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MetroMPG 11-15-2007 03:58 PM

Electric car conversion: Project ForkenSwift
See also:

"Electric car conversion on a beer budget"

01-10-2006, 03:25 PM
: Date this thread was originally started (on a different forum).

[EDIT: Jan 16/07 - This thread documents Project ForkenSwift from the time the proverbial light bulb went on to the present, in excessive detail.

Watch as I reveal my startling ignorance on a wide range of topics related to converting a car to electric power, and then begin a journey down the path towards... continued startling ignorance!

Also note that this is actually a two-person project. It may come off sounding like I'm doing it all, but that's just because
I'm the computer nerd documenting things.]


Thread Index/Summary ...
(Added Nov./08)

01-16-2006 - Some general research on the feasibility/specs of a low speed, budget EV has us thinking we're going to give this a shot!

01-19-2006 - A rough cost estimate: $2631 Canadian

01-19-2006 - A list of lightweight host cars that may be suitable for EV runabout duty

01-20-2006 - Found a couple more potential host cars...

02-05-2006 - Tips for locating cheap beater cars, potential EV hosts; located a red Suzuki Swift with a decent looking body, asking price $100

02-13-2006 - More host vehicle shopping; Finally talked to someone at the forklift place who says they have a used/dead one available

02-18-2006 - Someone offered us a free Firefly 5-door, but it's too far away to go fetch.

02-20-2006 - Went to look at the used forklift tonight

02-24-2006 - Green light! Ivan and I crunched the numbers and decided to forge ahead with the project; made calls agreeing to buy the $500 forklift and the $75 Suzuki Swift

03-04-2006 - Picked up the Swift today. A closer look at the rust has me thinking it may not be salvageable, but its parts can still contribute...

03-07-2006 - Pics of the front suspension rust/welding repair on the Swift

03-15-2006 - Forklift delivered! I guess we're committed now.

03-17-2006 - Down periscope! The forklift is sinking into the driveway.

03-18-2006 - Test lift, using the 20 ton railway jack; started removing misc knick-knacks

03-21-2006 - Major forklift dissection begins! Moved it, under battery power, into the garage, jacked it up and removed the first hydraulic pump motor.

03-22-2006 - With pics: got the second hydraulic motor out and both hydraulic pumps. Starting to worry that the drive motor will be REALLY heavy...

03-23-2006 - Forklift traction motor-ectomy complete. 240 lbs!

03-24-2006 - It's gone! The forklift, that is. Called around to scrap dealers and picked one who offered to come collect the bones with their flatbed truck. Plus pics of the bittersweet occasion.

03-25-2006 - Picture (and inventory list) of ALL the good loot we scavenged from the Baker forklift

03-29-2006 - Uh oh. Up on jack stands, the underneath of the Swift is MUCH rustier than we realized. Moral: don't buy a car sitting in long grass!

04-06-2006 - Pics: we've deemed the red Swift's underbits too rusty to repair. And we've already located a potential replacement - a blue Metro of similar vintage (and in better condition) sitting in someone's yard a few blocks away.

04-06-2006 - Fixed the divots in the driveway where the forklift sank in; ALSO - picked up the blue Metro ($175 !) and made a list of its obvious problems

04-12-2006 - Began swapping good parts from the red car over to the blue car: ball joints, ignition switch, hatchback, tires, etc...

04-30-2006 - More rust! Lifted the blue car's carpet, got out the grinder, and transformed the 2 small holes into a small future brazing/welding project

05-12-2006 - Pics: the rusty floor is finally fixed

05-17-2006 - Pics: rust repair before/after; also... SPIDERS!

05-19-2006 - For a net investment of $89.85 all in, the blue car passes inspection

05-22-2006 - For a laugh, see the pic at the bottom of this post: " why bother electrifying the car when it's already a hybrid?"

05-23-2006 - Preparing to yank the drivetrain from the Swift to get its transaxle mounts, axles & shift linkage for the blue car. Those 4-cyl parts offset the transaxle further to the left, meaning more room to mount a big motor in the available space.

05-26-2006 - Ack! Discovered that the diameter of the forklift drive motor is too large! Centered on the transaxle, it will interfere with the passenger side drive shaft. Considering options to make it work... Also: pulled the drivetrain from the red car.

05-29-2006 - Motor decision: Based on feedback from the EVDL, we've decided NOT to try to use the 12 inch motor, and will instead adapt one of the two hydraulic pump motors

05-31-2006 - We're swapping the front strut/spring/hub/brake assembly from the red car into the blue one. Why? Possibly stiffer springs, and also bigger brake rotor/caliper

06-05-2006 - Pics: the red '93 Suzuki Swift (from whence the EV's nickname came) was officially put out to pasture, via hillbilly tow-bar.

06-06-2006 - Well, the blue car is now officially mine. I registered & paid tax on it this afternoon

07-21-2006 - Adapter plate cut! Still need to drill the mounting holes

08-17-2006 - Officially at the most critical engineering phase of the project: planning an approach for the motor/tranny coupler

10-05-2006 - Dropped off the motor, transmission & adapter plate (blank) to the machinist so he can finish the coupler & align everything perfectly

11-04-2006 - Back from the machinist: pics of the stuff he made for us 11-05-2006 - The blue ForkenSwift will never move again powered by gasoline - started removing its various life support connections

11-08-2006 - Internal combustion engine is out! (Plus: debate on "out the top" vs. "out the bottom" removal technique)

11-12-2006 - Pics showing the "3-cyl" vs. "4-cyl" positions of the transaxle (with motor mockup stuck on it)

11-13-2006 - Got the transmission hooked up in its "new" location, using the mount, shifter & stabilizer rod from the 4-cylinder car. This gives us more room in the engine bay on the motor side of things.

