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FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Whether you're an EV novice or expert, questions arise. We believe there are no stupid questions. When it comes to EVs and conversions, answering your questions can avoid mistakes like burning out a controller, or avoid hazards which can injure yourself or others. This is why we are committed to support and sharing as much knowledge as we can. Below you will find answers to many of the basics for any type of EV project. Topics are grouped by transportation type when applicable only to specific systems. If you can't find the answer you're looking for here, please send us an email so we can address your questions thoroughly. Let's start this discussion and keep it going!

The Big Picture

  • I want to build an EV! How do I start and what do I need?

The first step in your project is take an honest inventory on your desired performance and available budget. Many people start their conversion before realizing it may cost them more than buying a used production EV. Here are some simple questions to ask:

  • How far do I need to drive between charges, and how often do I need this range?
  • What vehicle do I plan to convert? How heavy is it, and how much space and payload can it provide for batteries?
  • What speed will I drive and how often will I be climbing hills?
  • How much am I willing to spend on parts and support, including motor, batteries, machining services and installation?
  • Am I a Do-It-Yourselfer, and to what degree will I need to pay for outside help?

Study the EV conversion process by Reading DIY Manuals, joining online EV forums and talking with anyone you know who has completed a similar project. Go to The Battery University and other sites to learn about types of batteries and how much energy a battery can contain. The subject is deeper than you might think :-). 

After you have a general grasp of the subject, start using your performance and budget requirements to get a picture of motor and battery combinations you could use to meet your needs. Thunderstruck Motors can be a good place to go once you have a short list of options. Use our website to help check specifications and costs for motor and battery systems we offer. 

The battery may be the most challenging part of the project. Many used battery options exist, and your research will take you down that rabbit hole! Thunderstruck Motors often has options, depending on what is in inventory. See our Batteries Page for new and used battery options.

Ironing Out Some Details

  • What size and type of battery pack will I need?

Your traction battery pack will be constructed of many single cells connected together in a way to provide the voltage and power output needed for your project. Use your starting inventory to determine power and capacity for the pack. Consider pack voltage: higher voltage means lower current and smaller wires, and it generally means higher motor RPMs. Higher voltages mean more individual cells in series - for instance, a prodution high voltage pack typically has 96 cells in series to create 400 volts. Consider "capacity" - a larger capacity battery pack allows for longer range than a similar small capacity pack. Capacity can be measured in kiloWatt Hours (kWH). Small converted cars can travel between 3 and 5 miles per kWH (level roads), depending on weight, speed and aerodynamics.

Battery cell chemistry will impact weight, power, cost and the number of cells required for a complete pack.

Motor and motor controller choice will influence your battery options, because the battery voltage and available current must match the motor/controller requirements.

  • What's the difference between connecting cells in series or parallel?

When constructing your traction pack, cells are your building blocks. Cells have a current capacity rating called Amp Hours. A 100 AH cell can provide 100 amps for an hour before being completely depleted. Cells have a maximum and minimum voltage rating. Operating outside of this range can damage the cell. 

Parallel connections are when 2 or more cell positive terminals are connected together (and the same with negative terminals). Parallel cell connections are used to increase the AH rating of a pack. For instance, two 100 AH cells connected in parallel will create an equivalent 200 AH cell - Amps add in parallel. 

Series connections are made by connecting the positive pole of one cell to the negative pole of a second cell. If two 100 AH cells are connected in series, they maintain their amp hour rating but have a higher total voltage - Volts add in series.

  • What is a Battery Management System (BMS)?

A Battery Management System (BMS) is needed for packs using lithium ion cells because they can be damaged when operated outside of a specific voltage range. Lead acid batteries are more tolerant of voltage variations, and do not need a BMS. Lithium ion packs are often used in EVs because they carry about 3x the energy per weight of a lead acid pack. A BMS performs several functions, as follows:

  • Continuously measures each cell and reports if it exceeds voltage limits
  • Monitors the active cell count and reports if cells drop out of the list
  • Monitors cell temperatures and reports if out of limits
  • Other functions are possible, including operating history and display management

Our Dilithiium BMS is a popular alternative which provides these functions - see the BMS Page for more info. 

  • How do I select my battery charger?

