Sunday, May 29, 2016

Adventures in EV Land

I've consolidated this project blog with my PorschEV and eBugeye pages so there is one point of reference for all of the family EV's, including the commercial ones, from now on. The old pages will stay for reference, but new activity for everything will be posted to:

Adventures in EV Land

Thanks for your interest!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Turning Over a New Leaf

It's been a very long time since there's been anything to report on this blog, so I think we'll share this news here.

No, I didn't have the Leaf painted, that's a brand new 2016 Leaf! The 2011 Silver Leaf had refused to start in the middle of an errand last week and no amount of coaxing on my part would get it moving. After having it towed to the dealer, they tried a new 12 volt battery with no luck and waited for a visit from the "Leaf Specialist". The verdict was a failed DC/DC converter and heater element. The heater had died last winter (of course) and they quoted $4,000 to repair, so I figured I could wear a coat and gloves instead. Well, they are somehow inter-related (doesn't make sense, but ok) and the DC/DC is covered under the EV Components warranty but the heater element (not covered) would still be $2,600. Long story short, I sat down with the leasing manager and they made me an offer I couldn't refuse: Walk away from the Silver Leaf with three months remaining on the lease term, put the $2,600 I would have spent on the repair plus first month down on a new three year lease. New car, full warranty, $100/month less than my old lease. The three year term should tie out with the realistic availability of my new Tesla Model 3. Did I mention I put a deposit on a Model 3 along with 350,000 of my closest friends?

So the evTD has a new room mate. The Porsche, too. Click here for the Berthing Arrangements.

Monday, June 8, 2015

New Toy

In planning for the charge port on my Porsche EV, I found a charging device that makes charging away from home a real option

I had cobbled up a cable with NEMA 6-20 connections and a receptacle box on the EVTD to bypass the J1772 charging port. I added a switch to the receptacle box to avoid the nasty spark that happened every time I plugged the thing into the wall outlet. Most of the time it had the J1772 box cable plugged in, but would allow me to plug in to standard 110 or 220 volt outlets as well. It took up some space where the 12 volt battery used to be, but worked pretty well. 

I was planning to do a similar thing with the Porsche EV, but since I'm using the AVC2 logic board I wanted to make it a simple "plug in and charge" process rather than the "1) pull out contactor switch 2) turn on receptacle box switch 3) turn on J1772 adapter box switch" procedure that is needed for the EVTD.

Google can be a dangerous thing, and I found the AeroVironment TurboCord Dual and you can check all the specs on the link. My garage charging station is from AeroVironment with a Nissan logo on it, and since it has functioned flawlessly for four years now I figured this was worth a try.

It's a bit pricey, but it is a little jewel! It comes in this nifty bag, so it can be carried around without rattling in the trunk.

With a J1772 plug at the car end, the wall plug is very cleverly designed to handle both a NEMA 6-20 and NEMA 5-15 for 240 and 120 volt outlets.

The 240 volt adapter plugs in to the 120 volt base and locks on with the black slider. The plug contains the logic to recognize the voltage and interface with the car's on-board controller. 

Since I have this NEMA 6-20 outlet in my garage, might as well use it to charge two EVs at once since "Overkill is always appropriate".

Plugging in the TurboCord produces no startling flash, so it just glows blue to indicate it has power. Once the J1772 plug is inserted in the car's charging port and all of the handshake communications have successfully completed, the blue light will flash as charging is under way

It works perfectly with my Nissan Leaf as you would expect.

It works equally well with my EVTD, and the plug is color coordinated with the EVTD's master maintenance switch. 

The receptacle box is now redundant, and I plan to hard wire the J1772 box to the charger and replace the receptacle with a 12 volt battery to maintain power so I can give the DC/DC converter a rest. It is surprising how many amp hours are drawn from the main pack just to maintain the radio settings, speedometer GPS, and JLD 404 display.

For charging from different 240 volt outlets, any number of adapter cables can be assembled. I made this one last year to connect to the RV style outlets in front of the AC Brase Arena in Cape Girardeau, MO, home of the annual EVCCON conference.

The AV TurboCord will work just as well with my Porsche EV, so I hope to get a good bit of use from this device.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Project Next

So the itch has set in again. Anne Kloppenborg of New Electric Amsterdam has accused me of operating a slow motion conversion shop, and I suppose he's right.

