Monday, July 27, 2009

So Long El Fiero

7-27-09 - From the ashes shall rise a new and better EV!

I know it's been a long time since I blogged, but that's life. The winter got me thinking and I have a new and better plan for an EV. So in the process, something had to go and El Fiero drew the short straw. As you will read in my new blog - GOT-EV - I needed something that was more practical and easier for "me" to drive. So I gutted the Fiero of all EV components and they will soon be in my 1996 Geo Tracker.
There is still a bunch of good stuff here for a first time EV'er, so feel free to check things out. I will try to link my new page to this one so the saga can continue.
Until then...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Needle on the Speedo Goes up and Down

September 22 – October 25, 2008

It’s been a week and all is well. My car still has a squeak and I think it might be something rubbing near the brake (a dust shield), so tomorrow I will get out the jackstands and do some investigating.

Some good news – with the help from my fellow Fiero convertor Larry, I was able to solve the speedometer mystery. When you pull the ECM, you lose a ground connection to the speedometer. I started to trace the wires and found a black wire with a white stripe that was supposed to be connected to ground. This one came off of the ECM and was part of the ALCL connector. With it unplugged from the ECM, the ground connection was broken. I tested it with a jumper and you know it is working when the speedometer needle drops to zero with the key in the run position. So if your Fiero is stuck in the 10MPH mode and your needle is going nowhere, look for the missing ground (and thank Larry).

So after a week of having a working EV, all I can say is the grin is still there. If the squeak would go away, I would probably grin even more. My tachometer project is (still) almost done. I am trying to make things pretty and more functional. For all intents and purposes, it is done. I did an upgrade to two magnets for the sensor to read and this allows me to improve my RPM resolution to 30 steps (v/s 60 with one magnet). If all goes well at school this week I should be able to install next weekend – both a tacho and speedo – life doesn’t get much better. And if you really want to improve your performance, do the aero thing. Again, Larry closed off his entire bottom (with coro-plast) and his efficiency improved dramatically. Check out his blog for the details ( I think I have enough material left over from lining my battery boxes to finish my under carriage, so that is on the agenda for tomorrow.

And as a final note (yes I am getting on my soapbox for a minute or two) I want everyone who is thinking about doing a conversion to stop looking at the current gas prices. It’s $1.91 here in the Dayton, OH area and I am thankful to have an EV. Trust me on this one, the prices will rise as quick as they came down. It’s election time and the “Powers That Be” aren’t fooling me. What better way to distract millions of people this close to an election by seeing those $4.00 per gallon prices disappear – you can’t blame Democrats or Republicans. But as soon as the last dangling chad is counted, they will rise. So while everyone is putting their project on hold, get your parts and start converting – you’ll never get an EV grin filling your car (or truck) with gas.

Until later…

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's Alive, It's Alive - Part Deux

September 22 – October 25, 2008

It’s been over a month since I last talked about my car – it’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, I just haven’t done anything while waiting on my parts to return. On top of that, school has been busy, I’m taking a class at night at the community college and ….

Well the controller, vehicle integrator, pot box and contactor have found their way back to Ohio and are now back where they belong – in El Fiero! I repaired or updated all of the wires that were singed or cooked and added some new solderless connectors here and there. It only took about 5 hours to get it ready to test and it worked!! The off the ground test (on jackstands) was a success and I did it several times to make sure all was well. Moved the other cars out of the way, put it back on the ground, grab my drivers license and CELL PHONE and I was off to see if all was “really” well. A trip around the block – no problem. A trip around several blocks – no problem. The real test was to get my son from work (this is where it died last time) and again – no problem. I officially have my EV Grin!

So what’s next??? I still have to get my speedometer working. I know it’s just a wire, but I had other priorities today. Also, I need to finish my tachometer and get it installed. If nothing else, I can calculate speed by gear and RPM’s – who says you don’t use math! When I get my batteries cycled a few time I will take it to work and see how highway travel is. With winter approaching, I also need to find a way to keep the car warmer. I should be able to get things buttoned up to keep the car dry, but cold is still cold and I know my wife will not give up her spot in the garage. So I do have a few more items to do.

So until later….

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's Alive, It's Alive (sort of)

September 4 – September 21, 2008

I feel like a mad scientist with this project. All I need are some of those big throw switches to make better sparks and I can scream, “It’s alive, it’s alive”. But as we all know the good doctor had quite a few failures before the monster Frankenstein came about and I am beginning to feel my cars new name will be El Frankenstein.

First the good news – I got my EV grin today (though short lived). After the final wires were attached I gave it the second gear try out. Clutch pedal in, turn key, contactor engaged, stepped on accelerator – wheels spin! Now it was time to drive it. I get it off of the jack stands, enlist my wife as my co-pilot (God was watching) and off we went. It took a bit to figure things out (like where reverse was) and just how hard to push the pedal, but eventually we were on our way. Down the street and all of a sudden a strange noise – the fender liner came loose and was rubbing on the wheel. We came back and fixed it. Time to take my son for a trip around the block. With video camera in hand we take off. I am having clutch issues and could only find 3rd gear – not a problem, just a slow start. We made it all the way around the block! Hooked up the charger to top things off and clean up a few weeks work of mess in the driveway (with the car out of the way, I could finally clean up my mountain of used zip-ties). I was planning on picking my other son up from work around 5:00 and got things ready to go. Down the hill, around the corner – a shift from 2nd to 3rd (without a clutch). I was half way there when I felt something – sort of a chug, like an ICE misfire. Then a cloud of smoke and I was dead in the water (so to speak) coasting uphill with no place to stop. I coasted a few hundred feet and got onto a side street. I called my wife with the news, got a hold of my neighbor (a tow truck driver) and got the car home. The controller was dead!

