Turning the Volkswagen T3 / T25 into an electric car?

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I will write this post in English because I think this is also interesting for visitors from other countries. Lately I have been thinking how it would be possible to electrify my Volkswagen T3 (or T25 when you are in the UK). What triggered me were two stories. One of Volkswagen itself who announced to help convert their classic busses and beetles into electric vehicles. The other of a French entrepreneur Libeau who converted his 2009 Renault Twingo in an electric vehicle and is planning to provide small cars with a generic electric drivetrain for only 5000 euro’s with his company Transition One.

The reason I would want to covert my VW van to an electric vehicle is the fact that I noticed that more and more cities are implementing regulation in which old diesel cars are no longer allowed in for example a city center. Furthermore I feel bad that I am contributing in air pollution, which I don’t want.

Disadvantages of an EV conversion

Of course there are some big disadvantages when it comes to converting your Volkswagen van to a Tesla from the eighties. The biggest one is loss of authenticity. My classic VW is a classic. And I want to keep it that way. But if the original is no longer allowed on the streets, what is the use of having it?

Another disadvantage is the range an electric VW T3 would have. I don’t feel like having range anxiety during my holidays. On the other hand: I am driving very slow, so some added travel time due to charging won’t mess up my road trip.

Third disadvantage of a VW classic conversion is of course the cost. It won’t be cheap. There are some pioneers who have converted their classic VW vans and they spent a fortune on it.

Possible solutions for EV conversion

In general there are a few advantages of converting a Volkswagen T3 / T25 (or T2 or T1 for that matter) instead of a modern car. There is more space under the “hood”, there are less electrical aides (no cruise control etc.) and there is a lot of room under the floor of the vans. With the VW vans having the enginges in the back and the available room for batteries under the floor, the weight distribution could be optimized and improved. Currently I am looking into two possible solutions:

The Transition One solution which I mentioned earlier would only cost 5000 euro’s. With the solution of the Transition One the original gearbox remains intact. Which leaves the van being more original. In this case the range would only be around 90 kilometers, since our Volkswagen vans have more air resistance than a Renault Twingo and have double the weight. I could not find any information on the brake horse power and torque of the electric engine, but I have requested more information. You would need at least triple the battery packs to get an acceptable range. Which would increase weight of course. I hope to find more info on it.

The second solution I found was the Swindon Powertrain solution. The company has developed a crate motor which provides 107bhp and which will be available to specialists and individuals who want to convert their car in an EV. The engine only weighs 70 kilograms. Contained within the compact HPD shell is the motor itself, a single-speed transmission and a cooling system. Of course you would still need the batteries, but they don’t provide them, since every project has it’s own demands when it comes to range and battery position. To prove it is an compact and working solution, they converted a classic Mini into an electric vehicle. The crate motor will be available June 2020.

Doing the math

A normal VW T3 van has an engine which weighs about 150 kilograms. The gearbox weighs around 100 kilograms. A full fuel tank 60 kilograms. Which sums up to 310 kilograms or 683 pounds. Personally I don’t like the fact that 250 kg is in the back (where the water tank and most of the luggage is as well) and only 60 kg more to the front. The van understeers easily.

The Swindon crate motor weighs approximately 70 kg. To obtain an acceptable range the battery pack will be around 300 kg. This can be distributed between the engine room, the gearbox and the diesel tank. Putting more batteries in the front would improve the handling of the car.

Doing the math, the weight increase of the conversion would be only 60 kilograms, with the advantage of the weight being distributed better between the axles.

I will update this post as soon as more information becomes available. If you are interested in a conversion and a group discount/offer, drop me a line. If we could mobilize a group of VW T3 / T25 owners, the cost would be much lower.

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