Friday, June 09, 2023

Almost time to be Rangy!

Hard to believe it's been 9 months since we dragged Eleanore's mossy remains over to Tom's garage, but what a difference that makes.   Gestation is as yet incomplete, but our baby looks nearly fully formed!

The formal reveal is planned for June 24th at the Greenwood Car Show in Seattle.  Come on out!

Sunday, January 08, 2023

An i for an i

 I haven’t posted about our trusty Mitsubishi. i-MiEV in quite a while, because the little toasters just keep on toasting!  That’s right I use the plural because the Blackadder has rejoined our stable. The car that we gave to my mother years ago has returned, having been outranked back in Colorado by a new, all wheel drive PoleStar 2 which is honestly more appropriate for long rural roads deep with snow.

Also, Blackadder’s bladder, er battery pack, is a might depressed, and down in capacity by 35% since new.   

Time to extract the hibernating battery from our blue parts car!  The Blue Basher already covered his cost selling collision repair parts to fellow owners, but his battery was held in personal reserve.  Now that the car has no front suspension and remains deep in a trailer, the most straightforward way to pull the pack was to remove the drivetrain first!  That assembly only needs six bolts removed (plus a bunch of wiring and coolant connections), but came out smoothly with hand tools, including this nifty crane that mounts in a 2” hitch receiver!

And since Mr Bean was in the back yard already, may as well tow out the 1998 Ford Ranger EV that’s finally heading down to Eugene Oregon for a professional resurrection by

Monday, November 07, 2022

Getting Rangy Yet Again- with some Style!

Only the most dedicated Karmann Eclectricians will have any recollection of Eleanore, the moss-covered wreck of a '67 Karmann Ghia coupe that I extracted from under a tree in Southern Oregon some 17 years ago, so here's a little something to remind you...  (thanks, Mom)

Eleanore is indeed no more, but I'm preserving her best feature in the form of a one-of a kind pusher trailer!  Yes, the pusher, that bastard stepchild of the infernal combustion age, literally a last gasp for petro-powered propulsion, a supplemental powerplant to push an Eclectric Vehicle down the highway EVen farther from home than the battery or charging infrastructure will allow, or when one simply must make haste.  But, I blew up the first pusher engine far from home on a sweltering August afternoon, and then donated the JB Straubel creation to the Historic EV Foundation.  

Pusher #2 will continue to serve as a camping trailer, but has no cargo capacity and little artistic merit.

Pusher #3 is already a thing to behold.  If a thing as beautiful as a Karmann Ghia is to transport people no longer, simply remove the unneeded bits, so that is what we are doing.   

BUT FIRST, a design study.    There have actually been many trailers built from salvaged aircooled VWs, two of the best being made of two rear ends grafted together, as in the below creation catalogued by Ray Theriault.   

I actually have two parts Ghias on hand, but didn't want to sacrifice both on the same altar, and an especially bulky souvenir that's been occupying Jay's Junkyard since it left Craigslist in '06 is a fiberglass front clip for a Ghia, usually employed by Drag Racers.  

The concept having percolated for over 20 years, parts being stockpiled for 17 years, and the execution under occasional discussion with a master hotrod builder for 15 years, conditions finally gelled this summer, when Good Neighbor Tom was putting finishing touches on the most recent in a string of epic custom hot rod builds, and said to me "I was just thinking, y'know I like this one and want to drive it instead of selling it, and I don't think I've got another big project in me anytime soon.   Maybe it's time for a small project, like that trailer thing you've been yammering on about!"   By evening I had delivered the collected portfolio of similar projects, a couple sketches, and a bit of origami, in which I had folded the cabin out of a Karmann.  

