Sunday, November 30, 2008

Electro-Metro Update 11/30/08

I just placed an order for some new Lovejoy coupler parts.

Yesterday, I took my broken coupler bits and transmission over to Tom's house, where he and some other guys were working on his Neon conversion.

I showed them the battle damage, and what my thoughts were on the why and how it happened.

I got input from a couple of different people of ways to make my new adapter better than the old one.

Here is my basic plan for the new coupler:

Still sticking with the Lovejoy style connection, but:

Will use a larger style coupler - they can carry more torque, have more area to weld to or trim on the lathe.

Going to use the fancier spider - it can carry more torque and is less rubbery.

Going to modify the Lovejoys to have sort of a "cap" that will prevent them from sliding on the shaft farter than even with the end of the shaft. This will keep the coupler in position without using Loctite, (not strong) or set screws, which can acually throw off the centering.

I will also bench test the motor and transmission to each other and get alignment perfect, then torque the connecting bolts really well, borrow an engine hoist, have a couple friends come over, and install the motor/tranny assembly all at once into the car.

The parts should come in a few days. I should be able to work on actually making the finished couplers at the end of the week, or this weekend. Then I will have to plan a "put it in" date as soon as I can after than.

Looking at Vee-Dubs

I got to go look at 3 diesel VW Golfs yesterday.

The first two were a package deal: 2 cars and three engines. All or nothing.

The engines looked pretty good, but both cars were projects and needed plenty of work. Lots of rust, lots of other little things to do on the cars.

I love the idea of having a spare diesel engine to play with. Would be great to make a Bio-Diesel Electric Car Generator trailer with.

After thinking about it a bit, it's too much work. Too many parts, and more of a project than I need right now.

I would just like to get on the road without using any more petroleum.

The other Golf I looked at wasn't bad. It's still an older one (1985) but the body looks suprisingly good for its age.

It's a two-door, which means slightly less room inside, but it's a hatchback, so I think it is big enough for me to carry all the gear I need for work.

The engine compartment was relatively clean. Supposedly, the engine was rebuilt 20K miles ago. Engine sounded very good. LOUD, but good. I don't know much about diesel, but it sounded exactly like every dump truck and big rig I have ever heard.

The interior fabric on the seats is in perfect condition, but the headliner and rear-view mirror are both missing, the radio doesn't work, and it took a few minutes of fiddling to get the front seat to adjust to where I could reach the pedals properly.

This car appears to have been designed by somebody with really long arms, and short legs. I have to lean forward to reach first, third, and fifth gears.

The car also has a towing hitch ball. It's connected to a real frame mount, not just a crummy home-job of welding something on. Being able to tow a light trailer adds to the appeal of this vehicle a bit. I won't be able to tow like I can with a truck, but my motorcycle on a trailer should be no problem.

Since this is a smaller car, with a diesel engine, I expect to be able to hit 50 mpg with it. Perhaps after making a few modifications to it, and we get nice weather again.

Originally, a friend of mine was to go with to inspect the diesels with me. He called in sick, so I was off to the unknown world of diesel-mobiles all by my lonesome.

I talked to him on the phone today. He took a look at the Craigslist ad, and mentioned that with what it said in the ad, and what I told him, it sounded like a good deal.

I also asked about what is actually needed to convert from Diesel to Bio-Diesel. His answer was that about the only thing that really needs to be done is to replace the rubber fuel lines, have a spare fuel filter, and introduce the bio-diesel slowly.

Bio-diesel will degrade rubber fuel lines, and it will clean out all the old gunk in the fuel tank.

Converting to a vegetable oil system is much more involved, but I can drive the car on petro-diesel to start, then introduce Bio-Diesel, and if I want to, I could eventually convert to straight vegetable oil.

Could this be the vehicle that gets me completely off Petroleum? Perhaps.
I still have to think about it a bit more and see about haggling over the price. There are a couple other people I want to talk to first as well.

