Sunday, November 20, 2011

We Have Locomotion!

Pulling out of garage on electric power
Yahoo! It works!  After carefully charging the battery pack and working out a number of bugs in the setup of the battery management system (BMS), I decided it was time to take the truck out for a quick spin around the neighborhood.  What a thrill--nothing blew up, nothing caught fire, nothing shorted out.  I had a scare for a few moments when there was a weird whirring noise which didn't stop when the vehicle did, but I quickly realized it was the vacuum pump for the power brakes--it's working properly too, yeah!  

EV in the neighborhood
The drive was really short, just up the block and back twice.  I had no hood, no lights, no bed, laptop on the seat next to me logging data.  Didn't want to go too far.  It was cool and weird to be driving an making no noise except tire noise.  I think I'm going to like this. 

A happy EV driver
The purpose of this test drive, in addition to see if it worked at all, was to determine if my sensors on the drive side of the system were working.  I had some indication that my current pickup on the discharge side of the battery system wasn't working correctly.  I found out that was true, so now I've got to troubleshoot that.  Without this current pickup I can't tell how much of the charge I've used up--in other words I'd be driving around without a fuel gauge.  There's a long list of stuff that needs to get done before I can have a working EV, including:
  • Fixing the current pickup on the discharge side
  • Testing the controls on the discharge side to ensure the system shuts down when batteries are empty
  • Fixing the short in the heater
  • Making and installing battery and motor controller covers
  • Bleeding the brakes
  • Putting the dashboard back in and installing the new gauges
  • Putting the hood back on
  • Reinstalling the bed with a hinge and lift system
The end-of-academic-term crunch is here so I'm not sure if I can get all of this stuff done before the Christmas holiday.  Now that I think about it, working on my EV over the holidays would be a really nice present.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ooh, Ooh, It's Nearly Running

All wired up and no place to go
Battery pack with BMS chips installed
I spent a bunch of time over the last two weeks finishing up all the wiring for the battery packs, motor controller and the BMS (battery management system).  It's all up and running now.  I turned the whole system on--relays clicked, inverters hummed and nothing started burning--whew.  In spite of my careful checking and double checking of the wiring, I still was a bit worried when I flipped the breaker for my battery pack.

Brains of the BMS wired up
Theoretically, I could open the garage door, turn on the key and drive the truck out into the street today.  It would be slightly less than street legal since it currently has no hood, bed, tail lights, or license plates installed (minor little details).  However, that's not what's stopping from taking a quick emissions free spin around the block.  Before I actually power up the electric motor, I need to program the BMS, charge the batteries and make sure the system is working properly.  Failure to do this correctly could result in damaging the $8000 battery pack.  So I'm now working on programming the BMS. I was successful in getting the BMS powered up and connecting to it's computer via my laptop.  Unfortunately that was the limit of my success this last week.

We're engineers, let's be obtuse!

Snapshot of BMS data
I'm an engineer (civil engineer not electrical or mechanical) and I hate it when engineers write a technical document that can only be understood by the engineer who wrote it.  The BMS "manual" at the Elithion web site is just such a document.  I think most of the information I need is on this site, but it's not easy to find and when I find it it's often a very broad instruction that you can't complete without more information, or there's a ton of detailed information but no specific instructions on how to complete the task.  

Here's one of my favorite examples.  The setup page of the instruction manual tells you that "Many other parameters may be customized, but usually they are left to their default" with no further information on how to determine what you need to change and what you can leave at it's default setting.  One group of "other parameters" that you have to set are the information that the BMS uses to determine the state of charge, i.e. how full your batteries are at any point in time.  If you hunt around long enough you'll find two other pages, each tens of screens long, that I think may have the information I need to set these parameters.  It will take several hours of deciphering and a few phone calls to be sure.  

