Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Newspaper Article

The newspaper article just came out.

Actually, the paper came out a day early this week, because of the New Year's Holiday.

I got a call this afternoon from my wife. She works for a large furniture retailer. One of the owners of the company called the woman she carpools with to ask if the guy in the article was her neighbor....

The article was pretty good overall, other than confusing the specs on my motorcycle with that of the Killacycle. (Nope, MY cycle doesn't go to 60 mph in under one second...)

Not only was the article on the bottom of the front page of the local paper, it was also on the TOP of the FRONT page of the county seat paper. Complete with the notorious color self-portrait photo of me and the 15 MPH sign! :o

Here's the local paper

Here's the front page of the county newspaper

Is it just a coincidence that the front page of the same paper also talks about trying to find cheap gas?

PS: I just got facebooked by a guy from my highschool days: "I saw you in the Freeman today. Impressive work."

I just can't escape the internet....

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Electric Car Speeding Ticket

The video says it all!!!!


Monday, December 29, 2008

It Started as a Joke....

I can not believe how many people think my story of the speeding ticket court date is the funniest tale ever.

I was seriously embarrassed by the whole situation, yet, to a T, every person commenting about it so far describes it as nothing less than hilarious...

On, one of my favorite Eco-Transportation forums, a person joked "want 20 bucks?", suggesting a donation towards the cost of the ticket.

"Sure thing", I jokingly responded. I even mentioned that I accept PayPal, including actual contact info.

Now here's the weird thing. Somebody donated.

Then another.

And another.

So far, three people have made contributions to help pay for my Electric Car Speeding Ticket. Only one of them is from somebody I have ever met in person, and both the others were of even larger contributions.

It's a bizarre, yet wonderful feeling to know that other supporters of Electric Vehicles believe in the work that I am doing enough that they would put their own money on the line.

This morning, I had a telephone interview with a reporter from the local paper, the result of the Judge dragging me across the street to the Newspaper Office last Friday. The interview went pretty well. I told the reporter about my work on the project, all the moral support I have gotten through web forums, and e-mailed him photos of my project.

He asked me to follow up with him later if there was anything else to add about the project.

It sure would make a great ending to say that I had so much support from the EV community that THEY covered the entire cost of the ticket.

But only if you think it's the funniest story ever....

Friday, December 26, 2008

Electric Car Speeding Ticket and Public Shame..

A couple of days ago, I was trying to find my speeding ticket. I couldn't find it anywhere, but did remember the court date was the day after Christmas.

I talked to a clerk at the police station about when court was held, exactly. I knew the date but not the time! She wasn't able to dig up any more info for me. (So many municipal offices are closed X-mas week.) We did decide that as long as I showed up by 8:00 AM, I should be fine.


This morning I woke up and drive the Electro-Metro down to the city hall where the Municipal Court is held.

I talked to the balliff, and then had a seat, along with 30 to 40 other people.

The judge got there a little after the official 8:15 am start time, as the roads were icy.

He explained how his court worked, what the pleas were, and all the other basic information needed for any first timer in the court.

The judge was well dressed, well-spoken, and friendly. Later today, I found out that he has an outstanding reputation as a judge, but we'll get to more of that later.

When everyone was called forward to drop off their tickets with the clerk, I had to simply sign in with her instead, since I didn't have my ticket with. This would later play to either my advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it....

Once court was actually in session, it flew by pretty quick. People were called forward alphabetically by last name. (Mines in the middle) Mostly it was speeding tickets, there was also an underage drinking fine, and a few other non-traffic related citations. Right off the bat, the judge said that typically for traffic violations, he won't reduce the fine, but would reduce the points, or change the charge to something more basic. In one case, he reduced the points for a teenager, specifically so he wouldn't loose his driver license and could keep working for his dad. But would this judge be an enviromentalist as well? Is my story too unusual for this court room?

The last names were starting to get closer to the middle of the alphabet. I would be up soon. The clerk called: Benjamin........Some Other Last Name That's Not Mine! I don't remember the last name, but I think it started with a P. They skipped right past me, to somebody else with the same first name!

