Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Controller

After finishing work on the primary 12 volt system last week, I decided this week that I would start getting the controller mounted into the chassis and start connecting all the wires to it that it requires. The Zilla controller will sit in the electrics bay above the platform that holds all the 12 volt relays and other bits. It means that once the controller is in place, I can't easily get to the 12 volt tray below it. That is certainly not ideal, but with the limited space I have, it was unfortunately necessary. The fact is that all of the components mounted on that tray are not the sort of things that should fail. There's certainly no fuses down there.

That's the Zilla controller, with the hairball above it. All the high voltage lines run to the controller, and all the control wires run to the hairball. There's a RJ-45 connector on both the controller and the hairball, and it came with a cable that runs between the two. My guess is that the hairball does all the calculations and feeds the signal to the controller which simply spits out the appropriate amount of current to the motor.

You may notice that I moved the main contactor (that white cylinder toward the top right corner of the frame). It had been located in the lower right frame, but it became clear that running the 2/0 cable to the controller with the contactor in the old position wasn't going to be very easy. I think it will work out much better in this location.

I also spent some time trying to figure out if I will be able to make the stock tachometer work with the Zilla. The Zilla can drive a standard tachometer for a 4 or 6 cylinder car. The problem I face is that the signal that was sent to this tachometer was clearly sent via the CAN bus in a format that I have no way of determining. The tachometer itself has 4 pins that plug into a circuit board right behind the instrument.

On a normal aftermarket tachometer, those four wires would be laid out like this:
1 - to the coil or alternator
2 - 12 volt positive
3 - chassis ground
4 - 12 volt for the instrument's light.

On the stock tach, I was able to measure one pin at 8.5 volts, a second at .56 volts and the other two had no voltage. Nor did they have continuity to ground. Uh huh. Well, it's likely that there was some sort of signal sent down one of those two wires that shows no voltage, but which wire, and what that signal was, I have no idea. It could have been a 12 volt pulse. It could have been a pulse that tied the instrument to ground. No way to tell. I'm likely going to have to replace it with an after market one. But before I do, I'll experiment with it a bit. I might get it to work, I might get it to send off some funny smelling blue smoke. Either way it will be fun.

Oh, and still no word on the batteries. Curses!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

12 Volt System Tests Done (I Mean it this Time)

I got the replacement relay for the heater switch, dropped it in and it works just like it's supposed to. So here's how it works. The Car must be on for the heater fan to work. The heater fan must be on in order for there to be power delivered to the switch on the dashboard that turns on the heater. If the cars not on, no power to the switch. If the fans not on, no power to the switch. So there should be no way for the heater to be on unless the car is running and the fan is on. I'm trusting that means no exciting fires in my dashboard.

I got a bench power supply the other day. "What's that" you say? I'll explain. If you build any sort of electronic devices, you need some way of providing power to them to test them or operate them or whatever you have planned. Well a bench power supply lets you set the precise voltage and current (amps) you want to deliver to the equipment. "But Tim, you're not bright enough to build any high end circuitry" you say. Well, you're correct. But the great thing about these is that they can function as battery chargers.

You say "Well then, why don't you just buy a battery charger you dimwit?" Whoa, that was kind of harsh. The thing about these batteries that I'm allegedly getting someday is that they are 3.3 volts apiece. Not exactly your standard charger voltage. If one of them needs to be charged by itself for some reason, say it lags behind the others in the pack during a normal charge, then I can catch it up with this. I don't expect that to happen much because I plan to follow a fairly conservative approach to charging. But you never know.

Anyway, with that, I was also able to charge the 12 volt battery I'd installed a few weeks ago and have been running down ever since. With it nice and charged up, I felt it was safe to try that energy hog of a power steering pump. I'm pleased to say that the whole system worked flawlessly. I turned the wheels and the pump comes on right away. It stays on for 10 seconds after the wheels are straight again. If during that 10 seconds I turn the wheel again, the timer restarts. Plus no leaks! I'm very happy about that.

I also started modifying some of the carpet that lined the trunk, so that I can put it back in place. I have to cut out holes to accommodate the new equipment, but so far so good.

And you guessed it, still no word on the batteries.