The next morning I swore in a deputy and we pressure-washed old Eleanore after shifting what remained of her insides to storage or disposal, as appropriate. Young Jason and I drug 'er across the street. I got a little nervous when Tom greeted me with Sawzall in hand, saying he was ready to try out a few ideas....   I repeated our understanding that he had full artistic control, but to please bounce the major mods past me.   The next day, I was greeted by this scene of absolute carnage! 
That's right- no sharpies or chalk marks, no sketching or blueprints, no CAD or EVen a carved half-model.   This man sculpts in steel, and has the confidence to cut with abandon!   
After paring away the unnecessary parts, it came time to add the essentials, namely- A Nose.  
The Ghia has one of the most pronounced proboscis in all of automobilia, and all Ghia trailers I've seen to date had simply performed a full Rhinectomy, while we're more interested in the art of Rhinoplasty.  
Where to put that engorgeous nose became the next question.

Not exactly a match made in heaven, more of a traffic accident than selective hybridization, but you'll get the gist over the next few fotos.  

Look closely and you'll see how a single metal cut after freeing the fender from the door jamb allowed the rear fender line to flow smoothly into the front headlight tunnel.   

Creativity was required to bring the lower extension of the wheel arch forward, as it normally tapers into nothing, but is now being brought forward to define a front "air dam" that will close off the bottom of the nose.  The remaining sill structure will be cut away, but not until there's no chance of any of that structure being needed!  

And yes, the nose still opens by hinging upward.  The gasket to seal that complex join between front and rear halves may be challenging! 

Here’s a couple of quick photo updates- almost time to prime!  

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

A Renewed Ford "Lightening"

The Karmann Eclectric has been rather dismayed by shallow and fawning media coverage of Ford's upcoming F150 Lightning, as most of it claims that this is Ford's first electric pickup, entirely ignoring the impressive 1998-2000 Ranger Electric, which was produced with great skill and at great cost before Ford foolishly followed GM into electric oblivion for nearly two decades, crushing about 800 of the 1200 Ranger EVs before valiant leaseholders prevailed in their protests.  By removing 2000 lbs of dead lead and replacing it with lithium batteries, the 'Lightening' of these EV Rangers makes them feel very peppy, while of course also improving their miles/kwh efficiency.  This truck has a very light pack, so can smoke the tires at will on damp pavement, while also having a 1-ton payload capacity!  

Karmann Eclectricians may know that the Ford Ranger EV we revived with Sumner High students was surplused by the school district after they cancelled the Auto Shop program (and the conservation program), so I purchased it at auction and then sold it to best buddy and EV Expert, Tim Ritchey.  Tim's currently applying upgrades to that Ranger, mainly an Orion BMS.  In the meantime, I've been stuck using a gas pickup due to no alternatives.  Well that old Chevy is now for sale, as I've acquired an EVen Rarer Ranger!   This'un also ran only 7000 miles on its original lead-acid pack, which was about par for the course, but then it sat in dry storage for 20 years in California before being resurrected by EV Ranger guru Lanny Thomasen in Eugene, Oregon.  Lanny put in 104 cells of 60 Ah LiFePO4 (now usually referred to as LFP).  This is the most long-lived battery chemistry, the least toxic, and the only one contianing no exotic materials.   LFP is the reason I bought my i-MiEV, and also the reason that the original pack provided 106,000 miles of service before degrading below 80% of original capacity.  

So thank you to George for a fair deal on this truck, and also for allowing a fellow Ranger Resurrector to produce a video test drive before I purchased the truck!  Here's that video by Eric Way, otherwise known as the "News Coulomb".   It shows the snazzy Torque display of EV data on the aftermarket Android Pumpkin head unit, as well as the simple analog original gauges that were just reskinned from the gas version. 

The video is right on, as this truck does get one good full-power 300 amp acceleration before the pack voltage sags and the truck enters "Power Limit" mode, limiting battery amps to 100.   Surprisingly, 1/3 power is still acceptable, as I only slow down on steep highway grades.  Otherwise it can still leave red lights faster than traffic and merge normally onto the highway.  The truck will do fine for my 21 mile one-way commute with charging at Tacoma Power, where I now work and administer the EV charging services.  

