Seek Wise Advice From The Experienced

Ready to make the major purchases which lead to directions that cannot easily be changed. I emailed questions to 5 EVers who have encountered practical knowledge, undergone the mistakes and lived through the success of gettin’er done..
Here I’ll share some of that.

James Edmonson,
I read about your EV vehicles in Very nice jobs.
I am starting my first conversion a 1998 Saturn SL1 and I hoped to glean some info from your experience. ….What are your opinions on batteries? What do you recommend and where did you buy them? ….Do you still have the Jetta? Boy, you have put more miles on EV’s than anyone in Mississippi or Tennessee.
Where did you purchase your Motor, Controller (do you like the Raptor better than the Curtis 1231C?) and other parts?
Sorry for all the questions.
Daniel Lynn 
James Edmonson VWJames Edmonson

Hi Daniel

Thanks for your email. Yes, I still have the Jetta and the Ranger. I alternate days driving them to keep the batteries exercised.
It sounds like you have made the commitment to do your first conversion, you have the car, you’ve read the main conversion book and you are asking questions. I have a question for you. You asked my opinion about batteries and I will give it to you but first I would like to know what you expect and need from your conversion. Will it be your daily diver, how far do you need to go each day, can you charge at work (I think this is a yes since you own the business), what speeds will you be traveling at(30mph?, 55mph? 65mph?), are there any big hills on your commute? All of these things factor in to what battery pack you should use. If you need a 10 mile range and can charge at work and travel at 30 mph then you could get by with some cheapo Walmart 12V specials. If you need a 30 to 50 mile range with charging at work and 55mph average then a good set of Trojan, US Battery, Deka 6V 125’s will suffice. If you want more range or need to travel at a higher sustained speed then even larger or more exotic batteries are needed, all of which translates into big $$$$. As a first time converter I would suggest that you stick with Lead acid 6V batteries. They are relatively inexpensive for the amp/hrs they produce, readily available and very forgiving of the abuse that you will inadvertently put them through. (I know because I made all of the common mistakes). In my research I found that the US Battery company makes the batteries with the greatest amp/hr to weight, amp/hr to volume, and weight to volume ratios. But they are a little more pricey than Trojans or Dekas. For me it was worth it to get just a little more range and pulling capacity. Unless you need a minimum of range (5 to 10 miles) I would stay away from 12V systems. Most of these batteries were not designed to handle the constant discharge at high amperages and will peter out after only a few cycles. The Optima yellow tops are the exception to this as they were intended for this use. But you will find they are very proud of these batteries when it comes time to put your cash on the table. I would suggest that you read “Battery Book One” by the Curtis manufacturing corp. It is a quick read and overview of battery composition, chemistry and cycling. I would also suggest that you read “Build Your Own Electric Vehicle” by Bob Bryant.
… I get my batteries from Jackson Battery Supply in Jackson TN. Lumpy will fix you up …
Most of my components were purchased from KTA Services (now out of business since the owner Ken Koch retired). But you can get them from many suppliers listed on the net. Ken actually sold his company to a guy named Wister Rhoads. Mr. Rhoads should be up and running by now I just don’t know the name of his new company. The next time I do a conversion I’ll look into it.
Curtis vs. Raptor….I saw this one on late night TV…. Each one serves its own purpose. The Curtis is a work horse at low amperages and will perform well for a long time. It is heat sensitive (I melted my first one after about 25k miles running in 100 heat at high way speeds for 20 miles at a time.) The raptor will handle the higher amperage out put (600 to 1000 amps) needed to pull my ranger up hills with a huge payload. It also makes for heart pounding acceleration with no load. But it eats up volts and decreases your range if you let your foot get away from you.
I hope I have answered your questions. If I can be of any further assistance just let me know. BTW, if you live in Jackson then you are only about 60 miles away from here. If you would like to see my vehicles in person let me know.

James Edmonson M.D.

Date: Saturday, August 9, 2008, 1:05 PM
Ricky Suiter,
Nice job on the Saturn creation. I viewed the conversion on I am in the process of converting a 98 Saturn SL1. I have been in the
planning stage and am trying to hold back on the purchases until I learn more. I have been surfing the EV forums and read the book “convert it”. Hope you can answer some questions.
1. Batteries
I was planning on going with 120 volt system with 20 T-105 6 volt, weight of 61 lbs each or 1220 lbs total. Dimensions each 7″x10″x11″ deep. What are you using
now? 12 volt would save a lot of space and weight but others tell me to stick with the 6 volts deep cycle, they last longer.
2. Battery locations.
I noticed in the picture you created 2 rear battery boxes one in front and one behind the cross frame.
I like that. Would you still recommend that? I am trying to keep the weight in front of the rear axle as much as possible but still keep the rear seat. You did not loose the rear seat? How many did you get under the hood?
3. Springs
Did you have to add heavier springs?
4. Clutch vs. clutch less.
You have a clutch, do you like it? Have you driven a clutch less EV?
5. Right axle bracket.
Do you like your design and can you email me the diminensions?
6. Motor mounts
Did the mounts work OK, how many did you use and do you have more pictures and info on them?
7. Which supplier did you use?
Sorry for so many questions. Thanks for any info you can share.
Daniel Lynn
Jackson, TN

Rick Suiter SaturnRick Suiter’s Saturn
Don’t worry, your about the 80th person to contact me about doing a Saturn conversion, but I’m happy to help.

1) Please go with the 6 volt batteries. The EV Album pictures are old. My original batteries lasted maybe a year and in that time half of them were warranty replaced. They just do not handle EV level current well. I eeked two years out of them, but only managed 3000 miles in that time. They absolutely sucked for that application. I now have 18 T-875’s and the car is completely different. I can actually use it and the batteries have been relatively reliable. One did develop a dead cell, but aside from that minor inconvenience they’ve been great. If you decide to go with 12 volt batteries the only reason I could see for doing so would be for higher performance by using AGM batteries, but if you do that it would cost more for both the batteries and the charging system.

2) I’d recommend doing what I did and locate a box below the trunk area if possible. This keeps the center of mass down some and lets you have usable trunk space. The only down side to this is it does make the car rear heavy, but it’s going to be a compromise no matter what. It’s a much better solution than putting the batteries in the trunk. My T-875’s are the same size of the 6 volt batteries; I fit 8 of them there. The box in front of the cross frame had to go; the 8-volters wouldn’t fit there without sacrificing the rear seat. I now have 4 batteries sitting in a box in the trunk right behind the rear seat. The other 6 are under the hood. I don’t entirely know where you’d put the other two batteries, but I guess it isn’t entirely impossible. I think the 98 might be a little bigger of a car than mine isn’t it?

3. I’m running stock front suspension, but the rear is beefed up. Coil Spring Specialties made me a custom set for about $140 a couple years ago. If a guy were real ambitious he could probably find some junk yard springs that would work, but I didn’t want to go that route.

4. I have the clutch. While I have not driven a clutchless EV I don’t think I would care for it. My main thought on this is it’s a last ditch safety feature if nothing else. A failure mode of a DC controller is full on and if all else fails you can press the clutch pedal and not go through the brick wall or not hit the old lady crossing the street. You’ll blow the motor up, but all well. This is an extremely unlikely event, but it can happen. Also it’s better to shift the car, if you are taking off in 3rd gear all the time it puts un-needed stress on the motor. I like to shift though so maybe I’m weird.

5. The right axle bracket is a wrap around motor mount I bought from EV Parts. Expensive for what you get, but it works. I just drilled holes in it to accommodate the bracket. It seems to work, but motor mounts in my car are a whole different issue which leads to…

6. Motor mounts… I think your car will have 4 mounts whereas mine only has 3. The first couple years of Saturns had issues with motor mounts not surviving. I’d just try using what’s there and replace all the mounts while you have it apart. I think the stock mounts are too squishy. The dogbones have a polyurethane mounted version available which I have and the upper engine mount I also filled the gaps with polyurethane to have it move less. This has all helped, though has caused more vibrations through the car. I’m still having a jerking issue with the whole drive train and I think I finally figured it out, although I have said that before. I wish I could make a recommendation, but I haven’t even fully figured it out yet.

7. Mostly stuff came from EV Parts. Where I could I bought direct from the manufacturer (Manzanita Micro, Cafe Electric etc.)

Good luck and let me know how it goes.


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