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Electric Volvo Amazon combi

Siemens engine in Volvo Amazon combi
ER Classics Desktop 2022

Some think it is sin or even sacrilege, according to others it is the future. For me, it is a dream to convert a classic to a fully electric one. Since May 2015 I have been converting my Volvo Amazon combi from 1967. The presentation of the Jaguar E-type Zero is a confirmation for me that electric classics are irrevocably a trend.

Electric Jaguar E-type Zero
Jaguar E-type Zero (photo credit Jaguar Landrover)

With this conversion, the car itself has remained original, only it is faster, cleaner and lighter than the original. That's how I want to do it with my car.


From dream to do

I had been around for some time with the idea and the technical challenge. Wouldn't it be nice to convert a car to fully electric. A feasibility study in early 2015 showed that the technical feasibility was good, the economic side moderate, the regulations complex but the fun factor high, so I decided to do it. My goal is a conversion that is not noticeable on the outside and in the interior, but is advanced under the hood. And not only me, my father is also converting his Volvo Amazon combi. This article about the exploration is the first in the series in which I describe my conversion project.

Part 1: Exploration of conversion of Volvo Amazon combi to fully electric

In this phase I looked at which conversion kit providers were available, which range and which top speed I wanted to be able to achieve. In addition, I looked at which engine I wanted and related to whether or not to keep the gearbox. Finally, I made a choice for the batteries. I have also studied the regulations and inspections.

Which supplier?

I now have some skill in tinkering with old Volvo cars and I am interested in technology. For such a conversion project I needed a supplier who could provide the necessary support in addition to the parts. In particular also because of the relatively strict RDW inspection. For this I contacted Rebbl, Heijnsdijk Electric Cars and New Electric. In the end I chose New Electric as a partner for the electrical components and support and Nordicar for the Volvo parts.

Which range and which top speed?

In other words, how do we want to use the car? This will mainly be around here, distances up to a maximum of 40 a 60 kilometers per day on inland roads and the occasional long drive of 160 a 170 km on the highway. A range of 80 kilometers is therefore usually sufficient. It sounds nice to be able to drive far, but one often speaks of three factors in a conversion: costs, speed and range and you cannot have all three at the same time optimally. You can therefore reduce costs by not wanting to go too far and still have a smooth car. In addition, the maximum permitted mass with a Volvo Amazon combi is a point of attention so that you can only take a limited number of batteries with you. In terms of speed, the car must be able to get along well in traffic, even on the highway.

Which motor + controller and whether or not a gearbox?

You are faced with the fundamental choice of whether you want to use an alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC) motor. The advantage of direct current is that it is cheaper and that you have a relatively large amount of power (mainly torque) at your disposal, directly from 0 rpm. The advantage of alternating current is that it is more efficient, regenerative braking is easier to implement, maintenance-free and it is safer. If a controller runs wild at DC, the car starts to drive faster and faster, while at AC it just stops. AC, alternating current, is the standard in the automotive industry. This ultimately became my choice. This also implicitly made the choice to retain the gearbox. To keep a smoothly driving car, the final transmission of approximately 4: 1 from the rear axle is not enough and you have to go to the 8: 1.

Shortlist engines

After choosing AC, I had three motor + controller combinations on my shortlist:
- HPEV AC 51 (oil cooled) + Curtis 144V / 500A controller
- HEC-50-30 (water cooled) + Curtis 1238-75 Controller - 650 Amp
- Siemens AC motor 1PV5135-4WS14 (water-cooled) + DMOC 645 inverter
The Siemens motor is the heaviest of the three, both in weight (91 kg versus approximately 55 kg for the other two) but also in power. It can deliver 134 HP to the wheels with a torque of 300 Nm peak and 150 Nm long life from 0 to 3000 RPM. The other two are about 2/3 of that. The Siemens motors come from the Azure Dynamics bankruptcy. Azure Dynamics built fully electric Ford Transit vans. This gives you a high-quality engine that has been specially developed for the car industry for a relatively low price.

Siemens engine in Volvo Amazon combi
Siemens engine fits in Volvo Amazon combi

In order to properly handle the torque of 300 Nm from a standstill, I opted for the stronger M400 gearbox from a Volvo 164. The long poker of a standard four-speed container from an Amazon could be transferred so that the original appearance is retained.

Which batteries / accumulators?

In any case, they will be Lithium cells and not lead batteries. My calculations are based on the Siemens motor and accompanying DMOC controller. The advantage of this combination is that this set can handle various and relatively high voltages. The advantage of a high voltage is that less current has to flow to transfer the power. With the batteries you always need a higher capacity than you actually have at your disposal. This is due to the fact that you have to take into account that you never want to run or recharge batteries completely empty (margin of approximately 25%). The available technology for the do-it-yourself market in 2015 was actually only LiFePO4 cells. That is why I opted for 90 pieces of 100 Ah CALB LiFePO4 cells. They provide 288 Volt in series and a nominal 28,8 kWh, of which you have about 21 kWh left over.

CALB 100 Ah LiFePO4 batteries

Assuming a consumption of 250 Wh / km, this is a range of 88 km. These 90 cells together weigh 304 kg, of which 60 to 65 units (204 to 221 kg) fit on the spot of the fuel tank and spare wheel in the back. For the other 25 to 30 pieces (85 kg) a place must be found in the front.

Custom license plate

In addition to all technical and electrical aspects, it is just as important to get the license plate adjusted from fuel G to fuel E in order to be able to use it again after conversion. Two aspects play a role in the inspection at the RDW, the identity and the conversion. According to the definition of the RDW, a vehicle consists of three main parts. The chassis (1), the body (2) and the engine block with the drivetrain (3). According to the 1/3 rule, you may change one of those parts while retaining the original identity (and therefore registration number and date of first admission). In my case I only change the engine block with drivetrain so that's okay.

The RDW summarizes the requirements for conversion as:

  1. Uniform provisions for the approval of electric vehicles (UN / ECE Regulation No. 100)
  2. Tests and requirements with regard to electromagnetic compatibility (EMC, directive 72 / 245 / EEC and 97 / 24 / EG)
  3. Testing and requirements with regard to road behavior (road behavior policy rule)
  4. Requirements for the cabling, provision for switching off the high voltage and placement of the battery pack. (Annex IV, Annex 4, Vehicle Regulations)

I safeguard the requirements under points 1, 2 and 4 by working together with New Electric as a professional supplier. For point 3, the handling, I mainly look at the maintenance of the weight distribution and the maximum permitted weight of the combi. In addition to the weight of the batteries, there must be charge capacity left for the passengers and their luggage. That is why a 'low budget' weighing setup was made to weigh the car.

Weigh setup Volvo Amazon combi
Weighing arrangement with four person scales Volvo Amazon combi

This made it clear that the car is suitable for carrying the weight of the batteries and that there are enough seats left on the license plate.

GO!

All in all, these results of the exploration for me in March 2015 were a reason to continue the project definitively.

Later in this Electric Volvo Amazon combi conversion series (tag # old volvo-electric) at AM Klassiek among other things'the first conversion steps',' restoration of the body ',' how sustainable is an electric old-timer? ',' change of plans', 'the beginning of the conversion' and more. Want to see a preview or more details in advance? The project can be found at www.oudevolvo.nl/ev-combi.

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