Meanwhile, Lanny and Nathan at Ranger Restoration and repairs ( are still breaking new ground, currently working on a 108 cell pack of 230 Ah cells, which should provide a solid 230 miles of range!  EVen though 104 or only 100 LiFePo4 cells could power the Ranger EV, 108 cells yields not too many volts when fully charged, while keeping the voltage high enough near end of charge to keep the truck out of Power Limit mode.  That's my current goal for the long term pack upgrade of this truck.  Adding DC Fast charging would be icing on the cake, and it appears that a CHAdeMO port would fit behind the original fuel filler door, which remained empty in the Ranger EVs.  Though CHAdeMO is apparently a dead standard walking, it's the only one currently possible for DIY installation (supported by Orion BMS) and it'll be supported for many years to come due to the many such vehicles on the road.  I also expect that an adaptor for CCS will EVentually emerge.  

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Golden Arrow Glides Again

 Five years ago we adopted a 1983 Mazda RX-7 conversion and drove the last life out of its last lead-acid battery pack.  That 1120+ lbs of ancient technology has expired, replaced by 47 cells of lithium iron phosphate, a much safer, lighter, longer-lasting, powerful and energy dense battery.  Ruthie is a driver now, and her long afternoon of schlepping cells and drawing wiring diagonals rewarded with her first experience with a clutch.  I didn’t think it possible to buck a clutched EV, but she proved me wrong….

The first 47 cells fit perfectly in only the rear battery box, originally designed for 13 6 volt flooded lead acid batteries and also maximizing the capabilities of the carryover Curtis1231-C motor controller. We may later upgrade to a Zilla 1k controller for higher power and it’s higher-voltage range for yet more power and range, but this first installment should do fine for a while.  47 cells of 180 ah at 3.2 nominal voltage equals exactly 27 kWh, or exactly the original capacity of our 2016 Kia SOUL EV!  Never mind that there is room for 20 more cells in the now-empty front battery racks, for a total potential of 37.5 kWh!  That’s almost unheard of in a subcompact 2 seater EVen today, and would be enough battery for at least 150 miles of range!  Once more, LiFePO4 is a much longer-lived cell than the Nissan Leaf batteries that I now replace for fun and profit at

Monday, December 10, 2018

EVen Rangy-ier

As MR BEAN approaches his 100,000 mile jubilee, his battery at 96k is finally showing some age, with  sub-62 mile mornings beginning to show up EVen while the weather was still warm.  Having 100% of rated range remaining on a Nissan LEAF with over 90k miles on the clock is unheard of, but can totally be expected with the more robust battery design of an i-MiEV, howEVer, that's another story.

The stars aligned for a resumption of progress on the pusher trailer this fall, and my son helped to cut out the engine hatch in a tidy little trailer that we first took camping when he was a toddler!

The pusher is now running thanks to the students in Sumner High's Advanced Auto Shop, which is so advanced that many had never dealt with a mechanical distributor, ignition points, or a carburetor before!

Monday, August 06, 2018

Off-Grid EV Charging!

The Tiny Solar Trackside Garage made its debut this weekend at the Tahaleh community's Earth Day Every Day EVent.  Myself and several other members of the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association

The interior is still raw, but it successfully recharged MR BEAN for the duration of the EVent, and has been pumping over 1800W into other targets of opportunity...  The maximum surge capacity with buffer battery is 3000W.

(Matches the Big House so well, doesn't it?)

Yes, at 13'2' maximum clearance and a full 8' wide, it is a beast of a trailer, but it actually tracks beautifully, and in my first encounter with a semi trailer at over 50 mph (tall side to tall side), it didn't sway a bit.  

Monday, October 30, 2017

Beautiful symmetry

Got them modules mounted!  Feast your eyes on 1890 Watts of Sanyo HiT, with three more solar modules still to add as an awning.
Though I've known that it's hip to be square since 1986, the symmetrically square edges are conflicting with those shiny round rims peeking out from below the big skirts.  So, should I cut square wheel wells (actually, it would be rectangles in a perfect symmetrical echo of the sidewall), do I set the french curve to work and add some shiny aluminum fender flares, or do I simply make a top-hinged access door to allow wheel maintenance?  Such a dilemma!  Comments are welcomed.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Solarize that blank slate!

