Thursday, August 13, 2015

Now it's on!

After increasing frustrations with my flooded nicad pack, I'm finally making the upgrade to Lithium!  As sadly happens often in this hobby, one project died that another might live.  I purchased a full inventory of conversion components from the widow of a gentleman who obsessively ordered parts for his planned Corvair conversion while in a cancer ward, but he never made it back into the garage.  Most of the components are now energizing a brand new conversion by a first-timer who needed a good buy, but the battery cells remained with me, and have been rounded up from 38 to 60 cells with matching inventory from good 'ol Don Blazer of Portland OR, who has organized many group buys over the last decade.

So, out come the nicads, destined for second lives in other projects, and in goes 19.8 kWh worth of lithium that should be more reliable and live through more cycles than any OEM vehicle.  That's saying something, because I've been very impressed with the pack management in my Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which shows no measurable degradation after 42,000 miles in two years of driving (three years after manufacture, as this car sat on the dealer lot for a full year before I purchased), and between it and the first i-MiEV, I'm at over 65,000 i-miles.

Back to the transplant.  I expect improved performance, which had been stuck at a 16.8 second, 81 mph quarter mile due to severe voltage sag in my nicad pack.  Range should also improve from 30 miles on a prayer with the 7.2 kWh of nicads to a confident 80 miles with the lighter weight 19.8 kWh pack of CALBs.  My 62 mile-rated Mitsu is capable of over 80 miles of sedate driving on local roads in summer from its 16 kWh pack, and in back-to-back tests, the Karmann Eclectric has delivered the same 200 Watt-hrs per mile efficiency when driven on the same route in the same manner (and that was on big sticky performance tires!).

Here's the front pack layout, 2x11 cells.

And here's one of the two rear subpacks, each holding 19 cells.  It always amazes me how much work it takes to figure out how to fit stuff in there in a matter that looks obvious in the end...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Is this thing on?

I just noticed that the Google overlords have actually updated some of the blogger features, and am just running a quick test.  Neglect of the user interface has made insterting new photos on Blogspot difficult for some time.  The Karmann Eclectric is currently undergoing a battery rebuild, but the end is near.  I've reinstalled four of the five original subpacks.  The fifth, which was behind the driver's seat, is being eliminated because it prevented full seat travel, was most at risk of a short circuit, and allowed driver weight to imbalance the car (which rarely carries a passenger).  I've cleaned the cells and hardware, beefed up the hold-downs, and configured the cells into buddy pairs, effectively giving 60 amp/hr cells rather than 30 ah.  I'm also adding 48 cells in the rear compartment to offset those lost from behind the driver's seat, and these are being contained in aircraft battery boxes for greater safety and serviceability at the expense of some added weight.
This pack rebuild came about because Karmann Eclectric was selected as a beta tester for J1772-enabled charging from Manzanita Micro!  This means that our classic EV will be able to hook up to the newfangled 'idiot-proof' public charging stations without any adaptors, switches, or twiddling of knobs!  Manzanita is giving some new guts to ye olde PFC20 while I install the new vehicle inlet and rejigger the cabling...
The first version didn't quite work with most public charging stations, but I've just received version 2 from Manzanita, and am eager to get back on the road!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tow a what with who?

* Apologies to my dear readers, as Blogger no longer seems to be importing my photos from Dropbox.  Hopefully I can substitute real photos for the clunky links soon.

An astute observer may notice that all of my vehicles get hitched.  That's right, though I believe in plural vehicular marriage, all of these vessels should be capable of carrying my loads. 
Sometimes, a hitch might be retasked for something other than traditional trailer towing.  Load platforms are one excellent example,
bicycle carriers are another;
and the previously mentioned pusher trailers are another.  Of course, pusher trailers don't have to be petroleum-powered.  For some designs, chicken nuggets will do just fine.
Sometimes, there really is a trailer that needs relocating, and it's just the tow rig that needs substitution.
And you thought I was joking?  After all, my buddy needed the Burley, and it's very cold and foggy tonight!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gearing up for Friday

Stephen Johnsen created this fine design for Friday's little get-together.  No great expectations, as I know that Karmann Eclectric's battery pack is the weakest link, but I haven't had a timed run on record with the motor wired in parallel.  I've also picked up a pair of 205/75R15 tires, which will add 6.7% to the tire circumference, and requires 50 fewer revolutions to the mile (or 12 fewer to the quarter-mile).  At a minimum, it should improve trap speed from 78 to 83 mph.  If we get into the 14 second range, it'll prove a rousing success. 
Last item before the race is trying to add a remote to the differential locker, as it's a pain to keep crawling under the car to reposition that pin! 

Update: It's apparent that the batteries are doing all they can, and tinkering with the other pieces is doing little to nothing.  HowEVer, the car ran reliably and consistently, with all four runs within 0.5 mph and 0.4 seconds.  79.9 mph and 16 seconds is where she'll be until new batteries can be installed.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Gettin Rangy

When recently EV-aluating my lengthy list of projects and want-lists, it suddenly became apparent that only one would offer maximal benefit to both the Karmann Eclectric and the iMiEV for minimal cost and risk.  Most EVery EV'er would want to have his range and eat up the track too, but those are usually exclusive attributes.  For me to build a battery or genset-based range extension trailer for the Mitsubishi would involve serious hacking of OEM systems and a near guarantee of a voided warranty.  The genset trailer has already been proven on Karmann Eclectric, but EVen at a steady 3KW into the pack, it only adds a max of 10-12 miles of range to any single trip.  HowEVer, a pusher trailer would give nearly unlimited highway range to the Karmann, and could also operate behind the iMiEV with the factory controls none the wiser!  When being pushed, the i should simply think that it's on a downslope, and allow coasting or regen, whichEVer I command.  In order to make the pusher easily transferrable between vehicles, I plan for wireless accelerator control via an aftermarked cruise control by Rostra that also features vacuum-free electric throttle actuation...
For safety's sake, I'll use one hardwired switch in each vehicle to enable/disable the ignition.
So for those of you who haven't followed this SEVEN YEAR dream, the basic idea is to use an aircooled VW drivetrain to push the EV down the highway, with very simple controls that will leave the tranny in 4th gear and clutch depressed until one is at highway speed, and then energize the ignition and dump the clutch, which will make the pusher roar to life, with remote throttle control.  For safety, one can kill the ignition at any time, adding full engine braking to the vehicle and trailer's service brakes...  Otherwise, when taking an off ramp, one would throttle down the engine, energize a linear actuator that disengages the clutch, and then shut down the engine in a civilized manner...

