Gas-powered 1275 VS electric Bugeye Sprite

Our electric Bugeye is now ready for its new interior, and we are very excited. The car is sorted and exceeds our expectations mechanically, and now we can make it look stunning. Stay tuned!

If you have been following this project, you know I am in love with it, mainly because it is smooth and consistent. I get the feeling that it will be just as smooth and consistent in 100,000 miles. This is a big service interval in the British classic car world, where the life span of a newly rebuilt 948 engine may only be about 50,000 miles.

This week, I wanted to share two videos… the first is of a gas powered Bugeye with a newly rebuilt 1275 engine and five speed Ford transmission. We installed this upgraded powertrain for Len from New Jersey, and finished it with the same anthracite wheels and new tires you see on the electric Bugeye. Len’s car now tracks like an arrow and cruises beautifully at 70 mph, @ about 3300 RPMs in fifth gear.

The sound is just about perfect, courtesy of our custom twin-tipped muffler. Zero-60 time is 15.27 seconds (stock 948 was reported to be 20.5 in 1958). By the way, I backed off a bit because of the truck bearing down on me, so this time is a bit slower than what is possible…

Next is “Sparky,”our electric prototype, with a 4:22 rear end. Zero to 60 time is 10.2 seconds, a full five seconds faster. It also gets to 60 in about half the distance, 530 feet vs 898 ft. The sound you might love in the prior video is completely missing. But I have come to love the electric motor sound too. It’s not a replacement for a sweet exhaust note, it’s just a different cool sound. In fact it makes me think back to black and white Flash Gordon television I used to watch as a kid. Whenever Flash jumped into Dr Zarkov’s rocket to go anywhere, the spaceship made an electric buzzing noise, and I think of Flash each time I take off…

The electric turns 4800 rpms at 75 mph. You might notice the that electric motor really comes on as the RPMs climb. We will next switch to a 4:55 rear end for even more off the line performance. This will raise the RPMs on the highway, but this electric motor doesn’t care the way our gas engines do. Load matters more than RPMs. Range is about 100 miles per full charge. This car is fit with a fast charger so it works at highway charging stations.

We look forward to the next electric conversion… if you have a Bugeye sitting on your property with a worn 948 engine and transmission, our electric direct drive conversion is an attractive option! Or, if you would prefer a rebuilt 1275 with a five speed, we have that kit in stock too! Call or email to get your car on our winter schedule! We can pick up your car anywhere in the country, even if it doesn’t run.

The next chilling chapter of the electric Bugeye Sprite

This was a busy week, with a full house of Bugeyes needing various repairs and restoration work. Our electric project is still a priority, and we made time to add a new radiator to our prototype electric car. This one is tiny, all it has to do is cool the controller, the brain that manages the batteries and motor.

Juice comes in, juice goes out! The AC Bugeye Electric motor controller, roughed-in place, with more wiring to still complete.

I know that the Bugeye Sprite is all about simplicity, and an electronic brain is exactly the antithesis of what the Bugeye is all about. But until further notice, I am hooked on the smooth and maintenance free/turn-key operation of an electric Bugeye. In addition, of the 19 Bugeyes in our building at the moment, the electric is by far the fastest of the bunch. So if we need to add a little cooling to keep the brains of the operation happy, I am more than willing to comply.

I thought you might find this story interesting, as it represents one more way in which we had to engineer a solution to a British car challenge. It turns out that the controller is smart enough to de-rate the power it will transmit to the motor if it gets too hot. You can still limp home, but you don’t get the full power that makes this vehicle so addictive. We set out to fix the problem once and for all so we added a liquid cooled chill plate under the controller.

The silver plate you see in the photo above sandwiches underneath the controller box. You can see the recesses that will carry the antifreeze under the aluminum case that houses the controller. The square O ring around the perimeter keeps the antifreeze in place. Two half inch hoses and a small pump allow the antifreeze to circulate to a small heat exchanger we fit alongside the batteries.

Now, the controller will stay much cooler, which will allow us to send more power to the rear wheels. And thus our car is almost ready for range testing. If the weather improves, we will be out driving the car throughout the balance of the month.

0-Highway Speed in an Electric Bugeye Sprite

Our Electric Bugeye is moving forward nicely. This week, we put on the new wheels and tires and made our first highway test up to 78 MPH. You can see that happen for the first time in the video below.

I am still in awe of the simplicity of direct drive from an electric drive system. It feels to me like it will spin forever without any maintenance at all. No clutch issues, no slave cylinders to change, no synchros to wear and no valves or rings to wear out. And of course, no oil leaks!

Some have said that the exhaust note is elemental to the British sports car experience and while I completely agree, for me, I am willing to give up that sound in exchange for a (mostly) maintenance-free British Sports car. We have dedicated the last ten years to building more than 200 gas-powered Sprites that our clients drive with a high degree of reliability. This drivetrain takes the standard to a whole new level. Charge, get in and go.

On the lift this week for the wheel swap, I admired the clean electric motor with not a single oil drip in sight. You can see the bottom of the battery box in front of the motor. This is made of polyethylene sheet, with a thick plastic film showing at the edge. We’ll peel that off when we get the project completed.

