Friday, December 16, 2011

Back On The Road!

The rear suspension springs arrived today. I installed them tonight and took it for a spin. Very nice. It seems to be sitting just slightly higher than stock, but not too bad.

This picture shows the originals, on the left, and the new ones custom made by Coil Spring Specialties in Kansas.

Also, this was the first time driving with the LEDs. All of the exterior lighting is now LED. They're pretty nice and use less power. These are all from in Missouri. They're a smart choice in a regular car if all you do is replace the interior lights. That way, if someone leaves that light on all night, your battery won't be dead in the morning. Not that I would know.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Charging Connections

I thought these charging connections were posted earlier; anyway, here it is now. This is where the gas cap used to be. It's a J1772 connection (from that takes 240V AC and there's a retractable 120V plug, too. In the upper left, behind the cap in this view, there is a green light indicating that charging power is available to the car. The 240V charges about 2 ½ times faster than the 120V. On the other hand, the 120V is available everywhere.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

12V Power Supply

A normal car has an alternator to provide 12V power to lights and all the other loads, and to keep the 12V battery charged. This electric car has a DC-DC converter instead. It gets high voltage (~280V) power from the main battery and converts it down to 12V. The first unit wasn't working the way I wanted, so I returned it and Belktronix modified it and sent it back. This is one of the advantages of choosing Made in the USA whenever you can. Here it is installed.

Shocks and Shock-free

While waiting for the rear suspension springs to be modified (~5 weeks), I replaced the shock absorbers with heavier ones.

I also assembled a relay box to ensure that the 120V plug is never energized while the 240V charging power is connected. It's pretty simple. Here's a sketch.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Clean Fuel Plate!

Wow, it arrived even sooner than expected. I'm just about ready to be pulled over by the police for being in the HOV lane!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Electric Registration

The Woodbridge trip went well and the paperwork just came back. This is a unique document. The plates should arrive later this month.

In other news, the rear suspension springs are on their way to Kansas for modifications (stretching?) that will raise the back of the car back up to its original height. The DC-DC converter (12V power supply) is back to the factory for repair since one of the posts came loose. The main battery pack has been balancing for days and is improving quite a bit.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Street Legal

Registering a car has never been so much fun! The inspection went without a hitch and all the mechanics came around for a good look. The emissions and exhaust checks were especially fast.

To get a Clean Special Fuel plate in Virginia requires a "permanent waiver", which means a trip to Woodbridge (so an expert can declare it electric) and then writing to the state capital. The regular plates will do for today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Inspection Ready

I just can't wait for the emissions part of the inspection. Hey! Where's the tailpipe?!

The power brakes are now powered and the all systems look to be ready to go. If all goes well, it'll pass inspection Thursday and be registered in Virginia. The plate reserved last Spring is "Z3 EV", which will be mostly meaningless to neophytes. Long ago, I had the plate "2F 2F", the meaning of which is known only to certain people. The non-classified explanation is that it was pronounced "too fast too fast."

Anyway, we have ~20 people visiting tomorrow for rides. It's a great group of folks and this should be a lot of fun.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

First Day as an EV

… and what a thrill! The main battery pack was charged and ready to drive when Bob arrived this morning. Wow! The car is quiet, yet surprisingly peppy. It feels like magic to accelerate so quickly and not hear the roar of an engine.

There's more to do to look into a vibration, get the power brakes powered, beef up the 12 V supply, etc. It's coming along great.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thursday's Update and a Short Video

Steve remounted and rewired the speed controller. Nice and solid. He configured it, too. The motor speed sensor will go on Friday and maybe the vacuum pump and parts related to the battery charger. It will probably be driveable Friday afternoon, but we're not getting home in time to try it out. He may take it around the block if it's ready. We'll get a chance on Saturday.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a gathering of EV conversion enthusiasts. This short video struck me as showing an interesting fact: *any* car can be converted to electric. You really have an enormous number of options in getting the exact car you want + electric.

Click here -> EVCCON Parade (2:36)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Batteries Complete!

I got home tonight and found Steve has all the remaining batteries in and wired!

The last component needed before it can drive as an electric car is the motor speed sensor. Definitely getting close.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday's News

Steve made an enclosure for battery electronics today and mounted it where the gas tank used to be. The rest of the BMS wiring is run, too. He also got the heater core out from under the dash. That's a relief -- I was dreading getting access to it.

The throttle unit is operated by the cable from the "gas" pedal and sends a 0-5 volt signal to the speed controller.

The old heater core had engine coolant running through it. The replacement will be a simple ceramic heater, similar in power to two hair dryers wired together. That will be more than enough to heat the interior, especially because it's a small car.

Wednesday should see the last batteries squeezed into place. And then ... ?

Monday, October 3, 2011

More Parts In Place

Since Friday, Steve has the air conditioner installed, as well as the emergency disconnect, the throttle arm, most of the really beefy power cables, more battery cells and some other items. It's getting closer every day.