Your charger must match your battery voltage and chemistry. Lead acid packs can be charged to fairly standard voltages, called "nominal" - for instance, a 48v nominal pack consists of 4x12v lead acid modules. Lithium packs must be charged to specific voltages based on the cell chemistry and number of cells connected in series. Lithium packs are designed to receive a constant current to constant voltage (CCVV) charge profile so that they have a slowly decreasing charge rate near the end of the cycle. Charge controllers are are devices used to control the charge cycle so that it meets these requirements and responds to warning signals from the BMS. Our EVCC and MCU perform this function.

Chargers may plug into a standard 120 or 240 volt outlet, or may connect to special EV provision equipment like an EVSE with J1772 communication protocol. See our Charger Page for more information about available charging products.

  • How do I match my conroller to my motor?

Start by looking at our system kits pages (Sailboat, Motorcycle, AC), and you'll see that motors come with recommended controllers. When browsing motors sold separately (Motors DC and PMAC), applicable controllers are mentioned on the product page. If you are uncertain about this, then send us an email with some details about what you are considering - we will get back to you with the latest controller application and availability info.

EV Parts Descriptions

  • What is a Main Contactor?

A Main Contactor is a large electrically-activated switch (or relay) that connects the high voltage from your batteries to your controller. The controller uses a precharge circuit to charge its internal capacitors before closing the main contactor, so it is very important not to force the contactor to close just to "get it going." Doing this will skip the required prechage process. Don't make that mistake!

  • What is that pre-charge resistor and diode I see on contactor drawings?

The pre-charge resistor charges the controller capacitors slowly to prevent arcing and power surges, which can damage controllers and other components. The diode helps prevent any back EMF from reaching the controller that is caused when a contactor is opened or closed. Some controllers handle this internally.

  • Why is the voltage rating on my main contactor not the same as my battery pack or controller?

Contactors are rated for a specific Coil voltage (also called enable voltage) and their current carrying capacity.

Sevcon and Curtis AC controllers have an adjustable coil output voltage and are typically set up for 24V. In these instances, the controller is responsible for closing the contactor. Variations include the Alltrax AXE controllers, which don't have a coil output, and production EV systems like the Nissan Leaf, with contactor coils running at 12v. 

  • What is a DC-DC Converter?

These are used to step down your pack voltage down to 12 Volts in order to use a vehicles OEM lights, horn, and accessories. They typically also charge the 12v accessory battery, and have a regulated 12 Volt output. The DC-DC converter takes the place of an alternator in a  typical ICE vehicle.

  • Why do I need a controller heatsink?

Controller heatsinks are most always beneficial, but not always necessary. A cool controller will run more efficiently, and will last longer. Short bursts of power may not overheat your controller, but if you hope to have a 100 mile range, your controller most likely will get significantly hotter.

  • What is an Adapter Plate?

An adapter plate helps match an electric motor to automotive transmissions. One side of the adaptor plate bolts directly to your vehicle's transmission bell housing while the other side is bolted to the electric motor through a spacer block. If using a clutch, the motor shaft may attach to the original flywheel with an adapter flange machined for a perfect match. After correct installation, the motor and transmission are positioned exactly as the original manufactured equipment. Thunderstruck Motors can provide support for some VW installations, but numerous options can be found by running an internet search for an EV adapter plate designed for your specific vehicle model.

  • Why do I need a display?

A display is used to show the EV operator essential information for safely operating the system. Information like pack voltage and current, motor RPM and temperature, can be invaluable, and they can also enhance your enjoyment by increasing your understanding and confidence the system. When you know more about your electric system, you will be able to respond to it for increased safety and longer life. Also, understanding EV operating data can make communication with other EV enthusiasts more enjoyable and informative. See our Instrumentation Page for some display options we support.

  • How do I determine correct gear ratio for an electric motor?

Check out our Gear Ratio Calculator for a simple tool allowing you to experiment with different ratios. This can be useful when working with a chain or belt drive system like in a motorcycle or boat.

  • Do I need to program my controller?

The Curtis AC and Sevcon Gen4 kits are sold as full functioning units. We will use the infomration you provide with your order to configure your controller, and will bench test it after configuration.

If you find the need to adjust settings in your Curtis or Sevcon controller after installation, some programming tool options exist for rental or purchase - see our Programmers Page.

For all controllers, please visit the Controller Page for links to information covering each device.

