We know you may be getting a bit sick of the Electric Vehicle Posts, we get it, we’ve done a few of them lately, from our post on the Rivian EV, to the post on why Electric Vehicles may be a good thing, etc. We apologise, this should hopefully be the last one for a while, we hope.
However this one, this time, is seriously cool!
That is a 1973 Land Rover Series III, FFR Lightweight, it’s an Ex-Military Land Rover that has been fitted for radio. She’s a beauty of a vehicle and Don has been great with detailing all of the work he’s done on this rig!
If you really don’t want to read the whole story, then flick to the bottom and check out the videos.
Why a Series III
Well Don has been interested in EV’s for a long time, he has a bit of a passion for this kind of thing, he’s a bit of a handy bloke with vehicle modifications and has quite an art for it.
However one of the biggest issues he faced when doing his EV conversion was that newer vehicles have impact crumple zones, and Don would have needed to modify those for the conversion.
Unfortunately, the list of VASS certified engineers that are willing to sign off on modifications of safety systems are thin on the ground (A better word would be non-existent, and that’s a good thing realistically) , so he had to look a bit further afield for a donor for this.
To quote Don Directly:
The LandRover has no Aircon, no Power Steering, no Power Seats, no Power Windows, no ABS, no Airbags, no CANbus, no ECU, thats win win win win win in favour of converting the LandRover, and the two underseat fuel tanks are perfect locations to mount LiFePo4 cells, more must be mounted under the bonnet over the new Electric Motor to maintain the original weight distribution.Don Incoll, Owner
To that end, a few major ground rules were put in place:
I needed to be mindful that I am working with a very rare classic vehicle & I will be drilling no un nescessary holes or altering the bodywork or chassis to accomodate the EV conversion, and there will be no visible external difference to original apart from lack of an exhaust tail-pipe.Don Incoll, Owner
The conversion will save me fixing the leaky Zenith Carby (again) and will be completely reversible and I can reconfigure to original (if it does not work out).
Don started off by doing a fair bit of research (You can’t really just jump straight into this kind of thing) and ended up hitting upon a gentleman in Colorado that had converted his Series III to an EV using parts he grabbed from a company in Canada called Canadian Electric Vehicles.
Now to this end, this conversion involved bolting the Electric Motor to the gearbox using an adaptor, Don mentions that it would have been possible to bolt the electric motor directly to the transfer case and go that way, but he wanted the conversion to feel as authentic as possible and that included keeping the original pedals.
The motor that was chosen was a ( 3 Phase AC ) HPEVS AC51 & Curtis 1239E Controller from EV Works in Western Australia which had to come from California.
The main reason for the choice of an AC motor was because, although more expensive, the AC motor gives you regenerative braking, which is a big thing that can be very useful if you need to help save range and avoid range anxiety.
As well as the Engine (250kg) Don removed all the other parts that wouldn’t be needed for his conversion
- Air Filter
- Air Filter Box and Mounting Bracket
- ZZ70 Lead Acid Battery
- Exhaust System
- Fuel Tanks
Now all up this meant that approx 300kg of stuff was pulled out of the car, and it will be getting replaced with the electric motor which weighs in at 60kg and approx 260 kg of batteries. So the weight will be around the same.
Fitting motor to gearbox
This is the bit where Don says it got a bit interesting in his retelling of the conversion, as it turns out there was one minor issue with the adaptor plate.
Yep, that’s right, there ended up being a mismatch in the motor and the gearbox by a whopping 17mm! This meant that the motor and gearbox had to be adjusted, either gearbox moving back 17mm or the engine moving forward 17mm! Or you can do what Don did:
The adaptor hub is much thicker than the crank flange, so there is about 11mm of material that could have been removed, so this is what ended up happening:
How at the end of this, that meant that the recess for the flywheel was wrong, so that had to be drilled deeper to suit:
Now after all this modification, that meant that the motor shaft needed to also be modified, to this end Don cut 4mm off the end of the motor shaft, a simple fix if anyone else is to try this, he suggest is simply order a shorter shaft.
At the end of all this, Don ended up at 15mm adjusted, which was as much as he felt comfortable with, the remaining 2mm could be taken up with clutch adjustment so that it all sits together nicely.
