An electric truck could save you a ton of cash at the gas pump, but you may not be able to afford the sticker price of the new electric vehicles on the market. So, you could consider joining the ranks of "backyard" mechanics who are retrofitting their own trucks for a much smaller price tag. Keep in mind that when you are done, you should have a vehicle that is going to save energy. To retrofit your truck, you will need to install parts that are specific to electric vehicles, such as a motor, controller, batteries, charger and any necessary accessories.

There are a couple things you will want to consider before starting on your project. First, and this is a big one, what kind of budget will you be working with? You don't want to go overboard on the financial end. Secon20d, what are your mechanic's skills? Will you be able to do the work yourself, or will you have to get some expert help along the way? That will affect your budget. You want to maximize results while minimizing your budget. However, it's important to not sacrifice safety.

What Is An Electric Truck?

The classic pick up truck is all about power and dependability, and this should not be compromised when the truck is electric. An electric truck is a truck powered by lithium ion batteries. These trucks operate on a high efficiency electric power train that produces no pollution. Many of the new electric trucks hitting the market today can brag that they offer the power that their gas powered cousins do.

What Are The Benefits Of An Electric Truck?

Low Operation Cost

The average electric vehicle can save about $850 a year in gas expense for a driver who drives 15,000 miles annually. This leads to significant savings over the lifespan of the vehicle. This does not take into account any special charging systems.

Less Maintenance

The motor of an electric vehicle has one moving part - the shaft, which require little to no maintenance. Since the controller and charger are electronic devices and have no moving part, they also do not require maintenance.

Higher Safety Rating

All passenger vehicles, both electric and gas powered, are required to pass the same safety and crash tests. Statistics show that electric vehicles are less likely to catch on fire compared to gas-powered vehicles. Additionally, it's nearly impossible for an electric vehicle to explode on impact. An electric vehicle's lower center of mass makes it less likely to roll over, as well.

Reduced Emissions

Electric vehicles do not create any tailpipe emissions, which reduces the amount of pollutants in the air. Cleaner air create a healthier environment, as the ozone layer will not be further damaged since fewer greenhouse gases are being released.

Easier To Operate

Electric vehicles fit into a person's lifestyle easily. They can be charged at home, at work, or at public chargers. You don't have to make a special trip to refuel. You just need to plug in when you get home, and your batteries will be fully charged in the morning.

Less Noise Pollution

Electric vehicles are as quiet as a whisper. Health problems such as heart disease and hearing loss could be lessened through the operation of more electric vehicles.

Performance

Electric vehicles have a very high torque, so their acceleration is very quick and even. The ride is also smooth and comfortable. Most electric vehicles have a performance rating that is comparable to a gas powered vehicle.  

How To Build An Electric Truck

To build your electric truck, you are going to need to have some special parts. You need a donor truck, electric motor, controller, charger and batteries. Of course, you also need to have the tools on had to first destruct the donor truck and then reconstruct it into an electric truck.

Donor Truck

Look for an inexpensive, lightweight truck that has a solid frame and body. You don't need to worry about whether or not it runs since you're just going to tear the engine out anyway. Once you get it to your garage, you need to tear out the following parts:

  • Engine
  • Starter
  • Radiator
  • Coolant tank
  • Gas tank
  • Fuel line and fuel filter
  • Exhaust system

Adaptor Plate

Since you will use the truck's transmission to connect power from the electric motor to the wheels, you will need to attach an adaptor plate to the transmission. To make an adapter plate, use a piece of plate aluminum that has a hole drilled in it to line up with the ends of the transmission and the motor. You may need to pull the transmission out to trace a pattern on the aluminum. Have the aluminum plate cut to fit and ensure that the centers of the drive shaft and transmission line up.

Coupler

The coupler is used to connect the rotary power of the motor to the transmission. Making sure to keep the coupler between them and line up the motor and transmission. You can then bolt both of them to the adapter plate.

Electric Motor

The AC electric motor can be purchased, whether it's new or used. If you purchase a used one, you may want to take a little time and give it a rebuild. Rebuilding a used electric motor isn't too difficult. First, clean the grease off of it, if needed. This just makes it easier to handle. Remove the coils and spray them with an epoxy that acts as an insulator. Check the bearings and replace the brushes.

Batteries

Without batteries, the motor won't be of any use. You will most likely need about six batteries to power your truck. Like the motor, you can purchase new, or you can buy used batteries. If you buy used batteries, make sure to test them, first. The most commonly used batteries are deep-cycle flooded batteries. Once you have the batteries, you will have to make sure that you have an area to secure them. Once the batteries are installed, you can connect them to the motor.

Controller

The controller is an electronic box that controls the power between the batteries and the motor. It is a crucial part of the electric truck retrofit. The higher your amperage is the better acceleration you will have. With higher voltage, you will get a better top speed and efficiency from your truck. A controller with higher voltage will use less amps to do the same amount of work as a battery running at double the amps.

Follow the directions that come with the controller to connect the batteries to the controller and motor. Be sure to use heavy gauge cable with heavy duty terminals. Connect the gas pedal cable to the potentiometer, so that when your foot hits the gas, it sends a signal to the controller.

Brakes

If your truck originally had power brakes, you will find that they are now a little hard to engage. They are still useable, but you will have to push really hard. Power brakes work on a vacuum that is created by the engine. Since the engine is no longer available to create that vacuum, the brakes just won't work the way they were meant to. You could see if you can find manual master brake cylinder to install. You could also try to create an air vacuum using an electronic pump.

Where To Find Conversion Kits

Conversion kits for your project can make this task so much easier. They can be found at the following retailers:

  • EVwest.com - United States-based company that offers kits for classic cars
  • EVSource.com - U.S.-based company that has a selection of various components
  • EV4U - U.S.-based company that offers custom conversions and parts
  • CanEV.com - Canadian company that has a conversion kit
  • Zero EV - United Kingdom-based company that offers conversion using Tesla parts, along with a wide range of other electric vehicle parts

Conclusion

So, now you know the basics of building your own electric truck. While electric vehicles have recently been getting more attention, their sticker price remains high. Building your own will allow you to enjoy all the benefits that an electric truck has to offer, minus the big price tag, as long as you stay in your budget, that is. 

Once your truck is built and you've got it completely charged up and ready to tear up the road, get out there and have a good time. After all your hard work, you most certainly deserve to take some time and enjoy the results of all your hard work. And this time, you get to cruise right past the gas pumps. 

Even though the major automakers are not fully convinced on the use of electric vehicle technology, nearly every make has announced plans to significantly increase their electric vehicle offerings. Today, electric vehicles only take up about 1 percent of the automotive market in the U.S. However, with the automotive industry stepping up plans to bring electrified vehicles into the market, their growth should continue to rise.

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