includes the CAD and all the calculations he did to make this thing work. Once he had the design complete and ordered the custom parts, he started building it.