Saturday, June 30, 2007

Don't let those batteries just sit around

I'm a bit wiped from the initial burst of installing all the battery racks, so I took it a bit easier on Friday and Saturday to do some of the smaller installation steps.

Here is the starter block-off plate to cover the hole left from the removed starter motor. Like the previous day, I was a bit surprised that the holes in the plate didn't match the spacing of the bolts on the transmission. Fortunately, the plate is just aluminum and a few minutes with a drill to move the holes closer together allowed me to slide the plate on easily.

This is inside the driver-side fuel compartment looking forward. The two one-inch holes will get grommets for the high-current battery cables connecting the front batteries with the middle pack.

The 8-volt golf cart batteries arrived over 24 days ago and have just been sitting on the garage floor, discharging. I didn't want to let them sit for much longer, so spent $10 on 12-gauge wire and 3/8" crimp lugs to create a charging harness for the batteries.

Here's the 12-gauge wire and several crimp lugs. I used the tape-measure to cut all the cables to the same 7-inch length.

Here are the completed charging cables. I have 16 7-inch long cables, one 18-inch cable and two long wires crimped into one of the Anderson connectors I got from a big, dead UPS at FreeGeek. This Anderson connector matches the connector on the Zivan charger.

Here's the final charging setup. Since I'm dumping a maximum of 10 amps (typically much less) into these batteries during their maintenance charge, I thought the 12-gauge wires would be adequate. The 16 7-inch cables connect adjacent batteries. The 18-inch cable connects the two batteries on the end.

I used a simple drywall screw into a stud to hold the Zivan charger lightly against the wall in the proper orientation (fans up) for maintaining the batteries while I wire up the rest of the car.

I paid Zivan for a switch and special firmware to allow two different charge rates. The higher charge rate consumes a full dedicated 20-amp circuit breaker. The lower charge rate can be plugged into a 15-amp outlet that has a few other light loads attached. This will allow me to charge at work or a guest's house without overloading their circuits.

I ran out to Parkrose hardware again this morning to pick up some high-quality 10-gauge wire to start some of the internal EV wiring listed in the instructions. I'm also going to replace the #2 gauge wire that came in the crate with 2/0 cable from United Welding Supply to help carry supply current more efficiently.

Next up: Tapping into the 914 fuse block

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cranking on the Battery Racks

Well, I've spent the last two days with EV parts strewn about the house attempting to install the battery racks. I ran into some issues that others might find as well.

Here's mounting the first rear-rack support post. The triangular bracket above it gets in the way of the rack and must be removed.

Here is the same area with the bracket removed and edges hammered flat. The tube off to the left is the drain for water that hits the engine compartment hood. I hope I can keep these in the vehicle.

Here is the rear battery rack sitting in place. I have wooden shims on top of the motor to hold part of it up and a 2x4 chunk under one of the mounting plates. This piece just barely fits into the compartment and I had to wrestle it a bit to get it past all the blockages.

Here is inside the passenger compartment assembling the support plate for the rear battery rack. I cut the compartment rubber to make the connection a bit more and flush against the back of the seat.

Here's the same area with the support plat installed with two bolts. There are five more to go. I would HIGHLY recommend installing these two bolts and then simply drilling the other five holes one-by-one and dropping in a bolt when you finish each hole.

Here are the bolt tips protruding into the engine compartment. I almost drilled into the primary engine wiring harness since it's right in front of some of the holes. I moved it out of the way to finish the mounting.

Okay, onward to the middle rack. This was perhaps the hardest of all the battery racks because you have to take a sledge hammer and reshape the well where the brake and clutch pedal sit so that the battery box fits. Part of this reshaping is easy, but the last little bit gets really hard.

Here I am banging away on the main support reinforcement inside the pedal well. At least on the '75 model, this was very strong and a real pain-in-the-neck to bend. You might notice in the prior picture that the endcaps on the pipe I'm using are bent in from all the force.

Here's a closer view of the modified pedal well. You can see the bulge near the middle where the support reinforcement is giving me a bunch of trouble. Also, notice the orange tie-wrap near the lower-right corner of the picture to hold the fragile brake fluid lines out of the way so I don't damage them with all the sledgehammering.

There's a brown/yellow wire going down into the sheet metal next to the brake lines. I had to cut the electrical tape on this loom to separate this wire (parking brake switch) so that the loom could move out of the way and not get pinched by the battery rack/box.

Finally, the battery box sits mostly in place after over two hours of hammering away. I ended up with major bruises on my left arm and big blisters on my right hand.

Argh! When I install the supports for the middle bracket, the '75 model appears to be too wide when I add the horizontal angle stock. Note the space between the end of the horizontal bars and the support mount on the far wall.

I solved this problem by adding three 8mm fender washers to bring the end mounts closer together. It didn't make it all the way, but it's enough to get the battery box in and not have things slide around too much. I didn't want to add too many washers since it might reduce the shear strength on the bolts.

