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Video A Honda Civic With no Gas Tank (Video) 331

It took Dr. Adam Blankespoor two years and $14,000 to convert his 1996 Honda Civic into an all-electric plug-in vehicle. He's an automotive engineer and researcher, but if he can do it, you can probably follow in his footsteps and create your own electric vehicle if you are so inclined. He talks about a 45 mile range, with 30 miles as a practical limit. That's not competitive with the Tesla S, but there's also a massive price difference to consider. This is another person Slashdot met at the Ann Arbor Maker Faire. If you want to see what kinds of electric vehicles other have made, possibly for inspiration, the Electric Vehicle Photo Album is a good place to start. And if you want information on how to build your own electric car, using "electric car conversion" as your Google search term will put you on the track of more electric car information than you can shake a Tesla Coil at.

Adam Blankespoor: My name is Adam Blankespoor and this is my Honda Civic, a ‘96 Civic that I converted to full electric battery power. Took out the engine and added the motor and a lot of batteries. So, I drive it every day to work and back. My commute to work is 15 miles and it takes about three-and-a-half hours to charge that. If I use the full battery capacity, I could probably go 50 miles, but I rarely do that and rarely have a need to do it, living here in Ann Arbor. If I use that full battery capacity, then it would take 10 hours to charge on a 110 outlet. The charger that I have, it can use 110 or 220, automatically switch between the two. And so that would cut the time in half. I finished it a year ago. It took me two years to convert and I finished it a year ago and have about 2,000 miles on it. And one of the things that amazes me still is that, I haven’t had to do any maintenance really or any kind of tuning. Once I got everything connected, it’s basically been trouble free for the first 2,000 miles. And I think it’s less of a testament of my prowess and more of a testament of the simplicity of this system and the elegance of an electric drive. Interviewer: Could you walk us through the various parts of the system? Adam Blankespoor: Sure. So, everything from the flywheel to the lug nuts is original Honda and I have a WarP 9 motor and it’s a DC series wound motor. It can handle 160-volts nominal and up to 1,000 amps of output. This is a WarP-drive controller. It acts a lot like a dimmer switch. So my accelerator pedal controls this controller and it controls how much power goes to the motor. I have 45 lithium ion battery cells and they are 100-amp-hour capacity at about 150 nominal volts. This controller is liquid cooled and that’s regular engine coolant. And then I have 25 cells in the back along with the charger and a DC-to-DC converter.

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A Honda Civic With no Gas Tank (Video)

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  • by jrmcc ( 703725 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @01:25PM (#41527927)
  • Practical? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mhajicek ( 1582795 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @01:28PM (#41527957)
    $14000 buys an awful lot of gas.
    • by Anrego ( 830717 ) *

      Like most environmentally friendly alternatives, it's not even close to ready for mainstream. The masses buy things when they make sense. This stuff doesn't make sense yet.

      Luckily you always have people who are motivates by things other than practicality (early adopters). In this case, you have hippies ;p

      The same can be said with computer technology. A lot of stuff is impractical or overpriced when it first comes out.. but there are enough people who are enthusiastic about the tech and willing to buy it kno

    • And there is an outfit in Tampa that has a kit to convert a VW Bug, Porsche 356/912/914, and just about anything else that uses a 200mm clutch for about half that price.

    • With my Prius at 45mpg and $4.10/gal, I haven't even spent that much on gas yet (and gas has been mostly cheaper as long as I've owned it). I'm at about 128,000 miles right now and $14,000 @ $4.10 would get me 153,658 miles. However, there is utility in having a hobby working on something you love, too.
      • by cvtan ( 752695 )
        It would be helpful if the hobby could still be driven while you are loving working on it.
    • You're missing the point
    • 14000$
      Price of Gas today: 1.24$ per Litre.
      MPG for a 1996 Honda Civic: 31 or 13.18 kmpl

      14k$/1.24$ = 11290.32 Litres of gas

      11290.32 * 13.18kmpl = 148,806.45 Km.

      So I would say from an "energy" perspcetive it is practical if perhaps your electric motor and batteries can even last 150,000 KM of travel.

      From every other perspective, with a nominal trip range of 30 miles (48.2 Km), you would have to take 3087 trips or full charges before that is even possible.

