Monday, August 9, 2010

Free Drive

Congrats to a neighbor of mine who sold his Solar Bug company to W2 Energy. Here is a picture of him from a previous post.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Next EV

With a few lessons learned with the last 2 conversions I've been thinking thinking about and planning the next EV. This one to keep. Why a conversion instead of a Leaf? Our driving patterns are so limited that we don't need a new car with highway capability and the price of a leaf is way out there.

While the first car was aimed at low cost (40 MPH and 15 mile range), the second convertion, which did suffer a bit from the second-system effect, was mid-range performance (75 MPH and 40 mile range). Here are a few system requirements for the next car.
  • Donor - This time I can be really patient and wait for a donor that is in great shape (everything working), has good tires and fits our needs: 4 seater with a hatchback. Ironically, an '88 civic wagon fits.
  • Budget - I'm pretty sure I'll be constrained to under $4K, which could make things very interesting (i.e. it could take a while to find everything on sale).
  • Simple build - A donor with manual steering. While the end result of installing a manual rack in the del Sol was great, the effort was big. I'm also hoping to find a donor with manual windows to simplify things.
  • Batteries - I don't really want to battle bleeding edge BMS, charger and battery combinations (again). It will have to be something bomb proof. Perhaps Panasonic's acquisition of Sanyo will yield a bomber HEV or PHEV product that will also be cost effective.
  • Clutched vs. Clutchless - I throw up my hands because I really didn't mind driving clutchless but everybody says they need it.
  • 4WD - Ask me again in about 6 months. There are about 30 days a year here where you can't drive at all with out a 4WD. So, I guess I can ski...
  • Solar - Keep the solar panels at home (on the roof) let them collect while you drive.
  • Battery racks - They need to be versatile, to accomodate different sizes (future). Perhaps a pickup truck. Toss some lead in the back and replace them with LFP when the price is right?

Saturday, July 17, 2010


This EV enthusiast is taking it home today. While I'm a bit sad to see it go, I'm starting to think about what I'll do next. After hearing something rattling in the motor we found one of the spring clips for a brush had fallen into the armature. After we pulled it out, the rattling stopped but the brushes may need to be replaced. The armature looked ok, which is good news.

He plans use it as a daily driver. His commute is 25 miles each way and he can plug in at work, which is a good fit for the range of the car.

Body repairs

These body repairs will neutralize the rust and can be painted later.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


My son and his friend loaded the old seized engine from the del Sol into the back of our wagon along with some parts that I couldn't sell on craigslist like the alternator, starter and power steering pump. We got $12.06 for the parts as scrap iron.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


This DEA RM4, with built in circulating pump and thermostat, was on ebay. Since it won't be needed until this fall I'll wait until then to install it. It should fit right on the firewall. I've also included a couple of current pictures of under the hood and in the trunk.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

BMS end board

The MiniBMS has a simple single wire control for both HVC (high voltage cutoff) and LVC (low voltage cutoff). Basically, if the keyed input (12v) is off and any cell goes to too high (from charging) the end board cuts off the charger (through an AC relay). Then if the keyed input is on (driving) and any cell goes too low a buzzer sounds and ya gotta pull over. The end board can also be wired to cut the throttle in half. This is the BMS end board in a plastic box and the charger relay, not the neatest but pretty good considering all the things right there.

The tests for the buzzer and charger shut off went great. Now the only thing left on this EV is a vacuum pump, which really isn't needed because the disc brakes work really well. Here is the area with the lids on both the BMS and main control box.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fuel Gauge Driver

EV Works downunder makes a Fuel Gauge Driver for the original dashboard fuel gauge. The hardest part of the install was pulling the wire back to the fuel gauge sender. I used thermostate wire from home depot, 18/2, which has a double insulation. Once the wire was pulled and connected to the FGD I turned on the ignition switch and the gauge came up really slowly. As you can see it still needs a protective enclosure. Now the tach, speedo, temp and fuel gauges all work. I'll connect the BMS next and try to hook it to the OIL light, through the oil pressure sender.

I'll have to drive it and tune it, but at least for now it says I have gas in the tank. :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

MiniBMS Boards

The MiniBMS boards arrived and all of them are installed with a green led on. The boards went on pretty easy, except I had to remount the controller and the heat gauge sender to leave some room for the boards.

Notice, the one board could be pushed sideways to make room for a cable, nice.

Twenty boards on the trunk pack.

