Exploring conversion Volvo Amazon wagon to electric car = GO

Now that the renovation of the garage has been completed and the wagon is back inside, the project can finally almost start (just cleaning up a leftover). I was already busy collecting beautiful parts, among other things to give it a little more power (double solex carburetors, 123 tune ignition, 8-hole B20 bottom block for B21 mahle pistons) so in the direction of 130 HP.

However, I have always had a dream of an Amazon wagon converted to a full electric car with the idea of doing that again later. Now I suddenly thought, but why not now?

The exploration has been given a GO, so bye bye gasoline engine.

bye B20

And welcome:

Electric Volvo Amazon wagon

I will continuously update this post with questions and answers. Suggestions, comments, answers, questions are all welcome! Feel free to post them in a comment.

  1. Which supplier?
  2. What range and top speed do I want to be able to achieve?
  3. Which motor and controller do I want to use AC or DC (alternating current or direct current)?
  4. With or without gearbox?
  5. Which batteries?
  6. Subsidy possibilities?
  7. Registration?

1. Which supplier?
To start with the last question, which supplier of the parts? I am handy and technical in my own right, but I have not (yet) much knowledge of complex electronics and electrical components. So I am looking for a kit of components that are already certified so that the latest requirements of the RDW (April 2011) in the field of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) can be met. There are two companies that I have been following for a long time:

Rebbl (no longer active)
Website http://rebbl.com or follow them on Facebook
Supply ready-made plug and play packages for conversion of a Volkswagen beetle but also complete universal conversion sets and separate components.

Heijnsdijk Electric Cars (now EVeurope)
Website http://www.he-cars.com or follow them on Facebook
Seem to be the most active or area of 2CV / Burton but also complete universal conversion sets and components.
Both companies have certifications for the kits they supply, so the E on the registration is already a lot closer. I orient myself to the possibilities and the offer for both. In addition, I received as a tip:

New Electric
Website http://newelectric.nl or follow them on Facebook
Their website is mainly boat / marine oriented, but on the Internet I also found videos and stories of car conversions.

In the meantime I am also in contact with Anne from New Electric and eventually I chose New Electric.

2. What range and top speed do I want to be able to achieve?

In other words, how do we want to use the car? This will mainly be around here, distances up to a maximum of about 40 kilometers on 80 km roads. A range of 80 kilometers is therefore sufficient. Rebbl has a nice overview with 10 factors that determine your conversion budget and although large range and fast acceleration sounds nicer, the price tag then rises quickly. The wagon is not a fast car by nature and does not have to be.

3. Which motor and controller do I want to use AC or DC?

A conversion based on a direct current motor (DC) with brushes is cheaper. However, the standard in professional production cars is AC. Technically, AC is better than DC due to better efficiency, power curve and the possibilities of regenerative braking. More info about AC vs DC at Electric Car Motors II: The AC vs. DC debate (In English). The price difference wasn’t too bad. Compared to a DC motor, an AC motor is a bit more expensive, but on the overall budget it is “only” 10%. My preference is AC.

Now that I have chosen AC, there are three motor+controller combinations that I currently have in my shortlist:

  • HPEV AC 51 (oil cooled) + Curtis 144V/500A controller
  • HEC-50-30 (water cooled) + Curtis 1238-75 Controller – 650 Amp
  • Siemens AC motor 1PV5135-4WS14 (water-cooled) + DMOC 645 inverter

The Siemens engine is the heaviest of the three, both in weight (91 kg versus approximately 55 kg for the other two) but also in power. It can deliver 134 HP to the wheels with a torque of 300 Nm peak and 150 Nm continuous from 0 to 3000 RPM. The other two are about 2/3 of that. See below the power and torque curves of the Siemens motor at 300V.
Siemens power curve   PK
Siemens torque curve   Nm

The most important issue for the Siemens motor + DMOC inverter is whether a certification is already available so that an RDW approval is feasible without individual tests. I now know that New Electric and Rebbl have done an EMC test together for this combination (source: projects New Electric).