Friday, December 4, 2009

12 Volt System Tests Done (Almost)

Today I spent some time testing the remaining portions of the 12 volt system and all the components I've hooked up to it. Admittedly I haven't checked all the pre-existing 12 volt powered things on the car, I'm just assuming they'll work because I haven't touched them. They worked after the engine was removed, I think they should work now.

I got the replacement off-delay timer relay today, dropped it in and it worked perfectly. I've got the time set to 10 seconds. I figure that should be adequate to prevent any damage to the power steering pump due to short cycling.

I checked that the kill switch on the charging door works properly.

I tested the DC to DC converter relays to be sure they are working. When the car is running, those relays will have power to them and cause the converters to jump their output to 14.2 volts. That will help to keep the accessory battery up to full charge.

I installed the smaller DC to DC converter that is specifically for the Link 10 meter. It will isolate the 12 volt system from the high voltage pack, which are wired together at the meter.

I made sure the fan for the battery pack has power to it. I haven't installed the temperature switch yet, so that test will have to wait for later.

Last, I started testing all the relays and switches for the heating element. Ultimately I found that the dashboard switch, which should only have power to it when the heater blower is on, was live all the time. It took a couple minutes but I isolated the problem to a relay that I'd bought at Fry's Electronics. The coil seems to be frozen closed. I don't know if it was like that when I got it, or I did something horrendous to it and broke it. It's probably that second thing, but I honestly don't know what I could have done. Fortunately, a replacement is cheap.

Still no word on the batteries. Stupid slow container ships.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Not Much Left

It's getting to the point where I'm running out of things to do while waiting for the batteries. Today I ran the wires and installed the XM radio receiver that will plug into the new stereo. I also ran the iPod interface cable to the center console. Of course these don't have anything to do with EV specific tasks, but I needed to get them done. I did start putting parts of the center console back together, and tomorrow I can work on some other parts of the main dashboard. I don't want to do too much there though, in case I need to access some of the wiring back there.

I still need to do a bit more testing with the 12 volt system, but with the testing that I've done so far, I've run the battery down to 11.8 volts. I'd like to charge it before I do anymore, but I don't have a 12 volt charger yet. Ones on the way, so I'll be able to tackle that soon.

I guess the next (and probably last) big thing is to build the under body sheets that will help improve aerodynamics. I'll start that tomorrow.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Better Day In the Garage

I managed not to break, burn or otherwise ruin anything today. And for that reason I say it was a good day.

Having learned how to connect the off delay relay to the system, thanks to the selfless sacrifice of the original relay, I was able to finish all the wiring for the multiple switches and relays that will power the power steering pump. When the replacement relay arrives, I simply have to drop it into the socket that I already have wired and fastened to the car.

I finished up some other wiring as well; the heater element and all it's switches and relays, the DC to DC converter that will provide 12 volt power to and also isolate the Link 10 battery monitor as well as some miscellaneous little things. There really isn't much more I can do in the way of wiring until the batteries arrive and I can start putting them in place.

One of the things I'd like to try and do is make the car more streamline. People will often cover all the divots and cavities on the undercarriage of the car so there are as few aerodynamic disturbances as possible. The one thing I think I'll easily be able to cover is the area where the transmission sits and the drive shaft back to the differential. It's a long straight cavity about 48 inches in length and there are bolts sticking down on either side at regular intervals. Those bolts held things like heat shielding for the exhaust system and the fuel lines. Now they will make handy anchors to hold the pieces of aluminum that I intend to cover that cavity with. I think tomorrow I'll start measuring and cutting the aluminum sheet I have and see if I can fit in into place.

A Rough Day In the Garage

Black Friday took on a completely different meaning for me yesterday. While most of this great capitalist nation was out shopping for bargains, I was in the garage experiencing a completely different sort of stress. There were a few other things my day had in common with all the shoppers; it was expensive, and by the end of the day I was frankly too tired to write about it.

Earlier in the week I got the bushing back I'd ordered from the machine shop. You may recall that I need to mount a pulley to the tail shaft of the 11" WaRP motor so that I can run my AC compressor off of it. The bushing is beautifully made, take a look:

It's milled from a solid piece of aluminum, the cylinder is keyed so that it won't spin on the motor shaft, and he even milled a little ridge on the front side that perfectly holds the pulley in place. Very nice work.

