Saturday, December 20, 2008

Vacation is Over

After a long "vacation" I'm back working on the car again trying to make the final push to finish it. I have been to Rome for a while since I last worked on it and I have been making repairs to the house. I was lucky that the insurance company was not stingy with their settlement so at the beginning of November, after returning from Rome, I started getting contractors lined up for the repairs. It has been very frustrating but finally they are almost done. All that remains is for the fence to be finished.

Now that I am back with the car I have noticed a curious issue. Back in October I bought a 33AH battery for the accessory battery. It seemed to be okay at the time but sitting for 2 months with the wiring connected it drained down to 2 volts and now I can't get it to accept a charge. It may be a bad one but I hope not since the warranty was only 30 days. I'll see if I can coax a charge in it today and I am also working on the gauges and lights so I'll try to get some pictures of that.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I'm Back!

Well it looks like the business trip that I thought was going to be short was a little more than that. I was in Algeria for a little more than a week and then went right to China for several weeks. While I was gone, Hurricane Ike struck here in Houston. Two trees fell on my house and caused a lot of damage. Here are a few pictures of the damage.

After getting the trees removed there were 5 holes in the roof along with the crushed part shown above. Now I have the joy of dealing with the insurance company and repairs. While waiting for that I started working on the car some more.

Before I left I had just received the air conditioning parts. I got them from a company called European Cooler Air in Rockwall, Texas. This is a great company to work with. Since the only real place to mount the condenser is the front trunk and there is limited room now that a battery rack is going there I talked with Jerry West at European Cooler Air and told him that I had only about 2 1/2 inches under the rack and asked him if it could work. He said that he could make it fit. The solution was to put the condenser below the trunk and mount only the fan and drier in the trunk. After a lot of cutting and fitting here is the result.

The receiver/drier is the long black tube on the left. I had to grind a little of the angle iron on the rack to make it fit but it does. I also had to modify the rear mounting of the rack to accommodate the large round hole. It's all bolted in and the hose connectors are tightened up. It looks like it will work. Here is a picture of the underside showing the housing around the condenser installed.

It's not a very good picture because everything is black but hopefully you get the idea.

I also worked on the front relay and battery rack wiring as you can see here.

The relays are ready to go along with the DC / DC converter. After a little caulking around the fan in the front trunk I will put this in an finish the front wiring. Up next is the installation of the blower housing in the passenger compartment.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's Alive!

Well, sort of.

Last Thursday a storm with fairly high winds knocked down a tree in my backyard which fell on the power lines, phone lines, and the cable line. I and several family members have spent the last three days cleaning up the damage. I was without power till this morning because the tree damaged the power meter as well as the line and I had to have an electrician re-build that. Of course it now has to meet the current code which cost more than just fixing the damage. Anyway, I got to work on the car for a few hours today. I had ordered the connectors from to connect to the serial port on the controller. I connected them today and powered up the controller.

I have only the back part of the car finished and the batteries are still on a shelf outside the car so I connected the cables to them temporarily and tried to run the motor but it would not run. The laptop connection worked so I tried to troubleshoot with that. I read in Ross's and Tim's blogs that the EEXNoIgnSwitch and EE2ShaftDirection variables needed to be set so I set them but it still would not run. After poking around for awhile I found one of the wires on the main interface connector was loose. After fixing that the motor now runs. I ran it up a few times with regenerative braking on and off. With it on it stops the rotation almost immediately after releasing the pedal. With it off the motor takes some time to spin down. I can't wait to try it out on the finished car.

The air conditioning equipment arrived last Thursday but I have not had a chance to look at it much. I'll have pictures soon. I will continue with the work in the front of the car after I make a brief visit to sunny (I hope) Algeria for a business trip. I should be able to continue the work in about a week.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rear Battery Rack Installed

Yesterday and today I got the rear battery rack installed and finished installing the motor and transmission.

The rear battery rack turned out to be a challenge because, like others before me, the rack did not fit in the space without some grinding. I didn't take any pictures of the grinding but the rear edges were binding on the suspension support so I ground enough to make it fit. Here it is installed.

