"It's the most fun car I've ever driven!" Michael Bream's enthusiasm about a particular Factory Five 818 came through the phone loud and clear, despite the several thousand miles separating us. It's a pretty big statement too, considering the co-founder of EV West – an electric conversion shop located in San Marcos, CA – has a battery-operated BMW M3 race car that puts out 420 horsepower and a very scary 850 pound-feet of torque. Naturally, we hoped there was video taken of the newly built kit car in action to back up the gushing. There was.

"It's the most fun car I've ever driven!" – Michael Bream

Now, there was a time when America was littered with kit car companies offering the DIY crowd the opportunity to drive 1952 MG TD and Ford GT40 replicas built on the bones of VW Beetles. That era has mostly passed and the somewhat meager component car industry, as it prefers to be called, is now dominated by one firm: Factory Five Racing.

This outfit has come to the fore by offering not only a select group of standard classics, but also a couple designs of its own. The most recent in that latter category is the performance-oriented 818, and it's turning out to be a blank canvas upon which electric vehicle enthusiasts can work their black arts. Of the several builds that we know of in the works, the one Bream was boasting of is the only example that has its wheels turning. And by turning, we mean sliding around asphalt, plastering broad smiles across the faces of the select few that have driven her (keep following below to see a video of what we mean).
Erik Hansen slides his electric Factory Five 818 around the track

The project, undertaken by Erik Hansen of 33 Machine with help from the aforementioned EV West crew, is still sans bodywork but that didn't stop its builders from taking it to Adams MotorSports Park in Riverside, CA for its initial shake down spin. Despite sharing the track with a handful of converted cars, the little racer found the real estate to make some big impressions.

Building your own EV lets you to tailor the drivetrain to fit your desires and budget.

Building your own EV offers the advantage of letting you to tailor the drivetrain to fit your desires and budget. In the case of this electrified 818, the component choices are certainly interesting. Let's start with the motor. It's an AC35x2 from Hi Performance Electric Vehicle Systems (HPEVS) and, as the name suggests, is actually two AC induction motors in a single casing. Interestingly, it uses two separate Curtis controllers to regulate the flow of electricity from a 16-kWh lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery constructed of two 8-kWh sub-packs.

This air-cooled unit gets its peak 165 horsepower at just under 5,000 RPMs – its 189 pound-feet of twist is, of course, available right from the get-go until this point – and so uses a five-speed manual transmission from a 2002 Subaru WRX to quickly accelerate up to its estimated (but as yet unproven) 150-mile per hour top speed. It could be possible (and awesome) to use a more powerful motor with a higher redline and do away with the shifter, but that would certainly involve more money. High output motors are more spendy and require other components to be upgraded as well. As it is, the installed electric drivetrain rings up at a not-inconsiderable $19,500.

The 818 EV uses a five-speed manual transmission from a 2002 Subaru WRX.

When it is finally covered in painted body panels, it's estimated the electric 818 will weigh in at 1,950 pounds – about a hundred and fifty more than the gas-powered version. It should, though, have a slightly lower center of gravity and moment of inertia. Other important electric performance parameters include a range of between 60 and 70 miles. Charging happens in fours hours from empty using the 5-kW on-board unit.

While electric conversions have been happening for some time, from-the-ground-up builds are just starting to become a more feasible reality and will only become more compelling as batteries and components continue to become better and more affordable. This project, in particular, has even attracted the attention of Factory Five head and former EV-doubter Dave Smith, who invited Hansen to display his naked car this past Saturday at the company's 6th Annual Huntington Beach Criuse-In. It walked away with a trophy for best innovative design.

If you couldn't make it to that event, don't worry. You can see this machine in all its tire-squealing glory, and get a bit more insight on its construction, by simply watching the video below. Then, you can follow the car's continuing construction over at this Factory Five Forum thread.