11-19-2006 - Disassembled & cleaned/de-greased the motor (hydraulic pump motors get greasy, apparently); reassembled & mounted on adapter plate, transmission

11-21-2006 - Started work on motor bracket; also, eBay purchase arrived: 225A 48V Curtis controller

11-26-2006 - Motor is installed in the car (properly... with brackets)! With pics

11-27-2006 - Whoops! The motor is spinning the wrong direction for the transmission input shaft; reversing polarity doesn't fix it. Investigating...

12-11-2006 - Pics of the motor apart, trying to sort out brush timing for the new direction of rotation

12-26-2006 - Video: It's alive! (First power-up of the motor in the car)

12-27-2006 - Pics of the motor brush timing adjustment

12-27-2006 - What's our motor's "red line"? About 6k RPM, according to the motor guru

12-28-2006 - Clone wars: find inspiration & information in an EV Album entry for another 48 volt Metro conversion

12-28-2006 - Beginning of a multi-day, somewhat frustrating effort to make one or both of the controllers work for bench testing purposes

01-02-2007 - Got the EV-1 controller working!

01-03-2007 - Finally got the Curtis working - with help from the EVDL; also, pics of the EV-1 controller test setup

01-04-2007 - Snagged a good deal on eBay for an ammeter and shunt

01-07-2007 - Weekend update: scored 20 feet of used 2/0 welding cable; plus other progress tidbits

01-08-2007 - Video! First controlled motor power-up

01-08-2007 - How powerful is the car with the 225A 48V controller? About 12 peak hp

01-09-2007 - First attempt at a schematic

01-13-2007 - Media coverage: AutoBlogGreen finds the ForkenSwift YouTube videos and posts an item about them

01-15-2007 - Forklift company comes through! Picked up eight free, very used 6v flooded golf cart type batteries to assemble a test pack.

01-16-2007 - Weighty matters: estimating how much the conversion will change the car's weight. Will it sit level?

01-17-2007 - Latest update of circuit schematic

01-18-2007 - Beginning of the Potentiometer Saga. Or, "to what lengths will I go to avoid spending $30 on a new, Curtis pot?"

02-04-2007 - Pics of the modified forklift potbox installed in the car; also cardboard battery mockups in place, working out positioning & clearance.

03-11-2007 - Working on the front battery racks

03-27-2007 - For the first time, the batteries & controller are all connected... inside the car. OK, batts on the floorboards, cables everywhere. But a test drive is imminent.

03-28-2007 - Feeding the ForkenSwift: (with pics!) first try-out of the 36v forklift charger on the dog's breakfast of near-dead batteries

03-30-2007 - Big milestone! First electric test drive!

04-02-2007 - YouTube video of the first electric test drive

04-04-2007 - We need a welder (machine, that is). Fun when projects justify new tools!

04-05-2007 - Decided we're going to sell the 12 inch "torque monster" (forklift drive motor)

04-06-2007 - Jim Husted of Hi-Torque Electric has been exceedingly helpful in identifying/evaluating the motors (via e-mail)

04-08-2007 - Fun with ammeters - making a battery load tester with a coat hanger

04-15-2007 - ForkenSwift gets an EV Album entry

04-17-2007 - YouTube vid: I'm convinced that at some point the car will have a bicycle bell in it, like this EV

04-20-2007 - Finally "de-exhausted" and "de-fuel tanked" the car. Also ruptured a rusty brake line!

04-23-2007 - Forklift company offers to supply us with free, dead batteries! Perfect for testing purposes .. possibly a way to find some pearls and assemble a usable pack?

04-26-2007 - Does the ForkenSwift need power brakes? Description of our rotor/caliper upgrade. Also: brakes fixed! Lines replaced.

04-28-2007 - Project NET cost update: $978.35 CDN or about $876 US; still some good forklift & Suzukiclone parts left to sell, so this will decline.

05-03-2007 - Score! (With pic.) Returned home with a pickup truck load of used 6v batteries! Thanks Fred; thanks Allan!

05-06-2007 - There's no way we're going to be finished the electro/mechanical stuff before the Ottawa EV Expo at the end of May, so we decided to switch the focus onto making it pretty instead (body/paintwork).

05-11-2007 - If you're going to try hypermiling your converted EV (with brushed motor), you might want to keep the clutch.

05-23-2007 - OK, not a milestone, but I like them: got the "ironic racing stripes" painted on, and I like them! Also started fabricating a custom tow bar to get the car to the EV Expo in Ottawa.

05-26-2007 - ForkenSwift attends its first EV Expo, in Ottawa as a "work in progress". Pics, details in this post, and scroll down for more.

05-27-2007 - Yee haw: the "new" used batteries are installed and they're going to do the trick! Range: 15-22 km achieved on two separate runs.

06-01-2007 - Pics: a couple of decent "vanity" photos (magic hour, anyone?) starting at this post, plus scroll down for a "before" shot

06-10-2007 - Milestone! The car has broken a speed limit! (50+ km/h)

06-13-2007 - Got some info/specs from the company that makes the 24v charger we've been using to split-charge the 48v pack

06-20-2007 - Pics of front battery rack layout & construction

07-08-2007 - Milestone: first "real", useful trip!

07-22-2007 - Finished installing the front batteries; starte on the rear rack.

