OwnerJ Bills
Owner's Other EV1981 Fiat 124 Spider
LocationPortland, Oregon United States map
Email email image
Vehicle1980 Subaru Electravan
MotorPrestolite 6.7 Series Wound DC
Crossgrade from the GE 9" that was in it stock previously. It's better, IMHO, but I don't know that I would have swapped it unless my hand was forced! By the way, don't ever accidentally tow your EV in gear down the highway unless you want to put on a little fireworks show.
Other than the more ideal gear ratios that this motor provides in the 0-60mph range, it also has the bonus of a tach output. The DCP controllers also have an optical tach output, but I could never figure them out, so this mechanical one is really nice to have when learning shift points and pulling steep grades. Ran out of dash room, so it's in the glove compartment.
ControllerDC Power Systems Raptor 600
An upgrade from the Curtis 1221b that it had when I bought it. Got rid of the squeal. :)
Batteries45 Thunder Sky 100ah, 3.65 Volt, Lithium-Ion
Went with a lesser voltage as an experiment - the 120v model will charge to 3.6v per cell (~160v), should baby the 144v/14.4 kwh pack nicely, for longevity. At 144v, the pack rarely sees amp draws north of 100A, and cruising down the road at 40 or 50mph is in the ballpark of 60A continuous.
Elektromotus BMS (web: elektromotus.lt) which seems like a great fit for the thunderskys + the Elcon charger. I'm a fan! They sit in an amazing Marko Mongillo steel box that is about the footprint of the old stock box (uses the same bolt pattern, anyway) but it sits mostly flush with the body and creates a nicer "bed" area in the back. Not as deep as the stock box, so more "legroom."
System Voltage144 Volts
ChargerElcon 3000
Upgrade from the old Zivan NG1 cooker that was in there. Lucky for me, a cheaper Elcon works well with the BMS, with it's CAN bus support. Some fun things you can do when you're catching all that battery monitoring goodness over bluetooth!
HeaterStock, the heater was gas powered! I need to drop in a ceramic element or something, get some defroster power. Strangely haven't needed it yet, but the day will come.
DC/DC ConverterMeanwell 53 Amp
Meanwell seemed like a solid choice with some additional headroom (we had let the smoke out of a smaller one before this, so was happy to land on something beefier).
InstrumentationE-Meter replaced the stock Simpson gauges. I have a little 5" iPhone where the AM radio used to be. It'll run the BMS app + gps + music + fm tuner, which goes to a small power amp under the seat. "Creature comforts." ha ha
Top Speed65 MPH (104 KPH)
Guesstimate on a steep downhill with some cargo. I worry when this guy gets over 50mph or so, which is right about the time it starts doing a dance that I call "wafflin'." Plus the 6.7" motor is revving fairly high in 4th at that point (unlike the old 9" motor which seemed to beg for more). Side note, there is a crash test for an Electravan that a blogger detailed online, and it did not fare well - even more reason to stick to back roads.
Lithium has made a big difference on this ride. Brakes much better, as opposed to stomping and closing your eyes and hoping that you glide to somewhat of a stop with lead.
Range60 Miles (96 Kilometers)
Estimated on a hot summer day. The 8 year old Trojans in it previously would get 25 miles in the summer (I assume more brand new), but when they dropped to 8 during the winter, they had to go. Lithium upgrades it from toy to real car.
EV Miles
Current:14,400 Miles (23,169 Kilometers)
Seating Capacity2 adults comfortably. 4 uncomfortably (and possibly dangerously). Would not recommend putting living things on top of the stock Jet battery box/seat in the back, but I'm planning on swapping in a fold n' tumble seat from an old jeep wrangler that can transport 2 more in a pinch.
Curb Weight1,860 Pounds (845 Kilograms)
Estimated current weight with lipo4. Prev lead acid weight was ~2500.
Tires10" Vee Rubber - but my parts van has 2 12" wheels! Yes 2, not 4. Maybe I can clone them and make a full set. 12" would be better, no question.
Conversion TimeThis is version 3.0 of the van, and none of the original components or wiring remain. The last upgrade took it off the road for about 4 years, honestly. And it took up too much of my mechanically minded friend's time as well, so one of those "never again" situations - but with any luck, it's done for the long haul.
Conversion CostTrue to the DIY spirit, this didn't cost a huge amount and many of the upgrades were screaming deals picked up here and there over time. Parts van was not expensive, just the time suck of having to drive down to Arcata to pick it up. All just time. Well, time... and batteries! You really have to do this type of undertaking with a buddy who shares your obsession, and make it more about the hanging out.
As the story of Wattson the wondervan goes, I had come across an old Electravan that was saved from the wrecker. It was complete and I snagged it for a song, thinking me and a few mechanically minded friends would fix it up, do a rust removal pass, replace brushes, stone coms, do the dance and get it back on the road.

But before I could get time to go through with the restoration, a fellow Electravan owner in the neighborhood offered me HIS van for a great price, which was in daily driver condition. No restoration required! I was low on free time at the time (ain't that always the case?) so I took him up on it.

I have a 2nd van with a blown motor that I'll eventually fix up and put back on the road, for sale, using my previous system as a starter set for someone else. So soon, Wattson will have a buddy... Hohms, of course! (which makes me laugh out loud every time I think about it, thanks Tom)

My van - reverse gear has been disabled and it has an electric reverse contactor setup in it's place. Most of the components have been upgraded over time, and the big reboot finally came where paint jobs and motor swaps and the like were done. This is "version 3.0" or maybe more, hard to say - at one point, it was owned by the Minnesota DOT. Later in it's life, it was a grounds vehicle for Mankato State University, where they put a PV array on the roof and did some testing with it milking that drip all day (23% less electricity used, if you were wondering). Someone bought it at auction and it ended up here in Portland.

As I write this latest revision, it's about 90% done and just needs some buttoning up, but is fully driveable and you can't wipe the smile off my face when behind the wheel. It had some issues to sort out, but luckily I know a miracle worker who answers to the name Gator - he was more than up for the challenge. He's solved every problem that's popped up and deserves really all the credit, couldn't have done it without him. Like Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction, he's the fixer!

As with most EVs, it's a major hobby, and working on it has become an "advanture," but it's a competent daily driver that I can switch to when the weather turns gross here or when my Fiat goes into hibernation. Ask me again in a couple years but I like the idea of 2 EVs - one to drive while the other needs to be pulled apart (which is so often I should rename the Fiat Humpty Dumpty at this point - but I'm convinced new batteries will be a happy ending to that story).

Sheesh, 2 EV's... I'll have my hands full, but considering the 2 I ended up with... totally worth the time and effort! Elementary my dear Wattson!

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