When I walk into a manufacturing site, I can quickly grasp the operations. Learning how cars work was new.
Most manufacturers follow the same workflow: Customer orders, sourcing parts, inventory, assembly, and shipping. When you break down a car, it’s also just a few systems: Fuel, engine, drivetrain, steering, braking, electrical, body/frame, and creature comforts.
With my EV-Wreck, the big three — fuel, engine, and drivetrain — would be discarded. I marveled at how simple our Scout became when I took them out. There are countless car guys out there doing restorations — and I assume car gals as well. What makes the EV-Wreck story unique is that I’m not one of them. Also, I’m approaching it like I would a software project:
Study the old system and determine what to replace with modern digital solutions.
Here are some of the questions I tackled:
- Weight — How much will this weigh? How much can I take off? With a VW bug conversion kit, you’re working with a 1500 pound car. The Scout is about 3000 pounds — about the same as a modern Corolla.
- Drive Train — My first big question was whether I wanted a four-wheel drive or two-wheel drive car? I can save 250 pounds with a two-wheel. This was a no-brainer because my goal was to drive in the Georgia Tech parade.
- Transmission — How will I marry the original transmission to an electric motor? This is a real challenge since the 1965 transmission and the 2021 electric motor come from completely different worlds. This will need to be a custom part that includes an aluminum coupler and flywheel.
- Motor – What kind of motor will I want? VW conversion kits use a 96-volt brushless motor with regenerative braking (putting on the brakes charges the battery). The motor alone is $4750 — about three times what I paid for my first car.
- Batteries – What kind of batteries will I need? A Prius’ battery consists of 28 Panasonic nickel-metal hydride modules. They are connected in a series and produce a total of 201.6 volts. The original Tesla used 6,831 individual Li-ion cells in its battery. It’s roughly the size of a storage trunk and weighs about 900 pounds. Fortunately, used Tesla Model S batteries are readily available. The 12-volt system for headlights and radio operates separately from the needs of the 96-volt AC drive motor.
- Range — Electric vehicle range is the holy grail of the EV world. In first place is the Long Range version of the Tesla Model 3 with an estimated range of 353 miles — the same distance as Atlanta to the Pensacola beach. A Nissan Leaf can go 215 miles — not enough to get you to Tybee Island. By comparison, a Toyota Corolla Hybrid claims a remarkable range of 600 miles. For me, I want to drive to work and the Kroger. Plus, it would be fun to drive the 100 miles to my cabin. I should mention that the $18,000 Beetle conversion kit will take you 90 miles. The price does not include the car!
“When you break down a car, it’s also just a few systems.”