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Electric "conversion" of a VW Westfalia using a Model S platform

Discussion in 'Electric Conversions' started by Otmar, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. Otmar

    Otmar EV Modder

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    It's more of a body swap than an electric conversion. I'm awaiting delivery on the Model S that I plan to graft under my Stretched VW Vanagon. It should be interesting.
    There are a several forums interested in updates on this project so I'll be trying to keep up to date on the blog here:
    Stretchla Blog | Stretched Vanagon Westfalia, powered by Tesla

    Have fun!
     
  2. lolachampcar

    lolachampcar Active Member

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    Please keep the thread alive..... Pictures!!!!
     
  3. VolkerP

    VolkerP EU Model S P-37

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    TEG can do it in a coffee break.
     
  4. mpt

    mpt Electrics are back

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    You're insane... In a great way! I'm sure that there'll be a lot of input needed from Tesla on how to initialize the Model S drivetrain, I hope that they help out.

    If you can get it going it'll be quite a show-machine, I'm rooting for you.
     
  5. wycolo

    wycolo Active Member

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    Aerodynamic efficiency of the 2x longer Vanagon is much improved as it is approaching torpedo profile. Clean up that snout ala a new minivan and you could enjoy respectable kwh/mile. But eventually the Rangers will come after you. 8^(
    --
     
  6. Otmar

    Otmar EV Modder

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    There are several forums that want to see updates and I worry maintaining that would overwhelm me. My solution was to make the Blog, please subscribe to that blog (put in your email address) and then you'll get all the updates. You can comment there as well.
    Every now and then I'll try to let the forums know that I've updated the blog, but if others mention it in this thread then that would be helpful for me!

    http://cafeelectric.com/stretchla/
     
  7. gene

    gene Active Member

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    #7 gene, Dec 6, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2013
    Hey Otmar, I have met you a few times in "The Valley" over the many years past. I think originally we met in the Wizard Pool. Anyway, I am an EX VW Pro-Mechanic and a Tesla owner. I'm not sure if you've been there when I am there with the rest of my bluegrass pals, I am one of the fiddlers. I was always impressed that you must had done some serious floorpan work so that long wheelbase Vanagon could survive the washboard road in.

    IMGP0643.JPG
     
  8. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    I think Otmar has some good connections. If anyone outside of Tesla can get answers like that, he probably can.
     
  9. Otmar

    Otmar EV Modder

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    I appreciate your confidence in me TEG, but the truth is that Tesla has (for very good reasons) become careful with what information is shared, even with me. So far my local SC has been helpful with the process needed so I can buy new replacement parts and I appreciate that very much, but I realize that liability concerns would keep them from doing anything other than helping restore the Model S to a stock configuration.

    In the end I don't expect to change anything that could be sensed in the drivetrain and therefore it shouldn't need to be reset or reconfigured. Despite my history, I don't expect to do much hacking on this. (OK, maybe I'll learn to fool the ride height sensors so I can autolevel when camping)

    In my mind this brings up the topic of safety, a blog post I'll want to write soon. The truth is that this project is nothing like a normal EV conversion that involves wiring and electronics. It's more like the old days of swapping the body on a VW bug pan to make it look like an antique. I love the fact that Tesla has done vast amounts of engineering to insure the safety of the electrical and drive system, I wouldn't want to compromise that by modifying it. Unfortunately I won't be able to retain the crash safety of a the Tesla body, but I accept that and I hope to at least exceed the basic safety that was inherent in the Vanagon platform.

    Shipper now says car will arrive Wednesday, I'm not holding my breath! :wink:
     
  10. 100thMonkey

    100thMonkey Member

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    Wow, what a cool project! I used to own an 82 Vanagon Adventurewagon with high hard top, it was hard to let it go! I have joked with my wife that we need an EV version for family adventure... just can't see going back to gas, even for a camper.
     
  11. tomsax

    tomsax Member

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    Great project, Otmar. I can't wait to see it!
     
  12. jcstp

    jcstp Active Member

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  13. pgiralt

    pgiralt Active Member

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    Nice read. You should be able to disable the alarm from the settings security menu on the screen so at least the alarm doesn't go off on you.
     