Another quick note, to get the captive bolt plate through the fender wall, I had to crank the steering wheel all the way in one direction to get my arm in there.

Here's the finished middle battery rack. It may have a few gaps, but I can add some shims later, if necessary. I'm just happy all that hammering is done.

Installing the front rack was very interesting. Apparently, someone had dented the bottom of the trunk and the rack didn't sit straight at all. Also, the '75 model had some structural modifications to it (perhaps to improve body strength) that prevented the front battery rack from sitting flat in the trunk. I had to add these washers above to get the rack parts to sit in the car.

Here's the installed front rack. This is the first time I've run into parts from Electro Automotive that don't line up with themselves. The captive bolt brackets that come up from the bottom of the car had a bolt spacing different (by about 1/8") than the holes in the rack itself (???). I chose to drill the holes in the rack a bit bigger so that the captive bolt bracket would fit into the holes.

Here's the installed exhaust outlet for the front luggage compartment. Again, I was surprised to find that the template and instructions supplied by Electro Auto didn't match the holes on the outlet, so I had to measure the distance myself and re-drill the holes.

When I removed the custom-felt in the front luggage compartment to prepare for the batteries, I found this factory plate which had some cool stats on it.

With the racks installed, I can now start on some more of the wiring. I'm excited to work with the high-current cable. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Christmas Time!

YeeHaw! The crate from Electro Automotive finally showed up. I'm in business again!

Here's the crate on the semi-truck. They remembered the liftgate this time (whew!)

Here's the delivery person rolling the crate on a pallet jack to my garage. I'm very thankful that today was sunny. The single-car garage doesn't have the space to store the crate and the 914.

The crate arrived just as I was cooking dinner (er, baking a frozen pizza...). I'm reviewing the inventory list over a pizza and a Mike's Hard Lemonade.

First crack! Here's the rear battery box which sits over the motor in the engine compartment with the rack on top of it.

Opening up the box reveals many packing peanuts and hidden packages in the bottom.

With the first box out, here the front battery rack and box.

Inside the front battery box is the middle battery box (goes in the fuel compartment) and a bunch of other parts.

My garage is quickly running out of space with the batteries on the floor and the boxes and parts stored beside and under the vehicle.

The crate was still too big to fit anywhere, so I unscrewed all the support boards and cardboard.

Here's the leftover crate pallet and cardboard. Fortunately, FreeGeek (the computer recycler I volunteer at) has a large cardboard bin and takes old pallets too.

After going through all the inventory, I now have all the custom hand-made parts. Everything remaining can be purchased elsewhere. Now is the time to go back and review the instructions to see what the next step is.

On minor disappointment is that the cable supplied in the kit is #2 gauge cable. I might go out and splurge to get 2/0 cable instead for better current carrying capability. I suppose the AC kit doesn't require as much current as the DC kit, but I'll take all the efficiency I can get at this point.

There were some pieces in the kit that were called for early on that I skipped (like the starter block-off plate), so I'll have to review all my notes and see what I have to go back and do.

With the sun shining and the NEDRA races coming up in August, I'm motivated to get this project moving. Another 914 EV'er (John Benson) lives a 20-minute walk from my house. He converted his 914 with the Electro Auto DC kit and challenged me to a duel at NEDRA. We shall see what awaits...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Biting the Bullet

As you may remember, I received a package from Azure Dynamics several weeks ago with a notice saying that the bolts on their electric motors tend to work their way loose occasionally. They provided an upgrade kit with lock washers and loctite to remedy the problem. I had already installed the motor in the 914 and chose to not perform the upgrade due to the hassle of removing the motor. Now that the battery boxes are arriving on Tuesday, I'm realizing that I really don't want to take the risk of having the bolts come loose. Also, applying the upgrade after the battery racks/boxes are installed will be a royal pain, so I bit the bullet today, dropped the motor and replaced the washers on the bolts.

Here's the back end of the transmission/motor. Based on a suggestion from another 914 AC customer, I purchased some long 8mm bolts to lower the transmission end about 8 inches and still keep it stable. Note the long silver rods (8mm bolts) in the diagram above. I used one floor jack to lower the back end of the tranny. I had to remove the speedo cable, the accelerator cable, the clutch cable and the shift linkage to do this (argh!).

I used the second floor jack to lower the front end of the motor assembly so that the 12" long motor bolts could actually slide out of the AC 24 motor.

Here's the end of the AC24 motor lowered so that I could extract the long bolts. Notice that I've already removed one in the upper right position on the round endcap.

Here are the pieces for the upgrade kit above one of the motor bolts. In short, a lock washer and flat washer replace the nylon ones that came with the kit. Loctite further holds the bolt in place.

