Isaac Mion
March 5, 2013

With the motors connected in series, the vehicle can accelerate to speeds of 35- to 40-mph. After that, the motor controller switches the wiring of the motors to parallel, allowing the vehicle to accelerate to higher speeds. In other words, at low speeds, each motor gets full current, but divides the voltage to attain higher speeds (a theoretical top speed of 108).

Sound complicated? Well, it is sort of. Especially when you delve into the relays and the various capabilities of the hairball. But take a look at the internal spinning magnets of an electric motor and that part seems wonderfully simple.

The motor controller has a cooling system consisting of a cooling plate within the controller, a water pump, an oil-cooler with a fan, and a coolant reservoir. This is running anytime the key is on.

"If we could build the car over again, I might have taken a different approach," Dave noted. "A similar goal could be accomplished with one motor and a four-speed transmission."

Actually, if Dave and company could have done something differently, he might have had a different guy to do the original electric conversion. When Duke's Garage originally unveiled the car, they had a party at the shop and it didn't end well.

"We spent the 24 hours before the party wiring the car, installing the battery pack, and putting the finishing touches on the restoration," Dave recalled." We finished about an hour into the party and gave the car a final wash. As we took it on its maiden voyage to the front of the shop for its unveiling, the car caught on fire in two places."

The motor controller in the rear had blown up and fried most of the wiring to the motors; at the same time, one of the battery modules went into whats called thermal runaway and started billowing smoke from the front of the vehicle.

The crew at Duke's attempted to cool the battery pack with water to no avail. It was time to call the fire department. But it gets even more farcical. When the fire department arrived, there was a port-o-potty in front of the gate and they had to move itwhile someone was in it.

"The fire hose wasn't enough to put the fire out, so we dropped the battery pack in a 55-gallon drum of water. It boiled for about 12 hours before it finally stopped."

But the crew at Duke's did not get discouraged. They fired the guy who did the conversion, hired a special electric vehicle consultant, and through considerably more cautious trial and error, put the vehicle back together the right way.

"The complete failure didn't slow us down," said Dave. "But it made us realize how dangerous this could be if not done properly."

After a couple of months and several different motor controllers, they got the vehicle on the road with no issues. At that point, the performance wasn't quite what they wanted. Duke's took a hiatus from the Mustang for a few years while they completed a number of other successful conversions.

Eventually, they revisited the Mustang, buying a more powerful motor controller and better batteries, thus bringing the green machine to its current state. And when we say green, the theme pervades to the interior. The upholstery is hemp with recycled foam padding. Finally there's a Mustang that Phish fans can be seen in.

Duke's Garage, along with the help of Boundless Corporation (batteries) and Norm Smith (EV Consultant), have come together to build what no one else has, a fully electric vintage Mustang. And with a top speed of around 85 mph, the performance may not be as electric as the car itself, but its quick enough to be enjoyable and more importantly, reliable. And while reliability is nice, we can't help but wonder what it would be like if they turned up the wick, er amperage, a little.

The Details
Duke Altschuler's 1965 Ford Mustang convertible

Dual Netgain Transwarp 9-inch DC motors (80 hp peak)
Café Electric Zilla Z1K Water-Cooled DC Motor Controller
28.8 kWh lithium-ion phosphate battery, 144volts, 200ah Capacity

Battery management system
PFC-30 charger, 5.6kW, 110 or 220 VAC input, six-hour charge time
RM4 Fluid Heater

Direct Drive

Ford 8-inch
3.50 gears

Front: Stock Ford upper/lower control arms, coil springs and shock absorbers
Rear: Stock Ford leaf spring with shock absorbers

Front: Factory disc
Rear: Factory drum

Front: Foose Nitrous 5, 16x7
Rear: Foose Nitrous 5, 16x7

Front: Nexen CP641, P205/50R16
Rear: Nexen CP641, P225/50R16

Hemp upholstery with recycled foam padding, black carpet, woodgrain steering wheel

Matrix Systems custom blended Hunter Green paint, black convertible top