Saturday, November 17, 2007

Double The Fun

With this posting, I'll begin covering a second vehicle scheduled for conversion from ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) to electric. The "new" (and I use that term loosely!) vehicle is a 1988 Chevrolet S10 pickup. The engine doesn't run very well, which doesn't much matter, but the body and transmission seem pretty sound. The interior is definitely a candidate for a total rehab, in fact it looks so shabby that I won't even show a photo ... It's that bad!

Yesterday, while driving into town, I spotted this beauty sitting by the side of the road with a FOR SALE sign on it. Since I've been looking for an S10 for my next project, I stopped to take a look. The price was $400, which included a truck bed full of trash! (I made the trip to the county dump, this morning, to discharge the junk.) What ... a buy?

More than likely, the truck will sit under cover for a while, until I get time to start the project.

VW: I have the replacement battery installed, charged and ready to go. The rebuilt vacuum brake booster, along with a new master cylinder has also been installed. One problem that still exists is the short cycling ON/OFF of the electric vacuum brake booster pump. It's not as serious as it was before I replaced the vacuum booster, but still slightly objectionable. I'm thinking that It may be the vacuum switch is too "sensitive." I will do some testing on that issue next week.

Last minute update: Sunday, Nov 18, 2007:

I put a vacuum guage on the brake booster assembly and discovered that the problem is, in fact, a vacuum switch that is not well adjusted. (Unfortunately, there are are no user adjustments.) The switch, upon reaching the desired vacuum level, rather than shutting the pump OFF, rapidly switches between ON and OFF, causing the power relay to chatter and the pump to short-cycle. I ordered a new and different vacuum switch today. I am confident the problem will be solved.

Friday, November 02, 2007

UPDATE: November 2, 2007

The V-Dub hasn't moved for several weeks ... no change from the prior report. There are a couple of reasons for this:

First, I recently spent two weeks in a solar energy school learning all about installing solar power and hot water systems. This is just the beginning of my new business in solar construction. Because of the time away, I haven't had time to do the work that I wanted to get done ... like installing a heater!

Next, one of my new batteries developed a leak around a terminal and required a warrantee replacement. Unfortunately, since the batteries are not typical, it had to be a special order. It is expected to be here later this week.

I really miss driving the car, especially now with gas over $3 a gallon!

(See --> In case you're curious: RJR is for R J Ranch; the "R" for Roger and the "J" for Jacquie.)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

UPDATE: October 9, 2007

The car is going out of service for awhile, while I do some minor repairs and updates. Included will be:
  • I have one battery that has a bad seal on the terminal and needs replacing.
  • I will be replacing the leaking brake vacuum booster with a new/rebuilt unit. Because the old unit has a vacuum leak, the vacuum pump keeps rapidly cycling ON/OFF. For this reason, I've disconnected the pump ... and have been driving with no brake boost. It's actually no big problem, but does require a strong foot and leg.
  • I will be adding recording thermocouples to the drive motor and controller. They aren't needed, but I like to play around with that stuff.
  • I will be adding a tachometer interface unit that (hopefully) will be able to drive the existing VW tachometer. The unit "counts" the revolving teeth on the flywheel starter ring and converts that information to pulses used to drive the VW tachometer.
  • I will be changing the rear brakes from the original drum brakes to a set of disk brakes from a VW Scirocco. (The front brakes are already disks.)
  • I will be installing an electric heater in the original VW heater box, replacing the old water radiator.
  • I need to seal up spaces around the rear battery box so that road dust doesn't seep up into the rear compartment.

As you can see, I have a lot to do, so the car will be out of service for a while. As of today, I have 800 miles on the car, since conversion. It's starting to get a little chilly, so the heater will be a welcome addition.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

UPDATE: September 30, 2007

First update: The weather has been pretty good, so I've driven the car almost every day. It is really a joy to drive and has easily exceeded my expectations. On the local state highway (Hwy 195) it cruises right along at 55 mph, with little effort, even on uphill grades. (The speed limit is 60 mph, but keeping my speed at 55 mph reduces the power consumption significantly.) Trips of 45 miles are no problem and upon return home, I don't notice any power reduction. In fact, last week, while returning home, I decided to see how fast it would go. Answer: 70 mph ... and that was after having driven 30+ miles.
Second update: This is waaayy cool: I have another "introductory" web page that I list on my cards and handout flyers. It is: On that page is a very unique "hit counter." If you go to that page you will see it: It is a small square box with a map inside it. It is called "ClustrMap." You will notice many small red dots on the map. (CLICK on the map for a larger, more detailed look.) The size of the dots represent the number of "hits" on the page from that general location. You will see hits from all over the world ... some from surprising locations!