The rack gets supported on brackets that bolt to the rear suspension and to brackets in the passenger compartment. This makes it a very strong rack. Here are the brackets in the passenger compartment.

Now I think I can put the backpad back in.

I also spent part of the day reattaching the drive axles and the clutch cable.

I also spent part of the day connecting the motor wiring to the controller. This turned out to be very frustrating. As you can see the big cable on the left is shielded.

The shield is supposed to wrap around a rubber grommet in the connector. This was extremely hard to do and get the nut back on the connector but after a couple of hours of twisting and tweaking it finally went on. The two cables on the right are temporary battery cable running to the batteries for testing. I want to test the motor and controller so I've ordered the pins to add to the connector on the controller from and I hope to get them tomorrow. If I do then I will gently test the motor to see if it runs.

Next up is the front battery racks. The air conditioning system I ordered should also be here tomorrow. I had it made so that the condenser would fit below the front battery rack. We'll see how that works.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Motor and Controller Installed

I have finally gotten the motor and controller installed in the car. I spent several hours getting them lined up and bolted in only to find that when I test fit the battery rack the motor is too high. I used the original motor mounts but they put the motor about 1/2" too high. I'll fix that later. I did not bolt the axles to the transmission yet in case I need to remove it all. Here are a couple of pictures of the installation.

I also got the most of the rest of the engine compartment wiring done. The only part not complete is the battery wiring. Here is the completed interface wiring.

Next up is getting the rear battery rack installed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More Progress

It has been a couple of days since I posted but I have been working on the car. I spent Sunday cutting and grinding in the engine compartment. Things like the old battery mount, the old relay board mount, the hood latch, etc.

Monday and Tuesday I worked on wiring in the engine compartment. This is phase one. Notice the three relays. One of them turns on the brake lights when the regenerative braking is activated. One of them is a charger interlock so that the car can't be started when the charger is plugged in and the other one keeps the car from starting if the accelerator pedal is pushed when the key is activated. The blank spaces on the terminal strips are where the controller wiring will be connected.

Yesterday I got the adapter mounted on the motor and installed a new clutch disk and pressure plate. As you can see it doesn't look anything like the old engine but it will mount to the transmission like the old one did.

I also worked on replacing the seals on the transmission. That turned out to be harder than I thought it would be till I got the right tool. A seal puller did the trick.

Today I got the motor and transmission mated together and ready to install in the car. Here's what they look like now.

Tomorrow I hope to get the rest of the engine compartment wiring done and the motor and transmission installed.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Work Resumes

Well I made it back from China on Thursday and after resting up I am back at work on the conversion. Today I got the controller and the potbox installed.

Here is the mount before adding the controller.

This lets the controller be slightly recessed so that I can still store the top back there.

Here it is with the controller installed.

As you can see there is no wire yet but that will come later. After getting this done I installed the potbox.

This converts the movement of the accelerator cable into a variable resistance so the the controller can vary the speed of the motor. You can see the cable coming in at the bottom.

Next up is installation of some relays.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The ICE is Melting

Over the last couple of days I removed the ICE components from the car. The first step was to drain the gas tank. There wasn't much to drain because I tried to use up all of the gas. I used the fuel pump to transfer the gas to this can and ended up getting about 2 gallons out.

Next I used the great engine removal procedure from the Pelican Parts tech articles. The transmission and engine are held in the car by 2 bolts at the engine and 2 bolts at the rear of the transmission. After disconnecting all of the cables, the gas lines, and the exhaust components it was a simple matter to unbolt the engine and transmission and lower them to a dolly on the ground. After that I separated the engine and transmission and here is the result.

I have the engine listed for sale in Craig's List. I hope it will be gone soon.

After I got the engine and transmission out the last thing to remove was the gas tank.

Here it is in the car.

And here it is out.

Now that the ICE components are all out of the car the conversion can begin in earnest. Next up is installing the controller.

