Monday, December 08, 2008

No Heat - No Problem

For some time now, I have been "getting ready" to take on the task of adding a heater to the Cabbie. There are, by my count, about three reasonable possibilities:

Option One: Replace the old hot water heater with an electric ceramic element. The ceramic element would be installed in the original VW heater box, along with the appropriate electric controls to run it. This would make a nice professional installation and the heater would function much like the original VW unit. I actually have all the parts gathered together ... I just haven't gotten around to it.

Option Two: I have read about several heater installations involving conventional hair driers. Since the hair drier really doesn't care if it's plugged into the household 115 vac outlet or my 98-volt DC battery pack, the hair drier will run just fine (maybe even better!) and put out copious amounts of hot air. Some builders have stuck the end of the drier into one of the car's air vent lines and simply switched it ON/OFF manually. An advantage of the hair drier is it can be pointed directly at the windshield for fast defrost or defog. I'm thinking: If I constructed a small metal box as a "docking station" to hold the hair drier, the box could direct the warm air from the drier into the cabin area. Then if I needed defrosting or defogging, I just lift the hair drier from it's "docking station", then return it when the windshield has been cleared. I actually am beginning to favor this approach ... to the point that I will probably give it a try ... after I get tired of Option Three!

Option Three: Do nothing! I've been driving quite a bit in 25-28 deg. F, weather with no heater and it really isn't all that bad! With a warm coat, light gloves and a warm hat, I don't mind it that much during my nine-mile work commute. After all, it would usually take three or four miles for a conventional car to warm up, so you would dress warmly, anyway.

BOTTOM LINE: Don't get too worked up over how to get heat into your conversion. Just make sure all the holes in the vehicle firewall are plugged. I had one pretty good sized hole where the old heater assembly came out and that let in a lot of cold air, while driving. Once the air leaks were plugged, as I mentioned, "It really isn't all that bad."

HINT: If I have the chance, I "pre-heat" the cabin, using a small 115 vac ceramic type heater. (Yes, the one that I planned on taking apart to permanently install in the car.) If I know I'll be driving in 15-30 minutes, I put the heater on the floor of the passenger side, being EXTREMELY careful that it isn't in any position to overheat any part of the car (Like in: Catch on fire!) The warmed up car feels pretty good and the heat will persist for several miles.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What it like to drive an EV

Stay Tuned:

Before too long I'll grab the video camera and take you on an informative tour and ride in my "Electric VW."

Monday, September 01, 2008

Road Report

It's been about two weeks since I have the car back on the road after the front end rebuild.

It drives almost like a new car. I am particularily impressed with the Bilstein shocks. The ride is "Euro-Firm." I like it: It reminds me of my last Audi i.e., great road feel and very positive steering. It also helped to get the lower anti-roll bar reinstalled, along with the upper strut tower support fixture. (I have to ask myself: "Why didn't I do this sooner?")

Next project will be headlights and heater.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


As of today, I have one side completed. I would have been done, but discovered yesterday that one upper strut bearing plate was worn beyond limits. No one in town carries the part so it was ordered thru Schuck's Auto Parts. It will be here Monday AM. (I endorse Schuck's. They are very responsive to parts orders.)

A Bilstein performance strut assembly ... The Best!

New driveshaft/CV joint assembly. Both left and right were replaced.

Upon initial build of the car, I did not attach the upper stabilizer bar because it interferred with the mounting plates for the DC/DC converter, the main contactor and the throttle pot. I trimmed down the mounting plates and now the bar fits. (I put a lot of work into getting a great paint job on the bar.)

Here is a pix of the strut assembly installed in the right side of the car. The springs are not stock, but custom wound units designed to handle the added battery weight AND lower the car about 1-1/2" (38 mm)

A new ball joint.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


The V-Dub is down for a little maintenance. It has been very reliable transportation for me for over 3000 miles, since the conversion was completed almost exactly one year ago.

Last night, while driving to town, I heard a very distinctive "grinding" sound. I had a very good idea what it was: The CV joints. I knew they needed replacing, even when I first started to drive the car after conversion, last year. In fact, I have had the replacement drive shafts/CV joints on hand for several months, waiting until "I felt like" replacing them. I now "feel like it!" Today, I started the disassembly of the front end and will do the following repairs:

* Replace both drive shafts and CV joints. (Interesting note: The shafts I have had for several months are the wrong ones! Fortunately, I have the original receipt and can exchange for the correct ones.)