Monday, September 10, 2007

UPDATE: September 10, 2007

Palouse Empire Fair & Rodeo
Colfax, WA
September 6-9, 2007
The Display

"Big & Little"
The "Electric Jet" next to a $500,000 combine.
Note that the tires on this monster are taller than my VW!

A couple of weeks ago, one of my neighbors suggested that I display my car in the local "Palouse Empire Fair and Rodeo," in Colfax, WA. I called the fair director and told him about my car. He told me that it would be really nice if I would bring it to the fair. So, from last Thursday until yesterday, I've been answering millions of questions about electric vehicles.

The most asked question, other than "how far/fast will it go," was why can't you hook up a generator to the electric motor and recharge the batteries while you drive ... like the alternator in a typical gas car?" (Anyone want to post a COMMENT and explain exactly why this idea either will or will not work?)

Monday, September 03, 2007

UPDATE: September 3, 2007

Here's an update on a couple of items:
DAILY DRIVING: I've been taking the car to town, every chance I get. It's really a lot of fun to drive ... crank up the XM Satellite radio, usually on Ch#13 "Willie's Place" (as in Willie Nelson) with the good old country music blasting out from all four speakers. (I do turn it down, in town!) Of course, the only sound is wind noise and music. Love it! We've driven to Moscow, Idaho, a couple of times with absolutely no problems. I cruise on the highway at the maximum speed limit of either 45mph or 55mph. Upon returning home, after 35 miles, or so, the power is still there and the State-Of-Charge meter usually is around 30% remaining.
DRIVING TO SPOKANE: I've decided, at least for this year, I'm not going to drive the car to Spokane. (75 miles each way.) There is no doubt it would make it OK, with one refuel/recharge stop at the half-way rest stop. The reason is simply that I don't want to hang around the rest stop for six hours, waiting for the batteries to recharge, then turn around and do the same thing the next day! Here at home, I've installed a 20-amp outlet for the charger. The batteries will usually complete the charge cycle in about five hours. However, at the rest stop, I can only count on a 15-amp power outlet, which will probably extend the charge time to six hours. Maybe next year, if I find a good book to read!
PALOUSE EMPIRE FAIR: Last week, one of my neighbors was looking at the car and suggested that I exhibit the car in the Fair, which is this week, Thursday-Sunday, in Colfax, WA. It's basically the Whitman County Fair. I called the fair director and he thought that would be a great idea, as an example of energy conservation. So, it looks like it will be there among other cars on display. Info and pix, later.
INSTRUMENTATION: As all the systems are working very well, except the vacuum brake booster (awaiting replacement part) I am adding a few instruments. First will be a motor tachometer sensing and interface unit which will drive the original VW tachometer. This will help me decide when to shift gears, as there is very little noise or motor feedback. (I usually drive in 2nd gear, except on the highway, when I shift to 3rd.) The original VW tachometer worked by "counting" the gas engine ignition pulses. Since there is no engine or ignition, the new sensor (believe it or not) counts the teeth on the flywheel starter ring, as the flywheel rotates, and digitally converts that into pseudo-ignition pulses, which the VW tachometer can recognize. (Real clear, huh!) Finally, (and this is easier to understand) I'm installing thermocouples on the motor and main motor controller to measure and record temperatures, during driving.

Friday, August 24, 2007

To Colfax and Back

With the idea in the back of my head of driving the car to Spokane, I decided to push the mileage a bit to see how the car holds up. I figured a trip to Colfax would be a good test.
If I do a Spokane trip, my first and longest leg will be about 45 miles. The distance to Colfax and return, I figured, would be about that distance. So ... about 2PM, I headed out to Colfax.
With the top down, 90 degree weather and great music blasting away, nothing could have been more fun. The trip TO Colfax was very easy. I held between 50-55MPH because the electrical power consumption greatly increases with only a 5-10MPH increase at highway speeds. (The speed limit on Hwy 195 is 60) I'm sure I could easily have boosted the speed to 60 or 70, but my range would have suffered badly. At 55MPH, I was comfortable and not holding up traffic too much. (It's a single lane highway, so when I had four or five cars backed up behind me, I pulled over and let them pass.) As I sailed into Colfax, with the SOC (State-Of-Charge) meter showing 60% remaining power, I was pretty confident, until it dawned on me that most of the trip to Colfax had been downhill!
I gave the battery pack about a 15-minute recovery rest and turned back to Pullman and the RJ Ranch. The uphill grade leaving Colfax was immediately noticeable. I was pulling 300 amps for a much longer period of time than I was comfortable with, but ... there was no choice, if I intended to get back home ... and not creeping along at 10MPH, with a virtually dead battery pack.
I pressed on, at my usual 50-55MPH and hoped for the best. To make a long story short, I kept my speed up and rolled into the RJ Ranch barn with the SOC meter reading 0% and the odometer reading 45 miles! (After about ten minutes of rest, the SOC climbed back up to 20% remaining.)
It was a successful trip and proved it is likely I can drive to Spokane. Of course, when I reach the the highway Rest Stop, the midway recharge point on the way to Spokane, I better bring a good book, because I'm probably looking at a five hour recharge.
I'll report tomorrow how long it took to recharge the pack from today's trip. It should be the same time at the Rest Stop. Even though the charger will pump out 22 amps for recharging, I've throttled it back, for today's test, to 14.5 amps, which is about the max. I can draw from a common outlet without fear of tripping the circuit breaker that feeds the outlet I'm plugged into.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