To quote Don:
“IMPORTANT UPDATE Randy from CanEV has contacted me and advised they are retooling the Land Rover Series adaptor kit, The plate will have 17mm spacer built onto it and the Hub adaptor will have the correct UNF 7/16 threads to accept original Rover flywheel bolts. None of the above faffing about will be required. That’s what I call awesome after sales service“
-Don Incoll, Owner
Then there was another problem…
After all of this, there was now another problem that needed to be overcome in this:
Measuring from the bellhousing mounting plane to the rear of the motor shaft is 43.25mm, Measuring from the bellhousing plane to the gearbox input shaft = 46mm so I have to lose 3mm from the input shaft. In retrospect spacing the motor forward might have been a smart solution. ( Too bad there are no instructions )
Don Incoll, Owner
Removing the chamfer from the input shaft was all that’s needed, This will only be a problem when lining the gearbox up to motor if the clutch is not correctly centered
From here the flywheel needed to be prepared to fit to the setup, to achieve this Don removed the ring gear by tapping with a hammer and suitable drift and cleaned it up on the lathe.
However when fitting the Flywheel, it became apparent shortly that the UNC bolts on the Adapter did not match the UNF bolts from the Land Rover, to this end Grade 12 Stepped UNC bolts are actually really hard to find. So, as with everything else on this build, Don went off to his bag of tricks and….
So after drilling and tapping some Mild Steel Rod, and then screwing these to some Unbrako cap head bolts with some retaining compound, and then machining the top off the bolts just in case they ended up contacting the clutch springs
Mounting the Motor
Now the time to fit the motor was upon him, Don made up a “dummy” motor from a short section of sewer pipe, same diameter and length as motor, this saved him from lifting a 60kg electric motor into and out of the car all day long while he made up mounts.
However there was one trick that Don was able to use, and he explains it best:
The Land Rover has a hole in the front crossmember where one could use a crank handle to start the engine in the event of a flat battery. ( I cant think of any other vehicle made in 1973 that has this feature – In Fact Land Rover Series 3 used it up until end of production in 1984!! ) I placed a curtain rod through the center of dummy motor, onto gearbox input shaft and through crank handle hole to get a perfect alignment for working out my motor mount.Don Incoll, Owner
Don also ended up going with rubbers off an LS1, as these were a better design to what Land Rover originally had in the car, and really, LS1 rubbers are easier to come by in future for replacements.
Then there’s the snorkel
Ac motors get hot, electric motors get hot, this is a thing, they’re still a motor after all, and this one was no different.
So to this end, the air hole in the motor had to be fixed up so it could still breathe even when off road and driving through rivers, creeks, or even when driving around in the rain (Remember, no radiator or anything at the front anymore, so the rain can get right in there and give you a hard time)
So with the help of some PVC pipe and a Pod filter, the snorkel was complete and the motor could breathe and cool itself.
YES! Finally, we are here at this part of the story, the batteries! This bit that most people considering EV’s in any capacity like to discuss, and this post will be no different!
Now, batteries are by far the most expensive part of any EV conversion, as they are expensive, and as you would expect, Lithium over Lead Acid is a no brainer here. Plus the fact that Lead Acid can only really be discharged to 50%, but Lithium can handle well over 80% discharge and still get a good life, then you need to get the right size, type, etc.
Being Australia, Don couldn’t resort to salvaging Tesla batteries, Holden Volt Batteries (Only about 300 sold in Australia), or any other “Popular” EV, as they are just so uncommon here in Australia (PHEV’s being far more common)
Now originally, Don was going to go for CALB180 LiFePo4 3.2volt cells, the motor requires 144v nominal, which means 45 cells.
However ultimately Don got a deal on some SinoPoly 200Ah LiFePo4 (Lithium, Iron, Phosphate) cells from Neale at Milbay Australia
The Sinopoly cells are the same size (280 x 180 x 70mm) and weight as CALB180, but are rated at 200Ah. At 5.8kg each the entire 144Volt pack weighs in at only 261kg (200Ah in Deep Cycle Lead acid would weigh 710Kg ).
Therefore the Lithium batteries plus 60kg motor weigh less than the petrol engine and fuel tanks they are replacing
LiFePo4 Cells are very safe, They contain no corrosive acid, and no explosive gasses. “Lithium” batteries have a bad reputation for exploding or catching fire but don’t get confused, Its Lithium Polymer as used in R/C Models, Phones & Hoverboards that created that perception. Lithium Iron Phosphate are completely safe, actually a million magnitudes safer than the petrol they are replacing.