I'd been hesitant to hack up a Ghia pan to launch this experiment, even though the donor car was terminal, because it would be difficult to do without looking like a hack, and probably have more tongue weight than desired.  Then it struck me that a Type III VW (Notchback) rear subframe was made for the job.  The thing even already includes a tongue that gracefully finishes off the wishbone which holds the engine and tranny.  Now I can add a trailer coupler in place of the original rubber front body mount, possibly even without welding...(or just use a pintle hook).
Has a subframe ever been nominated for a beauty prize?
And of course, my favorite parts scrounger from the Samba, ProjectVW would have one a a great price! 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Staying planted required triangulation, and can lead to Gettin Hitched!

I've meant to add some detail on the mighty fine truss bar set that was provided by Lanner Khan of V-Dub Engineering.  It was a complicated job that involved a lot of trimming and fitting to weld four mounting tabs to the wishbone thta holds the tranny and motor, and four more tabs to the upper shock mounts.  This was made possible by the welding skills of Roger Wright, along with the loan of a wire feed welder from Good Neighbor Tom. 

The five truss bars were installed in the spring of 2010, but the rear end was not finally finished until the trailer hitch took shape in the summer of 2011.  A TRAILER HITCH, you say?   Why of course.  Who would waste such colossal torque on a subcompact commuter that has only modest drag-racing ambitions without also ensuring that one can also tow a boat, a boatload of extra batteries for range extension, or even another half a ghia
So, since the Gene Berg bus-to-bug transaxle adaptor was already over-beefed, that was a logical mounting point, and since the original front transaxle mount was no longer in use, that made for a nice forward mount.  Most trailer hitch receivers add at least 25 lbs of dead weight to the car when not in use, even without a ball mount, so I wanted to eliminate that penalty.  The final solution was to drill a couple of holes through the beefiest point on the tranny mount, and pin on a step-bumper-styler 2" receiver that had been modified with a couple of angle iron brackets on top.  Then I passed a 5' piece of 2" square tubing forward and inserted it into a "duckbill" bracket that prevents both horizontal and vertical torque on the rear mount, but still lets the rear mount handle all of the pushin and pullin....  take a moment on that...

Friday, March 30, 2012

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So after wishing I could throw in the towel on this bb600 pack aftermultiple incidents of spewage, ground and interpack shorts that melted holes through a dozen cells, and apparent loss of capacity down to about 16 Ah, Karmann Eclectric didn't get a lot of use after a fall recommissioning of the pack, but I cycled it a few times over the winter, took a few short drives, and got the Onan range extending genset trailer working, due largely to a lack of confidence in the pack. The car seemed to be sulking, especially when I added a 2012 Mitsubishi iMiEV to the fleet! Well, it seems that the pack was actually ready for prime time once again! Tonight, with a pack temp of 50 deg and outside temps a few degrees lower, I topped off the charge and took the car for a diciplined 45 minute drive, covering a 27 mile loop with only 4 stops at intersections, for an average speed of 34.8 mph and a peak speed of 68 mph (climbed up and coasted down a 127 foot incline twice at speed, with many other smaller climbs). The 200 cell pack came off a peak charge of 333V and rested at 305V after about 15 minutes, with 0.1 Ah of parasitic consumption before takeoff. I set off with headlights blazing and pulled into the garage 45 minutes and 27 miles later, having consumed a total of 31.1 Ah, or 6.82 kwh. That's 1.148 Ah per mile, or at an estimated average V of 230, a battery-to-wheels efficiency figure of 264 Wh per mile. Next time I'll reset the EMeter to report kWh instead of Ah, and then it'll be time for some data collection with the range trailer hooked up!

Not bad, considering that this was at night in a car with a very heavy-duty transaxle and series motor, while my iMiEV consumed 257 Wh/mile during a 51 mile conservative daytime drive (though it's the current king of regen, that trip was mostly highway). Hey, guess it's time to hit the road again and drive that same loop in the i!

Back on the road, and the iMiEV made the same run in the same time with apparent consumption from the pack of 7 kwh. Sorry, the guessometer doesn't get any more accurate than the nearest kwh per bar on the graph. That would match the Ghia's performanceof 6.82 apparent kwh. (I minimized regen by shifting into neutral and coasting or braking as required to better match the Ghia driving style.)

So Mitsu, whassup with that? You produce the most efficient vehicle ever rated by EPA, and it's no better or maybe EVen a bit worse than a homebuilt drag racer cobbled together out of surplus and rebuilt castoffs and a heavy truck tranny? Time for more tests and better instrumentation!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

To Make a Jelly Bean Fly.....

