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I have been thinking about getting a fully electric car for my 25 mile commute to work. After looking into what is available, I found very little appealing, except for the EV-1, which is not available. I looked into conversion kits, and found that you can get a 70 HP DC electric motor kit for around $4000. An AC motor, which is needed for regenerative breaking requires double the cost. Another issue is the weight of the vehicle, lighter is better. It occured to me that the Insight might be the perfect vehicle for conversion. The IMA could be used for the regenerative breaking, and the DC motor, with a seperate set of batteries would be used for primary power. Some reprogramming of the system would be required to make it all work, of course. Has anybody attmepted such a conversion, and is anyone possibly interested in exploring this?
 

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Hi there and welcome to the site.

Yes the Insight is the perfect car for an EV conversion, but then again it is also perfect as is for some of us.

There is already at least one electric conversion in the works. My understanding is that it is being converted to Lithium batteries and will have a range of over 200 miles. The ICE was removed. There is no way to separate the IMA motor from the ICE as they use the same bearings.
 

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Electric Conversion

Very interesting. Do you have anymore information about who is doing this conversion?
 

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If you don't mind hanging on for a bit, and have a fair bit of cash to spend, you could have a chat with these guys: http://www.calcars.org/priusplus.html. For your money they claim they'll soon be able to provide you with a brand new Prius, modified by the group to include a 10-25 mile EV mode range. Will be pricey in the near-term though, and the prototypes still have some bugs to iron out.

Next step down budget-wise would be to find a used Solectria Force EV, all the hard work's already been done, though the batteries may need replacing soon. Lastly, a DIY job on the Insight wouldn't be so difficult if you powered the rear wheels (like this) from an installed, completely separate battery pack in the back somewhere. Keeping the EV mode nits completely isolated from the IMA system would mean a much less complicated install than trying to mate it to all the hardware and software of the IMA, and you could choose which one to run on at the switch of a button. You can get 100hp in wheel motors now that would just mount onto the rear axle for a 200hp RWD electric Insight!
 

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You're going to want to check out the EVDL (Electric Vehicle Discussion List) for this. This list has been around forever, and the amount of information and intelligence available is monumental.

http://www.evdl.org/

Be warned though, this list can generate several hundred messages a day, and will result in major passion towards all things EV. :)
 

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hfidel said:
70 HP DC electric motor kit for around $4000. An AC motor, which is needed for regenerative breaking, requires double the cost.

Why won't a DC motor work as a generator?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks

Guys:
Thanks for all the great tips. The Prius conversion is not for me. I think the Prius is a great car, and I think that the idea is nice, but I mostly drive on the highway. Of my 20 mile commute each way, 15 is at 70 MPH, the other 5 at 30.
The idea of making the Insight conversion with rear wheel drive is intriguing, but then, it I don't remove the ICE, I will have a lot of extra weight. I might also need some of that room for batteries. Anyway, it certainly needs further study.
I thought the Insight is the best candidate, it is lighter weight, and has been around almost long enough, that I might get lucky and find one for$5000 or so. Finding one with a blown engine would be ideal.

I don't see why DC motors can't be used as generators. Electro Automotive only sells AC motors with regenerative controllers, so unless you know of another source, (besides designing one myself, which is not impossible, but probably not worth the effort), the motor I add will probably be DC. I would like to do the whole thing for about $10,000 plus lots of my scarce time.
 

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A DC drive train can deffinitely have regenerative braking, it's just an issue of finding a DC motor controller that has the feature. Of course you have to ask yourself if you really need regen. Granted it does give about a 10% increase in range, for mainly highway driving it it less significant than that.

If your target for everything running you $10,000 your honestly probably going to have to look in to some used parts and probably cheap flooded lead acid batteries.

Join the EVDL, they'll have better conversion information than here, and check Wilde EVolutions for parts to get some ideas going.
 

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Kip Wrote:
"There is already at least one electric conversion in the works. My understanding is that it is being converted to Lithium batteries and will have a range of over 200 miles."

I too am VERY interested in this idea but probably with a smaller range. If anyone has any "blueprints" for this type of conversion, would you be of assistance?
~Marty
2000 Manual 5 spd "Sora" - (Japanese for sky)
 

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... thinking about getting a fully electric car for my 25 mile commute ...
Long ago research groups learned that attempting to convert military hardware to civil research applications, let alone actual use,on a per vehicle basis this repeatedly proved to be a very expensive proposition. It was far less expensive to start from scratch, in this case the vehicle body and I doubt that trying to convert a Prius or an Insight to an all electic vehicle is no different. Were you to take into account ALL costs associated with just the conversion of such a vehicle, odds are you will come to the same conclustion as well.