The Elithion BMS is definitely not a Mac.  It's a long way from plug-n-play and the company seems to like it that way. I've read a few posts by one of the Elithion engineers on several EV forums.  These guys are a lot like bad IT support folks.  They're way smarter than their customers about how their product works--duh--and they pride themselves in pointing out just how stupid their customers are--not a good way to get new customers.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wires, wires, everywhere

It's cabling not wiring
Rear battery pack cabling complete
Working with 2-0 cable
I finally finished running all the high voltage 2-0 cabling.  This included the jumpers on the battery packs, wiring from the battery packs to the motor controller, and wiring from the motor controller to the motor.  Working with 2-0 welding cable is a different kind of wiring than I'm used to.  You don't just snip this wire and screw it to a terminal.  Just cutting the wire, stripping it, and attaching a terminal is a significant task with special tools.  You also have to very carefully plan how you're going to run the cable.  This stuff doesn't bend like #12 house wiring.  The bends need to be gradual and you have to get the lengths just right.  It was especially tedious to run the two lines from the rear battery packs up to the front of the truck.  That task took a lot of creativity and 1/2 a day.  Most of the time was spent designing and fabricating the clamping points.  The cable needs to be secure without any points where it might rub on a sharp edge and wear through the insulation--that would be an unpleasant event.

Motor controller & DC-DC converter
Welcome to my hood
With the rear battery pack jumpers done and the main lines run to the front I tackled the under-the-hood wiring.  I wanted a breaker on the main line so it was easy to disconnect the power to work on the components.  This turned out to be a non-trivial exercise, again due to the difficulty of working with 2-0 cabling.  I was able to fabricate a bracket to hold the breaker out of 16 gauge sheet metal.  I found a nice plastic box to enclose the breaker at my local surplus store.  Not sure of it's original purpose, but it makes a decent electrical box. Again I had to make a bunch of short 2-0 cable jumpers to complete all the high voltage wiring under the hood.

With the high voltage cabling done, I moved on to running all the low voltage (12v) control wiring.  This was much easier, but still tedious.

Oh what a tangled web we weave
Legacy 12v wiring harness
I now have two major wiring tasks left.  The first is to hook the DC-DC converter up to the legacy 12 volt system for the truck.  The 12 volt system is powered off of the main (116 v) battery pack through the DC-DC converter.  This is not a simple as it sounds.  I'll need only about 20 percent of the old wiring system--just that portion that runs the lights, and accessories. All the wiring for the engine, ignition, alternator, and engine control module can be eliminated.  The difficulty is figuring what wires to get rid of and what to keep.  I've got all the wiring diagrams for the truck, but this is another tedious task.

The last wiring task is to hook up the battery management system (BMS).  This requires installing small circuit board on each battery cell and then wiring them into the BMS.  The circuit boards on the cells measure the voltage of each individual cell and can shunt the charge voltage around the cell once it's fully charger.  The BMS keeps track of the state of charge of every cell and controls the operation of the battery charger.

We'll I'm now going on 6 weeks behind schedule.  I'm thinking I might make a Thanksgiving completion date.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

HVAC Detour

Beware of Simple Tasks 
The now dashless truck interior
A few weekends ago, my friend Chris was over helping with the conversion project and I said, "why don't you take out the old heater core so we can put the electric heater in."  I was thinking this would be a nice couple hour job he could work on while I worked out some wiring issues.  Well it turned out getting to the heater core required removing the entire dashboard--simple enough right?  Wrong!  Four or five hours later we finally had the dash out.  As with nearly every detour, there is a bright side to this one.  With the entire dash removed, I have easy access to all the heating ducts and was able to remove and thoroughly clean them all.  This turned out to be pretty important.  The previous owner use the truck for a landscaping & maintenance business and I've found dirt, grass clippings, and mulch debris in every crevice of the vehicle--inside and out.  I now have clean, dust-free ducts.  It's also a lot easier to clean all the crevices and niches of the dash board when it's not in the vehicle.