08-26-2007 - Rear battery racks made, installed & full of batteries; also: comparing the 48v ForkenSwift to a CitiCar/CommutaCar

09-06-2007 - Saving money on cable lugs - decision made to try making our own

09-09-2007 - Show 'n' tell: home made cable lugs; some battery cables installed; routing the cables under the car inside plastic conduit

09-10-2007 - Good news: home made cable lugs/ends work well! Not even warm to the touch after driving

09-11-2007 - The 5.25v lower limit - or "How to avoid killing flooded batteries under load"; Also - 30 km range on a single charge!

09-12-2007 - Pics: Curtis controller is now properly installed on a heat sink (instead of tied down on the transaxle!)

09-13-2007 - How & why to size AC circuit breakers for DC use; a list of recycled components (so far) in the ForkenSwift.

09-14-2007 - DIY: making cable ends for battery interconnects instead of crimp-on ends.

09-17-2007 - Planning the contactors setup - man, they're loud!

09-18-2007 - Calculating the electricity cost to drive the car: 2.5 - 3.7 cents / km (1.6 - 2.3 cents / mile) depending on power costs.

09-23-2007 - More cables made; piecing together clutch-activated emergency disconnect

09-26-2007 - Made & installed component platform; accessory battery tray

09-26-2007 - DC-DC converter won on eBay - $25 (48-12v, 100w)

09-28-2007 - Took the car to my mechanic for "pre-inspection advice". He's excited about the project & very helpful.

09-30-2007 - The final push is on to get the car ready for inspection: more cables made; shunt installed; safety contactors installed. Also adjusted motor brush timing.

10-04-2007- Mechanical inspection tomorrow. Not too worried; the car is fit.

11-27-2007 - An EcoModder member comes to see the car

10-05-2007 - Got the car's registration updated: fuel type = "E"

10-11-2007, 02:59 PM - It's legal!
Insured and plated, another road legal EV joins the fleet.

10-11-2007 - Fun with math! Pack capacity is 10.5 kWh (when NEW), or less than 1/3 of a gallon of gas, equivalent energy

10-12-2007 - Some people on the EVDL are suggesting we upgrade to 72v from 48v.

10-13-2007 - For fun: how the car looks like with 4 more batteries in the back (=72v), on the stock suspension...

10-15-2007 - Had the car weighed - post conversion - at the city dump scales: 942 kg / 2070 lbs

10-15-2007 - EV driving school: Got some pointers on technique from the masters on the EVDL.

10-16-2007 - First batch of cost km/efficiency calculations

10-17-2007 - First 0-50 km/h (31 mph) acceleration test run: 36 seconds (on the 225A controller).

10-23-2007 - The car gets an appropriate additional nickname, given how it will be mostly used: "The Electric Umbrella".

10-24-2007 - Picture of the car's DIY tachometer

10-26-2007 - New YouTube video - "It's legal!"

11-04-2007 - 24V charger dies ... and is repaired.

12-11-2007 - Observations on driving in winter weather (snow).

12-14-2007 - Fun with math: what's the theoretical max distance the car could go in 1 year of driving with the current pack & charger?

12-20-2007 - Cost per km calcs of the ForkenSwift vs. Ivan's 4-cyl compact pickup truck

12-26-2007 - Observations on first ever "highway" run.

01-27-2008 - Big, self-administered dope slap: drove away with the charger still plugged in

02-01-2008 - Media coverage: EcoModder blog post about the car gets Dugg, takes down the server

02-06-2008 - What happens if your EV can't climb overpasses, and a train blocks all the level crossings?

02-08-2008 - Worst. Driving. Ever. I smack the side of my brother's minivan on the rear corner of the ForkenSwift, creating yet more work for myself.

02-29-2008 - Worst. Efficiency. Ever. Also, bought another cheap DC-DC converter on eBay

03-15-2008 - New video: shifting gears (remember, no clutch)

03-16-2008 - Milestone: someone in a parking lot noticed that the car is electric! Also: experiment comparing coasting distance in gear (brush drag) vs. neutral

03-17-2008 - Big news: new charger arrived - donated/remanufactured DeltaQ smart charger

03-28-2008 - Water consumption: 2 L added to batteries for about 6 weeks of use

04-01-2008 - Cheap eBay controller upgrade! Replaced the 225A (max) 48V Curtis controller with 300A 48V Curtis

04-08-2008 - Repaired the body damage I did to the car a while back.

04-13-2008 - Cheap eBay controller upgrade part le deux! Installed the 400A 48V Curtis controller in place of the 300A one. 57 bucks for an almost 80% increase in peak current! (Compared to the original 225A.)

05-06-2008 - Installed an LED battery pack monitor: "It's awesomeness can't be underestimated."

05-08-2008 - New video: LED monitor in action - this has become the indespensable gauge in the vehicle.

05-27-2008 - Repairing rusty control arm mounts - the SILENT METRO KILLER! (Incl. pics.) Also, cosmetic paintwork for the EV EXPO.

06-01-2008 - The ForkenSwift at its 2nd annual EVCO (EV Council of Ottawa) EV Expo - including a few pics.

06-04-2008 - Answer to the frequently asked question about getting insurance for an EV in Ontario

06-04-2008 - Pictures of the newly painted & spiffed up motor compartment

06-06-2008 - Brought the car by the forklift place; the guys were impressed & offered a deal on batteries (cost)

06-08-2008 - Parking brake is sticking, eating into efficiency

07-06-2008 - National media coverage on CBC TV news about EV conversions includes the ForkenSwift

08-15-2008 - New video: Just for fun, how long would it take to hot swap the car's battery pack?

08-16-2008 - Bringing the "A pack" of batteries to life after more than a year in storage. Looks like 25 km, vs. 19 km best ever on the "B" pack.

08-16-2008 - Efficiency milestone: 146 MPGe, or 228 Wh/mi at the wall after "tuning" the "A" pack of batteries. Since bested (check the fuel log).