So I fit it onto the tail shaft of the motor, and immediately realized I had two problems. In order to get the groves on the pulley to line up with those on the AC compressor, I would need to mount the pulley so far forward that I won't be able to use the motor RPM sensor that I have. I hemmed, hahed and scratched my head for a while, but there is no getting around it. Fortunately, there is a new type of sensor available that should work, but that's another $100 toward the cause. The only thing I've found I hate more than having to build something twice, is having to buy something twice. Very painful.

Turns out that may all be moot, at least for now. I was very careful to build the bracket for the AC compressor so that the pulley was flush with the face of the motor. If it didn't line up right, the belt would come off or simply disintegrate with wear in a short time. As I looked further I realized that while I'd lined it up perfectly on one axis, there was a tilt to the motor that I hadn't matched with the compressor.

Sadly I had to admit that there was no way it would work in it's present state. In reality the only way to make it work was to rebuild the brackets completely. Of course the problem is that getting the alignment right on one axis was hard enough. Getting it right on two will be crazy hard and frustrating. I realized the best, and correct solution is to build the bracket so that it mounts to the face of the motor rather than the chassis. Obviously that will be another custom made machined part. But there's no getting around it, it's the right way to go. Ultimately I decided to shelve that work for now. I want to get the car on the road and the weather is beautiful right now, so the compressor and all it's supporting parts came out. Perhaps in April or so, it can rejoin the rest of the car.

Moving on, I decided to figure out and install the off delay timed relay for the power steering pump. I labored over the electrical diagram for some time trying to coax out the mysteries that it held. After a few dark incantations I was pretty sure that I had it correct, so I hooked it up and tried it. Well, it didn't do quite what I wanted. It came on with power constantly fed through one contact, but never moving to the timed contact. I re-evaluated and decided I'd seen my mistake and tried again. This time it worked! Once.

Apparently, I wasn't supposed to send 12 volts to a particular pin. It managed to trigger the coil once and likely fried it in the process. So, a replacement is on the way to the tune of $27. Not not too much, but frustrating none the less.

From what I learned yesterday, I'll be able to wire everything up so that I can just drop the new relay in place when it arrives. I'm hoping that today will be much more productive and less costly.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Odds & Ends Part X

Sorry, another day without pictures. Let's see... What did I do today?

I decided I better sort out that problem with the heater fan. You may remember the story. After soldering a wire to one of the leads coming off the wiring harness on the heater fan switch, I put it all back together. Once I hooked the 12 volt battery up, I found the fan ran at low speed constantly, even when the switch was off. Although it didn't look like it, I must have messed up that harness. I tried like hell to take that harness apart, but it's built better than Scarlett Johansson! Eventually I decided the best way to eliminate the problem was to eliminate the wiring harness I'd fouled up and just hook the individual wires up to the switch directly. A quite simple thing since I could connect them all with normal blade connectors crimped onto the wires.

Once I had all the wires on and the switch on, I hooked the battery up again and... whirrrrrrrr. What!!! I was totally baffled. It was at that point I looked down and happen to gaze upon the switch that turns on air recirculation in the cabin. No way... Yes. I pressed the button and the fan went off. *sigh* At least it works now.

I did lots of other little bits today. I built the wires that will run from the charger to the batteries. Since I was pleased with the LED lights I had, I went ahead and installed the rest. They really do look great. I tested that other LED head light as well and found it to be crap just like the first. That's too bad, I'd really hoped they'd be good. I spent some time gathering up and running wires in bunches and anchoring them down. I've got some wiring loom that I'll be putting them in when I'm done running new ones, but for now at least, they look better and don't flop around everywhere.

I'm starting to run low on stuff to do while waiting for the batteries. Still the more I do now, before they arrive, the sooner I'll be on the road after they arrive.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Testing the 12v System

So today I finally got the chance to hook up the 12 volt battery and start testing some of the new equipment I've installed. It went mostly well. Only one real problem and it became apparent right away.

