Larry Mills, an electrical engineer from Boca Raton had a Corvair as a teenager and always wanted another one. As an electrical engineer he was a firm believer in the power of electric cars and currently owns two. He loves his Chevy Volt, but it just lacks the fun of real driving. He turned to High Voltage Hot Rods to combine the passion he had for his Corvair with the passion he has for electric cars. So began our electric powered Corvair project.
The Corvair isn’t new to the electric world. GM played around with the idea of building an all electric powered car back in the 60′s and produced not one but two versions of an electric powered Corvair. A 1964 version of the car was chosen as the first version. Quoting from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) paper #670175, “Electrovair – A Battery Electric Car,”, “It was the lightest GM production car available, and its rear drive was ideal for a compact and simple motor installation. The problems encountered in Electrovair I suggested many basic improvements in the electric drive system. As a result we started on an improved motor control system. Soon it became apparent that building an entirely new car would be easier than upgrading the first car. Thus, the decision was made to build Electrovair II starting from a 1966 Corvair” The car was powered by silver-zinc batteries and had a very limited range though very good performance.
I was actually very familiar with the suspension and drive train of the Corvair because my own EV GT-40, a 1968 Fiberfab Valkyrie, uses the Corvair drive train and suspension hooked up to a custom frame. For the EV GT-40 project I am able to rely on my experience with that project to make the drive system cleaner and more efficient. I am also able to rely on the experience of Brant Cohen to make the car run even better.
Larry brought us a 1966 Corvair Monza convertable with a 2 speed automatic Powerglide transmission. Our original intent was to put in a 4 speed manual transmission like that used in the EV GT-40, but after close study we decided to try and keep the Power Glide transmission instead. Being only 2 speed, there is very little shifting which is better for the electric drive. It also seems to sit right in the power curve of the AC electric motor we are using for the conversion.
The layout of the Corvair is ideal of an electric car because of the ample room for battery packs. With the engine removed, we are able to put 26 180ah lithium cells in the rear compartment and the remainder in the front “trunk” where the gas tank was removed. This also allows for good weight distribution that matches how the car was originally designed.
Larry was only interested in a range of 70 miles so we are only using 36 cells to cut down on his traction pack expense as well as weight. There is a lot more room and we could easily make this car go over 100 miles on a single charge.
All of the construction of this vehicle is being documented for an episode of “High Voltage Hot Rods” which will be airing in the spring on cable television as well as the web. We are also going to be making a more in depth instructional video that we will include with a kit of parts for Corvair builders to do their own conversion. This will be available on our web site in a few months. If you are not into welding and fabrication, and are interested in having your Corvair converted, you can ship your car to our shop and we would gladly do all the work for you and ship you back a fully electric running car. We can also find a Corvair for you and do the work as well. Just let us know what model and year you are interested in and we can begin searching for a good car to start with.
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-Andrew McClary – CEO, High Voltage Hot Rods, Inc.