  14. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Otmar, are you worried that the extreme increase in weight could overstress the gearbox? Do you plan to run stock Model S wheels and tires?

    It might make sense to run smaller wheels so you get lower top speed, but more torque multiply for getting the "big old bus" moving with less gearbox stress.
    With only direct drive (no shifting) that motor is going to have a "tall order" to accelerate from a stoplight, and passing uphill.

    (I saw you were considering 18" wheels already just for clearance considerations.)

    Perhaps you would need to use non-Tesla brake discs and hubs to be able to use smaller wheels & tires.
     
  15. Otmar

    Otmar EV Modder

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    I'm more concerned about the extra weight on the air suspension. Anyone have contacts at Continental? I could use a data sheet on those air struts. :) I'll be working to put the Stretch on a diet. I may leave the seats and camping gear out at first until I can run it over a scale. I already removed the 65lb of trailer hitch. I'm guessing that if I drive relatively gently the gearbox load should be no more than a hard driving Model S owner. But long term stress will always be a concern.

    I'd like to run 18" wheels, but the front suspension knuckle will not clear even if the brakes did, plus that would reduce my top ground clearance which is already low at 6". Due to all that I'm now committed to running the stock 19" wheels and tires. I've spent some time with a tape measure now that I have both in the shop with the covers off and I'm pretty sure the Tesla parts will all fit in the general shape of the Stretch body. Keeping the Tesla front seats, which sit on top of the front strut towers, low enough will be very close. They have adjustment motors very low, so I can't straddle the rails over the struts. Also, the Tesla dash is deeper than the Vanagon and I have not seen what parts are in the way of making it shorter, I think it's mostly HVAC which is somewhat malleable.

    ps: Thanks pgiralt, I found the alarm setting.

    pps: Today I discovered that the traction battery was left unplugged, maybe that's why it wouldn't run!

     
  16. richkae

    richkae VIN587

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    I just want to throw in my me too on how awesome this is.
    I am just as excited to see this vehicle in person than I am to see the Model X. When I get a chance, I will be there.
     
  17. wycolo

    wycolo Active Member

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    If you had the fixed suspension you could simply put air bags inside the coil springs and pump to desired ride height, but I haven't seen such an MS yet.

    With the air susp you may discover that when switched to HIGH it actually will assume ~STANDARD ride height due to the extra weight. How it deals with this situation will be the big surprise, unless you learn ahead of time how the system really works. Does an overloaded MS adjust itself to proper ride height?? Does it complain?? I have two 35 gal water tanks that fit in the MS trunk which would be a total of 564 lb + weight of the tanks. Might be easier if you could find three 200 lb dudes and do some cruising & measuring.

    Re TEG's point about too tall a gear ratio, this would certainly apply to an ICE where you have to optimize torque & power curves. With the MS these aren't really curves anymore, more like straight lines. Plus tremendous power/torque compared to Westfalia engine.
    --
     
  18. ToddRLockwood

    ToddRLockwood Active Member

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    This is indeed an insane challenge, and as the former owner of two Vanagons, I'm more than a little curious. What makes this a particularly daunting task is the vast system integration in the Model S. Virtually every electrical device in the Model S is managed by the car's firmware. That includes wipers, door locks, steering, sunroof, charger, motor, etc, etc. It's quite a different task than transplanting a gas engine and its analog electrical system into another analog vehicle. One of the trickier issues will be getting the Model S computer to ignore components that are missing or reconfigured. This would almost certainly require access to the Model S firmware.

    Along these lines, I wonder whether a Model S rebody would be a more realistic approach—bringing the Vanagon to the Model S, rather than the other way around. A well-designed Model S van would be pretty cool.
     
  19. JRP3

    JRP3 Hyperactive Member

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    Since the Model S needs to operate properly even in the case of faulty items, such as door locks, sunroof, etc. the propulsion system is probably quite isolated and should function in the absence of those items.
     
  20. Zextraterrestrial

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    Makes me want to do the opposite and shrink a Model S down to a 1 seat race car (but an AWD would be better for this)
    Awesome project! If you are open to visitors I'd love to run up that way maybe in the spring/summer and have a look
     

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