The ForkenSwift is a 1992 Geo Metro converted from gasoline to electric power with used forklift parts (electric motor, etc.), used golf cart batteries (and a golf cart motor controller) and a pair of near-dead "host" cars. It was built by two friends, designed from the outset as a low cost, medium-speed runabout for use in a small, quiet city (Brockville, Ontario, Canada).
This site documents the conversion in detail.
Latest update: 6000 kilometers later: what have we learned?
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Seems like a good opportunity to look back and ponder some of the big questions:
Undoubtedly, the most frequently asked questions about this electric runabout are:
Of course there's more to these answers. EG: what's its absolute top speed? How fast does it accelerate to 50 km/h / 30 mph? What's the furthest it's gone on a single charge? How much does it cost to charge? What do you mean by "net" cost?
For much more detail, read more ...
Here's a list of the parts/components used in the conversion. Almost all were "previously enjoyed" - most of the major ones are from an old Baker electric forklift, plus some golf cart stuff thrown in for good measure.
Covered in detail are: Motor, Adapter plate & motor coupler, Motor controller, Batteries, Charger, Pot box, Contactors, Emergency disconnect, High voltage cabling & lugs, 12v DC/DC converter, Instrumentation, Heater
From almost the beginning of the conversion, I shot a series of videos to document its progress. There are actually still a few unfinished videos in the vault, and a new one yet to be made to show off a modification installed just this week.
The videos cover project milestones, from the very first spin-up of the electric motor in the car, to the first electric test drive, to a demo of how to shift gears without a clutch, to a battery pack "hot swap"... and more. Keep an eye on this page as new videos are added.
Follow the epic saga of the car's conversion in words and photos, at the EcoModder forum. I've been posting about the project in excessive detail from the day the proverbial light went on, right up to the present.
The project thread is really long (80+ pages at last count), so set aside several evenings, at least, if you want to read it all. For those on a mission to find specific info, I made an index which links directly to the more significant entries along the way.
Also note that if you want to comment or ask questions about the car, this EcoModder thread is the place to do it - I check there regularly.
Many of the components used in the conversion came from an old forklift: a decomissioned mid-1980's Baker FTD-110 (a 16,600 lb beast) that we bought, stripped of all its electric/electronic components, and then sold the carcass to a metal recycler.
Since doing this project, now when I see an electric forklift I think, "EV conversion kit in a box!" A really, really heavy box. Some assembly required. Batteries not included. (Seriously - it didn't come with the forklift battery, which would have weighed another 3,000 lbs.)
Here's the loot salvaged from the forklift:
The ForkenSwift's claim to fame is that it was done on a shoestring budget: it was on the road on October 11, 2007, legally registered and insured as an electric vehicle, for a net cost of $672 including the car.
Since then, that figure has crept up to $997.60 (May 28, 2009), with some upgrades and additional components bought. And it may creep up further as we continue tinkering/refining.
How the heck did we manage to do it so inexpensively?
We're very grateful to the following bunch of enthusiastic & helpful people and organizations who contributed to the project through inspiration, education, moral support, generous discounts or donations of time & materials.
Three questions Ontario residents often ask: 1) anything special required for the safety check / certification? 2) How did you get insurance; 3) How do you change the registration to "electric" to get a Drive Clean emission test exemption?
Head over to EcoModder for this pictoral quiz that features exclusively 100% battery electric, brand new vehicles (not used car conversions), commercially produced in the past, present or near future.
"We show you a photo of part of a vehicle, and you do your best to identify it by choosing the right answer from a list."
A must for EV aficionados. Complete the quiz and see how you compare to the average score!
It might seem easy to dismiss the low-cost ForkenSwift as an unrealistic one-off, assembled by obsessively cost-conscious builders. But since it was built, two more affordable, electric runabouts (their motors also sourced from used forklifts) have hit the streets. Which lends proof to the idea that electric drive does not have to be prohibitively expensive for the motivated tinkerer.
One of the most expensive parts of an EV conversion is the motor controller (particularly if you want something more powerful than a golf cart - which is what the ForkenSwift uses). DIY types often dream of building their own powerful, inexpensive controllers, but few do it. Until now - EcoModder members Paul and Sabrina have done it, and they're sharing their results.
Update: April 15/07 - Well, it's official now. The ForkenSwift has an EV Album entry, a rite of passage for any home-brew EV. And surely earned after its first electric test drive.
Update: April 12/07 - Motor sold! We've decided to part with the 12 inch drive motor from the forklift. (Actually it's more like 11.75 inches.) Originally we had planned to use this 230+ lb torque monster in the car, but its diameter was too big for the car's transaxle (it would have interfered with the right axle). This motor would probably be better suited for a RWD conversion (more space, plus more torque to move a bigger vehicle) or a really big FWD transmission. More information here.
January 13/07 - the attention from AutoblogGreen prompted me to put up this page in place of the "coming soon" placeholder that was here yesterday.
ICE efficiency: MetroMPG.com
My other project is squeezing as much efficiency as possible out of my ICE car: www.MetroMPG.com.
Chevrolet Aveo & Sonic forum / owners club: info & discussion about Aveo & Sonic and its siblings (Pontiac Wave and G3, Suzuki Swift+, Daewoo Kalos).