Stay tuned for more of my continuing Fossil-Fuel Free Adventures.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Looking at cars...

Tomorrow, I am going to look at a couple of older diesel VW Golfs.

Diesel cars cab be run off bio-diesel or converted to run on waste vegetable oil.

These are basic, older cars, and I have always been told that diesels run forever. Any of these cars will need some work, and they still aren't exactly cheap, but they can be run WITHOUT PETROLEUM!

I don't know much about diesel, so my friend Swee has agreed to come with me to look at the cars and offer advice.

Should be interesting!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Would an old diesel car work for me?

Lately, I've been haunting Craigslist in search of an affordable, older diesel vehicle.

It's almost an oxymoron. Seems like all the diesels out there are rediculous-sized pickup trucks, at matching inflated prices.

I did, however, stumble across a pair of old Volkswagon Diesel Golfs. One runs, one doesn't. One had a title, one doesn't. Guess which is which. Yep, the non-running one is titled.

The Golf seems to fit the bill for me. Good fuel economy, useful body style (the classic hatchback!), and can be run on either bio-diesel, or converted to waste vegetable oil

The trick is, it's a package deal - both cars AND 3 more of the same engines!
Not sure what I would do with two cars, let alone three engines!

It does seem like a good chance to get some fossil-fuel-free vehicles on the road.

Perhaps I could fix the one and convert it to vegetable oil, then do the same to the second and sell that one to cover the cost of buying the cars and engines in the first place.

The engines seem to have enough value in themselves, that I may be able to resell them and cover much of the investment in the project.

The engines could have other uses as well. Perhaps convert another vehicle to diesel, or use one to run a generator at a remote location.

The possibilities are endless, but I can't have another car project taking up space in my driveway. I need a reliable - gasoline free vehicle, in the not so distant future, without too many parts that need to be stored.

Oh well, at least its my first look at a practical vehicle that could fit into my master plan of getting off gas.

Talking Turkey

Nope, this really isn't related to green cars or sustainability, but it's always fun when one of God's Creatures appears in my yard.

This turkey showed up in my backyard this past spring.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Taking out the Motor and Transmission

I got some time today to pull out the motor.

It took some work, but I was able to get out the motor AND transmission and take a look at the coupler.

Both halves of the coupler have damage and will need to be replaced. The alignment was never right on this setup in the first place.

Now I will just have to get it right the second time!!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

No More Gas - Taking the plunge

Something I have been thinking about a lot lately, is our use of gasoline.

This summer, at Hybidfest, I joked around for a photo of me drinking straight from a gas pump.

The sad part is that it is a fair metaphor.

We really all are addicted to gasoline. Most of us won't admit that. Or, if we do, we just think it's just the way things are.

The truth is, automotive gasoline use is a deeply embedded part of our modern American culture. NOT using gasoline seems pretty far out there. Clearly, only tree-hugging hippies would try to completely stop using gasoline. "Good for them to try, but that's not my thing."

As slick as hybrid cars are, they still use gasoline. I know guys who can get as good fuel economy out of a Geo Metro as somebody else would from a Prius. Both drivers are still using a limited resource, which has far-reaching political, social, and economic consequences.

Stop the world, I'm getting off. Well, getting off oil at least.

Here it is.

"I, Ben Nelson, do officially declare that I will do everything in my power to no longer use petroleum for personal transportation, and to minimize use for all other purposes and special occasions! Within ONE YEAR from today, I will no longer be a gas-guzzler!"

Basically, get off gas completely for commuting. Minimize all other use.

This will be a challenge. The closest big city is 30 miles away. I work all over the place, on a non-standard schedule. I have no train or bus service in my area. I'm not worrying about any of those things right now.

For now, just deciding is a good place to start.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Electro-Metro Coupler Broke!

Oh No!!!

Nov 18, 2008:

I think I broke my Geo Metro's coupler!!!

Was driving to the grocery store, heard mechanical noise - POP - motor didn't spin the transmission any more.

