Jimmy Underhill’s Electric Land Cruiser: Pioneering Off-Road Adventures

The Remarkable Conversion of a Gas-Guzzler to an Eco-Friendly 4×4

In the vast landscape of automotive evolution where gas-powered engines have long reigned supreme, one private owner has dared to challenge convention and write a new chapter in the off-road adventure story. A forgotten 4×4 Land Cruiser, rescued from obscurity, now roams the trails of Colorado and Utah as a fully electrified powerhouse, transforming the way we perceive rugged exploration.

Under the hood lies a meticulously designed electric powertrain that combines salvaged components from a Nissan LEAF with custom-engineered mounts and adapters.

The spark of inspiration ignited when Jimmy Underhill from Morrison, Colorado, decided to embark on a wild EV conversion journey. Armed with an audacious spirit and a desire to break new ground, the choice to electrify a 4×4 presented itself as a tantalizing challenge. The vehicle’s spacious dimensions offered ample room to navigate the complexities of an inaugural conversion project, making the transition from gas to electric seem less daunting for a first-timer.

A Fusion of Ingenuity

The metamorphosis began with the acquisition of a forlorn Land Cruiser for a mere $1,000, lacking the essential title. Clearing this initial hurdle, the transformation took shape through the integration of salvaged components from a wrecked Nissan LEAF. Jimmy expertly engineered a motor adapter through CNC machining, ensuring a seamless connection between the EV motor and the original transfer case, while custom mounts anchored the new heart of the vehicle.

The Resolve-EV controller eased the integration while a purpose-built battery box accommodates the Nissan battery systems, temperature sensors, current sensors, and high-voltage contactors under the hood. It is secured onto the chassis thanks to dedicated mounts.

As with any pioneering endeavor, challenges emerged along the path. Initial vibrations stemming from the motor adapter design constrained the Land Cruiser’s velocity. Resilience and innovation prevailed; a custom CNC’d motor adapter, crafted with precision, eradicated the vibrations and unlocked the vehicle’s true potential, surging forward at a top speed of 70 mph.

The upgraded Old Man Emu +2-inch suspension system transforms even the roughest trails into a smooth and controlled adventure, redefining the Land Cruiser’s capability off the beaten path.
Solar panels mounted on the roof contribute to reducing parasitic draw and improving the battery’s overall efficiency.

Sunny Top-Up

Jimmy was able to connect the roof-mounted solar panels to the vehicle’s 12v system to help reduce the parasitic draw of the electric brake booster pump and hydraulic power steering pumps, which run constantly.

“The solar panels run through a regulator that outputs a slightly higher voltage than the DC-DC converter produces, which allows the solar panels to do most of the heavy lifting, and the DC-DC converter draws less out of the main HV battery because of it,” Jimmy says. “I was able to reduce my parasitic draw from about 600 watts down to about 200 watts.”

Gone are the days of the gasoline 6-cylinder engine and automatic transmission, which now pale in comparison to the electric powertrain that propels the Toyota forward.

“There’s an unmistakable difference in power and responsiveness,” Jimmy remarks. “Around town it is snappy and responsive, and out on 4×4 trails and obstacles, it is so smooth and controllable, which helps maintain control in all situations. In every way, the EV conversion drives better, works better off-road, can climb any obstacles I’ve tried, and is more fun. The only downside is the range—for now…”

A once gas-powered 4×4 Land Cruiser has been masterfully converted to an electric vehicle by EV conversion specialist Jimmy Underhill. They are now both ready to tackle the rugged terrains of Colorado and Utah.

Adventures Ahead

In the short term, the E-Land Cruiser is treading uncharted trails, leaving its tire marks across the majestic landscapes of Colorado and Utah. The electric transformation has bestowed a new lease of life, allowing many new off-road explorations. Looking farther down the road, Jimmy’s vision expands to a greater battery capacity, extending the Land Cruiser’s range, currently topping at 90 miles. This relatively modest range hasn’t prevented Jimmy from participating in many events and off-road adventures, turning heads at Cruise Moab 2023, State of Charge 2023, Cars and Coffees, Our Gang Ice Lake Racing, Rising Sun 4×4 Club trail clean up, and Colorado Drive Electric meetups.

