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.
[Juan] dropped us a note to let us know about a little project he’s working on. A few years ago, he bought a Honda S2000. It served him well, but now he’s converting it to electric power, and it’s going to be a beast.
[Juan] is using 104 battery packs each containing 4 cells in parallel. The total output of his battery assemblage is 686 kilowatts, or 920 horsepower. [Juan] is assuming his drive train will be 85% efficient, meaning his wheels will be getting 782 horsepower and 1500 ft/lbs of torque at 0 rpm. Yes, this thing is going to scream.
A project of this caliber is usually undertaken by gear heads with decades of experience, but that’s not the case for [Juan]; he’s still a senior in High School. A build this awesome can only portend a very bright future as an engineer and certainly a few drag race wins. This car is going to be a monster, and we can’t wait to see it on the track.