Designing the Battery Boxes
Now here was where some creative engineering comes in, as the battery boxes needed to be STRONG, and not just strong, STRONG!
Battery boxes need to withstand 20G of impact according to the Australian VSB and NCOP14, which is a lot of force, as it says above, the batteries weigh in at 261kg total, but they’ll be split into multiple boxes:
3 x Boxes of 12 Batteries + 1 Box of 9 Batteries
12 Batteries x 5.8KG = 69.6kg per box which equates to 1,392kg of force required to hold them back in a crash.
The boxes were made out of 1.5mm steel by a professional fabrication company, and are realistically, overengineered.
For the Battery Boxes in the fuel tank location I copied the fuel tank mounting arraingment, but instead of 1/4″ bolts I have used 6 x Grade M8 bolts on each tank. The combined shear strength of the 6 bolts are 19,800 kg , sufficient to withstand 20G impact (1,400kg) !! The original petrol tanks have only one bolt at the rear , but obviously I am using three . The angle brackets are 3mm steel, migwelded to the battery boxes.Don Incoll, Owner
The front battery box is probably the most protected , and maybe it needs to be . its surrounded by chassis on the front and both sides. Is sits down into the chassis as far as possible (about 12mm) to still allow diff clearence when on fully compressed suspension bump stop. The front mounting brackets fix to the top of the chassis cross member using 4 x 1/4 Grade 8 bolts into the 8mm thick oil cooler support tabs. The Rear of the front box has 3mm brackets fixed by the 1/2″ shock absorber top bolts.
Mounting the 9 cell box is not so straight forward, sitting above the motor there are no obvious mounting points, I welded an angle iron along the front so that it sits along the rear edge of front box. Having the boxes tied together to share the mounts of each makes them both stronger. For the offside I made a mount from 6mm strap that attaches to the original engine mount strut using 2 x Grade 12 M10 bolts. Special consideration was given to allow for an unobstructed steering drag link and ball joint.
The red L shaped marking indicates where I’ll be mounting my small Aux 12V battery, Hazard lights need to be operable for 20m with a disabled traction battery ie. DC-DC Converter not functioning.Don Incoll, Owner
From here Don needed to mount his 12 volt battery, as he says in his quote above, the vehicles lights need to be operational even if the rest of the electrics are dead, wouldn’t be anything worse than breaking down and then getting in an accident because your Hazard lights don’t work.
To this end Don needed to cut off a battery mount a previous owner had installed haphazardly, and then fit a crush tube into the chassis, he also added a bracket to the inside of chassis using the bulkhead support bolts, a crush tube is fitted between the new bracket and firewall support plate.
The method of keeping the batteries in the box is a few steps, firstly, they are packed in there as tightly as possible with some corflute at the sides to stop them rubbing on the sides of the box.
Then a piece of threaded rod has been installed through the box to enable the boxes to be tightened around the batteries, squeezing the boxes closed and holding the batteries in place.
Finally some nutserts where put into the tops of the boxes so that some perspex covers could be put on at a later date.
The original brakes on the Landrover were mechanical with a vacuum assistance, the key word in that sentence being “Vacuum”, yep, vacuum.
The Land Rover, like most cars, got it’s vacuum from the intake manifold near the carby, however now there was no carby for Don’s baby to get it’s vacuum from, this led to another issue, going is important, but stopping is importanter.
Now to this end, Don ended up using a 12v Hella brake Vacuum pump from Audi A4 which he managed to score on eBay! Winning!
Don then make up a bracket to mount the pump to the firewall and he was set!
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The Motor Controller
This is the bit that makes the car go, like the ECU in an ICE driven car, the Motor controller does essentially the functions of an ECU and an inverter for the car to run.
The Controller is really a VFD ( Variable Frequency Drive ) which converts the 144V DC (500Amp ) to 3 Phase AC power. The Frequency of the AC power varies to adjust the speed of the motor according to the throttle position. Model designation is Curtis 1239E which is sold with the HPEVS AC51 as a combo
Now Don says there was more than enough wiring in the kit to wire up a fairly large vehicle, not that he needed that for his install, as he went ahead and mounted the controller in the engine bay next to the motor.