We’re booking electric conversions for this fall. Electric kits will also be for sale, but not for a few more months.

Electric Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite 0-60 Video

Our new GPS Sprite speedo allows us to measure zero-60 times. You’ll see me stage the instrument in the video below. Scroll through the functions to 0-60 timer… once keyed, the timer starts when the car begins to move. Click play in the video below to watch!

12.77 seconds is not going to win any prizes. But a 948 powered Bugeye which would be lucky to break 20 seconds to 60 when new (Road & Track quoted 20.8 in 1958), so this is very impressive, and a whole lot of fun. The power is smooth and progressive. It ain’t the sound of a Stereo muffler, but the electric motor has a distinct whoosh that is also surprisingly fun to hear. You can see the custom driveshaft doing its job below.

We love gas powered Bugeyes. We have cars here currently from Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Idaho, and we are sorting them all out, chasing down every noise and rattle, and tuning them for optimal performance.

Our electric Sprite is a welcome change.

Most dramatic is coming the familiar stop sign at the end of our block, just as I do with the other four Bugeyes I am testing prior to their departure. At a stop there is, of course, nothing. No noise. Nothing to manage. No throttle to blip or choke to pull. Just silence. Noises, when present, have to be right. Many noises are telltale indications of problems. So we listen very carefully. While this electric car is missing it’s sweet exhaust note, most dramatic is that is has no bad noises at all! And that makes it quite refreshing to drive!

In the coming weeks, we will finish this electric car. We’ll clean up all the wires and put in the complete new interior, and other appointments, which we will share here when they are done. Some of you have asked for conversion kits. Those will not be available for a while, as we need to further develop the kit so that it can be installed at a DIY level.

We are, however, scheduling electric conversions here in our shop for the coming months. If you have a Bugeye for example with a rusty fuel tank and played-out 948 engine, we would be happy to pick it up make it a great driver. We can put in a new fuel tank and rebuilt engine, or, now for the first time, we can convert it to electric power. For us to install a complete electric conversion, I would budget $35,000 for the complete kit and labor to remove the gas powered driveline and replace it with the electric systems needed to charge and drive with about a 100 mile range. If you are interested, call or email to discuss your project!

We’ll keep the gas powered (and electric) Bugeyes rolling!

Electric Bugeye Sprite update

This past week had a chance to get back into the electric Bugeye project, now that a bunch of the gas-powered Sprites in the queue have shipped to their new homes. With the power plant, controller and batteries located, FROG-E #1 is almost ready for test driving. Our next challenge is chargers. There will be three on board… one for fast charging from a 220 plug, one for a 110 household plug and one for the 12 volt system battery. The later runs every time the car is plugged-in to either 110 or 220, so that the headlights and other accessories always have juice available.

Above, you can see the 220 charging station receptacle for the fast charge function. We’ll fit that into the original fuel-fill hole, and a flip-up fuel fill cap will cover and hide this electric plug nicely, while providing a water-tight seal.

We have tough decisions to make as we fit these three metal boxes (one for each charger) and still try to preserve as much of the original look and feel of the car as possible. We needed to put batteries and chargers in the boot, but also have to make sure that people can still store some luggage there without interfering with the electrics. Thus two of the three chargers are nested in the right rear wing and a few battery cells are nested in the left rear wing.

I have included the two pictures below so you can see what we are up against. These are rough fitting pictures only, everything will be properly mounted and tidied up. Both sides will be shielded with plastic panels too, to protect the equipment (a panel is already in place on the driver side in the boot). But it gets interesting when you start running high voltage wires around these tiny cars. You can also see in the boot the wires running up from the batteries under the trunk floor, which also need to be shielded when we are done. We are trying hard to keep everything neat and tidy while retaining a storage space in the boot.

We should have the car running this coming week!

Electric Bugeye Sprite Update

The electric Bugeye Sprite (FrogE) is leaping forward. This week we made big strides with the creation of the polyethylene boxes to isolate and protect the precious Lithium Manganese batteries. Each one is in its own little safe. Kenny fabricated beautiful boxes this week to house each set of cells. In the photo album below, you can see the boxes going together to fill the engine bay with new (cleaner) power. Is it cold and plastic under the hood or hot stuff?

This week we also mounted our new custom drive shaft, which you can see below linked to the electric motor. This photo shows how neatly the team linked the electric motor spindle to the drive shaft. In this image you are looking down through the shift tower at the connection between motor and drive shaft.

Some electric conversions use the existing gearbox but we went with a direct drive configuration, to eliminate one more source of oil leaks. These cars are so light and the performance envelope for the motor is so broad that a gearbox is not needed. Losing the gearbox also saved us about 46 pounds and allowed is to mount the motor closer to the center of the car, down low.

The car has a 12 volt system for the lights, horn and accessories. This is charged through the main plug in the fuel tank through an inverter. The main motor batteries (inside the black boxes) are 144 volts and 500 amps.

Our goal is to have this complete in one week in time for British By the Sea in New London, CT. Will we make it? (Now, where does that white wire go?)

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