Detailed electric car conversion thread

ForkenSwift conversion journal at EcoModder

Follow the epic saga of the car's conversion in words and photos, at the EcoModder forum. I've been posting about the project in excessive detail from the day the proverbial light went on, right up to the present.

The project thread is really long (80+ pages at last count), so set aside several evenings, at least, if you want to read it all. For those on a mission to find specific info, I made an index which links directly to the more significant entries along the way.

Also note that if you want to comment or ask questions about the car, this EcoModder thread is the place to do it - I check there regularly.

ForkenSwift Conversion Thread Index/Summary

01-16-2006 - Some general research on the feasibility/specs of a low speed, budget EV has us thinking we're going to give this a shot!

01-19-2006 - A rough cost estimate: $2631 Canadian

01-19-2006 - A list of lightweight host cars that may be suitable for EV runabout duty

01-20-2006 - Found a couple more potential host cars...

02-05-2006 - Tips for locating cheap beater cars, potential EV hosts; located a red Suzuki Swift with a decent looking body, asking price $100

02-13-2006 - More host vehicle shopping; Finally talked to someone at the forklift place who says they have a used/dead one available

02-18-2006 - Someone offered us a free Firefly 5-door, but it's too far away to go fetch.

02-20-2006 - Went to look at the used forklift tonight

02-24-2006 - Green light! Ivan and I crunched the numbers and decided to forge ahead with the project; made calls agreeing to buy the $500 forklift and the $75 Suzuki Swift

03-04-2006 - Picked up the Swift today. A closer look at the rust has me thinking it may not be salvageable, but its parts can still contribute...

03-07-2006 - Pics of the front suspension rust/welding repair on the Swift

03-15-2006 - Forklift delivered! I guess we're committed now.

03-17-2006 - Down periscope! The forklift is sinking into the driveway.

03-18-2006 - Test lift, using the 20 ton railway jack; started removing misc knick-knacks

03-21-2006 - Major forklift dissection begins! Moved it, under battery power, into the garage, jacked it up and removed the first hydraulic pump motor.

03-22-2006 - With pics: got the second hydraulic motor out and both hydraulic pumps. Starting to worry that the drive motor will be REALLY heavy...

03-23-2006 - Forklift traction motor-ectomy complete. 240 lbs!

03-24-2006 - It's gone! The forklift, that is. Called around to scrap dealers and picked one who offered to come collect the bones with their flatbed truck. Plus pics of the bittersweet occasion.

03-25-2006 - Picture (and inventory list) of ALL the good loot we scavenged from the Baker forklift

03-29-2006 - Uh oh. Up on jack stands, the underneath of the Swift is MUCH rustier than we realized. Moral: don't buy a car sitting in long grass!

04-06-2006 - Pics: we've deemed the red Swift's underbits too rusty to repair. And we've already located a potential replacement - a blue Metro of similar vintage (and in better condition) sitting in someone's yard a few blocks away.

04-06-2006 - Fixed the divots in the driveway where the forklift sank in; ALSO - picked up the blue Metro ($175 !) and made a list of its obvious problems

04-12-2006 - Began swapping good parts from the red car over to the blue car: ball joints, ignition switch, hatchback, tires, etc...

04-30-2006 - More rust! Lifted the blue car's carpet, got out the grinder, and transformed the 2 small holes into a small future brazing/welding project

05-12-2006 - Pics: the rusty floor is finally fixed

05-17-2006 - Pics: rust repair before/after; also... SPIDERS!

05-19-2006 - For a net investment of $89.85 all in, the blue car passes inspection

05-22-2006 - For a laugh, see the pic at the bottom of this post: " why bother electrifying the car when it's already a hybrid?"

05-23-2006 - Preparing to yank the drivetrain from the Swift to get its transaxle mounts, axles & shift linkage for the blue car. Those 4-cyl parts offset the transaxle further to the left, meaning more room to mount a big motor in the available space.

05-26-2006 - Ack! Discovered that the diameter of the forklift drive motor is too large! Centered on the transaxle, it will interfere with the passenger side drive shaft. Considering options to make it work... Also: pulled the drivetrain from the red car.

05-29-2006 - Motor decision: Based on feedback from the EVDL, we've decided NOT to try to use the 12 inch motor, and will instead adapt one of the two hydraulic pump motors

05-31-2006 - We're swapping the front strut/spring/hub/brake assembly from the red car into the blue one. Why? Possibly stiffer springs, and also bigger brake rotor/caliper

06-05-2006 - Pics: the red '93 Suzuki Swift (from whence the EV's nickname came) was officially put out to pasture, via hillbilly tow-bar.