UPDATE: August 23, 2007

After working so hard to get "Sparky" operational, it now seems like ... "Is that all there is?" I still have a couple of wiring issues to solve: The first issue is the rear battery box venting fan does not operate when charging the batteries, as it should, without me putting a jumper wire from a relay terminal to the positive terminal of the auxillary battery. I need to sort that problem out.

Before the cold weather arrives, I need to get a heater system worked out, since there is no hot water for the normal car heater. Some people have simply used 115-volt hair dryers! I guess that would work, but it doesn't seem too "elegant." What I plan to do is install one of the small 5" square "Cube-type" ceramic heaters that you can commonly buy at Wal-Mart. I will mount it in the housing the old hot water radiator and air conditioning unit was in. Then, retaining the original VW heater fan, I can operate the heater just about the way it was before. With the appropriate electrical switches, relays and safety thermostats, it should work very well.

I have gradually stretched the mileage I've driven, the last few trips. Although I have not tried to conserve power at all, so far, a thirty mile trip is no problem. Yesterday, while day-dreaming and driving to Spokane in my Nissan pickup, (77 miles) I figured out a way to drive Sparky from Pullman to Spokane. I could drive to a rest stop, which is about midway, recharge for four hours, then proceed on to Spokane. Even if I started to run short of power on the 45-mile legs, there are a couple of small towns where I could easily get a small "sip" of power to keep me going. I think it would be a fun challange and a way to demonstrate that longer trips are possible, even if inconvenient ... and for LESS than ONE DOLLAR of electrical power. ("Green" power, incidentially, generated by hydro-electric means.)

"Stay Tuned" and watch the progress on these ideas.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

LENTIL PARADE 2007 - Pullman, WA

As many of you know, one goal I have held since I started construction on the Electric Jet, was to have it completed in time to be an entry in Pullman's Lentil Festival Parade. I accomplished that goal.

All the single cars that would be in the parade assembled prior to the parade start. Most of the convertibles carried dignitaries and other assorted "Princesses." Since I was a rather late entry, I was the "back-up" car, just in case there were too many VIP's. As it turned out, I wasn't needed for VIP transportation. (Hmmm ... I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact my car is twenty-one years old and all the others were virtually brand new Mustangs and BMW's? I guess we'll never know! Oh well, think about how much exhaust pollution I offset!)

We Made it!
(I couldn't help but to wear my "UNDERCOVER POLICE" tee-shirt. It matches the car colors ... plus it's a great conversation piece.)

Here it comes, Ladies and Gentleman ... a fully battery powered VW Cabriolet that can run at highway speeds and go fifty miles on a single dollar of electricity.

Passing in review. I got a lot of waves, "All Right's," "I can't hear it," and a few "How fast will it go?"

I was really proud of the car. It never looked better and ran just as expected ... maybe even better! Before the parade started, I opened up the hood for the many curious people to inspect. One gentleman, who gave me his business card, told me if I ever wanted to sell it, he'd buy it ... even after I told him what it would cost.

Of course, there was the always great Washington State University Cougar Marching Band.
Go Cougars!


I couldn't pass up this photo op with Pullman's Chief of (Undercover) Police. His comment: "Where'd you get that shirt?" (At least, he was smiling!)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

UPDATE: August 18, 2007

So ... Why do I do this?
The August 2007 issue of Wired Magazine had an interview with the world's greatest DIY'er: Martha Stewart.
She made a comment worth remembering:

WIRED MAGAZINE INTERVIEWER: One reason people like projects is because they get a sense of control over their environment and technology. It gives them ownership.
MARTHA STEWART: That's why I say, "You own it if you made it." You don't own the pie if you buy it. You just don't. Doing projects really gives people self-confidence. Nothing is better than taking the pie out of the oven. What it does for you personally, and for your family's idea of you, is something you can't buy.
(The International Lentil Festival Grand Parade was this morning and the "Electric Jet" was in it. Looks for pictures on Sunday.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

