I've been thinking more about a fun focused electric car, based on my T bucket idea:


Considerations of moving to where I have a much shorter commute have me thinking of building an electric car again. Polaris differential? Tandem two seater, similar to my previous designs. Open wheel, T-bucket front suspension, VW beetle (Type 1) style rear, Miata wheels?


My thoughts on building something more like a T-bucket.


The Avion has killed my motivation for fuel efficiency again. My current thoughts are something like a T bucket, with the driver straddling the drive shaft, and a passenger seat directly behind the driver (tandem seating), and a roof. Body along the lines of a 1924 Alfa Romeo Grand Prix car (P2), 1938 Bugatti 59, Bugatti 35? Chevy 350 small block engine (naturally aspirated, "1987 and later" - hydraulic roller cam shafts?), Holley carbs (Dominator?), mechanical ignition / distributor, Ford 9" rear differential. Oval air cleaner (Holley 120-141?)? Sounds like 600 CFM carbs may be too big, and 500 CFM may work better. Dual-plan intake manifold. Edelbrock low-rise (Performer?)? Edelbrock Power Package Top End Kit? Mechanical fuel pump. Engine mounted un-shielded cooling fan. Tow bar and tow hooks. SCCA roll cage? White, with red frame? Spare tire. Exhaust exiting the body near the engine just above the frame, then going straight back (include cats?). Same tires front and back, 50/50 weight balance (so it can turn).


Compact cars really don't have large wheel bases, I'm thinking I shouldn't try narrowing it so much. A couple presumably late model Corrolas (smaller than Camry) seemed to have nice wheel bases. So I'm back to thinking about taking a front wheel drive compact, moving the whole drive train to the rear, and retaining much of its suspension, roughly along the lines of the Ariel Atom, but with tandem seating, and a roof. Previous thoughts on doing this with a Metro. Smart Cars might be good for small / light parts, if that's what I want, althought I don't think I do.

The Avion set the Guiness record for fuel economy at 103.7 mpg diesel in 1986, using a Volkswagen Rabbit engine (not hybrid). They always wanted to produce it. Why do Priuses even exist? Why is anybody impressed with 48mpg highway?

In April 2011 I did this rendering based on the drive train and wheel base of a Corvette C4, driver and passenger straddling the drive shaft:

C6 drivetrain:


Today I saw a Roush pickup truck, and fondly recalled what that name implies (I'm thinking performance, and Chevy V8s). And it got me thinking about how efficiency doesn't seem to really get people to adopt new ideas, but performance does. And maybe doing something like a Roush VW L1 might be exactly the thing to get people to get into the idea of vehicles like the L1 (so that they can become more available, and we can have more efficient cars).



I'm not a fan of three wheelers, front engines, or front wheel drives, but this is pretty neat.

Lit C-1:

I don't think I want to be balanced on two wheels by gyroscopes, but the packaging of the seating is nice.


1300cc Hayabusa engine based car

Cadillac XTS looks nice.

Ptero Velo human powered velomobile


I've seen some interesting designs where a pair of wheels (front or rear) was on a pivoting sub-frame, providing suspension. This might make packaging for a layout similar to the VW L1, with a motorcycle engine, significantly more convenient. Possibly even resembling a live axle? What's going on with the Smartuki? Ahh, full indepdendent, possibly trailing arm.

Early smart cars had transverse leaf suspension? That sounds easy.


The original Shelby Cobra frame was basically just a couple 3"(?) pipes, plus minor suspension sub-frames:

Of course, Model T frames were even simpler:

So this is just a reminder to myself that it may not be necessary to get too carried away with frames.




"BUT when we started to do different correlations, you could clearly see that FE correlated best with weight; groupings could be seen due to engine size and fuel type, but that was minor compared with the weight correlation." - http://ecomodder.com/forum/showthread.php/50-most-fuel-efficient-cars-europe-19882.html


M5 tire sizes and width. R1 engine.


Bugatti Veyron has at most 4.9" clearance, which is too low.


