$20,000 EVTV Dream Build Giveaway Contest

We’ve been wrangling over chargers and controllers for weeks. But I’ll delay no further. We are going to announce a contest for $20,000 worth of EV components that we believe will be the most popular promotion we’ve ever done.

I hear constantly from people with great ideas for an electric vehicle, but who are very hesitant to commit to the resources to actually build it. Our mission, as you know, is to try to inspire ALL of you to go to the garage and build an electric vehicle. As more of you do so, the world will move rather dramatically in your direction. This I know.

But to kick off our attempt to gain sponsors for the EVTV show, we are going to launch a contest for $20,000 worth of EV components. We think this will be a win/win/win in a lot of directions.

First, our viewers will have a chance at a truly deluxe pile of EV components to build the dream car they’ve thought about.

[jwplayer file=”news100110 – iPhone.m4v” hd.file=”news100110-1280.mov” image=”” streamer=”rtmp://s2v8uso6bi7t47.cloudfront.net/cfx/st” provider=”rtmp” html5_file=”http://media2.ev-tv.me/news100110 – iPhone.m4v” download_file=”http://media2.ev-tv.me/news100110-1280.mov”]

For our sponsors, it will give them six months of continous exposure as sponsors of the contest and build sales of their products at a trivial cost.

For us, it will do several things.

1. It should provide a bit of a boost in viewership.

2. It lets us survey our viewers to find out more about them, and more importantly how they think we could do better.

3. It allows us to demonstrate the power of focused targeted advertising to some vendors who are not experienced in this area.

So we think it will be great for the sponsoring vendors, great for us, and really great for ONE of you. But hopefully it will be fun for the rest and allow you a way to provide us with some useful feedback on the show, and show your support for there being more of them.

Currently, we are contributing 50 China Aviation Lithium Battery Company 180AH cells and the shipping of the pile to the eventual winner. This pack should do 165v and about 30kWh with a constant output of 720 amps.

Our sponsors will make a modest financial contribution toward that and the product. Netgain has already kicked in with a brand new Warp9 motor of the latest build with new style brushes good to 192v, a new fan casting design for improved air flow, new larger 1/2 inch terminals, and some 23 other minor design improvements.

Netgain will get a 1 minute commercial on EVTV for the entire six months of the contest, and of course be featured in the weekly promo for the contest. AFTER the contest they’ll be featured as we follow the build.

We ARE going to include a charger and a controller as well. We just haven’t worked out which ones yet. As you know, I have a couple of Zillas on hand, but I’d rather a controller and charger that are new to the market and that anyone could actually purchase. Zilla’s “production” status remains a mystery to me generally.

But I’ve decided not to hold up the contest any further. We’ve actually been planning this for about 6 weeks and the anticipation is too much for me.

The survey form is quite lengthy. That’s what its all about.

The plan at the moment is to select 10 entries and gather further information from them on their proposed build. We’ll then post them and allow our viewers to vote on who should get the pile of components kind of after the fashion of America’s Got Talent, although I’m never sure they do.

Of course, the real secret is that we only have about 11 viewers, so the odds of being a finalist are pretty good.

Above all, have fun with it. http://EVTV.me/contest.html

Jack Rickard


58 thoughts on “$20,000 EVTV Dream Build Giveaway Contest”

  1. Could you provide an approximate taxation value? It would be a shame to win a prize and then have to decline it because you can’t pay the taxes on it (all prizes have to be claimed as earned additional income).

  2. Hmmm. That’s pretty hard core cynical. The value would be about $20,000. And yes, I can see how that might be a grave concern. Everyone should think twice here as to whether they can AFFORD to win…

    The cost of everything….and the value of nothing….comes to mind.

    Jack Rickard

  3. Hi Jack,

    What are the contest rules? Is this open for people outside the mainland US?(I’m in the US Virgin Islands). FYI, Nissan also is also having a contest, giving away a brand new Nissan Leaf.

    John Marcon

  4. Anyone anywhere in the world where we can legally and physically ship. Import duties are the responsibility of the winner. Obviously it will do little good to enter more than once. We select 10 finalists – I’m not sure how.

    Viewers vote on the 10 to select the one. That gets me off the hook on the big question of WHO wins. I can’t stand the pressure.

    And as one very cagey operator noted, if there are any tax implications from your receipt of a pile of EV components, you have to deal with all that.

    Jack Rickard

  5. This morning I’m editing the video announcing the contest. We’ve put it up on the web site but havent’ really announced except on this blog. We’ve already had several hundred entries.

    I have to say, I’m a little blown away. Actually, I’m more than a little blown away. I’m humbled, and a little bit in tears. I yak into the camera each week, sometimes a little bit cynically. But I really have no idea about the PEOPLE who watch. I know we’ve gotten up to where there are a good number of them, because of the bandwidth bill from Amazon which is now growing at a truly alarming pace. And of course, we hear from viewers by e-mail.

    The last two questions of the survey are a bit important. What would you build? And anything else you want to say? The level of PASSION about electric cars that I’m seeing in these responses is NOT what I expected. I don’t know what I expected now. I know it wasn’t this. I’m in tears. There are already so many. And so committed to building electric cars. I’m humbled and a little bit embarassed by my sometimes cavalier attitude toward all this. Many face signficant life and financial barriers to this, yet remain totally and unambiguously committed to building an EV, not just as a hobby it seems, but almost a life mission.

    I do not know what this contest will do for our show or for the mission of promoting the use of electric vehicles. But it has already had a profound impact in one direction – it’s changed ME. I just had no idea….no idea at all….

    Jack Rickard

  6. Jack, you having a yak into the camera each week is very humbling to me, I’m humbled, and a little bit in tears about what you do for US, Your free un-adulterated information that you supply only re-enforces why we should convert to EV’s, people sitting on the fence wondering if they should convert, will!

    Sometimes the EV community is its own worst enemy, failed builds, poorly executed builds, the use of lead, non glamorous Golf car like performance, “on-line forum engineers”……need I go on.

    This does not help in the promotion, acceptance or desire to own an EVA by the wider community.

    The Darkside, the forces of evil is very powerful – we need to join you with the forces of good to conquer the world!