While this was a real pain. I'm glad this is taken care of so I don't have to worry about it.

Tomorrow (hopefully): connecting the motor to the controller and possibly starting on connecting the batteries with high-current cable.

Visiting Gary of the OEVA to get a Crimper

As I mentioned yesterday, Gary Graunke (president of the OEVA) graciously offered to let me borrow a lug crimper to attach high-current lugs to the welding cable I purchased. This morning I drove out to his place and found a virtual Disneyland of EV stuff. Gary has a Honda Insight and Toyota Prius and an electric Chevy S10. His current project is to upgrade the batteries in his all-electric Insight to lithium-ion cells.

Here's Gary in front of his garage. There are EV toys everywhere!

Each of these yellow modules is a lithium-ion battery pack for DeWalt tools. Gary is hand soldering together several hundred of the cells in these modules to make a battery pack for his Insight.

Here's one array of DeWalt lithium-ion cells. The current boxes are wooden, but Gary plans to upgrade them to FR4 (fire-resistant) later to help prevent a fire. The whole pack should weigh around 200 pounds, which is far less than the 1200 pounds of lead-acid cells I'll have in the 914.

Here is the heavy duty crimper that I borrowed from Gary (Thanks!). I'm looking forward to firing up the motor.

After a run to ParkRose hardware, I picked up some 2/0 high-current lugs, some colored shrink tubing (red/black) with adhesive, and a 10-guage dryer cable to attach the Zivan charger to the battery pack through an Anderson connector.

Next up: fixing the bolts on the Azure Dynamics AC24 motor...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Battery Boxes Have Shipped!

Electro Auto e-mailed me again today to say that the battery racks and boxes have shipped and should arrive on Tuesday! I'm curious what else is in this shipment. I ran out and purchased several 1-guage pre-constructed battery cables from Napa today to wire the batteries together, but they were very expensive (16 of them at $12.95 apiece). If Electro Auto ships the battery cable along with the boxes then I can return the pre-built cables. I guess the batteries can sit for a few more days on my garage floor without too much discharge.

I ran out to United Welding Supply today in Portland (on NE MLK) and picked up 20 feet of 2/0 welding cable. At $2.85 a foot, that's the best price I've seen in the Portland area by far. Parkrose hardware had it for $7.00/foot and another place had it for $6.00. Gary from the OEVA was gracious enough to let me borrow his hefty crimping tool so I could attach some lugs to the ends of the welding cable. I'll be picking that up tomorrow.

I volunteer at a local non-profit called FreeGeek that recycles computer parts. They recycle a lot of uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) which often contain high-current Anderson connectors on the dead batteries. I was able to pick up a few of those connectors that fit cleanly on my Zivan NG3 battery charger for 50 cents (yes, less than a dollar!). FreeGeek also sells laptop power supplies. If you can add your own regulating circuit, you can make a battery charger that can be applied to any battery in the pack without disconnecting it. Laptop supplies are typically in the 15-19V range and have a reasonably high current output (4-5 amps) as well as floating outputs relative to the AC wall supply, so they are quite convenient. FreeGeek sells those supplies for about $20 ($10 if you volunteer more than four hours there - cheap!).

Since the contents of the Tuesday shipment are going to determine if I use the $200 in pre-built cables or not, I might take the weekend to lower the motor and replace the washers on the electric motor bolts that came in the upgrade kit from Azure Dynamics. If I don't do it now (before installing the battery boxes), it'll probably never happen...

Another quick note, Rainer from the OEVA dropped by this past week to check out the 914 project. He's over six feet tall and wanted to see if the 914 was large enough to hold him. He squeezed into the driver seat and had about a half-inch of head clearance with the targa top on.

I'm still on re-entry from the 10-day vacation, but with this latest shipment, I'm thinking that I'll break some inertia and get this project moving again. The weather outside is glorious and having an electric convertible would just be too cool.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

An E-mail from Electro Auto

Hi All,

I just got back from a 10-day vacation and will be looking at hooking up the batteries. While I was gone, I did finally get an e-mail from ElectroAuto regarding shipment of the battery racks and boxes "soon," so we'll see what happens. Onward to battery straps!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Batteries are Here!

After much time on the phone with UPS Freight, the 8-volt golf cart batteries finally showed up today! Although the Bill of Lading clearly stated that this was a residence requiring a liftgate, UPS seemed to overlook that part of the order.

Here's the semi that showed up at my doorstep to block off the street.

Here is the pallet of batteries in the truck bay, minus the shrink wrap. I had to move each of these 70 pound monsters by hand down to the sidewalk.

Here they are on the sidewalk.

And here they are (on protective cardboard) safely in the garage.

I'll be busy for the next week or so, but the next step is to attach the batteries together with crimped copper webbing from Napa Auto Parts and possibly fire up the controller to spin the rear axle. Check back in two weeks to see the results!