After 2 years owning our horse farm, my wife had been using our 2001 F-150 pickup for her utility vehicle around the farm. While functionally sufficient, it's not the best for short trips, isn't really efficient on gas, and is way too big for 95% of what my wife needed for daily use in feeding and maintaining the horses and the property. We looked at some new and used mules which are powered by gas or diesel and were stunned by the selling prices. We decided that since I build electric cars professionally and that my wife drives less than 10 miles per day, converting a Jeep Wrangler would be our best option. This blog will detail the process of our project.
Building an EV Jeep Wrangler as a Mule Alternative for Our Farm
By Mike Harvey
Step 1. Finding a Donor Vehicle
Since we didn't own a Wrangler, our first step was to find a suitable donor vehicle. My wife, being the consumate Valley Trader (local trade paper) maven, began the search. Our criteria was fairly straight forward:
- Manual Transmission
- Solid, body, suspension, and brakes
- Good off road tires since she would spend 90% of her day off-road
- Low cost
- Running engine was optional (donor with a blown engine would be cheaper)
My sife found a donor about an hour away. We went and test drove it, gave the seller a check and drove it home. The donor was a black 2002 hard top with nice aluminum wheels and some beefy off-road tires. While we did't want or need the hard top or doors, the Jeep was otherwise just what the doctor ordered.
Step 2. The Strip Down
To maximize the utility of the Jeep, we needed to remove all the niceties and non-essential parts from the car including:
- Rear spare tire and carrier
- Rear seat and belts
- Hard top and doors
Step 3. Addons for Off-Road
Now that the hard top and doors were off, we needed a soft top. We decided on a bikini top as she didn't need any coverage in the rear cargo area and would be parking it in the garage when not in use. Also I wanted to make sure she was safe when driving up and down hills, so some bar style doors were added as well. Also to make it easir for her to get in I installed some nice powder coated black nerf bars with a built in step.
Step 4. Designing the EV System
We decided that it would be best for her to drive it as a gas engine while I finish up the few projects currently in the shop and do my design work on the best EV drivetrain for the job. Currently, I am working on sourcing the motor which will be a 11" Kostov and controller for which I'm leaning toward a Soliton Jr. This is probably way overkill for what she needs, but it never hurts to be able to haul something around, or pull down a tree. I've decided to keep it light, and go with Lithium batteries instead of lead. Given that she will drive less than 10 miles a day I've decided on higher power with less capacity. Witht that in mind, large format cylidricals ( like Headways) or A123 pouches will be the most likely choice. More on that as it develops.
Stay tuned for more.