Cold and dark out. Won't know for sure until morning. Good thing I have that towing setup installed.....

Nov. 19, 2008:

Yep - It's the coupler...
I picked up the car with the S10 and tow bar.

I am getting better at hitching it up that way now.

Once I had the car home, I jacked it up and took a look through the coupler access port on the bottom of the transmission.

It looks like the two halves of the lovejoy coupler have been constantly wearing against each other, ever since installation. I also think the rubber spider was never in there quite right. I installed the motor to the transmission from under the car, by myself, struggling with it the whole way.

The transmission half of the coupler also was forced back to the sleeve covering of the transmission shaft. I think that is superficial damage, but won't know until I take everything apart.

When I fix and re-install this, I am planning on doing the combined motor and transmission, attached to each other, and install them into the car from below.

In this way, the alignment of the motor to the transmission can be checked and made perfect - BEFORE - I put it in the car.

I'll make sure to DO IT RIGHT the second time!

See more photos here:
Coupler Photos

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Towing the Electro Metro and Neon EV bench testing

My car moved farther today than it has the entire time I have owned it. How?

By towing it to South Milwaukee and back for for the EV Build Day.

Yesterday, I finished off the towing setup. I cut (mangled) the guppy mouth to fit the tow bar through. Then I did a test-tow around the neighborhood.

I made sure the parking brake on the car was off and the key was at the first click, which unlocks the steering, without turning the car on. The Metro towed well. Of course, I had terrible acceleration with the 4 cylinder, 2.2l Chevy S10, but I love the good fuel economy the rest of the time!

The idea of the tow bar is two-fold. In the short-term, I need to be able to take the car to the emissions test station. In the long-term, I plan to be able to take the car to the MREA energy fair's alternative car show, and other EVents. I have also hear from other EVers that there will be some point when you screw up and discharge the batteries, mess up the controller, or for some other reason, disable the vehicle.

May as well have a tow bar on there right away. I wasn't able to get over to the emissions test station (they close at 1 pm on Saturdays.) I will have to take it in this next weekend.

The other reason to have the tow bar was to drag the car an hours' drive away to the EV build day. I much prefer to be able to work indoors, with good tools, surrounded by people who know much more about cars than me.

I wanted to be able to add brake and turn signals to the car in a "tow mode". When I tow it, the brake and turn signals from the truck will make the car do the same thing.

We pulled the tail assemblies off. Inside the taillight are several bulbs; turn, tail, brake, backup, and marker lights.

We drilled a hole and added another bulb holder. The one I bought has a dedicated connection for ground, needed because we are mounting the lamp socket in plastic.

We ran trailer wire harness with a standard 4-pin connection from the front of the car, through the firewall, inside the body panels, to the back of the car. Rich was able to pop off body panels and stuff wire in there in about five minutes. By myself, it would have taken all afternoon, and I would have broken something.

Once the wiring was all the way to the back, we wired the harness to the lights, and then jumpered the connection in front to the battery to test the lights.

Photos of the build are here:

After we were done with that, we took a look at the rear battery mount.

Originally, I ran two pieces of bedframe left to right, across the top of the spare tire well. the one closer the the rear was drilled through, and attached into the frame with bolts on either end. The front bracket was left loose, because there wasn't any great place to weld to, and I added some angle metal over the front-top edge of the batteries, back to the back bottom bracket, with threaded rod.

Unfortunately, the metal was thin and bent funny when it was tightened down. That let the batteries slip, and one of them half-fell into the well.

We took the batteries out and discussed different ways of mounting the batteries, including adding more batteries, cutting the bottom out of the car, and all sorts of wild ideas.

For now, I just need the batteries to not slide around back there!

We tried using some large, self-tapping screws through the front angle, into the frame, to pin that down. I snapped both, and we had to pull them back out with vice grips and try again. It went better the second time.

