Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tweaks and Testing: Day 4 & 5

No pictures from the last couple of days! You'd have think I'd have learned by now to charge new batteries before using them, whether it's 20 6-volt golf cart batteries or 4 double-AA's ...

Bill has finished the fresh-air ventilation system for the traction batteries and installed nifty looking hold-down latches on the box lids. The batteries are freshly watered and the back seat is installed -- with all three seatbelts in place!

He took the van out for another 23 mile cruise on Friday. Everything is looking good except that the DC-DC converter -- which is supposed to power the 12v auxiliary battery using current from the 120v traction battery pack -- keeps cutting out under load. Every time the heater blower is turned on, it shuts off. Then the ignition has to be turned off and the main circuit breaker flipped for about 5 minutes, after which you can flip the breaker and re-start the van. Very puzzling, and not conducive to relaxed driving.

As long as this quirk only manifests itself with the heater we'll be fine for a while -- it is August in Pennsylvania, after all; yesterday it felt more like steamy Borneo -- but when Bill was demonstrating the problem for me we also saw the converter cut out just from the draw of the vacuum pump, which runs whenever the brake is applied. Hmmmm. It'll be a long drive home if we have to pull over to reboot every few minutes!

Of course there is enough power in the 12v battery to maintain some auxiliary functions without the DC-DC converter, but Bill's test drive in the dark definitely showed the headlights slowly dimming over the course of 20+ miles. We need continual flow from 120v to 12v to meet the electrical demands of lights, wipers, and heat.

Of course even if we don't need heat at the moment, the vehicle will require a defroster of some sort to pass inspection. The Vanagon heater/blower is notoriously inadequate and unreliable and reconditioning it is quite a chore. Bill is still advocating to install this as a defroster:
Yes, it's a 12v hairdryer. I have to order it from Media Camping Center in Hatfield, though, so I can't get one till next week.

Dan's suggestion (and the solution he actually uses in his '87 Westy):

a 12v fan he keeps permanently mounted to his dashboard.

This week's final installment will take the van from Bill's place to our home! In the meantime, though, I have a few odds and ends to share with you. One is an overdue mention of Mike Harvey of Harvey Coachworks -- a Maryland/DC area EV conversion and consultation shop. I had invited Mike to come and speak to the class in the middle of the second week of the workshop, but in the last-minute press to get the van done he was crowded off the schedule. He was very gracious about it and I want to thank him publicly for his flexibility!

I was most sorry to miss the opportunity to hear from Mike about his real-world experiences running an EV-related business. I encourage readers to check out his website by clicking on the banner below.

Don't miss the fascinating Personal EV Transport -- like an all-weather, all-electric motorcycle that operates at a penny per mile -- I understand Mike has them in stock now!

I also want to draw attention to a couple of Volkswagen EV conversion sites that have been alluded to in the comments but deserve more prominent mention. Here is a sweet New Beetle EV with lots of great documentation (this is where that nice chart of battery box considerations came from) and here is another EVanagon -- this one has an AC 3-phase induction motor instead of a DC system.

Finally, here is a link to an August 1 Wall Street Journal video clip that both Lynn and Dan sent me about an unassuming little 1972 Datsun EV that is outperforming conventional muscle cars on the racetrack. Lynn says, "Maybe when we all get our vehicles converted, we can have a track race and car show for ourselves!"

No comments: