Saturday, November 16, 2013

IBM Club Car Show

The IBM Club Car show, which had been scheduled for October 31, was delayed until November 14 after a heavy rain put the original date in doubt. Nov 14 dawned clear and a brisk 36 degrees. I washed the evTD and set out for the IBM office complex, fingers and ears frozen in the open roadster.

I spent the final twelve years of my IBM career here, and it felt good to be back on the campus.

The car show was held in conjunction with the IBM Club Chile Cook-off  so there was a good employee crowd turnout during the lunch hour.

The cars arrived during the early morning hours, and the event sponsors thought my motor must have conked out as I pulled up to the registration tent. After explaining that the evTD was all-electric, they put me in the "Green Cars" category.

There was a nice turnout of cars, from well shined Corvettes, Mustangs, and BMWs to custom and exotic sports cars. The majority of the car owners seem to be retirees, which makes sense. I never had time for much in the way of hobbies while spending every waking hour focussed on the business of IBM.

I absolutely love Scott Reid's Lamborghini Miura

Gorgeous Custom 1940 Chevy

1967 Camaro SS

1950 Chevy five window pickup

1934 Plymouth - Beautiful!

1960 Corvette

Down to the end of this row are the other entries in the "Green Car" category. Brian Lasseter's Saturn has 50 CALB SE cells and a Zilla 1K controller, a very nice build. The other "Green Car" was a new Chevy Volt.
The evTD won the "Green Car" class and took home this shiny new hood ornament.
It turned out to be a great day with large crowds of tech-savvy and inquisitive IBMers. I enjoyed being in "Trade Show" mode, explaining the technical and practical aspects of my build. The ride home was a joy as well with temperatures in the mid seventies, a lovely autumn day in Austin.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Grinding Gears

It's been several months since we've updated the project blog, mostly because the evTD has been out of commission for that long. You may recall that I added a postscript to the last installment of the EVCCON reports about the emergency contactor switch and the trouble that caused. Well, there's more to the story.

Several months before EVCCON, I began to notice a slight vibration or resonance in second gear that started about 3000 RPMs and smoothed out over 4000 RPMs. Then it became more pronounced and showed up in third gear, too. Since it hit the same RPM band in several gears, I was suspicious that the Impulse 9 motor might be the culprit, and asked everyone I talked to at EVCCON for their advice and counsel on the problem. Tom Brunka of Helwig Brushes suggested that I increase the brush spring tension. Bill Ritchie of HPEVS of course suggested I swap out that nasty brushed DC motor for one of his smooth AC 50's. Other opinions included too much brush dust, dry bearings, or a misaligned adapter. The real cause raised it's hand at the drag strip.

On our third run up the strip with John Hardy riding shotgun, I hit the go pedal with the transmission in first gear and heard the most indescribable "fingernails on chalkboard, makes your teeth itch" noise that went away as soon as I upshifted to second. Since I normally start in second, it wasn't too much of an issue in daily use. After we got home and resumed normal activity, everything seemed ok except for that pesky 3000-4000 RPM vibration. Then I put it in first at an uphill stop light and the noise was back, and after that the vibration in other gears got worse, so it was clear the transaxle was at least partially at fault.

Knowing that the one year warranty on the transaxle had expired, I took the car to my favorite mechanics at Pro Automotive (no web site - these guys are old school wrench jockeys, not computer geeks) and placed my trust in them. First off, Robert Juarez re-engineered the rear support frame so they could pull the motor without removing the body. Tearing down the gearbox showed that reverse gear was chewed up pretty badly which meant it was hitting some interference when first (on the same shaft) was engaged. Thus the noise in first. Pro Automotive is right next door to Motor Mania, a VW specialty shop, and they recommended sending the transaxle off to Ken Harvey at German Transaxle of America in Bend, OR. 

Ken was a pleasure to deal with and took the time to walk me though what he found and what my options were. Turned out that the needle bearing on the input shaft had disintegrated allowing everything in the gearbox to wobble around enough to cause the screeching and damage. The ring and pinion showed galling and needed replacement, and Ken recommended replacing the fine-spline gear shaft with a coarse-spline one for better strength. Then during reassembly, he went to tap the front main shaft bearing into place and it just slipped into the hole where it should have been a press-fit - new case needed!