    Simon W
    New Zealand

  7. I remember reading an interview with one of the guys from the apollo program and a question along the lines of “what kind of life did you have back then?” was asked. Guy responded “We didnt have a life, We had a mission”. I guess the ev community share a little of that.

  8. Mr. Rickard,

    Everyone is right in saying that you do more for the EV community than anyone. Let’s face it, you’re the only game in town! In the world, we are a small minority; but your show brings the world of EV’ers together in one place. If less that 1% of the population enters your contest, that’s still enough people to make it impossible to sort through all the contestants!

  9. I’m sorry if my comment struck you as cynical, but $20k is a huge portion, something like 60%, of my current yearly income. If I was on the hook for a $20,000 windfall at a $50,000 rate, and I only made $30,000, I’m sorry, but I just don’t have that kind of cash on hand. It’s like getting a 99% off coupon at a store where everything costs 100 million; it’s a fantastic deal, but I still can’t afford it.

    This exact scenario came up several times on Oprah. She gave away trips and cars and such to all the audience members, but then a large part had to give them back. If I sound cynical, it’s only because the IRS made me that way. :p

  10. Hi Jack and Brain! I’m new to your blog…

    Maybe its not the proper place to ask this question! As far as I looked into your conversion projects, I saw that you always retain the flywheel and clutch plate while I think in an EV you can go clutchless since the rotary inertia of an electric motor’s shaft (plus two bearings) is very small relative to an ICE…

    Please tall me why you keep clutch and flywheel?

    Also, almost every commercial EV has a fixed gear ratio and does not need shifting..so why is that?

  11. We think an EV can go clutchless as well. But we already have a clutch and pressure plate, and we like them. We have heard from a number who have removed them and later found their shifting to deteriorate and regret the decision. Since we already had them, we saw no reason to remove them. To a very small degree it is a final resort safety issue, we can always put in the clutch and disconnect the drive train.

    I have practiced shifting without the clutch. It works, but it is unreliable. Sometimes the synchros allow it to drop right into place, at others, there is a delay before the motor rpms are within range.

    We use regenerative braking on Speedster Part Duh and the Mini Cooper. This provides braking on just the rear wheels in the case of the Speedster, and just the front wheels on the Mini. There are occasions when we want braking on all 4 wheels. Easy enough. Put in the clutch while braking. The regen is disconnected and the brake pedal activates the original brakes.

    So we’ve found the clutch and pressure plate to be VERY useful, and we always retain it.

    I would challenge your assertion that every commercial EV has a fixed gear ratio. It simply is not true. Nearly every INEXPENSIVE commercial EV such as a GEM has a fixed gear ratio. And the Tesla, which is one of the more expensive EV’s has a fixed gear ratio. Kind of from opposite ends of the spectrum and for different reasons.

    Generally, the rpm bandwidth of the electric motor is sufficient that within a certain speed range, you can get by with a single gear. This normall limits top speed rather signficantly, but that’s not an issue with a NEV. Obviously, a purpose built single speed box is much less expensive than a transmission. And it is lighter.

    In the case of Tesla, the motor is wildly over powered for the car, giving it that famous 3.6 second 0-60 and has a very high RPM limit. But the reason is much simpler than that. They originally had a two speed transmission and had such a bad result from the vendor and problems with it that I would be surprised if you ever see a transmission of any sort in any of their cars.

    The problem for converters is predicting WHICH gear will be the magic ratio. No matter what you do on paper, it feels different driving it.

    In the Mini, we have more than adequate power. ANd in town we use 3rd gear pretty much all the time. But it is nice to select a higher 4th or 5th gear on the freeway.

    We wrestled with gearing on the Speedsters quite a bit. WIth 3.88R&P, the original Speedster’s gears were only useful in 3rd and 4th really. With the 3.44R&P in part Duh, we can use all 4 gears very nicely, though 4th gear really isn’t necessary at all until about 70 mph, so we call it the “felony” gear.

    Hope this helps.

    Jack Rickard

  12. Thank you Jack…That really helped…
    Do you have any comment on using Continuously Variable Transmissions (Magic Ratio)?
    I think they are suitable for EVs as well as Hybrid/Electric cars.


  13. I have no comment on CVT. It’s an interesting idea, but I kind of suspect matching a continuously variable transmission with a very wideband RPM electric motor might be both interesting, and potentially a mess.

    But having never played with one, my thinking on it is of very limited value.

    Jack Rickard

  14. I have some experience with CVTs where they wourk fabulously well- snowmobiles. For something about that weight, under 1000lbs gross, that may really be a very sound solution. There’s a limit to how much torque you can put through a belt drive, though.

    Bigger CVTs have always been plagued by durability problems, because they swap the belts for various configurations of link chain, which just hasn’t ever worked well even after decades and billions of OEM dollars. The one exception is the Dutch DAF Variomatic, which worked very nicely for 20 years with two belt drives (one for each wheel) and is now a curiosity and collector’s item. YouTube it.

    For EV use, a CVT might be ideal- you could use a motor not much bigger than is required for cruise, and you’d have the ability to torque multiply it such that your amperage would stay reasonable during acceleration. There’s definitely something there.

    Everything, of course, except a good, reliable CVT of the appropriate size for even a small EV. Maybe the Subaru Justy, but those CVT transmissions aren’t highly regarded. If you’ve been racing them for 10 years already and you want to build an EV with one, fine, but otherwise you’re just throwing an additional steep and speculative learning curve into your project, IMHO.

    Nothing wrong with that, though…


  15. Jack, shouldn’t it be (why isn’t it) easier to predict optimal gearing and select ratios?

    I can guess that each motor/chassis weight combination has a fairly specific desired RPM at any given speed in each gear, and the missing part of everyone being able to calculate their ideal ratios is simply enough experience with these EV powertrains and chassis weights. Of course, sourcing the desired ratios is a different problem, because electric motors really want far taller gearing than ICEs do, rendering the first and often second gear in most conversions useless. Neither the OEMs nor the aftermaket have ever made a good selection of gearboxes that one could call “EV friendly.”