4. With or without gearbox?

Due to the high torque from a standstill, a DC motor would offer the possibility of a ‘direct drive’. With an AC motor this is less obvious or you have to take a relatively heavy AC motor and design the whole for higher currents. This has to do with the relatively unfavourable transmission/ratio of the rear axle. In addition, a possibility to disconnect for safety is more convenient. I once did a calculation of the gear ratios and that of the rear axle and gearbox with J-type overdrive of an Amazon combi entered on cargister.com

gear   ratio

From the graph it can be seen that the fourth gear (1:1, direct drive), the yellow line at maximum revs, would give a speed of more than 200 km/h. However, this is not feasible in practice. In addition, the car will accelerate very slowly as a result. Conclusion: reduction is necessary and then the easiest option is to just use a four-speed gearbox. The current M41 with D-type overdrive can therefore be removed.

From Martijn who has converted his Volvo 245 to full electric, I learned that he is also happy that he has kept his M47 gearbox because it gives more flexibility. More information about that conversion on https://www.electricvolvo.com.

The Volvo 245 and to a lesser extent the wagon are still heavy cars. A special adapter / coupling will have to be made between the electric motor and the gearbox.

5. Which batteries?

They will be Lithium cells for sure and not lead batteries. In my calculations I have assumed the Siemens motor and DMOC inverter as they are now my preference. The advantage of this combination is that this set can handle various voltages and relatively high voltages. The advantage of a high voltage is that less current needs to run to transfer the power and that cabling can therefore be thinner.

Depth of Discharge & Peukert effect
You always need a higher capacity than you actually have at your disposal. This is due to the fact that you have to take into account the fact that you never want to run completely empty batteries (margin of 25%) or the Depth of Discharge (DoD) and the fact that you have less capacity at your disposal if you use it faster (Peukert effect), margin of 5%.

I assumed the 100 Ah CALB cells like New Electric has for example. A calculation with the heavier 180 Ah CALB cells that fit better in terms of height, especially in the back, showed that the whole would then become much too heavy and / or the voltage would eventually be relatively low again. Then 55 pieces fit in the back, but that immediately weighs 304 kg.

Update: after removing the LPG installation , there appears to be only 80.5 cm between the rear chassis beams and 70 to 80 cm in the longitudinal direction. As a result, it does not fit 72 batteries in the back, but 65.

So starting point in March 2015 was:

  • 90 pcs 100 Ah CALB cells
  • gives 288 Volts
  • and nominally 28.8 kWh
  • of which you have about 21 usable kWh left
  • this is assuming a consumption of 160 Wh/km (average consumption based on user experience of an already converted Amazon wagon) a range of 135 km or with very economical driving a consumption of 114 Wh / km is a range of 190 km
  • These 90 cells together weigh 304 kg
  • of these, 65 fit in the rear in the place of the petrol tank and spare wheel
  • equivalent to 221 kg
  • For the remaining 25 pieces (85 kg) another place must be found
  • That part probably fits in the front.

Update: I’m switching to Tesla batteries and the above batteries have been sold. So then the new starting point becomes:

  • 8 modified 12S37P Tesla modules at 5.3 kWh gross
  • gives nominally 355 Volts
  • and nominally 42 kWh
  • of which you have approximately a usable capacity of 38 kWh left
  • To promote longevity, it is better to use only part of this
  • this is assuming a consumption of 160 Wh/km (average consumption based on user experience of an already converted Amazon wagon) a range of 235 km
  • These 8 modules together weigh 200 kg
  • of these, 5 fit in the place of the petrol tank and spare wheel in the rear
  • equivalent to 125 kg
  • The remaining 3 pieces (75 kg) will be in the front.

6. Subsidy possibilities?

One of the options is to drive the car for business and then also do the conversion for business. Then I may be able to make use of the Environmental Investment Deduction (MIA) scheme. As far as I know, there are no other subsidy schemes (anymore).