* I discovered that the wheel bearing on the left-front wheel was totally worn out. I'll replace that, along with the right-front, just as a preventing measure.

* The right-front steering tie-rod end will be replaced. (It was actually OK, but got a little "banged-up" during removal.)

* Both front strut cartridges (shock absorbers) will be replaced. I bought new ones when I did the conversion, but they failed almost immediately. (That's what you get for trying to save a buck ... even though they were advertised as "performance.")

* I have had a tachometer adapter for almost a year, but never installed it because it takes a little drilling into the transmission case. I'll get that done this time.

* Since I do a lot of driving at night, I need to do some work on the headlights. The wiring is old, resulting in less than optimum light output. They also need to be re-aimed.

That's probably enough work for this cycle. This winter, I'll catch up on a few more improvements/repairs. The major deferred project is a heater!

Watch this blog for photos and updates as the work progresses.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

I'm Getting A Charge Out Of You

This is the Manzanita Micro PFC-20 Charger that I have installed in the truck of the VW. The "AMPS" control sets the charging current. I have marked two positions: 15 AMPS (for charging from a normal 120V household outlet) and a 20 AMP position, which it is currently set at. (I have a dedicated 20 AMP circuit in the barn.) If I used the 20 AMP position for "away from home" charging, I would probably trip the circuit breaker ... NOT a good way to impress friends and neighbors!

These are the controls for adjusting the time the charger "floats" the battery pack after charging. This is to balance the sixteen batteries in the pack.
The left arrow points to the rotary switch that lets you "guess" what the balance/float time is. It is a 16-position rotary switch with no hint as to timing except to state that the "three o'clock position" is zero time ... it's kind of a "try it and see" approach. (This could be improved.) This is why I'm using the recording chart device to monitor the times.
The right row of switches (installed upside-down ... intentionally, I guess for assembly convenience) selects the various charge/float options. The #1 switch ON, as I have selected, selects the option for the balance/float to start as soon as the charger senses the pack has reached the selected charge voltage.

A vintage Omega chart recorder that I bought on eBay, several years ago. This is the first real application that I have used it in. Works great!
Here is the latest recording that I made after after an eighteen mile trip to Pullman and back. You can see that the charge time was 3.5 hours, followed by an approximate one hour very low power balance/float.

With the current cost of electricity here, the total trip cost would have been approximately TWENTY CENTS! I say: "Would have been," because our solar electric system is currently generating MORE power than it takes to recharge the car. We get free "gas" and what's left over, we sell back to the power company! What's better than that?
See ->

(CLICK pictures for a larger image)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Free Ticket To Ride

What's better than an electric convertible ride on a warm spring day?

What IS better is when the cool ride is powered by energy from the sun.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Vacuum Brakes Revisted

March 5, 2008

The weather is finally improving and it's actually getting up to 50 deg. (f) during the day. We still have snow laying around in the shaded areas, but it's about gone. Even the fields are starting to green up.

I'm starting to drive the car again, so I decided I better upgrade and reactivate the power brake system. It's not too bad driving with no brake booster, but I think it would be hard to lock up a wheel in an emergency stop. Also, since I'm letting others drive it occasionally, it's sort of a safety issue.

What I did was replace the vacuum switch (the switch that starts and stops the vacuum pump) with a much better switch from EV Parts. It's adjustable. Next, at the suggestion of several members on the EVDL (Electric Vehicle Discussion List) I put a "surge protector" in series with the vacuum pump motor. (The protector is a ten ohm thermistor.) What the thermistor does is cause the vacuum pump to do a "soft start," which is much more "gentlemanly like."

The system is working good and is now virtually unobtrusive ... and it hold vacuum quite well.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

UPDATE: January 9, 2008

Project Temporarily Suspended!
Two trucks ... I thought there was only one? Well, the second one, the silver one, was a gift! It has no engine, but the body is very nice. Between the two, I should be able to make ONE very nice electric S10.