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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 34 Comments
      danfred311
      • 7 Months Ago
      And this isn't really a 'new era'. It's not a profoundly light car, even somewhat heavy for what little it is. 2 door no roof and little to no safety. It's a converted kit car, it's been done before. An AC50 on an egeardrive with a 400V controller would be superior. Alas good cheap >100kW AC controllers are still scarce.
        danfred311
        • 7 Months Ago
        @danfred311
        I should add that a simple chassis with fiberglass body and a high rpm AC induction motor can be both dirt cheap and have ferrari killing performance if done right. What EV west could try, and I think they are talented enough to do, is make their own chassis with real weight optimization in mind. either chromoly tube frame or I have even considered a pine/fiberglass sandwich floor chassis. It's not that hard to make a simple chassis with off the shelf shocks and A-arms. Maybe use a lotus elise steering column. If you take a look at lotus elise suspension, it's very simple tube A-arms. Basically kit car stuff. And they could make molds off a Tesla Roadster for the body work. Or just use the 818 bodywork. If done right it would be a revolution of low cost, extreme efficiency and performance. Tesla Motors became a billion dollar company while losing 100k$ on each simple little roadster. It's something to think about. Something Ian Wright should do instead of messing around with boring trucks. Something even EV West could do. If they listen.
        domingorobusto
        • 7 Months Ago
        @danfred311
        For an EV, it's extremely light. Battery arrays are heavy, end of story. And it's actually quite safe. The roll hoop behind the seats extends far past the drivers head, and is extremely well integrated into the structure. The 818 is intended for racing, and they have to meet very stringent roll protection criteria. The side structure is VERY strong as well, as in racing cabin intrusion is a major concern for when you spin out in front of someone. These are about as safe as a sub 2000 lb car can be, especially if you put the body on.
          jeff
          • 7 Months Ago
          @domingorobusto
          The car is about 1800lb witout the batteries.... The batteries are about 450lb
          danfred311
          • 7 Months Ago
          @domingorobusto
          tell me what batteries weigh. what you really know about it. give me some examples and some calculations... you know nothing. end of story. using high density laptop cells you can do 20kWh in 80kg. that's a large tank of gas.
        jeff
        • 7 Months Ago
        @danfred311
        What have you build better???? It is a great AC build at a reasonable cost...
          danfred311
          • 7 Months Ago
          @jeff
          I don't really have to build anything to be right. I just have to be right. And I am.
      • 7 Months Ago
      Thanks Adam H. You understand the challenges. For this build we wanted reliability, cost effectiveness, and didn't want to change brushes (I did enough of that racing RC cars!). We knew we could kill it with a DC motor for less money but with the advice of EV West we went with the dual AC motor. And believe me, there was some heated and very techincal debates between all of us but EV West presented both cases and this is the direction we went. So it is what it is and we love it. For the transmission, it just made things economical and easy in that the chassis and drivetrain is already set up for the WRX. So I picked one up for $500 with 70K miles and just replaced the clutch with a Stage 2 race clutch. With the AC, the onset of the torque is programmable so I'm hoping we won't shred the disc. :) And I like changing gears! It's a whole new adventure when you hit the next gear with the torque already there. And true, the concept isn't really new, but what is new is the fact that this is an econonical kit that looks the part and is easy to work with. Sure others have converted Daytonas and speedsters but those shapes have been around a long time. So I supposed that's why is it says "ushering a new era." Thanks for all the comments, good and bad. I love the car and can't wait to get it registered and on the street. It's not really a race car and that's okay. I wanted to drive it to the office and back and around town so reliability is huge. I also can't wait for battery tech to keep driving forward so I can increase range at the same price of my current pack. Keep the comments coming! This isn't my first kit build and won't be my last so I'm interested in all ideas and opinions. e
        BipDBo
        • 7 Months Ago
        It's a very impressive build, and you should be proud. I was one of the entrants into the 818 design competition, so I've been following your build on the FFR forum, long before this article. I've enjoyed the fact that you've posted your progress in prose description and plenty of photos.
        BipDBo
        • 7 Months Ago
        The build that I'd like to see and that I would do if I had the funds would be a hybrid. Basically, just build a gas powered 818 with the boxer in the back like all others. Then, gut one of these electric motorcycles, like a Zero S or SR and turn a front differential and axels with the electric motor through a belt or chain drive. You could have around 300 gas powered hp on the rear wheels and 54 to 67 electron powered hp on the front wheels. I figure that adding those electrons would add around 300 lbs vs a standard gas only build. This is really very similar to what West Philly High school did to a GTM for the X prize. I think it would be a lot simpler and cheaper, though, with an 818. With Subaru AWD spindles on all 4 corners, it seems that adding electric drive to the front would be easy. You may need to move split the radiator into two and move it to the corners, or back to in front of the rear wheels. Battery placement would be tricky. There might be room between the seats.
      JB
      • 7 Months Ago
      Looks like its too heavy by the amount of one transmission. You can do EV with good acceleration without a multi-gear transmission.
        jeff
        • 7 Months Ago
        @JB
        Not at this voltage level.... This is an AC system at 144vdc...
      toyolla2
      • 7 Months Ago
      @ danfred311 @JB exactly ! The AC50 motors need to be rewound for lower Volts/Hz, better still rewind a new Eurotherm premium effcy. motor they have copper rotors - not aluminum . While rewinding the stator take the opportunity to balance the rotor to 6000rpm or more. AC50's peak at 3000 rpm they need to peak at about 7000 rpm the torque roll off approaching 9000rpm will then be minimal. 9000 rpm is the highest rotation you can get with the Curtis since its output is software limited to 300Hz.
