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Mal's Electric Vehicle Conversion

Malcolm Faed has produced the first electric vehicle conversion using an industrial 3-phase induction motor controlled by a variable frequency, variable voltage converter. As far as we know, it is the first such road-registered DIY conversion in Australia and it is probably one of the first in the world.

By Leo Simpson

Back in the December 2008 issue we reported on the Australian Electrical Vehicle Association’s field day held in October. We commented that all the vehicle conversions on display appeared to be based on DC motors with wound fields and ratings up to about 70kW.

Click for larger image
Just to prove the point, here's the rego sticker, placed just a couple of months ago. It shows a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of a little over two tonnes.

But we have always felt that the ideal conversion should be based on a 3-phase induction motor, as in hybrid electric vehicles and in larger commercial electric vehicles as well as modern diesel locomotives.

So when we heard that Malcolm Faed was engaged in a conversion which would use an industrial grade 3-phase induction motor and matching drive (the inverter), we watched his internet blog with keen interest. Just recently he has completed it and is now happily driving a registered electric vehicle on Sydney’s roads. He dropped into our offices to show it off.

It is based on a Toyota Hilux Xtracab utility, a rugged commercial vehicle with an aluminium tray body with plenty of space for the battery bank. To look at the finished vehicle, the conversion looks surprisingly straightforward although Malcolm would have undoubtedly spent hundreds of hours thinking about each step in the process before actually doing it.

The conversion can be summarised as having a whopping orange induction motor mounted in the now very spacious engine bay and the battery bank and inverter system mounted on the rear tray under a large canopy.

With the bonnet down and the canopy closed, the only clue that this might be an electric vehicle is the plastic cover for a standard 230VAC mains 3-pin male socket on the side of the tray body, used for battery charging.

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