06-06-2006 - Well, the blue car is now officially mine. I registered & paid tax on it this afternoon

07-21-2006 - Adapter plate cut! Still need to drill the mounting holes

08-17-2006 - Officially at the most critical engineering phase of the project: planning an approach for the motor/tranny coupler

10-05-2006 - Dropped off the motor, transmission & adapter plate (blank) to the machinist so he can finish the coupler & align everything perfectly

11-04-2006 - Back from the machinist: pics of the stuff he made for us 11-05-2006 - The blue ForkenSwift will never move again powered by gasoline - started removing its various life support connections

11-08-2006 - Internal combustion engine is out! (Plus: debate on "out the top" vs. "out the bottom" removal technique)

11-12-2006 - Pics showing the "3-cyl" vs. "4-cyl" positions of the transaxle (with motor mockup stuck on it)

11-13-2006 - Got the transmission hooked up in its "new" location, using the mount, shifter & stabilizer rod from the 4-cylinder car. This gives us more room in the engine bay on the motor side of things.

11-19-2006 - Disassembled & cleaned/de-greased the motor (hydraulic pump motors get greasy, apparently); reassembled & mounted on adapter plate, transmission

11-21-2006 - Started work on motor bracket; also, eBay purchase arrived: 225A 48V Curtis controller

11-26-2006 - Motor is installed in the car (properly... with brackets)! With pics

11-27-2006 - Whoops! The motor is spinning the wrong direction for the transmission input shaft; reversing polarity doesn't fix it. Investigating...

12-11-2006 - Pics of the motor apart, trying to sort out brush timing for the new direction of rotation

12-26-2006 - Video: It's alive! (First power-up of the motor in the car)

12-27-2006 - Pics of the motor brush timing adjustment

12-27-2006 - What's our motor's "red line"? About 6k RPM, according to the motor guru

12-28-2006 - Clone wars: find inspiration & information in an EV Album entry for another 48 volt Metro conversion

12-28-2006 - Beginning of a multi-day, somewhat frustrating effort to make one or both of the controllers work for bench testing purposes

01-02-2007 - Got the EV-1 controller working!

01-03-2007 - Finally got the Curtis working - with help from the EVDL; also, pics of the EV-1 controller test setup

01-04-2007 - Snagged a good deal on eBay for an ammeter and shunt

01-07-2007 - Weekend update: scored 20 feet of used 2/0 welding cable; plus other progress tidbits

01-08-2007 - Video! First controlled motor power-up

01-08-2007 - How powerful is the car with the 225A 48V controller? About 12 peak hp

01-09-2007 - First attempt at a schematic

01-13-2007 - Media coverage: AutoBlogGreen finds the ForkenSwift YouTube videos and posts an item about them

01-15-2007 - Forklift company comes through! Picked up eight free, very used 6v flooded golf cart type batteries to assemble a test pack.

01-16-2007 - Weighty matters: estimating how much the conversion will change the car's weight. Will it sit level?

01-17-2007 - Latest update of circuit schematic

01-18-2007 - Beginning of the Potentiometer Saga. Or, "to what lengths will I go to avoid spending $30 on a new, Curtis pot?"

02-04-2007 - Pics of the modified forklift potbox installed in the car; also cardboard battery mockups in place, working out positioning & clearance.

03-11-2007 - Working on the front battery racks

03-27-2007 - For the first time, the batteries & controller are all connected... inside the car. OK, batts on the floorboards, cables everywhere. But a test drive is imminent.

03-28-2007 - Feeding the ForkenSwift: (with pics!) first try-out of the 36v forklift charger on the dog's breakfast of near-dead batteries

03-30-2007 - Big milestone! First electric test drive!

04-02-2007 - YouTube video of the first electric test drive

04-04-2007 - We need a welder (machine, that is). Fun when projects justify new tools!

04-05-2007 - Decided we're going to sell the 12 inch "torque monster" (forklift drive motor)

04-06-2007 - Jim Husted of Hi-Torque Electric has been exceedingly helpful in identifying/evaluating the motors (via e-mail)

04-08-2007 - Fun with ammeters - making a battery load tester with a coat hanger

04-15-2007 - ForkenSwift gets an EV Album entry

04-17-2007 - YouTube vid: I'm convinced that at some point the car will have a bicycle bell in it, like this EV

04-20-2007 - Finally "de-exhausted" and "de-fuel tanked" the car. Also ruptured a rusty brake line!