Keeping the controller cool
Now one thing about controllers is that they get wicked hot, and they need to be kept cool.
In all of his reasearch Don managed to find out that there are “Chill” plates that are available for many controllers.
However, ever the handyman, Don needed to make his own, and he has the skills to do so!
Taking a 300x300x20mm slab of alloy over to his milling machine, within 20 minutes Don had made a chill plate that is the envy of a store bought item.
He then attached this to the controller using a good serving of Hylomar sealant and finished it all off by adding some 1/4″ NPT bungs to it so that he could plumb in a transmission cooler to get some coolant cycling through the whole lot.
The whole lot of cooled using a 12v/12W Solar pump normally found in outdoor water features.
Now everything on the controller was programmable via the spyglass, which conveniently takes upa 2″ hole, and this being an ex-military radio Rover, it had a spare Ammeter gauge from the radio stacks installed that Don was able to repurpose to mount the spyglass for the controller.
ONe downside to electric cars is that they have electric throttles.
This meant that the old style cable throttle that once upon a time went to a carburettor had to go in the bin (More than likely onto a shelf, as Don wants this whole thing to be reversible)
The controller Don originally chose was a Curtis 2 wire PB6 with microswitch as commonly used on golf carts. He then liberated the throttle rod and ball joints from the old Zenith carby linkage which suited the purpose perfectly.
After about 4000km Don started to notice a throttle glitch & needed to reprogramme the throttle deadband to regain the driving feel that he had since had become used to.
So after some umming and ahhing he decided that a non contact Hall Effect type throttle would be more reliable than the wirewound & wiper Golf Cart style.
Browsing EBay over some nights he concluded a Honda CRV pedal would not look too much out of place. The electronic unit from the Honda pedal is fully sealed so is dust & waterproof.
It is a dual sensor , one at 3v & one at 5v , The 5V circuit is compatible with the Curtis controller. Should last a lifetime. Don then made a Delrin plinth to mount the Honda throttle on, The plinth mounts to the bulkhead using 2 existing holes.
Once the programming was adjusted to the new throttle type and reset the deadband, the vehicle drove better than it ever did with the golf buggy throttle. The look of the pedal suits the Series 3 more than a Defender Td5 or Puma throttle pedal would have.
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Information from NCOP14
“2.7 Marking of Hazardous Voltage Components
Electric vehicles usually employ higher voltages than normal internal combustion vehicles and
consideration needs to be shown to the safety of the end-user of the vehicle, service personnel,
and emergency responders in the event of an accident.
Consequently, all components in the vehicle containing a connection to a HAZV battery pack, or
which contain HAZV relative to the chassis, must be clearly labelled.
All wiring in the vehicle connected to a HAZV battery pack (either positive or negative),
or containing HAZV relative to the chassis of the vehicle, must be coloured orange even when
installed within orange conduit. A short length of red or black heat-shrink may be used at the
ends of the cables to indicate polarity as necessary. For all new wiring, orange coloured wiring
must only be used for HAZV circuits. (Original wiring harnesses fitted by the vehicle manufacturer
that contain orange wiring do not need to be modified to remove the orange wiring).
Red and black wiring colours must be reserved for ELV circuits.”
Now because Don knows a bit more than I do, and because he is the man dthat did the job, and because this is his safety advice, here is a direct wuote:
With the above in mind I designed my wiring layout and purchased 12 meters of 70mm2 Orange double insulated bossweld welding cable and a 25 meter roll of 25mm orange flexible conduit.
Other items needed for HAZV electrical hookup were a box of 70mm2 x 8mm (bolt hole) bellmouth crimps , a Hydraulic crimping tool ($35.00 from eBay, why didn’t I buy one years ago) assorted P-Clips, cable ties, Adhesive lined heat shrink, Insulated cable lug boots, & very importantly a tube of Sanchem NO-OX-ID dielectric grease.