On the recommendation of Jack Rickard and Brian Noto, we went with a 3.44 final drive ratio that makes first gear more usable and makes fourth gear a .88 overdrive. Also added a "Super Diff" for more strength as well.

The trans arrived Wednesday this week and it is a beautiful piece of work. Like so much of the craftsmanship on this build, it will never be seen again once it's installed. First driving impressions are great! It is quiet and smooth, and with the revised final drive ratio it seems faster with less fuss than before. Shifting seems a bit stiff, but I think a little clutch adjustment will take care of that. I think the evTD is happy to be home, although the wife's Prius enjoyed living in the garage while evTD was in the shop.

Now to clean all the shop dust off and get it shined up for the IBM Day Car Show on October 31. Stay tuned ...

Friday, August 23, 2013

EVCCON 2013 Part IV

Saturday evening brought the banquet and awards presentation. Dinner was the EVCCON traditional hand carved smoked prime rib - Magnificent!

There seemed to be more trophies this year, as first, second, and third were awarded for the Drag Race, Autocross, and Car Show, as well as recognition for distance traveled and several other unique circumstances.

I was surprised and thrilled when my evTD won third place in the Car Show!

Celebrating Third Place in the Car Show with Dale Friedhoff, Second, and John Bishop, First

I really didn't expect anything since it was essentially the same car that won "Best Paint" last year. I've done a fair amount of developmental tweaking, but nothing really very noticeable. It's most gratifying that the judges were truly impartial since they were from the local Hot Rod Club and not EV insiders.

Jeff Southern won "Best of Show" for his VW Thing conversion, and it was much deserved. The Thing is a beautiful and very tidy conversion, well thought out and executed.

Bravo Jeff!

Jill Rickard, Toni and Brian Seymour, Bill Ritchie, and Brian Noto congratulate Jeff Southern

Many thanks to Jack Rickard and his team for once again delivering a wonderful EVCCON week. It is something that you have to experience, and for me, at least, it recharges my batteries for another year of being one foot soldier in Jack's 100,000 man EV Army.

I will definitely be back next year for EVCCON 2014, perhaps with a new build. We'll see.

Here's Jill Rickard trying to convince Dad he should bring Mom along next time.

Special thanks to the guys who handle the logistics and arrangements, Richard Flentge and Brian Noto. Well done, guys!


You may have noticed that I didn't mention the parade or group photo. Had one of those experiences that make the whole event memorable: I was driving in the parade with a passenger whose name I don't remember (forgive me, I'm an old guy) when the car just stopped. I mean dead. No power, no lights, nada! We pulled over to the side and waved everyone else past. A couple of gals were walking up the sidewalk and offered to help us push it into a parking lot, then wanted to take pictures of themselves and the car!

I checked the fuses - all good. No 12 volt power at all, so no way the contactor would pick to connect the pack to the Soliton1, which wouldn't start anyway with less than 12 volts. I immediately suspected that the DC/DC converter had failed and allowed the auxiliary 12 volt battery to drain. That's happened before.

The good news is that Dad had taken the truck back to the hotel and I caught him on the phone and asked him to come pick us up. We stopped and bought a come-along so we could winch it up on the trailer, then hitched up the trailer and went to get the car. How often do you have a truck and trailer at your disposal when something like this happens? I was just glad it occurred on the safe and sedate 16MPH parade and not earlier in the day as I was silently roaring up I55 at 65+. We had time to shower and made it to the banquet with time to spare. Later learned that I was not alone. Brian Seymour had some cells go bad on his Corvette, luckily close enough to the EVTV shop to ditch there, and Brandon Hollinger's London Taxi was without brakes and he was negotiating the parade on his hand brake when someone saw an opportunity to pull in front of him - near miss.

After I got the car home and safely in the garage, I checked the Aux battery with my meter and found it was at 11.86 volts - low, but not drained. I put the charger on it for a bit, but still no click from the contactor. I started checking behind the dash and the emergency stop switch literally fell apart in my hand. Split down the middle with springs and bits all over the floor. I picked up a new one at Grainger and was putting it in when I looked at how it was wired, and thought "Why on earth would I do that?"