      So likely under any loosely defined definition of practi

  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @01:30PM (#41527983) Journal

    if you don't stop drivin' that hot rod Lincoln []

  • by CMYKjunkie ( 1594319 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @01:40PM (#41528143)
    If it's a '96 Civic with "mods," the de rigeur for that means a 4ft tall wing, garish paint, and a fart-cannon exhaust.
    • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      He could have just slapped an "Electric Car" sticker over the gas cap cover and achieved the same results! (In much the same way that V-Tec and Turbo stickers make the car V-Tec and Turbo!)
  • If you really want an EV (as opposed to a hobby car) that you can count on for a reliable commute, why spend $14,000 turning a $2,000 16 year old car into an EV, when you can buy a Mitsubishi i-Miev for around $22,000 [] (after tax rebate)? For $6000 more you get a full factory warranty, twice the range, a car that's been designed to be safe in a crash with the extra battery weight, and no hassle from your insurance company if a charging problem burns down your house. Or for a few thousand more, get a Nissan

    • I think a primary reason why you might want to do a conversion is that you then have total control over parameters of performance, and can tweak them to your hearts content.

      Also you can take a car you really like to begin with and simply make it run on electric, rather than having to buy one of the few electric car designs existing (Have not seen the i-Meiv but I hated the Volt's interior and dash)

      I agree with you about the range on this being just too low. I'd like to see a do it yourself hydrogen convers

  • by Darth Snowshoe ( 1434515 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @02:01PM (#41528435) []

    Hey, just incidentally the New York Times reviewed the Tesla Model S today. There seems to be a lot of electric vehicle haterz on Slashdot lately, I don't get why, but if you're legitimately interested in the tech, rather than just Detroit astroturf, the NYTimes review is certainly worth a read.

    "Put simply, the automobile has not undergone a fundamental change in design or use since Henry Ford rolled out the Model T more than a century ago. At least that’s what I thought until I spent a week with the Tesla Model S."

  • The summary says that this Civic-turned-EV cost two years and fourteen thousand dollars. Then, it says that it's no comparison to a Tesla S, but to keep in mind the difference in costs. So, let us do just that. Homebrew Civic EV: 45 miles per charge. Old, possibly structurally unsound body. No warranty. Seats 4 or 5. Acceleration is probably worse than the original car's lackluster performance. Possible voiding of homeowner's insurance (should something go wrong while charging). Cost -- $14,000 pl
  • by erice ( 13380 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @02:01PM (#41528449) Homepage

    30 mile range is a 15 mile radius. That's barely beyond practical bicycle range. If he had picked up cycling (with or without a helmet) instead of converting his civic to electric, it would be better for the environment, he would be healthier, and it would cost a whole lot less too.

  • Yeah, I could to that or I could just buy a Prius. With the trade-in from my Honda that cash outlay might be comparable, and it would only take a few hours. :)

    Of course there's plenty of room for research in this field. I wouldn't mind learning that type of engineering and having a corporation pay me for my time. There are plenty of people doing that and... designing cars like the Prius, Leaf, Volt, etc.

  • there's something very very wrong with converting pre-existing ICE cars to electric. look up the phrase "mass decompounding" for a clue, but in essence it's that a ICE vehicle is designed around carrying one very large heavy object which is typically 15% of the mass of the vehicle: the engine.

    the *correct* thing - ecologically - is to design and build a vehicle that's right for the environment, based around the most efficient kind of drivetrain: parallel hybrid. it's possible then to get below 350kg, stil

  • I know guys that have converted other cars to all electric years ago for less than $14K. One did it for $5500 and over 70% of that cost was the batteries.

    Electric conversions are not new or innovative, I helped do an electric conversion of a "Le Car" in high school automotive engineering class back in 1984.

  • good luck with that. There was a case in the US a few years ago where someone was sued for not paying gas tax since they ran their car on cooking oil

  • Transmission? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by certsoft ( 442059 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @03:20PM (#41529493) Homepage
    Why does it have a 5 speed manual transmission? I thought that one of the advantages of electric motors was the low-end torque, eliminating the need for gear shifting.
    • This is only approximately true. Real-life electric motors have a maximum no-load speed... notice how your dremel doesn't keep spinning faster and faster up to an infinite speed? Bearing drag, eddy losses and wind resistance on the moving parts limit the torque at high speeds. This is especially true for brushed-type forklift motors commonly used for cheap conversions...they don't have a terribly wide powerband. Better brushless motors do, but even certain iterations of the Tesla cars have used multi-speed

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun