This article was first published in 2008.
Batteries are heavy. There’s simply no getting
away from that – whether those in question are traditional lead acid, nickel
metal hydride or lithium ion. So if you want a battery electric car, you need to
expect it to weigh a lot. Or have a range that extends only to the local corner
One man very well aware of the battery weight
trade-off of all-electrics is Les Puklowski. Les has been converting cars from
petrol to electric for many years – in fact, he claims to have done more
conversions than anyone else in Australia. Most of the conversions Les has done
are based around small, cheap cars – in times past he converted plenty of
Daihatsu Miras and he’s now doing some Daewoos.
But for his own fun machine, he’s taken a very
different approach. As the pics show, when we caught up with Les the car wasn’t
finished - but in a way that’s a good thing as it lets you see clearly the car’s
technology and construction.
The car that Les is building is based around a
Clubman-style frame, except with a rear mounted motor. The frame is built from a
mixture of round and square section mild steel tube and is to be clad in
fibreglass panels. All-up weight is expected to be around 400kg.
The 6-inch Advanced DC electric motor is bolted to
a Daihatsu Charade gearbox. In fact, the whole rear suspension and drive has
been taken from the Charade – McPherson strut suspension and all. As the gearbox
has been rotated so that its gearchange faces forward rather than the rearwards
original location, you’d then expect the car to have 5 reverse ratios and one
forward. But with an electric car that doesn’t matter – you simply reverse the
‘normal’ rotational direction of the electric motor.
To prevent the rear wheels from steering, Les has
added toe-control links (arrow). Of course the Charade braking system doesn’t feature a
handbrake but Les is sourcing Daihatsu Applause ancillary handbrake calipers.
Front suspension comprises fabricated double
wishbones. These use thick-walled mild steel tube with Holden Gemini uprights
and brakes. Happily, the Charade and Gemini stud patterns are the same, so front
and back stud patterns match. A Gemini steering rack is used; it was shortened
so that the tie-rod inner balljoint positions give the correct lack of bump
Braking is unassisted, which saves having to
install a pesky electric vacuum pump to run a booster. Also able to be seen here
is the throttle potentiometer than communicates with...
... the Curtis motor speed controller. This is a
stepless controller that allows motor power output to be infinitely varied.
However, if anything goes wrong, Les can turn the
master battery ‘off’ switch located next to the gear lever.
The ten 12V 60 amp-hour batteries are distributed
around the car, giving excellent front/rear weight distribution and a low centre
So that’s the mechanical and electrical make-up of
the car. And what about its performance? The current 6-inch, 28hp motor will be
replaced with an 8 inch, 83hp unit, giving a potential power/weight ratio of
about 200hp per tonne. Even with plenty of electric torque, that won’t give
supercar performance – but it sure as hell will be handy!
Contact: Thunderbolt Electric Drive
Conversions, Les Puklowski 02 4587 7371
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