We opened our home on Sunday for the solar tour ( and a lot of people came, even though it was raining most of the time. People have so many questions and everyone learns something, including me. There was a lot of interest in the electric car, of course. The idea that this simple batch of panels can power a long commute was especially appealing.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Today's Progress

Our office just got its first parking space for electric vehicles (EV). I should be using it some time next week.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Battery Boxes Ready

Steve's fabricated battery boxes for the front and rear sections. The front will hold 32 and there will be 48 cells in the rear.

The battery package includes the batteries, the charger and a Battery Maintenance System (BMS). The BMS from RCEV is fantastic because it automatically balances all the individual cells so they have the same voltage. This important task would have to be done manually without the BMS.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Speed Controller Mounted

This sends the power from the main battery to the motor according to the signal from the accelerator pedal.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Next, The Real Batteries

This is the battery box for the front. It goes low, behind the air conditioner radiator. There will also be one above it and three boxes in the back. The controller is in place now, too. It's above the motor. We'll get a photo of that tomorrow. This is the first battery box with the 12 cells:

I also rewired a retractable cord reel from Home Depot. It now has beefier wire. It will go where the gas tank used to be and feed the cord out the fuel filler door. That's for plugging into regular 120V outlets. We'll also have a 240V connector in there for faster charging. It's the EV style connector (J1772). Both are available here at the house.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First Ride!

Each day gets better and better. Today, we drove the car for a test ride. What a blast! We just had a standard 12V battery and held the wires together. Everything (i.e. motor, transmission, drive shaft) worked perfectly.

< click the photo to watch the video >

Thursday, we'll build boxes and mounts for the batteries and speed controller.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Motor and Tranny In Place

We have the motor and transmission lowered into the engine compartment and Steve has since made a piece to support the motor. The drive shaft is back together, too.

Wednesday will likely be the "first ride." This is really a test of the mechanical stuff just assembled. It uses a plain 12V battery to directly run the motor and move the car around.

Good Progress for the First Day

Every combination of transmission and electric motor is unique in how they bolt together. Steve is seen here Monday finishing the adapter plate he designed that morning.

Tuesday, we'll lift it into the engine compartment and measure for mounting.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Experts Have Arrived!

Steve and Audrey (a.k.a. Green Shed Conversions) arrived this afternoon. What great people! They're settling in and will get started in earnest in the morning. Steve will begin measuring and planning the layout. Audrey will go to Winchester Metals for angle iron and other metal to make the motor mounts and battery boxes. I will learn and try to help. Very exciting!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Batteries Have Arrived!

The Z3 battery pack is 80 cells (LiFePO4) and it all just arrived tonight. The poor driver got stuck in beltway traffic at rush hour.

This new lithium type doesn't have the problems with bulging and overheating that were in the news a while back. Compared to standard lead acid, they hold (I think) 2-3 times the energy and last much longer, too.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Charging Station Wired

OK, a "charging station" is really just an electrical outlet. There is now new conduit running from the back of the garage to a more convenient spot next to the garage door. It's 8 AWG, stranded and will be able to carry 70 amps at 240V.

It will also supply Steve's welder as he fabricates motor mounts, battery boxes, etc.

Next up: get out the old heater and replace it with ceramic.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Battery Cleared Customs

The battery cleared customs and should arrive in the next week. Other parts also arrived recently, such as fuses, switches and fittings.

The tires on the car were winter tires. So it's getting four new tires rated for about 150MPH. Not sure the car ever went that fast and doubt it ever will. These are the same rating as the originals, plus they have low rolling resistance.

It's coming together.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Delayed But Can't Complain

Well, our experts won't be able to make it here until Sept 18th at the earliest. It's disappointing.

I really can't complain because the setback began when they had their truck stolen, along with welding equipment, electric motors and a lot of other valuable stuff. The repair shop that "forgot" to lock up has no insurance or ability to help. Overall, I am very lucky and will gladly wait.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Back Together Again

Last night, I finished cutting up the gas tank and removed it. It's now in something like 20 pieces. That space might prove useful for a retractable power cord accessible from the old fuel door. The space below is open to weather, though, so it'll take more thinking.

Tonight saw the rear drive train reassembled. Now the car is off the tall jack stands and back on the ground. There are many minor things that can be done between now and Labor Day.

It's ready for Steve and Audrey!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


In high school, my best friend, Todd, had a Volkswagen with a gear shift and no clutch. It was a semi-automatic transmission. That's how this Z3 is going to work when it's electric. Put the gearshift in 1st and press the "gas". Then just let off and move it to 2nd.

In other news, I drilled a hole in the bottom of the gas tank tonight and drained it. Then... then... I started cutting it with the Sawz-All. Really. There's an opening in the bottom big enough to get the saw up inside and cut from there. More tomorrow.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Progress Pics

A very good weekend. Scott and Paul came today and we saw terrific progress. We got to the clutch disc and almost got the gas tank out. I'm trying to screw up the courage to follow the latest advice and take the Sawz-All to the gas tank. It actually worked well on the filler connection. Any other advice?

Engine Before Removal

Engine Closer Up

Engine Ready

Engine Out!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Eye Opening Project

I can't help but notice that, the further I get into this project, the more I see that is new and surprising.