UPDATE: August 15, 2007

The car is running great ... even better than I expected.
For the next few days, I will be getting a few last minute cosmetic items taken care of and the car all shined up. On Saturday, the "Electric Jet" will be featured in our once-a-year big* "National Lentil Festival Parade." We may be carrying a couple of the local "Beauty Queens," but that is yet to be determined. I was asked if I would carry a political celebrity. Answer: "Yes, as long as it isn't a D*******." That brought a few chuckles. (The local Chamber of Commerce is the festival sponsor, so we pretty well see eye-to-eye on that subject.)
* "big" is relative to Pullman. The Lentil parade is somewhat smaller than the New York City Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, in case you were wondering.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

UPDATE: August 11, 2007

Ice Cream Run
in the "Electric Jet"

Loading up and ready for the inagural run to Pullman for ice cream. For this momentious event, Patrick, Lori, Ali and her friend, Kendal drove to the R J Ranch.

Our original destination was Ferdinand's on the WSU campus. It has great ice cream. Unfortunately, upon arrival, we discovered it was closed on weekends. (What? An ice cream parlor CLOSED on summer weekends???) Anyway, the day was saved by diverting to our alternate location: Baskin-Robbins. Not a bad second choice.

We forgot our camera, so Patrick recorded the event, in front of Baskin-Robbins, using his cell phone camera. Great job, Patrick.

The Grand Rollout of the Electric Jet was 23 miles in length. Upon arrival back at the ranch, the SOC meter (State-Of-Charge) reported 50% remaining power. This was better than expected as we did a couple of miles of fast highway travelling (55mph) and we were carrying four passengers. Cost to recharge the Jet: 43-cents!

When the Jet gets fully broken in, I think a 50-mile range is quite possible.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

UPDATE: August 8, 2007

The test/tune-up runs are completed. It will take a couple of weeks before the electric motor brushes are fully seated and the battery pack will accept a full charge.
However: The inaugural "Ice Cream Run" will be on Saturday. I don't think there will be any problem motivating to the ice cream parlor at WSU and back. (Round trip approximately 20 miles.)
I have a couple of pieces of energy monitoring equipment that I use to monitor the battery recharging. My Rudman PFC-20 charger will pump about 22 amps, however I've throttled it back to about 15.5 amps, at this point. After the last 17 mile run, I put 5.5 kwh's of energy back into the car. Here in Pullman, our electrical cost is $.05/kwh. At that rate, the cost per mile is roughly 1-1/2 cents! A round trip to Pullman will cost about 30-cents. (My pickup will use a little over one gallon of gas for the same trip ... go figure!)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

UPDATE: August 7, 2007

Disappointment Turns Into A Grin!

During my ongoing series of tests and break-in runs, it was becoming quite apparent that things were not going as well as expected. The power was definitely lacking! By now, the car should have been up to at least 75% of final expected performance. But if this was 75%, then I was going to be one disappointed electric vehicle driver! I could just barely get up the rolling hills around here and on the open flat roads, about 45 MPH was tops, with the accelerator floored!

I decided that the coating of "No-Ox" that I liberally slathered all over every battery terminal, in an pre-emptive strike against corrosion, was causing electrical resistance and needed to be removed ... all 32 terminals! Three hours later, I took another test drive - same problem! I was NOT feeling very happy!
While I was in the garage/barn pulling my hair out trying to decide if there was something seriously wrong or if I'd just have to accept this modest performance, Jacquie's grandson, Drew, age 14, looking under the hood, observed, "There sure is a lot of slack in that throttle cable." Me, being "Mr. Electrical Vehicle Expert," replied, "Some slack is just fine ... that's not the problem."

As Drew wandered back to the house and I was about to follow, quite disappointed, I decided to check out that "slack." Well guess what: The throttle cable was only opening the controller (pot box) half-way! In other words, I was only able to use half of the power available!
I made a few changes and went for another test drive. Whoa! What a difference! Acceleration was so strong that I really didn't want to try full throttle. Problem solved!
Enter "BIG GRIN!"
When I got back to the house I made it a point to tell Drew that his observation was what solved the problem.
So what do I know ... I'm only "Mr. Electrical Vehicle Expert."

Monday, August 06, 2007

UPDATE: August 6, 2007

Again, this weekend was a "Honey-Do" day, so not much car work got accomplished, except for short battery break-in drives.

Today, I took a couple of drives: One was 17 miles and the other was 10 miles. Upon recharging, after the 17 mile run, I put in 5.5 Kilowatt hours (Kwh) of power. At 5-cents per Kwh, that figured out to be about 27-CENTS of electricity. A typical car, getting 22 mpg, would burn .77 gallons of gas. At $2.95/gal., that would be a cost of $2.29. Not too bad!