Hitting a milestone of sorts, as this is the 101st entry on the Karmann Eclectric blog.  I'm mounting one solar module at a time as weather windows and free time allow.  Nine salvaged Sanyo 210 HiT panels will provide near complete coverage, with just a 6" margin at each edge, and the last three in this maker's dozen are planned to hang down against the low wall while on the road, but hinge up at the appropriate angle and lock in place when parked.  I haven't figured out the details of that mechanism yet, and those three will wait until after final paint, wiring, road testing, etc..  The initial nine panels will pump up to 1890 Watts into the the old Outback PS-1 on/off-grid inverter with battery backup, providing put to 3000 Watts of pure sine wave power, rain or shine.  As discussed previously, the PS-1 was the TESLA Powerwall of 2006, an overbuilt collection of Outback's best components integrated into a single box that maximizes the solar charging of a 48V battery pack of pretty much any capacity, pumps surplus solar power into the grid when safely connected and the batteries are fully charged (or charges the batteries from the grid when the sun don't shine, if so set), and also automatically disconnects from the grid and provides up to 3000 Watts to backed up loads during a grid outage (or road trip).

Monday, October 09, 2017

That wasn't white- this is white!

Except for a couple of corner details, the standing seam roofing job is complete.  Thanks go out to Haley and Justin at Metal Roof Specialties for converting my primitive plans into a professional and affordable roof kit.  Now the body is really screaming for some color, given that reflective galvanized roof over flat white primer...

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Body In White

Body in White is the term TESLA uses for the finished aluminum weldment of a car body before any other bits have been added on.  Today's body in white is a very recognizable tiny toy toter, trimmed and primed for painting, but still sans roof, solar panels, and other exterior hardware.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tiny Progress

Well, a sensible tiny home builder would've put on a coat of paint or two before the rains returned to Western Washington, but I spent more time on family activities than my pet projects yet again...  Did manage to get the roof tarpapered in time, so here's hoping for our not-unusual Indian Summer this fall.  I delayed in ordering the standing seam roof until all was complete, which was a good thing.  Even on a tiny project, the 'as-built' dimensions  will vary a bit from plan.  Since I was a couple inches over 16' in the roof width, I went ahead with some overhang at the rear to reduce waste on that 17th roof panel.  

Notice the vestigial 'wedge front' frames?  I'm thinking to stretch those triangular protuberances to a point on the center line as an art deco detail and place a marker light on the outside of each point.  Still undecided on the wheelwell shape.  Probably stick with the squareness in cutting those holes, but awaiting inspiration.  Maybe make it a hinged panel.  Besides, I don't need to cut them out until the first flat tire, right?!

National Drive Electric Week

I'm not the busy EVangelist that I used to be, but did make two NDEW EVents in the past week; Steilacoom and the XXX Drive-In in Issaquah.  Thanks to a friend's shuttle service, I showed both the RX-7 and the Grumman in Steilacoom, and MR BEAN covered over 160 electric miles on Sunday, with two visits to the Woodland Park Zoo (and their onsite charging stations) for a professional function bookending the XXX show.  (Yes, that MR BEAN, who can only go 62 miles on a charge and is therefore completely impractical for the US market...)  Thanks also to Dave Laur for the photos. daveinolywa

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Solar Trackside Garage? What should I call this thing?

The tiny home/warehouse/garage project is moving right along as evening times allow, and the shape is now recognizable to all!
Now for a name worthy of its construction.
Now accepting submissions.  The winner will receive a major award.
Check out those mitred joints.  Finer framing has never been found on a quickie DIY trailer, I must humbly admit!  In keeping with the guidance of my carpentry mentor, Tim Ritchie; it's been mitred, glued -n- screwed! 