10-03-2008 - More media: gave an interview about the car to a student magazine at Algonquin College in Ottawa

10-06-2008 - Minor ForkenSwift milestone: drove Mom to church, thereby validating the car in the eyes of my neighbour.

10-10-2008 - LED pack monitor assembly details posted on

10-21-2008 - State of the (battery) Union: calculating how worn out is the "good" ForkenSwift battery pack (currently in the car)?

10-22-2008 - Test run of the DC-DC converter

10-26-2008 - Getting a new batch of used batteries that are likely in much better condition than the existing pack. And.. installed, they seem to be better indeed.

10-31-2008 - A "downside" to a pack with more capacity: the charger has to work harder, longer. Discovered it went into a thermal protection mode today when it got too hot recharging. And it's a cool day (air temp).

11-13-2008 - my last EV trip of 2008 (going to the east coast for the winter). Total distance & cost since conversion: 2658 km / 1652 mi & $946.28 Canadian

12-30-2008 - the ForkenSwift enters hibernation for winter 2008/2009


NOTE: index continued in next post...



01-10-2006, 03:25 PM

the fact that i'm still thinking about this several days later tells me it may go beyond just exercising my synapses...

any electric car experts in the group? here's what i would like to do, but i'm not sure what the motor/batt specs would need to be. just fishing for ideas and discussion.

design criteria in order of importance:

1) inexpensive (used parts if poss.)
2) low range is OK (under 20 miles - live in a small town)
3) low top speed OK (e.g. sub 40 mph)

the ultimate budget ev conversion i've seen so far is this $800 (total cost) yugo.

the host vehicle will probably be a metro hatchback, because it's light and there's one available nearby.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 03:58 PM

01-10-2006, 04:38 Pm
Thread Index/Summary ...
(Continued from previous post...)

04-05-2009 - Aaaaaand we're back! On the road, that is.

04-06-2009 - Now with more power! How easy is that? Remove two little hex head bolts on the controller, turn two potentiometers.

05-19-2009 - Pedestrian proximity alert installed


jerry at just pointed me to an excellent resource: the EV List


as luck would have it, one of the thread running through the group lately is how to do a budget geo metro conversion (around $1000). this figure assumes you already have a donor car - and the guy also has a free forklift motor.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 03:59 PM

01-10-2006, 04:52 Pm
someplace to start:


Miles = BatteryType x Weight. For each mile of range, a particular EV might need 5 pounds of lead-acid batteries, 4 pounds of nicads, 3 pounds of nimh, or 2 pounds of lithiums. Pick your battery type, and you know how many pounds of them you need for a given range. (source)
i want to go sub 20 miles, and lead-acid is least expensive, so i'm looking at roughly 100 lbs for batts. that seems low.

45 lbs: weight of my 75 amp-hour deep cycle lead acid 12v battery from my boat (kept in the basement in the winter for maintenance charging)

180 lbs of that battery type makes 48v.

however, the formula may be for a different (lighter) type of battery.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:00 PM

01-16-2006, 10:23 Pm
budget ev update. been following the ev list and reading up on some conversions...

(yeah, i'm still thinking about this.)

- 48 volts is the minimum you can get away with for a small car. with a light car you could do 30 mph max and 20 miles. 72 volts is more reasonable (saw one 72v conversion rated at 50 mph/40 miles)

- motor controllers above 72v get pretty expensive

- motor continuous ratings of 5-10 hp will work for a small car (metro)

- you can opt to go without a controller and just use use a contactor. a low power pack with one controller would work like a golf cart: a binary accelerator

- that makes parking and low speed maneuvers kind of tricky, so you can also set up a "contactor controller" arrangement, where you split the pack so one contactor gives you partial voltage and the second gives you full.

- flooded lead acid batts are cheapest (no surprise there), but need maintenance (watering)

- you don't necessarily need to add a vacuum pump to the brakes. apparently by drilling through the vacuum assist "canister" (the big black round container behind the master cylinder) and puncturing the diaphragm inside, the pedal action becomes relatively easier and you can stick with manual brakes

- still not sure where to source a motor, but there's a fork lift company in town that we're going to talk to (surplus or used would be good).

- changing a car's registration from gasoline to electric is a simple matter of dropping by the licencing office (in ontario anyway); no special paperwork needed (if only i'd known, i could have been skipping those pesky e-tests all these years with my "electric" cars...)

- i think we're actually going to do this. we'll probably aim for essentially a metro golf cart - lo-tech, not sophisticated. waiting to hear back on a potential host car: 84 civic from the west coast (rust free), but she wants too much money for it (relatively speaking). going to look at a couple of dead metros tomorrow also.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:03 PM

01-16-2006, 10:31 Pm
one more tidbit i learned:

- apparently honda engines turn in the opposite direction to most - and most electric motors. this adds an extra challenge if you're doing a honda conversion (not sure how far back this goes, e.g. n600)

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:16 PM

01-17-2006, 03:50 Am
The question was raised: do you keep the clutch or go clutchless with a conversion...


(the link partway down this text has some good pics of an adapter using the original clutch as an interface - but not for its traditional role - between the electric motor and transmission input shaft.)


Electric Vehicles of America, Inc. (EVA) provides both clutch and
clutchless designs. There are advantages and disadvantages to
both. The decision is the customers based on cost, vehicle make,
personal preference, etc.

EVA has used a clutchless design since 1987 and it works
successfully. However, because of some confusion, it should be
called a "clutch pedal-less design". We eliminate the clutch pedal
but not the clutch disk. The clutchless design is a direct
connection between the motor and the transmission. We mount your
clutch disk on a stainless steel and aluminum coupling; therefore it
matches the input shaft of your transmission and the springs in the
clutch disk absorb the initial shock from the motor.

