POLARIS eV RANGER CONVERSION TO LITHIUM-ION

by Jack Anderson

March 2017, Update:  During the Lithium conversion we made the decision to not connect the wench battery set (OEM Polaris) to the main traction battery pack. This resulted in needing to maintain the wench batteries with a Battery Tender system. We had a long cold Winter in the Northwest this year so while bored one day I decided to add a solar powered battery charger/maintainer to the Ranger EV Li. I choose the NOCO BLSolar5 as the panel then added a NOCO GC027 12V 2A Regulator and a NOCO GC009 SAE Adapter. I used 1/2 inch spacers to stand the solar panel off the roof to provide some "cooling" for the panel. This is not required and probably is more theory than practical. Took about three hours to install, I routed the wire inside the roll cage tubes so had some drilling. Would take much less time it I had wire tied to the outside, but like I said the cold weather was keeping me inside. So far this has been working well. Cost was pretty reasonable; under $65.00

Check out pictures at: http://www.rangerforums.net/forum/polaris-ranger-ev/33985-solar-charger-maintainer-wench-batteries.html

March 2016, Update:  The entire conversion process has matured to the point of commercialization.  Wenatchee PowerSports, Wenatchee, WA has completed a dealer conversion and more than thirty individuals have applied the Voltronix, USA kit to their Ranger EVs.  If you are interested in purchasing please contact us.  We can assist you in finding a close by Polaris dealer to perform the conversion or if you are inclined to install it yourself we can work with you.  jmasea@prodigy.net

 

The main businesses of North Central Washington are fruit orchards, vineyards and hydro-electric generating dams. Over the last six years many of these operations have reduced expenses by moving away from full-sized pickup trucks in favor of smaller ATV-type vehicles. For many tasks, they simply need to move one or two people and some tools and equipment. This need is easily filled with a side-by-side ATV.

One objective for Plug-In North Central Washington is to explore electrification of processes that are currently using fossil fuels. So naturally we wanted to create a Lithium-Ion-powered side-by-side to show businesses the potential savings and reduction of stress on the operators and environment.

It is a known phenomenon that when a person drives an electric car for a few months they start thinking about other gas-dependent devices they own. A side-by-side ATV simply puts out too much noise, vibration and pollution. As we searched the literature we found Polaris sells the popular Ranger series in an electric version called the Ranger EV. We are fortunate enough to live near Wenatchee Power Sports, a Polaris dealer that is Ranger EV knowledgeable. They had a demonstration Ranger EV in stock so we arranged a test ride. That ride sealed the deal and we placed an order.

Lithium chemistry batteries are the choice because they are lighter, provide more useable power, require less maintenance, emit no Hydrogen Sulfide gas and have a longer service life than PbA (Lead Acid) batteries.  Lithium batteries do have some technical requirements. Specific charging protocols and a battery management system (BMS) are needed to charge and control the discharge rate. The BMS is the nerve center of the Lithium battery pack which is made up of cells connected to each other and the BMS. The BMS monitors a wide array of cell-specific inputs to ensure proper and safe function.

Our goals in undertaking this project are to document the process so that others can perform the conversion and development of a complete kit of the items and parts needed.   

It does not take long to realize that flooded Lead Acid batteries are not the easiest beasts to keep healthy. They also create lots of mischief with their emission of Hydrogen Sulfide gas as they charge. This gas is not only explosive but also highly corrosive. The corrosion is unbelievable to those who have not had to deal with it. The metal battery straps, the actual electrical cables that connect the batteries and the metal frame of the Ranger EV, all exhibited signs of corrosion within a few months. Then there is the “watering” which is needed because as the batteries charge the electrolyte boils some and the water cooks off. You can imagine how interesting a Saturday afternoon can be dealing with eight 92 pound batteries each with six cells that need servicing and all the cells seem to be hidden behind frame members and other metal parts. I was dreaming of a better solution the entire time.

Our car uses Lithium-Ion batteries and I do not have to do anything but drive it. So, now the hunt was on for a conversion to “Li” batteries. It took some time but we found Voltronix USA – a company that supplies Li batteries and has some experience with conversions. As we talked about how to proceed, Voltronix President Brennan Beach and I sketched out a project to develop a conversion kit that Polaris dealers could sell to Ranger EV owners.

The project goals are based upon input gathered from users and the staff at Wenatchee Power Sports. Two important objectives emerged: first, the final solution would need to significantly increase range, and secondly, maintenance needed to be reduced to nearly the act of plugging a power cord into an outlet. With these and other ideas for improvements in mind, the conversion process was initiated. We chose 200 Amp Hour Li cells connected together to produce 48 Volts. The Delta-Q charger provided by Polaris would be sent to a factory-authorized facility for reprogramming so it would work with Lithium battery cells. A Battery Management System (BMS) was sourced from Ewert Energy Systems, Inc. Tim Foster, located in Spokane, Wash., was appointed as the conversion engineer and became responsible for designing the system and sourcing or fabricating the component parts. The concept is that Polaris dealers can order a conversion kit from Voltronix then perform the conversion with their technicians.

We will keep you updated as the project continues to roll forward.