The iMiEV may look smooth, but with a Cd of 0.35,  it ain't exactly streamlined.  That round rear is not optimized for aerodynamic drag, and the slotted wheels aren't necessary when there's such little braking heat to dissipate, due to strong regenerative braking.  So, the DIY community has long cooked up little modifications like salt flat discs, fender skirts, air dams, belly pans, duckbills, rear visors, and even boat tails!  Here's a rendering of what some of those mods might look like on an i.  Here's also a link to a Dutchman who made the best DIY removeable boattail that I've seen. 
This quickie drawing shows what an iMiEV might look like with disc wheel covers, rear fender skirts, and two different options on the rear.  In black, I echoed the rear passenger window profile.  This could be done nicely in black lexan, and be semi-permanently affixed to the hatch.  A sharp rear edge would make better aero, but for the sake of buildability and artistic license, I chose a curve. 

In grey is the outline of a possible Kammback boat tail.  For you sailors, you'll recognize the concept of 'waterlining'.  Stretch out the same or even a bit more mass into a longer, more streamlined shape, and you'll reduce drag.  This one follows the rear body curves as closely as practical without actually touching, and has a sharp rear cutoff as dictated by good old Mr. Kamm

Here's a graphic of one of the few spoilers scientifically designed for drag reduction rather than downforce.  Too bad they're not commercially produced.  Time to start whittling!

And the Texas Mile winner in October 2011 chose a simple duckbill for drag reduction rather than a downforce spoiler.  If a high po Corvette doesn't lift at 245 mph, d'y'all rice boys really think that a wing's gonna help your Civic

So, the easiest among the above winners would be to simply add discs to the rims.  I went a notch up from JC Whitney's offering, but not quit Mooneyes pricing, and got the Taiwanese-made CCi brand, and am very pleased with the heavy gauge metal (yeah, adds a bit of rotating mass but doesn't dent when I push 'em on), excellent finishing, and positive lock on the wheel..  Still don't know how difficult they will be to remove, but I've got the right nylon pry tools. 
I'm thinkin it looks EVen better at night.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ever wonder why they don't make gasless donuts?


What you can't see in the vid is the gleeful face of my passenger; a mom from Ruthie's 5th birthday party who after hearing a burnout on the last demo drive said, "Yeah sure, let'er rip!"
But this one was sorta loose, as I didn't even engage the locker. That's for when you wanna pirouette on the front axle! ;-p

Service- my i!

All proper homebuilt EV's have some manner of emergency disconnect that the driver can use to mechanically disconnect the battery pack for either emergent or prudent purposes, such as when servicing the car. Not so with the OEM EV. My i has a 'service plug' to interrupt the high voltage system, but it resides in cramped quarters below the driver's seat, beneath a wing-nutted metal cover.

Not something one can easily access when the pedal sticks at highway speed! (at least our cars have one failsafe in the EVent of 'unintended acceleration'- you only have to avoid obstacles for 20-30 minutes at speed before the car runs out of juice!)

Being undeterred by the multilingual warning label, I removed the safety disconnect's safety cover.
Below here, one operates more on feel than sight, pulling forward the orange lever and lifting up the plug.

The insert has two not-oversized pins for the traction power, and two little signal pins that probably carry 12V. It snaps back in position as easily as it comes out, and the car comes back to life, memories intact.
Happy Motoring!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Since makin my own Volt was so much fun, I had to see how it compares to the real thing... Sooo, I dropped by the Chevy dealer and inquired if they had one available. Turns out they had ten! Also turns out they were so eager to deal that I got basically a "do-over" offer that would take the i-MiEV off my hands like it had never happened and start over with a loaded Volt at below MSRP! OF course, that would only mean that I have twice the tax credits waiting to be audited, and an additional $10k of debt, so at this point, I don't think it's worthwhile. If we didn't need more than four seats for a road-trip car (nearby grandparents that no longer drive highways, I'd be all for retiring the minivan and getting more Voltage). The Volt drives very nicely. It certainly accelerates better than an iMiev, though may not be quite as responsive as a Leaf... it's been a while. They've done an awesome job of eliminating wind noise, though if you only lower one rear window at practically any speed, the buffeting could pop an eardrum!
I drove it hard for 33.2 miles,consuming 10.1 kwh over 26.8 all-electric miles (for an average 373 watt-hours per mile (after 423 wh/mile during my first very spirited run), and in range-extending mode, an apparent 24.6 mpg. Consuming only 10.1 kwh from the 16 kwh pack before the charge was depleted could have been troubling, but this Volt only had 4 miles on the clock, and had been sitting for quite some time. The onboard display is reading August 25, 2011! I'll check the door jamb sticker to see if that's the build date, or maybe that's when the house battery last ran out of juice! IN the meantime, I'll enjoy a few more miles on this overnight test drive, and hope that the wife doesn't read this posting while she works the graveyard tonight.... Won't Mommy be surprised when she gets home in the morning!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

BYOV (build yer own Volt)

Yessiree, us bootstrap EV'ers don't cotton to all the attention that Johnny-come-lately General Murders has claimed with their so-called electric vehicle, the "Volt". If somebody wants an electric car that drags around an engine just in case one needs a charge on the fly, that's so old school. BUT, Karmann Eclectric has yet to have the heady experience of drinking while driving, so I figured it was about time...

What we have here is an oooold ONAN Emerald generator set, first salvaged by John Wayland in the 1990's and used for trackside charging and an historic range-extended run to Mt. Hood, briefly mentioned in this obituary for the Red Beastie..

Anyway, the gencart had sat for years in another EV'ers back yard before I acquired it, and then I sadly let it languish for another six years before today's test. With the help of an old-timey neighbor of EV Expert Tim Ritchey, we got it running again, and after a fresh batch of fuel and warmup, it proceeded to pump out enough current at 160V to maintain over 12 amps of charge current(after charger losses) at 260 to 300 volts into my pack. Then during the road test, when heavy throttle application sagged the pack below 180V, the charger put out as much as 18 amps! I dunno what special sauce Wayland put into the little twin cylinder Emerald back in the day, but the electrical components were still cool after a solid hour at over 3kW output. This little gencart may be much more practical than I hoped! With the generator mounted on it's rubber dampers aboard a trailer hanging out behind the Karmann Eclectric, there wasn't any noticeable increase in vibration compared to pulling dead weight, and the noise was still significantly less than my aircooled Volkswagens! All in all, I'll call this Revolted Volkswagen a success! However, the generator immediately tripped the safeties on my J1772-compliant SPX EVSE, so it's not ready to charge a modern EV....... More to come!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Calendar Girl!

