Friday, January 8, 2010

Citroen DS Restoration & Electric Conversion Project

One never does things by half!

Well, converting a vehicle to electric is no mean feat and if that was not enough, I choose to do this picking the most complicated set of variables. I have chosen my all-time favourite vehicle, the Citroen DS. Launched in 1955, the DS established Citroen as the leading innovative engineering auto maker in the world. The DS:

  • Built upon it's leadership in front-wheel-drive
  • Had inboard disk brakes
  • Introduced Hydroneumatic Suspension
  • Looked as futuristic then as it does now
  • Introduced Steered Driving Lights

This particular vehicle which I have owned for around 10 years, was totally dismantled by me 5 years ago following 6 years of perfect performance, as it started showing signs of rust and the automatic transmission was due for a rebuild. I had rebuilt the engine as soon as I purchased the vehicle. So the plan was that, by the time I restored it, I would have an equivalent to a new car.

Once dismantled, all the panels were sand-blasted and sent to a body-shop to be professionally repainted changing the colour from the original cream with white roof, to a modern Citroen dark blue metallic colour, including same colour roof, in the process. Seeing this was going to be a unique vehicle, rather than a concourse one, I decided to depart from the standard black frame to same "blue" colour frame making all the body parts blue. The agreement was that this job would take a while as the body shop had a long queue of vehicles awaiting work and in any case I had no urgency around this project.

As it happens, this was a "God-job" as, in parallel, my life went through a major crises resulting in my wife leaving and now, 5 years after the start of this project, here I am restarting. My car is now in Penrith, at my friends the Denton's of European Auto Care, the Citroen specialists; where I have a space where I am able to tinker with their expert advice.

So this is 3 projects in 1:

  1. Totally rebuild the vehicle, replacing, reconditioning and recreating many of the parts (seats, carpets, rubber, glass, electrical, etc.)
  2. The hydroneumatic suspension system is driven by a pump, off the engine which I need to re-invent with an electric motor.
  3. Convert to an electric vehicle.
I have read many blogs of others that have attempted to convert their vehicles to electric and the strong message is, pick a good car that just requires electric conversion to eliminate unnecessary complications. Well, I decided to go the full hog and take-on this mammoth project. Stay tuned more news and pics as I progress.


  1. Hello Aldo,

    I just saw your blog on your Citroen DS EV conversion – by chance I was only pondering this possibility last night – I have 2 “surplus” DS in poor condition which I have been wondering what to do with (I have been a Citroen Mechanic in the past, and still own a 1970 DS21ie which is restored and in storage, a 1972 SM which is my weekend drive, and a 1974 DS Safari in daily use).

    I would be interested in any ideas you have so far come up with re type of electric motor, controller and batteries? I think the DS is actually quite a good choice for conversion – there should be ample room for the motor and batteries under the bonnet, the hydraulics can be driven with an electric pump (I recall someone did this on a CX 10-15 years ago which I think was sourced from aircraft), and of course any overall difference in weight once completed can be compensated for by changing the sphere gas pressures… I also note that some motors available have dual shafts so that the accessories can be driven from the other end such as alternator, air-con compressor, and hydraulic pump if you retain the mechanical one.

    The technology seems to be improving – I was looking at the “Tesla” EV in the US which is based on a Lotus chassis – although it is heavier than the petrol Lotus it will apparently do 180-200 kph and run for 300 miles before recharging!

    Anyhow, very interested to hear what you plan and how you progress..


    Steve Quinn

  2. Hi Steve,

    Thanks so much for making contact.

    Great to meet a fellow Citroen lover. I agree, the DS will make a brilliant platform for an electric vehicle. The only real drawback in utilising a Citroen DS is that the hydraulics will be draining power whereas in non hydroneumatic deployments, this would not be the case, so more batteries are needed!

    Anyway, I am truly in the early stages, although on paper I have done a lot of research. There really are 2 options to start with and they are key decisions. Do I go for a DC or an AC motor.

    AC Motor
    AC is ideal. It has no brushes (wear and tear) and produces more power to weight. It is also easier to control as one only needs to control frequency to change speed. Most importantly, it produces regenerative braking. Problem...... very expensive. I believe it will cost twice as much for motor/controller than DC.

    DC Motor
    Is cheaper and more readily available. Most backyard conversions are based around DC motors.

