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.