Pod Single Seat Vehicle Concept by Angel Sanchez Vargas

Audi Urban Concept Sportback
Audi Urban Concept Sportback video


Mazda Furai

Played with blender 2.64's new skin modifier for the frame. Still thinking VW L1 basic shape and liter bike engine. Electric reverse. Suspension coilovers and rockers are currently rendered identical to frame parts. These tubes are 3.5cm (1.375") diameter, required for SCCA roll cages (blender doesn't make using multiple sizes easy). That (red) gas tank works out to 18.1 gallons, huh.

The concept is to basically build something like an FSAE or SCCA DSR car, shaped like a VW L1. Lengthen the frame to fit a passenger seat, narrow the wheel track, and add a full fairing (roof).

I think a carbureted Suzuki TL 1000 (1000cc twin) engine would be fun, but may not be most practical.


MIT FSAE concept


FSAE specific parts

Artisan's Asylum FSAE car

Formula 1000 is an SCCA open wheel class that uses liter bike engines.


FSAE frame with lots of triangles.
Front suspension box is at about the knees.

The reason I lost interest in extremely fuel efficient cars very recently (~2012-09-17) was reading about the Avion. Basically because it's everything I could hope to do with a fuel efficient car and more, made in 1983, and nobody cares. It's depressing. So, small, light, aerodynamic car, with decent horse power.

This contributed significantly to my recent loss of interest in tilting (2 or 3 wheeled) vehicles, in #motorcycles on EFNet:

<Darxus> `Nerobro_: Do you think motorcycles gain anything over cars by leaning the right way in turns, other than sensation?
<`Nerobro_> No.
<Darxus> `Nerobro_: So you're saying if I build something for performance, small, light, fun, I should use four wheels? :)
<`Nerobro_> I suppose. :-) it'll be heavier than two wheels. And damnit, motorcycles are fun

Basically, tilting things are fun, but... so is not having be constantly looking really hard for any patch of suboptimal traction (sand, gravel) that could cause a leaning vehicle to (very suddenly) fall down. And you can easily get way bigger contact patches with non-leaing tires.

A crazy expensive chain diff

Most common reverse is an electric motor pulled into contact with a ring gear on the diff via cable

Lots of cyclecar photos


Nice discussion of the problem of torsional rigidity around driver in space frames

There are "laydown" karts.


GRAPE finite element analysis, free demo, used for FSAE
R1 engine dimensions, on locostusa.com

2011 Yamaha R1 engine


A detailed Formula Student build report, similar to FSAE
Single seater BEC middy, GSX-R 1000 power, locostusa.com centered engine and diff
"chain drive vs belt drive vs gear drive" FSAE discussion


Tilting is fun, but bad for traction (contact patch size). Not having to pay so much attention to sand / gravel on the road is really nice in non-tilting vehicles. So back to ~R1 powered VW L1 imitation.

Chain vs. shaft drive, blue devil, on locostusa.com (3" ground clearance, 12.75" diameter sprocket + chain clearance, line lock parking brake)
blue devil's mid engine R1 build, locostusa.com
Airframe's Mid BEC LMP, locostusa.com
Mike's S2000/R1 LMP, locostusa.com

Cusom 600cc V8 powered Formula SAE car
Cusom 600cc V8 powered Formula SAE car, forum post


I think I'd like a DSR (SCCA D Sports Racing) type car with a roof, lights, tandem passenger seat, and no downforce. But I think a similar tilting reverse trike (like the LiiON) would cost enough less in parts (diff, rear suspension) that it's the better option.

Volvo locost


Peugeot LiiON by Sano Cristian.


Rear engine project based on Geo Metro Donor by Jack McCornack, creator of MAX (100mpg diesel locost)
BobM's Rear engine Geo Metro based project

GM front wheel drive engine looks nice, but heavy: "changable final drive ratios, shift kits, strong equal length driveshafts and all dirt cheap."

L1 type body with Geo Metro engine and width.


Discussion of taller gearing on anandtech. 85-86 Mustang had tall top gearing, with a 2.85 rear.