Also today, I did a little electrical revision (rearranged a couple of batteries for a better connection path) and also, with Jacquie's help, applied the yellow "ELECTRIC" signs on the doors. It looks pretty sharp. Maybe tomorrow, I'll post a good photo.

Friday, August 03, 2007

UPDATE: August 3, 2007

Ma and Pa Kettle Have An Electrifying Experience.
(It ain't so pretty right now, but just wait!)
We took a short run - just had to try it out - after we powered it up. As you may recall, I took all the seats out to have them reupholstered and ... they were still out when this picture was taken. If you look closely, I'm sitting on a fold-up chair and Jacquie grabbed the first thing handy ... a kitchen stool!
That was yesterday.
Today, I put all the seats back in and cleaned up much of the old unused wiring. (There are still a few wires hanging out, in the picture. Also note the lower trim piece that is more than slightly askew. I need to take a trip on Monday to the local body shop to pick up a couple of trim fasteners that somehow got lost.)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

UPDATE: August 2, 2007


I drove the car from the barn to the house and back - All under it's own power. I didn't go farther because the batteries have not been charged. For the next couple of days, I'm going to be doing several short runs and recharges to condition the battery pack. By the Saturday after next, it should be ready for the inaugural Ice Cream Run!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

UPDATE: August 1, 2007

One For The Money, Two For The Show, Three To Get Ready ... Go - Go -Go - Tomorrow!

Well, "No Cigar" today. There was more finishing wiring to do than I had expected. That being said, I do expect to have the car powered up tomorrow - Thursday.
After power-Up, there will be a series of short runs to get the battery pack broken in. Technical data indicates that the battery pack won't reach full capacity until it has undergone 10 - 25 charge/discharge cycles.
I expect the "Grand Opening," i.e., Ice Cream Run to take place on Saturday, August 11th. Prior to that, the vehicle will undergo upgrading and testing.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

UPDATE: July 31, 2007

On The Verge

A lot was accomplished today:

The suspension struts were installed, along with the new heavy duty springs. The new springs were calibrated just right. The ride height is just as I wanted. As you may recall, the original car had been lowered about two inches. This has been preserved ... looks cool!

The charger wiring and interlock relay wiring was completed. (The interlock relay prevents the car from operating when the charger is plugged in.)

All sixteen batteries were installed, but not wired together yet. That task is for tomorrow.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be POWER UP day!

Friday, July 27, 2007

UPDATE: July 27, 2007

Finishing up dashboard installation.

(The shop will be dark over the weekend. Next report Monday night.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

UPDATE: July 25, 2007

I'm starting to change the vehicle wiring chaos into something orderly. I have the fuse/relay panel back into it's intended spot ... which it wasn't before. The wiring for the stereo speakers is roughed in.

As you can see, the dashboard has been reinstalled. For the next couple of days, I'll be finishing up the interior work. Next on the agenda: The suspension system will be reinstalled, the batteries installed and the final high voltage hookup completed. Last, but not least, final testing.

The trip to Baskin-Robbins will not be this week. Next week looks very hopeful.

Monday, July 23, 2007

UPDATE: July 23, 2007

Sorry ... No pix.
I worked all day finishing up the wiring under the hood, after I swapped out my Curtis 1221B for the more robust Curtis 1231C. This will allow me to easily pull 550 amps at 96 volts! That a very impressive 52,800 watts of power! (Actually by EV standards, it's rather puny. Some "full-bore" EV's are pulling 600,000 watts ... and more!)
Tuesday, I pick up my new suspension springs. I might actually be able to drive to Pullman for an ice cream cone by weekend.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

UPDATE: July 21, 2007

I spent most of the day pouring over the VW factory wiring diagrams trying to figure out what the heck had happened, previously, to the poor VW's wiring. It had been patched, chopped, and re-connected many, many times. More than one "shade-tree-mechanic" had his hand in the wiring.
I call it: "Explosion In The Spaghetti Factory."
(I have most of it figured out. I applied battery power to the car and ... no smoke. That is good!)
I tested the vacuum pump (provides vacuum for the power brakes) and discovered the pump cycles ON/OFF every few seconds. That's an indication of a vacuum leak somewhere. Hopefully, it's just a hose leak and not the vacuum brake booster.
Saturday is a "honey-do" day. (By previous negotiations. lol) So, today we spent most of the day nailing up the wall covering (5/16" wafer board) on the remaining wall in Jacquie's glass workshop in the barn. It took twelve 4' x 8' panels ... most of which had to be cut to fit.
I'm "sorta hopeful" that the VW will be up and running by the end of next week ... sorta. A lot depends on what the meaning of "up and running" is!

