Thinking WAY outside the box: Canbus and electric conversion?
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    1. #1
      Junior Member
      Join Date
      Feb 2020

      Thinking WAY outside the box: Canbus and electric conversion?

      Feel free to tell me I'm crazy, I won't be offended. But if I don't ask, I won't know, right?

      I would like to build an electric car, both because it's fun to build your own stuff and because I'm not really satisfied with some of the shortcuts Nissan took on the Leaf -- which is the only electric car that would be in my budget. We have done pretty major projects in the family before (engine swaps, restoration, etc) but I am not a programmer by trade, and a bit nervous about all the Canbus stuff.

      The basic idea is to find a donor car with a decent body and interior, remove the engine and transmission, install the motor and batteries, etc. This was done (and written up nicely) on a VW Passat several years ago, but the nicest donor car I can find locally in my price range is a 2002 V60. The transmission is probably bad, the engine is definitely bad (as in, it threw a rod), but the body is supposed to be decent and it had a fair bit of work put into brakes etc before the engine failed. The guy would take a little over scrap value for it, and since I could try to sell some ancillary parts I wouldn't need (engine-driven PS pump, alternator, fuel injectors... plus the scrap value of the bad engine) it would be a pretty affordable chassis. I would probably remove the Haldex AWD and just use it as a RWD car, both for the weight savings and because the electric motor doesn't need more resistance between it and the wheels.

      Leaving aside questions of mounting the electric motor etc, how bad a fit will Canbus throw if the car doesn't have any engine at all? I'm sure it will throw a check-engine light and likewise be offended about the transfercase being missing, but will it refuse to let e.g. the ABS or airbags work?

      Any words of wisdom would be much appreciated, thanks!

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    3. #2
      Junior Member CWH11's Avatar
      Join Date
      Oct 2019
      Ringwood, NJ
      Hi! I actually did a conversion of a 98 Chevy K2500 Pickup that used to be a snowplow and service truck with my college's STEM program. I left it after having a lot of different opinions with the project mentor (i was more safety and reliability, he was more just slap some $h!t together and screw it else). To be brutally honest, I think you would have a less enjoyable time trying to make it work, a lot of the onboard systems in most Volvo's need to work together to even remotely operate in a good manner, plus I wouldn't even begin to be able to tell you how many errors the system will even have, plus, the canbus network would need to have so many points of simulation from your side to spoof all the computers into even remotely working that it wouldnt be a fun time. I have always wanted an EV, and would love to have my XC70 be an EV, but at the same time, it would be next to impossible to do it, granted, you are working on a early P family Volvo, so you may be able to luck out with it working, if you still want to move forward with it, I would advise to not go the route of RWD, you would probably be better off using the Transfer case to go to the front wheels, and just getting a subframe out of a wrecked FWD model. I love the idea, and the thought, but I think you would be better off finding a different generation Volvo, I would suggest a 240 first, for less electronics. but anything from there to maybe up to 1995 like the 700 series, 850s, the (900 series) could also work, even other model families of Volvo. I could be very wrong since the last time i was in the research phase of this was about a year ago, but anything is possible. If you would like to hear more ideas, and maybe i could give help woth finding a donor car for dirt cheap, PM me, I would love to help a fellow maker and EV/car enthusiast out.

      (sorry for any typos)
      "They say great science is built on the shoulders of giants. Not here. At Aperture, we do all our science from scratch, no hand holding." Cave Johnson, Portal 2

      Past vehicle- 2004 Chrysler Pacifica AWD in Snow White
      Current vehicle- 2012 Volvo XC70 3.2 AWD in Flamenco Red

    4. #3
      Junior Member
      Join Date
      Nov 2018
      A successful EV conversion of P3 S80 2008 in Switzerland. The CAN bus was the biggest hurdle, indeed:

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