I had routed the main 12 volt 30 amp circuit from the DC/DC converter and Aux battery through this 3 amp switch. I'm surprised it hadn't gone up in flames months ago. Recall that I was struggling with voltage sag on the 12 volt system and replaced all the directional lighting with LEDs. This would explain it. So glad I didn't spend the $500 on LED Headlamps.

Now that I've correctly wired the new switch I'm not seeing the voltage sag on the 12 volt system. The moral of that story is: get some sleep before you do the final wiring the night before you leave for EVCCON!

EVCCON 2013 Part III

Saturday morning opened with a presentation from Anne Kloppenborg of New Electric and EVTV Europe. Anne's video pretty much speaks for itself:

Anne is a very energetic and positive guy with a bunch of irons in the fire. Lots of fun to be around. He participated with Jack Rickard and several others on a discussion of entrepreneurship that pretty much helped me conclude that an entrepreneur I'm not.

Following the morning session came lunch and the car show. I hitched a ride back to the hangar and picked up the evTD. After a five mile blast up I55, we took our place among the other gorgeous EVs and chatted with all who happened by. I did several interviews like this one for KCRU

Al Gajda's amazing 1939 Dodge Truck
Pikes Peak winning BMW from EV West
Beautiful interior of Robert Salem's TVR
Lots of legroom in Brandon Hollinger's London Taxi
Jack Rickard's Tesla Model S
Jack Rickard chatting with Brian Seymour of HPEVS
Jack Rickard chatting with Toni Seymour of HPEVS
Brian Seymour's Corvette with Dual AC35's
My evTD on display
Dad is ready to field any questions about the evTD

Continued in Part IV ...

EVCCON 2013 Part II

Friday was the designated Play Day for EVCCON 2013. In past years, we adjourned to the airport on Friday afternoon to enjoy drag and autocross racing and generally play cars. This year a full day was reserved for that activity, and it was a good thing, because ... did I mention that it RAINED?

Before the heavens opened, we did get some runs in, but first we all lined up to have our weigh in. 

The evTD weighs 2065 pounds, with 824 pounds front and 1241 rear for a 40/60% weight distribution. That's pretty close to the VW Beetle's original 45/55.

Photo courtesy Stephen Lumpp

Dad and me getting staged for our first trip down the 1/8th mile drag strip.

And we're off!

Our timed runs came in at 12.101 seconds at 54.3 MPH and 12.485 seconds at 57.0 MPH. We clearly won't set any records, but it's a rush to go all out in something you built.

Even more fun was giving rides and drives to the guys who didn't have cars at the show. Here's my favorite British citizen, John Hardy, along for the ride in my faux British car.

Did I mention that it RAINED?

The festivities were interrupted by a serious gully washer that drove everyone into the hangar. There was still plenty to do ... all the cars came in and took refuge.

I found a choice spot next to the beer wagon,

right next to the EVTV/Aptima Motors eCobra.

Jack Rickard's DC3 was in the hangar with his collection of classic MGs parked under its wings.

The plane was open to tour, so we took a look inside. This is an airliner with style, not the glorified Greyhounds we fly packed into today.

Dad got a chance to try out the pilot seat and recall his college days taking flight lessons in a Piper Cub.

The time indoors gave us a chance to explore some more of the cars. This blue Cobra replica looks like its about to tow the beer wagon away, but it is a very interesting design.

The builder, Glenn Brown, is a machinist by trade, and the craftsmanship is outstanding. He fabricated his own chassis and used GBS batteries like mine, all fitted down low in the front engine bay because ...
The Warp 11 motor is mounted amidships directly attached to the rear mounted Porsche transaxle. Very clever and quite fast.

The rain eventually cleared and the activity continued ...

with a demonstration of how to blow up a battery ...

and dynamometer runs.

With rain forecast for the evening, we decided to leave the evTD in the hangar and got a lift back to the hotel from Toni Seymour in the HPEVS Scion. It was the test bed for the new HPEVS AC75/Curtis 1239 combination. I was very impressed - it felt in every way the equal of my Nissan Leaf which is high praise indeed.

Continued in Part III ...