Now, I've never specified a gender for the Karmann Eclectric, but with those graceful curves, consternating circuits, and ten-year meandering path towards every day realiability, could the car be anything but female? If so, it's entirely appropriate that she's featured in the new wall calendar of the National Electric Drag Racing Association!
Not being a record holder, the Karmann Eclectric doesn't get a month to herself, but has the privilege of sharing June with the most exciting new conversion in the Northwest; the Delta Secondary School drag-racing electric pickup, built by high school students, and Canadian ones at that! (No offence there Casey, my favorite mother-in-law is a Canadian, and BC'er at that, eh!)

Buy my i, but why?

I've been enjoying the little i for a month now, and have put just below 1000 miles on 'er (including one week of zero use due to an ice storm). At that rate, just running errands and commuting at an average of 47 miles per day, i'd be on track for 17,000 miles per year! Pretty impressive for a grocery-getter. That's exactly the mission i and Mitsubishi intended for the i, but i want more... With the Electric Highway rapidly becoming a reality (DC Level III charging stations up and down Interstate 5 in CA, OR, WA and even BC), i'd really feel left out to have a car not capable of ChadeMo quick-charging for the odd excursion to Seattle.
SO, the little i-car is on the block, available for purchase to anyone, whether down the block or across the pond. I'm hoping that a cordial Canadian, a comely Carribean creature, or even a chilly Chicagoan who otherwise wouldn't have local opportunity to purchase this vehicle for many moons yet will step forward. I'm no tax advisor, but this may be a great opportunity for someone with less than $7500 in federal tax liability, such as a retiree or a nonprofit organization to get a nearly-new and entirely proven EV for way less than dealer cost. Interested parties are encouraged to send questions (or offers) to jray3 at aol dot com. The car is also listed on EBay, item# 190635141816.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Okey dokey, there's plenty of pretty pictures of the i-car online, but nearly none of the business parts. So I'll hereby lift the lid to show what makes the car go.
Here's detail of the rare rear DeDion suspension, also used on the 1990's Ford Ranger EV. I don't fully comprehend the concept yet...

Next is a look at the motor and gearbox. Check out that big aluminum torque arm with vibration damper! The sealed boxes above are the battery charger and dc/dc converter. Notice the hose? I believe they're water cooled. You can hear the pump cycle during charging, a very different sound from the battery box blower.

Under the front hood, everything's neat, tidy and CLEAN.

Check out that easy-access brake system manifold over the electric booster. Just crying out for a line lock on the front circuits, eh? Nothing like a bubble-car burnout machine!

(also notice that formatting blog posts hasn't gotten any easier over the years. Thanks Google!)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Got my i

i took delivery of a 2012 Mitsubishi iMiEV on 12/29/2011, an SE model in Cool Silver.
The bubble is a blast to drive. Yes, with only 70 kW at about the same weight as the 170 kW Karmann Eclectric, it doesn't have the same traction issues and uncontrolled acceleration that seem to plague my yellow car, but with user-selectable regen levels, there's a whole new dimension of civilized fun. It appears that in Eco Mode, full power is still available, one must just press the pedal further down, but regen is much more noticeable than in Drive. Downshift into B Mode, and the regen feels like a 5th-to-3rd gearchange in my olde Miata! It regens down to just a few mph, and feathering the brake pedal brings the regen up to max before the friction brakes are engaged. Try as I may, I've been unable to identify the vacuum pump sound, which has been a bane of many conversions. All in all, this promises to be a fun ride, so stay tuned.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

1000 Amps vs 30 amp fuse

After a recent work session, I forgot to reconnect the 12V signal to my front contactor, which is a backup unit that disconnects the pack when the key is switched off, but bypassed with a 30 amp ATO fuse in order to allow battery charging. Well, the car will drive just fine around the neighborhood at under 30 amps, but here's what happens when you stomp the go pedal!

The paint damage is permanent, but luckily, the overvolted body didn't blow my instruments.

And yes, Mr. Anonymous, I was using a dramatically under-rated fuse, having allowed a quick fix to remain too long, and this incident does demonstrate that any old fuse will carry the rated amps, but only a properly-rated one will safely interrupt too many! There's a nice sand-filled cartridge in it's place now.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Seeing Blue

The promise of plug-n-play simplicity and economical multipurpose metering led me to finally purchase the Blue Window by EV Blue Motors . Bill and Co. were a a pleasure to work with in accomodating a few custom touches to handle my high amp-high voltage nicad pack, the installation was as simple as promised, and the thing JUST WORKED right out of the box.

I have a couple of bugs to sort out, such as EMF interference due to my use of an unshielded AV cable in proximity to high voltage wiring, but for the money, I'm quite pleased. The biggest relief is to finally have a tachometer display, and it was also comforting not to have to add any holes to my dash. An in-dash flip-up DVD player provides the readouts. I chose a model without the retractable screen, reasoning that it would be more durable, and I want to have it visible at all times the car is in operation. (Simply ground out the handbrake interlock to enable in-motion video.) But of course, never play a DVD while in motion.....

Of course, even though the player has a "single DIN chassis", I had to trim the virgin radio opening by 1/8"...