Sunday is a R & R day.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

UPDATE: July 18, 2007

Spent all day doing wiring and fabricating a new mount and location for the main contactor and shunt. No picture: Just imagine what yesterday's picture looked like ... today would be the same.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

UPDATE: July 17, 2007

Every aspect of this project presents it's own unique challenge. Now the challenge is wiring. I'm pretty good at wiring and electrical things, but this is no ordinary electrical wiring job. It seems that some previous owner did considerable "cutting & splicing," so nothing matches up too well. The challenge is to integrate the new vehicle wiring with the old car wiring.

Monday, July 16, 2007

UPDATE: July 16, 2007

Vacuum pump and reservoir installed. The vacuum system is needed to power the power brakes. The actual pump is 12-volt DC powered from the aux. battery system. (You can see the pump at the bottom of the picture, just to the right of center.)

I picked up the newly upholstered seats this morning. Looks pretty good, don't they.
(The work was done by Dido Upholstery Shop in Troy, ID.)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

UPDATE: July 15, 2007

I only worked a few hours this weekend. ("Honey-Do" projects!)

Here is the DC to DC converter mounted on the left (driver's side) strut tower.

Here is the main controller (large black box), the main contactor (lower right corner. This is the main ON/OFF switch for the battery pack.) and the shunt that provides the readout for the amount of current (amps) that is being used at any given time. (You are looking at the inside of the right, passenger's side, fender.)

Monday, I go pick my seats that were upholstered. I'm excited about that.

Other details: My stereo CD/AM/FM/XM Satellite radio system from Crutchfield arrived as did the battery charger from Manzanita Micro (PFC-20). On Friday, I took the vehicle springs to Pohl Spring Works, in Spokane, to have newer, heavy duty springs manufactured.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

UPDATE: July 11, 2007

I removed all four suspension strut assemblies. Next stop: Spring winding company for new, stronger, springs. (Probably on Friday.)

Also a few more basic repairs: Replaced the right door window regulator (NOT a fun job!) and the right wing window.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

UPDATE: July 10, 2007

Front battery pack installed. (But not hooked up yet.)

Rear battery pack installed. (But not hooked up.)

Car sitting on computer scales.

This was the weight of the original car, prior to modification.

This is the weight AFTER modification, with batteries and equipment in place.
We've gained about 684 lbs ... about the weight of four passengers. (From here on I'll limit the car to a driver and one passenger.)

Next job is to remove all four suspension struts, springs and shock absorbers. I will take them to the Pohl Spring Works, in Spokane, and have them wind the appropriate springs to bring the car back to it's original (lowered) height.

Friday, July 06, 2007

UPDATE: July 6, 2007

Catch up day.
While I'm waiting for the motor mount to be modified, (See yesterday's entry.) I caught up on some work:
>I installed and adjusted a new clutch cable.
>I installed a new speedometer cable.
>I hooked up both drive axles to the transmission.
>I installed the rear battery box ventilation system, both inlet and exhaust. The rear battery box is now ready for the batteries to be installed.
The next project will be to fit and install the front battery holder. I want to get that done in the next couple of days. I've checked the fitting of the front box and it looks OK, so installation should be no big deal.
As soon as the front battery box is installed, I'll load up both boxes with all the batteries. Next, I'll simply sit all the other stuff that needs to be installed in the car. (The seats are still out being re-upholstered, so I'll add a couple of concrete blocks to simulate the weight.)
With the car weighted down, as it will be, I can then re-weight the car to get the final rolling weight. With this weight, I can then order the stronger suspension springs.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

UPDATE: July 5, 2007

High Hopes ... Almost achieved!

Jacquie and I spent almost two hours jiggling and juggling the motor/transmission assembly to get it seated and properly located. There are four engine/transmission mounts that have to be perfectly lined up ... or it just won't fit. We got three of the four bolted in, but ran into a "show stopper" with the fourth.

The fourth motor mount is one supplied by the kit manufacturer. When I went to bolt in on, as per instructions, I discovered that the bolt holes are 45 degrees off! After a frantic call to the kit supplier, I learned that "there was a change" that failed to be mentioned.

To remedy the situation, I could pull the motor/transmission unit back out of the car, pull the transmission off the motor, remove the clutch assembly and then re-bolt it all back up, rotating the motor housing 45 degrees. I elected NOT to do this.

Instead, I am having a local machine shop weld a steel plate on the motor mount, then I will re-drill the holes to fit the motor. (There wasn't enough metal on the original motor mount to re-drill it.) I expect to get it on Monday.

