Monday, April 6, 2009

In the news

You'll find an article in the Montreal Gazette today, including an intro on the front page.

Online at:

You can contact me regarding the article, or the project, at:

montreal (dot) ev {at} gmail [dot] com

Sunday, March 29, 2009

One year later: 500km driven.

Last night, my wife Cindy and I celebrated one year since we kicked off this project: during Earth Hour, 2008. I've been commuting for a few weeks, and we've done some errands around town. So far, its been driven just over 500km, so I guess that's our first tank of gas saved.

An objective for 2009 will be to get a local EV club going. More on that later.

I've had a chance since the inspection to work on a few of the outstanding issues:

- I've wired the two front, amber, marker lights into the 'on' circuit instead of the regular marker-light circuit. These will meet the need for daytime running lights. Though I am still thinking of adding on some white LED strips in the front vent holes.
- I dropped by a salvage yard and picked up a rear-dash-mounted 3rd brake light. I've also found the correct connectors to wire it in to, so all that remains is to run the wire and affix the light.
- I had a look at the parking brake assembly and have found a good spot to mount a momentary switch which will light the brake waring light. I still have to analyse the brake warning light system to ensure I can wire into it. I will have to add a relay to reverse the logic of the switch and only light up the light when the switch is not pressed. Perhaps I'll try to find a more industrial switch with both normally-open and normally-closed contacts...
- I've fixed the left side high-beam, it was a wiring mistake which squeaked past inspection last time.
- The right sealed-beam unit is still wobbly because its missing the top mounting screw. The car has been rebuilt with fibre/putty just above the right beam (by the previous owner), and the mount is no longer there. I will have to screw/epoxy a new mount into the beam socket -- creativity may be required...
- Seals around electrical ducting: still looking for some appropriate scrap foam for this. I've come across a bunch at work in the past, but can't seem to put my hands on any these days. I might have to swing by the home renovation store and actually pick some up.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Charging at work

When starting this project, one of the design criteria was determining the required range of the vehicle. It was decided that it had to be able to get me back and forth to work without charging -- in case I had to turn back when I got to work for some reason (sick kids at daycare, etc.).
But most of the time, I would drive to work, charge, and drive home. This ensures that the batteries are not over discharged and should greatly extend their life (and reduce the overall cost per km traveled). That is why I made sure to get approval to charge at work before choosing a car, batteries, etc.

I approached the manager of building services / facilities last summer. He readily agreed to provide a solution when the time came. I contacted his office this week, and with approval from security, we've found a convenient parking space where a plug is already in place. Building services will simply ensure that it has two independent 20A circuits.

Meanwhile, I can park there and use one of the two plugs (switching from the charging the batteries at the front, to those at the back, at lunch time). So I'm taking the car to work tomorrow:

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Modified Vehicle Inspection -- Out on the roads.

Yesterday I went to the local CAA to get the car inspected as a "Modified Vehicle" as per provincial standards. The report they produce is then sent to provincial authorities for review and approval.

Once approval is received, a mechanical inspection is also done to ensure all the details are covered.

It was a nice 13Km ride out there, my first on Montreal highways. No trouble getting up to speed, nor keeping up with traffic.

The people out at the CAA are very professional and quite nice. Obviously, they don't see too many electric cars go through there. I had a bit of a surprise, however, as they had spoken to the provincial engineer who will be reviewing the report: they had been told that the vehicle should be considered "hand-crafted" (fabrication artisanale), instead of "modified". This means it has to meet today's standards, instead of those from 1972. For me, this will involve the following additions:
- Daytime Running Lights
- A third brake light.
- Parking brake indicator light on the dash.

I had actually planned on installing running lights (LED Fog lights in the front air-intakes) and a third brake light, for safety's sake -- its just a shame that now I have to do it.
The parking brake indicator shouldn't be too bad, as there is a spare indicator on the dash anyway -- it will just be a matter of running an normally-open push button switch under the parking brake lever, though the 12V on-circuit and to the light.