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Tiny Solar Car House

The Tiny House movement has grown into a full-on bubble, with folks paying upwards of $60k for an 8' wide by 16' to 24' long cottage built onto a utility trailer frame.  Made mostly from conventional homebuilding materials, I fear that most of these trailer homes are downright dangerous for amateur towing, and if towed very many miles, may come apart in new and exciting ways, as their materials and fixtures were not designed for the continuous earthquakes of a highway trip and the homes are rarely well-balanced side-to side and for optimal tongue weight.

Nevertheless, I am in need of storage for car parts and an off-season vehicle, but my 1983 Pro-Trac car hauling trailer's leaky roof and re-repaired skin is long past any usefulness for dry storage, and the rot in the plywood floor and walls was too far gone to be a trustworthy structure for road tripping.  So, why buy something new and spendy, when the old trailer has very good bones, and can become a relocatable storage building for far less than the cost of a backyard shed made of OSB that's guaranteed to eventually disintegrate back into a pile of wood chips?  Plus, this trailer needs an upgrade to match them shiny rims that came courtesy of an upgrade to dad's Airstream trailer!

So begins the tale of Jay's tiny warehouse, which will not only serve for storage and occasional hauling, but also be a grid-tied solar power station capable of offgrid operation, complete with a backup battery pack and off-grid 3 kW 120VAC inverter.   After Demolition Day, nothing but the sturdy steel frames remain, but no cancerous rust or major sins were discovered.
The conceptual sketch follows

Here's the original framing plan, courtesy of master draftsman Tim Ritchey, but it looks like we'll be able to reuse all the steel and restrict the wood to the second story.  Also, the roof peak will be on the opposite side, as there tends to be more clearance at the road's center line rather than the fog line, where tree limbs and bridge arches lurk...

Wednesday, December 07, 2016


A multi-pronged pack design strategy paid off, and in the end we didn't get any finished CAD drawings, but a simple re-stacking of blocks to test all options produced the simplest (and hopefully best) approach.  The 88 buddy-paired LEAF modules will fit fine in 'pancake stacks' with none of the more complex 'library' orientation that requires heavier custom bracing.  The flat stack is easiest to build, but poses some thermal risk, as the topmost module will experience the most heat while the bottom one could get cold.  We believe this risk to be insignificant because of several factors.

  1. The vehicle's duty cycle.   The drive in a Ranger is of a very similar power level (84 kW vs 80 kW in a LEAF), but since our modules are doubled up, they will be discharging at roughly half the amperage as their original application, generating less heat.  Likewise, they'll also go through a slower Level 2 charge, generating less heat.  The Ranger EV will not be subject to DC Fast Charging, which poses the greatest heating concern.  A side benefit of slower-rate charging is that the truck will only be able to do one full charge-discharge cycle per day, giving plenty of time for cooldown.  
  2. Our mild climate.  The Puget Sound Region is ideal EV territory, with moderate summers and mild winters that in general keep battery packs happy without supplemental heating or cooling.   As the LEAF modules are particularly vulnerable to heat, there is extra insurance in that mileage will be lower during summer when school is not in session. 
  3. The insulated box.  What looked like a simple fiberglass battery box is actually a wood-cored composite on the bottom and sides, providing strength and insulation from the cold, while allowing excess heat to radiate through the lid.  The lid has two passive vents that could be upgraded with forced air if temperature issues arise. 
  4.  Testimony from other LEAF module users shows that in an unventilated Library stack (or row of modules), it is the center module that gets hottest, though not by a troublesome margin. That's info from the most similar truck conversion that's been built;
Here's the current status.  The original base plates for four stacks were cut in half for use with two stacks, which we're through-bolting to the battery box, and then the stacks of modules bolt onto their factory base plates with factory top plates.  We've laid out all electrical interconnects with tape, and are bolting the stacks together for proper compression to 1.333"/module before adding busbars.  The multiple stacks allow student work at low voltages on the individual stacks, while I'll make the higher voltage interconnections and final high voltage pack connections.

Monday, December 05, 2016

A DC Fast Charging Death Spiral?

