Archive for February, 2007

Air filter, radiator gone…more hoses disconnected

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Making steady progress, but spending about half our time buying necessary tools and learning basics that any mechanic would already know. Hopefully will come in handy for maintenance of the family gas-guzzler. Highlight of the day: Nick loses a 10mm socket in the depths of the wiper fluid reservoir; rescues it with a magnetic dart taped to a stick.

More…fluids emptied

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

Transmission, windshield wiper. Battery removed.

Fluids Emptied

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

We emptied the engine coolant and oil into a drip pan today (engine coolant is bright green!). It was disposed of in 2 milk jugs by the good people at Pep Boys.

One could get very discouraged

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

if one were to listen to enough advice of strangers. Case in point: Mr. Smog Check advised me today to give up my idea; electric power for cars isn’t “there yet”, and “they’re working on” hydrogen fuel cells (a funny feeling tells me I’m in for a lot of this). Anyway I failed the smog test and despite repeated assurances I was in it for the long haul, Mr. SC insisted on giving me detailed instructions on how to fix my internal combustion engine, obviously thinking I would snap out of it once I got home, put a cold cloth on my head, and accepted the wisdom of his advice.

The internal combusion engine not only isn’t getting fixed–it will be headed for rapid dismantling and removal once we get remaining fluids out tomorrow. So without the smog cert I will have to register the car as “inoperable” until it comes to life again–and then, hopefully, get it re-registered as a working, driving electric vehicle.


We did manage to clear the fuel tank today. After repeated siphonings we let the car run, and around 4:30 PM it sputtered on its final ounce of gasoline–then with a wheeze, fell silent. My only regret is realizing the current battery power is now limited and with it the ability to play the best car stereo I have ever heard and/or seen.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention…

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

the coolest coincidence in my own personal experience: the car’s license plate is 4CLW238.

My initials are CLW, and 238 is the address of my first house. But there is nothing, repeat NOTHING, providential in any of this…

On your mark, get set…

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

Picked up the car from Pro Am Body Shop yesterday (somehow 5 days turned into 2 weeks) and hit up owner Ike for a sponsorship. The vibe was: “so, you want me to give you money…for what?” Likely some communication issues to blame…anyway, he did a great job.

Now, the first task: off to get (ironically enough) a smog check so I can register the car in CA. After that, the moment of truth: do I really want to disassemble this neat little car, which is already twice as efficient as any car we own, when there is a distinct possibility the car will never leave my driveway again on its own power? The answer is an unequivocal yes — it will be an electric car, or scrap metal (after removing the cool stereo, of course).
Second task: remove liquids from car. Unfortunately a well-meaning spousal unit topped an empty tank off on the way home from buying the car–so task 2a is siphoning off 10 gal of gas (mostly Nick’s work).

A learning process

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

The original battery configuration has been scrapped, due to a wealth of information I received today from two parts suppliers: EVAmerica and Electro Automotive. Bob Batson at EVAmerica sent 4 emails including a catalog, tech papers, a 144V system “sample menu”, and a calculation specifically tailored to my vehicle. Petra Shultz of Electro Automotive replied to a form questionnaire I had filled out online with much detailed information (EA is the company begun by Convert It author Mark Brown in 1979).

As some had suggested already, my range prediction of 90 miles is way optimistic, especially using 12V batteries. And because exotics like NiMH and LiIon are either prohibitively expensive or plain unavailable, that leaves us with good old lead-acid technology. According to Petra, “the best overall battery for range capacity per volt, affordability, long life, and durability in use is the flooded 6V golf cart battery”. That means no sealed batteries, no AGM (absorbent glass mat). That means checking water and adding it when necessary. That also means having twice as many batteries to achieve the same pack (overall) voltage.

Though we’re still waiting for the Aspire to come back from the body shop (tomorrow?) it’s unlikely that 20 6V batteries are going to be practical both from a space standpoint, and more importantly, a weight standpoint (still shooting for a 120V pack to provide freeway speeds). 20 of US Battery’s lightest 6V golf car battery add up to over 1,100 pounds of batteries–and breaking the bank for gross vehicle weight. A pack of 15 Trojan GC8-T860 8V batteries, however, come in at 840 lbs. They would be practical from a weight standpoint, and right now look like the best combination of high speed (voltage) and range. Top speed goal is still 75mph, but range has been more realistically adjusted to 55 miles.

Sunday, February 4th, 2007

While the car is in the shop my son Nick and I are getting other pieces in place. Today we made a Pep Boys run and picked up all the necessary “mechanic” type tools which have been heretofore conspicuously absent from my life–a floor jack, stands, creeper, car cover (we’ll be working on the car in the driveway), wrenches, drill bits, and a workbench from Home Depot. Total $230…not too bad.

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

The car goes in today for body work. Estimate is 4-5 days.