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Electric vehicles are in use everywhere. They have proven to be efficient, quiet, economical and clean. The price, range, speed and load capacity of electric cars today fit as much as 80% of the driving needs of commuters in the United States.

This is a journal of my attempt at...

A 4CV to 4EV Conversion

27 - 30 April 2005

Last time, the car was in an old barn surrounded by the accumulation of junk from 27 years. The sensible thing to do first would be to put some tires on it and roll it to a nice, flat concrete floor in a garage. My garage has other things to do so I didn't do the sensible thing.

1959 Renault 4CV, engine area This is the condition of the engine compartment on the 27th. Left to right, the oil bath air filter with rotted hose, engine and radiator, and the heater core all have to come out. The recommended way to remove the 4CV's engine is to disconnect the battery (none here), drain the oil and coolant (again, none here), remove the hose from the top of the radiator to the radiator fill tube, disconnect the temperature sensor wire, starter and generator wires, coil wire and oil pressure switch wire, clutch and throttle cables, heater hoses and fuel line. The sheet metal splash pan around the engine is then removed. The intake and exhaust manifold is disconnected and the muffler, exhaust, intake and carburettor are removed as one assembly. After that, you crawl under the car and drop the fuel tank, disconnect the shift control, hand brake bracket, the hydraulic brake line at the 3-way intersection and the speedometer cable. Last, you rig a hoist for the body, put support under the engine, remove the front and rear crossmembers, and lift the body off the engine, transaxle and radiator.

1959 Renault 4CV, engine area This is the way I left it on the 28th. All wires to the engine are disconnected. The throttle cable is disconnected. The air filter, heater core, carburettor, manifold, muffler, splash pan and the remains of the battery holder are out. It's almost ready to pull. I decided at this point that I should leave the transaxle in place and only pull the engine. The electric motor will eventually connect to the transaxle, so the whole rear suspension can stay in the car. Replacement of bad or worn parts (shock absorbers, brakes, brake lines) can be done with the assembly in place. Another advantage of leaving it in place is that it will make it much easier to plan the placement of the batteries around the engine compartment.

I could not work on the car on the 29th. That whole day was spent working on the maze of parts, switches, wires and springs inside the steering column of my son's car. Parts of it even somewhat resembled the diagrams and descriptions of the array of versions found in the service manual for his model of GM car.

1959 Renault 4CV Back again on the 30th. Only the angle is changed from the previous picture. Since I'm only pulling the engine and not the transaxle, the radiator hoses will have to be removed as well as two bolts that hold the radiator to the front of the engine. The hood has to be removed. That shroud on the left of the radiator can stay but taking it off gives a little more room. The fuel tank (see the filler tube on the right) can stay in place for now. There are 4 large bolts holding the engine to the bellhousing and several smaller ones from oil pan to bell housing. The rear crossmember will be unbolted from the engine and from the frame after the weight of the engine is supported. The engine will then be pulled back, free of the transmission shaft, and turned crosswise in the engine bay before lifting out.

1959 Renault 4CV There it is just hanging around. You may notice that the car has changed from a moderate list to port to a slight listing to starboard. I needed more room under the back to get to some bolts and the hand brake mechanism attached to the oil pan.

That large, rusty-looking chain is bolted to the engine at top front and bottom rear. I didn't see any factory sling points to use. The bracket arching over the fan at the front of the engine (right, in the photo) is the radiator brace.

1959 Renault 4CV
Engine number 878705 for a Renault R1062.
That rusty metal tab hanging down is the fuel pump priming lever.

1959 Renault 4CV The roomy engine compartment just became a lot more roomy. In the upper center of the picture you can see where the radiator cap was. When I was driving the car and stopped to refuel, I always had to hurry (at full service stations) to get to the rear before the attendent could open the radiator and pump in gasoline. You can see the gasoline filler tube in the upper right, inside the engine bay. At least it was on the opposite side from the hot exhaust manifold.

Those bumpy-looking hoses are for shuffling heated air to the interior of the car. Apparently they contain natural rubber, which has oozed through the unknown fabric over the years. Below those you can see the fairly hefty twin tubes running horizontally over the transaxle and below those are the rear axles. The bolt hole directly below the clutch release bearing and transmission input shaft is an attachment point for the hand brake mechanism hanging loosely near the bottom of the photo. (In case you can't tell by the picture, that's not real wood on the ground under the car. It's some laminated scrap that's laughingly sold as "panelling").

1959 Renault 4CV This shot is almost vertical, down into the engine bay. Here you can see how much room is available for an electric motor 14 1/2 inches (369 mm) long X 8 inches (203 mm) diameter and at least 4 batteries, each 13 15/16 (355) L X 6 3/4 (171) W X 9 3/8 (238) H and weighing 66 lbs (30 kg). There appears to be room to place two batteries end-to-end across the rear and one on either side of the compartment, parallel to the motor, making a blocky 'U'.

Pay no attention to those improvised stands on which the car's flat, rotted tires are resting.

1959 Renault 4CV Look at all that space for wiring and controls. Those heater ducts will have to go. Some form of electric heater will be installed.

By the way, the car has not changed colors in these photos. It was just such a gloomy day that the camera decided to use the flash and that dust reflects a lot of light.

1959 Renault 4CV Looking straight down, there is a full 24 inches (610 mm) from the face of transaxle to the rear lip of the engine bay. The motor plus the width of one battery is 21 1/4 inches (540 mm). That leaves some room for a rear motor mount and the thickness of the battery rack.

1959 Renault 4CV This is looking into that bulge at the rear of the car. The slotted hole is for the hand crank. The bulge extends another 4 inches (102 mm) back. This gives clearance for some protective material for the batteries.

All of the batteries will be constrained by steel racks and all terminals will be well insulated. The plan now is to have a 72 V system; 4 batteries in the engine bay and 2 in the trunk. That's quite a bit of lead, acid, amperage and voltage. I want to keep it all contained. Thanks to a lot of folks willing to share information, ignorance is not an excuse for making an unsafe conversion.

End of the day. More planning is needed before the next steps can be taken. I want to do it right, not according to a timetable.

The tale continues...

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