The Electric Mini Truck

Doesn’t look too big from the outside…

The electric mini truck is on the road!  After more than two years and an estimated 1000 hours of work it’s safetied, insured and registered and most importantly it’s being driven.

Check it out on the EV Album as well!


– 1992 Diahatsu HiJet Jumbo Cab 4×4.

– Original weight 1470 lbs, havn’t weighed it yet but rough calculations show it shouldn’t be much more than that.

– AC50 motor and Curtis 1238R 550A controller

– Direct drive to the original transfer case, transmission is just an empty case.  Transfer case retains neutral and low range shifting options.  Final drive ratio is 6.83:1.

– 24 x 100Ah Thundersky cells

– Steel angle battery box frame with riveted aluminum skin taking up the entire underbed area, all electronics enclosed within the box and accessible by tilting up the bed

– Elcon PFC1500 battery charger

– 30A DC/DC converter charging a 5Ah 12 gel cell which will run the truck’s 12v system for a short time if needed in case the main system stops working.

– In house designed throttle potentiometer

– dual ceramic heater cores mounted within the original heater core, produces a little bit of heat at our low 72V system voltage, about 1600W from the meter when it’s on, enough to keep the windows clear and at -20 C outside the inside temp is only about 0 deg!

– fully insulated and carpeted cab, 3/8″ closed cell foam and marine carpeting everywhere below the windows.

– Insulated battery area with channels for airflow between the batteries in order to provide heating and passive cooling.  400W battery heating system circulates warm air (40 deg C max) through the air channels in the battery pack when the truck is plugged in and the pack is below about zero degrees Celsius.  The heater is controlled by an adjustable thermostat and operated by a timer to come on a couple hours before you want to leave.

– Fully featured custom battery management system provides active cell balancing to either 2 mV or 20 mV depending on whether it’s in full balance or quick charge mode.  Includes full charger current control for complete balancing.  The current is cut back in order to prevent the high cell from going over the balancing voltage and the current shunts bleed off 800 mA of current to allow the low cells to catch up.  The LCD display shows system status (charging, balancing, complete, any errors), as well as voltage, charge current, and Wh count.

– In drive mode the LCD display shows system voltage, current, average cell voltage and the low cell voltage and address.  The BMS provides programmable low cell warnings showing the address of the low cell and it’s voltage and it also provides regen brake light control.  The battery management system includes an interlock to prevent the heater from coming on while charger is still operating in order to prevent the breaker from blowing and another interlock preventing you from starting the truck and driving away while it’s still plugged in!

– For more information on the BMS system check out Nap Peppin’s Lithium Hawk page.


22 Responses to The Electric Mini Truck

  1. Doug Beckett says:

    Here in Prince George BC my wife had a local high school convert a 1992 GMC Sonoma to electric. It ran with limited success on 24 lead acid batteries. We are now contemplating upgrading to 44 lithium batteries. What sort of success have you had with your battery performance over the winter? Any advice as to what to do and not do?
    Yours truly,
    Doug Beckett

    • jessetufts says:

      Hello Doug,

      Already you have more experience than me with a running ev! Unfortunatly but somehow not too surprisingly we havn’t completed the truck yet. Life tends to get in the way of having fun….. However, I have done quite a bit of research on the batteries’ cold weather performance.

      My understanding is that when the batteries are cold they still contain all their energy, its just harder to get it out. They will still provide current but at the expense of more voltage sag, so if you have a BMS system with a low voltage cutoff then you will be hitting your low voltage cutoff much sooner when your batteries are cold. The low voltage cutoff is normally telling you your batteries are dead! But with high current and cold batteries the voltage may sag all the way down to the cutoff (usually ~2.5v/cell) even if they are fully charged. So it will seem like there is less energy available, it is still there but you can’t get it out as fast which means there is less power available. A very similar thing happens with lead acid but even more severely, you can loose 50% capacity in really cold weather as the voltage will sag too low to be usable!

      Our strategy is to have a well insulated battery box with a heating system that will warm the batteries up when they are plugged in to charge. The good news in this case is that anytime you add or remove current from the battery it has a slight self heating effect due to the internal resistance of the battery. So they heat up a bit during charging and even more during high current discharging, ie accelerating. So, starting with warm batteries and a well insulated box, the self heating effect during use should keep them warm enough to perform well for the duration of the drive. This is also why depending on your batteries, insulation and how hard you run the truck you may need some cooling during use in the summer. We’re going to start without cooling, monitor the temperature and see what we need, unlike an ICE vehicle when we’re stopped and “idling” there is no heat produced.