Having worked in telecommunications for 30 years I can not stress highly enough that you need to provide oxidisation control to all your cable crimps and battery connections. Especially when you are working with dissimilar metals & electricity . Sanchem NO-OX-ID is extensively used in Telecom battery installations, which are not dissimilar to EV battery installations, don’t build an EV (or Powerwall) without a tube handy. One Tube is plenty for a typical EV. The LiFePo4 Cells have an Aluminium positive post, a Copper negative post and we are using stainless bolts & copper busbars / cable lugs. Apart from dissimilar metals Stainless & Aluminium have a tendency to gall & the grease prevents this. Don’t forget to clean the oxidisation from the lugs and connectors before adding the grease, 200 grit abrasive or a stainless wire brush)Don Incoll, Owner
The Grey parts in the enclosure are components of the Zeva Battery monitoring system (BMS) also use orange wiring but is very low voltage as it is sampling the cell voltages only, but still is classified as HZAV because it is connected to the Traction pack.
Now at First Don decwas thinking that maybe he wouldn’t use a BMS, however in the end he decided that because the batteries are harder to get to, and that he wanted som epiece of mind beyond a simple voltmeter, he’d install a BMS.
He went with the Australian Made ZEVA BMS and was lucky enough to get the Version 3.
One of the biggest issues with going with a full on BMS though is that they have a fairly large TFT screen to show you what is going on with the batteries.
Luckily, being an Ex-Military Landrover, there was actually a spot where DOn could fabricate a panel to replace military switches and the wiper switch and locate the TFT screen there in the dash. This means that everything is still reversible!
A few awesome features that the BMS also has that were unexpected, at least in Don’s words are that it controls the original Land Rover fuel gauge so that it acts as a Battery Indicator, Likewise he can connect the temperature gauge to indicate any temperature that I connect the thermister to, motor / controller / battery etc.
One feature that he was also very happy about is the Isolation readout .
NCOP14 regulation stipulates the HZAV circuit is isolated from the chassis by a leakage current of less than 20mA, I suggest that is a reasonable figuire ( 240volt RCD trip current is 30mA).
The BMS indicates that Don has 100% isolation & no leakage. Without this feature on the BMS it’s actually a little bit harder to test for.
The little green bars represent individual cells, orange bars indicate the cell is being shunted so as to keep cells in balance.
Just like with an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), Electric Vehicles also require a 12V wiring system and battery for mandatory safety equipment, lights , wipers, horn ect and importantly in the case of an EV so that the High Voltage contactors can be energised.
NCOP14 also mandates that the Hazard lights must be able to operate for 20 minutes when vehicle is otherwise disabled.
The DC-DC Converter takes the place of an Alternator & in this case converts 144V to 12V (13.8V) to operate the 12V equipment and keep the 12V battery charged.
Of course technically you could delete the battery and have the DC-DC Converter in HZAV circuit all the time but you would require a Manual Maintenance isolation switch instead of an Electronic Contactor, and some DIY EV’s do use this method.
Don chose to use a small Sealed Lead Acid, 18Ah Deep Cycle battery, (Century PS12180 ) interestingly this battery is less than half the physical size of one SinoPoly 200Ah LFP cell but noticeably heavier
Because of the small 12v Battery capacity and NCOP14 requirement for 20 min Hazards Don changed out his 4 x 18W incandescent indicator bulbs for Low wattage LED bulbs and an electronic flash can, and found out that the Hazards easily go about an hour.
Since Don was converting a 4×4 he needed equipment that is fully sealed against water & dust.
It took a bit of searching but he eventually found a converter on Alibaba that none of the EV Vendors had listed.
It’s fully sealed IP65, isolated (well below 20mA ) and direct from manufacturer is amazing value.(around $100) Only 50Amps but thats fine as the old Alternator was only 35 Amps.
It took about 6 weeks to arrive but Don was so impressed that he bought another, as in the event he needs more power from the setup, he can piggyback them.
Also, importantly this DC-DC converter is dimensionally perfect & fits exactly onto a sheet metal protrusion on the Land Rover Lightweight firewall.
Now Don lives in Australia and didn’t really need a heater, where he lives it regularly get’s above 40 Degrees Celsius, however as he soon found out, a working Demister is a requirement of the Australian Design Rules, so he had to go out and hunt down a way to heat.
So Don went out and grabbed 2 x 12 Volt Ceramic heater elements and installed them inside the Smiths housing in place of the water element. Connecting it to the old ZZ70 battery it worked brilliantly, too good actually – it turns out that the fan must be running or else the elements overheat.
The problems came when he tested the heater for the first time in the vehicle. He had both elements wired in Parallel connected via a pair of 30 Amp relays and a 30 Amp circuit breaker.
