Until Tesla came out, the common idea associated with electric vehicles was that they were slow and could not go very far on a charge. But today that is changing as the battery technology improves and because of that, more people are swapping out their internal combustion engines and putting in motors and batteries. The doners are electric forklifts, Nissan Leafs, Teslas, and even crate motors from companies like Electric GT in California. While some people could not live without the sound of a performance engine, many of these guys say that the performance in the electric swapped vehicles makes up for the lack of engine noise.
The performance of electric swapped vehicles varies, but one thing that the builders always mention is the instant torque available from a dead stop. Many of the people that chose to do these swaps are not quite the people that you might associate with electric vehicles, they are looking for the performance and power that electric offers.
With the current rapidly changing automotive industry, and the promises from the big automakers to be ramping up production and research of electric vehicles, the number of people swapping electric motors into other cars, trucks and more, will follow suit. With more companies like Magna International, making direct electric axle swaps for light-duty trucks, and Legacy EV, E Classics, Electric GT and Zero EV making some almost plug and play kits, the options are growing every day.
In 2019, GM announced that they will be selling an electric crate motor and battery package starting in the second half of 2021. While it is only a 200hp motor from the Chevy bolt, there is talk of higher power options coming soon. This came after GM revealed the 1977 K5 Blazer that they swapped the electric motor into, for SEMA 2019, and the questions poured in from many people about how they could do the swap in their own vehicles.
Another question that arises with electric vehicle swaps is the batteries. Many people have heard that batteries are expensive to recycle and most are thrown away. While it is true that recycling was expensive, more and more companies are seeing that it will be a profitable business, and a necessary one, and regulations get tighter on what can be done with a dead battery. To learn more about some of the companies that are getting into battery recycling, check out this article, Electric Vehicles and Battery Recycling.
John Volk -1992 BMW 325i – Tesla swapped
Being an E30 enthusiast, John Volk wanted to do a swap that was a little different than the norm. He had a turbocharged v8 E30 that he sold to fund this project, and with some research and his attention to detail, he now says that the Tesla-powered car is more fun to daily drive.
Set up with the motor and rear subframe from the Tesla, and using two Chevy Volt battery packs, the car has a range of about 100 miles and a theoretical top speed of 125mph.
The batteries are on custom-built mounts that bolt into the car, because with the rapidly changing battery technology, John wants to make it easy to swap to newer batteries when they become available.
Some of the details that stand out are the TIG-welded, laser-cut brackets for the electronics mounts, and the center grill that flips up to reveal the charging port.
John drew some of the parts he wanted and using SendCutSend.com, where they laser-cut and deburr steel, aluminum, and other metals and now, carbon fiber too.
They can also CNC bend parts before they ship them from their shop in Reno, Nevada, with a 2 day FedEx label.
The wiring that John did also looks well laid out and properly loomed and he used good quality Deutsch connectors. Also in the factory cluster, where the factory fuel gauge was, is the battery state of the charge gauge, very cleanly converted.
He has added a rotary control where the stock shifter would be, and a spot for his phone to sit and charge wirelessly. In final form, the car is 100lbs lighter than it was before, and lots more fun to drive.
John is always looking to improve things and drives the car as a daily driver when there is not too much snow in Connecticut. Check out Johns’s Instagram and here is a video of the car in action.
Kyle Seggelin – 1986 Toyota 4Runner – Nissan Leaf swap
These guys took a running and driving Nissan Leaf, properly did a burnout with it before stripping it down to use in the rock crawler Toyota 4Runner that was formerly owned and built by Bailey Cole Racing. The goal they were shooting for was to run in the King of the Hammers in the Every Man Challenge.
Being mechanics, they made their own adaptors to mount the Leaf motor to the stock Toyota 5 speed manual transmission. Now, with the ability to stop the motor whenever needed, there is no use for a clutch, so there is a straight shaft from the output of the motor to the input shaft of the transmission. The rest of the driveline stayed the same.
The first-gen Leaf’s 80-kilowatt motor produces 107 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque. While that’s not a ton of power, neither was the 22RE they pulled out of the 4Runner.
The gas 4 cylinder engine was rated at 72 kW (97 hp) at 4,800 rpm and 174 Nm (128 lb-ft) at 2,800 rpm. So the electric motor is a little more powerful and makes quite a bit more torque, and that is key for turning the 35 inch Falken tires.
The project was not without a few hiccups, one being a small charger module that failed the day before the first race, but with the offroad community coming together to help, like they are known to do, another one was located and they were able to charge the batteries.