For example, I stumbled across, not one, but three iPhone apps that find charging stations. Huh? Really. It's not just the number of apps, but the number of charging stations. Every Nissan dealer has a free one. When was the last time you filled up for free at, say, Exxon? Wow! There are five in Hamilton ($1.44/fill-up) and others along my commute -- even homeowners are listed and welcome visitors who drop by to charge and chat.

There's also the EVDL (Electric Vehicle Discussion List), an email list with a wealth of firsthand experience and info. One guy says his wife was extremely skeptical about range and getting stranded. However, as they ran errands together and got a feel for how it all works, she eventually realized it's no big deal and even was quoted as saying that she expected they'd never buy a gas car again. Wow again.

It goes on and on and it's exciting to be headed down this path.

The Engine Is Out

Wow! In one day, we got the old engine out. Mostly due to the expertise of Dave and Mark, this project is back on track. Simply amazing, every hurdle was easily cleared thanks to their expertise.

It's funny how empty it now is under the hood. Tomorrow's plan includes separating the transmission from the engine and sending the clutch disc to Steve. With that, he'll make an adapter plate to match the new electric motor to the transmission.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Turning The Page

Today was the last day the old engine will run in this car. I drained the coolant and the disassembly begins.

I definitely won't miss this engine or any conventional engine. A professional mechanic advised me to wear latex gloves during the work. Never did before, but many of the greases and oils cause cancer. Hmmm. I'm using gloves now. The coolant is the standard ethylene glycol, which is really toxic. The radiator stopcock valve should have been a simple turn and drain, but somehow it sprayed and spilled glycol all over the place. Maybe it was defective. Whatever. I used to enjoy working on engines a lot as a teenager, but really I just hate it now. In contrast to today's much more complex gas engine systems, the alternative is looking so clean and so much simpler.

Tomorrow, out comes the radiator and the exhaust system. I'm loving the direction that this is headed.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Speed Controller Arrived!

The Soliton 1 speed controller just arrived! This is the thing that uses a signal from the "gas pedal" and sends power from the batteries to the motor. It can send up to 1000A. It weighs 31 pounds — one beefy brick. That's a quarter next to it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hunting Wires

Last weekend was spent hunting down wires for ignition, start, brake, etc. Progress was good and next up are signal wires, like speedometer, tach, instrument lights and gauges.

Once the wires are identified, out comes the old engine for good!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Power Supply

How's this for a bumper sticker? "Solar: it's how we roll."

The power supply for the electric car will be primarily solar and wind. We have a set of panels on the house now and are adding a windmill this Fall. We are planning on more solar for the barn. It's the peel and stick kind that just fits directly onto a standing seam roof.

Here it is:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Motor Here

The electric motor arrived yesterday. It was agonizing. I was working from home (on a big deadline) and really couldn't do anything more than sign for it.

Tomorrow we're getting an engine lift. Before the old engine comes out though, the wires need to be identified. Tach sensor, tach display, instrument lights, etc.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Comparing Costs

How much does a car cost? The purchase price is just the beginning. Most of us stop there in our comparisons. A car is only useful when it carries us for miles and those miles require energy. Of course, that costs more money. How much?

Our Suburu Forester has 98,000 miles and gets 24 MPG. It has used… 98,000 / 24 = 4,083 gallons of gas. We'll simplify the price of gas, even though it changes. In the past, gas has cost less; in the future, it will cost more. For planning purposes, let's just split the difference and use today's prices. We're lazy and the answer is good enough. You get more MPG (more value) with higher octane gas, but we'll assume Regular since most of us are short-sighted cheapskates. :-D

Today's gas is $3.65 / gallon. Using that, the Suburu has consumed 4,083 gallons * $3.65 / gallon = $14,903 in gasoline. For comparing to electric cars, oil changes cost 98,000 miles / 3,000 miles per change * $50 per change = $1,633 for oil changes so far.

The total so far for gas and oil is $16,536. How much will you spend?

Electricity has a price, too. Most of us don't have a sense yet of what is a good deal in terms of KWH / mile. Still, it is typically a fraction of the price compared to operating a regular gas car.

The purchase price of an electric car is higher. With the tax break though, it turns out to be competitive. As gas prices creep up next year, it becomes an even better deal.

Serious Recycling

We were going to wait until the project was complete to post all this. But it should be interesting along the way, so here we go.

Susan and I picked up a donor car last weekend for conversion to electric. It has lots of miles and too few oil changes. It's 14 years old, a 1997 BMW Z3 Roadster.

The engine will be removed soon, along with the exhaust system and gas tank. We're hoping to sell the engine.

The plan is to add a WarP 9 electric motor, a Soliton 1 speed controller, a bunch of lithium batteries and a variety of smaller hardware.

The range should be 100 miles, enough for my daily commute to Tyson's Corner and back. That's twice the range of a Nissan Leaf. The office landlord is installing charging stations, too. All the better.

The performance may be on par with the original engine, maybe even better. Here's the first photo: