The DeLorean time machine requires 1.21 gigawatts of power to initiate time travel. Because the car’s stainless steel body improves dispersal from the flux capacitor, the vehicle passed smoothly through the space-time continuum.
OK, so maybe this modified, electrified 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 can’t travel through time, but it can go from 0-60 in 5 seconds .
A lot has changed since Back To The Future was released in 1985. During these last 3.5 decades, we’ve seen a plethora of hybrid and electric cars enter the market – from the practical Toyota Prius to the industry disrupting Tes-lahh.
The EV revolution has also inadvertently led to a new era in DIY electric cars. With more electric cars on the road, Motors, inverters and battery cells, which used to be hard to come by, are now readily available on the aftermaket.
There are even companies like BigBattery.com which manufacture a full range of battery modules for any DIY project you could imagine, as well as battery packs for RV’s, golf carts and many more at the best price in the USA guaranteed. You can visit BigBattery.com for all of your battery needs, and make sure to use coupon code “EFDIY” at checkout for 6% off your purchases.
Now let’s meet Jacob Graham, a car guy looking for a project with a keen interest in learning more about electric vehicles. While he couldn’t build a time machine, Jacob did the next best thing. He built an electric delorean.
Undertaking an EV conversion project like this, he knew he was in for a tough task, but if he knew that venomous spiders would be involved, he may have reconsidered.
The World’s Fastest DeLorean
John DeLorean’s DMC-12 – the car we all know and love as Doc and Marty’s getaway vheichle into the future – was meant to be the definitive sports car of the 1980’s. The gull-wing doors and stainless steel exterior made it a unique curiosity for car enthusiasts. However, there was one big problem with the DMC-12, its small 6 cylinder engine put out a feeble 130 hp – on par with your average grocery-getting sedan.
For someone looking to get their hands on a 1980’s automotive pop culture icon, but also looking to drive something with more get up and go, swapping the stock engine for something beefier made sense. And for one special DeLorean, a Buick Grand National Engine swap created, what was referred to as, the world’s fastest DeLorean. The turbocharged 4.3 liter v6 was tuned to 570 horsepower, and put some meat on the deloreans steel bones.
The DeLorean/Grand Natio nal hybrid surely saw some glory days, but we don’t know much about those. What we do know is that at some point, this DMC-12 was parked and not driven again for a long time. When it re-emerged into public view, it was in a state of disrepair.
Jacob Graham and his weekend maker pal Jim Belosic purchased the DeLorean with restoration in mind, but after a few months of work, constant set-backs, and, not one, but two black widow fumigations, the duo realized the car’s ill-maintained guts were just too far gone. Again, it sat lifelessly in a garage for a few more years.
Meanwhile, Jacob and Jim completed a few other notable builds including a steam powered car, right up the alley of Jay Leno, and a motorcycle-trike conversion.
Jacob and Jim now turned their focus to electric vehicle technology. Jim had successfully installed a Tesla motor in a 1981 Honda Accord he calls the Teslonda, and not to be outdone, Jacob was looking to make an electric car of his own.
Jacob got his hands on a Nissan Leaf motor and inverter – the component that converts DC power from the batteries into alternating current for the motor. At home, Jacob spun the motor with the inverter – and like a bolt of lightning, the idea struck him, why not electrify the DeLorean?
“We had this disgusting DeLorean with the worn-out Grand National motor. I put the leaf motor up in position and it looked like it would work, but everything else needed to be made from scratch,”
It seemed fitting to give their DeLorean a new lease on life – equipped with his Leaf Motor and inverter, Jacob began converting the DeLorean from a combustion powered relic, into a contemporary electric vehicle.
The next hurdle would be mounting all of the components in the DeLorean shell. This required many custom-cut metal parts. Jacob created mock pieces out of cardboard. From there, he used AutoCAD software to design each piece and sent the designs off to SendCutSend – a small batch laser cutting outfit in Reno, NV.
The build used custom-cut metal for nearly everything. One of the first pieces fabricated was a motor mount to hold the 648 lb. Nissan Leaf motor in place.