With that said, if you have a real interst in an EV for a short commute, a range of twenty five (25) miles or so, consider purchasing a set of car plans from Robert Q. Riley Enterprises. Have a look at what he calls the URBA ELECTRIC vehicle. He also sells plans for two or three other EV, including the URBA (different from the URBA ELECTRIC) as well as hybrids. Also, check your state laws with regard to registering a home built vehicle. There may even be tax advantages available to you!

I for one have purchased three sets of plans from Riley, and while I don't care that much for the style of the URBA,ELECTRIC the, now what is antiquated EV technology suggested in those plans can easily be replaced/upgraded and installed in what he calls the URBA vehicle, a body style more to my liking.

Hope this helps.

Fred / Proud Owner of "The Silver Bullet"
 

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Fred I fail to see where it would be better for a layman to build a car from scratch for electric power over converting an Insight. Any other car yes but the Insight has all the needed requirements for an efficient electric conversion.
Its has a light weight aluminum structure, has aerodynamic low drag, low rolling resistant hard tires with 0 toe in toe out, electric PS and is a known quantity which is safe and drives well.
Taking out the engine and other unneeded items is easy. The trans and final drive stay with an adapter plate formed to go between bell housing and electric motor of choice plus another mount.
that’s the hardest part done with battery choice dictating the design of a compartment in the rear with ventilation or cooling. Wire it all up to a controller and inverter that will see it moving, an electric vacuum pump for the brakes for stopping with other refinements completing the job
It might be possible to end up with a similar weight to the original making a more efficient package than a conventional car conversion or having to construct from the ground up. My experience with homebuilts and kits are they never drive or handle as good as a properly developed machine from a reputable company.
I am intrigued with the Riley three wheel hybrid though but would still choose the Insight as a first project for conversion.
DGate
 

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Fred I fail to see where it would be better for a layman to build a car from scratch for electric power over converting an Insight. Any other car yes but the Insight has all the needed requirements for an efficient electric conversion.
Its has a light weight aluminum structure, has aerodynamic low drag, low rolling resistant hard tires with 0 toe in toe out, electric PS and is a known quantity which is safe and drives well.
Taking out the engine and other unneeded items is easy. The trans and final drive stay with an adapter plate formed to go between bell housing and electric motor of choice plus another mount.
that’s the hardest part done with battery choice dictating the design of a compartment in the rear with ventilation or cooling. Wire it all up to a controller and inverter that will see it moving, an electric vacuum pump for the brakes for stopping with other refinements completing the job
It might be possible to end up with a similar weight to the original making a more efficient package than a conventional car conversion or having to construct from the ground up. My experience with homebuilts and kits are they never drive or handle as good as a properly developed machine from a reputable company.
I am intrigued with the Riley three wheel hybrid though but would still choose the Insight as a first project for conversion.
DGate
 

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...I fail to see where it would be better for a layman to build a car from scratch for electric power over converting an Insight. Any other car yes but the Insight has all the needed requirements for an efficient electric conversion.
Without question an Insight shell has a lot going for it, inlcuding but not limited to the alluminum material as well as the aerodynamic form if as you say, a layman were interested in converting it to a full EV but I suspect that the layman, when he/she completed the work, they'd be less than satisfied, dollar wise and other wise.

It's the cost to do it and do it right to which I call your attention. If you've never seen a set of those Reily plans I mentioned, do get a set. Get what he calls the URBA CAR or the URBA ELECTRIC, better yet, get both sets. Both are from "scratch" vehicles. The former is NOT intended to be an EV, rather a 50MPG ICE powered, two seater, with gull wing doors, but one easily adapted to be a one hundred percent EV. The body styles are completely different but the basics of construction is identical; tube frames, plywood and fiberglass.

As for the instrumentation, that which is in the Insight is unique to that specific class vehicle. If you're going to convert it (or any other vehicle for that matter) to an EV part of your budget should include the appropriate instrumention, which is available by way of the multitude of firms offering EV converstion kits - or elsewhere, just as they offer electric powered vacuum pumps to operate the vehicle's brakes. Trying to adapt the Insight's electrical system to perform as a fully functional EV machine will in all probabilty prove to be a proverbial nightmare for the layman.