I've tried to inform GM that myself and others will have no interest in the Bolt until they announce and demonstrate a commitment to growing DC Fast Charging (DCFC) infrastructure, but to no surprise, there's no reaction from the General.  With the market switching over to long-range EVs mixed with short range PHEVs that don't have DCFC, the market share of medium range EVs like the LEAF, SOUL, Focus and i-MiEV will most likely decline, even as these medium range EVs increase in absolute numbers.

Contrary to the expectation that new long-range big-battery cars will result in more DCFC utilization, I posit that it could mean less, as DCFC will mainly be needed by the long range cars for turnaround at their final destinations (ie: in Portland and Seattle, but not so much in-between).  Local region drivers that might've stopped for a midday DCFC will no longer need to, and the longer highway trips are rare.  Rare enough to not make a viable business proposition of the silly subscription model that AeroVironment uses, and since any CHAdeMO or CCS- equipped car can't compare favorably to Supercharging, the share of trips beyond 180-200 miles done by non-TESLA evs will remain tiny.  Spending at least an hour on a 40 to 50 kW DCFC station before your next 180 mile segment is significantly slower than my usual road trip pace, and less than half as appealing as a TESLA supercharger, even if 'only' on a 60 kWh Model S (which matches the Bolt EV capacity).

The Puget Sound region has never been adequately served with DCFC, and the situation is only getting worse.  The initial DCFC deployment was bad design, with the Dept of Energy's 'donut hole' exacerbated by Blink's bankruptcy and worsened further by Car Charging Group's inability to maintain the small number of stations that were actually deployed.   AeroVironment did a decent job of station maintenance, but hasn't added a single DCFC in almost four years, and reliability seems to be slipping, with the critical Tumwater station down for weeks now due to a worn-out handle.  Thrice in the past two weeks I have wanted to make a regional EV trip requiring only one DCFC before turning around, but most of the DCFC stations were offline, with the remaining couple of options perpetually busy.  Dealers that host DCFC have proven to be poor managers of that resource, never posting to Plugshare and rarely accomplishing repairs in a timely manner. In my experience, the worst of these are Car Pros Kia in Tacoma and Olympia Nissan.  Puyallup Nissan is slightly better, but they let the issue of a simple gland nut reconnection go unattended for about two years, increasing the risk of wear, downtime, and shock hazard.  Puyallup Nissan at least ensures 24 hr access and fair pricing for all comers at $10/hr, but has been increasingly unavailable due to a seemingly minor thermal sensor error, with no communication about a repair schedule or repair attempts.  Since Olympia Nissan and Olympia Chrysler are tied at the hip, I've informed them that their failure to maintain DCFC and even ensure access to the Level 2 chargers means that I will not purchase a Chrysler Pacifica PHEV there.

I've been forgiving of EVGO's less-than stellar reliability due to their generally prompt repairs, but now I suspect subpar equipment, as the same problems are recurring regularly.  Early shutdown, about 2 minutes after starting a session is worse than not starting at all, as that's just enough time to head into the mall, with travel plans killed after 20 minutes of shopping to find an uncharged car and the next user waiting in line....  Poor reliability and extra high pricing are a business plan destined for failure.

Back to my premise; if the number of DCFC stations in the Puget Sound area remains small and their reliability continues to worsen, the addition of even a small number of professional DCFC campers in the form of Lyft drivers with GM Bolts could crash the fragile system.  The Lyft experiment will fail, and us medium-range EV drivers will be relegated back to our home garage and daily commute.

Get on the ball GM- announce support for your product, or you'll take down not just the Bolt, but also your Frankenplug cronies; Ford and the Germans (if not the entire non-TESLA EV market), by giving the system a nasty jolt just as what minimal Federal support there has been gets Trumped...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Discommodulated Battery

No, it's not a crime under Napoleonic Code, it is what we managed to do last week, and it is much easier than posting rotated photos on Blogger....

