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This Manual Transmission Electric Ford Ranger Has A 30 Mile Range And It's For Sale

Jalopnik logo Jalopnik 8/25/2019 David Tracy
a car parked in a grassy field: All images: Craigslist unless otherwise stated All images: Craigslist unless otherwise stated

Some enterprising individual converted a 1987 manual transmission-equipped Ford Ranger into an electric truck, and the resulting golf cart battery-powered Ford mini-truck is for sale right now on Craigslist. Let’s take a look at this lovely creation.

A reader named Austin sent me a link to the electric 1987 Ford Ranger you see in these photos. As you might have guessed, Ford did not build an EV Ranger in 1987, so this is a homemade setup, with 16 six-volt lead-acid golf cart batteries wired in series sitting below a custom dump-bed behind the cab, and four more batteries packaged under the hood.

Apparently, whoever converted this truck to electric power was a “very capable older fellow...who did a very professional job both engineering wise and fit and finish,” with the seller describing the quality of the conversion in the listing:

Circuits are labeled on the vehicle and he made a detailed schematic. The bed tilts back in a very ingenious way (hood latches and spring assist) to access 16 of the batteries located under the bed. The other four 6v batteries are in the engine compartment, along with a separate 12v battery which has it’s own on-board 120 dc to 12v dc charger. This battery powers all 12v systems on the vehicle and is thereby charged from the 120v battery system.

Here’s a look at the batteries under the dump bed:

It looks like a fairly straightforward setup, here. The person simply wired up 20 six-volt batteries using some thick insulated cables, and then used a DC-DC converter to step the resulting 120 volts down to the 12 volts needed to charge the battery that runs the truck’s interior electronics.

a black truck sitting on top of a grass covered field

The motor is under the hood where I assume there was once a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. Presumably, there there are some custom adapters and brackets holding that motor to the five-speed manual’s bell housing (Note: Home-built EV conversions commonly bolt electric motors to existing manual transmissions, so this isn’t particularly novel) and the the truck’s frame, possibly at the existing motor mount locations.

a car engine

This EV Ranger will do 60 mph according to the seller, and though it doesn’t have air conditioning, it does get a heater, though it’s not clear how that’s set up. The fittings in the dashboard through which heater hoses would have gone on the stock Ranger have been replaced with a metal cover that has two small wires or cables passing through it, so it doesn’t appear that someone just replaced the engine with a pump and a resistance heater to feed the under-dash heater core.

As for filling up the battery, the truck comes with this charger that can apparently plug into a house’s 220 volt or 110 volt outlet:

a close up of a device

Range when fully charged, the seller says, is “30+,” but that assumes that the batteries are in good shape (which on this vehicle, they aren’t—the seller says they need to be replaced soon), and that the person behind the wheel engages in “conservative driving.”

The asking price for a Ford Ranger that only manages 30 miles in the best case, needs new batteries, and can do 60 mph but is “not meant for highway travel” is $4,500, and though that seems quite expensive, I suppose if someone needed a truck to haul supplies around their farm, this homebrew EV Ranger might work well.

a car parked in front of a truck

Of course, I’d be mad if I wrote about an electric Ranger without mentioning the electric Ranger. Back in the late 1990s, Ford built the Ford Ranger EV, and it was quite an interesting machine, with the early models getting a De Dion Tube rear suspension located laterally by a Watts linkage and sprung by composite leaf springs.

Sending juice to the rear-mounted 90 horsepower AC three-phase induction motor mated to a single-speed reduction were—according to a study by the Electric Transportation Division of California electricity company Southern California Edison—39 eight-volt lead-acid battery modules from auto supplier Delphi. Together, those batteries had a capacity of 23 kWh.

Later Rangers—which had traditional steel leaf springs and eschewed the Watts link—had 25 Panasonic Nickel/Metal-Hydride modules. The image below shows that battery cells were packaged in the transmission/driveshaft/exhaust tunnel:

a close up of text on a white background: Image: Ford Image: Ford

According to the EPA, the lead-acid battery yielded a better MPG equivalent rating of 58 versus the NiMH truck’s 47 MPG, though the latter scored a higher range of 55 miles versus 50. According to Southern California Edison, Ford’s estimated range for the lead-acid car was 77 miles, and for the NiMH truck was 90 miles. Ford’s own literature on the Ranger EV breaks down mileage into different types of operating conditions, though I’m not sure about the particularities of these cycles (FUDS is Federal Urban Driving Schedule; I’m not sure about the rest).

a screenshot of a cell phone: Image: Ford Image: Ford

If this 1987 Ranger and even the 1998 Ranger EV tell us anything, it’s that the world has come a long way in terms of battery and EV tech. Thank goodness; these range numbers are sad, and I bet charging time is, too.

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