After that, I ran a section of threaded rod vertically right through the center of the spare tire well - directly into the threaded center where the bolt went in to hold the spare tire in place. The rod goes straight up, between the two center batteries.

I drilled a hold in the center of another piece of angle iron (more scrap bed frame) and laid that over the top of the batteries. The rod goes through the hole and is pinned down by a washer and nut.

Now the batteries can't go anywhere! By holding the batteries down from the top, and in from the front and back, it leaves room around the sides of the batteries for me to add a battery warmer and rigid foam insulation.

I also got an enclosure box from Tom. It's roughly one foot square plastic with three holes in the bottom designed for conduit to connect directly to.

The next thing to do on the car is clean up under the hood: install the project box and put fuses, relays and things in there, bolt down the controller and 12v vacuum pump, and install a new throttle.

On Tom's car, he bench tested the drive train. After bringing a pallet of batteries over on a forklift, he connected the motor to the batteries and the AC drive (controller). Since I saw Tom last, he bolted the motor down to the adapter plate, and the transmission to the face of it. He also cross-braced the right angle with a support on either side, bolted in place for now, to be welded later.

I didn't have a good camera with, but I got a little video with my point 'n' shoot. Sorry for the quality of it. I didn't have a tripod, and the lighting was by tripod only.

In the first video, the transmission is neutral, and it's in 3rd or 4th in the second video.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Forkenswift Canadian Television

A while back, our friends over at Ecomodder, told us the Forkenswift was going to be on national TV.

Of course, the first thing I had to do was get my hands on a copy, and post it to the web.

If you aren't familiar with the Forkenswift project, it's a beer-budget, do it ALL yourself electric car conversion, built by two Canadians.... for under $700.

The one builder, Darin, is a co-founder of Ecomodder. I got to meet him this summer at HybridFest in Madison, WI.

The Forkenswift was a big inspiration for the Electro-Metro project, and Darin has been a big help on it.

Please enjoy this video on electric cars, featuring the Forkenswift.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jay Leno and the Tesla Roadster

The last couple of nights, I've been staying up to watch the monologue on the TONIGHT SHOW.

Before going to one of the commercials, Jay says to check out his garage online. So, I did. I already knew that Jay Leno is a huge car fan and owns an old-school Baker Electric car.

What I didn't know is what a delight of a video there was on the page about the Tesla Roadster.

The Tesla has had a large share of the press on electric vehicles lately. People talk about how wonderful it is, or how the company is going to flop at any second. But there's an aweful lot of misinformation on the Tesla as well.

This is the best video I have found so far, giving honest information about the car, and has a real, live person test-driving it.

This summer, I had a chance to see a Tesla in person. In fact, I even got to sit in it, although I did NOT get to take it for a ride. (See photo at top) I must have spoken with the sales person for almost an hour total.

Unfortunately, I was working the event that the car was at, so I missed when it came in and left. I only got to see it move when we were taking it out of a ballroom. Even then, the only camera I had handy was the web cam on my laptop computer!

Anyways, here's Jay Leno's review of the car, followed by my web cam of the car leaving a convention center!

Two things I will mention about the car:

1. It's really hard to get in and out of. Notice in the Jay Leno video that the top of the car is lower than his belt! I felt like I was sitting on the floor!

2. It's got a really weird door handle. The first time you go to get in it, you don't know where to pull!


EV Dodge Neon Video #5

Here's video number five of the Dodge Neon EV conversion series.



Electro-Metro Instructable

Well, I finally got around to making an Instructable about the Geo Metro project.

Last night, I finished insulating the front battery box, and put the bumper back on at least well enough that it shouldn't fall off in casual driving.

It feels like I am at a point that the car is "done". I still have more to do on it, but it should be to the point that I can now take it in to emissions testing and get my exempt status.

That also means that it's time for me to announce the car to the world. While I have been commenting on Ecomodder for almost a year now about the project, presenting the car on a forum like Instructables really is a big "Here it is! Look at this!"

I was pretty excited to see that my info hopped onto the front of the web page in the "Featured" column only minutes after posting.