In addition, the car didn't meet the modified/hand-crafted criteria for the following points:
- Right-side high beam intensity is too low
- Left-side headlight fixture, while correctly aligned, is wobbly.
- Passenger compartment is insufficiently hermetic with regards to the battery compartment: above the drivers left knee.

While these are inconveniences, they should be relatively easy to fix.
- The high beam is probably a crushed wire or rusty contact -- the filament seems to work fine.
- When I adjusted the left fixture last time, I knew it was wobbly, but it holds its alignment correctly, so I let it go.
- The hole in the firewall is known, but not a safety concern since I use sealed batteries: I had already planned on fixing it -- its a bit drafty!

After the inspection, I headed off to a public scale to get the car weighed -- unfortunately it was closed, so I headed home. The batteries only started sagging heavily under load as I tried to get back on the highway, 25km into my trip.
So to stay out of trouble, I got off at the next exit and took the side-streets home for the last 3km.

All in all it was a 32.5km outing, for which I am quite satisfied. After a 4hour charge, I was back on the road for another 20.5km outing in gale-force winds, in which the car was very stable on the highway.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Home at last

The Ghia arrived today.

After the explanation to my eldest daughter (3yrs old) that: "No, Daddy's blue car wont go vroom-vroom", we were off for a quick circuit around the neighborhood.

We are all very pleased.

Monday, March 2, 2009

On the road!

A quick jot around the neighbourhood to see if it let out any magic smoke: none. Back to the garage to 'work out' a bit of a snag on the clutch/firewall with the 6oz sheet-metal adjustment tool. We also installed the bargraph voltmeters I had cooked up:

We hit the road again to get the car up to speed: the design goal is twice 15miles @ 60mph per day, with charging at work in between.

I was a bit excited, so didn't note anything with any scientific rigour, but while cruising it seems to draw less than 100amps at 60mhp on 144V of Deka 8G31 gels sagged to 130V -- and that's with flattish tires and 14F temperatures. This comes out to 100A*130V/60mph = 217Whr/mile at the pack, which is looking very good.

It climbed onto the highway on-ramp without any problems and we merged in at speed and had no problem keeping up. We also had no trouble maintaining speeds of 40mph on city hills (I could have been accelerating up the hill).

So the next step is to cart it back from Richards (90 miles from my home), get it inspected, and start using it for my commute: hopefully before earth hour strikes this year.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Near completion

Richard emailed me last night with some exciting news:
"The car is basically complete."
There are a few details to iron out, but everything is in place and ready to test.

Here are the pics!

The front compartment:

On the back left, against the wall are the heater relays. The back right has the Delta-Q 72V charger and beside it, against the wall is the circuit breaker / emergency disconnect. The battery heater thermostat, white, is clearly visible. Each battery has power leads and fused instrumentation leads.

Here we can see the heating pad across the back of the back two batteries. The aux battery can be seen on the right, in the nose; beside it is the DC/DC.

The "plug":

There is a twist-lock for the chargers and a standard plug for the heaters

The rear compartment:

On the firewall of the rear compartment is the aluminum heat-sink/mounting board. On it can be seen from left to right: the inertia switch, the control relays, the potentiometer box (throttle), the controller, the contactor, the measurement shunts, the kill switch relays, the power-fuse and 12V fuses. Again, each battery has power and instrumentation leads, heaters and a thermostat, a charger, and of course, the motor with its RPM sensor on the back-shaft.
The instrument cluster:
We can see the pack voltage, battery or motor amperage and motor RPM. Below these is the programmable timer for cabin pre-heating.

The instrument cluster, heating plenum and wiring ducts:

Behind the programmable timer is the heater-box and the plenum which leads to the windshield defroster vents. In the corner, we can see the curved wiring duct which protects and isolates the driver/passengers from the high voltage wires which need to run between the front and rear battery boxes.