      So my advise, go for it! Insulate your battery box and provide some sort of low temperature heating system (like a battery blanket). If you do use it in cold weather with cold batteries you just have to remember that there will be a lot more voltage sag so the truck will seem sluggish and if you have a BMS system it will hit the low voltage cutoff sooner.

      Thanks for the post! Didn’t know if anyone was actually reading, maybe I’ll try and put up some more pictures of recent progress. Also does the school have a website or any info on the truck they converted?

      Good luck!

      Jesse Tufts

      • Andrew Bell says:

        Hi Jesse,

        I stumbled upon your website about your electric truck conversion and thought your may be interested in my car. Not requiring a truck anymore I bought a used toyota prius and had it professionally converted in Vancouver into a plug-in hybrid. So I went from 16mpg to over 100mpg!?!? I live in Edmonton and it may be the only one in Alberta so far. Thought you might be interested in my website about the conversion.
        Cheers, Andrew

      • jessetufts says:

        Hello Andrew,

        Great to hear about your plug in prius conversion! You will be happy and surprised to know that you are not the only one in Edmonton with a plug in prius! I helped a friend of a friend add a plug in kit to a first generation prius this spring, as far as I know it’s working well, but I’ll have to ask about it now that you reminded me. This is the kit, I’ll have to get his name, we might have to have an EV car show here in edmonton, I know of at least 4 evs and 2 plug ins now and I think there are a handful of motorbike conversions as well. Check out this one from Sherwood park,

        There is a lot of good stuff happening, just a little hard to find sometimes!



  2. mattf says:

    Hi Jesse,
    I’m very excited to see your japanese mini truck EV conversion, thanks for posting it on I’m also located in Edmonton, and would be interested in learning more about he project. If you would like, please fire me an email at mattf( at ) . Oddly enough, I am also graduate of the U of S Engineering college (EP graduated 2006 too). You may be interested to learn that Edmonton has a hackerspace, the Edmonton New Technology Society ( full disclosure: i am one of the directors of said hackerspace. Anyways, I hope to hear from you and would suggest that you check out, or chat with us in our irc channel #ents on


    Matthew Friesen

  3. DayStar Renewable Energy Inc. says:

    As you suggested to Andrew, you may just get your Edmonton EV Car Show. Andrew already knows about it, and you may too, but i thought i’d mention it here anyway as i see a couple others are interested as well. Check out the website and look at the top, under “events”. You should find
    This event is scheduled for April 25, 2012. I see that the flyer is not posted yet but the location date is there.
    We (SESA) are looking to round up as many electric vehicles as we can for this event. Whether complete or not, you and your Diahatsu Hijet are more than welcome to come. Please spread the word.

    See you there,

  4. Pingback: The Electric Hijet lives! | Jesse Tufts' Blog

  5. Robert van Kesteren says:

    Greetings fellow EV driver!
    I also drive an EV here in wonderful Edmonton. For the past 3 years, I have been driving my 78 Honda Hawk motorcycle, running a Mars motor on 48 Volts, 300A controller. I am also going to start converting my 90 Suzuki Carry this summer.
    I would love to see your conversion some day!

    • jessetufts says:

      Hello Robert,

      That’s great! We’ve been doing some more test drives with good results and are getting closer all the to having it ready for the safety. I don’t know if you read the post about the future transportation seminar but myself and a few other Edmonton EVers are planning on attending, details are a bit thin at the moment but I have a flyer I’ll send you. We’ll certainly be able to give you some advice on converting a mini truck! They make a great conversion.



  6. Excellent stuff! Lots of work involved there eh?

    I recently imported a 91 Toyota Sprinter Saloon with 35,000km on it. (2.0L Diesel, RHD, 4WD, Manual trans Corolla!) We now are in a small town 100km from anywhere. This will be the highway commuter. I have 90% of the WVO conversion parts ready for install. All the local restaraunts give me their veg, so I have a somewhat decent supply. My garage is full of stuff, so I cant really work on it till the weather gets a little nicer.

    I would love an electric mini truck just for in-town use here. (Town is only about 2KM end to end) The fossil fuel vehicles dont even get up to proper operating temp and as such get pretty terrible economy running to the grocery store.

    Out here in Ontario the gov’t will pay you 80cents/KWH for solar produced power! (Max 10KW) Too bad I have virtually no usable sunlight on my property to join in on that fun. (But have considered buying other property exclusively for solar generation) From a financial standpoint, you are better off to sell to the grid here than to keep it for self use.