I've been on the prowl for a conversion candidate since starting to accumulate parts. Here it is, a 1988 Porsche 924 S. I've started a new project blog with all the details. Please check it out.

What does this mean for the evTD? Nothing, really. The evTD is great fun, a smooth driver, and gets lots of attention on the street and at car shows. It's a big hit at wedding receptions, but also completely impractical as transportation. Perfect for a ride in the hill country, not so good for a run to the grocery. So the Porsche will be replacing the Nissan Leaf when it comes off lease next June, and assume that role in the Behning fleet alongside the evTD and the Wife's Prius.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


It's taken me a couple of weeks to decompress and reflect on the 2014 EVCCON experience. This is the fourth annual celebration of Electric Vehicle conversions hosted by EVTV, specifically Jack Rickard and Brian Noto. Once again held at the A. C. Brase Arena in Cape Girardeau, MO, it's my time to get revved up again and get my inspiration from the presentations, renewed friendships, and the beautiful cars. This is my fourth time attending EVCCON and it just keeps getting better. I brought my eBugeye in 2011 and the evTD in 2012 and 2013 as well as this year, so maybe something new will be on tap for next year. More about that and some other surprises later.

This year I didn't get my camera out quite so much, more focussed on absorbing the atmosphere, personalities, and information. Fortunately, there were some far better photographers involved and they have generously shared their photo documentaries. Check out these wonderful albums from Tim Catellier and Duane Lindsey.

Mike Brown won the Furthest Distance Travelled award by coming all the way from Thailand to attend. He once again did a super job of capturing the activities of EVCCON in his own blog and I'll refer you there for a day by day rundown:


I had once again loaded the evTD on a U-haul trailer behind a rented pickup and set out for the conference, this time driving solo. My father had accompanied me the last two years, sharing the driving chores. This year he declined because of some recent surgery and wasn't sure he was up to a road trip.

It takes a day to get out of Texas and another day to get where you're going, so I've found Texarkana to be a good place to put in for the night. This year I had gotten a pretty good deal on a brand new Hampton Inn on the Arkansas side. Very pleasant stay with dinner at a really tasty New Orleans themed restaurant in walking distance. Happily reserved for the return trip as well.

Now for the surprise: after the last presentation on Thursday, I'm walking out of the arena and find Mom and Dad waiting for me! They had driven in from North Carolina. Mom said Dad was moping around the house saying he wished he could be at the conference with me, so Mom says, "Let's go" and there they were.

It was a dry run for their trip to Texas for our grandbaby Easton's baptism. Easton James won't make his entrance until October, but daughter Becky and son-in-law Erik are making plans. Good times!

Friday is play day at the airport, and Mom and Dad were there for the event, visiting with John Bishop and strategically positioned close to the beer trailer. It was a constant stream of drag races and autocross, interspersed with great food, capped off with dyno runs. The dirty little secret about EVs is that they're FUN TO DRIVE. The greenies and tree huggers don't want to let that secret out since it might attract the wrong sort of people, but it's true!

On the other hand, Mom just wanted some pictures of herself in the evTD for her friends at home. She didn't want to ride, until Jill Rickard twisted her arm to go down the drag strip in the Tesla Model S. What a thrill!

Saturday is the Car Show, EV Parade, and Banquet, and we all had a great time. Dad rode with me in the parade and Mom got to ride in Jill Rickard's Tesla once again. They are clearly enjoying themselves!

Photo courtesy Tim Catellier

Photo courtesy Tim Catellier
The banquet was a superb and fitting close to a wonderful week. Jack and Brian traded witty comments on the stage. After awards were presented (all well deserved), Jack kind of wanders across the stage area with a stream of consciousness review of the past four days and his vision of what electric drive can be and how we will change the world one car at a time.

Once again I'm ready to go: get liquored up, play with high voltage, and go for a drive.

Earlier in the week, Brian and Jack announced a show special of 10% off nearly everything in the EVTV store. Since I already had a Better Place battery pack and Siemens/DMOC/GEVCU package in my garage, it was an opportunity to select the other odds and ends I'd need to complete my next build. Since I had a truck with me, I could avoid all the shipping costs, so I picked up a charger, DC/DC converter, dual cooling system, J1772 charge port, Evnetics throttle, and emergency and maintenance switches. Now all I lack is a car to wrap around all that EV goodness. Once that dilemma is solved, I'll be putting together a fresh new build to bring to EVCCON 2015.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Charger

I had resolved not to touch the evTD in the days leading up to EVCCON 2014. Everything was working nicely and I figured if I didn't mess with it, I wouldn't muck it up. No such luck!