Electric heater core in place
The electric heater core is substantially smaller than the old liquid heater core so I had to make an adapter to get it fit into the duct properly.  This gave me a chance to learn a little sheet metal fabrication.  Fortunately I have access to a sheet metal shop and was able to use the brakes, shears, and punches to fabricate a sheet metal box to hold the electric core and fit snugly into the duct work.  It's a bonus that this whole thing fits inside a duct where it will never be seen.  It all works fine, but my first attempt at sheet metal work leaves a lot to be desire on the aesthetic side.

Old leaky master cylinder
The last little detour had to do with the breaks.  When I bought the truck there was a half-full bottle of brake fluid behind the driver's seat and the reservoir was about down to the low limit.  I soon had to add fluid to the reservoir, I figured I had some leaky cylinders at one or more wheels.  However the puddle of brake fluid under the left side of the engine compartment clearly pointed to the master cylinder.  I wasn't really looking forward to rebuilding the master cylinder and was please to find out that I could by a refurbished master cylinder at a reasonable price.  All I had to do was unbolt the older cylinder move the reservoir from the old cylinder to the new one, and bolt the new one in place.  Actually, bleeding the new master cylinder on the bench took longer than replacing it.

I've now finished most of the major mechanical stuff and am moving seriously into the electrical part of the construction.  Things have slowed down quite a bit now that summer is over.  I'm into tortoise mode-slow and steady.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Metal Work

Cleaning up one of my
uglier welds
New Toys
One of the great things about new projects is the opportunity to acquire new tools. One of the first things I did before starting the actual project was to install an air compressor for the garage.  I got lucky here and picked up a used industrial compressor for less than $100.  The impact wrench, cutoff tool, and die grinder I got cost way more than the compressor.  In fact, the material to install the compressor (had to run a new 220v line in the garage) was more than the compressor.  So now I have air in the garage!  I also added some other tools including a 4" grinder, essential for the metal work I've been doing.  I also borrowed to important tools from friend, a MIG wire welder and a chop saw.  I would be nice to have more metal working tools, like a drill press, band saw, etc. but I don't really have the room for them in my garage.

Motor Mount
My simple motor mount
The first order of business was to create a motor mount to hold the front of the motor in place.  Initially I thought I was going to have to fabricate a rather complicated bracket that attached the new electric motor to the existing motor mounts.  However, after dropping the new motor in place, I discovered the mounts for the steering arms were in an ideal location just in front of the motor on either frame rail.  All I had to do was make plates to match the existing bolt pattern for the steering arms and then weld an angle between them and drill holes for the bolts to the motor itself.  This worked out really nicely.

Battery Boxes
Battery "box" before installation
After some considerable thought and discussions with a number of other folks who had done EV conversions, I decided I didn't really need boxes for my batteries, just racks to hold the.  The plastic shells of the batteries are really robust, and I saved weight by just using steel angles to form the frames. The image at the right shows a typical box before it was installed in the vehicle.  The bottom is 1"x1" steel angle and the top is 1/2"x1/2" angle.  Threaded rods are used to bolt the top to the bottom holding the batteries in place.  Along the sides of the box are aluminum channels (2"x1") which are connected by additional threaded rods.  These channels are used to compress the batteries.  One characteristic of the lithium batteries is they can swell when they get hot.  The swellings causes the plates inside the battery to separate and this quickly ruins the batteries.  Therefor, some way of compressing the batteries is essential.  A lot of folks use steel or aluminum plates with tie rods.  I chose the channels because they were easy to cut and the channels are stiffer than a flat plate with much less aluminum.