    Let’s look at the Escalade. Generally speaking, on my huge ICE-powered RWD street cars I want gears that give me the 2500-4500 torquey sweet spot of my big V8s once from 10-30mph, and then again from there to about 65mph. I know that from 30 years of driving big cars with big motors- and that’s exactly what I get from the lower two gears of an automatic transmission like your 6X, if I select the right rear axle ratio and wheel/tire package. The top gear(s) and OD are for high mileage at cruise with an ICE, but they become your main driving gears with a series DC motor. Modern automatics have tall ODs that are workable for that, but ideally you’d have REALLY low axle ratios, like in the low to mid 2:1 range, and straight through 1:1 top transmission gears. Of course all of this is speculation. I dare say your Escalade will be a case of first impression…

    Regardless, the tricky thing for the average converter to predict with an EV conversion is what RPM we want the motor turning at any given speed. Its only hard because we have so little data, though. I don’t think its an instrinsically more difficult question than powerband matching an ICE. It should actually be easier, given the relatively flatter and more consistent powerbands of electric motors compared to ICEs, which are literally all over the map on output characteristics.

    You already seem to know what RPM you want in the speedsters at what speed with both types of motors. Those are great data points. Once you know that, gearing the car is fairly simple. It would be fantastic if, as a community, we could build up a table, over time, of ideal motor rpm/road speed for each type of motor at a given chassis weight. In short order we’d have some very useful data from which to make good guesses, rather than just bolting up the motor to the gearbox that came with the glider and seeing what happens…

    It won’t be quite as easy as it sounds to find this out, though. Most people probably have no idea what their true gearing actually is. Many don’t have motor rpm, and speedometer accuracy is always a problem. Still, it wouldn’t be hard to put together a Survey Monkey gearing questionnaire that pulled the information from the existing fleet and its operators. Something like, in addition to the details of the glider, (stock or modified gearbox and tires,) motor, controller, weight and pack info:

    Get motor RPM, gear ratio (selected gear) and amp draw if possible at each speed from 5-70mph by 5mph interval.

    A qualitative assessment of the best driving ratios and RPM.

    A request to speculate on what would be better (lower or higher rpm at any given speed, another gear on top, etc.)

    Sure, building up the db would take time, but I think it would be very interesting and useful. There just aren’t that many differences in the motors. Patterns are sure to show up- one I predict of is that if the EV is only voltage limited, you need taller gears, but if its current limited, you need more and deeper ratios.

    Anyway, that’s what we need to get clarity on the whole subject of EV gearing, which is a critical issue and currently a cloudy crapshot because electric motors are so different in power output than ICEs. That’s too bad, because good gearing is a huge factor in the practicality and efficiency of any vehicle.


  16. @eatheringtonp, if you are considering building an EV, then you are going to need some serious cash. Unfortunate, but true. If you can afford to buy an EV motor, controller, and batteries, then surely you can afford the tax (not to mention the federal tax credit for EVs should cover you completely).

  17. On the contrary, if you’re a good scrounger and very patient, EVs can be built for cheap. Do a search on “Forkenswift” or “Electro Metro”… It’s possible to build your most basic 35-40 mph capable conversion for $500 in parts. Getting something that is highway capable will run at about $1500, minimum, though…

  18. Geez, fellas. This tax liability thing is such an invented problem!

    First, you have eighteen months to think about how to handle it.

    If you don’t want the $20k to creep you into a higher tax bracket, enter the contest (or receive the prize) in the name of a child or parent with little income.

    The prize will be awarded in what, March 2011? So you have until April 15, 2012 to raise the money (or find the deductions) to pay the taxes on the $20k. That’s a long time to get at least part of the way there.

    Worst case scenario- you owe $6k-&7 in taxes and have NOTHING to offset against it. Sell 1/4 of the batteries and the charger, and maybe the DC-DC converter to raise the money. You’ll still have a very nice 120V pack and controller. You can buy a cheaper, lower voltage charger and DC-DC when you can afford it.

    If that’s just too much for you to manage financially, then you probably shouldn’t enter the contest…


  19. I agree Tom. I could do the conversion for them, hand them the keys, and there would be SOME clown to find something negative about it somehow. Basically some kid ALWAYS pees in the campfire.

    Truly, this contest will equip someone with the expensive parts of a conversion. But it is by no means complete anyway. You’ll have to spend on welding cable, terminal lugs, spot ties, contactors, relays, wiring, etc. usually something on the order of another three or four thousand dollars. And we DO want you to actually DO a conversion, NOT sell the parts on eBay.

    The contest is inspired by the regular observation that a lot of people ARE already planning conversions and spending a lot of time researching components, learning about other builds, etc. but are a little stalled out on the finances to really do it right or do it right now.

    And the biggest limitiation is of course the cells. They’re also, to my mind, what makes an electric car viable in the first place.

    I’m aware that offends the majority of people converting cars, but it has to be said. You cannot make a viable vehicle out of lead acid cells. I don’t really mean to offend anyone, but it is reality. If you take your lead sled and put these cells in the very same car, you will immediately see what I’m talking about. It is not an improvement. It’s not a change. It is entirely different vehicle and all of the sudden it makes sense to DRIVE, not just work on or experiment with.

    Since I talk to a lot of people about the behavior of these cells, I think everyone is actually using them. It has recently been impressed upon me that NO ONE is using them. THe VAST majority of people actually doing conversions out there are STILL using lead acid, usually AGM, batteries.

    It has really only been three years since we did side-by-side comparisons between the very best Trojan brand new industrial batteries, and some VERY bad Seiden cells. We’ve learned a lot about LiFePo4 cells since, and now I think the whole world uses them. Nobody uses them.

    And truthfully, you must take care buying them. My first purchase was a VERY bad experience with Steve Cloud and my LAST purchase was even worse, James Morrison blatantly STOLE $10,679 from me and not only never delivered the batteries, but is actively selling MY batteries to others, whom he may or may not deliver to, with the FULL knowledge of the bankruptcy courts and the Attorney General in the state of Washington. He’s just registered a NEW company, HEADWAY HEADQUARTERS and continues to sell batteries he doesn’t own!

    So it’s a problem. At my age problems and opportunities all start to look like the same thing.

    Jack Rickard

  20. So you DO have to spend money to build an effective EV conversion. I have to mention, the last time I was at a boat show a basic jon boat and motor for bass fishing was about $18,000. You can get to $50,000 pretty quickly messing around with a horse. And I know plenty of guys with way over a hundred grand into it so they can shoot ducks a couple of times a year.