So it’s back to the laboratory with Frank to see what happened. I am sending the unit back tomorrow for a check up/repair and hope to do this all over again in a week or two (with better results). Enjoy the short video.

So until then….

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Close, But No Cigar...

August 19 – September 3, 2008

Sorry it’s been so long since my last entry. As it turns out all of my parts arrived and I spent Labor Day weekend installing the last three pieces to my very big puzzle. When I thought I was down to the last few wires, it turned out to be quite a few wires. And being a bit anal about it, I double checked many of the earlier connections. To make a long story short, the little car that could, didn’t. It seems that one connection caused an unexpected surge and knocked out a small component in my controller. After several calls to Belktronix, we deduced it was the controller and back it went. Prior to taking it out, I did get to recharge the traction pack and the charger worked great. It topped them all off in about an hour and went into a float mode to balance the pack. The BMS worked great.
Now to my lesson for all of you EV converters out there – plan and plan some more! My original design had my controller, fuse and main contactor in my rear trunk area. It would stay clean and dry and I added extra ventilation to keep things cool. Running the last batch of wires was a big pain with everything in there. The controller was on a slant and the big wires were at the bottom (and a big pain to get to). Another issue was with my battery layout. The way I routed the wiring from the front to the rear made getting the required power taps (a 24V and 48V tap) for the controller fan and contactor a bit awkward (and probably was what knocked out my controller). So since I had to pull the controller anyways, I redesigned the whole back end. I moved the two batteries that were above the motor to the lower trunk area into a new rack. This required me to get more 2/0 cable to make the new long run from the front to the rear (yes you heard it right, more cable!). I figured that what I had to replaced could get recycled into some of the shorter new cables and this required more cable lugs. The cable came in two days, but I am still waiting on the lugs. My controller may beat the lugs back! What I discovered in moving things around was a much better set up. All of those wires that looked like a plate of dropped spaghetti are now centralized at the controller and motor (the controller will be where the two batteries were above the motor). A lot of long runs into the trunk area are now gone. Wiring from the passenger compartment is now three feet shorter. I wish I had thought of all of this earlier.

So what is the lesson? When you are putting your system together and something doesn’t seem right, take the time to fix it. It may cost you a few more dollars, but in the long run it may save you a lot of aggravation.

All of my parts should be at the house early next week so I should be able to get El Fiero back together in a couple of evenings. I bought one of those mini camcorders and will post a video of my EV grin and maiden voyage.

So until then….

Monday, August 18, 2008

Time to Tidy Things Up

August 4 – August 18, 2008

By now you have probably figured out that I am still waiting for my last three parts (or maybe I am out driving my Fiero and could care less about writing). Still waiting…

While I’ve been waiting, I took the time to take care of some car business – mainly the windows. Back in December I purchased some used parts to include a door. I did not need a whole door, but it had a good window and handle and for $25.00, I couldn’t resist. My old window had been scratched from years of worn out wipers (those rubber and felt strips that “wipe” the window clean when you roll it up and down. The replacement window was in great shape and I had removed it last spring and stored it in the garage. I knew how to take one out, so now it was time to put the good one in. Also, in order to replace the wipers, the window had to be removed, so I figured I would kill two birds with one stone. All of this involves drilling out four ¼” rivets that hold the window to the regulator (the things that moves when you turn the crank) without breaking the glass or ruining the plastic parts that the rivet goes through – not an easy feat. Fortunately for me I had the parts from the replacement window as back-ups because I did not drill the straightest while removing the rivets. Once the window was out, I remove the wiper and prepared to make a new one. J.C. Whitney’s sell new wipers in bulk form (not pre-cut). So I had to drill, slot and cut the new wiper to match the old one, plus I had to re-install the old hardware. I maybe had $30-40.00 invested to replace both wipers (one per door). It was a real pain, but the end results were great. No longer will leaves and twigs go through the gaping hole from the rotted old wipers (not to mention small animals). The Fiero Store ( now sells complete wiper sets for about twice what I paid, but it would be worth the additional cost to cut back on the labor involved. With the new wipers in, I re-installed the glass. Instead if those darn rivets, I opted for ¼-20 bolts and ny-loc nuts. There is lots of room for the bolts and it will make doing it again (yea, right) a lot easier.