Bracket fabricated to attach battery
box to the truck frame
Getting the boxes mounted in the vehicle took a good deal of creativity and and a lot of work.  The basic technique was to create brackets from additional steel angle and attach the brackets to the boxes and the truck's frame.  The brackets were welded to the boxes, but I tried as much as possible to avoid welding on the frame.  Since I'm not a very good welder, I didn't want to screw up the frame with a crappy weld.  The image at the left shows the used to attach one of the boxes to the truck frame.  In this case I was able to attach the bracket to an existing set of bolt holes originally used to hold the gas tank in place.  I was often able to use existing holes as bolt locations for the brackets.  In other cases I had to drill new holes in the frame and in two cases I had to weld tabs onto the frame. Once I got the technique down, things went steadily (if a bit slowly).  The final configuration is shown below.  There are 29 batteries in the back of the truck in three separate banks of 12, 12 and 5 batteries each, plus one bank of 7 batteries up front under the hood.
Three rear battery banks

Front battery bank and motor

The next step is to design the layout of all the electrical equipment that goes under the hood.  I'll need to fabricate a box to hold the motor controller and associated gear and figure out a way to attach that under the hood.  Then will come the serious wiring work.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

New powertrain and new skills

HPEV AC-50 Motor, adapter
plate (red thing), & clutch
The Electric Drive Train
It was a pretty good weekend on the EV conversion front.  I got a bunch more of my parts this last week including my electric motor!  The motor was built by High Performance Electric Vehicle Systems (HPEV) just 15 minutes down the road from me, in Pomona.  I got to visit their shop and meet one of the owners, Brian Seymour. Besides looking at their production line and learning about the history of the company (they've been winding motors for nearly 50 year) I got to drive Brian EV Porsche 911--pretty cool.  They've also done a really nice Jetta conversion
Motor bolted to the original, but
rebuilt manual transmission

Back to my conversion, the motor I'm using is an HPEV AC-50 which is an AC motor which can draw up to 650 amps at 115 volts. The motor bolts on to the original manual transmission using an adapter that mimics the end of the old gasoline engine.  My adapter was manufactured by Canadian Electric Vehicles. The adapter includes a plate that bolts on to the motor and the transmission and a hub that attaches to the motor shaft and bolts on to the original fly wheel.  Since I had the transmission out I replaced the clutch and throwout bearing at the same time. 

Motor and transmission going in
After bolting up the motor and transmission I enlisted the help of my friend, Chris, to put it all back in the truck.  We made a second trip to our local tool rental guy to get an engine hoist and drop that baby right in.  It was all going without a hitch until I found that I should have ground out a section of the adapter plate to make room for the clutch piston. Since we already had the rear of the transmission bolted in place I ground out the notch with the motor and transmission in place. It was a pretty ugly job, but it worked--a lesson in thinking ahead.  Anyway, we got the new motor and transmission in place.  Chris also replaced all four shocks for me.  I still need to fabricate a bracket to bolt the electric motor to the existing motor mounts on the chassis.
The notch I should have ground out
before dropping the motor in place

New skills
Speaking of fabricating metal stuff, I solved my problem of getting welding done by learning to do it myself today.  I had originally planned to purchase my welding services from a buddy by trading homebrew lessons and beer for welding but my welder is about to head off to Burning Man next week just when I needed his help.  Not to worry, he introduced me to another friend of his who taught me how to use his wire feed MIG welder and loaned me the equipment!

I learned gas welding years ago and tried, unsuccessfully, several time to learn arc welding.  Arc welding is a skill that required more time and patience than I had to learn properly.  Thankfully, in the intervening years two breakthroughs have made welding way easier:  wire feed machines, and auto darkening lenses.  With these new (to me) tools and my previous gas welding experience, I was off and welding in 30 minutes!  I worked on a couple parts of the the battery boxes.  My welds are still a little ugly, but they'll get better. I can't wait to spend some time this week welding up my battery boxes and a bracket for the motor.  I think I'll have to play hooky for a day--wait, it's still summer vacation, and I'm not getting paid--I don't have to play hooky, I just need to stay home and enjoy working on my EV project!