For the average layman (like me) it is to the total costs involved to which I draw your attention. Until I leanred of the Insight, I was gearing up to build the URBA CAR - as an EV. I had gone so far as to acquire the plans (also purchased the Urba Electric plan set) and using carboard, choosing the metric (CM) scale as opposed to the foot and inches (i.e., 12" = 12cm) as shown in the plans, I'd cut out just about all the parts needed for assembly to see how they'd fit. While doing this, while reviewing the cost schedule for the umteenth time before committing to a full scale construction project, the total cost (parts, labor, material and licensiing) came to just over ten thousand dollars - then on eBay I spotted a new Insight for sale in New York and they were only asking some seventeen thousand dollars for it! That Insight came with more "bells, whistles and chrome" than my Urba EV would have had. For me, it wasn't all that difficult a choice.

You might note that I am not the greatest body man or mechanic you'll ever meet but over the years, while an amateur, I've done my share of such work and I can offer that if you believe the layman is going to save money and time by converting an Insight shell to a full EV and end up with essentially a fully functioning Electric Insight, experience tells me this isn't going to happen. There's no question it would be a labor of love but for the costs, without question I suspect that the results will be very disappointing for the average layman.

Hope that answers your question.

Fred / Proud Owner of "The Silver Bullet"
 

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Fred,
IMHO
While a conversion is no small task, after the first one, the rest will be much easier. To fabricate a complete chassis with the qualities of the Insight, from a safety, comfort and quality of build stand point, is way more difficult than fitting a few sub systems into the present car.
A set of plans and a parts list, with full fabrication drawings for any special components that would have to be machined, and we have an Insight EV kit.
All it takes is time and some money.
;)
 

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Fred I have built two cars, both kits but one was from a redundant firm and was second hand so I had to hunt far and wide to obtain all the bits to complete. Almost like starting from scratch but still not quite like constructing a body or chassis.
You are overly optimistic if you think building from scratch will be cheap, its amazing how quickly the small items add up not counting the hours on the learning curve acquiring new skills.
Its satisfying building ones own car but I would prefer removing and installing existing components to jigging and welding, body building,painting,interior trimming etc etc.
I have seen Rileys plans in fact I have seen them before he owned the rights and they are very interesting but he is in the market to sell plans, so beware any final costing proposals made by the company.
But if this is your cup of tea as they say don't be put off by my rantings its great fun to finish something tailored to your measurements and desires. :)
I also agree with what Mike has said.
DGate
 

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Mike Dabrowski 2000 said:
... To fabricate a complete chassis with the qualities of the Insight, from a safety, comfort and quality of build stand point, is way more difficult than fitting a few sub systems into the present car.
... All it takes is time and some money.
;)
No question but that you're right. Currently the fabricating of your own car from the ground up will in all probability NOT result in a vehicle which is as safe, as comfortable and possibly of the same quallity as a "store bought" car.

With that said, I suggest to you that "Joe Average", were he (or she) to acquire an Insight Shell/fuselage/hull at a reasonable price, one which is in fairly to very good condition, from what I know of these things, odds are that by the time he or she gets done pulling out all the unwanted components and then installs the needed parts and items to make an EV out of the former IInsightl, odds are the end result may be an EV but one lacking the "creature comforts" formerly available to the particular Insight unit; power windows will be no problem, heating will be no problem but along with a much shorter range (this is offered with a knowledge of the current state of readily available battery technology), instrumentation and displays will be. The suspension will have to be upgraded. Different tires? And unless an on-board recharging power plant is installed, one may have to drill and install a charging receptical or try very hard to adapt the current gasoline cover in that regard.

The list can go on and on. Trying adapt an Insight or for that matter any other vehicle to a full EV mode as degat has said elsewhere in these forums, they're not going to have the "do-all" car they were hoping for. A lot of the proverbial "time, talent and treasure" will be put into the conversion effort, much more so than from starting from "scratch" and tne new" EV they come up with will augment, as opposed to replace, the ICE unit they most likely currently have and may in all probabililty prove to be as expensive, if not more so, than that original car.

Hope this helps explain my thinking on the matter.

Fred / Proud Owner of "The Silver Bullet"
 
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