With both doors done, I moved to some wiring. I bought two LED rocker switches – one for the fans in the controller/motor area and one for the vacuum pump. I already ran wires and it was a matter of hooking things up. There were a couple of unused wires under a switch blank on the dash and I traced them to an unused rear window defroster and trunk release. Both were on the run side of the ignition switch and were also fused. A little splice and dice and I had power at the switches for both. Being on the run side of the switch prevents them from being left on by mistake when I shut down the car. All three fans checked out and so did the power for the pump (which I will get back to in a few minutes). I also took the time to clean up some of the other wiring – in particular the 2/0 cable under the car. When I first installed it, I zip-tied it to some brackets under the car. I made sure that certain points had protection from rubbing so a cable would accidentally get cut, but while I was under there, I figured why not make all point “rub proof”. This involved wrapping coro-plast around each cable and then around the cor-plast. Then I zip-tied it to the bracket or other points along the bottom of the car. I feel much safer now knowing that it would take a lot to cut through a cable now. While under the car, I routed all of my BMS wires and other miscellaneous wires to clean things up. Once all wires were in place and secured, I started making my “belly pan” under the front of the car. This is nothing more than more coro-plas screwed and zip-tied to the under carriage of the car. I would like to completely seal everything up for weather protection, but being realistic, I figure 90+% coverage will probably be close enough. I will either incorporate enough pitch or drill a few holes to prevent any water accumulation.

I tested the vacuum pump on the bench first before hooking it up in the car. The replacement pump worked just fine and created enough vacuum for what I needed for the brakes. I built the vacuum tank out of a 12” long piece of 2” PVC with end caps to test things out. I added threaded, barbed plugs and hooked up the pump through a vacuum switch. I set the switch at 20”Hg and tried it on the car. One pump of the brakes caused the pump to turn back on, so I figured the tank was too small. A trip to Lowe’s for some 3” PVC and new caps and I tried a two foot section of pipe – it was a bit too much for my pump. I cut off about eight inches and it worked just fine. I glued on the caps and Teflon taped all fitting and it was sealed tight as a drum. I tested it and without any clamps on the fittings, it held vacuum over two hours without the pump starting up! I was happy. Next I shock mounted (heavy rubber feet) the pump to the fender well, next to the master cylinder. I made a bracket for the tank and mounted it to the firewall. Once again I tested it and it works as expected. Many people comment on the noise the pump makes on a near silent car and I concur. I may try to add an air muffler on the exhaust from the pump and see if that cures the noise. One other upgrade I want to do is change all of my fitting to pneumatic press on types. These hold the hoses without clamps and the hoses can be removed without tools.

And on a final note, I had more company and went to visit Larry in Columbus. A soon-to-be EV converter from Las Vegas was in town for his 20th class reunion and came by with his dad to check things out. Hayden wants to do a Camaro convertible and I think he will have a real nice conversion when he is done – good luck! Larry has it made – his dad’s shop has a lift in it and I am jealous. Larry is making great progress and should be sporting a big EV grin in the near future. Check out his blog when you have a chance -

So until later…

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Visitor From the Internet

July 16 – August 3, 2008

It’s been a while since I did an update, partially because I haven’t done much and partially because I haven’t had much to do. The good news is I finally got my classroom cleaned, but with each good thing comes the bad – I’m still waiting on the remainder of my order. To be fair, I did get a care package from Belktronix – part of my BMS (battery management system) came and that is what I have been working on. I did make the quick trip to visit the in-laws and got some things around the house done, but it was a mini “not working on the EV” vacation.

The BMS – it truly is a whole lot of wires! First there is the circuit board that has 8 hook-up points and a temperature sensor. One set of wires comes directly from the battery, one set goes to a power resistor, one set is for the OVP (over voltage protection) and the other is for LVP (low voltage protection). Each unit is custom designed for the size and type of battery (group 31, AGM in my case) and all 12 of them work as an integrated system. The three components I am still missing work with these BMS’s so all I can do is wire them up. The wiring pretty much follows the power cables (the big 2/0 battery cables). Each OVP and LVP wire is wired in parallel to the next battery in the same order the power cables go. The big pain for me is half of my batteries are in the front and the other half are in the back. So I start with three in the back, make the long run to the front to do six and then to the back to get the last three. I drew a new battery layout diagram so I wouldn’t screw things up – like I said, there are a bunch of wires. I am as far as I can get with these until the other parts show up –but I still have a few things to do to the car.

I also got all of the parts to put together my power brake vacuum pump. When testing the pump though, it came up short of the expected vacuum. I tested it several ways and got the same results. The person I bought it from on Ebay has a six month guarantee, so it is going back tomorrow. I will go more into detail when I get it done, but I expect to save $100-200 over the cost of a pre-made unit you see at the EV website.

To finish on a good note, I had company today. So many times we get to know someone through the internet and yet never get to meet them. So today I got to meet Larry (and his buddy Adam). Larry is a fellow Fiero converter from Columbus, OH (just an hour away). We linked up through EV Album and my blog. Larry vehicle can be seen at As many have realized, waiting is part of the game and Larry is waiting. So he borrowed my motor model that I used to build my adapter so he can do more work on his battery boxes in the rear part of his car. To say the least, it was a nice afternoon with a fellow EV converter and Fiero guy – thanks for the visit.

So until I get something else done….