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MG Electric Car Conversion

During the spring and summer of 2008, I converted a 1957 MG kit car to full electric with my brother and father. The project took us three months, requiring a lot of design, construction, electrical work, welding, and machining. This was my first large scale building project and I learned a lot about the realization of design. We used a nine-inch DC brushed motor, powered by a 176 V, 12 kWh Ni-MH battery pack. Throughout the process, we met a lot of people within the electric car community in northern California who offered us assistance. This project not only developed my technical knowledge, but also exposed me to the political movement to get electric cars on the road.

This picture was taken pre-conversion. Before we gutted out the internal combustion components, we took this puppy for a few rides down the back country roads. The VW rear-mounted engine roared like an airplane. With the tiny windshield and rattling fenders, I felt like I was flying! It made me sad to dismantle this beautiful machine, but the finished product is much more spectacular.

Working out of our backyard in the Mendocino redwoods, we had limited access to heavy machinery. Amazingly, we got away with cutting 1" aluminum plates with a jigsaw, steel angle bars with a hacksaw, and the driveshaft with a grinder (the hardest steel I have ever encountered). Looking back, we were able to produce remarkable engineering feats given our resources. The project was incredibly empowering, giving me a perspective that allows me to tackle most anything.

One of the most critical components was the motor mounts. Without CAD software, we tested feasibility using cardboard. We actually decided to keep the original VW transmission and connect the motor to the driveshaft (seen in the picture) using a coupling. I welded almost all of the steel components with our MIG welder, while we had to take our aluminum parts to a professional welder.

The motor mounts directly to a plate which attaches to the transmission shown in the previous picture. You can see the clutch (very cool) and the coupling. The motor we used is a 9", brushed DC.

One of several gnarly cuts using the jigsaw.

My dad and I working on the electrical wiring for the instruments and lights. As you can see, it was an utter mess! The previous owner, who assembled the kit, claimed he was a mechanic. The mechanical components were ok, but he really messed up the wiring. At the end of it, we gutted it all out and rewired it ourselves (after getting outrageous quotes from other mechanics).

The car was parked in our garage for months. I am the one with my head under the dash, I was in that position for months as well! It was really a pain in the neck sometimes, but the days were always full of smiles.


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