In the meantime, I'll wrap up the rear battery box job and then do some re-wiring of the headlights. They didn't function too well before the conversion. If I still have more time, I'll work on some door problems.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

UPDATE: July 4, 2007

I didn't work very long today because of the Johnson City parade this morning and the Pullman fireworks tonight.

But I did get the electric motor and transmission mated up and ready for mounting in the car tomorrow.

It's moving right along.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

UPDATE: July 3, 2007

I got back from my Seattle trip, unexpectedly early, so I had most of the day today to work on the car. The project for the day was to attach the VW transmission adapter plate, the motor coupler and install the clutch assembly. (New clutch and pressure plate.) Here you see the electric motor, which was secured to the workbench, using a chain and J-bolts. The purpose of bolting the motor down (the blue rug you see is simply to keep from marring up the paint on the motor) is so the motor attachments could be bolted and torqued properly.
After it was all done, I couldn't help but clip on a 12-volt battery and see if everything spins up. Yup ... it did! No vibration, either.
I probably won't get much done tomorrow, the 4th of July. In the morning, we'll be going to a parade in Johnson City, WA, which we're told is very "interesting." (Look for a report and possibly pictures on "Night Noise.") That evening will be the big fireworks display at the Pullman City Park.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

UPDATE: July 1, 2007

No car work this weekend. I promised Jacquie that I'd work on getting her stained glass workshop set up.
Next week will be a short work week because I have a business trip to Seattle on Monday and Tuesday. I now have all the parts on hand that are necessary to get the vehicle up and running. (Accept for springs. I need to get everything in the car so I can re-weight it and order the appropriate springs for the new total vehicle weight.)
Next week I hope to have the electric motor mated up to the VW transmission and then installed in the car ... assuming all goes well. (I'll have photos of the work.) Following that, will be mounting and wiring the electronic control equipment and associated circuitry. So far, I don't see any "show stoppers."
Just for fun ... from the weekend Seattle (WA) Times:
"It was a classic "American Graffiti" moment. A Corvette had stopped at the light next to Martin Eberhard's new Tesla Roadster. The Corvette driver wanted a race. Jim Woolsey, former CIA director in the Clinton administration, was at the wheel of the Tesla, taking a test drive. He asked Eberhard, Tesla Motors' CEO, what to do, and got the answer he wanted. "TAKE HIM !" said Eberhard.
(And they DID as the article went on to say the guy in the Corvette, came long side at the next light, and said... "What IS that !! ")
Note: A Tesla is a new totally electric vehicle (EV) being developed and about ready to go into production. It's quite "pricey" ... like $90K+. One reason you don't want to drag race an EV - even a 1986 VW Cabriolet - is because the DC electric motor develops full power and torque even at zero vehicle speed. This means that in a drag race, the EV has full power, right from the get-go, while the gas car has to proceed down the road a bit before it gets it's game on.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

UPDATE: June 28, 2007

Today, I completed the installation of the rear battery rack. Whew ... glad that job is done! New speedometer and accelerator cables were also installed, along with a new fuse holder and electrical relay. Both electrical items are uniquely for the electrical car.

I probably could have the car actually running under electrical power by the end of next week, if it weren't for waiting for a new set of clutch bolts. Upon removal of the clutch and flywheel, today, I discovered that the nine special 12-point bolts were badly worn. I figured I better order a new set, which I did today.

Note: I discovered on the Internet a really great place for VW parts: Good prices and great service. They seem to have everything, even for a twenty-one year old car. The company is Autohaus Arizona. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

UPDATE: June 27, 2007

General maintenance day ... no pix ... maybe tomorrow.
1) Replaced both rear flexible brake lines. (Old one's were badly deteriorated.)
2) Replaced the left protective boot on the steering rack.
3) Replaced the lower bearing on the steering column. (Had to remove and disassemble the entire steering column.
4) Replaced the hood release cable. (The old one was sticking.)
5) Riveted brackets under the car, along the path the exhaust pipe had taken, for placement of the 3" tubing that will carry the high current power cables from the back battery rack to the front rack.
6) Cleaned and coated the engine compartment with a coat of truck bed-liner. (Same coating as on the underside of the hood. It's very protective.)
That about does it for critical maintenance items. There are still some door handles that need work and a wing window that needs replacing. I also have to replace the passenger side window regulator (the mechanism that raises and lowers the window.) All parts are on hand, but I'll wait on those projects until after the car is up and running properly.
Fun day ... really.
Ps: While I was working, today, I was thinking about what I want for a radio/stereo. I decided that I'll just have a CD player and XM Satellite Radio ... no AM or FM. I was also wondering about a heater. I think I'll do as a couple of others have done: Use a couple of 110V hair dryers, mounted under the dash! I understand they work quite well.