To add clearance for the dash pad and still have a decent viewing angle, I fabricated a new bezel, or spacer ring out of 3/16" x 1" aluminum strap. Now to deal with that increasingly ratty nest of wires out back...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Introducing the 48 Volt Vegan

Long-time followers of the Karmann Eclectric may be familiar with our protagonist's propensity to pursue diversionary projects well before completion of the mission at hand. Well, once again, a fortuitous turn of circumstances presented a long-desired opportunity that was too good to pass up. Being in possession of a full acre of suburban bliss, we found ourselves disturbing the peace with somewhat regularity due to the requirements of lawn care, and the dominant paradigm of closely-cropped lawns via infernal combustion.
So, the only way to stay in good standing with the homeowner's association, reduce my fuel consumption, and create the coolest mower on the block would be to convert one. Not wanting a run-of the mill electrified piece of Crapsmanship, I'd been watching the exploits of both the US Lawn Mower Racing Association, and learned that most modern lawn tractor transaxles simply can't handle serious power, and then joined the followers of one of the most durable lines of garden tractors ever made, Simplicity. It so happens that the Sumner High School Auto shop received the donation of an orphan Allis-Chalmers Big Ten, vintage 1965, but couldn't get it running, and the local EV Expert Tim Ritchey had on his hands an engine-less twin to the Big Ten, a somewhat later Simplicity Sovereign. Why involve two tractors? Well, one has a pristine mower deck, and the other a stout functional tiller. Put 'em together, and Sumner High can have the homecoming float tractor that they desired, and I can have a killer, combustion-free, competition-ready, true Garden Tractor.

Here's our twin victims...
You'll notice the family resemblance, they share the same frame, but some cosmetic, cost-based, and slight mechanical changes were made over the years....

So, business buddy Eirik O'Neal came over to help begin the conversion last weekend, and we made good progress, verifying that a 6" Advanced DC acquired in trade with the EV Expert had a matching shaft to the decommissioned Briggs and Stratton horizontal shaft engine. We penciled out the dimensions of a required adaptor plate, and generally familiarized ourself with the tractors, selecting the Simplicity as my tractor, due to both it's clearer title status and narrower cowl, which would simplify battery placement. The Allis Chalmers mower deck should transplant nicely...
Here's the first mock-up with motor.

The next weekend, there was a change of cast, and Dean West came over for a turn on the Vegan. He and I mounted a 'proof of concept' wooden motor mount, and good neighbor Tom happened to have a woodruff key that matched the motor! We got it installed and aligned as well as we could, running the motor on 12V to fine-tune it's alignment and eliminate vibration. Once the motor was mounted and shimmed, it was time for a test drive. We knew from a hot jumper cable that it was pulling too many amps on 12V, so quickly rigged a 24V pack, and prepared for an inaugural test drive on electric power- Frankenstein Style, complete with a gawker gallery.


Saturday, February 05, 2011

Taking a shine to that name.

The Karmann Eclectric Voltswagen has lived most of it's life without a proper badge. That's right, the fancy logos you've seen online for years were nowhere to be found on the car! But finally last summer, with the help of Bob Powell's Meadow Creature, LLC. and Vashon Image Works, I was able to transform Monk's logo adaptations into gleaming chrome automotive emblems. Just like a 'real' car, you say? Well, not quite. Most automotive emblems these days are cheap pressed plastic, and back in the day they were either chrome-plated pot metal, or somewhat stronger aluminum, but especially with the fragile Karmann Ghia decklid script, few emblems remained intact beyond the car's first life. Well, here's a couple that should be mounted on my grandchildren's mantel, should the Karmann Eclectric EVer meet an unfortunate fate....

Feast your eyes on thick, solid Stainless Steel, computer-cut by an OMAX water jet milling machine.

After polishing with my trusty Dremel tool and hand-bending to match the decklid curvature, I used 3M Emblem Adhesive Tape, another one of their miraculous products. It's like contact cement on release paper. No messy spreading, spraying or trimming required.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What a Summer It Was

Those of you who have followed the long and sometimes sad tale of the Karmann Eclectric may recall that the car finally hit the dragstrip in July at the Wayland Invitationals, and produced a promising 17.4 second, 74.8 mph run with several similar backups. Nothing to write home about, but not bad for a newby driver in a 40 year old car that's carrying 800 lbs of extra weight on skinny 165 mm tires and powered by a salvaged motor that was originally rated by it's manufacturer as 20 horsepower...

Eager to show this capability and more to the aircooled VW crowd at the Northwest's biggest annual VW show, I detailed the car and finally put some sticky rubber on the 6" wide Porsche phone dial rims that had been waiting patiently for a new lease on life ever since the poor 924 Turbo that they debuted on met an untimely end.. After washing the car, I carefully toweled a few drips off of the controller and let it sit in the sun for hours before driving it uneventfully into it's enclosed trailer for the trip south to Portland. The next moring, my venerable Godzilla 1800 amp controller, serial #003, which had reliably pushed the White Zombie past 100 mph so many times, refused to come out of it's cave. Thinking it must be a minor fault, I rolled it out and proceeded to spend the next four hours troubleshooting the car in increasing frustration before having to recruit passers-by to help push it back into the trailer, because of course, today would be the day for my Harbor Freight winch to crap out....
Turns out that some moisture had migrated under Grandpa Godzilla's skin, and it was more than his old heart could take. The power stage died quietly, rather than in spectacular fashion as they have been known to do. One photo mailed to the maker was all that would be required to seal his fate- dead, unrepairable, and to be consigned to the trophy case of John Wayland.

HowEVer, our story can't end there, because generosity knows no limits on the Plasma Boy racing team. Upon hearing the news, JW asked if I'd be able to come down a little early for the races, because he happened to have a spare controller that he would be happy to help me install and use, since the White Zombie was in good shape and pretty much ready to go. Yep, that's right-the man offered a brand-new, out of production Zilla 1K controller, unavailable at nearly any price, and at any rate, not warranted for racing use, with no strings attached.

