Chevy Volt Batteries: 1980 Jet Industries ElectraVan

“One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong”, to quote the great sage of our time: Ernie from Sesame Street. Guess which vehicle I’m going to talk about here? Yes, the one on the right! Cute, ain’t it? And it will fit inside the other van and you’d probably still have room for a few campground friends to come over and sit around inside and talk about finding this 1980 Jet Industries ElectraVan here on craigslist in the St. Johns area of Portland, Oregon. They’re asking $9,500 for this updated little van. Thanks to Roger for sending in this little tip!

We have seen a few Jet Industries EV conversions in the past and, at least for me, they’re always fascinating. I just like thinking about the time when companies were trying to come up with another way to power a personal vehicle without directly burning gas or oil. I know, “But but but, they’re burning coal in the plant where you’re getting your electricity from!!” True, but not all of us do that, some of us have solar panels that provide our electricity or other clean sources. Still, showing an EV conversion here is somewhat like taking a cat to a dog show and I don’t expect a group of folks who mostly like American muscle cars to even remotely be interested in a vehicle like this. And, that’s ok, a few will be interested and we’re an equal-opportunity car shop.

Now, this is something that even I’m not interested in, someone else’s mural painted on the side of a vehicle. Or, maybe some of you like it? The owner did and even though it would be a shame to wipe out all of that work, it would go away within the first week of my ownership. Jet Industries was based in Austin, Texas and they had quite a business going in the late-70s and early-80s converting vehicles, including some unusual ones like this Subaru Sambar van, into battery-powered vehicles like this ElectraVan.

The interior looks surgically clean and tidy, right down to the Brady Bunch backyard carpet. Yes, that’s a clutch pedal, Jet Industries vehicles typically used a manual transmission unlike a lot of EVs where there is no shifting to do. This one also has a gas heater but they have never used it. The Subaru Sambar on which this vehicle is based is very, very, very small as you saw in the first photo, but there’s a decent amount of space in the back for hauling things. This one is over 3-feet shorter than my Renault GTA which is short compared to almost anything on the road today. The seller mentions that this one has new brakes, rebuilt wheel cylinders, and a new master cylinder and there is no rust! But, the biggest surprise is…

This one has 8 lithium batteries from a Chevy Volt, along with all of the related and updated systems. It’s amazing how much work and how much money they have into this one, $11,000 worth, not counting the labor of John Wayland of the electric car “White Zombie” fame. That’s the guy that you want to work on your EV if you can get him. The seller says that the range is around 70 miles. The original ElectraVan driving range would have been around 40 miles so that’s a nice upgrade but still not enough to entice 99.9% of the folks tuning in here. Any thoughts on this one?

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Comments

  1. PDXBryan

    I wonder why it’s hard for folks to like a Z-28 and this? I do! I also got to be a fly on the wall when John was modifying this. The guy’s a crazy genius! I also got to meet the owner/seller of this little buzz-bomb who’s a great guy too.
    If you’re not familiar with John’s work look up the “White Zombie”. For the muscle car guys, search for the “Zombie 222”. That should give you petrol heads something the chew on!

    7
    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Hey, I should have known that you might have seen this one with your user name, PDXBryan! That’s cool to hear, thanks for the insider info.

      4
      • PDXBryan

        Cool! I have been an acquaintance of John’s since meeting him and his street Datsun 1200 electric at the annual Blue Lake Datsun meet in 1994. He still has that car and White Zombie and just keeps improving them with more modern technology. Last I heard, the Zombie was in the low 10s in the 1/4 mile! This little van was the project he was working on when I asked if I could come over and absorb a little EV knowledge.

        3
    • bobk

      Had not heard of the White Zombie. Thanks for the knowledge. However, I was in attendance at a drag race 10?-11? years ago where someone pulled to the line with a USPS mail jeep, kitted out for drag racing. Just about the time people were snickering, the driver lit that thing off. Fastest electric car that I had seen up until the Tesla Roadster. Without looking up stats, I think that the White Zombie might be faster. Definitely less expensive.

      1
  2. Stephen

    Cool little van.
    Once you rip out the electrics and stuff in a big block it’ll be one very mean machine 😁

    2
    • PDXBryan

      Hey Stephen
      Why not just go totally gonzo and drop a Tesla drivetrain in it? ;^)

      4
      • CapNemo CapNemo Member

        Screw Tesla.

        4
  3. Ken Carney

    Nice little van! I’ve been following EVs
    since 2011. These would be good to
    use after a hurricane providing you add
    solar panels to the roof to trickle charge
    the car as you drive it, and then charge it
    while it’s parked. I’d have to have 1 to 1
    drive as Mom and my niece can’t handle
    a manual gearbox. Brian, does your friend drive this van? I would if I threw
    that much cash at this van. Even though it’s tiny, I still don’t have room for it.
    What s fun vehicle to cruise at Oldtown!
    I think folks would get a real charge out
    of seeing it!

    2
  4. Russell

    Been looking at this weeks now. Wife loves it, I love it, don’t want to waste sellers time unless we get uber serious. Perfect Island car for us, and I already measured my garage space and I have just enough room.

    1
  5. Larry Tate

    Great writeup!!!

    1
  6. chrlsful

    “…Any thoughts on this one?”
    yes, looked so small I thought it wuz one of those Cushmans (“The White Van”) or whatever they were for plants & malls, amusement prks etc – don’t go over 30 mph…
    This 1s “a gasser that’s electric” (subie Sambar), eh?

    My Wayland could do what grease car did round here. Share the tech so we could swap over more cars. Change is needed…

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