But before I can do that I have to leave tomorrow for a week long business trip to China. Here's a preview of that.

This is the Great Wall which I visited on a previous trip.

Converion Parts

Before beginning the conversion I thought I would give you an idea of what it takes to convert a gas powered car to electric drive. Since the car will no longer be using gasoline to power it we need a different source of power. In this case the source is eighteen 8 volt flooded lead acid batteries. The battery voltage and quantity has been chosen to give a final output of 144 volts DC. Here are the batteries being stored while the conversion takes place.

The charger is connected to keep them at peak charge so no sulfation will take place. This battery charger is an intelligent one. It is programmed to provide the right charging curves for these batteries so that we can get maximum power and life span from them.

Now that we've seen the batteries let's take a look at the battery boxes. These will be where the batteries reside in the car. They are made of plastic with welded seams to resist and contain any acid spills. The box below will be installed in the former engine compartment and will hold 9 batteries.

This box will be installed in the front trunk and will hold 6 batteries. That small box on the front will hold the accessory battery which will provide the 12 volts DC that most of the standard systems need in the car.

And this is the rack that the box will sit on.

And this is the front trunk where this box will be installed.

This last box will mount in the former gas tank compartment and will hold 3 batteries.

And here is where this box will sit.

Now that we've seen how the energy will be stored let's take a look at how that energy will be used. Here's a picture of the motor.

This motor will replace the gasoline engine as the source of power to turn the wheels. It will use the adaptor below to mate to the existing transmission using the existing flywheel and clutch. It should provide a decent amount of torque to power the car.

And here is the existing transmission that I will use after fixing a few leaks.

One thing I haven't mentioned yet is how we drive a 3 phase AC motor from DC voltage. The controller accomplishes this trick.

The conltroller will be installed in the rear trunk.

It takes 144 volts DC in and produces a pulse width modulated 3 phase AC output. So it is sort of like 3 inverters linked together but it is actually much more complex than that. It takes a variable resistance controlled by the throttle cable and changes the width of the pulses to effectively vary the voltage output. This is similar to the way that a variable frequency drive works for controlling large motors. Both the motor and controller are made by Azure Dynamics which was formerly known as Solectria. They used to make the Solectria car. There are a few of these still around.

There are more parts to the conversion than this but these are the major components. Next up is to remove the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) components.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Restoration Complete

After more than a year the restoration is finally complete. The next thing I did was to put the engine and transmission back in the car so I could drive it a little. I had done the suspension upgrades needed for the additional weight of the batteries while I was restoring the car. I also wanted to test the transmission since I had not previously driven it more than a few blocks. This was important to me because I didn't want to do the conversion and then have to work on the transmission.

It turns out that it's a good thing I did this. I found that the transmission leaks at almost all of the places it could leak. Nothing bad but it needs to be repaired. As far as shifting it is great. So all I need to do is replace the seals. I hope this won't be too bad.

After driving the car for about a month I have now taken all of the ICE parts back off and I am starting the conversion. The rest of this blog will chronicle that process.

Restoration Begins

After getting the car home I got the car running enough to get a state inspection since I couldn't register it in Texas without one. I was surprised to find that everything worked after some cleanup so after getting it registered I took everything off and out and sent it to the body shop for paint. That took much longer than I expected but when it was finished I was happy with the work. While that was going on I was cleaning, painting, and powder coating everything I had taken off. I took all of the upholstery items to a shop and had them redone at the same time.

About two years ago I went to an EV rally in Palo Alto. What stuck in my mind after that day was that all of the homebrew conversions I saw were ugly cars. These were all cars that I would be embarrassed to drive. I decided than that I would not have an EV that looked like those cars.

During the time that the restoration was going on I ordered the 914 AC kit from ElectroAutomotive. I'm glad I ordered it when I did. It took so long to get it that I would have been very upset if I had finished the restoration and was still waiting for parts.

After getting the car back from the body shop I spent many more months re-assembling everything. This turned out to be much more work than I expected but the results were worth it.