The current required by the Heater overwhelmed the small 18Ah battery and caused the DC-DC Converter to stall and circuit breaker to trip, the solution was to wire the elements in series, no problems now, Don has made sure to have it wired so the heater fan must be running before heater elements will turn on.
Unlike a Petrol car, the heat is almost instant, no need to have engine running 10-15 min before windscreen clears!
For ease of convenience, Don took the steps of installing an on-board charger, which means that if he can get access to a 240V power point, he can charge the car.
Don ended up going with a TC HK-J Series 3.3KW Fully Sealed OBC. Being 3.3Kw it needs a 240V 15Amp supply. Being fully sealed it means that water can’t get into it when he is out and about, however being 15A, it means that not every 240v socket will suit.
This does however mean that in theory, Don can tour Caravan Park to Caravan park, as they generally have 15A sockets in abundance.
These chargers are custom made in China to suit your battery pack so as to not overcharge (This one cuts off at 165V) you also have the option of CANbus control or manual control
At the time of order, Don did not know he was getting a Zeva BMS (which can talk to TC charger), so he originally went with a manual controller. No problems the Zeva controls a relay which switches the charger off if required. This item took around 8 weeks to be delivered.
The charger fits conveniently on the passenger side footwell, Don removed the riveted plate that covers the hole for LHD brake pedal fitment and with a little trimming was able to neatly flush mount the charger with heatsink and fan into the passenger side.
The only problem with the charger is it has Chinese documentation and unusual cable termination plugs
As can be seen on the Zeva BMS display the charger works as advertised, pumping out 21.8 Amps at 3.2kw
J1772 Charge Point
Now the last piece of the puzzle was where tou mount the charging point for actual EV chargers, this is an issue on the Series 3 as there is no external filler points for fuel, the fillers on these being under the seats.
Now because the Series 3 is rare, and because there are so few spares available, modifying really wasn’t supposed to be an option.
In the end Don decided to mount the charging socket in the wing mounted antenna box, despite being a mod, this was considered acceptable by him.
Now because this socket will never be live while in operation, it actually didn’t need to go into orange condit and be horrible to look at, so it will end up green to match the aesthetic of the rest of the vehicle.
Don mentions that there are a few issues with his conversion, firstly, he says that its impossible to get after sales service from the vendor, EV Works in WA, they dont answer or reply emails and rarely take phone calls. He has considered contacting the motor manufacturer in the USA if he needs any assistance.
The motor temperature in my spyglass reads “Mtemp 496c” & I’m unable to get any help with this. DIY Electric Car Forums is a great resource & most any help you need is there but when you spend multiple thousands you expect the first instance would be from the Vendor.Don Incoll, Owner
The other Problem Don failed to mention at first was that if the motor is wired up according to the instructions, it won’t run. In the end he was on forums and was advised to swap his U & W Wires and all was well! But you’d really expect the instructions to be correct.
Without writing the conclusion, paraphrasing, or anything, I’ll give you the conclusion direct from Don:
This is the worlds first LandRover Lightweight EV conversion and one of only a handful of Series Landrovers to have been converted. I know some Purists are not happy with what I’ve done but I have kept all the old parts and can easily revert to original.
Would I ever do that?? NEVER, this Landrover is soooo much better to drive than with internal combustion. And for the first time ever I can drive a soft top Land Rover without being overcome with petrol, oil & exhaust fumes, I know that’s a LandRover thing, but its a huge deal. Do I miss the tappety, chugging engine sound, Sure I do, but I can live without it.
I know there are EV Haters out there, to those I say, drive an EV just once and you will be changed forever. The arguments about range , that Australians need to be able to drive long distances, Valid yes, but at least 90% of car trips are short commutes or to the shops.
And then the arguments about EV’s still use non renewable energy in the form of Coal burned at Electricity generators, fair enough, I’m no greenie, not by a long stretch, but I generate more Electricity with our 5Kw solar array that I’ll ever use charging the Land Rover.
In all a bloody good project & glad I did it, Externally the vehicle is identical, except for lack of a exhaust tailpipe.Don Incoll,Owner
All in all, this has to be one of the best reads we have ever had here at 4WD DIY, and it has to be one of the best DIY writeups we have ever seen over at Don’s site: http://goingbush.com/ptev.html