In an internal combustion, not only is the engine always running,
but you have a massive flywheel. So there is lots of inertia and a
clutch is required. This is not so with an electric motor. The
motor stops when you stop. There is no idling. There also is
minimal inertia. Synchromesh transmissions easily handle any gear

The clutch disk (provided by the customer) is critical. And we use
the existing clutch disk to connect the motor output shaft to the
input shaft of the transmission. The advantages of the clutch
pedal-less design are:

1. It allows the conversion of vehicles for which a clutch design
is not available or affordable. A manual transmission is
recommended because it allows you to operate the motor at higher
rpms but you do not have to add a clutch pedal assembly. This makes
it easier to convert vehicles that have an automatic transmission to
a manual transmission.

2. It eliminates the potential of overspeeding the motor with
different EV Users. If new drivers step on the accelerator and rev
the motor before popping the clutch, there is the possibility of
overspeeding the motor. This is a concern here in New England
because of the hills. With the clutch pedal-less design, you simply
put the transmission in gear and step on the accelerator. This
helps many high school drivers who may not have experience with
driving with a clutch.

3. The design is fairly simple. We need only three dimensions and
the clutch disk and we can make the adapter plate and coupling.

4. It allows the conversion of vehicles that once were automatics
without having to install the hydraulics etc. We have converted
existing S10s for the U.S. Air Force; they were automatics. We
just replaced the automatic transmission with a manual transmission
and used our design We did not have to install a clutch pedal and
all of the other hydraulics. this allows greater flexibility when
looking for a potential EV. The manual transmission is only $150.-

5. Shifting is accomplished because of the minimal inertia of the
motor (no flywheel) and the synchromesh.

6. You save weight and money. One racing customer recently stated
that for every 7 lbs in rotational weight is equivalent to 100 lbs
of vehicle weight So by eliminating the flywheel and pressure
plate (35 lbs); it could be the equivalent to removing 500 lbs of
vehicle weight. The same goes with aluminum wheels vs steel wheels.

The disadvantage of the clutch pedal-less design are:

1. It takes a little longer (1-2 seconds) to shift. You cannot
speed shift. However, as I stated in my Driver Ed message, an EV
may drive in 2nd gear in town and 3rd gear on the highway. An S10
can be driven in 2nd gear from 0 -45 mph. So you don't need to
shift very often. With your car standing still and engine off.
Shift gears without pressing the clutch pedal. Notice how you can
go from one gear to the next without using the clutch. Why?
Because there is no inertia. It is the same way with the electric
motor, there is no huge mass of inertia. That is how the clutchless
design works.

2. Downshifting takes 1-2 seconds longer because the speeds have to
match. I usually downshift only at a stop sign coming off a
highway. Remember you shift an EV very infrequently. Usually only
2nd and 3rd gear are used.

We have customers who have the clutch pedal-less design (one with
more than 50,000 miles) and are happy and customers who would like
to try a clutch in their next EV because of their specific driving
conditions or habits (they always had one).

The synchros in the transmission make it smooth. Some people have
suggested that the synchros wear out quickly, but some of our
clutchless customers have more than 30,000 miles total on their
vehicles. For more information on clutchless, refer to Svein
Medhus' Ford Express Electric Home Page This is our customer in
Norway. This includes pictures of the installation of clutchless,
the clutch installation is similar. Another site is

Once we asked someone on the West Coast why they thought a clutch
was required and how that myth got started. He stated that a clutch
was required on the old voltage switching and resistance controllers
in order to allow one to park without banging the others cars. This
problem was solved with PWM controllers.

As always, we just want to give the facts. We offer both. My
personal preference is the clutchless because of the convenience.
Our S-15 truck has a clutchless design and aluminum wheels - it gets
great range because we eliminated about 70 lbs in rotational weight.
Using the rule of thumb above - this represents about 1000 lbs of
vehicle weight. WOW!

The decision is made by the customer based on the specific vehicle,
cost, driving habits and experience.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:17 PM

01-19-2006, 03:23 Pm
bizarre coincidence: yesterday i did a rough cost estimate of my budget NEV idea. it came to...

- $2,631 CDN. (too high to be practical, but it was a liberal estimate - still have wiggle room)

then i headed over to "wilderness ev's" to look around, and saw that they sold a recent metro conversion for...

- $2250.00 US.

guess what that converts to in canadian funds? at yesterday's exchange rate...

- $2631.42 CDN. 42 cents difference. that's just freaky.

if you want to see how a budget ev is done commercially (low end of the scale), you need to head over to Wilderness EV.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:18 PM

01-19-2006, 04:56 Pm

Originally Posted by SVOboy
Damn, this is all very interesting. Are there any parts you haven't sourced or wanna source more cheaply? I have a knack for getting stuff free or close to it.

i haven't really sourced anything. i just made a shopping list, and went around various sites getting new/used estimates.

not surprisingly, the biggest expense is going to be the motor... any help there would be ideal. 36-72V DC 5hp continuous duty as a minimum (7-10 hp continuous would be the max. we need). prices i've seen range from $375 US used to $567 new.

i'm just starting to try sourcing stuff locally to save as much as possible on shipping/currency exchange/customs fees.

after the motor, next biggest expense will be batts. have to do that locally.

we haven't even included a motor controller in the spec, because it would put the price right out of the park. but if one could be got cheap, we need a 36-72V 200A(min) unit. they also tend to range around $500 and up US (new)

this is still all very hypothetical. but the fact that it's been over 2 weeks since my friend and I started actively researching this must mean something...

