A Toyota 4Runner with a Nissan Leaf EV powertrain is taking on King of the Hammers – Roadshow

This 4Runner is electrified and almost ready to race.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

King of the Hammers is one of the most brutal off-road motorsports events in the world, taking place over the course of a week in the desert of Johnson Valley, California. It’s a place where 40-inch tires meet massive amounts of horsepower and torque to climb over obstacles in a way that defies physics. This is not a place where you’d expect to find an EV. Until now.

Kyle Seggelin and his team took the gas powertrain out of a 1986 Toyota 4Runner and replaced it with the battery and electric motor from a Nissan Leaf. Their plan: Race it in the Every Man Challenge at this year’s King of the Hammers. 

Seggelin’s 4Runner uses the first-gen Leaf’s 80-kilowatt motor, which produces 107 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque. That’s not a lot of power considering the team has added 1,000 pounds of batteries to the already heavy SUV. Because the Leaf’s motor has an output shaft, it can be driven with the 4Runner’s existing five-speed manual transmission. I can’t wrap my head around the logic behind this one, and Seggelin says the team wants to collect more data before swapping it out for something that’s more EV-traditional, like a single reduction gear. 

Battery packs store the go-go juice, but they add about 1,000 pounds to the 4Runner.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

The team has two sets of batteries that can power this electric motor. One is from a second-gen Leaf that can store 40 kilowatt-hours of energy and one 62-kWh pack from a Leaf Plus. The team expects to get one mile out of every kilowatt hour, but they haven’t had time for testing, so that’s just an educated guess. 

The team plans to start with the smaller batteries, which should easily get the truck to the first pit stop at race mile 17.5. At that point, the team will swap out for the larger batteries to get the truck through the next 55-mile loop. While Seggelin and his co-driver (his sister Dahlia) are out there doing their thing, the support team will charge the smaller batteries with a 12,000-watt generator. The team will then do another battery swap to make the final 18.5 miles to the finish line. 

The 4Runner is rolling on Raceline wheels and 35-inch Falken tires. Pro Eagle supplied the team with some jacks and Bend-Tech gave the team tube bending software. The long-travel suspension uses King shocks and it’s got ARB lockers front and rear.

Swapping out the gas engine for the Nissan Leaf motor leaves a lot of extra space in the 4Runner’s engine bay.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Seggelin isn’t some kind of EV expert, by the way, he just thinks electrification is the next wave in racing and he wants to be ahead of the curve. He’s using this project as a self-education opportunity. 

“I’m tech for sure, but my weakest thing is wiring,” Seggelin told me. “I don’t really understand electricity very well.”

When asked what he thinks the failure point might be, Seggelin told me he’s worried about the multiple connections. 

“The vehicle control unit needs to monitor voltage from each of the 192 cells,” Seggelin said. “If it sees a cell going too high or too low it will shut the car down. But even if the cells are OK, if a connection breaks, it will stop the car. So there are 192 connections, never mind the myriad other connections that were all made by a wiring expert.” (That last part was written in a sarcasm font, obviously.) 

Just a few members of the team that converted the 4Runner to run on electric power.

Kyle Seggelin

It’s not just Seggelin who’s put in countless hours in the garage on this crazy idea. The team has been working overtime since October to get the truck ready for this race, so big props to Will Barrameda, Charlie Pangelinan, Jeff Webb, Jaymes Massa, Mike Torrano, Rick Slagle, Danny Tran, Rob Gurski and Diego Ortiz.

You can follow along with Seggelin and his team (No. 2277) in the Every Man Challenge on Friday, Feb. 4, at 8:00 a.m. PT, at www.ultra4racing.com.

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