AC Electric Car Motor and Generator for 4x4 Conversion

by Clifford Bryant
(Greeneville, TN)

I have a 1989 Nissan 4x4 KingCab pickup, with a manual transmission. It weighs about 5500 lb. I'd like to convert to electric. I think I'd prefer AC.

What size AC motor would I need to get "real" performance? I'd rather go "overkill" than not have the power needed!

Can I run it off of a diesel generator, and what size output would it need to be? I was thinking about using a welder/generator mounted in the bed to supply electricity, and maybe later add batteries.

Will this work?

Hi, Clifford!

I hope you've got a pile of cash, because heavy electric car conversions are expensive.

It can be done, yes; it will work, yes; and will it cost you? Oh, YES.

Why is this?

Because moving a big, heavy, aerodynamically-challenged brick down the road (no disrespect intended to your big Nissan 4x4, it's just the nature of automaking in the era of cheap crude oil) takes a lot of power.

Power requires fuel.

Electric fuel is heavier and takes up more space than fossil fuel distillates.

Electric car technology is still very young, and while it absolutely CAN get your brick moving down the road at a peppy clip, it costs more money to do so because the system has to be AC for the familiar performance you want, with the more expensive (and much better at using batteries) controller (called an inverter or a VFD in AC systems), and you'll want lithium instead of lead.

I know I haven't been bullish on lithium before, but I'm changing my mind. (Girls DO that, okay? Deal with it.) How do you argue with twice the range and half the weight? Lithium is here to stay.
Low-budget EV conversions, on the other hand, have scavenged series wound DC motors with simple controllers, home-grown bad boy chargers, and lead-floodie golf cart batteries.

Now to your questions: What size motor will you need for real performance? Answer: Big. Call Victor at Metric Mind and tell him what you've got in mind; he'll hook you up.

As for the diesel generator?

I would go with the batteries first, then make that generator optional - and even removable. I might even go so far as to put it in a trailer I could tow behind if necessary.


Because the hybrid you've got in mind is a polluter and a wee bit LOUD, any way you slice it. Because generators run continuously, and what you need is the ability to accelerate. And most of all, because you might find you're hauling it around needlessly most of the time. It would be nice to have the option of leaving it home unless you absolutely need it.

Oh, yes, and the generator size output: I've seen 5kw for a small series hybrid pickup. You might want a bigger one for your bigger truck, but 5kw will do for range-extension recharging purposes, I'd think. I don't know what kind of terrain you're looking at in your part of TN, or what your commute looks like, but I'd rather plug in than generate my own electricity if there's any way I can arrange it.

Keep us posted on your project, and best of luck!


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