Heat gauge sender mounted on a copper tube strap.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Elcon Charger... finally

Surprise, it works! It turns out that the Elcon PFC 1500 didn't support 115v AC input so I ordered a PFC 2000+, (from EVolve Electrics) which provides 9A output for 115v input and won't go over the 15A limit on a household plug. While this is underpowered, I was going for versatility. It fits well between the cells under the hood. The MiniBMS should be here Monday. I'll get it connected next week, just in time for the nice weather.

Earth Day

MSU asked Ron and I to display our cars on campus and answer question for Earth Day. We got tons of response, especially from the engineering students. Even a couple of civic motor heads thought it was cool. The campus day care brought over about 25 kids and they all crowded around the car and asked questions. One girl said she had a plug-in flashlight. So I guess she got it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Honda del Sol ads

These Honda del Sol commercials from the '90s are out on windy, sunny, 30 months.

Today was warm and a good day to start on the body and shampoo the seats. What a difference that made. I guess it used to smell like teen spirit.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Time to wrap things up

Well now that the weather is warming I'm making a move to get the del Sol finished up. I'm going to use Dimitri's MiniBMS and an Elcon PFC 2000+ Charger. The Elcon web site has the output for the PFC 1500 listed as 8A for 115V input but I was told that is for 230v input so the actual is half that, 3-4A. But, the PFC 2000+ has an output of 144v/10A at 115v AC input and is only $130 more.

I've also had to replace the PB-6. It was the cause of my jerky startup. Notice this is a genuine "Curtis" product from KTA. "Beware of imitations".

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Parts Pitfalls

While trying to keep this blog just helpful comments about EV conversions, I've tried to stay away negative comments about parts suppliers. Because of my experience with EV Components, however, I have to suggest that you stay clear of them to keep your conversion on track. It is possible that you could have a problem free experience with them, but that is not my case.

I ordered LFP cells from them in June, was as promised delivery in August and didn't get them until late October. Same thing with the charger, ordered in September, was promised delivery in October and didn't get it until late February. Even then it was not the charger I bought and it was programmed for 120 Ah cells not my 100 Ah cells. I tried to reprogram the charger and exchanged several emails with them with no luck. So, I tried to return the charger (for either replacement or refund), expecting them to pay for the return, I was told by the CEO, James Morrison, "I'm done with you".

I've found EV Components to be extremely disfunctional, hard to get information from and downright rude. This is not the kind of company you want to buy parts from for a project that is supposed to be fun.

[Note: Apr 18]
Adding insult to injury, EV Components charged me a 10% restocking fee, for a non-working charger. And charged me for the return shipping of the loaner, which covered the lack of stock they had in the first place. Beware folks!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I drove the del Sol to Honda yesterday and it kept up pretty well with traffic, yet it was still a little rough handling. The alignment went well. All 4 wheels are now within original specs. Only the front left and the rear right are still off by a little. The tech at honda said the ball joints (upper control arms) didn't need replacing because the alignment tool wouldn't allow the alignment if the ball joints were bad. That will save me about $360 and some sweat, yeah!

Driving it home today was great, like butter! After remembering I was driving an EV I got the EV grin for the first time with this car. It still has a bit of a choppy startup and the charger needs programming but its starting to feel almost finished.

Monday, March 1, 2010


In September I ordered a Chinoz 144v/8a charger for LFP from After it didn't arrive for a couple weeks Dave Kois sent me a loaner Manzanita charger. I've been using that since but still wanted an onboard charger. Finally last week a charger arrived. On the website the charger I bought was listed as 10.2"x10"x5" and the one that showed up was and Elcon 144v/8a with the dimensions 14"x7"x5.5". So, it wouldn't fit in the bracket I had built for it a few months ago.

So I hunted around for a place to put the charger and found one in the battery rack. When the charger was finally hooked up to the pack I got a "Battery Disconnected" error from the charger. Dave Kois said the charger wasn't programmed for my cells and he eventually sent me another manual with instructions shown below. When I pushed in on the LED/button, it went into the case of the charger and didn't effect the programming. So this one's going back to whence it came.

Choice of Charging Curve (curve 1~10)
1.The LED will flash red several times when AC is first connected, then the LED will flash green once. The number of red flashes denotes the present curve. E.g. If the red flashes three times, it means the present curve is curve 3.
2.To choose another curve, please cut off the power supply first, then unpeel the label, pressing the button while connecting the power. If you want to choose curve 3, release the button after the 3rd LED Flash. Now the selected curve (e.g. curve 3) will be recorded in memory. If you want the charger to work with the selected curve (e.g. curve 3), cut off the power and reconnect it.
3. Factory customizes 10 charging curves before delivery according to customer demand. These are 10 combinations of voltage and battery size for the same battery type.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