After gathering my composure from the floor, I profusely thanked John, told my boss to forget about Friday, and spent Thursday night pulling out the rat's nest of precharge circuitry and relays that fed 'ol Godzilla, 'stubbing in" all the necessary wires to feed a hairball's much more sophisticated and safety-conscous control circuitry. I got two hours of sleep, and then headed for Portland. When I arrived, I found that John had already lined up a dream team of EV installers, led by Mark Farver and Aaron Choate of in Austin, TX and ably assisted by Brian Hughes of Seattle, who's fabrication experience in converting his own MR2 ( ) resulted in fine custom touches like a precisely-aligned adaptor plate that expanded the baby Zilla's footprint to fill the shoes that Grandpa left behind, complete with countersunk stainless machine screws. Roger Wright, John McGowen, and others who escape my sleep-deprived brain also made it all possible by contributing tools, supplies, and expert advice.. The install looks like something that was planned well in advance and shop-built, rather than assembled entirely with hand tools out on the street by a bunch of guys who had never met before.

After such a rushed install, I crossed my fingers and turned the key, and the Zilla immediately came to life. With just a couple of quick potbox adjustments and programming in some voltage and current limits, it was off to the races.

I was relieved to hit the track again and still high with a little help from my friends, but somewhat disappointed by the initial performance. I was once again running 74 mph in 17 seconds. Was it the smaller controller, or were my batteries not up to snuff? We limited battery amps to 800 to see how long they could put that out, and Ooer the next few runs, I got a bit more aggressive with the launch, improving reaction times and 60-foot times, but encountered the old enemy of a chattering clutch. It seemed that by going with wider, stickier tires, I had eliminated the extreme tire slippage and squeal from my first 60 feet, but the Kennedy stage III pressure plate and 4 puck ceramic clutch disc weren't hooking up. This papa knows that shaking any baby is bad, even a Zilla, so a few more runs were squandered with lighter launches, and I spent staging time on clutch break-in by slipping it at low rpms and putting in some heat, but hopefully not too much. Bingo! After break-in, the chatter went away, and I actually managed to spin the tires when shifting from second to third gear, which showed up on a DAQ graph as a devil's-horn shape in the amp curve. The graphs also showed that the batteries gave a full 800 amps as long as it was asked. Speed increased to the mid 76 mph range, and ET dropped to 16.48 seconds. Still far from my goal of 100 mph in 14 seconds, but any improvement is good, especially under the circumstances. Late on Saturday, I realized that though the motor amps were turned all the way up to 1000, I had forgotten to crank the battery amps over 800, which certainly robbed some significant performance... At least this time, there's sure to be a next time.

Thank you John Wayland, the Plasma Boy Crew, ReVolt EV and EVeryone else who helped!
Here's a little video of Mike Willmon's Crazy Horse Pinto making me look slow...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Now we're moving.

At long last, serious road testing begins. I lost several more cells before a proper commissioning charge was finished- the one block that I had prematurely watered had spewed so much electrolyte, that they didn't want to wash clean, and kept developing shorts against the stainless steel battery box, burning holes right through the side of the cell, right where the top had been sonic-welded onto the case. Methinks there were tiny flaws in those welds, because it only happened to a small percentage of the cells, but it's a killer flaw when it happens....

Anyway, with a fully-charged clean pack, my good friend Eric Gage rode along on some test drives, camera in hand. Here's the only clip small enough to post before editing.....


Saturday, May 29, 2010

If I'm not making progress, maybe these guys will!

Yes, all of you long-suffering readers know that the Karmann Eclectric is testing the claim that flooded nicad batteries have no "shelf life issues". But, that does not mean nothing has been going on... Thinking I'd channel Tom Sawyer and get a little work done, or at least share my pain, I invited the Tacoma Electric Vehicle Association over for a work party on March 6, 2010.

An excellent turnout, rare sunny spring weather, and fun without flareups was had by all. Plus, significant progress was made on the car thanks to Bill, Roger, Stan, Kyle, and the cool big guy with glasses who's name I have trouble with....

The big white box I'm pictured puzzling over is a surplus Uninterruptible Power Supply unit for server rooms (pure sine wave). Most 'small' UPS units run off of 12, 18, 36, or 48 volts, but this bad boy takes 240VDC input! That means that it can run off of the car's battery pack, powering the house (well, parts thereof) during a power failure. It also provides a backup battery charger for the EV pack, should some misfortune befall my precious PFC 20, and it will also serve as the core of a hi-po highly green off-grid EV charging station! That's right, a dump pack with manners.

Concept is, put a semi-retired 240V EV battery pack into my car trailer, and run it through the UPS to provide charging current to any EV that can take 240VAC input! That will come in handy at the races and car shows. Lastly, I intend to trickle-charge this pack during it's long periods of idleness through a solar array. But what say you? A 240VDC solar array could prove pricey? Not if one bridges the gap with a set of series/parallel switches to charge the pack in parallel. A stack of 40 amp 12V automotive relays should do the trick because each single relay will see no more than 12V potential, and if all legs are fuse-protected, if a relay sticks and shorts a battery, the whole circuit will get cut quickly...

But, i digressed, as I often do...back to the main event.

Here is one of the day's more important additions, a dc-rated circuit breaker on the input side of the PFC-20. The standard fused output of the charger only protects the battery pack and/or car, and could prevent a fire inside the charger, but does not really protect the charger. This way, with protection on both ends of the charger, there's a better chance that it could survive an onerous EVent. You noticed I wrote DC-rated? Yep, the PFC is capable of charging off of DC, simply acting as a DC-DC converter, up or down, making for the 'dump pack with manners'.. I could start off the aforementioned off-grid charging from DC input as low as 12V, but the 20 amp limitation would mean that not much practical power transfer is going on. 240 Watts is nothing to sneeze at, especially in the world of small-scale solar, but it's a huge waste of potential, when the charger is capable of shuttling 4800 Watts. Besides, Manzanita Micro doesn't recommend dc charging below 70V.