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:19 PM

01-19-2006, 06:17 Pm
fyi, host cars i've considered:

- 89-94 metro: 1650 lbs
- 84-87 civic: 1797 lbs
- 95-99 metro: 1830 lbs
- 94-97 aspire: 2004 lbs
- early fiero: 2500 lbs

weight is a prime consideration, since this will be a strictly urban vehicle. i wouldn't say "the" prime issue though, up against price & availability.

currently waiting to hear back on a dead 95 firefly & a dead 93 firefly. the pre-89 metros were sub-1600 lbs, but also smaller (harder to place batteries). and there aren't any left around here (rusted away).

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:20 PM


Originally Posted by SVOboy
85 crx hf = 1713, also.


MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:21 PM

01-19-2006, 06:51 Pm
yeah, the hf would be nice - but i should have said: cars actually available locally.

all the crx's of that vintage are just a rusty memory around here... the civic i found is an unusual recent transplant from the west coast.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:21 PM

01-20-2006, 09:31 Am

heard back about 2 of the "parked" (i.e. dead) metros around here: $350 for one, $500 for the other. the $350 one is actually worth $50, but the owner is delusional (parked for many years, cracked windshield, rusty around the edges, not running).

the $500 one is probably worth $500 - owner says it's low miles (120k km), runs fine, but needs a cv joint.

the search continues

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:22 PM

01-21-2006, 09:41 Pm
bigger crud:

i checked with my insurance broker friday to find out rates for a metro EV, and found out my current company won't insure an EV converted by a hobbyist (i.e. me). checked another company: same answer.

if i can't get insured (or insured cheaply - a regular ICE 93 metro would cost me an extra $35 a month), that'll be the end of the project.

so my focus shifts from finding a host car to finding an insurer...

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:23 PM

01-22-2006, 08:01 Pm

Originally Posted by SVOboy
Are there any of those online insurance companies that have good rates but ****ty service in canada? comes to mind for me.

i know it's an option to just insure the car and not tell them it's electric, but if anyone ever made a claim against me, and it was in any way a result of the conversion, i'd be screwed.

i was willing to take the chance, but my friend wasn't as much. so we have to do full disclosure. i'll call around a bit more this week and see what we can come up with...

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:24 PM

01-22-2006, 08:22 Pm

Originally Posted by SVOboy
The deductable might me more than the value of the car, don't you think? It'll prolly get totalled from a fender bender (as would my car), so meh.

yeah, i'm not even looking for collision or comprehensive (theft/vandalism etc) - you're right, it won't be worth it.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:24 PM

01-22-2006, 11:07 Pm
for anyone who's following this, 2 10hp 36-48V dc motors sold on eBay this week for $200 and $300 US respectively (250A and 500A ratings). either would have been suitable for a small car conversion. the smaller motor was used, out of an electric fork truck.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:25 PM

01-23-2006, 09:46 Am
got some good news: found an insurance co. which will cover a metro conversion (though they may require that it be inspected at their discretion - which is fine by me). $48/month for 3rd party liability.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:27 PM

02-05-2006, 12:13 Pm
went for a drive in the blackfly today - first time i've driven it in a week. i have to take it out at least once a week or the brake rotors get too rusty to clean off with the brake pedal.

anyway, found a potential EV host car on my drive: 93 or 94 swift. red.

very good body for its age. guy wants $100 for it. guy says it runs too.

but it's been repaired (welded) where the front right control arm attaches to the unibody (common point of weakness from rust with these cars, right JanGeo?!).

i first need to find out if a repaired control arm mount will pass a safety check. if it will, this one might be worth getting.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 04:29 PM

02-05-2006, 02:20 Pm
if you're interested, the true beater cars like this don't usually show up in the usual places, ie. the *trader magazines; they're too low-end to even bother advertising.

so, you have to be resourceful to find them. tips:

- all 5 metro candidates i've looked at so far i found driving down rural roads outside of town. just keep an eye out for cars in driveways/yards that are un-plated or have obviously been parked for a while (lots of snow on top is a dead giveaway... though we haven't had much of that this winter). then i just knock at the door and inquire.

- start watching the buy & sell forum: members often post "finds" in their area for the benefit of others who are looking. the "cheap" finds are popular threads, the discussion forum equivalent of yelling "bingo!"

- repair shops (i.e. independent garages): several around here buy & re-sell their customers' old cars when the customer decides to pull the plug on ongoing financial/mechanical life support

- patience. do the rounds. watch the forums. wait a while, and something will eventually turn up. (like my firefly/metro that had 2,400 orig. km when i got it ... but for which i paid waaaaay more than $500)

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:33 PM

02-05-2006, 06:26 Pm
fyi, here's a properl '95 Metro EV (i.e. not "scrapyard budget-oriented) is for sale:

- 8 inch Advance DC motor, 96 volts,
- 400 Amp Curtis Controller,
- new battery pack (16 Advance flooded lead acid batteries, 6 volts, 120 AH ea)
- radio tape player, driven this EV, happily, for five years. Asking $6000 US.
- link to ad + one not so good picture

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:34 PM

02-13-2006, 12:32 Pm
weekend update: looked at 2 possible metro hosts, and both were too rusty (incl the red $100 one). shame about the red one, because the body was good, but the rust around the control arm mount was too far advanced to repair.

some good news: persistence on the phone paid off with a local forklift service company. i finally talked to one of their service technicians who says they have a complete 48V used forklift that they'll sell for $500. this would be a great source for not only the motor (10hp continuous series wound), but for switches, fuses, contactor, controller, potbox, gauges...

