Saturday, August 11, 2007

Day 10 - The Electrifying Final Chapter

Class officially began at 8:30, but when I got in ahead of time on Friday ...

I found Paul and Dan already there working on the DC-DC converter wiring. (Bill and Mike tell me Paul was there early every day and got to work as soon as the shop was opened.)

Here's the whiteboard status from Thursday. I had invited the press to cover our roll-out at 1:00 -- that was when I thought we would have tested the day before and be confident that the wheels would turn and the van would move! Now I was feeling a little stressed. Bill, as usual, was calm. "I think we can do it," he said.

One fan has been mounted in the ducts Afshin & Kevin made yesterday. The van can roll without these ventilation boxes installed - they're to outgas hydrogen while the batteries are charging. So these will go in later; there was more important work to be done on and around the batteries.

Afshin and Bill discuss how to mount the main circuit-breaker, while Mike looks on.

Paul is wiring the DC-DC converter up.

Kevin re-installs the interior panels.

There's still plenty of time before 1:00.

Larry checks the seat configuration on top of the battery boxes -- then it's back to crouching over the batteries doing the high-voltage wiring.

Dan brought in a new left turn signal light for me, and shows how the connector has rusted because water has collected behind the lens. This is a typical Vanagon quirk.

Lynn is crimping lugs!

Circuit breaker secured in mounting box.

Mike sketched a design for the metal seat straps which will secure the bench seat to the lid of the battery boxes, and Bill headed back to the welding shop again. I said, "You only offered this class so you would get to play in the machine shop!"

There's still time ...

Obviously the van can roll without a back seat -- but there are only so many people who can work on wiring at a time, so this is a good side project.

Kevin and Mike are measuring.

Although it is not necessary to include a circuit-breaker in the wiring suggested by EVAmerica, we've chosen to integrate one into this system. So we do need a circuit-breaker to roll. And that means another box, as you saw above. Now Afshin's cutting a hole in the lid for the switch.

Larry is wrapping cable ends with tape. "Anywhere you see tape on a cable, assume that end is hot," he cautions us.

Okay, time is starting to get short.

Paul is soldering connections.

There is a summer camp operating at NMTCC and the kids came to observe for a little while. Here Bill is describing the project to them.

Larry and Paul consult wiring diagrams.

Lynn and Peter are still crimping cables -- red ones this time -- that feels like progress!

Afshin is done with the circuit breaker box lid --

and it looks really good thanks to Dan's labelmaker. Hey guys: "disconnect" has two n's.

Lynn is cutting another length of cable.

Dan is still working on the DC-DC converter. This is where he stood to work on dashboard wiring all day on Wednesday, too, so he teased me for always taking pictures of him working up by the driver's seat. "It's like watching fruit rot!" he laughed.

Bill returns from the machine shop with the metal straps to hold the seat to the battery box lid.

Afshin had everyone sign the underside of the circuit breaker box lid. What a nice thought!

Kevin and Bill are still at work on the seat.

All right. It doesn't look like the van will be ready to roll in an hour -- it's still being wired up, and everyone needs to eat lunch. I decided to hope that nobody showed up to observe the roll-out.

In fact, at 1:00 we were joined by John Klein, a retired electrical engineer who had heard the roll-out announced on WNPV 1440 AM, and by Peggy Schmidt, the host of the radio program Mike, Lynn and I appeared on. We were able to tour them around the shop and show them the work in progress -- but no rolling van. I was very happy that no TV news crews had opted to cover the non-event! Now we had the whole afternoon to work. Everybody got to it with renewed energy.

Peter grinds the seat-to-box straps.

The fuel gauge -- the last piece missing from the conversion kit -- arrived by overnight mail. Now Dan has to pull out the dashboard again and wire it up. Good thing he likes installing gauges so much!

The motor is connected to the batteries now!

This large fuse is one of the safety interconnects. EVAmerica provided one with the kit; Larry suggests I should put another one on the other battery pack on a later date.

The fuel gauge is installed!

The short lengths of PVC pipe help ensure that the battery box lids will not sag down and contact the battery terminals.

The final high-voltage connections are being made!

At 2:00 the only task remaining was to install the circuit breaker box.

Of course, that took longer than we expected. Larry worked above sinking bolts while Paul tightened them from below. Afshin joked, "The last 4 bolts are taking 4 hours!"

Finally it was time to begin the check-list for the system evaluation process recommended by Mike Brown in his text Convert It.

But we hit a snag. Why are we reading 120 volts on this connection when the check-list says the voltage should be zero?

Larry goes off to study the EVAmerica manual and see if he can figure out why our test might be yielding different results than the Convert It checklist indicates.

Meanwhile, Lynn reads ahead on the process checklist, and points out to all of us that step 24 assumes that the main contactor and the battery are not yet connected. (That's step 48.) We have already made this connection, however, which probably explains why we are getting a voltage reading of 120.

The EVAmerica manual has a much less complex check-out procedure. We decide that we should use the process for the system we are using, not the Convert It process which would require us to unhook connections that we've already made! Here Bill is telling Dan that he is confident all our connections have been made correctly. After all, this wiring has been done by professionals -- Convert It is written for a more general audience and presumes that the person connecting the system is relatively inexperienced at this work.

At 3:35 we performed the simplified check-out procedure and were ready for the first real test: will the wheels roll off the ground? I climbed into the driver's seat and turned the key in the ignition of die Sprite for the first time in almost two years. The controller whined to life, I pressed down on the accelerator pedal and the wheels rolled!

Peter operated the lift, and die Sprite has all 4 tires on the ground again.

Paul is checking how heavy the van feels on its springs. It really does feel like it's roughly equivalent to Dan's camper van (he had driven it to school for comparison purposes.)

Dan had the honor of being test pilot. He handed his camera to Peter to document the test drive, and you can see the final moments of the EV Conversion Workshop here:


Anonymous said...

Great job documenting things jenny - best of luck on driving the vanagon, and keep us posted on how it performs!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations everyone! Jenny, can you post a final list of parts and suppliers that you used to build the van? I am particularly curious as to how you sized the circuit break.

jisaacs said...

I will post a final parts and suppliers list -- that's one of the bookkeeping tasks that awaits me this week. I do also plan to post periodically on performance and to document the follow-up work. There are still a few pieces to put together before it is ready to exhibit.

As far as the circuit breaker rating, I'm going to have to appeal to someone in the class to explain WHY I was sent off to buy a 250-amp circuit breaker. Let me get back to you on that ...

Anonymous said...

that was sweet