    I’m not interested in shooting ducks or plucking reptilians from the deep. I think we can change the world. No, I actually don’t buy the neo-science of global warming. But you do know that what comes out of our cars now is sufficiently bad that you can shut yourself up in a garage and kill yourself with it. So why would 255 million of them all spewing outdoors be GOOD for us?

    I truly believe if we converted half the cars in the country that a number of diseases that have become popular today would simply evaporate. Like Alzheimers. Like Autism. We just didn’t have the incidence of these years ago and there IS a causal relationship in the universe. Something is causing it.

    Don’t get me started on the oil industry as basically a tax on poor people. We have 50,000 sons in Afghanistan for why again?

    I happen to know we can change the world. Change it rather dramatically. All I have to do along the way is listen to a bunch of crap about some moron’s income tax problem, while I’m trying to GIVE him a $20,000 set of components to help the cause. HEY, just mention your concern in your entry and trust me, you WON’T have to deal with it. It WON’T be a problem.

    Jack Rickard

  21. Taxes…!!! Come on…
    For the people, who always want to built an E.V, this is not a concern, its an opportunity and a big one. If you have to pay the taxes, that because you win. The last couple of years i wanted to build a electric car, and for me the big problem is BATTERIES, MOTOR / CONTROLLER / CHARGER…and now i have a chance of solving that problem. Before the Taxes, you have to deal with: Downer car, cables, contactors, relays, (maybe some tools),…
    In my country we say ” A CAVALO DADO, NÃO SE OLHA O DENTE “

    Luís Costa

  22. ” A CAVALO DADO, NÃO SE OLHA O DENTE ” – Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth…?

    Anonymous, I have exactly the same issue. I have just about everything I need except for the “Big Four”. In New Zealand I would have to pay GST (goods and services tax) and possibly import duties on some items, but in the long run it would cost about the same as a DC motor or perhaps the charger. In my book that makes for a VERY cheap conversion cost.

    The number of times I have thought about copping out and buying “budget” lead acid components just to get started on the EV track is embarrasing. I stop myself every time because I just know I won’t be happy with it.

    So, all I can say is “Jack, please pick me!”

  23. NICK SMITH, i live in Portugal (Europe), and like you, i have to pay I.V.A. (its a fancy name for taxes) for all items o enter in the European Union…

    It means: Wen someone gives you a gift, you don’t look for the negative things…its a gift.

    Luís Costa

  24. This is certainly one tax burden I would give up my left you-know-what for. I have a saying I was raised with too: “Ils sont trop verts, dit-il, et bons pour des goujats”. I think some people just need a thing to comfort themselves with if they lose. As far as ancillary parts, if you are like most of us who eat, sleep, and breath EV’s, you’ll have four or five different sets of all the parts needed….

  25. Jack, it really depends on what you mean by ‘viable’ in so far as a lead acid conversion being such.

    There exist quite a few lead acid conversions that have better range than your LiFePO4 Porsche!

    One of the first hobbyist conversions to break the “real world” 100 mile range barrier was “Red Beastie”, a Toyota truck conversion designed by the late Dick Finley, built in 1997. It had a solid 120 miles range to 100% DoD at 60 mph and 150 miles range in the city; using an ADC 9″ motor and DCP Raptor 1200 controller, it was loaded with 2440 lbs of Trojan T105 batteries(which negated its cargo capacity), but it could still be used to tow “White Zombie”, John Wayland’s race-ready Datsun 1200 EV, to the track! 0-60 was not unusable, at about 19 seconds, and it topped out at 85 mph. The truck’s ownership was later transferred to Tony Ascrizzi; during a freak accident at the Ascrizzi residence involving a stay dump truck whos parking brake failed, and a subsequent house fire, it was destroyed.

    Another hobbyist conversion to exceed 100 miles range on lead acid is “Polar Bear”, a converted Chevy S10. Using a pack of 40 Trojan T125s, Polar Bear’s highway range was about the same as “Red Beastie”, getting 120 miles range to 80% DoD at 50 mph and 80 miles range in the same conditions during winter. The builder claims it could reach 75 mph. The battery pack in this truck lasted more than 45,000 miles because the percentage discharge was regularly low due to the truck’s long range; this pack broke even at about $1.60/gallon gas, factoring its replacement cost for the initial price paid for it, according to a comment its builder made on an evworld blog!

    The most impressive lead acid conversion I have ever heard of is Dave Cloud’s “Dolphin”, a modified Geo Metro with an elongated and reinforced chassis and custom body. Using two ADC 8″ motors mated to the differential and two Curtis 1209B controllers, this trucks’ pack of Interstate Group 53 blemished batteries can take it 200 miles on a charge at 65 mph! The range will improve when Dave corrects some driveline vibration issues and installs LRR tires. He built this car for $3,000 in used/scavenged parts. 0-60 mph in 18 seconds with a top speed of more than 70 mph is good enough for most peoples’ needs.

    There is the Porsche 550 Spyder conversion named “Spyder Juice”, built by the “Simpler Solar Systems” team in 1995. At 2700 lbs, with half of its weight in batteries, this car could do 130 miles range to 100% DoD at 50 mph. During the 1996 Tour De Sol, it got 160 miles on a charge!

  26. Another sports car, named “Solar Bolt”, built by a team of school kids from Bolton high School to enter into the Tour De Sol, was streamlined to a drag coefficient of 0.30, and loaded with a 120V pack of Trojan T145 batteries. 130 miles range to 100% discharge!

    There is “Phantom Sol”, a custom fiberglass streamliner built on an S10 chassis. With a 240V pack of Trojan T105 batteries, an ADC 9” motor, and a DCP T-Rex 1000A controller, this car could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 8 seconds, and do 100 miles on a charge driven aggressively, and 140 miles per charge hypermiling in the Tour De Sol.

    Alan Cocconi of AC Propulsion also knew how to get the maximum range and performance possible from lead acid, with his 100+ mile range CRX conversion and the TZero, both using the Optima Yellowtop AGM batteries of the 1990s. They did 0-60 mph in 7.8 and 4.1 seconds, respectively, with packs weighing 1260 lbs.