Throughout this journey, Jimmy discovered a profound transformation in the way the vehicle moved, breathed, and conquered. The once gas-powered beast metamorphosed into an agile, responsive explorer, elevating off-road experiences to new heights. The electric conversion not only reduced the carbon footprint but also enhanced control and responsiveness, proving that innovation and sustainability are not contradictory ideals.

Throughout this journey, Jimmy discovered a profound transformation in the way the vehicle moved, breathed, and conquered.

For those tempted to embark on a similar journey, the owner offers a sage piece of advice: Invest in more batteries. The immense power demands of a 4×4 require greater battery capacity to achieve a comparable range. Building a meticulously designed, waterproof battery box cannot be overemphasized, as safety is paramount in this electrified world.

The immense power demands of a 4×4 require greater battery capacity to achieve a comparable range.

This story is only the beginning, with Jimmy’s EV conversion expertise extending to his new business, EVSwap Conversions, where classic vehicles find new life through electrification. With one remarkable vehicle, a new road to adventure has been paved, proving that the spirit of exploration can thrive without compromising our planet’s health.

SPECS

Jimmy Underhill

  • Location: Morrison, CO
  • Year, Make, Model: 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser
  • Vehicle Name: EVSwap Land Cruiser
  • Amount of Time to Build: 1.5 years
  • Cost to Build: $25,000 parts only
  • Occupation: Owner of EVSwap Conversions

Motor & Drivetrain 

  • Motor Swap Performed By: EVSwap Conversions
  • Motor Drive Unit: 2017 Nissan LEAF EM57
  • Power: 80 kW/100 hp
  • Torque: 253 Nm/187 lb-ft
  • Voltage: 400V maximum
  • Max RPM: 11,000 rpm
  • Peak Power RPM: 3,000-11,000 rpm
  • Max Continuous Power: 80 kw
  • Peak Current: 400 amps
  • Max Continuous Current: 400 amps
  • Motor/Transmission Mounts: Custom
  • Control System and Software: Resolve-EV VCU
  • 0 to 60 time: 11 seconds
  • Vehicle Weight: 5,280 pounds

Battery System & Charger

  • Pack Design: Rectangular box, steel frame with aluminum panels. Sealed with seam sealer and painted with undercoat paint. Fully waterproof and designed for river crossings.
  • Cell Type: Lithium-ion
  • Module Manufacturer & Configuration: Nissan
  • Battery Capacity (in kilowatt-hour): 30 kWh
  • Battery Locations: Under the hood
  • Highway Range: 50 miles
  • City Range: 70 miles
  • Regen Type: Adjustable, three settings from low to high
  • Charger kW Charge Rate: 6.6 kw
  • DC Fast Charging: CHAdeMO 50 kw

Chassis/Suspension 

  • Installation Shop: EVSwap Conversions
  • Chassis: Land Cruiser 80 series
  • Lift/Lowering Kit: Old Man Emu (OME) 2-inch lift
  • Control Arms: Front solid axle
  • Springs: Old Man Emu 2-inch lift
  • Shocks: Old Man Emu
  • Other: Rear differential locker

Wheels, Tires & Brakes 

  • Rims: SCS 17×8.5
  • Tire: Nitto Ridge Grappler 285/70/17
  • Front Brakes: OEM
  • Rear Brakes: OEM
  • Gears/Ratio: 4.11 diffs, 2.7:1 motor reduction, 1:1 high range, and an additional 2.4:1 low range for off-road driving
  • Axles: OEM
  • Driveshafts: OEM
  • Other: Stainless steel braided brake lines, GM vacuum pump for brake booster

Body/Paint 

  • Paint Shop: All stock body
  • Color: Black with green decals
  • Graphics: EVSwap Conversions
  • Graphics Installer: EVSwap Conversions
  • Bumpers: Trail gear steel tube bumpers front and rear
  • Rubber Moldings: OEM
  • Body Kit: None
  • Other: Gamiviti roof rack with solar panels for charging

Interior 

  • Install Shop: EVSwap
  • Seats: OEM leather
  • Steering Wheel: Lexus LS400
  • Radio Head Unit: Pioneer

Sponsors & Special Thanks

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