If you'd like to have some information about me and this project, please read on. Everything is laid out in detail here, why I started this project, the choices I've made, what my goals are and more.
My name is Robbie Fuhren, I'm 30 years old and live in the beautiful south province of the Netherlands called Limburg. Since young age I've always been crazy about cars. Especially the technology, how everything works exactly and what is all needed to let a car drive is really interesting to me. For a long time I have thought this would really only be possible with an internal combustion engine. Even when Toyota and Honda released their hybrid cars to the market I didn't really believe in it yet. In that respect I was a real 'petrolhead' back then. It could only work if there's sound and fumes coming out of the exhaust and you can smell the fuel. Nothing could be further from the truth however.
Few years before the beginning of this project when I was watching some drag racing videos I suddenly stumbled on this video of a fully electric Datsun, called White Zombie. I suddenly saw a whole different side of electric cars. Not like the commercials of car companies where they only talk about fuel efficiency and no harm to the environment. But more how quickly it can accelerate because of the massive torque that an electric motor has combined with the right batteries. So I went on to look more into electric drivetrains and it turned out to be a very interesting alternative. I definately knew that I wanted to learn more about it to maybe be able to start a conversion project to fully electric myself in the future.
First I went looking for education specifically for electric vehicles. I already had the basic knowledge of vehicle engineering since I studied this in primary school and for a year in high school. Unfortunately there was no such education and at the moment there still isn't. I also tried to get into companies that were already working with electric vehicles but so far this also hasn't been a success. The only two choices I had back then were abandoning my dreams of converting a vehicle any time soon or try to learn everything myself. Since this was something I really wanted to do I chose for the last option ofcourse. For a few years I've been busy gathering all the needed information from the internet. The biggest help with this was an American forum called DIY Electric Car. On this forum are a lot of members who in the past have done a conversion project or are still working on one. Because of all these members there's a lot of information on there. So that's where I spent most of my time to learn more about all the components that are needed in an electric vehicle. It has taken a few years but eventually I knew enough to dare taking on a conversion project myself.
About the project
In September 2012 it was finally time to start with a conversion project since I felt I was ready for it. The original plan was to convert a car. However after some more thinking I decided to start with something a bit smaller. I was still busy learning so I didn't want to make it too difficult already. I chose to go with a quad bike. Reason being I've always seen them as very fun vehicles, 4 wheels like a car but sitting on it like a motorcycle. The fun things of both combined. Now it was just a matter of what type of quad bike to get. My first thought was to buy a small 150-200cc terrain quad bike without registration. Would be pretty cheap that way and it'd be a fun little project to learn. Thing is, after converting I'd only be able to use it on my own property or in the woods. That kind of bothered me so I started searching for a bit bigger quad bike with registration so I could use it on the roads as well.
While searching I again stumbled on a forum, this time the Dutch China Quad forum. On this forum are all drivers of Chinese quad bikes. These are the so called C brands under the quad bikes seeing as they come from mass production out of China. This was not really relevant for my project as I just needed a cheap frame. But after again reading much information on this forum it turned out Chinese quad bikes aren't all that bad as is said almost everywhere. Thanks to the help of members on this forum I was able to make a good choice and ended up with a Jinling (JLA) Loncin 21-B 250cc Streetquad. For this I first went to a quad bike dealer to see if it would be suitable for the electric drivetrain. After checking and measuring everything it turned out to be perfect, mainly because of the open rear swing arm where the electric motor would be placed. Few days after I bought the quad bike new in a crate. It'd have to get assembled partly. That's fun so ofcourse it wasn't a problem for me. The quad bike was delivered here on 24 November 2012. Therefore that is also the official start date of this project. In the blog you can find everything that I've done with the quad bike as of that date. Below is some more information about the project.
Why an electric conversion?
- You can get much more power from such a small electric motor compared to a 'big' 250cc engine. But power isn't even all that important for an electric motor. In my case this power is mainly needed to be able to achieve a high topspeed without gearings.
- What's more important is the amount of torque. The electric motor I chose for has a maximum torque of around 68 Nm (50 ft/lbs). This is always available whenever you want from 0 RPM. Or easier said, very quick acceleration from a stand still. The original 250cc engine has 17,5 Nm (12,9 ft/lbs) of torque but only at a certain RPM. This ofcourse gets highered by the gearings and final gear. With the electric motor it only gets highered by the final gear since mine won't have gearings. But I'm convinced the acceleration from a stand still will definately be much quicker with the electric motor.