    Yes, it is true that lead acid has lots of problems.

    It cannot be charged in the cold; the solution is to devise a battery heating system. Many hobbyists conversions and professional conversions by AC Propulsion, and I think even the GM Impact with Panasonic batteries, used them.

    Cycle life is extremely low and you will kill them with a full discharge, and get 200 cycles to 80% DoD. However, when your pack is capable of 100 miles to full discharge, it will last somewhere around 40,000-50,000 miles, as Brian Matheny’s “Polar Bear” has demonstrated, as well as Alan Cocconi’s conversions using Optimas. A typical 30 mile range conversion won’t see 10,000 miles a pack. A good BMS helps a lot, in the case of AGMs.

    Shelf life is an issue for floodies, but AGMs can last extremely long; just ask John Bryan how long his Optimas in his Karmann Ghia have lasted. The last time I checked, they were 8 years old!

    The worst thing about lead acid, in my opinion, are the self discharge and the fact that they begin to degrade if not cycled. But for someone who drives their car regularly, they get the job done.

    Lead acid can work fine, *IF* you design the conversion to accommodate them.

    That being said, LiFePO4 is a far superior technology. On a per kWh cost basis, it is competitive with AGMs. It lasts far longer and is more tolerant of cold. And range… Imagine if you took the conversions listed above, and put in an equivalent weight of LiFePO4. Can you say 400-600 miles range?

  27. John Westlund,

    You said: “Cycle life is extremely low and you will kill them with a full discharge, and get 200 cycles to 80% DoD. However, when your pack is capable of 100 miles to full discharge, it will last somewhere around 40,000-50,000 miles,”

    100% DOD, and you killed the battery pack. then you said 200 cycles at 80% DOD. Therefore 100% DOD, or full discharge, would be less than 200 cycles. 200×100 miles = 20,000 miles only! how did those vehicles you mentioned reached 40,000 to 50,000 miles with essentially a “dead” battery pack (100% discharged)?

    John Marcon

  28. Simple. Lead acid batteries deliver their greatest “cycle life times percentage discharge” at about 30-40% depth of discharge. AGM lead acid batteries tend to last about 2000 cycles to 40% depth of discharge, but only about 200 cycles to 80% DoD.

    If you take two vehicles, one with a pack sized for 40 miles range to full discharge, and the other sized for 80 miles range to full discharge, and the vehicle is expected to be driven 32 miles per day to work and back and on side trips(grocery store, ect.), then the 40 mile pack is only going to last 6,400 miles, while the 80 mile pack is going to last 64,000 miles. The 40 mile pack gets discharged to 80% DoD routinely, while the 80 mile pack gets discharged to 40% DoD routinely…

    In reality, it’s not quite that simple given that with an EV, you’re going to have some trips that are longer than others(do a few 70 mile trips, perhaps 3 times a year, and you probably won’t see 64,000 miles, but more like 40,000 miles, nevermind shelf life being a factor as well). But it is clear that if you design an EV for 30-40 miles of driving per day, you want your pack to be able to do at least double that, if you want it to have an appreciable lifespan.

    Further, ‘technically’ lead acid batteries can handle 200 cycles to 100%, BUT in an EV without a BMS, some cells will go ’empty’ sooner than others, which leads to early pack death. Only examples with a BMS that monitors on both charge and discharge(such as Alan Cocconi’s Optima equipped conversions from the 1990s) will actually get good life when discharged all the way. For an EV without BMS, a full discharge will kill a lead acid pack in short order, or at minimum, permanently damage it. Even minor effects of this include one or more cells going dead, or even being reversed…

    That being said, lead acid batteries can be made to work well, if the vehicle is engineered around their limitations.

    If you want to see some published data on the Optimas, check here:


  29. “…lead acid batteries can be made to work well, if the vehicle is engineered around their limitations…”

    Well, this is exactly the problem with the lead batteries; the limitations are quite severe.

    In practice, despite the battery-related “engineering” involved to make an in-town runabout out of a fully laden mini pickup truck or a seriously overloaded little car, it seems to me that most Pb EV motorists are using up most of their packs within a couple or three years of very short-range use. And those people probably paid a fair amount of attention to their batteries during that time. Certainly they accommodated the limitations of lead batteries with each mile.

    I don’t see how a motorist, (not a committed EV hobbyist but just someone who needs to use a car every day,) would consider that “working well.”

    I want an EV my wife can drive- and not just because she loves me and is willing to take the EV once or twice a year when her car is unavailable. A car with a 40 mile range, or a 60 mile range that drops to 20 in the winter, just won’t cut it. A car that needs a $2500 battery pack every three years is a no-sale to her, and if she can’t put another adult and two kids in it, she won’t consider one of “our cars” at all. It would simply be another one of my toys.

    Who care’s what my wife thinks? The car game has ALWAYS been about women’s acceptance and adoption of the technology. Consider that Karl Benz didn’t really invent the car, all patents and remarketed history aside. Tinkerers had been fooling around with them for almost 100 years by 1888. Self-propelled vehicles were nothing new. The Benz breakthrough was provided by Karl’s wife, Bertha, who put her children on the seat next to her and drove Karl’s car, WITHOUT HIM, to see her family 100 Kilometers away. That trip, and its implications, (which everyone she passed along the way instantly recognized,) did indeed change the world.

    So my point is that “working well” isn’t really up to those of us building these things- its up to the users who are going to give them the momentum they need to reach acceptance, and then widespread adoption. In the automotive world, those users are women. As a group, they will never adopt a lead-batteried EV.

    Interestingly enough, the Nissan Leaf isn’t even on my wife’s radar screen, even though its pretty much made for her. That tells me something, too…


  30. Most EV users/builders with lead acid EVs have a pack sized for 30-50 miles range. Even with proper attention to the pack, you won’t get long life with that. The right car to convert has to be chosen from the start for lead acids to work.

    The flooded lead acid batteries most commonly used in conversions have a very short shelf life, of ~3 years. AGMs have a lower cycle life than floodies, but their shelf life exceeds 5 years(provided they are cycled semi-regularly). If you don’t drive a whole lot and design your vehicle for 100 miles range, and use floodies, time, not cycles, will be what kills them.

