Born to be Wired: Page 2 of 6

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Inside this Article

Front Battery Box
Above the drive motor— six T-145 lead-acid batteries and the control box, mounted to the left of the batteries.
Electric GMC Sonoma Pickup Truck
Randy Richmond’s full-electric-powered GMC Sonoma pickup, converted using a commercial kit.
Removing the internal combustion engine
Out with the internal combustion engine.
Empty engine cavity
Lots of room in the engine compartment.
Author and electric pickup truck
Randy Richmond takes his electric truck to auto events to help spread the word on EV practicality and performance.
Inspecting the DC Motor and Transmission
The 100 hp DC motor bolted to the original transmission.
Installing the Electric Motor
Installing the new electric motor and transmission, with room to spare.
Rear Battery Box
In the bed—a custom battery box holds eighteen T-145s.
Electric GMC Sonoma Schematic Diagram
Electric Vehicle Control Box
The control box, with the logic interface mounted on its cover.
Electric Vehicle 240 VAC Plug
The original gasoline filler cap was replaced by a 240 VAC plug.
Front Battery Box
Electric GMC Sonoma Pickup Truck
Removing the internal combustion engine
Empty engine cavity
Author and electric pickup truck
Inspecting the DC Motor and Transmission
Installing the Electric Motor
Rear Battery Box
Electric GMC Sonoma Schematic Diagram
Electric Vehicle Control Box
Electric Vehicle 240 VAC Plug

Richmond carefully evaluated his weekly commute: four 18-mile trips along local, rural roads near his home in Woodinville, Washington, and one 40-mile trip to nearby Issaquah with some distance on Interstate 405. The highway driving, though brief, necessitates that the vehicle reach 60 mph. He needed enough horsepower to handle the extra weight of the batteries in the vehicle and get up the hills along his commute. He decided against power-intensive air conditioning and power steering but elected for power brakes and electric heating, given the weight of the vehicle and the cool, rainy conditions in the area. Though the vehicle would be used primarily for commuting, he wanted enough seating for his family.

He knew that a small car or a neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) would not suit his needs. He quickly turned his attention to pickup trucks. With a convenient place for batteries and the capacity to handle extra weight, small pickup trucks tend to be the easiest to convert. Plus, there is a greater chance of finding a cost-effective and easy-to-use conversion kit, says Richmond, since there are several kits made for pickup trucks.

A mechanically sound vehicle is key to a successful conversion. “The vehicle had to be something that I would be happy to drive,” he says. “I did not want to invest my time and money into an unsound or unsightly vehicle. I wanted a vehicle that was in good shape and had some longevity.”A late-model 2001 GMC Sonoma pickup with an extended cab, five-speed transmission, and fewer than 80,000 miles on its odometer filled the bill.

Getting the Goods

“The EV conversion kit industry is not quite mainstream,” Richmond says. “You have to shop around, pick and choose, and be patient.”

After some Web research, he decided to purchase the S-10/Sonoma kit from Canadian Electric Vehicles Ltd. Randy Holmquist and his team in British Columbia have more than 12 years of experience with electric vehicles, but it was the responsive customer service and attention to detail that won Richmond over. Unlike some other distributors that just provide raw materials and instructions for fabrication, CanEV prefabricates all the adaptors, mounts, brackets, and boxes—virtually eliminating fabrication from the installation process.

The $10,700 cost of the kit did not include batteries, the controller cooling system, or the battery state-of-charge meter. The controller cooling system—a water circulating pump and miniature radiator—came from EV Source, a distributor based in Logan, Utah.

To save on shipping, Richmond purchased the 1,800 pounds of batteries from Allied Batteries in Seattle. The kit recommended 225 amp-hour (AH) golf cart batteries, but Richmond chose ones with a slightly higher capacity—24 Trojan T-145 (6 V, 260 AH)—to achieve a greater driving range. Richmond’s company—RightHand Engineering—supplied the Xantrex Link-10 battery state of charge (SOC) meter.

The kit arrived on time with all the parts needed for the conversion—except for the controller and charger, which Richmond decided to customize to his application. By upgrading from a 120-volt charger to a 240-volt charger, he reduced the battery charge time from 12 hours to 4 hours.  He swapped out the 300 A Curtis controller included in the CanEV kit for a Café Electric Zilla controller, which offers PC interface capabilities. The Zivan battery charger and Zilla controller took four months to arrive because both manufacturers had a backlog of orders.

Wiring Critical Connections

While waiting for the back-ordered parts to arrive, Richmond wired the control box. As the central hub for the vehicle’s wiring, the control box contains all the relays that connect the main battery bank to the vehicle systems. Wiring the box took more than 30 hours.

Comments (6)

jerryd's picture

I'd suggest anyone wanting to convert and EV start with the lightest one they can find as EV's cost by the lb of the donor vehicle. So if you start with a 2-3k lb vehicle and strip it down by about 1/3 the weight you need a smaller battery pack, motor, controller for the same range, performance.

Doing things like low rolling resistance tires, making aero improvements, low drag diff, transmission oils, etc can nicely increase range. So start light and aero for a cost effective EV.

Kienan Maxfield's picture

If you would like to regain your A.M. radio reception, just find the wire powering your radio and wire in a couple capacitors and a couple of good inductors. For a diagram on how to wire it, click the following link or copy and paste the following address into your browser.

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/8017159/DC... — or —

http://db.tt/lWq7JEFg

Kienan Maxfield's picture

I realized this would not work because the problem has to do with emitted RF rather than the supplied power. This would only work for pulsing load or pulsing charge related interferences such as alternator whine.

willwilkin@madeinusasolar.us's picture

I'm limping my gasoline-powered Ranger for a few more years till I can get the money for an electric pick-up that I will charge by solar PV. Hopefully EV pickups will become available soon. I am not going to build it myself, but admire those who do!

CasaDelGato's picture

More electric trucks! yeah!
http://john.casadelgato.com/Electri...

RG B's picture

Nice work

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