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:35 PM


Originally Posted by someone
does it have a controller too?

don't know the technical details yet (if it has a controller). my co-conspirator in this project works alternating day/afternoon shifts, so we won't be able to go see it for another week, when everyone's schedules align. i'll keep you posted of course.

as for the batteries, they're likely toast if this thing has been sitting in a warehouse for any length of time. but you never know - they might not be totally DOA. and even if they are DOA, a local recycling company will pay a couple of bucks for each one.

yeah - i'm hoping we'll be able to cannibalize almost all the stuff we need from this fork truck.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:36 PM

02-18-2006, 03:41 Pm
fork truck update: going to see it on monday. it's a Baker FTD and is very heavy - 5000-8000 lbs. they want $500 whether we take the whole thing or just the parts. it must have lead ballast to be that heavy, because it's not physically very large (maybe 4x8 footprint, not counting the fork).

it DOES have a controller. it's a GE EV1 (not to be confused with GM's EV-1 electric car). apparently it's not the most efficient controller available, but if it works, i won't complain. it does have what's called a contactor bypass, which means when you're at "full throttle", a large relay directs current around the controller, straight to the motor. in that mode, the controller is 100% efficient (well, only because in that configuration it's 100% out of the loop).

it will not come with batteries.

for reference, here's an ebay listing for a 7000 lb baker ftd: open ebay listing

in host vehicle news: a guy in another forum offered me his dead '91 swift for free, but he lives about 450 km away. ARg. he says the suspension mounts are fine... still keeping an eye out. something will come up.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:37 PM

02-18-2006, 04:10 Pm

Originally Posted by SVOboy
If he's 450km south I might want it :)

sorry: west. too bad, eh?

that's the trouble with doing a LOW-budget project. even 450 km becomes too far to go get a FREE vehicle.

i actually drove PAST where this free car is when i bought my first firefly. but it's a little different when it's my primary car, not just a science experiment. plus, i could drive the firefly home; this swift would need towing. or a motor (he took it out). and a tranny. yup.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:39 PM

02-18-2006, 05:29 Pm
something else i've been keeping an eye out for is the "original" LSV/NEV - the 70's CitiCar / ComutaCar

one of these classic puppies would be fun to rebuild. originally they were all 48v with contactor controllers. 3.5 to 6 hp. 30-40 mile range, 40 mph top speed.

gotta love that 70's fiberglass "styling".

this car has the distinction of being the most successful battery electric car: over 2000 were sold in the 70's and early 80's. and you can pick them up for about as much money as we've budgeted for our home-built metro NEV.

there was one on craigslist last week for $1400 US. new batteries, needed cosmetic restoration. they're dead-simple. low tech. perfect EV to learn on.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:40 PM

02-18-2006, 05:55 Pm

- citicar/commutacar album

- 1992 metro EV for sale 36V - $2450 US

hmm! just saw photos of a 36v 8000lb forklift motor. it's HUGE - 400 lbs! hope the motor that i'm going to look at isn't as big, or it won't fit into a metro...

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:40 PM

02-20-2006, 07:08 Pm
well, went to look at the used forklift tonight. it's in working condition. has *4* dc motors (1 drive; 2 hydraulic pump motors; 1 power steering pump motor). a working controller & a pile of reusable contactors from the other motors.

but the thing weighs a hell of LOT more than he told me. it's a 16,000 lb machine - and that's without the battery pack (3000 lbs more) it's 11,000 lbs heavier than the capacity of the tandem trailer we thought we were going to be able to use to move it (when we thought it was a 5000-8000 lb machine)

for $500 CDN it seems like a really good deal, but now we have to hire a trucking company to move it twice for us (it's 2 towns over - about 18 km away). first move to bring it to the house to strip it, and then hire them again to take the chassis to the scrap yard.

so it's no longer a $500 forklift. the shipping won't be cheap, so this will all depend on what kind of quotes i get...

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:41 PM

02-20-2006, 08:37 Pm
unfortunately, it doesn't come with batts, so we can't drive it to its destination. no AAA either! drat.

you're right it is way overbuilt to use in a car conversion - but the price was the main attraction. this thing has nearly all the parts we need except for batteries, battery cables and a motor to input shaft adapter.

testament to its overbuilt-ness: the drive motor is 15x10 inches, and weighs 200 lbs. that's heavier than the 3-cyl engine it would be replacing!


Those electric cars sound interesting
you mean the CitiCars? i think they can be used in any state/province. they were never classified as "NEVs" (that was my editorializing). they were built before crash laws were an issue, so they're exempt from current laws and are registered as a normal automobile. in the cars shown in the picture above, can you guess which of the group were made before and after the US 5mph bumper law came into effect? ;)

also, these cars on a good batt pack are faster by 10-15 mph than the legally restricted modern NEV speed of 25. a modern pack and efficient motor would do wonders. many owners do "upgrade" (though I doubt there are any li-ions running around yet)

if i'm not mistaken, these things sold new for about $4k US in the late 70's.

the more i learn about them, the more i like their homely fiberglass faces :D - rare as hen's teeth in canada, unfortunately.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:42 PM

02-23-2006, 12:18 Pm
2 tidbits:

- found out there's a guy who owns 2 CitiCars about 45 minutes from where i live. he invited me to see them when he takes them out of winter storage in a month or so.