    Keep up the good work!

    • jessetufts says:

      Hey Jeremy,

      Thanks for the reply, it has been a lot of work but its certainly worth it now that we’re driving it. That sounds like a pretty cool project you have yourself! A diesel 4wd car with a standard transmission, running on WVO, I’ll take one in a wagon if you have it….
      I am envious of the solar incentives in Ontario, a set of panels on the garage for charging up the mini truck would be great. I have a 6.5km commute to work so when I don’t ride my bike I should be able to make it there and back 3 times on one charge in the mini truck. In winter my regular car doesn’t get up to temp on that trip, not good for the car or fuel economy so I’m looking forward to driving the mini truck, its a blast to tool around in for short trips. We’re not ready to sell it yet but probably in the future we would sell it and then convert another vehicle!

      I’ll get some more pictures and an update on here soon,



  7. DayStar Renewable Energy Inc. says:

    Hey Jessie,
    With our seminar coming up very soon… “The Future of Transportation”, i would like to hook up and confirm that you will be bringing your truck for the pre-seminar electric car show. Could you please get in contact with me via Thanks.

    All other electric vehicle owners are more than welcome to come to this electric car show as well, and also enjoy the seminar. Details here…

    Hope to see some of you there.

    Benn Kilburn

    • jessetufts says:

      Hello Benn,

      I sent a message to you as indicated. The truck will be there for the show, looking forward to it! I’ve also contacted a couple other people I know with vehicles to remind them so we’ll see what happens,

      Looking forward to the show!


  8. Pingback: Mini truck update | Jesse Tufts' Blog

  9. Andrew says:

    i am curious, with direct drive, how is the power and how is the top speed with the ac50. I am just starting my conversion of a honda acty van with an ac50 and I love the idea of an even more simple set up, but I would like to be able to cruise on the highway at about 100km/h for little jaunts.

    • jessetufts says:

      That should make a good conversion! The acceleration is quite good up till about 40km/hr and then it starts to fall off. Remember though that I’m using only 72V which gives the same off the line torque but it falls off sooner than the same motor with a higher voltage pack. It does get up to a top speed on 85km/hr but that is mostly limited by the gearing being so low. I’m essentially locked in 5th gear (direct to the transfer case which is 1:1 in 2wd) but with the 6.83:1 diff ratio and the tiny tires it’s already at 5500 rpm at that speed so keeping the transmission would not have helped with the top speed as all it’s gears were lower than 1:1. A higher pack voltage would help a bit with top speed as there would be more high rpm power and the AC 50 can go to 8000rpm if you like.

      But… for all the work it was to tear apart the transmission and strip the gears apart and get it back together working in direct drive I kinda wish I had just left it as is! You can always just leave it in one gear to drive. But I needed to keep the transmission as it’s essentially part of the transfer case and I wanted 4wd. If you’re fine with 2wd then you can just ditch the transmission entirely which would make direct drive easy. Remember your van is a bit heavier though so depending on your gearing you may not be happy with direct drive acceleration off the line. Also, I recommend going to 34 or 36 cells right away, 24 works for our light weight truck but it’s pretty minimal.

      Good Luck!


  10. daraddishman says:

    Hey Jesse,
    I’ve had an ’87 Hijet Jumbo fall into my hands. I’ve been zipping about in her now and then over the summer but I’ve been thinking of converting it to electric. I was stoked to see someone else in Alberta has done it. Any chance we could chat via email or facebook? I’d love some advice, especially since I’m an automechanics noob.

    • jessetufts says:


      Another Hijet Jumbo cab! awesome, I’ve never seen another one before! It’s a great little truck but make sure it’s something you want to actually drive quite frequently if you plan on converting it to electric. I can use mine for commuting but now that I have a family if we all want to go somewhere together I still have to take my gas car! What sort of range and performance are you looking for?

  11. Ron Porter says:

    Great work! I have a HiJet, too, but the regular cab. I’m just starting the planning phase of an electric conversion, so it’s great to see another ‘winter’ owner showing as the top link in the Google results!

    I was all ready to give up some cargo space for batteries and charger, but seeing yours changed my mind.

    The only question I’ve got so far is about range and speed. To work for us, we’d need a minimum cruising speed of 60 km/hr and a range of 100 km in summer and 30 km in winter. Does that sound doable with parts similar to yours?

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