Since I didn't have the ticket with me, I got put at the END OF THE LIST! I had to wait until everyone else was done! That wasn't too bad, because it was going pretty fast.

Finally, it was my turn.

The judge read the charges, and then looked at the clerk, who usually quickly commented on if the person had a prior record or not. This is the "one person every 20 seconds" approach that got many of the people through the court quicky.

I butted in (stomach lurching) about how I lived just down the street, knew the area, and in fact, committed the crime in a home-built electric car.

The judge's eye-brow lifted with curiousity. "What makes your car go?"

Me: "Six batteries, about this big" (gestures size of batteries)

Judge: "You built this thing?"

Me: "I have pictures." (holding up the print-outs of work on the car, I originally sent to the DMV, which were later returned to me.)

Now the Judge is interested. He comes over, and I hand him the photos. He starts paging through them and leans over to the clerk, showing them to him as well.

Judge: "So how does the motor connect to the car?"

Me: "In this photo, you can see the aluminum plate with holes in it to bolt the motor to the transmission."

The judge and clerk both comment to each other that they have never heard of anyone speeding in an electric car before. He changes the charge from speeding to "Defective Equipment: Speedometer". The fine is still the same, but there are no demerit points involved.

I thank the judge for changing the charge.

He then asks if there is anyone else in the court-room for the morning session, first time appearances. Nope, I was the last one, everyone else there is for call-backs and other things that don't take place in court for another 15 or 20 minutes.

Judge: "In that case, Mr Nelson, why don't I take you across the street to the Newspaper. People need to know about this."

Me: "Um..(gulp)...OK."

What!? Would you say No to a judge?

I pay the fine to the court and the judge puts on his golashes.(Rubber overshoes to you if you aren't from slushy, snowy country.)

We go downstairs and walk across the street to the newspaper office. We see the receptionist.

Judge: "Is there a Reporter in?"

Receptionist: "Nope, sorry."

Me - thinking to myself: "Thank goodness, dodged that one!"

Judge: "How about the Editor, is he in?"

Receptionist: "Oh sure, he'd be happy to see you!"

Me: Gulp....

We head into the Newspaper Editor's office and the Judge introduces himself, and says how I was in his court for getting pulled over in my electric car.

Editor: "Driving an electric car is illegal!?!?!?"

Me: "No, I was going 25."

Judge: "In a 15 zone"

Editor: Hey, this will make a great story! Judge, I have been meaning to call you, we wanted to do a story about the strangest cases you have heard in court. This will make a great lead-in to it. We can do a two-part article!"

Me - thinking - "Why won't this end!!?"

Editor: "Do you have any photos, a web page, or anything?"

I sheepishly admit that not only do I have lots of photos, but also the entire story out on the internet, etc. etc.

Now I am rethinking that incriminating YouTube "Traction Test" video....

Editor: "We'll have a reporter call you on Monday...."

In the movie of this in my mind, the Editor drones on as quirky background music fades up, and the Judge and I walk back to City Hall.

By now, I am wondering if this is some sort of unusual public humiliation..

It gets worse.

When I get home and explain the situation to my ever-faithful wife, she just bursts out laughing.

I call a friend who is in marketing, and a big-time promoter of renewability, and eco-firendly everything, and SHE laughs maniacally. She also asks which judge it was. When I tell her, she says, "Yeah, I know him, I served with him on the School Board. Oh, and did you know he's from your hometown? He probably knows your parents."

My shame continues...

A few minutes later, I get a phone call from my sister. I tell her of my further adventures in court.

My Sister: "Yeah, I used to baby-sit for that Judge!"

It doesn't stop!....

So, finally now, I reveal my story to you, the unwavering Internet Audience and Support Group to my public shame.

Who says electric cars are slow?......

If anyone wants to help support my goal of promoting Electric and Eco-Friendly Transportation, the court fine was $83.8o, but the story is priceless. PayPal is accepted.

[EDIT] The story doesn't end here. If you came here through another web page linking to this, please see the blog listing to the right and select stories newer than this one. Since this story first came out, the newspaper article has now appeared in TWO newspapers, and people have continued their financial support to help pay for the ticket.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Electro-Metro Pot Box Installation

I headed over to Tom's today to work on our cars.

Rich was already over there, and Swee and Lloyd both stopped in for a bit. Right after lunch, Mike showed up and helped out for a while.

Mostly, we worked on our electric throttle controls.

On Tom's Neon, the original car throttle body already has a 0-5K pot box built in. Although his controller isn't expecting a 0-5K pot, the way a Curtis or Alltrax controller does, it sure is handy that his gas car already has an electronic signal built in it.

On his car, the gas pedal goes to the throttle body, which will send the signal to his AC controller.

Rich worked on rigging a microswitch to the throttle. The idea is that this microswitch will turn the AC controller on and off. This should allow the car to be set to regenerative breaking any time your foot is on the gas, but the car is moving faster than the throttle would make it go. Think engine braking that recharges the batteries.

With the foot totally off the gas pedal, the AC controller will turn off and allow the car to do a true coast. Nice to have the option to either regen OR coast based solely (ack! a foot pun!) on what you do with the pedal!

Last week on my car, I threw in the new Curtis PB-6 potentiometer. Since then, I hadn't been able to hit a great top speed. I checked it with an ohm-meter, and sure enough, I wasn't getting all the way up to 5000 oms. It was topping off around 3500.

Since the original throttle cable threaded straight into a part no longer in my car (the ENGINE!) I needed a new way to pin down the end of the cable. It seemed like the easiest way to do this is to drill a whole in some sort of small box, and run the cable into that.

Tom dug up a decent-sized project box, complete with gasketed seal. I measured how tall the potentiometer was, and marked that height on the side of the box. I drilled a hole right there to run the throttle cable through.

I ran the cable through it and attached the cable to the arm of the Curtis PB-6 potentiometer using a "throttle accessory" nut from the hardware store. That added another $3.40 to my project cost, but it sure was handy to be able to directly attach the cable.

I ran the ends of the pot box cable to an ohm meter to be able to measure the resistance at different positions. Mike ran the gas pedal, while Rich moved the potentiometer inside the project box until the ohm meter read 0 with foot off the gas, and 5K with it floored. Then I marked the mounting holes of the PB-6 on the box in that position.

After drilling the holes, I mounted the pot to the project box with M5 metric bolts and re-attached the throttle cable. Now we could use the nuts on the threaded end of the throttle cable to fine tune the distance between the box and the arm of the PB-6, and again measured it with the ohm meter.

Once it was all set, we used self-tapping screws to mount the Pot Box directly to the firewall and finally pinned up the vacuum canister in a semi-permanent manner.

Tom also found the right plug and grommet to cover the hole in the bottom of the box and to go around the cable that comes out of the box to the controller. No snow or slush is getting in there!!

When all was set and running again, Tom and I went for a spin around the block. The response and speed of the car is much improved. The car actually handles pretty well on the snow-packed roads. I don't have very good tires on the car, only what came with when I bought it, but it seems to handle pretty well. The car sits low and solid, with plenty of weight on the drive wheels.

Tom also commented that it sounded much better than it did before.

The Metro is back on the road.

Now I just have to deal with that speeding ticket and emissions testing!!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Electro-Metro visits the Milwaukee Hybrid Group

This morning was a Hybrid Group Meeting. I hitched up the Metro to the S10 and drove to the Oak Creek Public Library.

Can you find the NON-Hybrid Car in this photo? Here's a hint: it's the black one. And it's not a gasoline car, it's pure electric.

When I first got there, the parking lot was nearly empty and had a slushy, snowy covering.

So I just had to do something I never had done before: ELECTRIC DONUTS.

I put the car in first gear and just slammed on the accelerator. I could spin the car 360 from a dead stop - instantly. WAY TOO MUCH FUN!

Once people started getting there, I showed off the car a bit, with the hood and trunk open to show off all the exciting EV parts. Several people were impressed with the low cost of the project. I got lots of "Good Job!"s

After the meeting, one guy in particular was really interested in the project. He said he wanted to do a Metro electric conversion too. I think he will show up to the EV build day tomorrow.

Justin, one of the drivers in the recent 48-State record run, took my car for a ride around the parking lot. It didn't take him long go get the idea of clutchless shifting. Seemed he liked the electric. He did comment on really being able to feel the acceleration in 3rd gear.

After that, I towed the car off to Tom G's, as he isn't that far away, and I dropped off the car with him for the night.

Right now, the 'Lectro is sleeping peacefully in Tom's heated garage, just waiting for some more work tomorrow.

The main thing I want to do is adjust the Potentiometer. When I measured it with my multimeter, the max read with the pedal to the floor was 3500. Properly calibrated, it should be closer to 5000.

Just imagine the electric donuts I could do with full throttle!!!



Friday, December 19, 2008

Electro-Metro Update Dec 14 2008

Since I was snowed-in today, it gave me a chance to edit together the footage of work done this past Sunday on the Electro-Metro.

This was a big deal, because we were installing the new solid coupler between the motor and transmission, then we put it in the car. Not easy to do without a couple friends and an engine hoist!

PS - This is my first High-Definition video run throug YouTube. You might want to view this video directly at YouTube, and select the WATCH IN HD selection.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Electro-Metro Motor back in!

More work on the car!

Rich and Brian came out to help.

The first thing to do was just to put the Motor, Coupler, and Transmission together to see how things line up.

A big part of why the access hole was cut in the side of the transmission was for exactly this sort of thing - being able to see the shafts to line them up.

After test-fitting, we found that the coupler was too long on the transmission side, but not by a lot.

We trimmed it down using an angle grinder.

We did that two or three times. Trimming, then test-fitting, until it was the right length.

Then, up it goes using the engine hoist. The transmission end had to go in first, because that's where 2 of the three mounts are, and it has to go down, under, and then up into where they attach.
It was a tight squeeze, but eventually the car ate the whole thing. The front battery boxes took up a little more space that didn't have to be dealt with the last time I installed the motor.

Rich popped off the drivers side tire lower ball joint faster than I though humanly possible. It's amazing how much faster guys are who have ACTUALLY WORKED ON CARS than I am!

The drivers side wheel has to be pulled away from the car to get that side's drive axle into the transmission.

Brian then had to get going, but Rich stuck around to help wire and power the car up.

We had to do some troubleshooting, because nothing was working! It turned out to be a bad ground because of installing the new 12V system battery. Once that was figured out, we were able to spin the motor, with the transmission in neutral. It sounds very different. sort of a futuristic cougar growl.

After Rich left, I re-installed the sway bar, hooked up the transmission shifter, vaccuum pump, forklift throttle, and everything else to get the car to running condition again, including filling the tranny with oil.

Then the hood went back on and I went for a test drive.

Of course, by then, I had been working in the dark for at least an hour.

The car sounds really solid.
It car no longer makes a weird rar-rar-rar-rar sound when I let off the accelerator.
Response to the accelerator is dead on. Nothing is sloppy. It's all tight and solid.

I don't have night illumination for my ammeter and volt meter, so watching that while driving will have to be tested during the day.

I might be able to get down to the emmissions test station later this week, then I am officially on the road!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The XP-Humm-E!

Recently, I had a private message on a web forum, mentioning a particular green vehicle project which used cedar-strip canoe-building techniques for the vehicle body.

This got me excited. My father has built several wood canoes, and they are all beautiful!

Automobiles and canoes actually have a longer history than you might think. One of the Stanley Steamers of the early 1900's had an aerodynamic body which was literally a canoe turned upside down! It held the world landspeed record for several years.

I've also been interested in both trikes and electric vehicles for some time, so here's your chance to see the ultimate:
Home-built, electric, reverse trike, with a wood strip body.