Monday, June 25, 2007

UPDATE: June 25, 2007

Lots of work today, but no pictures.
In the rear battery compartment, I cleaned up the jagged sheet metal, where the hole for the battery rack was cut. Next, I cut holes for the battery box forced air ventilation system. Finally, I cleared away several brackets, that would not be needed, and opened up a pathway, under the car where the exhaust pipe had been, for the heavy current wires to run from the rear battery box to the front battery box.
Later this week, I hope to actually get the motor mated to the transmission and installed in the car.
Oh yes ... I submitted my application for the car to be in the 2007 National Lentil Festival Parade in mid-August. Now, all I have to do is make sure it's completed by then.
One more "Oh Yes:" Today, the local newspaper, the "Moscow-Pullman Daily News" published a nice little story about the project, titled: "Conversion puts new charge into VW." Nice story. I'll scan it and put a link to it, in the next day, or so.

Friday, June 22, 2007

UPDATE: June 22, 2007

This morning I took the seats from the VW to "Dido Upholstery of Troy." It's a small shop, with a great reputation, in Troy, ID, a small town about 25 miles from home. He's going to recover all the seats and bring it up to OEM standards.

The afternoon was consumed with what was probably the most difficult job in the whole conversion: It was cutting out the rear deck in the trunk area for placement of the rear battery rack. This rack will carry half the batteries. The other eight will be in the front area, over the motor. Cutting this out was really hard because of the small cramped area to work in and the close tolerances. I had to use both a power reciprocating saw and pneumatic metal shears. Not fun ... but it's done!

I spent a lot of time in this position, today!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Oh My ...

Today I removed the entire instrument panel. The main reason was to make it easier to remove the heater/air conditioning system. I also have to pull the steering column to replace a faulty bearing which make the steering seem kind of wobbly. (It was safe, but just didn't feel that way.) Hopefully I can get everything hooked back up correctly!
The pile of "Excess Parts" is growing. The latest addition is that squarish box which was the heater/air conditioner. Also growing is the list of things that I need to reassemble!
(CLICK the photo for a larger image.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I Fought The Tank And I WON

Tough battle today: I was going to leave the empty gas tank in because it seemed a pretty hard task to remove it. After studying the conversion manual, I discovered that I had to route some battery cables through the area where the tank was. Bottom line: The tank had to come out.

The VW shop manual says that to remove the gas tank, you have to first disconnect both rear brake lines, then unbolt and drop the rear axle. I spent half the day trying to figure out a way to remove the tank without dropping the axle, which seemed like a pretty serious job.

After attempting to saw the tank in half, with virtually zero success, I defaulted to the "school solution," involving dropping the rear axle. (The gas tank is virtually molded over the rear axle, so there is no way to simply unbolt it and remove it.)

I spent the entire after noon juggling four jack stands and a floor jack, and finally dropped the axle about six inches, allowing the tank to be removed. Other than a lot of maneuvering of jacks, it wasn't that hard, just time consuming. It was probably a good idea, anyway, since I discovered that the rear flexible brake lines were pretty well shot and needs immediate replacing.

I also gave the underside of the hood a good coating of "truck bed liner." This is a tough coating that will resist the fumes resulting from battery charging. I will doing the same coating the the engine compartment, after I get it cleaned up.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Legal Separation (Reconciliation not likely!)

Kind of a slow day today. I separated the transmission from the motor and took stock of the various seals I need to order to get the tranny in a leakproof state. I discovered that there is an overhaul kit available that provides all the gaskets and seals needed.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cleaning Up The Act

Here's the gaping hole where the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) had been residing for the past 21 years. Note that I didn't just cut off all the wiring, but instead disconnected everything and moved it out of the way. Many of these circuits will be used again in the EV.

Today, I rented a power steam cleaner and thoroughly cleaned up the engine compartment. Tomorrow, I'll spray everything with a rust inhibitor, then spray on a liberal coating of pickup truck bed liner. The bed liner is hard tough coating that will not only look pretty good, but resist the acid fumes that the battery's vent while recharging. The underside of the engine hood will also be coated with bed liner.

Next, will be the separation of the transmission from the ICE and replacement of all the seals. The last thing I need is to get it all together and have oil dripping from the transmission. I look at it as cheap insurance.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Out With The Old ...

The old VW gas engine is now history. It was an all-day job getting it out. It required removing quite a bit of infrastructure, a lot of jiggling and tugging and a couple of fast trips on my motorcycle to NAPA Auto Parts for tools. Also removed was the entire exhaust system, which came out much easier than expected. (Thank goodness for power saws!) Next will be the gas tank and plumbing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Moving Right Along ...

Looking to see if there are any "excess parts."

Looks like I've located a few!

The hangman awaits!