Electric Neon – home brew Electric car

I have been working on building an electric car for the past year.  The car is on the road and drivable.  I am starting this blog a little late so I will spend some time trying to walk through some of the early decisionis and processes. 

You can find a number of videos on youtube:

I have wanted to build my own electric car for over 20 years, it has taken that long for me to accumulate the knowledge and skills to attempt the project.  It also took a little luck to get me started.

I wanted to something a little different than what most people do, I also didn’t want to build an electric car with $20,000 worth of parts.  The original ideal was to build a car using off the shelf industrial parts:  An AC motor, an inverter (AC Drive) and available batteries.

You can find AC motors of almost any size at surplus outlets, auctions and junk yards.

The controllers are a little harder but still available and getting cheaper.

Most people use DC motors and high currents.  Using an AC motor and a battery pack that runs the equivelent of 240V AC (340V DC) means the current , and wire size, will be smaller.

What finally kicked off the project was a load of batteries showed up at work and were mine to play with.  they were C&D 12-270  UPS batteries rated at 12V  75AH.  These are rather small for a DC car (you usually want something over 200AH) but ideal to make a high voltage AC Car (12V batteries mean half as many batteries as with 6V)

I got 18 of the batteries and decided it was time to build a car.  I started out with some initial test using a 5HP motor, 5HP AC Drive and 9 13AH 12V batteries I had from the battle bots I built to see if I could run an AC motor from a battery pack.  It worked great!

Now I needed a car.  I didn’t have anything in mind so I started doing some reading and looking around.  Lighter is definitely better for electric cars, but you also need enough room and strength to hold the extra weight of the batteries (and the driver – I’m 6’4″ tall)

I have a PT Cruiser and though it would make a good electric until I saw the curb weight (over 3000 lb) but that started me looking at the Neons (built on the same chassis.)

I soon found out that the 1st generation Neons tended to be lighter (2400 lb curb weight) and they have a version with beefed up suspension  the ACR.  The ACR is a stripped down car – no extras, has 4 wheel disk brakes (all the better to stop all those batteries) and stronger suspension.  The ideal car for an electric conversion.

I found a 1999 Dodge Neon ACR on craigs list for $1200, when I went to pick it up there were 8 other Neons in the driveway!  The seller was a neon nut (I mean that in the nicest of terms) and was interested in my plan, he even bought the engine back later along with the other parts I didn’t need and has been invaluable with advice and parts, thanks Barry!