  • How do I know which throttle to use?

Motor controllers can handle various throttle options. See the Throttles Page for options we offer, and specific controller or system kit pages will give options for throttles available for your controller. Different throttle types may require custom programming, so decisions about throttle should be made before ordering your system. Here are some general throttle capabilities to consider:

  • FNR (Forward Neutral Reverse) capability, typically for marine applications
  • Cable to control arm attachment for existing remote throttle installations
  • Twist-grip or thumb activated, typcially used with motorcycles or off-road vehicles
  • Foot activated throttles, typically used for 4-wheel land vehicles
  • Hall-effect (magnetic) or potentiometer (resistive "pot") type throttles

Send us an email or call us if you don't find the info you need to make your decision.

Sailboat Systems

  • Which sailboat kit is best for my sailboat?

There are many variables that affect performance while sailing with electric installations - boat displacement, current, wind, motor power and RPM, battery capacity and prop specs are all part of the equation. Start by looking through the different systems on the Sailboat Kits and Accessories Page. Each kit page provides information about how to match the kit to your boat, based mainly on displacement. 

Here are a few things to consider when planning your conversion:

  • Consider using half "hull speed" when motoring with electric. Higher speeds cut considerably into duration estimates.
  • Onboard generators can extend range by creating a "hybrid" system. This can be useful for day sailers wanting occasional extended range.
  • Consider looking through some online forums like Electric Seas.

If you need help making this decision, please don't hesitate to email us with your boat specifications and the systems you are considering. We will do our best to reply quickly with suggestions. 

  • How do you provide such a low price for your kits?

We use the same motor and controller as some of our competition. We make our own gear reduction in-house which allows us to keep costs low and quality high. Additionally, our gear reduction is optional. Most other companies include the gear reduction in the price of their kits. Also note that our kits are not a drop-in box. The customer is responsible for installation, mounting and alignment. This allows us to keep prices affordable and makes the kits more versatile for the large variety of boats out there.

  • What else do I need in addition to a sailboat kit to get me out of the docks and into the water?

We bench test the controller and harness of all the sailboat kits we sell to confirm that it's set up according to your needs. You'll need to get batteries and a charger. You will also need power cables for connecting your batteries, and some way to hold your batteries in place.

Purchasing a heatsink for the controller is a good idea, but not always necessary. A heatsink may impact how you mount your controller. Having air circulate through the engine compartment is beneficial, and may be necessary. If installing a liquid cooled system then a pump, radiator or heat exchanger will be needed.

How you mount your motor depends on whether or not you install one of our gear reductions. If you decide not to use a gear reduction, you'll need a thrust bearing in line with the prop shaft because most motors are not rated for axial/thrust loads. The gear reduction includes a thrust bearing, and comes with a coupler for connecting to your prop shaft.

When ordering your kit, you will be asked for information about your boat, battery pack and throttle choice. Please email us with your boat information if you need verification before ordering. 

Working with Thunderstruck Motors

  • Why should I buy from Thunderstruck Motors?

Find out why Here!

  • What if I lose the manual to one of my components?

We keep our Manuals and Data Sheets up to date so you can refer back to them when you need them.

  • Can I return something I purchase if I don't like it?

We want you to be satisfied with your purchase and most items are returnable.  For quality and safety reasons, some items such as batteries are not returnable.  See our Return Policy for more information.

  • Help! I don't understand electrical theory!

Check out Battery Univeristy or our Understanding EVs See diyelectriccar for others who may have converted your same vehicle? You may also find this FAQ by Plugin America or The Endless Sphere forum helpful. Check them out!

  • I want to see more photos and videos of all of the great things you guys are doing!

That's great!  We try to showcase neat things we do and share what others in the industry are doing via our social networks.  Check them out below!  By adding us on Google+, Liking us on Facebook, Following us on Twitter or Subscribing to our YouTube Channel, you will be kept up to date on all our latest mischief PLUS you'll receive special discount coupon codes when available.

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  • Haven't found the answer to your question here? Ask us your question in the comments section below and we will do our best to answer it for you.