    With regards to driving accessories such as aircon, hydraulics, etc... I believe it is more practical to go for seperate motors as these need to stay operational even when the drive motor is stationary (say at the lights).

    More on the Blog as I continue the project and hope to see you there.


  3. Hi Aldo,

    I have only just started thinking about EV design, but I would suggest, particularly in a car like the DS, that the benefits of AC would outweigh the greater costs involved. The DS weighs about 1320kg, which is on the heavier side as far as EV conversions go, and you would want some performance in a car like this. Regenerative braking is a real benefit, too.

    If all the hydraulic system is in good condition I don’t think the system would sap very much power at all, but agreed that an electric pump would probably be better for the stand-still situation.

    I’m not sure it would make sense to have a separate electric motor running the alternator… Perhaps the air-con pump, but it may be more efficient to suffer the air-con only operating whilst in motion.

    There’s an interesting web page on a conversion of a Toyota Echo (in Australia) where he has retained the system battery and charging circuit for running the accessories (I guess this would be a usual part of the conversion, though)

    Have you looked into what is involved in getting roadworthy approval for this conversion?


    Steve Quinn

  4. Hi there!

    I am an Citroen enthusiast myself and have 71' DSuper.

    In Finland there is a project of "Open Source" EV car, that should become anyones reach when finished. See here:
    It is basically a group of individuals that wants to make a contribution to development of electric automobiles.

    I allso remember reading a Citroen GS (in Brasil?) that was converted to EV. It had seperate motor to support hydraulics... I try to find the link.

    Here in Finland there are, i think few of 2CV:s that are converted to EV too.

    So i am intrested to see how this project goes. Wish you lots of inspiration to you and your EVDS =)


  5. Hi,

    Sounds like a great project.

    You might want to talk to the person who owns this:

    There are a couple of GSs on there as well.

    That guy has an ID, so he didn't have to find a way around the automatic clutch.

    From the experience of my own abortive EV conversion and what I've heard from other EVers you should get the best batteries, motors, controllers, etc that you can afford; i.e. Lithium Polymer batteries and an AC motor system.

    Have you any figures in mind for speed and range?

    Good on you for taking on such a worthy project and good luck,

  6. Perfect car for EV conversion, have been thinking the same thing. Silent and hovering. Check out the Citroen C5 electric HP pumps, you would easily source a used one. Sturla

  7. Hello everyone,

    Don't C5s use LDS? Can one fit a C5 HP pump on a DS that uses LHM? Also, is the pressure compatible?


  8. Hello

    I have seen a converted DS a few years ago on the internet, I think it was in canada, unfortunatelly i cannot find the site any more.

    I myself have a 72 DSuper 5 and I would like to convert it but rather in 2020. I am very interested in your project, I will follow.


    Laszlo, Hungary

  9. Wow, someone's actually making an electric version of the Citroen DS for real!

    There's actually an electric Citroen DS (at least, the Cabrio version) shown in a movie before (Gattaca), but for that one they just dubbed in the electric vehicle hum rather than having it really being powered by an electric motor. I had more or less wanted to see that turned into an actual electric vehicle since, and upon randomly Googling, found your little DS electric conversion project. I do really hope it goes through, and do post videos of it once you are done!

  10. Thanks for all your feedback. Had not visited my BLOG and this feedback is very encouraging. I need to get going again. I'll keep this post updated.

  11. Great content! This will aid some people find out about this matter. Do you want to incorporate video clips along with these? It will undoubtedly help out. Your reason was spot on and owing to you; I probably won’t have to describe all sorts of things to my pals. I could just lead them here.

  12. Thanks for sharing..i did enjoyed reading your this post. thanks for sharing this post and keep posting such post here in future too. Citroen

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  14. i think its will be exciting to accomplish this goal, i don,t know why you need an alternator when you have electric motors driving the car when you coast they regenerate a little .individual motors for the auxillaries will help with a/c using i guess a power supply unit to govern important issues primarily during low batteries cutting off unessary drain to batteris to finish the journey i am not knowledgable with the suspension except that the pump is always running mechanicle control
    waste of energy electric motor would turn on and off instead of switching a valve to divert fluid less energy same result and simpler removind eng trans radiator gas tank will lower weight

    1. You are right, no need for alternator. :)

  15. I love the DS and I am eager to see your progress. Best of luck!

    1. A lot of progress Anonymous. I hope you continue to follow us........