We also installed the Stage III pressure plate, which was of course complicated by a broken bolt, due entirely to miscommunication on my part. What Detroit-trained mechanic would believe that bolts on a flywheel would be spec'd to less than 20 foot-pounds! Thanks to Roger Wright's considerable talents in shadetree improvisation, the broken bolt was extracted with no ill effects.
> Next, we started fitting the uber-sturdy Gene Berg adaptor for a proper installation of the 091 Bus tranny. It's a weld-in mount, and required much more fitting than anticipated, so Roger was kind enough to return the following week to complete the installation. We also installed the truss bars, or "Kafer-Cup" traction bar set from V-Dub Engineering. Lanner Khan makes a beautifully machined, super-strong but ultra-light aluminum, and provides great service after the sale (even if if it's been a couple of years). The truss bar mounting points are also a custom weldment, so Roger and I had a lot of grinding and test-fitting to do. It was a full day's work, but the end result is a thing of beauty. I've been able to take one test drive since, and the clutch chatter seems to be a thing of the past- at least under moderate acceleration...

duty calls, more to come later....

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Seeking a Solid Connection

In-between my assorted mishaps, I got some useful road testing done, and the most apparent fact was that even with mighty Zilla dialed down to 500 amps at 170 volts, I was dishing out more torque than the driveline could handle. The current weak link is the clutch. I am using a clutch in this EV to provide for faster gearshifts and thereby better performance, but also to provide an extra measure of safety, a mechanical disconnect in the driveline, should there ever be a runaway situation. So, whenever I accelerated 'briskly' during testing, there would be a terrible clutch shudder! Not the classic clutch crankiness on engagement, as the electric motor has very little rotational inertia, and the accelerator is not applied at all to slip the clutch, that just isn't necessary. However, with the clutch fully released, the chatter would come on along with a heavy foot (but not too heavy). There are many reasons a clutch could slip. I have gravitated towards two. First, the 'vill not schlipp' feramic clutch disk is a much harder material than organic, and until it wears some, there is likely only a few contact points between disc and plate. Brazilians have been known to 'burn in' their clutch to seat it..
Secondly, it could be that even with the feramic disc, my stock pressure plate simply doesn't have enough pressure to hold back the mighty horses. So, a Kennedy Stage III pressure plate stands ready. Thirdly, the entire transaxle assembly may rock fore and aft during acceleration, putting tension on the clutch release cable and partially disengaging the clutch. The Empi adaptor I'm currently using may be simple flat steel, but I doubt that it is long enough to be springy enough to pull on the clutch cable....
Lastly, and least likely, the driver ight just be a hack.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hey Karmann, why the long fates?

2009 was quite a year for Karmanns of all stripes. The grandaddy of them all, Karmann Gmbh in Germany filed for bankruptcy shortly after it's US spinoff, Karmann USA began offering a stupendous service to restore their classic cabriolet tops. Fortunately, VW came to Karmann's rescue in some small sense, by buying up the company's bones and announcing their intent to produce cars in the Karmann plant in 2011. The Ghost Dancer is lusting for a redo by Karmann Classics, as it's most recent top saw the summer out with a bang- that is, the header bow completely cracked apart at one corner, meaning that raising or lowering the top is now a very tender and time-consuming process, only to be done once or twice per season until major surgery is affordable...

But you didn't come her for any of this- what about the ELECTRIC CAR!

Karmann Eclectric had an interesting summer of road-testing, with several near-misses and valuable lessons learned. After the first few drives, significant slack had developed in the accelerator cable, so I tightened it up, making sure that it would return all the way back to open the 'dead pedal' microswitch. Confident that the upper range of available power was now available, I dialed the Zilla controller all the way up to 500 amps and was preparing for a run when my good-natured and quite conversational hot-rod-building, recently-retired neighbor ambled over. Tom was really missing being behind the wheel of a hot car after experiencing some recent vision problems, so I invited him into the passenger seat for this test run.
Well, the shifter was a bit balky, and I could only get it into reverse, so I thought no problem,I'll just bump it back a bit to shake things loose and then shift into forward. Well, when I did so, the car LURCHED backwards, driving my foot deeper into it, and both rear wheels immediately lost traction and made smoke as we rocketed towards the rear wall of my garage with the controller STUCK FULL ON. Within milliseconds, my reflex was to hit the brakes and pull the handbrake, bending a 45 degree angle into the handle! Still that didn't stop the car, and the front wheels added another foot of black streak to my shiny floor. As hope began to fade, since my silly neurons had yet to reach the right hand with a TURN OFF THE KEY message, the car rolled over my floor jack, and as it forced the handle down, the high-ratio racing jack lifted one corner of the car just enough to unload a wheel and let the differential dump into thin air. I then managed to shut 'er down, and after Tom confirmed that his heart had resumed production, we inspected the car. Other than a knocked-over tool chest and a socket set that had been spewed forth by my spinning wheel as silver confetti, the only damage was a small scratch on the rear flank where Karmann Eclectric barely brushed my workbench. Talk about a close call (and proof that I need a garage door in that section of wall after-all)!
Turns out that I didn't have enough return spring pressure to reliably bring the potbox from the brink, and perhaps some stray sandblast or other gunk in the cable race added just enough friction to keep it far forward when I released the go pedal... Well, the cable race has been blown and lubed, and a much tighter spring is now holding back the potbox lever! This is not a mistake to repeat. Here's a couple of shots showing the miraculously minor consequences..

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pop go the NiCads, not quite yet!