    One example of a pack with low mile life(the norm for lead acid EVs), is the pack of Deka Intimidator AGMs in Mike Willemon’s electric Mitsubishi pickup. The pack lasted only 6000 miles. The truck had a 40 mile range, and no BMS. This same story is repeated all through the world of EV conversions, whether AGM or flooded.

    And? These stories often follow the cycle life charts of the battery model used!

    The conversions with lead acid packs lasting 5+ years and/or 40,000+ miles were designed from the start for ranges in excess of 100 miles under real driving conditions. These conversions are the exception, not the rule, but they exist, and most importantly, the results can be repeated. The vast majority of donor cars available can not be converted to this specification; their GVWR is perhaps too low, their chassis is not strong enough to handle the battery weight, they are not aerodynamic enough or capable of having this aspect improved, and many other reasons. Such cars to handle such a pack do exist, but a lot of careful attention to detail must be made and efficiency modifications WILL be required(except for some pickup trucks with a strong frame/suspension, see “Red Beastie”). The entire vehicle must be looked at as a system. Paul MacReady knew this well when designing the GM Impact, and a select few hobbyist conversions and Tour De Sol entries were built on that same premise, with results that actually exceed the range of Jack Rickard’s Porsche, a Porsche with batteries that have 4 times the specific capacity as lead acids(now I’m not insulting that Porsche; it is a very well designed conversion, does 0-60 mph in 7 seconds which is faster than the vast majority of conversions, and most importantly, it gets its range with NO compromises thanks to its LiFePO4 pack. It retains the cornering ability expected of such a car because it doesn’t have to cart around 1200+ lbs of batteries!).

    Dave Cloud’s “Dolphin” is especially interesting, as it got 200 miles range at highway speeds with blemished Interstate AGM batteries. I cannot help but wonder how long that pack will last… 40,000-50,000 miles pack life for conversions designed with 100 mile ranges are not unusual; what is unusual are lead acid conversions with 100 miles range. I suspect the shelf life of his batteries will be the main issue that leads to their demise.

    Yes, the limitations of lead acid are very severe; they are not so severe as to prevent a potential mass market vehicle from being able to use them(see lead acid EV1 after the faulty Delco batteries were replaced with Panasonic lead acid), but their limitations definitely prevent them from competing with internal combustion cars with regard to range(although Dave Cloud’s “Dolphin” is getting close).

    Imagine a LiFePO4 conversion designed from the system level, with careful attention to detail, and the same weight it would have in LiFePO4 batteries as it would need to get 120 miles range using lead acid. I dare claim that 500 miles range at 70 mph is possible with LiFePO4(let alone 800+ miles range at 30 mph). No one has done it yet, and you’d need a $20,000 pack to make it happen, but possible, yes… and it would easily set a new world record in range. Ripe for the picking. Someone with sufficient money should try it.

  31. Well, OK, but to what end?

    No one needs 500 mile range, in any vehicle, and something like that would have all the wrong compromises for a daily use vehicle.

    In the fuel crisis of 1979, a friend of mine’s dad had a huge auxiliary tank fitted to their big Mercedes diesel sedan. It had over a 1200 mile range, enough to make Florida without refueling from Connecticut. It was a solution to a perceived problem.

    In the 10 years they had that car, I’m not aware of them EVER using that second tank. All that time, though, they gave up more than half of the trunk space in the car, which was really why they sold it- not enough room for the Florida trips…

    My point was more basic- lead powered EVs are an unacceptable compromise in the marketplace, for a number of reasons, and frankly, they always have been.


  32. It’s unintelligible to me, how this post was commented by some guys 🙂

    It is a glorious opportunity for everyone who wants to build an electric car and you guys talk about taxes and lead acid batteries …cruelly! 🙂

    The technical inspection association in germany will cost me about US$ 7000 Dollar, so what?
    If I won’t liked to spend it, I should not apply to the lottery wheel.

    If we are talking about proverbs, then I would say “Wat mutt, dat mutt!” (low german for “what must be must be”) 🙂

  33. If you’d ever want to take a road trip in your EV, a 500 mile range would be very much welcome. It represents the amount of driving you would do in about a 10 hour period(including stops), and would allow you to stay at a hotel or campsite, recharge while you sleep, and be ready to do it again the next day.

    If the right donor chassis is chosen, the compromises associated with adding that amount of weight will be minimal, if at all noticeable. A VW Karmann Ghia would be an excellent choice, since it has a 2+2 arrangement with largely non-functional back seats(meaning its made to carry an extra 400 lbs that will never be occupied by people), excellent aerodynamics, and low weight from the factory. You can fit a 1200 lb lead acid pack in one easily, with a few suspension modifications, and the car will handle somewhere close to the much lighter gasoline version. With 1300 lbs of LiFePO4, this would be about a 60 kWh pack. With aerodynamic modifications, LRR tires, and other tweaks, Karmann Ghias can be made to consume as low as 100 Wh/mile highway(see John Bryan’s Ghia conversion), but since this vehicle is heavier than a 100 Wh/mile Ghia by about 600 lbs, it might consume ~130 Wh/mile(a Ghia with no aerodynamic modifications, standard non LRR tires, and no other efficiency tweaks will need about 250 Wh/mile). This is more than 450 miles range! It would only be able to seat 2 people, but for a Ghia, this is hardly a compromise given that the back seats weren’t large enough for most children. Steve Heckeroth has managed to get a Ghia to weigh 3500 lbs, without any real differences in the car’s handling; it was somewhat unweildly to begin with given its rear engined layout.

    A vehicle build from the ground up to be an EV, and not a gasoline car, need not have any compromises, even with lead acid. The Impact is a very noteworthy example, and its success can be repeated. Repeating its results in a gasoline car proves difficult, which is why most have 30 mile range conversions.

  34. Michael,
    you said:”It’s unintelligible to me, how this post was commented by some guys :-)”

    well duh! you made a comment too about this post.lol

    John Westlund, your answer did not make sense. Forget about lead acid. Let’s move on.

