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Electric Car Conversion

Converting a 1993 Honda Del Sol to electric using the guts of an electric forklift

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In my first year of my Engineering degree, Ian Hillier and I decided to try our hand at converting a car to electric because, why not?

Turns out -- it's not that hard.

​For a complete chronological journey through the process of converting a car to electric, please check out the build logs below. The following is just a top-level description of the project and its outcomes.

  • 1 × Alltrax 72V 450A Speed Controller
  • 1 × Touchscreen laptop
  • 6 × 12V Sealed Lead Acid Batteries
  • 1 × 1993 Honda Del Sol
  • 1 × 36V-12V DC-DC Converter
  • 1 × 3D printed accelerator pedal
  • 1 × GE Series Wound DC Motor (pump motor from forklift)
  • 2 × 36V DC golf cart battery chargers
  • 1 × Analog ammeter
  • 1 × Serial-to-USB adapter

View all 15 components

  • Conclusion

    James Hobson01/15/2014 at 02:31 3 comments

    We did it. We took a 1993 Honda Del Sol, and a equally old electric forklift and merged them together into something we like to call the Delsolectric Car.

    It might not be pretty. But it worked. We even managed to get it up to 100km/h on the used batteries!

    Unfortunately when we looked into getting it insured, we were met with a lot of red tape. Being poor university students we weren't able to pay for the insurance -- or buy new batteries for it.

    It sat in Ian's backyard for the next 2 years until we decided to take it apart and scrap it. Was it a waste of time? No. It was an amazing learning experience. We fully plan on doing another one after we graduate and start working -- which by my count, should be soon! Ian's recently bought a truck and is tempted to convert it into a hybrid using the big drive motor from the fork lift. 

    Until next time... Let me know if you have any comments, there's also more information on my original project blog at

  • Finishing Touches and the Virgin Ride

    James Hobson01/15/2014 at 02:22 0 comments

    Wait a second -- how are we going to control this thing? While a simple ON/OFF switch sufficed for the electric scooters, we don't think it'll work so well with a car...

    We picked up an Alltrax 450A 72V golf cart off eBay for a few hundred dollars -- It also has serial output so we can monitor everything digitally!

    We hooked up the laptop for some initial testing.

    The speed controller accepts a plain old potentiometer as the speed control input -- so we 3D printed our own accelerator pedal to be attached to the existing gas pedal. It works surprisingly well!

    Throw some batteries in the trunk with the chargers...

    Some more in the passenger seat... Oh wait we took that out.

    Charging it up... and off we go! Check out the first test drive video (linked in the main project page).

  • Autobots Assemble!

    James Hobson01/15/2014 at 02:07 0 comments

    Now that we have a car and a motor, we need to fill in the gaps. First off is coupling the motor to the original transmission of the car.

    In machine shop class I replicated the spline pattern found in the pump motor -- first on the lathe.

    Then on a mill with a rotary index.

    It fits!

    We made a temporary plywood spacer for the transmission, and from that, an aluminum cover plate. 

    From there it was just a matter of installing everything.

    Almost ready for its virgin test drive! But wait -- it's cold out, and we don't have a heating system!

    Is that a kettle element? Attached to the heating coil? Yes... yes it is...

    We were lucky enough to receive these old 6V batteries from our school Conestoga College -- They aren't the greatest, but good for testing!

    Next up the finishing touches, and the first test drive!

  • Forklift Donation

    James Hobson01/15/2014 at 01:41 0 comments

    When we started this project, we didn't actually know how we were going to finance it, or where we were even going to get some components -- but we set the wheel in motion and struck luck!

    We had sent out a few sponsor emails to local companies that might be willing to donate parts to our cause. A company called Advantage Forklift Ltd. responded and said we could have an entire forklift!

    Ain't she a beaut? A Clark forklift running off 36V, with an 8 ton capacity. We were starting to get excited.

    We spent the rest of the day stripping the forklift of everything useful. Pump motor, huge drive motor, speed controllers, heavy duty contactors, wire, and even the yellow forklift strobe light.

    It was a challenge getting everything home in a compact car.

    Let alone driving it.

    The drive motor we salvaged from the forklift is big. So big, it won't even fit into the hood. Bummer. It was also seized, but after taking it apart we managed to get it spinning again.

    We'll save this for a bigger project. Maybe a super over-powered dragster go-kart?

    Luckily, the forklift's hydraulic pump was just the right size -- and it wasn't seized! It was a bit tricky to remove the squirrel cage fan though. The motor is a bit under powered at about 10HP, but that's at 36V. We'll be running it at 72V, and since DC motors have a constant torque curve, it'll have pretty good acceleration.

    Now to attach it to the transmission...

  • Preparing the Car

    James Hobson01/15/2014 at 00:10 0 comments

    Once we had the car in our possession, it was time to strip it of unnecessary components. First on the chopping block? The engine.

    Normally removing an engine is a bit tricky, but luckily my friend has a big garage with an underground car pit, and an engine hoist. Once we had the engine out, we removed the transmission and sold the motor for scrap.

    We cleaned up the transmission, gave it a new coat of enamel, and put it back in the car. 

    I couldn't stand the dented bumper, so we tried our hand at body work -- not perfect, but much better than before.

  • The Beginning

    James Hobson01/15/2014 at 00:02 0 comments

    Prior to high school graduation, Ian Hillier and I were leaders of the robotics club at school -- we even won the 2007 Skills Canada Robotics competition for a soccer playing bot! When we weren't building robots, we built some electric scooters for fun -- that was the beginning of our adventure into electric vehicles.

    We began to research what it would take to build an electric car that would be road legal -- turns out, a lot. We then discovered an alternative, why not convert a car to electric? Maintain the original safety systems required for legal use, but swap out the engine for a cleaner ride. 

    Thus began the search for a suitable car to convert. It needed to be small, light, have a manual transmission, and preferably a manual steering rack. We eventually settled on 1993 Honda Del Sol, which we managed to pick up for $300. Its engine was shot, making it a perfect candidate.

    A bit rusty, a caved in bumper (thanks to a forklift backing into it) but a solid frame with everything working -- except for the engine.

View all 6 project logs

  • 1

    Choose a car, preferably without power steering. Remove all ICE components. 

  • 2

    Purchase a high power electric motor, a speed controller, batteries, heavy duty wire, battery chargers, a DC vacuum pump, a DC-DC converter, and main power relays.

  • 3

    Custom machine a coupling adapter for the motor to the preexisting transmission, weld support brackets. Install motor.

View all 6 instructions

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Adam Curtis wrote 11/06/2015 at 15:16 point

Super cool! I'm converting a 1974 Saab Sonett to electric. I'd love your input!

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