My supplier
A big shout out to Wistar Rhodes at KTA Services.  I've purchased all of my EV parts from KTA with the exception of the batteries.  I wanted the help of a knowledgeable EV vendor to help me select the right parts since I could easy ruin a $4,000 motor or $8,000 of batteries with the wrong parts.  I contacted several vendors and found Wistar at KTA to be both knowledgeable and helpful.  He's already spent several hours on the phone with me discussing the pros and cons of various components.  I found KTA prices to be very competitive. I recommend KTA to those that want help selecting components.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Parts arrive!

The new fuel tank for the truck.
32, 3.2 volt lithium batteries.
The parts have started to arrive.  It's like Christmas in August!  I picked up the batteries from the local distributor today--all 450 lbs of them. The battery pack consists of 36, 3.2 volt, lithium batteries connected in series for a total nominal voltage of 115 v.  The batteries are rated at 180 amp-hours. If my calculations are right, this should give about a 50 mile range on a fully charged battery pack.  Now I have the task of designing the fixtures and boxes to hold the batteries. As I mentioned in an earlier post, most of the batteries will be going under the bed of the pickup between the frame members.  I've made a SktechUp model of the frame and the drive train, which you can see below.  It's a little crude but accurate enough to determine the basic battery layout. The layout below shows all 36 batteries under the bed.  I think I'll move some of the batteries up to the engine compartment to help with weight balance. The electric motor I'm putting in weights quite a bit less than than the gas engine I removed, so it will help to put some of the batteries up front.

First option for battery placement under the truck bed
I've also received a lot of the miscellaneous parts including, vacuum pump (for the power brakes), DC/DC converter (to run the 12 volt accessories off the 115 volt main battery pack), wiring, relays, fuses, contactor, throttle control box, & tools.  I'm still awaiting three major parts:  the motor, the motor/transmission adapter, and the battery management system.

Well I'm off to design some battery boxes.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


The old engine and transmission
removed from the truck
Well there's no turning back now.  The internal combustion engine (ICE) is gone, gone, gone.  Ripped that baby out, threw it in the back of my friend's, pickup (along with a lot of other stuff I won't need now: gas tank, exhaust system, radiator . . .) and made a deposit at our local auto recycling center.  It was pretty cool pulling up to the recycling center and saying we wanted to make a donation.

All the stuff we no longer need
All that's left is a nice large space awaiting an electric motor, controller and some batteries.  The bulk of the batteries will be going in the back, under the truck bed, but there will be some up front under the hood. I still need to figure out exactly how the battery pack will be installed.

All this space just waiting
for an electric motor

The transmission will need to go out for a rebuild.  I noticed while driving it around that the synchronizer from 1st to 2nd was shot.  With all the work to do the conversion  it seemed like a good idea to go ahead and have the transmission rebuilt.  I thought about doing it myself, but I think I'll leave this to someone who's done it more than once.  I'm still finalizing my engine and battery pack selection.  I should be able to make a final decision this weekend and place the order first thing next week.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Work Begins

After repairing lights, before demolition
Pre-Demolition Work
I've finally started actually working on the conversion.  Before I could start the conversion to an EV I had to fix the existing electrical system.  The truck started and ran OK but most of the lights were inoperative.  After a bunch of troubleshooting I finally isolated the problem to the switch module on the steering column.  I removed the module, cleaned the contacts, and voila everything worked!  I no longer had to avoid taking the truck out in the evening for fear I'd be out after dusk without headlights.  I actually completed all the repairs in late June, but further works was delayed by my attendance at a conference subsequent vacation.

Demolition Phase I: Bed Removal
Bed raised off the frame
Since the battery pack is going to reside under the pickup bed, I needed to remove bed so I can fabricate and install racks to hold the batteries.  The bed was amazingly light.  Two people could easily pick it up off the frame.  According the the manual, you unbolt the bed from the frame, hook four straps to the bed and lift it with an overhead wench.  Unfortunately I lacked the wench and was working by myself.  I got a little creative raised the on 2x4s bit by bit until it was above the frame.  I did get help from my wife to move the various stanchions under the 2x4s as I lifted them up. 
Look Ma, no truck
 Then I simply drove the truck out from under the bed  as slowly lowered the bed to the ground a step at a time. I was then able to move the bed out of the garage using a dolly.  Cal-OSHA would definitely have not approved of my methods but I was kinda pleased with the creative if somewhat precarious solution.

