Danny builds a plug-in BMW

DANNY Gillin accomplished in a few weeks what major manufacturers take months even years to do. 

He built an electric car that can be plugged into a household power point or portable generator.

The Warrnambool electronics whiz stripped the petrol engine and gearbox from a conventional 1992 BMW sedan and transplanted a direct-current electric powerplant using components purchased over the internet and from local suppliers.

His motor came from Bulgaria and the batteries from China.

He has tested his prototype with 16,000 kilometres of road trips and says it hasn't missed a beat.

It rides, drives, accelerates and stops like a normal car, but without normal engine noise.

Unless you looked under the bonnet or noticed there was no exhaust pipe you wouldn't realise it was an electric vehicle.

The electric car is not surprising considering the 60-year-old self-taught engineer has an extensive inventive career which includes security systems, a high-pressure water cutting machine and other intricate machines.

Ten years ago he made an electric go-kart for his daughter.

"I thought to myself one day I'll build a full-size electric car," he told The Standard.

"A week after Christmas 2011 I pulled the motor and gearbox from a second-hand car I had bought and proceeded to fit electric power during spare time.

"I did some research for several years then started buying components and working out how to fit it all.

"It was a matter of measuring 100 times before cutting. I'd use wooden templates.

"The engine swap is pretty much horsepower for horsepower, just different technology. Simplicity is the aim.

"With this type of electric car every house and every shop can be a bowser. You could use solar panels or a portable generator for recharging in the bush."

Under the bonnet is a metal box containing 30 lithium-ion batteries connected in series and there are another 30 in the boot providing a total 200 volts.

All 60 are hooked through a maintenance system to a 40kW (60-horsepower) motor under the bonnet. It powers the rear wheels through a simple forward-reverse switching system and traction control tuned to provide smooth acceleration without spinning the tyres. The battery packs can be charged from zero to full capacity in seven hours. It gives the vehicle an approximate range of up to 100 kilometres and an estimated top speed of 150kmh.

"There's very low maintenance a 10-year lifespan from the batteries if looked after properly and a change of brushes in the motor every 100,000 kilometres," he said. Mr Gillin is considering doing more conversions using alternating-current powerplants and dynamic braking where the batteries are recharged by the braking system.

"Aussies are just as clever or better than international engineers," he said. "I see electric cars as the way of the future.

"Innovation should be encouraged, not discouraged."

He'll have the car at this weekend's Sustainability Living Festival, available to explain the project and answer questions.

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