Next, he cut housing to fit the 48 battery modules – 24 up front and 24 in the back. Salvaged from a 2012 Nissan leaf 24 kWh battery pack. The Gen 1 Nissan batteries provide about 500 peak amps, which coupled with voltage sag put the EV at 150kW max input power, and with losses, Jacob estimates the total power output to be 200 Hp. About 54% more powerful than a stock Delorean.
Incredibly, the converted electric delorean is 256 lbs lighter than the original factory version, and has better weight distribution which improves handling, acceleration, and traction.
The battery housing is satisfyingly neat, but one of the coolest components you’ll find inside is the inverter housing. The cut metal is finished with acrylic plates and color changing LEDs just like a gaming PC. To the uninitiated, this glowing box is oft mistaken for a time travel enabling flux capacitor.
Impressively Jacob built the 300kw inverter from scratch. A total DIY endeavor, it was the most difficult part of the build, and the area which most stretched his technical abilities.
He found a good inverter power stage design from seasoned EV conversion guru Arlin Sansome, who’s famous for his electrified 1988 Honda CRX which ran a quarter mile in 12.73 seconds.
The process to build the inverter took nearly a year, and he blew up multiple expensive components along the way. Not to be underestimated, dealing with such high voltages can literally be a matter of life and death.
Beneath the inverter is an innovative approach to housing a cooling hose. It consists of several sandwiched metal plates cut precisely to snake a hose through.
The custom cut parts didn’t stop at the housing and mounts. Jacob also cut busbars and tabs from copper. These connect to the Battery Management System which Jacob specifically designed circuit boards for.
Although a complete overhaul happened under the hood, seats and trunk, the cabin of the car remains virtually untouched. The only noticeable difference is the addition of the Electric Vehicle Management system. The EVMS Jacob used from Zeva, is a tiny computer that has the important job of turning on the main contactors as well monitoring the batteries.
Of Course, this car wouldn’t be complete without a futuristic dashboard. Unable to find an android application with the features and customizability he wanted, Jacob coded one himself.
Running on an android head unit from Joying, it displays IGBT temps, calculated phase amps, field weakening current, max phase current, dc to dc voltage, amps, and temperature. To get the data from the inverter and converter, the android device communicates with an arduino microcontroller over USB. The arduino is a small open source computer on a single circuit chip that takes the data, and reformats it so it can be read by the Android app.
The range is about the same as the factory leaf, 90 miles. Although not intended for daily commuting, the EV conversion was still executed with practicality in mind, and features all of the standard car comfort such as A/C, heat, radio and other accessories.
At the end of the video i’ll run down the full list of components for those who are interested.
If you’re wondering what kind of technical background it takes to complete a project like this, Jacob has a bachelors of science in Computer and software Engineering. He spent most of his career working as a Senior Software Engineer, and he now works as the CTO for SendCutSend – a metal laser cutting company, which apparently supports its employees extracurricular projects.
This wasn’t an easy build by any means, but with continued innovation in the field of electric vehicles, and higher EV adoption rates, EV conversions will start to become better understood and easier for hobbyists to take on. Just look at this incredible project we covered in a previous video, from a young engineering student in Vietnam, who turned his electric dreams into reality and built a stunning and functional electric motorcycle from scratch.
John DeLorean was certainly ahead of his time when conceptualizing the DMC-12. It seems fitting his “sports car of the future” has stuck around long enough to be reborn as an electric car.
BigBattery.com CEO Eric Lundgren is no stranger to EV conversion projects himself he converted a junkyard 1997 BMW into an electric car with a 380+ mile range using all recycled parts. BigBattery.com so impressed by this build, they even offered to send Jacob free batteries for his next project! Merry Christmas ! Take a look though their website and let me know what you want, I included a link in the description below.
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Now As promised here’s a more complete list of the build components:
- 2016 Nissan Leaf Drive Unit
- 2012 Nissan Leaf 24 kWh Battery Pack
- Zeva EVMS V3 BMS
- Custom 300 kW Inverter / 300 kW Motor Drive
- Chevy Volt DC-DC Converter
- Elcon TC 6.6 kW charger
- EPAS Performance Electric power steering unit
- Joying Android head unit with custom app to display performance metrics
- Factory shifter has been repurposed internally to electronically switch drive modes
- Heater core from Smart EV car
- A/C Compressor is from a 2013 Tesla S