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 ...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wedding Bells III

It's been a long time since I've updated the blog. The evTD has been running just great; no incidents to report, no significant repairs, just fun motoring. We've attended several car shows and EV gatherings and it draws crowds wherever we go.

One of the really nice things about having a car like this is being able to share it with people as an accessory to mark their special life events.

Last month was the wedding of my daughter's friends, Rachel and Ryan, and the evTD once again made an appearance as the getaway car. Rachel and Ryan are music education colleagues of Becky's, so they appreciate the classics. I wasn't sure if Ryan was accustomed to a manual shift (a lot of young people have never had a need to learn), but having an Electric Vehicle makes it easy to loan out since you can put it in third gear and drive it like an automatic. It's a bit slower off the line, but no fuss, no bother.

And an Electric Car has no leaks, smells, or noise, so it's perfect for a formal setting. Very well-behaved.

Romantic Elegance

Of course, it's important to get the wedding dress all loaded into the car before taking off for the honeymoon!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wedding Bells, Part Deux

We started the new year with another featured role in the marriage ceremony for a special young couple. Matt and Leah are the newlyweds who asked to use the evTD as the getaway vehicle from their wedding reception. Leah is the daughter of my good friend from IBM days, Mark Kressin. Mark had seen and shared the photos of my own daughter's wedding last year. 

My daughter Becky and hubby Erik, married last year
Mark's wife, Gloria, and daughter Leah looked them over and thought that the evTD would add the perfect sizzle to cap their festivities. And since it always takes two to make a wedding, a Bride and her Mother, the deal was sealed.

The wedding and reception took place in the rotunda of the Bob Bulloch museum near the University of Texas campus, a truly spectacular location. The ceremony was touching, the dinner and dancing delightful. We met and mingled with the new couple's families and friends and felt honored to be a part of the occasion.

Throwing rice as the couple makes their exit has fallen out of favor, so we were given sparklers to light the way as Matt and Leah began their new life together.

Leah and Matt getting ready to ride off into the sunset
The evening chill had set in by the time for the grand departure, but the kid's didn't let that spoil their fun. As the reception was dying down, I had given Matt the key and some fairly incoherent instruction on how an Electric Vehicle is driven differently from your garden variety gas car. He didn't have a bit of trouble once he found the brake pedal.

The wedding photographers had gone on ahead to set up for some shots in front of the Texas state capitol and the Austin chic hotel on South Congress where Matt and Leah would spend the night.

Here is a sample of their work for the wedding album and I must say that I'm impressed! The dramatic lighting and composition are stunning. The kids seem to be enjoying themselves, too. Looks like something out of The Great Gatsby, very elegant and a wonderful keepsake.

Wedding photography by Eric Kotara

The evTD makes a really nice prop and I'm so happy that Matt and Leah enjoyed the fantasy. Earlier, as I was parking the car in front of the museum, a couple of ladies (obviously a Bride and her Mother) stopped their car and rolled down the window to ask if my classic car was available for rent. Seems they were in the planning stages for an October wedding and the evTD caught their eye, so I gave them one of my business cards. Maybe I'm not so retired after all ...