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Volkswagen T2 Camper Van’s Electric Conversion — Part 2

This series is the result of conversations with Kit Lacey about his entrepreneurship in converting classic cars to electric propulsion. Kit’s UK-based company is called eDub Services. I encouraged Kit to share the concrete and chronological information on his rebuilds with CleanTechnica in his own words.

This series is the result of conversations with Kit Lacey about his entrepreneurship in converting classic cars to electric propulsion. Kit’s UK-based company is called eDub Services. I encouraged Kit to share the concrete and chronological information on his rebuilds with CleanTechnica in his own words.

You may want to catch up with part 1 before I hand it over to Kit Lacey, where I this time ask him how much of the donor vehicle he kept and how much was thrown away. Did he rip everything down to bare metal first and then prime and paint? How does he visualize the end product?


Part 2 — Gutted Donor Vehicle

We don’t actually paint right away. We first consider all interior details, and in our case the van was converted and built, then stripped, painted, and rebuilt. It all starts inside your head, right?

Just picture, for a second, your dream car. … Got it? Great! Maybe it’s a sleek Shelby, or a Beautiful Bentley. Maybe your dream vehicle is a huge RV with space to live and really explore the world. Some love a micro Mini or a firstly Fiat 500. All of these vehicle are built upon years of development, not just around how they look and feel but how they drive too.

The “car,” in its broadest term, has been around for a long time, but some would argue that it was Henry Ford’s Model T that really started the auto revolution back in 1908. Since then, the internal combustion engine (or “ICE” for short) has seen millions of adaptations, but the principles of the machine have remained the same. Some form of fossil fuel is squeezed by pistons to create an explosion. This then fires the pistons back out again, driving a formation that turns the wheels. Simple, except for controlling the explosion bit. …

Would you be surprised to know that around the same time as the Model T, electric cars were also all the rage? Electricity was also a great way for creating propulsion, but limits to available electricity outside of cities made these early pioneers less appealing. Ironically, it was probably the Model T that destroyed the electric car. The Model T cost around a third of the price of an early EV.

Note from Kit’s first-in-line editor, Jesper: In the year 1900, 38% of a total of 34,000 cars in the USA were electric, 40% were steam cars, and 22% were gas cars. In 1913 a total of 485,000 were manufactured in the USA, only 38,000 being electric. In 1908 a Ford Model T cost $850, and in 1916, the price had dropped to $360 for the base Model T, resulting in a total of 15 million units sold at the end of production in 1927.

So, the electric car disappeared into the shadows, waiting. … The ICE vehicle sailed on through the next century and, in my opinion, underwent some of the best designs ever seen in production.

Now, picture that dream car again. I bet it looks great, but its power source is old tech, unreliable, and expensive. (Unless you’re picturing a Tesla — then you’re cheating at my game!) So why not take your dream car, and make it electric?

Where do you start?

On the day she arrived at the workshop, basking in the North Yorkshire rain. Big plans for this van.

For most classic vehicles, it’s the exterior that appeals to most people. How it looks and how it feels. So, its drivetrain can be altered and replaced without ruining any of that. One of my favourite things about the work we do at eDub Services is we create a conversion that, at first glance, doesn’t look like an EV. In our electric-powered camper vans, the batteries are hidden under the seats and cabinets. You’d never guess they were there unless you looked closely at the lack of exhaust, or listened as it drove by. I love that, that people would stop and stare at your beautiful classic, and then look again to try to work out what’s different.

The battery box in place in the back of the van, being filled with the CALB 180Ah cells.

This is how our original camper van conversion, Indie, came about. She was bought as a shell, which meant we could create whatever we wanted. One of the real advantages with a vehicle that’s stripped down to bare metal and primer is: 1) you aren’t going to accidentally damage or scratch paintwork whilst in the workshop (accidents happen), and 2) the fabrication required for the batteries and motor is simpler to fix to the vehicle without things in the way. Indie was perfect — she was stripped down and ready to build. So, creating a motor subframe and battery box was simple to measure and attach exactly where it was needed. This is very useful when fitting some of our larger battery packs.

Placing the cells in their location. 40 here, with another 6 behind, making approximately 26 kWh.

This being said, we also have made the best use of our design and fabrication team to create bolt-on packs. This greatly simplifies the conversion or design and speeds the whole thing up. We have packs available for our camper vans and our Porsche 911 packs will be coming soon. Note from Kit’s first-in-line editor, Jesper: Spoiler alert! Those of you who have found eDub’s Youtube channel will have discovered that Kit is not all about camping. …

Our plans for the foldout bed. Due to the unique battery box, we also had to design a foldout bed on huge draw runners.

With an ICE vehicle, a petrol tank sends fuel to a large engine which sends power through a gearbox to the wheels. By comparison, an EV has batteries which send power to a single motor and gearbox unit. The batteries are bigger than a fuel tank, but the motor and gearbox unit is much smaller and more compact than an ICE engine and gearbox. Plus, no explosions!

First coat of white at the paint shop before the iconic green.

At eDub Services, we can complete a full “from scratch” build. Providing the conversion service as well as designing the interior of the vehicle. What’s your dream car? What’s your ideal range? Get your dream on track to reality!

In the paint shop. I love these pictures, all shiny and new as if nothing has touched her!

To Be Continued…

Tune in soon for part 3, where we talk about the specifics of the high voltage electric drivetrain.

All the gubbins to make it work. A controller, contactor, fuse, throttle, radiator, DCDC wiring looms, and BMS.

All photos courtesy of Kit Lacey, eDub Services.

 
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Written By

Jesper had his perspective on the world expanded vastly after having attended primary school in rural Africa in the early 1980s. And while educated a computer programmer and laboratory technician, working with computers and lab-robots at the institute of forensic medicine in Aarhus, Denmark, he never forgets what life is like having nothing. Thus it became obvious for him that technological advancement is necessary for the prosperity of all humankind, sharing this one vessel we call planet earth. However, technology has to be smart, clean, sustainable, widely accessible, and democratic in order to change the world for the better. Writing about clean energy, electric transportation, energy poverty, and related issues, he gets the message through to anyone who wants to know better. Jesper is founder of Lifelike.dk and a long-term investor in Tesla, Ørsted, and Vestas.

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