Kinda stumpy looking without the bed

The truck looks really funny without the bed on--definitely something missing.  It's also a amazing to me how little  there is to the frame.  When I look at a car or truck it looks so big, bulky, and substantial.  But once you've pulled the body off a revealed the frame, there just so little of it there. And that's a good thing for EV conversion.  All that space between the frame members is 
Look at all that space for batteries
where most of the batteries will go.  I have to fashion a series of racks to hold the batteries so they're completely below the frame members.  I'll then replace the bed but add a hinge mechanism so I can lift the bed to get to the batteries.  Both the exhaust system and the gas tank will be removed which will open up even more space for the battery pack.

Demolition Phase II: Preparation for Removing the Engine
Engine waiting to be pulled out
With the bed removed I got to some serious demolition--removing fuel tank, radiator, exhaust system, and all the stuff connected to the engine.  It's amazing how much stuff I wont need in the converted truck.  To facilitate access to the engine compartment I removed the hood and set to work.  There's a lot more stuff connected to engines than there was in the '70s when I last worked on cars.  To get the engine out I will need that overhead wench or else I'll have to rent an engine hoist.  I also need some help to get the engine out.  My friend, Chris, is coming next weekend to help with the engine removal.  Now I just have figure out how to rig the wench.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Junk yards and dung beetles

I'm still in the process of making general repairs to the truck.  Ironically, I had to get the engine tuned up to past the California smog test so that I could transfer the title so that I can take the engine out and replace it with an electric motor.  Also replaced the worn out and leaky tires.

Auto salvage yard and environs in
Queens, NY photo by Jim Henderson
Made another trip to one of my local auto salvage yard (aka junk yard) last weekend to pick out some needed parts including, seat belts, rear view mirror, sun visors, and some electrical switches.  I find these really fascinating places.  First off, they're such entertaining venues that the can charge admission--really it's $2 to enter.  The entry fee does allow you to leave and reenter the same day, so if you get hungry and haven't yet had you fill of scavenging you can run out for a quick burrito and get back in without and additional $2 fee.   The reentry policy also allows to run out to your car, remove a part you're trying to replace and bring it into the junk yard to make sure the part you're pulling off of some old hulk will fit your car.  Now this has got to be the best deal in the entertainment industry today. Can you imagine your local multiplex allow you free reentry after you'd paid for one movie?  That just 'aint gonna' happen.  But, at my local salvage yard, I can spend all day entertaining myself with rackets, hammers, grease, oil, and just plain dirt for only $2!  Some of the yard even have food stands and tool suppliers in the parking lot outside the yard to serve your every need.  What a deal! I can get hours of entertainment, food, and any tools I forgot to bring for less than the cost of one crappy summer Hollywood movie.

Dung beetles feasting on horse hockey
in Namibia.  Photo by Duwwel.

As I watched my fellow scavengers climb over over, under, and around the decaying automobile hulks, I was struck by the parallel between us and a load of dung beetles scouring over horse hockey.  In both cases we're taking detritus commonly thought as untouchable, diving into it will complete abandon and hauling it away for some other useful purpose not intended by the original owner.

Fellow parts pullers at the salvage yard

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Donor Vehicle Acquired

My first pickup
I'm 50 something and the proud owner of my first pickup truck.  After several weeks of perusing eBay and CraigsList and seeing a number of unsuitable I finally purchased a 1987 Nissan pickup and it's RED!  It has a 5 speed manual transmission, manual steering, and power brakes.  The manual transmission is essential.  I'll be removing the gas engine and connecting the electric motor directly to the transmission. Automatic make the conversion process much harder.  The manual steering is also a plus.  Adding a power steering pump to the electric conversion is a extra chore I can do without.  Thanks to my friend, Chris, for taking me to pickup the pickup.