Hopefully, this will help inspire others to re-consider what they are driving, and possibly even build their own.

You can see that instructable embedded below, or visit on their page at:

Electric motorcycles still in the news

I was suprised to see that, just the other day, Treehugger had an article on electric motorcycles, which included mine!

A while back, they did a little story on mine, which was pretty much just picked up from the blog article from Benjamin Jones on Ecomodder.

What is interesting about the current article is that it has both my motorcycle, and Russ Gries' Voltzilla, right along side the Killa-Cycle, Brammo, and Zero-X. 

In fact, the first cycle in the article is a high-end home conversion, using the exact same motor as mine and the 72V version of my controller.

It's great to see inexpensive home-built electric vehicles held-up side-by-side with electric dragsters and commercially-built vehicles.

In case you haven't seen it yet, here is the reaction of a neighbor of mine the first time he saw my electric motorcycle:

Here's the video on Russ' Voltzilla:

Russ is a great guy. I had the chance to talk to him on the phone a while back. He is far more mechanically inclined than I am. Be sure to check out how he has the transmission and electric reverse hooked up!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

EV Construction Time Lapse

I put a video camera in the corner of the garage on time-lapse mode while we worked on the front battery tray and tow bar for the Electro-Metro.

This way, you can see what we did in 5 hours, in just over a minute.



Sunday, November 9, 2008

Electro-Metro Work Day

Sunday, Nov. 9 2008.

Today, Tom, Mark, and Rich came over to help with the Electro-Metro conversion.

I have plates on the car, but it's time to renew them, which requires going in to emissions for testing, or in this case, proving that it has no engine, gasoline, or exhaust.

To do that, I need a tow bar, to be able to drag it to the test station on the other side of the county. I also need a proper place for the two "radiator-position" batteries. Before, they were literally set in the car, and held in place with a ratchet strap.

I started off earlier in the week by removing the entire nose of the car, so we would have access to the area.

Rich was nice enough to show up with a chunk of metal that was 2 inches wider than the batteries, and twice as long as the width of the car. Perfect as a pre-built battery tray! Just cut to length and install!

Well, not quite that easy, but it didn't involve too much cutting, notching, and then welding in place.

Once in there, we welded square stock across the front edge, and welded angle iron tabs on the end that were also connected into the bolt holes there.

I bought a discount, on-sale, tow bar from Harbor Freight the other day. We took the bolt-on tabs and welded them to the front cross tube. We positioned the tabs as wide as we could and still have them stick through the "guppy mouth" of the car. I will still need to modify the bumper cover a bit, but nothing I can't do with a razor knife.

The front end of the car now has a nice double-box for batteries and connections for the tow bar.

I still have to clean up all the welds, brush it all up, and paint the welds and bare metal. Then the front bumper, front corner lights, and bumper cover need to go back on (with a little modification).

After that, I should be able to take (read: tow) the car in to the testing station and get the emissions exemption.

I will also be able to now tow the car to other locations for more work. (Places where people have welders, and other wonderful tools!)

Thanks guys, for your tools, materials, and most of all, your support!

For photos of what we did, please follow this link.


Friday, November 7, 2008

NEON EV Conversion video 004

Here's video four on Tom's Dodge Neon EV conversion.

Electric Car Conversion 101 Part 4 - Funny videos are here

Hope you enjoy this series of videos.

We really are just trying to get some good information out there on the actual "How-To" part of making an electric car conversion.

Expect more videos on this project as our time allows!


Plug-Ins are the Future!

This summer, I saw that Google and YouTube were teaming up, looking for video submissions about plug-in electric vehicles to be shown at a conference in Washington DC, sponsored by and the Brookings Instutution.

My electric motorcycle may not be fancy, but it is a plug-in vehicle, and I didn't have to wait for Detroit to make one for me.