One LEAF battery pack has been disassembled into sub-packs.  We identified the components, taking special care to disconnect the busbars that were easiest to remove first, as those mid-pack breaks greatly reduce the voltage present and potential for shock.  We learned to snap back the insulating covers after removing the busbar fasteners, as the busbars can be removed without exposing any bare copper.  We double-checked the disconnection of all small sense leads and made sure there would be no snags or shorts in the wiring harness, and then lifted out each of the sub-packs.

Next step is to measure these sub-packs and confirm they won't be a ready fit into the Ranger Sarcophagus, and then we'll advance to disassembly down to the module level, taking careful note of how the sub-packs were assembled, as we'll need to reuse the end plates and hopefully many of the busbars and the BMS wiring harness as we reconfigure the modules into a series string of 'buddy pairs', and restack them using the original hardware, but with a different number of modules in each subpack.

Disassembly without Destruction

The LEAF battery packs are a wonderfully compact kit, with an interesting mix of fragile and overly beefy componentry.  We've now broken down the subpacks into individual battery modules, without a single broken wiring connector and only one stripped screw, out of dozens apiece.
At 8.2V apiece, the individual modules don't pose a shock hazard to bare skin, but the subpacks did, so extra care was employed when exposing the network of interconnected busbars and removing those bolts.
Arrg, can't get it to stay flipped, but you get the picture!
Now all we need to do is fill the big box with what we pulled out of the little boxes.  Seems simple enough, but so does posting photos to a blog!

48 modules, once again in an antigravity orientation...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

We're Lovin' LEAF

Lovin' Life with LEAF salvage, that is.  The two collision-salvage battery packs arrived this week, as did the prototype Wolftronix LEAF Pack Sniffer.  This amazing little device turns on the BMS and reports back the pack voltage, average cell V, # of bars of remaining capacity, identifies the high and low voltage cells, and then scrolls through all the individual cell voltages.  One of the packs was sitting at 396V with four bars of capacity, the other at 383V and 10 bars of capacity.  Voltage as a state of charge indicator is mainly valid at the upper and lower end, and these packs were built two years apart.  I think they will balance out nicely, as individual cells voltages were tight after months of sleep, with only 6 thousandths of a volt difference between the highest and lowest cell.  Most were within 3 thou..  Here's a video of the sniffer in action!
Leaf Pack Sniffin'

The packs arrived on a rollback wrecker, so without a forklift we very carefully set the back edge of the pallets on the ground and then drove out from under them!


It may seem scary to sic a student with an air chisel on a highly charged battery pack, but research revealed the safety of this technique, as the sealed surface to be separated is outside of a one-inch protective lip of steel (and by another air gap and metal module covers on the inside) meaning one would have to overshoot the target by quite a distance and cut through multiple layers of steel after the target of a single layer of sealant! The air chisel made short, but very noisy work of this job, much to the students' delight!  The students quickly learned to distinguish by both sound and feel whether the chisel was hitting sealant or steel!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Vindication Monday!

'twas disappointing to see a short in the motor after rebuild, but perhaps that could be explained.  The controller label still wasn't visible, but a document search said that the Sand Star E Plus offered regenerative braking.  That could only mean one thing on a brushed motor with four terminals labeled A1, A2, S1, S2..... SHUNT WINDINGS.  The shunt wound motor is another old workhorse, but rarely seen on golf carts.  It's prime characteristic is that speed is controlled by varying the voltage on the 'shunt' that energizes the electromagnetic fields.  At a certain shunt voltage, the motor will give its all to maintain a particular speed, until the load is too much to bear.  Conversely, if a shunt wound motor is 'overhauled', or forced to turn at a faster RPM than the shunt dictates (rolling down a hill), it will generate current back into the battery.   This revelation comes courtesy of a little consulting and measurement by Dan Bentler, who walked me through the diagnosis.  The motor couldn't go through a full bench test, as the output shaft bearing is integral to the transaxle, but it turned just as expected once bolted back on.  Reconnect the controller, and a dead short appears.  So we have a bad controller, and that's not so hard to replace.  Removal of the controller confirmed that it was an uncommon but affordable shunt motor controller.

