What got you interested in EVs Travis ?
Back in the day, I had a 1966 Beetle and a 1964 Notchback, but never had the resources to fix them up. Eventually, the Beetle was wrecked and the Notchback was sold. I have always missed those cars and now I have the resources for a project. I thought it would be great to get a Notchback or Beetle for a project car.
I also drive to work every day in my Ford F-250 truck. My truck has the V10 6.8L engine, it gets 10 mpg on a good day. I needed to get something more economical to commute with. So, I started thinking, maybe I could do both with one car?
A daily driver became my goal. It had to be dependable, comfortable, and cool. While researching ways to do this, I came across an EV conversion kit advertized on The Samba. That conversion kit piqued my interest in electric vehicles. I started reading everything I could about EVs and watched the movie “Who Killed the Electric Car”. There are online tools available that allowed me to calculate the range of an electric vehicle with different combinations of batteries, motors, controllers, and cars. When I discovered that I can make my 26 mile commute both ways, I was sold on the idea.
I have always been interested in all things electronic. Making an EV Beetle that had the “California Look” seemed like a unique, fun project that I can use every day.
In California, you can get a sticker that will allow you to drive in the carpool lane if you have a zero emission vehicle.
I can charge near my work for free and no dirty exhaust for us to breath.
Is this your first EV ?
What made you decide to go with the VW ?
Some of the hurdles of converting a car to an EV are the power steering, vacuum assisted brakes, computer controlled dash, air conditioning, and heater. Well, an early VW does not have any of those things, so, they are relatively easy to convert.
Where did you buy the adapter plate from ?
One of the things you will have to decide when you purchase the adaptor is whether you will retain the clutch or not. I chose to keep the clutch, so, I purchase the kit from CANEV.
It is of quite a vintage, was there any restoration needed before conversion or was it in pretty good shape ?
I was lucky to find a Beetle that did not have much rust. Removed the one piece windows and put the original ones with the wind wing back in. Replaced the seats with some that are daily driver worthy.
Went with the Porsche style Fuchs replica rims for the Cal look.
Put the lowered spindles on front for a 2.5” drop.
Re-wired the whole car with a Street Works harness for dependability and to accommodate all of the new EV stuff.
Installed new headlight assemblies and wired the turn signals where the parking lamp used to be.
Tell us about your Li-Ion batteries and their Battery Management System.
I was originally going to use lead acid batteries, but after much research, it became apparent that lead batteries would be pushing the weight limitations of the Beetle and would require me to charge at work for 6 hours before being able to drive home. I did not want to be stuck at work in case I wanted to go home early. I needed enough range to make the round trip back and forth to work if I needed to. The only battery that can give me a range of 52 miles is lithium. Lithium is also much lighter, but way more expensive than lead batteries. This is when I decided on the $4000.00 extra cost of lithium batteries.
There are 40 batteries total. Each one is 3.2 volts and 160 amp hours. They are connected in series for a total of 128 volts and 160 amp hours. The batteries are placed to match the stock weight distribution as close as possible. 16 in the front, and 24 in back. The battery pack can produce up to 480 amps for 30 seconds, which is 61.4 Kw of power.
Since the batteries are connected in series, they could become unbalanced, which can damage the cells. I went with BMS boards that have a 2 amp shunt, low voltage, and high voltage monitoring. The BMS circuit boards were designed by Brian Blocher, and are called Voltblochers. I ordered them unassembled, so I had to build and solder each board. Unfortunately, they are no longer made.
What kind of braking system did you use ?
The 1966 Beetle came with a single circuit master cylinder and drum brakes. Since this was going to be a daily driver and there is more weight, I decided to upgrade to a dual circuit master cylinder with disc brakes front and rear. Another advantage of the disc brakes is the excellent parking brake, which is important because you can’t just put it in gear to hold it with an electric motor.
Your car has a 9 inch Netgain Motor, why did you choose this motor and also could you explain the double shaft ?
I went with the Warp 9 because it is the most efficient and powerful motor that will (barely) fit in a Beetle. One interesting thing about electric motors is that the bigger motor is actually more efficient, which is the opposite of a gas engine.
The double shaft can be used to turn an AC compressor or other accessories. There is no room for that in my car because it is such a tight fit.
Explain a little about your cars weight changes, from what I see it’s a nice light EV.
The unladen weight of a Beetle is 1700 pounds. I removed the 250 lb engine and the 60 lb full gas tank. So, subtract 310lb The front battery pack is 220 lb, the rear is 330 lb, and the motor is 150lb. So, 650-310 = 340lb gain.
Total becomes 2040lb, the maximum allowed weight is 2558 lb, so, that leaves me with a 518 pound payload.
Enough for two fat guys.
You chose a Zilla controller, currently the most coveted item for an EV enthusiast could you explain a little about it and its configuration ?
The Zilla is a marvel of engineering in my opinion. It makes it possible to have better acceleration than a stock beetle. There are many safety features built in, which saves a lot of complicated circuits that otherwise be necessary.
What do your friends and family think of the EV ?
They are supportive and interested in the car. I enjoy explaining how it all works.
Do you have a favorite story about building or driving your EV ?
The most recent story is a result of me installing the radiator for cooling the Zilla controller. I was drilling the holes to mount it on the firewall and I accidentally drilled a hole in the battery. It was a small hole, but still, it was a hole. I could not believe I just drilled a hole in a $200 battery, and now I would have to take the whole battery pack apart to get the damaged cell out. I could smell the battery goo and see a little liquid running out the side where the hole was. I was so disgusted that I quit working on it and went inside the house.
Well, the next day I was fresh, and the problem did not seem as bad. I took the pack apart just enough to get the group of 4 cells out. I was able to lift out just that section. Then, I found a screw and carefully cut it to the right depth and threaded the little hole. When I put the screw in, I put a coating of epoxy inside and out. The screw tightened up nice and the epoxy oozed out all around the screw head.
I put the battery pack back together and checked the voltage. Everything looked good. I proceeded to charge the batteries back up and hopefully it will last for a while.
It would be a good idea to order a few replacement cells so I won’t have to wait 4 months to get a replacement if one really goes bad.
What do you think the most critical part of the conversion process was ?
I think the most critical part was the design and fabrication of the battery boxes. They have to support the weight of the batteries in case of an accident. I did the fabrication and welding myself. Finding adequate anchoring points is important.
Which EV enthusiast sites do you visit ?
I learned a lot from DIY Electric Car
Where did you buy most of the parts ?
EV Components has the best price on batteries anywhere. EV Components gave me a package deal that included the batteries, charger, motor, and BMS.
Also used EV Source, where I was treated well.
Does any of your power come from renewables, either from purchased offsets, directly, or home generation ?
Some day, I would like to use solar panels to charge with if the price ever comes down enough.
Do you have any friends with EVs ?
No, but my kids love to help me work on it.
What was the approximate conversion cost ?
About $15,000 so far.
What has your conversion experience taught you ?
Don’t be afraid to tackle things myself. Be patient and take thinks one step at a time.
Wallpaper image here.
Thanks again Travis !