Fun at the Auto Recycling Center
The interior needs quit a bit of work. It's more than well worn. The first order of business was to fix the door handles inside and out.  Both outside door handles were broken as was one of the interior locks. This meant leaving at least one window open so you could reach inside to open the door. Chris and I spent a most enjoyable Saturday hunting up door parts at two of our local junkyard.  The last time I was in a junkyard was back in high school when I had a 1965 Rambler station wagon.  Regular trips to the junkyard were required to keep that vehicle on the road.  Junkyards haven't changed much since the 1970s with one exception--they're not junkyards anymore, now they're auto recycling centers and are sporting earth friendly names like Ecology Auto Parts.  After about a half a day and $60 we left with all the parts needed to make the doors work properly. Now I need to plan the details of the conversion and order the electric motor, controller and adapter to mate the electric motor to the transmission.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Project Selection

My initial research into EV conversions made it clear that the first thing I had to do was some project planning.  In particular I had to decide why I was doing an EV conversion and what my objectives were.  It was disconcerting to find myself thinking "I don't want to spend a bunch of time planning this project, I just want to do it."  This was disconcerting because I realized that I sounded just like a bunch of my students.  I'm very good at criticizing them for failing to plan ahead, particularly when it comes to large projects.  It was rather unpleasant to discover that while I'm good at seeing others' failure to plan and calling them out on it, I don't like planning any more than my students do.  With this realization behind me, I started to plan the project.

The first essential question to be addressed is "What kind of car do you want your EV to be?"  The most important things one needs to think about to answer this question are 1) what are you going to use the car for and 2) how great a range do you need?  One of the biggest constraints on EV performance is the mass of the car.  The greater the mass the more batteries one needs which increases the mass and reduces range.  It didn't take a lot of thinking to figure out that I would be doing two things with my EV, commuting to work and back (10 miles round trip), and running errands around town (20-40 miles depending on the size of the errand).  The second thing I quickly realized was that when I was done I wanted a vehicle that was fun to drive around.  I didn't want to have another Civic in the driveway.  Finally, it was obvious that minimizing the mass of the vehicle was key.

Chris Cicotello and me in Bruce, my Z-3
With these three criteria identified, I quickly determined that there were two categories of cars that would suit my objectives.  The first category was a small sports car, light easy to convert, and fun around town.  But wait! I already own that car! What do I need with another roadster in the driveway?  This led me quickly to the second option, a light pickup truck. They're very light, easy to convert, and have plenty of room for batteries.  This would also be a great commute vehicle for me and also would please all my pickup owing friends who are tired of me asking them to borrow their pickup when I need to haul some over-sized item around town.  And, most importantly, I'm a guy who's never owned a pickup--certainly can't leave this work in that status!  So a pickup it will be.


So, I've been thinking about, and sometimes talking about, converting a gasoline power car to electric power for about a year now. It might be nice to say that my interests were about being green and reducing my personal contribution to global warming, but this would not be particularly accurate.  Mostly I thought it would be a fun project and I'm desperately in need of a fun project that has no connection to my work.  The self satisfaction of doing the right thing an jumping on the green bandwagon cloak covering my real motivation, but it's a popular cloak so I think I'll wear it and show it off a bit.

So, I've been thinking about this for about nine months.  In September 2010, I went to a meeting of a local electric vehicle (EV) club.  This meeting was helpful and mostly showed me that I had to do a lot of background work to scope out the kind of project I wanted before I got started.  So I spent the several week researching EV conversions via the web.  Then the fall quarter started and most all of my evening and weekend time went to grading, reviewing student projects, working with student teams and all those things I fill my time with.

This spring, something finally got me kicked out of background research mode and got me to take this project seriously.  Maybe it was gas prices on the other side of $4.00/gal. Whatever it was, the project is off and running!