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Publication Title | Electric Conversion Safety Nets

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Safety Nets

Shari Prange

©1995 Shari Prange One of the hottest electric vehicle

topics today is safety. The major

manufacturers contend that home-built conversions are inherently unsafe. The truth is that home-built conversions—and even commercial conversions—can range over a broad spectrum, from very safe to potential disaster.

Of course, it is in our own personal interests to make the vehicles we drive as safe as possible. Nevertheless, some people routinely risk their own skins by reckless behavior. We cannot rely on a sense of self-preservation to insure safety in conversions.

It is also in our best interests as an industry to promote safety. One spectacular accident would do irreparable harm to our cause. Therefore, those of us in the industry have an obligation to ourselves and to the public to build multiple layers of safety nets into the conversion process, so that a user error will result only in an inconvenience, not a catastrophe.

Above: A universal kit gives you a solid foundation of compatible quality components for the drive system.

I would like to walk through the spectrum of conversion options, from pre-fabricated to home-built, and look at ways to maximize your safety nets at each level.

A Firm Foundation of Expertise

The ideal situation for a home mechanic is building a conversion from a professionally designed kit. The more complete the kit is, the better. This means that someone with more experience has already made design decisions to enhance safety and minimize risk. The home mechanic has the benefit of expertise outside his (or her) own area.

The kit will also have been installed by many other home mechanics previously. Each installation provides one more safety and reliability test, one more opportunity for the kit supplier to discover ways to improve the kit.

Just Add Batteries

A complete custom bolt-in kit gives the opportunity to experience the pleasure of building the conversion, without having to spend all the time designing and fabricating parts, and without worrying about whether the wiring is exactly right. Someone else has already done the design worrying for you. All you have to do is follow the instructions carefully. Because a custom bolt- in kit is pre-designed and fabricated, it is quicker and easier to install. On the other hand, it is also more expensive, since you are paying for that design and fabrication work. Such a kit will cost between $7,000 –$9,000 dollars, and can be installed in about a month of weekends.

Some Assembly Required

A universal kit allows the more adventurous builder to express creativity in the overall design and fabrication of mounts. However, there is still a substantial safety net in the collection of quality components that were factory built and tested, and are known to be compatible with each other.

This kind of kit trades a lower cost in dollars for a higher cost in time. It will cost between $4,000–$5,000, and will require at least 200 hours to install. Of course, ideal situations don’t always exist. Not everyone can afford a kit. There are ways to economize and still maintain some of those safety nets.

Copy The Best

First, choose a good quality kit and use its list of components as a template. If the kit has a main contactor, you should have a main contactor, etc. It’s in the kit for a reason. If you leave it out, you have cut loose one of your safety nets.

A small thing like a fusible link can make a big difference. Mike Brown, of Electro Automotive, has had

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