Monday, January 28, 2008

Opinions and Rants

I lost much sleep last night obsessing about how I could fix the DC-DC converter and, as a result, I was very tired and had an irritable day. For those of you who have read my blog entries in the past, you know I've blown up the internal FETs of the DC-DC over five times and spent countless hours reverse-engineering the circuit with experts at work to see just what could possibly be wrong with the system.

I find out this morning from Ross Cunniff (who also recently completed the 914 AC kit), that he has had ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEMS with his CCPower DC-DC converter. I guess I've been working with a faulty unit for the duration. Since I finished the first kit, Electro Auto didn't want to replace my unit because they wanted me to find out more information before I simply blew up another one. In my opinion, technical support from CCPower was crappy at best. They didn't respond to my e-mails and their response to Electro Auto was along the lines of "there's nothing wrong with our DC-DC converters, it's your problem. We've been doing this for 20 years and know far more than you do."

This frustration led me to do some searching on the internet for other DC-DC converters today and I found one on the EVParts website called the Iota DLS-45. This puts out 45 amps of current instead of the CCPower's 30 amps and costs a third as much. It's slightly larger than the CCPower C400, but still fits in the same space on the front of the battery box. Out of sheer immature emotional spite, I don't want to see another CCPower DC-DC in my EV. The technical support person at Iota was extremely responsive and provided accurate information. I ordered one and it should be here later this week. The added output current should also provide some extra amps for powering a 15-amp 12-volt cabin heater if this cold weather keeps up.

Since I'm on an irritable roll now, I came up with some additional rants about improvements to the 914 AC kit from Electro Auto that I think would be good:

  • Why not go with the Iota DLS-45 DC-DC if it puts out more amps and costs less?!
  • If EA provides upgraded suspension parts to handle the extra weight of the batteries, they should also provide upgraded BMW 320i machined calipers to improve braking too. I don't think I could stop this heavy car quickly enough in an emergency situation. The rear shock absorbers also don't have any adjustment to them, so the back end of the car sticks way up in the air.
  • The Azure Dynamics AC24 motor fits nicely into the chassis, but is way underpowered for the weight of the car. It provides less than 50% of the original ICE power. The 9" DC motor from ElectroAuto's kit 20 years ago provided more torque. This is a Porsche for _____'s sake! Why can't the AC55 motor fit?
  • Given their lack of response and technical support, ElectroAuto should provide a list of online resources that people can go to for help in 914 conversions. There are many from the 914ev Google group to the and groups as well as the EVDL.
  • ElectroAuto scrimped and shipped 2 gauge cable with the AC kit instead of 2/0 gauge cable, possibly thinking that the AC kit would pull less current. It still pulls 300 amps, similar to the DC kit and greatly benefits from the thicker gauge welding cable.
  • Despite being listed as part of the kit, ElectroAuto provides no hardware (i.e. bolts, nuts, hood pins, etc...). I actually didn't mind purchasing my own hardware, but I had no idea where to get some of the more obscure items. EA should have provided part numbers or sources to buy these extra items at.
  • I think ElectroAuto should maximize the capability of the internet to help its users and help reduce it's own level of tech support. Provide more FAQ sheets and have an online forum or group so that people doing the conversions can help each other instead of relying on Mike or Shari to answer every single question. I suppose the 914ev Google group is good for this, but having a pointer to it would be helpful.
  • ElectroAuto should sending out instructions and drawings in .PDF instead of AutoCad .DXF format and MS-Word. Not only would it help everyone viewing it, but it would also protect ElectroAuto's original digital documents. A .PDF print driver is free off the internet.
  • Helpful hints to the user such as "make sure you rebuild your transmission" and "keep your flywheel when you get rid of the engine" would be most useful.
  • My biggest beef with ElectroAuto that's tainted me from day one is their lack of accuracy in reporting delivery times. If they had told me directly that first parts would arrive in eight weeks and the remainder of the kit would take an additional six months, I would have groaned but ordered it anyway knowing the wait ahead. This would have allowed me to plan my time accordingly. In reality, I never got a straight answer when parts would arrive and waited anxiously for months expecting parts to show up. I don't see why telling the truth would hurt in this case.
Despite the above rants, the basic kit is good. The quality of the parts is high, especially the battery boxes.

Enough flaming for today. If I can get through the week and get the new DC-DC from Iota soon, I should be back in business. I can actually drive the car without the headlights for quite a while, but with the headlights on, the DC-DC can't take the load and the 12V accessory battery completely drains after 30 minutes.



Ross Cunniff said...