Advantage: all costs are business and moreover largely immediately deductible by MIA scheme

Fully electric cars with CO2 emissions of 0 g/km are eligible for 36% MIA under code G 3110

Cars eligible for MIA under code G 3110 are eligible for up to €50,000.

According to the RVO website, conversion costs are also covered by the scheme. However, the website of the Tax and Customs Administration states something else:

– The asset is on the environmental list.
– The asset has not been used before.

Initially, I submitted the question of whether my conversion is indeed eligible for the MIA to the tax authorities, but they could not give me the answer. They advised me to just apply. I did this and I got a very quick answer that the application has been accepted, so good news.

Disadvantage: after that it is business like, so extra taxes

For a fully electric car up to the age of 15, a discount of 21 percentage points will be granted for 60 months on the standard addition rate of 25% of the catalogue value, for a first registration between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2016. The addition percentage is then 4%. Date of first registration is a while ago so that will be 25% but the catalogue value is fortunately only 14,500 guilders (6500 euros).

Update nav response Ronald: Addition for environmentally friendly cars older than 15 years is only 14% of the value in economic traffic (source Tax authorities page Environmentally friendly car older than 15 years). So this is probably suddenly a significant addition. I have done the math and still continue my plan to do the conversion businesslike and enjoy the associated benefits and accept the disadvantage of the addition.

Update following Autobrief 2
For the period up to 2020, the discount percentage continues to work for me, so that in my case the net addition becomes 17% of the daily value.

Update following Climate Agreement Tax Measures Act
This law was adopted on 18 December 2019 and provides the following:

The Income Tax Act 2001 is amended as follows:

In Article 3.20, second paragraph, «18%» is replaced by «14%». In addition, «€9000» is replaced by «€6300».

And further on it says:

In the Income Tax Act 2001, with effect from 1 January 2021, in article 3.20, second paragraph, «14%» is replaced by «10%». In addition, «€6,300» is replaced by «€4,000».

In the Income Tax Act 2001, with effect from 1 January 2022, in article 3.20, second paragraph, «10%» is replaced by «6%». In addition, «€4,000» is replaced by «€2,400».

In the Income Tax Act 2001, with effect from 1 January 2025, in article 3.20, second paragraph, «6%» is replaced by «5%». In addition, «€2,400» is replaced by «€2,000».

There is a lot of incorrect information online, so we’ll take a look at section 3.20 of the Income Tax Act 2001 to check the implications:

  • If a car is also available to the taxable person for private purposes, at least:

    • a. 22% of the value of the car is taken into account as withdrawal if the car was first put into service no more than 15 years ago;

    • b. 35% of the value of the car is taken into account as withdrawal if the car was first put into service more than 15 years ago.

    In any case, the car is deemed to be available for private purposes unless it appears that the car is used for private purposes on an annual basis for no more than 500 kilometers.
  • 2 The withdrawal referred to in the first sentence of the first paragraph shall be reduced on an annual basis by 18% of the value of the car if the vehicle registration shows that the CO2emissions are 0 grams per kilometre, provided that the amount of the reduction does not exceed €9,000 if the car is not powered by an engine that can be powered by hydrogen.

And then get a clear picture of what is meant by “value of the car”. This is stated in section 3.20, paragraph 5b of the Income Tax Act 2001:

list price within the meaning of Section 9 of the Passenger Car and Motorcycle Tax Act 1992 plus the taxation of passenger cars and motorcycles pursuant to Sections 9 to 9c of that Act, provided that the value of a car first put into service more than fifteen years ago, is set at fair value.

That said, as a result of the Climate Agreement Tax Measures Act, the addition for both new cars and youngtimers will be increased and there will be a cap. The youngtimers are less likely to suffer from the latter. For cars older than 15 years with 0 grams of CO2 per kilometer and not running on hydrogen, the following addition percentages apply:


Fortunately, the moment you put a car on license plate or convert a youngtimer or oldtimer and get an E on license plate, you can enjoy the then applicable addition percentage for 60 months.