  35. John Westlund wrote:
    >Imagine a LiFePO4 conversion designed from the system level, with careful attention to detail, and the same weight it would have in LiFePO4 batteries as it would need to get 120 miles range using lead acid. I dare claim that 500 miles range at 70 mph is possible… you’d need a $20,000 pack to make it happen…

    This is exactly what we’re trying to do with the Sunrise EV2 (www.sunrise-ev.com). Solectria’s version went over 100 miles on lead-acid, and 300 miles on nimh. Imagine what it can do with lithium!

    The key is that the Sunrise is designed from scratch to be an EV. It is half the weight of an equivalent car, yet still meets crash standards and has all the amenities people expect. It can safely carry more than its own weight in batteries; this allows exceptional range, if that’s what you want. The pack is also in a roll-out tray, so you can have different packs to suit your purpose; a cheap short-range one, a light one for racing, a big heavy one for long trips, etc.

    We have lead acids in our prototype because that’s all we can afford. But I guarantee you’ll see lithiums in the Sunrise EV2 as soon as we can swing it! (Maybe Jack’s constest will make it possible sooner rather than later).

  36. John, here is the thing..

    decent AGM lead acid batts cost a bit.

    take the optima D31. The cheapest I’ve seen for sale is $190 (ebay). They are 75Ah (20 hr). Assume you get 60Ah (1 hr), the cost is 190/720 = 0.26 $/Wh…

    comparing to a thundersky pack, lets say you can buy thunderskys for 1.20 $/Ah –> 0.37 $/Wh

    I gotta say I don’t think I would be buying the optimas over the thunderskys. If you factored cycle life into the price the TS batts would be the clear winner.

    The TS batts would lose to the optimas in terms of power delivery from a given energy pack but a 20KWh TS pack would have enough power to drive a regular EV just fine. Not to mention the 4X battery weight reduction which would reduce the power needed compared to lead acid….

    The sad part is we need to buy all of these LiFEPO4 batts from China. Its a shame Obama won’t establish a non for profit LiFEPO4 battery factory here in the USA and allow people to buy these batterys at cost. This is an awesome chemistry that would enable an electric revolution from lawn mowers to cars.

    I mean I can’t freakin believe in this day we are still using stinky inefficient heat engines to commute around town. I think if I come across another 2 stoke leaf blower my head is going to explode. I can even go for a jog outside my house due to all the combustion…….


  37. LiFePO4 are comparable to AGM lead acid in cost per usable kWh. However, in order to have a pack of LiFePO4 large enough to power a car adequately(0-60 mph < 20 seconds), you're going to spend at least twice as much as you would on an AGM pack because the LiFePO4 are inferior compared to AGMs on a cost per kW basis. It's just that a LiFePO4 pack with twice the cost of an AGM pack will have about twice as many kWh available, and a little less peak power than that AGM pack. The reason most don’t use LiFePO4 and instead use lead acid is because they don’t have the money for the upfront costs of a LiFePO4 pack with adequate power to accelerate a car. LiFePO4 also has different charging needs than lead acid, and will require a more expensive charging setup than lead acid. LiFePO4 is clearly the superior chemistry, because of lower cost per mile operation, and with a large enough pack, still has adequate power to drive a vehicle, but the up front cost is the real problem for the DIY converter. I’ve looked into the costs of LiFePO4; were I to choose a 9 kWh pack of LiFePO4(example: Sky Energy pack, 120AH and 73.6V nominal, $3300, ~30 kW peak), I’d have barely enough power to operate a 72V conversion with an Alltrax AXE7245 controller. Were I to choose a 9 kWh pack of AGMs(1 hr rate), they could easily provide five times as much power(example: 192V string of Deka 9A34, $2560, > 150 kW peak). This pack could easily allow a car that did 0-60 mph < 6 seconds, with the right motor, controller, and donor choice. Both packs would cost about the same, and provide similar range with conservative driving conditions(with a slight advantage to the LiFePO4 due to weighing about 450 lbs less than the lead acid pack). The LiFePO4 clearly are the winner in per mile operating cost; lead acid cannot hope to match their cycle life at the far end of the discharge curve(exception: Elecsol has an interesting development with carbon plate lead acid batteries that they are willing to warranty for 7 years, but for a similar cost per kWh to LiFePO4). That being said, if the EV has to be built on a budget, flooded lead acid batteries are still king. Per usable kWh, they are about half the cost of either AGMs or LiFePO4 per kWh. You can get 6V, 220AH batteries from Costco for $80 each, with a 9 kWh(1 hr rate) pack costing $960. They will be comparable in horsepower to the 9 kWh pack of LiFePO4, but weigh 3 times as much. They will also lose in per mile operating cost to LiFePO4, despite the cheap up front cost. Cheap up front cost is why conversions still use lead acid regularly, even today. The number of LiFePO4 conversions is increasing though, but usually the packs are kept small and sized for 50-60 miles range, giving enough power to drive a modest AC50 motor/inverter or a Curtis controller and DC motor. Such conversions end up costing as much to build as an AGM conversion with similar range and far more available power. Lee Hart, the Sunrise EV will probably get my vote, that it is entered. I have high hopes for that project; James Worden’s original design with NiMH batteries could have been mass manufactured and sold at a profit for $20000, but the major automakers wouldn’t touch it. It was even NHTSA tested and approved. It is proof that an affordable commercial EV was viable in 1996.

  38. Just looking at the upfront costs of lead gives false economy. You end up hauling around more weight than lithium which affects your performance and your range. You’ll also most likely end up replacing that pack three or more times compared to lithium. Then there are the watering and corrosion issues with FLA. Can they work? Sure, but in the long run they aren’t worth the effort for most people and they won’t save you money. Unless you’re vpoppv picking up used cores of course 😉


  39. While the upfront costs don’t tell the whole story behind the battery’s operating costs, if you want to build an EV with the cash you have on hand, and can’t afford LiFePO4, then flooded lead acid is where it is at. Devising a heating system for lead batteries has been done before, to retain range during the winter.

