Archive for May, 2010

As you may have gathered from the last post, which was just a video, the car made it’s maiden voyage yesterday!  It was the unlikely goal, but we pulled it off!

It started early on Sunday, and Dave said he would come over in the afternoon to help out.  Mainly, I wanted someone to spot-check the work and then be there to help wire up the batteries to keep me from doing anything patently stupid, and knock me off the batteries with a 2×4 if I started getting electrocuted.

So before he came, I wanted to wrap up all the loose ends:

Double-check the wiring diagram against what I had done – good thing I did, I found I was a missing a low-voltage wire between the controller and the shunt.  Also, I found that my ignition ground was temporarily wedged into place… I had forgotten to secure it.

Then, tighten up all bolts with washers and lock washers.  Some of the connections fit better than others, so I disconnected the bad ones and made sure they fit right, then tightened them down like heck.

Then, cut and crimp all the battery cables.  I had made a lot of drawings of the best cabling path, and I kept getting confused, so I marked up the garage floor with my kids’ chalk and starting laying out cables.  Genius!

I am an artiste

So, Dave got here and we ran out for supplies… rubber gloves and some properly sized nuts…. then we got started.  We taped up the end of the wrench to keep it from arcing in case of accidental contact… covered all the batteries I wasn’t working on with wood… eye protection, gloves, keep the bald spot from touching the roof in case it’s a ground.   I started at the farthest point away from the door that we could access, connecting the terminals.

The first connection

Working around the top and then across the bottom, knowing that every connection I made from positive to negative was increasing the total voltage carried on the line and feeling very nervous.  Did I mention that I have a tendency of electrocuting myself?

Finally I got to the last connection and tapped it against the terminal to see if it would spark.  Nothing.  This was surprisingly undramatic considering how nervous I was.  So, we locked it down.

The final connection

So… wow!  I guess… uhh… I guess we press the accelerator down and make it go.  We fumbled around a bit trying to get the car up on jacks before we finally said screw it and just put the car in neutral and hit the pedal.  The motor turned.  Whoa.  Grab the camera, I’m putting this thing in first and seeing where it goes.  (see video for this).

Well… heck!  So we threw the charger on it to give it an hours worth of juice-up.  But the readings on the charger were all wrong.  Turns out the charger for a 120V system is not supposed to work on the 88V we have hooked up right now.  But we didn’t know that.  Anyway… after about 40 minutes we got impatient and pulled the charger off.

This here charger says we have 102 volts and 5% complete. Isn't this an 88V system?

We drove the car out of the garage, and pumped up the flat tire.

Waiting for the tire to pump up. Very excited.

And the rest is history (see video parts 2 and 3).

Top speed was 20 mph at this charge level… which I’m estimating to be just over 70 volts.  Whatever it was was not enough to register on my volt meter which starts at 80V (or the volt meter is broken).  But, the torque was enough to chirp the tires at a stop sign.  Crazy!

So here’s what I need to do now:

  • Get a 12th battery to get it to 96V.  Hook it up without electrocuting myself.
  • Get a proper 96V charger that will actually charge up my battery pack
  • Register, license, insure the car
  • Get a radio, replace windshield wipers, maybe get new brakes


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More to follow about what we did yesteray, but I wanted to post this here now.

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I remember my Uncle Walter telling me once about how he was working on a van for a very long time and then one day he was surprised to realize he was done and it was ready to drive.  You get so buried in loose ends that you don’t realize how close you are to finishing.  Well, that’s me today!

I installed the backup spring for the throttle.  That should give me some peace of mind as I hurtle down the road, knowing that it should retract when I take my foot off the pedal.

I ran heavy duty 2/0 cabling between all non-battery parts, and I connected all the low-voltage wiring to amp and volt gauges, ignition, and controller with permanently crimped and heat-shrunk ends.  That should wrap up the whole trunk area.  Really.

Everything back here is wired up... correctly, I hope.

And I routed two cables from the trunk in through the now unused heating ducts to the place where the batteries are all waiting.

Here's where the battery cables come in

So here’s my piddling checklist to complete the project:

  • Read the directions – Make sure I haven’t skipped a step or done something counterindicated by the instructions.
  • Get correctly fitting washers and tighten all bolts and screws (loose connections cause meltdowns)
  • Connect charger to batteries (easy)
  • Inflate tire (Really?  This is what I’m down to?)
  • Bring in at least one, but hopefully two people to idiot-check my work.  (“Whoa!  That there don’t look right!”)
  • Hook up batteries to each other with 12 short cables
  • Drive around the block, save a whale, praise Earth Goddess, await medal from Al Gore.

This is nothing!  Honestly!  I’m really a few weeks from driving this thing.

Of course… that may bring up a whole new checklist of problems, but I will be able to go claim my tax credit even if the brakes need some work.

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