      Hazdaz
      • 7 Months Ago
      I find it funny that they are using the worst part of a WRX - its 5 speed tranny. And actually why go with a transmission at all? Many EVs completely forgo the weight and cost that a transmission would bring with them and just go direct drive. Still though, this looks pretty damn cool!
        danfred311
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Hazdaz
        True and they have a tesla roadster like gearbox available but the DIY crowd hasn't yet realized the significance of high rpm. They think they want to be at 2500rpm when Tesla Model S goes to 15000.
          danfred311
          • 7 Months Ago
          @danfred311
          no they don't "know what they are doing". they use an expensive twin motor instead of doing the same performance with a single motor. granted the right controller for making an AC50 do the same isn't really available but I would still use a single with a bit less power on an egeardrive. The different gearing will probably make it perform as good or better anyway. DC is pretty good for drag racing but this is an AC car..
          Aaron
          • 7 Months Ago
          @danfred311
          That's the difference between a DC motor and an AC motor. These guys know what they're doing. They're building race cars rather than road cars. DC motors are better suited for race cars and AC motors are better suited for road cars.
        domingorobusto
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Hazdaz
        The WRX transmission issues are much less apparent at low weight. It's a lot easier on a trans swinging 2000 lbs through 2 wheels than 3200 lbs through 4 wheels. And having a transmission means that you can accomplish the same task with less motor, you don't have to have as large a motor to be able to lug you out of the hole and still have enough gear for a decent top end.
        AdamsH
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Hazdaz
        Well the transmission itself isn't terrible... The reason they would break so often is because AWD cars can't break traction anywhere near as easily as a FWD or RWD car. That and because people thought they were Colin McRae or Ken Block and tried launching their cars like the WRC cars would... The 818 being RWD won't encounter that problem, instead you will just get some smoke from the rear wheels. Going with direct drive would probably cost lots more to develop (I'm speculating, feel free to correct me if you know otherwise and could link me a story)... Project 818 is for the enthusiast in their garage. I assume this company is doing this with the intention of marketing EV conversions in the future; with the already expensive electric motor why should they try and make it more expensive? Either a $400 gearbox (that would be from a WRX too) you could get one out of any Subaru with an EJ motor that would match up to the engine; the RS had a transmission which people claimed could handle the same power that the WRX put out (never bothered to verify though).
      Moosetang
      • 7 Months Ago
      Any concerns about the durability of the transmission under the E motor torque load? As I recall, Tesla burned a lot of money trying to make a gearbox work before realizing they were better off without one.
        JakeY
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Moosetang
        Tesla's transmission challenge was two fold: 1) It only had 2 gears so gear spacing would be higher. 2) They wanted a direct-shift transmission, which obviously is much harder to build than a standard one. The first X-Trac version was a clutch-less one, but the rotational inertia of the motors didn't allow them to control torque fast enough to make it work. The second Magna version was a dual clutch transmission, but that turned out unreliable (likely because of only 2 gears, as mentioned; although back then dual clutch transmissions also weren't that popular).
      Hazdaz
      • 7 Months Ago
      I find it funny that they are using the worst part of a WRX - its 5 speed tranny. And actually why go with a transmission at all? Many EVs completely forgo the weight and cost that a transmission would bring with them and just go direct drive. Still though, this looks pretty damn cool!
      JaredN
      • 7 Months Ago
      Am I the only one who gets the willies from looking at a car that has a rollbar below the level of the driver's head?
      jeff
      • 7 Months Ago
      The guys at EVWest build some great EV's....
      jeremiahbwhite
      • 7 Months Ago
      Man those guys are doing great stuff. I'm seriously considering the 818r as my personal midlife crisis.
      jat
      • 1 Month Ago
      16kWh won't last long on the track - I would like to see someone take a Model S battery pack, motor, inverter, etc and make a lightweight track car from it. Being able to use the Superchargers would really help for tracks near a Supercharger (such as Roebling Road, with a Supercharger in Savannah).
      karlInSanDiego
      • 7 Months Ago
      Nice job guys! I'm a fan of electrics with transmissions, and this build confirms there is a place for them. But living with it for a while you might learn it benefits from shifting from 1st to 4th and staying there, for example. You can row through the gears if you want to, or launch in top gear without fear of stalling or lurching. Only by trying different ratios, can you really know which ones help the driving experience. When you look at the history of Gearboxes on ICE motored cars, you see some interesting things: Early cars had fewer gears with a greater spread, at the expense of efficiency or acceleration or both High torque motors got away with 2 and 3 speed transmissions Both small bore, and large bore motors evolved to include 2 overdrive gears for extended top speed and enhanced efficiency, respectively. Very modern cars benefit from 7 and 8 speed transmissions, targeting the peak motor efficiency. While electric motors can be built with extremely fat torque curves, with a broad(ish) max efficiency zone, and with high rev limits, it's not a foregone conclusion that the most efficient electric drivetrain is one that uses a single spider gear diff mated to a motor. As more companies truly test the limits of efficiency (combined with qualities of nice power and torque) we may find that smaller motors (or slower speed motors) driven through a 6 speed, offer the best range without sacrificing power when you want it. Take note that Yamaha' new electric motorcycle will use a gearbox too. I have to believe this was not an accident.
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