Lots of Mustang gear ratios. 94-95 Z28 6th = 0.56, 93 Z28 = 2.97, ratio of those is 5.94, matching wide Ratio T56 (2.97, 2.10, 1.46, 1:1, .74, .50).
"Most 1965 to 1973 Mustangs are equipped from the factory with a 2.80 to a 3.00 open rear end."
"factory 2.73:1 axle ratio found in most 5.0 Mustangs "
"newly standard 2.73:1 limited slip rear axle" - 2011-2012 Mustangs - wikipedia
GM apparently made 2.72 diffs.
1990 Mustangs: '" M " is the 2.73 Traction Lok ( most likely with the automatic ) " Z " is the 3.08 " " ( most likely with the manual transmission ) ' - answers.com
Nice photos of Mustang gearing. Gears are made of SAE 8620 steel.

Mustang IMSA
- might be good aero inpsiration for locost


Aprilia Magnet
Peugeot Tilt

Three Dog reverse trike


TriRod Adrenaline reverse trike.

Marotti reverse-trike

Build your own transmission? - why it's hard
Designing a bulletproof manual transmission
Who wants to build a transaxle?
Nice explanation of motorcycle transmissions
Guy made his own planetary gearing for a unicycle
Gears are generally made by "hobbing"


Something VW L1 like. Missing fuel tank (between passenger and engine?). I think based on Kubota D1105T and VW Type 1 (Beetle) transmission.

VW L1 type build discussion on locostusa.com

An Illustrated History Of Automotive Aerodynamics

Car and Driver article on four Locosts

A partially VW L1 inspired project, vwvortex.com

Discussion of Kubota, VW trans, VW L1, Formula V (Electric motor is actually attached to VW trans., not Kubota.)

Kennedy Engineered Products is a popular manufacturer of VW trans. adapters, but doesn't make one for Kubota.

The VW L1's profile looks awful similar to a Lamborghini (Gallardo / Countach / Diablo / Aventador / Murciélago). That might be useful to use.

Car manufacturers don't actually try to make energy efficient cars. Even the Prius's 50mpg (gas) is unimpressive. Because fuel efficiency is just not what consumers really want. The California Commuter by Doug Malewicki did 157mpg (gas) at 55mph in traffic in 1980.

I like the Volkswagen L1. The goal was to produce a car that would do 100km on 1 liter of diesel (235mpg). In 2011 they said "We will never build a 1-liter car." (source) So they figured it out real nice, but they're still not making it because people don't want it. A lot of the reason may be related to our culture of conspicuous consumption.

I don't want it as they'd build it either, honestly. Expensive, complicated, full of safety features. I want it as I can build it.

Outdated summary.

My musings in the direction of building an electric vehicle capable of my 70.4 mile 2 hour round trip commute, with significant portions at 65mph, and the rest including a lot of curves, and about 10 stops each way.
DIY Electric Car thread (latest)

Thoughts on cars:

Formula SAE StyleFormula Vee Style
Suzuki TL1000 engine w/ transmission + Audi(?) center diff.Volkswagen Beetle engine + transaxle
Infinitely adjustable gear ratio via sprocket sizesUnknown gearing options
No reverseHas reverse
Tall (thin) engine fits worseFlat (wide) engine suits aerodynamics better
I like the feel of v-twinsFlat four probably would feel fine
Liquid cooledAir cooled

Beetle gear ratios: http://members.home.nl/pj.kansen/vwbz/Gears.html
Quaife Reversing Differential


100mpg Locost based DIY diesel car. Locost + Kubota diesel motor + Lola type body. This is when I realized I could buy a small, efficient, turbo diesel, roughly similar to the VW L1.

So-Cal Lakester.

Mid / rear engine kit cars: Ultima GTR, FFR GTM, Saker


Another neat car design, similar to the Ariel Atom.

A belly tanker.


http://www.britishracecar.com/marcusjones-lotus-18.htm closeups of old Lotus race car suspension.


"tire used by aircraft Boing 746 with size 38 inches x 11 inches on the front and rear tires 42 inches x 15 inches from the Rigdon, GunBus"

Could I make this car fit through my house doors?



Kamm tail, a little more rounding, and higher quality Ambient Occlusion.

Add tow hook.
Suspension travel, at least 2" bump and droop.


Trying something simpler. Tires based on Continentals designed for electrics (125/80 R 13 M). This solves the windshield problem (laws seem to require safety glass, safety glass is only available basically flat, usually done by cutting a section out of one from a production car). Thinking classic Beetle (dual trailing arm) front suspension, dual wishbone rear suspension.