Tim, I agree in large part with many of your rants. But a few things (which may be symptoms of incomplete kits more than anything else):

1. I got almost all the nuts, bolts, etc. except for a few weird things, like hood pins and CapPlugs (and gauges for the 120v DC kit rather than the 144v AC kit)

2. Are you sure you mean they sent you "2 gauge cable instead of 2/0"? I'm real sure I got 2/0 gauge. I *am*, though, upgrading to 4/0 for my Jeep conversion project. Regardless, I have not noticed any excessive heat in the cabling.

3. The AC55 motor might "fit" given proper adaptors, but it has a 312v nominal minimum rating, which means 26 12v batteries. Hard to find space for all of those. When my 18*8=144v pack dies, I am considering upgrading to 18*12=216v which should give higher torque at the same amps. If I do this, I may also upgrade to 4/0 cable for the Porsche.

I think a lot of it is that they got overwhelmed by demand. However, as you suggest, caveat emptor.

TimK said...

Hi Ross,
Thanks for your feedback. I am pretty sure they sent me 2 gauge cable because I purchased 2/0 gauge cable from a welding supply store and it was much thicker than what they sent me. I even had to shave off several strands of wire to squeeze the cable into the 2 gauge lugs that ElectroAuto provided.

If you compare the pictures in this post of my system:

to similar pictures in your system:

I think the cables look significantly different. Perhaps the insulation is just a different thickness... Not sure.

Good point about the AC55. Making 312V would be tricky in such a small space.

Cheers, Tim

Roger Daisley said...

Tim: As reported before, my CCPower DC/DC converter had failed, probably immediately after turn-on, but I didn't realize it right away until I read about your problem ... and checked mine. The fuse had blown. I jumped to the conclusion that my DC/DC was faulty, as yours appeared to be and did a little "ranting" of my own ... only to have to eat my words. I admited that I had a wiring problem and after correcting the problem and replacing the fuse (even with a smaller one!) ... no problem since then.

I have mentioned to the good folks at EA (and they ARE good folks) more than once, that they are developing a "less-than-ideal" reputation for poor communications and customer service. A "good name" is hard to come by and even harder to regain after spoiling it. You are right: The products are superior, but EA is very frustrating to deal with. (EA comes up on the EVDL fairly frequently)

From what I can tell, the problem has two parts:

Part One is too much business for them to handle.

Part Two is a lack of communications with customers ... probably because they don't want to get yelled at! I think this is the most serious problem and probably the easiest to correct.

I have suggested to them that as each major order comes in (kits, not individual parts) they assign a "production number" and estimated shipping date. That number could be listed on-line and updated, as needed. Most people would accept that, if EA was honest about it and updated, as needed. If a problem occurred in production, then immediately disclose it and adjust production delivery dates. This simple solution would save hundreds of phone calls and show a professional attitude. (Any decent programmer could set up such a system in a day, or two.)

As it is now, EA still states: "In general, delivery time is within 4-6 weeks," which seems patently wrong. It's no wonder folks get pi$$ed off, when after three MONTHS, or more, no parts and no answers to emails.

Bottom line: Overwhelmed, but correctable.

Ps: To Mike & Shari: Love my VW. I just wish we didn't have 2+ ft. of snow right now!

TimK said...

Hi Roger,
Thanks for your comments. I totally agree with you that the good folks at EA are just overwhelmed and need a better way to communicate with their customers. I suspect Mike and Shari might have done things a certain way for quite a while and may be resistant to change at this point. I have to give them credit for sticking with the business since I don't see anyone else out there making electric vehicle kits as easy as EAs.


Perry Harrington said...

If you've got another 32k sitting around, you could have an AC55 with A123 Lion cells. It would be about 120lbs in batteries. I've been pondering the market for a 12-16k Lion pack for the 914 as a kit option. An AC24 would be *A LOT* more peppy with 61lbs of batteries in the package tray instead of 2k+.

Ross Cunniff said...

Tim - I'm 100% certain I have 2/0 cables - see for example this picture of one of my cable lug ends. And my cable sheath O/D is roughly 5/8 inch which correlates pretty well with 2/0 cable's copper diameter of 0.414" (as found here). I wonder if you got 4/0 cable instead? (If you *paid* for 2/0 cable you got a good deal!)

TimK said...

Hi Ross,

I think you're right. You do have 2/0 gauge cable. When I purchased the cable from the welding store, I asked for 2/0 gauge cable and the insulation also says 2/0 gauge. If I look at the cross section of the cable ElectroAuto shipped, it's clearly much smaller. I had to hunt around to find 2/0 cable for $2.85 a foot, but several contacts at the local EV club helped me. Best wishes with your ElectroJeep! Tim