Somehow it is of course crooked that you have to pay so much addition for an oldtimer or youngtimer with 0 grams of CO2 emissions. In the context of the climate, converting a car is one of the most sustainable scenarios. In this way you save the energy from the production of a new vehicle, you usually reuse (upcycle) parts and you significantly reduce direct CO2 emissions.

7. Registration

If all technical obstacles have been overcome, then an adapted registration is of course the most important thing. That’s why I checked this out in advance as well. Initially, this seemed to be a concern because the document of the RDW Composite vehicles and the registration number in chapter 3 (restoration of historic vehicles) state, among other things, that the original identity will be preserved if:

a powertrain consisting of engine, gearbox and axles of the same model and type as the original vehicle

That goes quite wrong with a new electric motor and does not meet that precondition. If the car were to be given a new identity, it would also receive a new registration number and a new date of first admission and must meet the requirements that currently apply. This would have made it impossible to obtain a license plate. Now there are also other cars with a different engine on the registration such as the Jeep converted by New Electric but also Amazons with a rover V6 or even V8. I think it helps if the car is from before 01-10-1973.

However, the fact that another car drives it on the road is not yet a reason for you to receive an approval at the RDW. That’s why I asked the RDW how this works in my case and they answered:

You ask the RDW for information about maintaining a vehicle identity.
A vehicle consists of 3 main parts, namely;

  • Chassis
  • Bodywork
  • Engine with driveline

If more than one of the above is replaced by another vehicle/type, the original identity of the vehicle shall lapse. We call this the 1/3 versus 2/3 Scheme. As a result, it is possible that the vehicle will receive a different Date of First Admission (DET) or even become new. The vehicle must therefore meet the newer requirements.

You indicate that you only change the engine block with powertrain. The identity is then preserved.

So that in itself is good news. In addition, the RDW writes an extensive story about the implications of the amendment in the Road Traffic Act 1994 since 1 April 2011 specifically for the conversion to electric. I was aware that these requirements are quite strict and that this has made it more difficult to convert or have them converted yourself. The RDW summarizes these requirements as follows:

Broadly speaking, the vehicle must meet the following safety requirements:

  1. Uniform requirements for the approval of electric vehicles (UNECE Regulation No 100)
  2. Electromagnetic compatibility tests and requirements (EMC, Directives 72/245/EEC and 97/24/EC)
  3. Tests and requirements with regard to road behaviour (policy rule on road behaviour)
  4. Requirements for cabling, power switch-off, high voltage shutdown and placement of the battery pack. (Annex IV, Annex 4, Vehicle Regulation)

I guarantee the requirements set under points 1, 2 and 4 by working together with a professional supplier who has done a conversion and license plate change more often. For point 3, the handling, I mainly look at maintaining the weight distribution and the maximum permissible weight of the combi, taking into account the fact that there must be a load capacity left.

Maximum permissible weight

I could not get any documentation from Volvo Netherlands regarding the maximum permissible weight because they indicated that they did not have that information. However, I have already received the type approval of the combi, which shows that the empty weight of the car is 1174 kg. It turned out that I myself had a supplement for the Volvo station for the instruction book in the documentation of my combi in which a load capacity of 500 kg is stated. That seems to me to provide sufficient guidance because this document specifically relates to the combination.

Volvo   Estate   supplement

From a brochure of the sedan that I received by e-mail from the Volvo archive in Sweden, I found that the (technical) maximum axle load of the front axle is 750 kg and the rear is 900 kg. For the wagon, that will probably be a bit higher, but those numbers seem to me to be a good standard.

It also states in that type approval that with a B18B the wagon has an engine power of 115 SAE HP. So perhaps it is important to let the Siemens engine squeeze a bit to ensure that there is no significant increase in engine power.

Conclusion = GO

All in all, the results of this exploration give me sufficient insight that the conversion is feasible. This has given the project a GO. In the coming period I will further develop things and write blog posts about this. Oh yes, the car itself also needs some restoration work.

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OldVolvo is a classic Volvo hobby blog by Lars Rengersen.

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