Comments

Hi, please explain the difference between a brushless motor and a sealed brushless motor. THANKS
Hi Guy. One is vented to help cooling the other is sealed which can be advantageous in dirty or wet conditions.
Hi i am wondering if you ship to Canada, i prefer USPS

Hello! We regularly ship to Canada via Fedex but might be able to help. Please email us with the parts you'd like and your shipping address and we can make an estimate.
Boa noite, estou querendo fabricar barcos similares ao jetsky , só que com peso bem inferior, e instalar turbina de menor diametro com motor elétrico .gostaria de saber qual o motor apropriado pois o peso do casco é de aprox. 80 kg , sem motor, somente com hidrojato. não é pra andar em alta velocidade, por isso imaginei um motor de 5hp pra não necessitar de habilitação.vcs tem um kit desse . 55 92 99185-4538
Olá, Por favor, entre em contato conosco em nossa página de contato para que possamos lhe enviar informações para o seu endereço de e-mail. Obrigado!
If my sailboat's engine is the ground for the DC system, what do I use for ground when I swap the big hunk of metal for a tiny electric motor?
Whether to ground or float your 48v pack is still a topic of debate. Most people float the systems as they are considered safe low voltage dc systems. If you're asking though about the other on-board system you can use a shaft brush.
I need all this really simplified. Way too much info. I need to know what to buy and how to install. I don’t want to be an electrical engineer. I want to replace a 1GM12 Yanmar Diesel in an old Hunter 27 sailboat (loa -27 ft, Max Hull speed 7kts, max cruise speed under motor power 5.5kts)

I see a 10kW motor kit that looks like it would do the job. Also would get the 2:1 gear reduction kit.

Questions: what batteries would be best, and how many, what total voltage and how would I connect them, what charger should I purchase. Space is a premium. Should I still maintain a separate 12V battery for lights, etc.

Hi Sherwood! We have supplied systems for a Hunter 27, give us a call and we can walk you through it. Or, take a look at the installation manual on the sailboat kits page, or the video of how to wire it up on our videos page.
Can I use a Chevy Volt battery pod to run my 10kw motor/48 vdc Sevcon gen4 controller sailboat kit? On eBay the advertise them as 48vdc but the reality is the 12 lithium cells they use have a combined voltage of just under 48 vdc.
Hi Randy, we can probably adjust the sevcon settings to match your battery pack, yes.
hey, is the 48v satiator charger you have listed, model 4808? I need a max charge of 63v. and your listing says 60v and only 63v for sla. The satiator user manual says max is 63v for lithium batteries for the model 4808. just want to make sure it's what i need before i order thanks

Yes, there is only one model of Satiator.
Hi can the HPEVS AC - 20 motor be directly connected to a boat engine propshaft and act as a hybrid with power boost / back feed the batteries when required / freewheel when the diesel is running with the excitation turned off ? so there is no regen. or electrical output ( i.e. not act as a generator when turned off ) or cause a drag on the engine when batteries are low. or damage its self while being turned by the diesel engine.
thanks for any help Aaron Seawright.

Hello Aaron! Although we haven't built a hybrid boat system I can tell you that the AC motors provide relatively low drag when the system is off, since there are no permanent magents, and it would do no damage to the AC system to spin while off. I would expect it to take a good amount of time to integrate the regen and drive settings to their most usable configuration. Also, the power charts for output are not the same as regen characteristics which are much lower. The AC-20 is a motor we've used in racing applications for it's high power to weight ratio but for continuous power you should consider a larger AC-35 size motor. Please email us for any further questions, Thanks! -TSM
I am looking to replace my 13hp Yanmar with electric saildrive. Is there a way to incorporate a generator to increase my distance i.e. Times there are no wind for long periods of time. If so what would I need and what size generator would you recommend ?

Hi Stephen, Yes you can use a generator to power a battery charger to help extend your range. It should be large enough to meet the needs of your battery charger, but a 2000 watt generator is good for our basic 48v charger. Email us if you have any other questions! -TSM
I am looking to run a hybrid reverse trike with two hub motors up front and 1 ICE scooter with a CVT in the rear. What I am asking is what controller could I use for twin Hub drives so one does not push harder that the other? The ICE scooter engine will be totally stand alone so the EV part will not know its there. There must be a twin screw boat application that uses two motors but 1 controller with a trim pot of some sort. Thanks, Dave
Hey Dave, feel free to email us so we can talk more at connect@thunderstruck-ev.com It sounds like you'll be using motors that are larger than bicycle hub motors, yes?
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