(if a car is not pictured here, it has been sold)

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?)

Electric Austin Healey Bugeyed Sprite update

If you thought Lucas electrics made life with a British car exciting, check this out! Every British car needs more wires! (He who dies with the most wires wins)?

Our electric Bugeye is well on its way to its first drive. Here you can see Russ organizing the electric motor controller wiring. Next week, it will all be connected and the front batteries will go in.

Below you can see the rear battery packs installed. The total rear battery load will be 85 pounds. A full fuel tank is about 42 pounds, and the weight of the tank and hardware plus muffler and pipe adds perhaps another 15.

Thus we are adding about 30 pounds to the boot over the gas powered version. We have configured everything so that 80% of the trunk is as available as it is for the stock gas Bugeye. The remaining 20% is occupied by two battery packs and a charger. Eight of the packs hang below the boot floor as shown below, in the space formerly occupied by the fuel tank. We have hung as many batteries as we can under the car to preserve trunk space and to keep the weight low. Just two packs will need to be housed in the trunk. Not to worry about protection… there will be a cover (later) for the batteries under the trunk floor.

I continue to be amazed by how simple this is, in spite of the complicated fabrication, wiring and weight placement. There is something every elegant about removing completely low-tech antiquated engineering and replacing it with a simple electric motor that won’t leak and that needs almost no maintenance. After our usual week of repairing and preparing the gas powered stuff, this electric project is quite a joy. We still need to prove it works (minor detail), but so far, we are on track to complete a very exciting project. We hope the exhaust note is the only casualty of this change over, and we now have a way to address that too (more on this later).

Another important hurtle is the drive shaft, because we have to of course connect the electric motor output shaft to the differential. Here is our custom fabricated drive shaft that will do the job, one more important link in the chain.

Is this an exciting innovation that improves the reach and longevity of our favorite classic car… or a bad idea that robs its soul? We’ll be back soon with another update as this exciting project comes together.

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