EPS Charger and BMS before installation
I had become very comfortable with the charger that came with my battery pack and BMS back in 2010. I'd plug it in and walk away, a while later it was done. No fuss, no bother. It wasn't always so.

EPS Charger installed in eBugeye

When I first installed it in the eBugeye, as a newbie EV converter, I distrusted everything that might cause damage to my expensive battery pack. I monitored every charge down to the final moments to verify that the charger had done its job and stopped appropriately before it fried the batteries and burned my house down.

Over time I came to trust it and let it do its thing without an apprehensive audience.

When I last loaned it out for a wedding, I topped up the charge before it went out and it seemed to complete too quickly, but maybe I misjudged the amount I'd run around since the last charge. After it came back, I put it on the charger and stayed with it a minute. The charge process started and immediately the final light went solid and it said "charge finished" on the BMS display. I knew it needed more than that. Apparently some internal sensor was stuck on "full". I checked with product support and learned that since my charger had been out of production for some time, it would be difficult to trouble shoot and was long out of warranty. Opening up the charger, I didn't see anything obvious like burn marks or cut traces. It had served me well, first in the eBugeye and then in the evTD, so it didn't owe me anything. Time for a replacement.

I contacted Brian Noto of EVTV Motor Werks who, despite the frantic preparations for EVCCON, took the time to get a TCCH charger and controller out the door to me via UPS second day. It arrived three days before I was planning to leave for EVCCON, so three intense days of installation followed. So much for not messing with the car!

The TCCH charger is a dandy, considerably larger and heavier than the EPS charger and presumably more robust. Where the EPS charger maxed out at 12 amps, this one would do 16 amps for a shorter charge time. It has a control unit that lets you use a computer to set the target voltage, amperage, and cut-off. I really do feel comfortable letting this one manage itself.

Installation was a challenge since the new charger footprint was about 30% larger than the old one. I built a platform that cantilevered off the back of the component shelf and it feels really solid and looks rather more business like with its deep heat sink and cooling fans.

So we're off to Cape Girardeau with a full charge and capable of replenishing the charge on site so we can participate in all the fun! Report on EVCCON is in the next exciting installment ...

Fuel Gauge Works!

The good guys at rechargecar are now shipping the production version of their AutoBlockAMP. This is a current sensor for an EV battery pack that drives a tachometer (tachAmmeter) with current flow in amps, an analog fuel gauge, or a computer for logging, graphing and configuration.

I had been fortunate to be a beta tester and have had several development level ABAmps installed in my evTD over the last two years. Each new version worked a little better as the bugs were sorted out.

I'm pleased to report that the production version is available now and it's sweet!

I designed the evTD dashboard to include a mini-tach between the speedometer and tach whose dedicated function is to display current amp draw. That has worked quite well since early on in the development process. Now the ABAmp also reliably displays battery state of charge on the fuel gauge.

In the absence of a functioning fuel gauge, I've been using the JLD404 Intelligent AH meter to track current consumption in amp hours and extrapolate that into state of charge. For example, if the JLD404 reads 22.35AH, then I know that I've used just under a quarter of the 100AH capacity of my battery pack. Since I don't want to discharge past 80%, then a quick mental calculation says I have roughly 58AH remaining.

 Two problems with that: I'm not so good at quick mental calculations while driving and the red digital numbers disappear in the bright sunlight when I'm most likely to be scooting around in the evTD.

With the production level ABAmp, at 22.35AH the fuel gauge shows just under 3/4 full, and I can see that at a glance. If I assume that it's fairly linear, that means that it would show empty at roughly 80AH used out of 100, giving me a margin for safety. That's something that is set up in the configuration program.

The ABAmp is installed on one of the battery pack cables. I originally had it out in the open for troubleshooting, but now that it's become a reliable device, it's safely tucked away in the box containing all the other sensors. You see it here mounted to the JLD404 shunt with a fuse and the BMS sensor downstream.

After closing the box, it looks very tidy on the component shelf under the bonnet.

Little by little, the evTD is becoming more civilized and reliable. You may note the new TCCH charger and Controller from EVTV Motor Werks. More about that in another blog entry. Stay tuned ...