- Almost no maintenance needed. The batteries that are going in will last at least 10 years under normal use. These aren't lead batteries but lithium (LiFePo4). The weight with these batteries will probably stay around the same as original. Only the electric motor needs some maintenance sometimes seeing as this is a DC motor with carbon brushes. These have to get replaced after a certain time but I expect these will last at least a few years as well. For the rest there's pretty much no maintenance, except for the quad bike itself (tyres, suspension, bearings etc.).
- Not even my first reason like it usually is for people choosing electric, it'll become green! Even when charging there'll be no Co2 emission at all as I'm getting green energy from my energy supplier. In the future there will probably be some solar panels here to be absolutely sure I'm only charging with renewable energy.
- Costs almost nothing to drive, for the time being also no road tax (not that it's really expensive for a quad bike but still). Especially now the gas prices are so high here this will be very enjoyable. In the list of most expensive gas prices worldwide the Netherlands is in third place! And the gas prices only keep rising. I don't really want to contribute to that anymore.
Why a new quad bike and not a second hand?
- The listing price for a new Chinese quad bike is already pretty cheap. By selling the parts I no longer need it'll cost about the same as a second hand that's in good condition.
- With a second hand quad bike you never know the history. It's possible that the frame or swing arms have gotten damaged by an accident. This is often difficult to see if the damage is repaired. In general this will always remain a weak spot. At least with a new frame you're certain that it's in good condition. For the price I won't take the risk.
- It's very hard to find a cheap second hand quad bike with a broken engine or without an engine at all, especially since I already chose what brand and type I wanted. I didn't feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.
What are the goals of this project?
- The most important goal is ofcourse getting the quad bike driveable so that besides having fun building it I can also have fun driving it. I then might also be able to inspire other people to convert to electric.
- I'd love to learn as much as possible about all components in an electric vehicle and ofcourse also about the quad bike itself. I then might be able to use all this information again for another project. Or maybe even in a job if I could find anything related.
- Find out what I'm capable of. During the project I already came across many things I didn't even know I could do. Like how I already have much experience in 3D drawing which I've never even done before this project. Ofcourse there are also things I can't do myself (like welding and cnc routing/turning) but thankfully I know the right people now who can help me progress with that.
- Maybe when I have more experience I might even start my own business so I can turn this hobby into my job. Here in Limburg (most south province of the Netherlands) there's not much going on with electric vehicles just yet. I really think it's great to be able to work with electric vehicles so I'd really love to earn my money by doing this.
Specifications and parts
|Before electric conversion||After electric conversion|
|11 kW - 6500 RPM||Power||25,4 kW - 3700 RPM|
|17,5 Nm (12,9 ft/lbs) - 5500 RPM||Torque||65 Nm (48 ft/lbs) - 0 RPM|
|4 gears + reverse||Transmission||Direct drive, electric reverse|
|188 kg (414 lbs)||Weight||273 kg (602 lbs)|
|85 km/h (53 mph)||Top speed||95 km/u (59 mph)|
|Range||30-50 km (18-31 miles)|
|Charge time||± 4 hours fully charged on wall socket|
|Before electric conversion|
|Power||11 kW - 6500 RPM|
|Torque||17,5 Nm (12,9 ft/lbs) - 5500 RPM|
|Transmission||4 gears + reverse|
|Weight||188 kg (414 lbs)|
|Top speed||85 km/h (53 mph)|
|After electric conversion|
|Power||25,4 kW - 3700 RPM|
|Torque||65 Nm (48 ft/lbs) - 0 RPM|
|Transmission||Direct drive, electric reverse|
|Weight||273 kg (602 lbs)|
|Top speed||95 km/u (59 mph)|
|Range||30-50 km (18-31 miles)|
|Charge time||± 4 hours fully charged on wall socket|
|Motor||LMC LEM-200 D127 (PMDC)|
|Controller||Evnetics Soliton Jr|
|Batteries||24x CALB CA 60 Ah (LiFePo4)|
|BMS||MiniBMS + EV Display|
|DC-DC converter||Sevcon 300W|