One battery is from a second-gen Leaf that is a 40 kilowatt-hour and the other is a 62-kWh pack from a Leaf Plus. Figuring on the safe side, they ran the first leg of the race on the small battery, then exchanged for the bigger one for the middle section of the race while their team recharged the first battery. Then at the last leg, they swapped the small one back in and crossed the finish line, making history as the first electric vehicle to finish the King of the Hammers.
Kyle Seggelin, headed the electric swap, while working for Tesla during the day, and spent 4 months of nights and weekends building and wiring the 4Runner. While he claims to not be an electric vehicle expert, he encourages others to give electric power a try. He says all the information is out there, you just have to look for it, and there are many people willing to share info and help with these projects.
His team was Will Barrameda, Charlie Pangelinan, Jeff Webb, Jaymes Massa, Mike Torrano, Rick Slagle, Danny Tran, Rob Gurski and Diego Ortiz and his codriver was his sister Dahlia Seggelin.
While they did finish the race, they said they didn’t get to document much of it, so they are planning more testing and better note taking of how much power they use per mile and what can be improved. While there isn’t much good footage of the actual race, here is one in their build process.
Shift EV – 1970 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow Long Wheelbase – Complete Tesla Swap
Johnny Cash was the original owner of this black Rolls Royce, and he was said to enjoy the car very much. In 2014 the car went for auction and sold to an unnamed buyer. The price of $88,000 was low because the car needed a lot of work to be roadworthy again, so the new owner began to look at options of making the car better than it was when it was new, but without changing anything of the appearance, inside or out.
The owner decided that they wanted to go electric, and, after being turned down by Telsa to do the swap, they were referred to Shift EV, who has been doing electric swaps since the 90s. After discussing, measuring, and careful planning, they bought a 2016 Model S and took it to the Shift EV shop, and took it apart. They kept every system they could from the Tesla, including A/C, ABS brakes, power steering, stability, and traction control.
The car now has 200 more horsepower than the old aluminum V8 and stops better than the original setup did, due to regenerative braking and lots of creativity in fitting much more powerful brakes inside the 16-inch steel wheels, as the tesla brakes are meant for 20-inch wheels.
This video is great if you love to learn about some of the details and issues they ran into while doing this very clean swap. Its for sure the most expensive swap of these 4 cars, but it is really cool to see that someone was willing to fund this project, and now they get to enjoy this beautiful car!
Jehu Garcia – VW Bus – Tesla Swapped
Jehu says he was born on the wrong side of the border, in Tijuana Mexico, and he only spent 6 years in school and dropped out of high school. But with perseverance and lots of hard work, he has become a well-known Youtuber, building power walls and teaching everyone how to do it for themselves.
Among his many projects, is a VW Bus powered by a Tesla rear axle, a pile of recycled laptop 18650 cells, and some Tesla cells.
While he does all the wiring and battery tech stuff, he also has a passion for video making and it really shows in this video. His goal was to go on a 600 mile trip with a group of VW busses and be the only one that did it with electric power.
While he fell slightly short of his goal, opting to be towed for one short leg of the journey, I’m sure he is not done with modifying things for more mileage.
This video is a fun watch, not a ton on the build process, but entertaining as he goes on the trip with friends. I found this video and got sucked into watching a lot more of his videos. Check out Jehu’s Instagram for more pics and videos.
Some people set out to build things that are controversial, just to prove they can do it, combining elements of different car cultures that generally don’t go together, and this one is no exception.
‘This is an 81 Honda, how dare you!” Haha, this is an 81 Honda 4 door with a Tesla rear motor and subframe, some drag radials, and a gasser-style front axle, which really mixes the styles. This electric swap was built by Jim Belosic, the owner of SendCutSend, ”because, why not?”
The Honda is very quick, as fast as the stock Tesla Model S with dual motor P100D, but he is only using a single ‘Performance Large Tesla Drive Unit package’ which is 400 kW (536 HP) peak power output. He is running a Chevy Volt battery that only has 16 kWh of energy capacity, but is able to discharge faster than the Tesla unit, and is quite a bit smaller.
He has recorded a 2.48 0-60 time and has run a 10.1-second quarter mile and is sure he can get more out of it with some tuning.
This car is a work in progress like many of these electric vehicles, but with much of the work that has been done by the big electric vehicle manufactures, the electric swaps are becoming easier for the common mechanic, with the will to learn, to be able to do.
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