One day, after work, I threw together a 90 second video about my motorcycle. I filled out the one-page on-line application, and submitted it to YouTube.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was selected as one of three videos to actually be shown at the event!

Since then, the video has had over 60,000 views. Not bad for something put together on a weeknight.

I just hope that it sends the message that there are better ways to do things than what we've been doing.

Watch it below, and help spread the word.



Meeting the Hybrid Guru

Today, I had a chance to make it over to Jefferson, Wisconsin to see a presentation on alternative fuels from "Hybrid Guru" Chris Schneider.

Chris runs Honda Motorwerks in LaCrosse, WI, is a former board member of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, and has been a long-time advocate of conservation and renewable energy.

While I have met Chris before, it was great to be able to sit through his entire presentation, which included the ZONE (Zero Oil No Emissions) Video and his typical props, such as 50 tailpipes tips welded together representing scales of pollution.

Oddly enough, at meetings like this one, the audience is often very well informed and every bit as interesting as the presenter.

Much of the presentation was back and forth questions from the audience. Much of that seemed to be about sustainability issues. For example Chris Schneider had the Honda CNG car there. One question was about how even though natural gas is much cleaner than gasoline, it's still a fossil fuel - how is that sustainable?

The Guru is well-spoken and informed. He kept positive spins on all the various types of alternative fuels, and mentioned how some of them really are stepping stones to getting us to clean-ER fuels, and eventually to totally renewable technologies.

Chris practices what he preaches. He drives a NEV (neighborhood electric vehicle) to and from work, and drives the Natural Gas Honda for long distance trips.

Well worth the trip out to see him.

To learn more about his fine work, please visit the web site.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

EV Charging stations are EVerywhere!

Infrastructure is a HUGE concern for Hydrogen Fuel Cells and other "Clean-Car" technologies. Amazingly, people often overlook the fact that we already have all the infrastructure needed for Electric Cars.

Take a look at me in a local shopping center parking lot.

EV Charging Stations Are EVerywhere! - The most amazing bloopers are here


I'm sure you've noticed how how we like to sell cars in this country. Big, powerful, gas-guzzling phallic symbols, sure to make you a hit with the ladies.

Here's a video on my thoughts on the subject:

Electric Vehicles Are SEXY! - Click here for more free videos

EV Neon Conversion p 003

Electric Car Conversion 101 003 - Click here for funny video clips

EV NEON Conversion p 002

Electric Car Conversion 101 Part 002 - These bloopers are hilarious

NEON EV Conversion p001

Electric Car Conversion 101 Part 001 - Free videos are just a click away

Electro-Metro Construction Update

Electro-Metro Update, Oct 7, 2008 - Funny bloopers are a click away

Retro Electric Car!

1977 Citicar Arrives! - Watch a funny movie here

Electric Motorcycle

Last summer, I started wondering, why are hybrids so expensive?

Why are they so complicated? Isn't there something I could do myself to get a little better fuel economy, not cost a fortune AND have a little fun?

That bit of wondering eventually lead me to build an Electric Motorcycle.

It gets the equivelant of over 300 miles per gallon, and was featured in a video I made early this past summer at a big conference in Washington DC.

The best part? I built the whole thing myself. No waiting for auto manufacturers to come up with something. No waiting for new technology.

Just me, off the shelf parts, and a socket wrench.

I threw together a web page about it a while back. Check that out HERE: 

Here's the video I made about the motorcycle that made it all the way to being shown in front of Congressmen and Senators in Washinton DC.


Starting here.

It's often been said: "Do what you can, start where you are, use what you got."

Well, I am doing whatever I can to promote sustainability, especially when it comes to our transportation system in the United States.

I am starting in my driveway, modifying what I drive, and telling the world about it through my computer.

What I got? Well, I have a camcorder, and a few friends also interested in alternative transportation, hybrids, and electric cars.

The plan is to make videos on how to convert your car to electric, how to get better fuel economy, and how to get off gas.

Enjoy the videos I post here, and come back soon for more.


Doing what I can.