- i think we're going buy that forklift. getting together with my friend/co-conspirator after work today to go over the numbers and make a decision.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:47 PM

found another beater: 91 firefly 4 door. red. owner says it runs and only needs brakes to pass safety. i suspect it needs more than that since it's been parked for more than a year.

the suspension mounts are OK, but there's a hole in the floor.

i offered $100, she countered with $200. i said i'd get back to her.

the 4 door weighs a little more - just shy of 1700 lbs.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:48 PM

02-24-2006, 04:26 Pm
well, my friend and i looked over our spreadsheet yesterday and we agreed it would be tough to do a conversion for our original budget of $1500. $2k is a much safer bet. we decided to go ahead - and strive to keep costs somewhere in between the two figures.

so today i made a couple of calls and agreed to buy the $500 forklift and the rusted suspension suzuki swift 2-dr for $75.

we'll use the swift for parts when we find a better metro/swift/sprint/firefly host car. while we're looking, we can use its tranny to fabricate the motor/tranny adapter plate.

also, i can use its 13 in rims for my snow tires. and i may end up with a spare (taller) tranny i can try in my blackfly. so i'm getting a lot of value for $75. plus the engine works. may be able to sell it (and various other parts) on the teamswift site...

no money has actually changed hands yet. at what point do i say that we're actually building an electric car and not just buying junk?

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:49 PM

03-04-2006, 04:33 Pm
picked up the $75 red swift today. driving it back to the house was an experience. because of the badly rusted/welded right front control arm mount, that wheel is angled out about 10 degrees when the left wheel is pointing straight ahead. can you say "unstable"?

so out in the country, i drove with the right wheel on the dirt shoulder where it had less traction. when i got into town, i kept it over to the right side of the lane so that tire tracked in the gravel by the curb. that made steering easier. when i had to have both tires on dry pavement, they actually squealed as i drove along (30 mph). probably not good for mileage :)

so, we'll have a look to see if the floor/suspension is repairable, but i kind of doubt it. it appears it has already been patched up once. and now the patches are rusting off.

if we can't fix it, this car will serve as a parts source. and we can use its tranny to make the adapter plate for the car we ultimately end up using as the host. this tranny fits all metros 89 - 01.

i can hopefully sell the engine (seems to run & drive strong, though it prob hasn't had a tune-up in years). plus it's got an OEM remote alarm/immobilizer system. may be able to sell that too.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:49 PM

03-05-2006, 03:36 Pm

had a better look under the swift today, and repairing it may not be out of the question. it's not as bad as i thought.

did an eyeball wheel alignment in the driveway and now the car drives pretty much normally: tracks pretty straight, no tire squealing. the reason it was so far off before is because whoever did the control arm mount repair didn't line it up properly before welding the patch in place.

everything in the car works. there's a bit of a gas smell around the tank area, and a leak in the exhaust. and the front tires are shot, of course.

i'll have to get my mechanic's opinion on whether it would pass safety with the floor/suspension mount area properly aligned, welded & reinforced. i've always wanted to try welding...

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:50 PM

03-06-2006, 08:06 Pm
my brother knows how to weld, so he'll probably show me. and my partner in crime's brother has a welder. not sure what type though.

i've been buzzing around my neighbourhood in the swift. i actually like driving it more than my pontiac. even though in every objective sense the pontiac is a better car, the swift just feels more nimble. probably it's just the novelty of it.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:51 PM

03-06-2006, 08:35 Pm
for anyone reading this thread, got any ideas where i could go look for used batteries?

i'm thinking of putting together a small pack of 36 or 48v that i can use to test things and move the forklift around in the garage if i need to when it arrives.

i already called a golf cart service company, but they don't keep used ones around. who else might have some large amp-hour capacity 6 or 12volt batts lying around? any ideas?

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:52 PM

03-07-2006, 11:39 Am
junkyard is a good idea. someone on another ev list suggested regular 12v starting batteries from a junkyard will also work.

on another note, stopped by my mechanic at lunch time and he gave me the green light: if the control arm mount is properly welded, it's OK for the safety certificate (other issues notwithstanding).

then i swung by the local dump and drove onto the scale. they guy said the car's weight is 782 kg / 1724 lbs.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:53 PM

03-07-2006, 12:23 Pm

Originally Posted by SVOboy
Damn, that's pretty heavy for that little thing. Got some bodies in the back or something?

might be the weight of the gigantic FOUR cylinder engine in the front. four ostentatious cylinders! shameless excess.

maybe that's why i'm liking driving it. it's practically a ferrari compared to the fireflea.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:54 PM

03-07-2006, 05:21 Pm
notice anything strange about the wheel placement in the wheel well?

shows the shoddy patch welded on the control arm mount point. the forward control arm bolt is about 1/2 inch further outboard than it should be. that's why the wheel's off center in the wheel well.

look familiar jangeo?

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:54 PM

03-08-2006, 07:36 Am

Originally Posted by someone
you should just part it out and take the profit

yes, that IS tempting. we could also probably make 50-100% on the forklift if we parted it out too. (maybe more under the right circumstances - the technician said the motor is worth "thousands" if you have to replace one.)

but i look at it this way: i were to part out these vehicles, the money i would make as "profit" would really just be covering my time for doing it (dismantling, ebaying, packing, running to the post office). unless i hit the jackpot with some special part (sounds like you did :) ).

and someone contacted me yesterday to tell me they've got an engineless metro, electric motor and adapter plate ready to go in ottawa (just over an hour from here.) a conversion project that was started but ran out of steam.

MetroMPG 11-15-2007 10:55 PM

03-14-2006, 03:20 Pm
so, apparently i'm getting a 16,000 lb forklift delivered to the house sometime tomorrow. kind of exciting!

i hope the ground under the driveway's interlocking bricks is frozen enough to hold it up until i can move it inside the garage onto the concrete floor.

we have to cut or remove the lift boom first (it's about 1.5 feet taller than the garage door), which probably won't happen until the weekend.

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