    Both chemistries can save money over gasoline; LiFePO4 just happens to be far cheaper per mile than lead and doesn’t require a creative conversion design to do it, but if you want decent acceleration with it(0-60 mph < 12 seconds), you better have $15,000+ to dedicate to your conversion, because you're going to be spending $10,000 on your battery pack. Weight is the worst aspect of lead, IMO. But there are lightweight cars(Triumph Spitfire, ect.) that can handle a 700+ lb pack without going over GVWR. Unless LiFePO4 drops by 50%, I many converters are going to use lead for years on out. I’d love nothing more than to get my hands on a 30 kWh or greater pack of LiFePO4. That may be a 200,000+ mile/10+ year pack! We shall see long term… I hope there are people with LiFePO4 conversions that are really putting some miles on them so we can get more real world data. I suspect they are THE solution and that viable mass market vehicles with gasoline-like ranges(200+ miles) can be made from them today.

  40. John:

    You’re driving lead. ANd your not listening. They are not the same. They are not even close to the same. And lead is dead. It is simply not viable.

    Now build a car with lead, anyway you want. And build one with Lithium, any way you want. And you’re going to come to the same conclusion.

    Lead cars give people the wrong impression about electric cars – period because they are not cars at all. They are science projects. They are demonstrator toys. But they cannot function as a car. And you can slice and dice that to the final angel on the final pin head, and it doesn’t change anything. Until you do this, you’re not going to get it.

    If all you have driven is a lead electric car, you have yet to drive an electric car. And the grin is looking a little foolish these days. There’s a wider one ahead of you.

    I would love to report that lead is an inexpensive way to do the same thing but shorter. It isn’t. Because it isn’t hte same thing even for 125 yards.

    Lead has NO advantages. It is NOT cheaper. It isn’t anything but dead weight and lead.

    Jack Rickard

  41. Jack, I hope you’re right. But I worry that you’re wrong.

    I don’t know how long you’ve been messing with EVs. For me, it’s 30+ years. I’ve seen dozens of “miracle” battery announcements, and so far, none of them have delivered on their promises. Some of them *did* offer improvements; but often made large tradeoffs in one area to get a small improvement in another (like double the capacity for ten times the price).

    Sometimes, that’s OK; the customer is *willing* to accept a large tradeoff in an area he doesn’t care about to get a little improvement in an area that matters a lot to him. Since there are so many different kinds of customers, there are lots of different kinds of batteries.

    – If he wants “cheap”, there’s lead-acid.
    – If he wants “easiest to use”, it’s nicad.
    – If he wants “long life”, go with nimh.
    – If he wants “infinite life”, try nife (Edison).
    – If he wants “most range”, it’s lithium.

    The vast majority of people pick “cheap” as their #1 priority. That’s why a majority of batteries are lead-acid. But they do pick “most range” (or more properly, longest operating time) as their top priority for certain jobs. They will pay 10x the price for lithium cells in their cellphone or laptop, because size, weight, and operating time are more important to them than cost.

    This may turn out to be true for EVs, too — I don’t know. I just know that so far, people have chosen lead-acids for their EVs because they are cheap.

    Note that very few people name “life” as their #1 priority. This is part of the reason that nife, nicad, and nimh cells have such a tough time in the market — not enough customers value life enough to pay to get it. Few customers means higher prices and limited availability.

    I wonder if the examples of lead-acid EV’s you’ve seen has been skewed toward the el-cheapo “rolling science project”. Have you seen good examples, like the GM EV-1, John Wayland’s Blue Meany, or Solectria’s Sunrise with lead-acids? They are great cars. Switching from lead-acid to other batteries extended the range, but did little else. If the EV can “do the mission” with a cheaper battery, why not use it?

    I’d rather see EV buyers be given the choice of batteries. Just as they can pick a 4-cyl, 6-cyl, or V8 for their ICE vehicle, let them pick a cheap lead-acid, long-life nimh, or long-range lithium pack. Then the market will decide. And, it will mean these EVs have *replaceable* packs, rather than special custom ones that can’t be changed.

    Heck; if the lead-acid Leaf or Volt turns out to be a turkey, that’s good! You can buy them cheap and put lithiums in! 🙂

  42. Lee,
    LiFePO4 looks to be cheaper over the life of the vehicle than lead, and if projections prove true, should be as good or better than NiMH for cycle life. Mixing battery chemistry choices will only make EV production more complicated and expensive since each has different management and packaging requirements. 100 mile EV’s are barely acceptable to the public, a 50 mile lead acid version of the Leaf won’t sell at any price. EV buyers will probably have a choice eventually, 100, 150, 200 mile versions of a vehicle, similar to what Tesla is planning with the Model S, but they will all likely have lithium packs, unless something better comes along.


  43. It is a known fact that large format NiMH have a shelf life measurable in decades(see RAV4 EV). It is not known how well LiFePO4 will do with regard to time(I suspect 10+ years, like large format NiMH). With regard to the number of cycles, there is no question about LiFePO4.

  44. on the topic of LiFePO4 batteries, has anybody bought from lithiumstorage.com? Does anybody have a reliable process of buying batteries directly from china (e.g. shippers)? Just trying to avoid buying batteries from the crooks that used to be EVcomponents…


  45. I’ve been thinking about this:

    When you go with lithium ion batts. and you have 2000 charge cycles to 80% capacity, your 150 mile battery pack will have moved you 300,000 miles!
    Then I’m guessing another 2000 cycles at (80% of 150)=120 miles that is 240,000 miles!

    so after 4000 charge cycles you have gone 540,000 miles!! and you are just getting started.

    What I am trying to say here is that in order to have a battery pack that gets you a decent range ,say 150 miles with a low dollar per mile upfront cost, you need to use lithium with thousands of cycles.

    The problem then is that the batteries will outlast the car. It seems to me the car is secondary to the batteries.

    The batteries are the biggest expense.
    The battery life is longer than the car.

    you are really buying a battery pack with a car built around it.

    no wonder we have not seen a battery electric car that is decent from the OEMs.

  46. A well-designed car can last 500,000+ miles. There are plenty of individuals with old diesel Mercedes 240Ds that could tell you that(Mercedes does not build them like that anymore!).

    It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to design an EV to the same standard, by using overbuilt components capable of being reliably used in a car with 2-3x the horsepower…

    The OEMs don’t want to do this. Imagine if all the cars they sold never needed any powertrain maintenance, and lasted 500,000+ miles.

  47. I look at the locomotive train (big generator, batteries and big electric motor). Is anyone looking at a motor/generator for an EV.
    Instead of a charger, plug in the motor/generator at night.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Verified by MonsterInsights