Electric SX - Part 1


Why a kit car?


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“Electric vehicles are like heaven. Everyone wants to go there, but no one wants to go now." Victor Juarez

For an up to date insight to the EV market with comparison tool and more, see http://www.electriccarbuyer.com.

So, having had the experience of converting and driving my electric van for a couple of years, I was sufficiently taken with the idea to do another EV project but this time using a vehicle with a bit more refinement and also more suited to electrification. 

Whilst a few production EVs have finally hit the market in the meantime, they are still hopelessly expensive for what they are, and so I am compelled to go my own way.  The SX should make a very nice commuter and half-day trip vehicle at relatively little cost, especially so, bearing in mind I already have the drive-train.  I anticipate it will cost about £12k once finished and to a reasonably high standard.

The van worked very well as an EV and if it were used as a delivery vehicle around town or a utility vehicle on a farm, large estate or campus it would be fantastic.  What it was not terribly good at was fast driving ie anything over 45 mph as its awful aerodynamics disproportionately sapped the battery and therefore range was not good - at 55 mph, it would do only about 40 miles max.  The SX, having a light-weight though still very strong steel ladder chassis, is clad with a GRP body.  It is also a relatively small vehicle and I would estimate will weigh somewhat less than the converted HiJet (1008kg); perhaps around 850kg.  This should improve its acceleration as well as range in stop-go traffic, ie around town.

So a more slippery shape, using the same drivetrain (motor, gearbox, controller and batteries), should give at least a 60 mile range if not a bit more.  Later, I will probably take the existing drive train out completely and replace it with one that is newer and has a lot more  performance - possibly even an AC (rather than DC) one which will give the added benefit of built-in regenerative braking (where, when braking, the energy normally wasted as heat in the brakes is recovered by turning the motor into a generator and converting the SX’s kinetic energy back into electrical energy and charging the battery with it).  The SX‘s chassis and Jaguar XJS independent rear suspension (including  differential/half shafts and wheel hubs) is capable of handling at least 200 HP whilst my existing electric drive is only capable of 100HP or so - and the gearbox (the old HiJet’s) was definitely not designed to take that much power.

So, I went up to visit Sebring near Wisbich in Cambridgeshire to look at my chassis and finalise the engine mount arrangement as well as a few other minor points and took a few pictures...

06Aug2012 - The SX’s chassis still on the jig.  The front of the chassis is at the bottom of the picture and is almost complete.  It’s a bit difficult to see where the jig ends and the chassis starts.  The chassis steel is grey as opposed to the jig which is black.  The ‘V’ shaped bracing in the middle of the background, for example, is jig - it is there to align the gearbox tunnel. I’ve highlighted the principle chassis members in black to make things clearer.

The engine mounts are tack welded and will be removed and alternative bracing installed below the chassis rails to allow for a flat area for a battery box which will extend from just behind the front suspension mounts back as far as the front of the motor (wherever that may end up).

Side-on view of the front end. 

Side-on view of the middle.  Gearbox/propshaft tunnel and floor pan/outriggers.

Side-on view of the rear end of another chassis (taken on a prior visit - no jig).  Mine won’t have the fuel tank brackets as I’ll be putting another battery box in the (huge) boot area.  This will have the added benefit of evening up the weight distribution for better handling.

14Oct2012 - The used 1986 Jaguar XJS IRS (Independent Rear Suspension) unit, complete, awaiting striping down to provide the rear axle and suspension for the SX.  The half-shafts and radius arms require shortening and it’ll need new discs and pads and possibly brake caliper reconditioning.  But otherwise it is in very good condition.

14Oct2012 - A pair of Ford Cortina uprights, discs, calipers and hubs.  A real eBay find, all reconditioned with brand new discs and pads.  I plan to get them powder-coated but it may be more trouble and expense than it is worth.

14Oct2012 - The Jag propshaft (top) - I’ll only need the end bit to mate to the existing HiJet one - and a secondhand Vauxhall Corsa ‘C’ electrically power assisted, adjustable steering column and wheel.  I intend obtaining a control unit off eBay and modifying it to give speed dependant assist so the assist level is not to high at higher speeds.  The hub will be cut from the steering wheel to provide a mounting adaptor for the final steering wheel.  Also the ignition barrel will come off the column as it will not be needed (more later) and a simple stalk added to control indicators, horn and head light dip.  This will clamp to the column.  I will, at least, look at the possibility of designing and 3D printing a suitable cowl to cover the column controls.

Last Updated: 22Sept2013

13Mar2013 - So this is all the stuff I collected from Sebring last weekend with Ade Sell’s help.  We attached the chassis to his 2 part motorcycle trailer and towed it all back.  This is the chassis, front bulkhead (on the left) and all the main, structural bits; steering rack, springs, wiring loom, brake pipes, hand brake cable, and big pile of nuts & bolts, shortened rear wishbones and drive shafts, and front wishbones.

28Mar2013 - Rear brake calipers awaiting striping, cleaning and powder coating.  These are XJS ones with built in handbrake mechanism with their separate pads.

12Mar2013 - Rear wheel hub carrier awaiting cleaning, blasting and lacquering.

12Mar2013 - Weighing stuff.

Top = 78kg

Right = 48kg

Chassis bare = 149kg

So total for all bits brought back from Sebring = 275kg.

15Jul2013 - Front o/s suspension, complete.

16Jul2013 - Both sides of front suspension installed, steering rack installed, front bulkhead in place, door pillars installed.

28Jul2013 - Differential being re-built having been blasted and painted.

04Sep2013 - Jag IRS almost back together -wishbones with new bearings and half-shafts with new UJs attached.

09Sep2013 - ... and hub carriers/hubs...

12Sep2013 - ... and and re-conned calipers and new brake pipes - finished!

13Sep2013 - Dropping IRS from engine hoist onto trolly jack...

13Sep2013 - 132kg!

13Sep2013 - IRS in position ready for lifting to chassis.

16Sep2013 - Car mounted on roller...

21Sep2013 - Car on roller and roller on castors.  Car can now be worked on easily, especially underneath - brake pipes, wiring loom, motor and gearbox fitment etc - and can be wheeled around to accommodate other vehicles during the winter.