After I put the cable on the + terminal I walked around to the front of the car and heard a very quiet whirring. Some quick investigation and I found that it was the heater blower running at low speed. The only problem was that the switch was off. As I turned the switch up to the higher levels the blower spun faster, but it won't go off. I'm pretty sure I screwed that up when I was trying to make the heater work only when that fan was on. *sigh*

On to better things. I tested the blower that will cool the motor. Perfect! I tested the vacuum pump that will assist the breaks. Even more perfect!!! The pump came on (noisy as hell) and sucked the canister free of air and then shut off on it's own. I went in the car and pumped the brakes a few times and it kicked back on just like it's supposed to. Woo hoo!

Thanks to a tip from my Maltese friend Len, I was able to locate an old disused wire in the electrics bay that has 12 volts on it when the car's ignition is in the "Run" position and, more importantly, at no other time. He pointed out that he'd found it when he did his conversion. This is exactly what I need for the Zilla controller. I also confirmed that the wire I'd put in place to send the signal for when the ignition is turned to "Start" also worked.

Months ago I thought I'd replace all the light bulbs I could with LED bulbs, so I bought a bunch. They warned that they aren't always as bright as regular bulbs, but they use much less power, so I thought I'd try them. I replace all the bulbs on one side of the car and compared it to the other side. I was shocked to see how amazingly bad the head lamp was. It has 9 high intensity LEDs on it, and it didn't even cast a beam on the garage door. Now I'm thinking it might be bad and I need to try the other one. Anyway, I was equally shocked at how bright all the tail lights were. They were each as bright or slightly brighter except for the brake light, which was easily 30% brighter. I did run into one bad tail light bulb though, but over all a real success.

I'm starting to run low on things to do until my batteries arrive. I think that's a good thing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Accessory Battery

Today I finished cutting and crimping all the cables that I'll need for the 12 volt system. There are cables running from the two DC to DC converters and the accessory battery. The converters and the battery are all wired in parallel so that the voltage remains at 12, but the amps each provides gets added together.

The converters will put out a combined total of about 100 amps, and the battery will make up the shortfall if there is one. I expect when the power steering pump kicks in during hard turns, the draw from the pump and everything else running on 12 volts may be as much as 115 to 120 amps total. For that short time, the battery can pick up the slack. The rest of the time, the converters will be charging the battery.

I hooked the cables up and installed the battery into it's home. I haven't hooked the final "+" line up to the battery yet, I still need to insulate some of the lines. When I do, I intend to take the fuses out for each of the items I've installed, and then place them back one at a time to check each system. Hopefully that will make it easier to find any faults.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Time to Make the Cables

Measure, cut, strip, crimp; repeat. Though I can't make the cables that will be the inter-connects between different battery boxes yet, I can make several others. It's a slow process. Actually, you can do it quickly, but I read what seemed like good advice on the subject. It said something like "treat every crimp like it's the most important thing you'll do today." One of the most common points of failure in EVs is bad crimps on the cables, or crimps that seem good at first but with the repeated thermal expansion and contraction, eventually go bad. I sure hope to avoid that. Anyway, so far, so good.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Link 10 Meter Is In

As you can see, I've mounted the battery meter in the center console. There had been a clock in that space, and as luck would have it, it was exactly the same size as the meter. I hooked up all the wires to the meter and ran them to their appropriate destinations, but I can't hook them all up on the far end because the components they need to be attached to aren't all in place yet. Still the meter looks good in that space.

The meter will tell me a variety of things including the amount of amps being drawn, the total amount of kilowatt hours used as well as the depth of discharge on the batteries. That little line of LEDs across the top are essentially a bar graph that indicate how much charge is left in the batteries.

You'll also notice the switch to the left of the meter. It doesn't look stock because it's not! That's the switch that will turn on the ceramic heater.

There will be a new stereo in the gaping hole at the top of the photo, complete with XM radio and an iPod interface. :)

Odds & Ends Part IX

It's getting to the point where most tasks on the car are little "one offs". Here's what happened yesterday.

1. I determined a place for the shunt that Link 10 meter will use. I haven't mounted it yet because I need one other thing in place first. But I did run the wires that go between it and the Link 10 meter. I also ran a couple other wires for the meter. I haven't mounted the meter yet but I'll probably do that today. The Link 10 meter will be the car's new fuel gauge. It tells you how much power you've used and how much you have left.

2. To secure the battery boxes down to the frames they'll be sitting in, I drilled some holes in them that line up with the bolts in the frames. In other words, the bolts will run through the bottom of the box, then the frame it sits in and down to the supports we'd welded in place months ago.

3. I built the bracket that will hold the accessory battery. It's going to sit in a little pocket in the trunk on the right hand side. But I can't have it flopping around, so I built a bracket that will tie it to the frame. I didn't mount the battery is place yet because I'm waiting on some cable to arrive so that I can tie it to the car's existing 12 volt system. Once I get the cable and lugs I can finish that up as well as tie the DC to DC converters to the 12 volt system.

4. Oh, and I replaced the after market gear shift knob for the original that has the "M" logo on it. This particular Z3 is an M version; but only to the extent that the gear shift knob and the steering wheel say "M" on them. Nothing else on the car has anything in common with the true M series Z3. I can't understand why BMW would water down the reputation of their performance brand by doing something so silly. Probably the idea of some pinhead marketing flunky.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Power Steering Leak Solved

At least I think it is. Truthfully, I'm desperately hoping it is.

A friend pointed out that you must be careful with some hydraulic fittings not to over torque them. Some require a mere quarter turn after they seat, others as little as 12 lb/ft of torque. Well I cleaned the fitting and the threads in the pump and gave it a go. I put some fluid in it and... it leaked like a sieve.

I noticed at that point that the tubing that passes through the fitting was completely loose. Clearly, it wasn't seated to the pump properly. I began to wonder if the fitting simply wasn't deep enough to press the tube to it's receptacle in pump. I measured the depth and the length of the threads on the fitting and found the threads were .4 of a millimeter longer. Ok, so if I cinched it down all the way, that should produce a tight fit.

I tightened it down, added fluid and waited. 2 hours later, no sign of any leak. I really hope that it behaves the same under pressure.

Friday, November 13, 2009

More Power Steering Fun

I rigged up the proximity switch for the power steering pump earlier. It was tricky work because there is a very small threshold to place the switch so that it will work properly. However, with a little work, I got it right where I want it. The switch will come on only after about I've turned the wheel to about 45 degrees off straight. Changing lanes shouldn't cause the pump to come one, but if making a real turn, it should come on in plenty of time to assist.

I also filled the power steering system with fluid. Though I hooked up the lines a while ago, I just didn't have any fluid to put in the system. After about 5 minutes, my worst fear was evident on the floor. Sure enough, there is a small but steady drip from the point where the new high pressure hose attaches to the pump. That can't be good.

I've drained the system for now. Now I have to go figure out how to fix it. Bleh.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ignition Switch

The Zilla controller requires two leads from the ignition switch. One that has power when the key is turned to the "Start" position, and the other when the key is in the "Run" position. Today, I thought I'd look into isolating each lead and running an attached line to the electrics bay.

The "Start" position lead was easy to locate. I spliced a new 18 gauge wire to it and ran that to where the Zilla will sit. For whatever reason, the "Run" position lead was much harder to locate. So much so, I haven't found it.

The ignition switch has 4 positions, Off, Accessory, Run and Start. There are 6 lines running to the back of the switch. One of the lines gets power when ever the car has been started, and power is sent to it even after you turn the car off. Only pulling the key removes power to that line. I certainly don't want the car to run until I pull the key out. None of the other leads change state when you move the key through the positions. Now, granted, I've been testing this with a simple continuity test using the power feed and the other lines. I'm thinking that I'm just going to have to wait until I can run power to the switch and measure voltage across each terminal.

I also ran power out to the switch in the fuel door. You may remember that switch will keep the car from starting up when the fuel door is open and the car is charging. That's it for today. Two more things checked off the list.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Odds & Ends Part VIII

I walked out this morning to begin working on the finishing touches to the heating system. I looked at the wiring, where I'd left off, and realized that I either made a mistake earlier, or simply couldn't figure out what I had been doing. Turns out it was both. It was then that I decided it might be best to put a label on every wire coming into the electrics bay so there was no confusion as to what's what. Now, anyone can look at it and know exactly what's going on.

After everything was tidied up, I started working on the heating system. I ran the new lines to the new switch, and hooked them up to the two relays. One relay will power the switch only when the fan is on, the other will turn on the heating element when the switch is on.

Next I started on some of the wiring for the DC to DC converters. They have a feature that will allow them to charge the auxiliary 12 battery when the car is on, but then drop the voltage down to a float level when the car is off. To do that, you need a wire up a couple relays and run power to them from the ignition switch.

Well, that's three more items off the check list.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Throttle Assembly

Today I sorted out the throttle assembly, and it turned out pretty good. Here's a quick shot:

The first thing I built was swage assembly where the throttle cable terminates. It holds a plastic spacer that holds the cable in place in the assembly. The swage assembly is held in place on a screw that I've put through the pedal arm. As you can see, I've sawed the pedal it's self off.

The cable was originally passed through and was mounted to a metal plate. You can see on the right side, I've built something that approximates that piece. The cable goes though that piece of steel, and is held in place by a bushing. You can turn that piece behind the bushing to move it closer or further from the connection point at the end, essentially for fine adjustments to the throttle cable position. (Eventually the C clamp will give way to a permanent mount on the box.)

The cable has 46 mm of travel from when the pedal in the car is up to fully floored. I've measured and mounted it the assembly carefully so that it also has exactly 46 mm of travel. Of course with the fine adjustments I can make to the cable in, and a movable hard stop located under the pedal in the car, I should be able to get it exactly right.

I tested the pedal and it's a bit stiffer than I would have liked, but such is life.

Over the weekend I wrote down a list of everything left to do at this point. There are 43 items on the list, 14 of which are dependent on the batteries being here in the garage. Well I found out yesterday that the soonest they will arrive is the end of November. That means I have roughly 3 weeks to do the remaining 29 items. Today I knocked 3 off, so I'm down to 26. I'm sure that others tasks will be added to the list as things pop up, but overall, I'd say I'm making good progress.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fitting Details

Over the past few days I've come to realize that it's time to solve some of the problems that have been nagging me for months. There was only one way to solve them, and that was through careful planning, measuring and fitting. Boring, maybe; necessary, absolutely.

There are three components to the high voltage lines that I need to find a home for. There's the rather large push button kill switch. If things go horribly wrong, or I need to work on the car and I want the battery pack disengaged, that switch will allow me to take care of that. There's the 500 amp shunt for the instrumentation. It allows the Link 10 meter to monitor the pack without "seeing" the full amperage, which would fry the meter. Last, there's the fuse. And that thing is big. It's about 5 inches long and the diameter of a half dollar coin.

I had originally thought that I'd put each of those in the trunk near the back battery box, but after thinking about it, I realized that would be kind of stupid. All 48 of the batteries will be wired in series, starting at one end (the trunk) and moving to the front. In order to put the disconnect and the shunt in the trunk, I'd have to run a line from the negative terminal up front all the way back to the trunk for those components, and then run it back up to the front again to the controller. A better answer was to find a place up front.

I put all the battery trays and boxes in place, just looking for extra space somewhere around them. While doing that, I remembered that the way the new batteries will be laid out in the two small trays means there will be some space left over on the ends. It had never occurred to me that I might use that space in a tray for something other than a battery, but when I got to looking, I realized it would work just fine for the disconnect switch. Some quick fabrication, and I had it mounted. I still need to locate the shunt, but it's small. The fuse can still go in back because it only needs to be inline on the positive side.

Can't miss that sucker!

On top of that, I found a location for the throttle pedal. The pedal is meant to be a direct replacement for the pedal that came with the car. But Trust me, if you saw the new pedal and the car's pedal assembly, you'd say the same thing I did, "Oh, there's no way..." Well, not without taking the whole assembly out of the car, cutting it up, welding new bits to it at odd angles and refitting it. Well, I realized that extra space in the second box may work out for me, and it did.

Obviously it's not mounted up yet, just propped into place. But you can see that it fits nicely in the space, and you can see the car's existing throttle cable just peeking over the corner of the tray is in perfect alignment to mount to the pedal. Basically what I'll do is lop off the pedal part, and mount a swivel harness to the remaining stump. When I press on the car's accelerator pedal, it will pull that cable and activate the new throttle assembly. How great is that!? Well, it excited me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wiring Up Part II

One of the things that left with the engine and the ECU was the connector that goes to the reversing switch on the transmission. The switch is still in the transmission, but there's no way to connect it up to the car. I had to find the line back in the trunk that ran to the reversing lights. It turned out to be easier than I'd hoped. Once I isolated which wire it was, I cut it as far back as I could in the wire loom that runs into the trunk and spliced it to a new wire that runs to the switch. On the other side of the switch, I have a wire running to a power source. Problem solved.