On the Grumman project, we got the motor mated back up to the transaxle, but discovered a different bolt spacing on the end bell that didn't match the other motor, but it will match if we simply remove and 're-index' the adaptor plate (rotating the motor housing 90 degrees).  We need practice installing motors anyway, right?

Friday, November 04, 2016

Setback Friday

Today was hoped to be a milestone, as we were all set to install the replacement motor in the Grumman, and also completed re-soldering of a broken field wire in the Smithco trike.  Alas, it was not to be.

Prior to installation, we did a test spin of the whole assembly (motor with mounted hub, flywheel, clutch and pressure plate).  It wobbled.  A lot.  It wasn't expected to be a perfectly balanced assembly, as the clutch centering tool isn't that accurate and the heavy Rabbit MK1 flywheel with a scallop cut out for clearancing obviously wasn't high-speed balanced at the factory.   Here's the video (With apologies for the authentic mechanic's shop color commentary.)

So, as a team we discussed whether to cross our fingers and run with it, or investigate further.   Out came the dial indicator.  We all learned how to use it, and found 20 thousandth's of an inch in runout. A coupla' thou would be okay, but not 20.  So off comes everything except the hub, and we dial it up again.  Still at 20 Grand.  SIGH, ...despair briefly raises its ugly head.  One team member even said "Well what did you expect, bringing the truck to a bunch of dumb high school kids.  If you wanted it fixed, you shoulda gone someplace else!"  

We popped off the hub, which was easy because we hadn't painted the thing with locktite like the Texans did waay back during the Carter Administration when this thing was first assembled...  BUT, there wasn't a setscrew in the keyway either.   Matter of fact, the setscrew hole wasn't even tapped.  WHAT IF?
So, out came the taps, and a bolt was quickly installed.  WELL WHADDA YA KNOW!!
Upon reassembly, the hub spun true, at 1.5 Thousandths of runout.  The threads weren't tapped exactly straight on axis, and our key was fractionally shorter than the slot, so this opportunity to correct both of those situations was seized upon, and we'll reassemble it all and install on Monday.

Similarly, two teamsters had tackled a very challenging soldering job in the Smithco trike motor and managed to get the motor fields intact again.   However, it was still a dead short when we tried to do a test spin.  I now think that the field wire snapped during disassembly, as it wasn't scorched like a short should be, and the heavier-gauge motor leads showed a lot of heat...  Back to the drawing board for this motor, but we eliminated a variable.

Monday, October 31, 2016

An Electric Orange

Watch those wayward thoughts- this is a family-friendly blog!
This particular electric orange is a Smithco Sand Star E-Plus from 1996.
Smithco makes the word's premier grooming equipment for golf courses, baseball diamonds, and similar surfaces.  They began producing a battery-electric version of their SandStar bunker rake in the early 90's to answer demands for quiet on the course, and chose a 36 Volt golf car transaxle that would be familiar to any course mechanic.  This one had developed an internal short in the motor, and was donated to me for educational or EVenturous purposes.
This orange ATV comes with two linear actuators, one for the mid-mounted sand rake, and the other for rear-mounted attachments like scrapers and brooms.  It's powered by a 400amp Curtis controller and in impressive condition, save that little issue of a short in the motor....
The battery pack was DOA, and quickly pulled by my experienced battery-shuffling students. 
360 lbs of very dead lead, RIP
We then proceeded to clean up and repaint the corroded battery tray and pull the motor.  To fully diagnose the motor (aka: take it apart and see how it works) we popped off the end bell and pressed out the armature, which was the first hydraulic press experience for these students.  The short was where a field winding wire was attached to a terminal bolt, so we removed that bolt and ground off the old brazing.  A more experienced hand than I will be called upon to braze that bronze.  oh, Dan- got yer eyes on?
The students are eager to see me popping wheelies reminiscent of those 1980's 3-wheeled Honda suicidal ATVs, but it looks like this design topped out at 12 mph.  The math for higher revs has yet to be done....