04-23-2007 - Forklift company offers to supply us with free, dead batteries! Perfect for testing purposes .. possibly a way to find some pearls and assemble a usable pack?

04-26-2007 - Does the ForkenSwift need power brakes? Description of our rotor/caliper upgrade. Also: brakes fixed! Lines replaced.

04-28-2007 - Project NET cost update: $978.35 CDN or about $876 US; still some good forklift & Suzukiclone parts left to sell, so this will decline.

05-03-2007 - Score! (With pic.) Returned home with a pickup truck load of used 6v batteries! Thanks Fred; thanks Allan!

05-06-2007 - There's no way we're going to be finished the electro/mechanical stuff before the Ottawa EV Expo at the end of May, so we decided to switch the focus onto making it pretty instead (body/paintwork).

05-11-2007 - If you're going to try hypermiling your converted EV (with brushed motor), you might want to keep the clutch.

05-23-2007 - OK, not a milestone, but I like them: got the "ironic racing stripes" painted on, and I like them! Also started fabricating a custom tow bar to get the car to the EV Expo in Ottawa.

05-26-2007 - ForkenSwift attends its first EV Expo, in Ottawa as a "work in progress". Pics, details in this post, and scroll down for more.

05-27-2007 - Yee haw: the "new" used batteries are installed and they're going to do the trick! Range: 15-22 km achieved on two separate runs.

06-01-2007 - Pics: a couple of decent "vanity" photos (magic hour, anyone?) starting at this post, plus scroll down for a "before" shot

06-10-2007 - Milestone! The car has broken a speed limit! (50+ km/h)

06-13-2007 - Got some info/specs from the company that makes the 24v charger we've been using to split-charge the 48v pack

06-20-2007 - Pics of front battery rack layout & construction

07-08-2007 - Milestone: first "real", useful trip!

07-22-2007 - Finished installing the front batteries; starte on the rear rack.

08-26-2007 - Rear battery racks made, installed & full of batteries; also: comparing the 48v ForkenSwift to a CitiCar/CommutaCar

09-06-2007 - Saving money on cable lugs - decision made to try making our own

09-09-2007 - Show 'n' tell: home made cable lugs; some battery cables installed; routing the cables under the car inside plastic conduit

09-10-2007 - Good news: home made cable lugs/ends work well! Not even warm to the touch after driving

09-11-2007 - The 5.25v lower limit - or "How to avoid killing flooded batteries under load"; Also - 30 km range on a single charge!

09-12-2007 - Pics: Curtis controller is now properly installed on a heat sink (instead of tied down on the transaxle!)

09-13-2007 - How & why to size AC circuit breakers for DC use; a list of recycled components (so far) in the ForkenSwift.

09-14-2007 - DIY: making cable ends for battery interconnects instead of crimp-on ends.

09-17-2007 - Planning the contactors setup - man, they're loud!

09-18-2007 - Calculating the electricity cost to drive the car: 2.5 - 3.7 cents / km (1.6 - 2.3 cents / mile) depending on power costs.

09-23-2007 - More cables made; piecing together clutch-activated emergency disconnect

09-26-2007 - Made & installed component platform; accessory battery tray

09-26-2007 - DC-DC converter won on eBay - $25 (48-12v, 100w)

09-28-2007 - Took the car to my mechanic for "pre-inspection advice". He's excited about the project & very helpful.

09-30-2007 - The final push is on to get the car ready for inspection: more cables made; shunt installed; safety contactors installed. Also adjusted motor brush timing.

10-04-2007- Mechanical inspection tomorrow. Not too worried; the car is fit.

11-27-2007 - An EcoModder member comes to see the car

10-05-2007 - Got the car's registration updated: fuel type = "E"

10-11-2007, 02:59 PM - It's legal!
Insured and plated, another road legal EV joins the fleet.

10-11-2007 - Fun with math! Pack capacity is 10.5 kWh (when NEW), or less than 1/3 of a gallon of gas, equivalent energy

10-12-2007 - Some people on the EVDL are suggesting we upgrade to 72v from 48v.

10-13-2007 - For fun: how the car looks like with 4 more batteries in the back (=72v), on the stock suspension...

10-15-2007 - Had the car weighed - post conversion - at the city dump scales: 942 kg / 2070 lbs

10-15-2007 - EV driving school: Got some pointers on technique from the masters on the EVDL.

10-16-2007 - First batch of cost km/efficiency calculations

10-17-2007 - First 0-50 km/h (31 mph) acceleration test run: 36 seconds (on the 225A controller).