FOR SALE: Paktrakr 800

I'm selling my Paktrak 800 with current sensor, serial cable, 4 foot remote extension cable and 6 remotes programmed for Lithium (48 cells). It was originally $751 and I'm asking $590. It is all in very good working condition. This would make a very cost effective battery monitoring system along with a BMS board like the EV Works BMS Cell Module or a shunt board like the Volt Blocher. Let me know if you are interested.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Manual Steering Rack

Earlier in the summer I had ordered a used manual rack from a '92 Civic, part number 53427-SR3-A01, for $90 from a salvage yard. After comparing the difference between the power and manual racks on the majestic honda site I also ordered 2 parts from Honda the "Grommet C, Steering Rack" 53503-SB2-010 and the "Steering Spacer" 53504-SR3-A00 for about $20, which Tim also mentions in his blog. Unbolting and removing the steering rack went well. The Haynes instructions say to remove the catalytic converter and the shifting extension arms.

I measured the distance to each of the tie-rod ends to help align the steering wheel. The manual rack went in easier than the power rack came out. But I wish I had done it before installing the motor and batteries. I'll drive it to Honda to get it aligned for $60. Removing the rack and installing the manual rack took about 8 hours. While this is a more expensive solution than a loop-back on the power steering fluid reservoir I think it is cleaner and handles better.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Quick struts

Since the del Sol had been lowered I knew the day would come to replace the springs. The big question was did anything else need replacing. Lowering kits usually just include the springs and can include struts too. The Tokico struts were pretty much toast so I ordered a pair of Quickstruts ($132.99 each), a stock spring and strut assembly, for the rear. It was pretty easy to remove the lower arm and drop the old struts but the outer bushing basically fell out. After calling around the cost of the lower arms ($97) from Honda was only a little more than both bushings and renting a tool to press them in place.

The new springs, struts and lower arm.

After taking the front wheels off it looks like the bushings on the lower control arms are good. Phew! That would have been much more work and $ replacing those.

Friday, February 5, 2010

EV Dashboard adds a BMS

The open source EV Dashboard project has added a new system, the Hardy BMS. A new beta specifically for the Hardy BMS, which also includes a Config tab and BMS Alerts is available.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bluetooth onboard

With a 5v voltage regulator connected to the keyed 12v the IOGEAR Bluetooth adapter on the Paktrakr now works without the 5v Kelly. I'll have to wrap up all the loose wires.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New controller & Kill A Watt

The Kelly KDH14800D finally arrived. It is larger than the B model and uses a 0-5k ohm throttle. So, I had to cut out the 5v input to the PB-6 because it was causing a ton of interferance with the potentiometer. The controller has great pick-up from a stop and could even accelerate from 30 mph pretty well. It topped out at 73 mph.

I drove 10.4 miles and recharged the pack. With a kill a watt meter it registered 4.47 KwH. So, 429 wh/mile. Hmmm, room for improvement? The brakes might be rubbing a bit, the tires need inflating, I was pushing the car to see what it could do and the Kill A Watt is measuring from the wall so it takes into account any loss in the charger.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Local EVs in the news

EcoAuto had a press release with Environment Montana recently and a few of us brought our EV's there.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kelly controller programming

I messed around with the controller programming today. It was pretty easy (doesn't work with Windows 7) and I set the Throttle start position to 20% and 30% and the performance was really bad, only 20 MPH with it floored. Fany at Kelly also had me set the throttle up/down to "lower" and at 20 it would take forever to "ramp-up" to speed and at 1 it would do better off the line but had a dead spot between 15 and 30 amps about. Very frustrating. I've asked them to let me return it unless they can suggest other settings.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bluetooth & test drive

We finally got some warmer weather, which motivated me to wire the IOGEAR Bluetooth adapter into the 5v output of the Kelly controller temporarily to allow the EV Dashboard to connect to the Paktrakr. I drove 10 miles and didn't find any EM interference from the engine or controller with the Bluetooth connection. The Kelly can only consistently put out a max of 120-130 amps but no more. The acceleration from the line was good, but not great. Also, at about 4500 RPM, in any gear the motor made a high pitched whine and reduced power. The SOC% went from 88% down to 52% for 10 miles.

One thing did suprise me, while accelerating, the LFP cells all dipped well into the "low" range below 2.75v (120v pack total). And they snapped back up to 3.2v (144v) when I let off the gas pedal. That's still a usable term isn't it? "gas pedal". This indicates that a low-voltage cut-off on the controller at anything above 2.75v would fail.

After adjusting the throttle and changing the Paktrakr amp sensor I drove it again, 10 miles. It topped out at 68 MPH and could sustain 140 amps. Better, but not the 250 amps in the Kelly specs, which I thought it could do.