I also ran a 12 volt line back to the battery box in the trunk. and one from the fan that will vent the battery box in the trunk. Those two lines will be connected together with a temperature switch in between them. When the temperature hits 122, the fan will kick on and force fresh air into the box.

I added a new relay in the electrics bay. This relay will work as a check for the heater. I'll hook it up to the car's ventilation fan, so that when the fan is turned on, it will power the new relay. That in turn, will power the switch for the heater in the cabin. If I turn on that switch, it will power the big contactor/relay I pointed out a couple days ago, and that will turn on the heater. Why so complex, you ask? This will ensure that the heater can not be turned on unless the fan is already on. I really want to avoid setting the car on fire.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wiring Up Part I

Today was the day to start running power to all the auxiliary electrical equipment. It went fairly well, and I got quite a lot done. Here's a quick list of the bits that are ready.

1. Pedestrian horn with momentary switch (press it, it's on; let it go, it's off).
2. Motor cooling blower.
3. Vacuum pump for the brakes.
4. Water pump to cool the Zilla Controller.
5. Fuse box for all components switched on by ignition switch.
6. High power lines to the power steering pump.

I still need to install the proximity switch for the power steering pump as well as wire the off delay relay, but the schematics for that relay are a bit over my head. I'm going to have to ask someone to help me decode it.

So that was all the easy stuff. Onto more difficult things tomorrow.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Electrical Work and a Horn

I mounted the lower electrics tray today and began wiring up some of the components. Unfortunately as soon as I'd begin working on one component, I'd realize I needed a connector I didn't have, so I'd move to another only to find the same thing. Instead, I did what I could and made a list of connectors that I need.

Those of you who have been paying close attention will notice that the component on the upper right (in this picture) is different from the one I was planning to use, pictured in an earlier post. That is the position I set aside for the relay for the heating element. The original relay is really only designed for 10 amps at 150 VDC. Well, with the change in batteries, there was a change in voltage as well. The new pack will have as much as 165 VDC, and the heater can draw nearly 20 amps. I mean I want the heater to warm the car, but not by setting it on fire. So, I needed something else. The cylinder like component you see there is a high voltage contactor. It's really kind of overkill for the application, but it will work. I'll be using a similar one to actually turn the car on and off. I originally bought it to use as the relay for the DC motor I was going to use to power the A/C compressor. But when that motor didn't fit, and I had to redesign things, that contactor was going to go unused. Well, not anymore! I should get heat, with no fires. Always a good thing in a car.

I also mounted up the pedestrian horn today. Since the car will likely sneak through parking lots and streets in a virtual stealth mode, there's always the possibility that I'll need to make someone aware of my presence. I actually borrowed this idea from GM and the original EV1 car. The pedestrian horn is on a separate switch, and is about half as loud. There's a little screw on the back of the horn that lets you set the volume. No need to scare someone out of their skin with a blast from the regular horn.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Heating Complete? Check.

Today I finished all the details for the ceramic heater. I sealed both ends of the box, wired it up, mounted it in place and installed all the necessary foam to make sure that air can't leak around the sled and must go through the heating element. Not a very lengthy post, but it's nice to check off another task as done!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Heating Element

In this circumstance, I was fortunate that the second time was the charm. I really didn't want to have a third go at building this thing.

Anyway, you can see the sled is done and the heater is installed in it. You may also notice that the new heater has a great deal less surface area than the original heater core. The new element is supposed to use 1500 Watts of power. To put that into perspective, that's the amount of power you're average hair dryer puts out, or 200 Watts more than your average Amish fake fireplace for that matter (yep, a hair dryer is more powerful). So I'm a bit concerned that it will actually warm the cabin adequately. Time will tell.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Guess I'll Try Again Tomorrow

So I spent three hours working on the sled for the heater this morning. When it was all done, it looked pretty good. The frame was nice and square, the heating element securely held in the center, no gaps for air to leak around or through. Very nice. The only problem was that it didn't fit. Apparently, I got one of the measurements wrong. I know which one, and I'm kicking myself, but that does very little good.