10-23-2007 - The car gets an appropriate additional nickname, given how it will be mostly used: "The Electric Umbrella".

10-24-2007 - Picture of the car's DIY tachometer

10-26-2007 - New YouTube video - "It's legal!"

11-04-2007 - 24V charger dies ... and is repaired.

12-11-2007 - Observations on driving in winter weather (snow).

12-14-2007 - Fun with math: what's the theoretical max distance the car could go in 1 year of driving with the current pack & charger?

12-20-2007 - Cost per km calcs of the ForkenSwift vs. Ivan's 4-cyl compact pickup truck

12-26-2007 - Observations on first ever "highway" run.

01-27-2008 - Big, self-administered dope slap: drove away with the charger still plugged in

02-01-2008 - Media coverage: EcoModder blog post about the car gets Dugg, takes down the server

02-06-2008 - What happens if your EV can't climb overpasses, and a train blocks all the level crossings?

02-08-2008 - Worst. Driving. Ever. I smack the side of my brother's minivan on the rear corner of the ForkenSwift, creating yet more work for myself.

02-29-2008 - Worst. Efficiency. Ever. Also, bought another cheap DC-DC converter on eBay

03-15-2008 - New video: shifting gears (remember, no clutch)

03-16-2008 - Milestone: someone in a parking lot noticed that the car is electric! Also: experiment comparing coasting distance in gear (brush drag) vs. neutral

03-17-2008 - Big news: new charger arrived - donated/remanufactured DeltaQ smart charger

03-28-2008 - Water consumption: 2 L added to batteries for about 6 weeks of use

04-01-2008 - Cheap eBay controller upgrade! Replaced the 225A (max) 48V Curtis controller with 300A 48V Curtis

04-08-2008 - Repaired the body damage I did to the car a while back.

04-13-2008 - Cheap eBay controller upgrade part le deux! Installed the 400A 48V Curtis controller in place of the 300A one. 57 bucks for an almost 80% increase in peak current! (Compared to the original 225A.)

05-06-2008 - Installed an LED battery pack monitor: "It's awesomeness can't be underestimated."

05-08-2008 - New video: LED monitor in action - this has become the indespensable gauge in the vehicle.

05-27-2008 - Repairing rusty control arm mounts - the SILENT METRO KILLER! (Incl. pics.) Also, cosmetic paintwork for the EV EXPO.

06-01-2008 - The ForkenSwift at its 2nd annual EVCO (EV Council of Ottawa) EV Expo - including a few pics.

06-04-2008 - Answer to the frequently asked question about getting insurance for an EV in Ontario

06-04-2008 - Pictures of the newly painted & spiffed up motor compartment

06-06-2008 - Brought the car by the forklift place; the guys were impressed & offered a deal on batteries (cost)

06-08-2008 - Parking brake is sticking, eating into efficiency

07-06-2008 - National media coverage on CBC TV news about EV conversions includes the ForkenSwift

08-15-2008 - New video: Just for fun, how long would it take to hot swap the car's battery pack?

08-16-2008 - Bringing the "A pack" of batteries to life after more than a year in storage. Looks like 25 km, vs. 19 km best ever on the "B" pack.

08-16-2008 - Efficiency milestone: 146 MPGe, or 228 Wh/mi at the wall after "tuning" the "A" pack of batteries. Since bested (check the fuel log).

10-03-2008 - More media: gave an interview about the car to a student magazine at Algonquin College in Ottawa

10-06-2008 - Minor ForkenSwift milestone: drove Mom to church, thereby validating the car in the eyes of my neighbour.

10-10-2008 - LED pack monitor assembly details posted on

10-21-2008 - State of the (battery) Union: calculating how worn out is the "good" ForkenSwift battery pack (currently in the car)?

10-22-2008 - Test run of the DC-DC converter

10-26-2008 - Getting a new batch of used batteries that are likely in much better condition than the existing pack. And.. installed, they seem to be better indeed.

10-31-2008 - A "downside" to a pack with more capacity: the charger has to work harder, longer. Discovered it went into a thermal protection mode today when it got too hot recharging. And it's a cool day (air temp).

11-13-2008 - my last EV trip of 2008 (going to the east coast for the winter). Total distance & cost since conversion: 2658 km / 1652 mi & $946.28 Canadian

12-30-2008 - the ForkenSwift enters hibernation for winter 2008/2009

04-05-2009 - Aaaaaand we're back! On the road, that is.

04-06-2009 - Now with more power! How easy is that? Remove two little hex head bolts on the controller, turn two potentiometers.

05-19-2009 - Pedestrian proximity alert installed