ATV differential?
Project Streetliner, a project with vaguely similar goals to mine.
Kart differentials
Four-wheeled bicycles
Anura Quad bicycle
Molding fiberglass
A Honda ATV differential
Try Kamm tail.
Try tilter with hub motors.


Playing with Sears-Haack bodies.

http://www.gizmag.com/go/4272/ diesel motorcycles
http://www.treehugger.com/cars/souped-down-1959-opel-t-1-gets-37659-mpg.html 367mpg 1959 Opel T-1
http://www.treehugger.com/cars/volkswagen-to-make-limited-edition-of-1-liter-car-282-mpg-in-2010.html VW 1 liter car
http://www.gizmag.com/yamaha-y125-concept-retro-220-mpg/20672/ Yamaha 125cc concept


Bill Noble's Caracal D, only SCCA Formula Vee with a roof?



Kamm tail.

1986 Oldsmobile Aerotech, longtail. This is what aerodynamic looks like without a Kamm tail.

Tandem seating.

A Kammback / Kamm tail / K-tail body has "...a smoothly contoured front that continues to an abrupt vertical flat surface in the rear." "The airflow, once given the suggestion of the beginning of a turbulence-eliminating streamlined teardrop tail, tended to flow in an approximation of that manner regardless of the fact that the entire tail wasn't there. This is called the Kamm effect." - wikipedia
(Term introduced to me by John.)

The first time aerodynamics was applied to production cars was the 1934 Chrysler Airflow. Buyers were so disinterested that it's no surprise manufacturers mostly haven't bothered trying since. The Aero Civic has a significantly better coefficient of drag (0.17) than the Prius (0.26) and Insight (0.25), even better than the EV1 (0.195). And it's just a Civic with a bunch of cheap coroplast added without the aid of Computational Fluid Dynamics or a wind tunnel.

"Generally, for theoretical and experimental purposes, gases are assumed to be incompressible when they are moving at low speeds--under approximately 220 miles per hour. The motion of the object traveling through the air at such speed does not affect the density of the air." - http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Dictionary/Compressibility/DI136.htm

"Compressible flow can with good accuracy be approximated as incompressible for steady flow if the Mach number is below 0.3." - http://www.cfd-online.com/Wiki/Incompressible_flow

Mach 0.3 = 367.5 kph = 228.4 mph.

I've been thinking, what fun would it be to prove that an electric vehicle can be built for $3,000, if nobody would want to use it, like the bike design I've been working on?


I think bending that pipe would be hard. And I think cutting and welding it should be fine.



Focusing link based steering. Leading link fork, except instead of a normal steering head with a pair of circular bearings at the top, it has a single spherical bearing (heim joint?), and the bottom of the forks are positioned by another pair of links with a virtual pivot.

Feet forward steering
Steering and front suspension is a common problem with feet forward motorcycle designs (which this project often is). Normal motorcycle steering is something like twice the height of the front tire, which is too high. Options:

Single sided front swingarm, as used in the Yamaha GTS1000. Hub is horizontally offset from the center making room for the steering pivot in the center.

Hub center steering, as used in the Quasar. Large centered non-rotating hub surrounded by bearings, with a steering pivot in the center.

Double wishbone, as used by ProjectVF. The extreemly common car suspension rotated 90°. Taller than the other options listed here, but still a significant imrovement in height.

Focusing link. Steering pivot is virtual, created by several swingarms. I just discovered this one, and I'm kind of excited about it.

Buddfabb streamliner, 50cc land speed record holder, 233kph (145mph).

"To keep the front end low we use one sperical bearing at the top of the fork and control arms at the bottom. The geometry of the arms create a virtual center combined with the top bearing makes a steering angle of 28 deg."
Update 2011-03-17: The control arm arrangement qualifies as a "four-bar linkage".



60 Ah x 3.2 v x 22 cells = 4224.0 watt hours = 97.6% of my way to work, at the E-Tracer's efficiency.

I've been thinking and reading about the MonoTracer, previously known as the EcoMobile, particularly the X-Tracer / E-Tracer electric version that won its category in the Automotive X Prize. A cabin motorcycle.

They're talking about 123 watt hours per mile on the highway. Based on that, I'm figuring one way (56.6 km, 35.2 mi), my commute would be $1,692 and 48 kg (107 lb) of lithium ion cells. And maybe I could wheel that into my office to charge every day? Same thing I was thinking the last few times I did a two wheeled rendering, including the shell. I think I'd prefer trap doors for my feet instead of outriggers.

Occasionally the weight considerations resulting from gasoline having 46 times the energy density (by weight) of lithium batteries, or 331 times that of lead acid, gets me down, and I think about things like motorcycle engines again.
(Update 2011-03-08) " electric motors are well over 90% efficient while hydrocarbon fueled vehicles are about 18%." - http://peraves.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/x-prize_article_bimmer_rick_rys.pdf. This changes the numbers to 9.2x for lithium and 66.2x for lead acid. Which might look pretty good for lithium when you consider the weight of gasoline engines.

There are racing classes of cars that use motorcycle engines, with mid-rear engine placement:
Formula SAE - a student design competition
DSR (SCCA D Sports Racing) - Stohr is a very successful manufacturer.

Also, this Mercedes Benz SilverFlow concept is sexy as hell:

At the moment, I want to build something very much like it with a Honda CBR 1000 engine and full tilting suspension (although with a much smoother exterior).

Peugeot LiiON concept:

Torsen differentials from Audi Quattros seem to be popular for Formula SAE: http://www.torsen.com/fsae/fsaefaq.htm. There's also Quaife: http://www.vaughanscott.com/DSR/index.htm http://www.smallfortuneracing.com/ProductsAndServices/Components/Components.html

The Destiny Parts electrathon land speed record holder.

The rotation speed of a DC motor is proportional to voltage. The ratio of voltage to rotation is determined by the number of Turns. Fewer Turns = faster rotation per volt. EnerTrac hub motors use two or three turns.

Turns: Turns refers to the number of times the wire is wound around each armature arm. The fewer the turns the higher the RPM or top end speed.So you want more speed choose a motor with fewest number of turns. Keep in mind that fewer turns requires greater battery draw.

Winds: Winds refers to the number odf Strands of wire wound around the armature. The fewer number of winds the faster the accelration, higher number of winds the higher top end speed you will have.

- genxhobbies.com

Moped wheels with a 1/2" or 12mm axle bolt (spindle) and nut, with cotter pin, from one side. Replace wheel bearings with cartridge bearing assemblies from bearing supply stores.

An electrathon is a competition to see how far you can go in one hour on two commercial lead acid batteries (maximum 73 pounds (33kg)), two car batteries. Current record is 62 miles, by C. Michael Lewis. The Electrathan America handbook has great tips.
C. M. Lewis's electrathan record holder

Spent some time looking at the air tunnels between the driver and wheels in 24 Hours of Le Mans cars, effectively reducing frontal surface area.

Moved batteries in line with wheels. Wheels and batteries have separate farings from the driver and motor, attached rigidly. Suspension by single sided swingarms all around.

Haven't worked out the frame details, or added clearance for the swingarms.

Need to keep anti-roll bars in mind.

I'm thinking, for the front wheels, wheel skirts that open up for turning, roughly like the AeroCivic.

I occasionally wonder about moving the driver to the left pod, and the batteries all to the right. Probably not what I'll end up doing, but it needed to be modelled. Making it a two seater, with one person on each side, would remind you of the Star Wars twin pod cloud car. Although this was inspired entirely by aerodynamics, and the similarity is just a coincidence.



AeroCivic front wheel skirts - pushed open by tires when turning, with rollers.

"A car needs body roll during cornering to transfer weight downward onto the outside tire contact patches. This is the result of a lower front roll center. if weight was transferred laterally to the tires the rubber would shear across the track surface and the car would slide out...or , in round track tech terms..it would push like a freight train. No grip!" - physicsforums.com


Electric recumbant motorcycle.

Cheap specs:

11.1kg (24.4lb)$41822x Headway 3.2v 10ah = 0.7kWh = 72v 10ah. 5C max = 50 amps, 3.6kW max. 10km (6 miles)?
16kg (36lb)$485Mars 0709 motor, 72v 125 amps (9kW) continuous, 3,000 rpm
~3.18kg (7.0lb)$600Paul & Sabrina’s DIY controller

Initial specs:

11.1kg (24.4lb)$68436x Headway 3.2v 10ah = 1.2kWh = 115v 10ah. 5C max = 50 amps, 5.8kW max. 16km (10 miles)?
22.7kg (50lb) $1,2951x EnerTrac MHM602 motor, 10kW continuous, 30kW peak.
4.3kg (5lb)$5881x KBL12251H 120v 250a controller with regenerative braking.

Possible final specs:

44.2kg (97.5lb)$2,736144x Headway 3.2v 10ah = 4.6kWh = 115v 40ah. 5C max = 200 amps, 23kW max. 64km (40 miles)?
45.4kg (100lb) $2,5902x EnerTrac MHM602 motors = 20kW continuous, 60kW peak total.
4.5kg (10lb)$11762x KBL12251H 120v 250a controllers with regenerative braking.

In the last revision I moved the rider's head up to add rear suspension clearance. I didn't like that. So here I added clearance by moving the rear wheel back. I was also convinced wood wouldn't be good. This would probably be difficult to turn through an intersection.


A pair of EnerTrac hub motors and a 144 cell battery pack. No gears. Entire drive train is one moving part per wheel.

Double wishbone suspension with a steering linkage pivot intersecting the wishbone pivots.

"Make it lighter so you can make it lighter."
Small test battery pack: Headway 10Ah 3.2v x 22 = ~72v.


22 Thundery Sky 40ah 3.2v cells.

6 Trojan T-1275 cells. Ohh, texture mapping.

What if I moved the batteries to a driven trailer?

Body with two wheels.

Two wheels.


Body. Nurbs surfaces are fun.

Single seat layout progress.
All red motors below may be based on NetGain Warp 9? Popular with Chevy S10 conversion?

Switch to single seat.

More front wheel detail.

Getting carried away with fun with light.

Pink, hah!


Switched from lithium to lead acid batteries for substantial cost reduction. Moved batteries to pontoons, shortened body.

Started building wind tunnel.

I don't believe the teardrop is actually most aerodynamic.

More conventional aerodynamic shape.

To do:

Definitions: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/NHTOC/NHTOC-XXI-259.htm


Federal / DOT rules: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/fmcsr/fmcsrguide.aspx


Anything with three wheels is a motorcycyle, except tractors and mopes.

Multi-piece windshields are allowed.

Glazing material may be purchased from manufacturers, intended to be cut to shape.
Code of Federal Regulations says: "meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 205" - http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2012-title49-vol5/xml/CFR-2012-title49-vol5-part393-subpartD.xml
FMVSS 205 says "shall be marked in accordance with FMVSS No. 205 (49 CFR 571.205, S6)."
Custom: "Mark that material in accordance with section 7 of ANSI/SAE Z26.1–1996;
"A copy of ANSI/SAE Z26.1-1996 may be obtained from the Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc., 400 Commonwealth Drive, Warrendale, PA 15096-0007. A copy of ANSI/SAE Z26.1- 1996 may be inspected at NHTSA's technical reference library, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Room 5109, Washington, DC or at the Office of the Federal Register, 900 North Capitol Street, NW., Suite 700, Washington, DC."
Costs $61
SAE J673

http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/fmcsr/FmcsrGuideDetails.aspx?menukey=571 Federal safety standards

Brake system must have a failure warning light
Part 571.122: Standard No. 122; Motorcycle brake systems.
S5.1.4 Parking brake. Each three-wheeled motorcycle shall be equipped with a parking brake of a friction type with a solely mechanical means to retain engagement.
Max brake pedal force is 90 pounds for foot operated.
Requires engine kill switch
illuminate speedometer

Accord interior: 2.5'x5.5' or 2'x8'. -5.6" - 28.4" Body height / width: 34"x34", passenger = 73" long = 6' "Common angled or perpendicular parking spaces are 2.4 to 2.75 metres (7.9–9.0 ft) wide by 4.9 to 5.5 metres (16–18 ft) long." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parking_space#Space_size



http://www.electricmotion.org/ Lifan based motorcycle, under US$3,000.