After nearly punching a rear opening through my garage and capsizing the HOA President, what more could I fear? Over the next week in July, my test runs got braver, as did my application of the accelerator. I got temporarily stranded once when an improperly wired 12V fan relay melted a wire, but it all nearly came to a stop when I heard a loud snap, crackle and pop during a spririted takeoff, and looked back to see an orange glow under a blackened lexan cover. Ripping off the cover, some tiny flames licked to life where a busbar had melted against a glowing red stainless terminal bolt. What they say is true, boys- retorque your cable connectors after the first round of testing! One loose battery connection can ruin your day. In this case, it only cost a pair of busbars, and left a molten brand in the top of one battery cell...
Well, the cell wasn't seriously damaged, and replacing a bolt and busbar is a simple matter, so it's back into action. However, I was replacing with a virgin cell that had not been properly commissioned, and for that matter, neither had my pack. I had just given it a shallow charge, awaiting installation of my E-Meter, which was sitting on the workbench of an EV Elder awaiting a clean bill of health (it never powered up on the first install). SO, rather than charging properly by counting amps and having a full-time voltage monitor, I forged ahead with a handheld DVM, first paralelling the new cell with a neighbor or two to bring it a bit closer to the rest of the pack. Then I overcharged, and decided to water the cells per the manual. Piece of cake. However, since I hadn't been able to count amps, apparently the cells weren't fully charged after all, and after a small successful test run, the cells foamed and spewed electrolyte on the next charge. I had prematurely filled them, and they expelled the excess. This caused a number of shorts between adjacent cells, and also via the stainless steel battery clamps. In total, five cells had holes burnt through their plastic cases, ranging from a barely perceptible pinhole, to a serious snot hole.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Baby Optima's first date

Into the EV Archives we go, for a little more history on Godzilla #003 and our Baby Optima coolant reservoir, who first met each other under the hood of John Wayland's White Zombie, which is the world's quickest-accelerating street legal electric conversion, having covered the standing start quarter mile in 11.466 seconds, with a best 60-foot time of 1.58 seconds!

Of course, back in '97 our Baby Optima was a working prototype issued as sponsorship to the most notorious electric racecar around. It's nice that Baby O can live on in an EV with a new, and even greener, cleaner mission- holding green Zilla blood!

But it wasn't done, was it?

Not quite, but here's a summary of the past year's progress that lead up to the test drive.

Zilla Cooling: Thanks to excellent component selection by Ryan Bohm of EV Source, I mounted a super durable and quiet pump below the custom Baby Optima Coolant Reservoir, and fabricated a inner fender wall out of 1/2" HDPE, yellow of course. In this, I cut two portholes, and mounted a double-wide PC radiator and single cooling fan such that air is pulled in on one side, and exhausted on the other.

Another unfinished item was the Jim Husted-created Adjustable Brush Ring timing handle. It was not built with a method of securing it, as I thought I'd add a remote cable or servo control. However, inthe interest of simplicity, and wanting to allow enough learning time before risking Blowing Something Up (because I didn't have to), I built a jackscrew mount onto the motor, enabling easy adjustment, but not on the fly. Hand-fabricated from brass and polished to a high sheen, it sets off the motor nicely.

Lastly, the monster 12 pole disconnect switch from a power station was installed under the dash. Upon energizing the circuit, a current leak was discovered. So, the body is hot. Full pack volts, but no measureable amps, but I'll have to get that source identified ASAP. Good friend Stephen Johnsen became extremely frustrated by a similar fault, only to eventually find that some black rubber hose that was being used as chafe guarding was actually somewhat conductive! (a lotta carbon black in that compound!)


Sorry for a year of silence- it's been quite a ride, including the birth of baby #2; our son Jason, a corporate downsizing and unemployment, a new job and lots of associated training, and in short, not much time for the poor, neglected Karmann Eclectric. But lo, our hero returns, and his steed awaits.
We got a couple of work sessions in during the break with helpful buddies (thanks Hans and Wayne, more details on that later), but the momentous date of May 31, 2009 marks THE BIG milestone. Karmann Eclectric moved under it's own 240V power!
Like it's namesake, Godzilla #003 awoke from a long hibernation and started tearing up the neighborhood, having retired from racing in White Zombie in early 2005.
Without so much as a hiccup, the old controller came to life with that signature ZIlla "whoosh", and propelled the Ghia out of my man-cave.
I navigated a few speed bumps, relieved that he carefully-engineered 5" clearance held up after loading batteries and driver, and as I passed the immaculate gardens of our Homeowners Assoc. president, she gleefully greeted me with "It MOVES- but it's SOOO Quiet" She requested a ride, even though the passenger seat had not been installed. Not realizing the import of my recommendation that she hold on, our first passenger did half of a reverse somersault when I hit the go pedal!
Thankfully, the lexan battery covers prevented a plasma-imprinted tattoo on her back.. Cackling gleefully, she exclaimed joy and wonder for the whole neighborhood to hear, and then assisted me in discovering that the suspension height was no longer sufficient to clear our speed bumps. Thankfully, no real damage, as the lowest point under the chassis is just some solid stainless acorn nuts that grooved the asphalt...
No video of our adventure exists, thankfully, but the second run will be recorded!

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Ghost Dancer Glides Again!

You may recall that my non-electric Ghia, the 1965 Cabriolet "Ghost Dancer", had an unfortunate encounter with a red Dodge in September of 2006. Well, after a year in the bodyshop, a new job, relocation, and a second baby, the Ghost rose again today, after only 20 months in rehab. It is pictured here next to Ruthie, my 22 month-old daughter (3 month-old son is off-camera, date stamp on photo is wrong). Of course, some minor details remain to be completed, like installing an interior and bumpers, but it looks as good and drives better than ever, with a freshened tranny and new rear brakes to boot.