They say measure twice and cut once, but it doesn't really matter how accurate your measurement is if you've measured the wrong thing. Tomorrow, I get to spend more time with sheet metal, getting frustrated all over again and adding to the collection of nicks and cuts on my hands. Joy!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A/C Compressor is Mounted

Above, you can see the compressor mounted in the chassis. The arm on top is the arc that lets the compressor swing toward and away from the motor in order to tighten the belt. Below the compressor and just to the right, you can make out the gray plate that the bottom mounts are attached to. You can see that toward the upper right of the plate, the motor mount is bolted down on top of it. Also, you'll notice that now that I have the motor mount in place, I was able to finally mount the passenger side brace from the motor mount to the motor to help control any torque spin the motor might try under load.

On to the next project, the heater. With the engine gone, there's nothing to make hot water for the heat exchanger in the cabin. That equals no hot air, which could be bad if I need to defog the windshield. To replace the heat exchanger (which is really just a small radiator) I've got a small ceramic heater.

On the left is the original heat exchanger. On the right is the new ceramic heater. In the center is the box/sled I made out of sheet metal to hold the new heater. It has to be the same size as the original heater core so that it can be mounted in the same place. Below it are two rails that were attached to the heater core. They help the heater core slide in and out of the opening. Once I've got the sled drilled and screwed together, I'll need to cut out a space in the middle for the ceramic heater. The sled will do two things. First it will hold the heater, and second, it will fill the space that the original did, forcing air through the heater instead of letting it get around the element.

Here I've got the box pretty much assembled with the rails mounted to the side. Next, I need to cut some holes in it to accept the new element, and close the ends up. I'll put some foam weather stripping around it in strategic locations and put it in place.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A/C Compressor Work

Half way through today's work, I found myself asking the questions "Do I really need A/C?" I guess when it's 115 °F, I'll be very grateful I've got it.

So, you may have guessed that I spent the day working on the A/C system, and you'd be mostly right. I spent the day working on the mounting brackets for the A/C system. More steel cutting, drilling and fitting. But since I'm on the home stretch, the engine bay is much more crowded and it's getting difficult to work in the space. Still, it's coming along nicely.

I've got a bottom plate that will be secured to the sub-frame by simply sandwiching it between the sub-frame and the motor mount that bolts to it. It will also be held on the opposite corner by a small piece of channel iron that will be bolted to the chassis. It's surprisingly stable. Onto that plate, I'll bolt two pieces of angle iron which will hold the bottom of the compressor in place. The compressor will be free to pivot on those mounts just like on a normal car.

Above the compressor and mounted to one of the battery supports is a arced piece of steel. That arc matches the movement of the compressor as it pivots on the supports below. Essentially, it looks just like the mount you see for most alternators on normal cars. This way, I can mount the compressor to all these parts and move it toward and away from the motor, allowing me to tighten up the belt that will drive the compressor.

I have more work to do on it though. I'll be spending some time on it tomorrow, but I can't finish it up. Last week I visited a machine shop to have a bushing made. That bushing will allow me to mount the old power steering pulley to the electric motor, and I'll use that to power the A/C compressor. I need to get that back before I can finish this part of the project. Besides, I want to move on to some other projects.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Electrical Work

Today I spent a good deal of time locating places for some of the electrical components and installing them in the area I call the electrics bay. First I mounted one of the fuse boxes. This one will be reserved for items that will be switched on only when the ignition is on. I have a second fuse box for items that will be powered all the time, but I haven't installed it yet.

Next, I found a location for the main contactor. That is a really big relay that turns the car on and off. It has an input for a 12 volt positive line and ground. When power is applied to that, it closes a contact that lets the full 160 plus volts through to the controller. That way, a small switch (the ignition) can control a very big load. Mounting it was a breeze, but I haven't run the high voltage lines to it yet.

There is plenty of space in the electrics bay, but it's mostly volume rather than surface area. I need surface area to mount the various components, so I built another small tray to hold them and it will sit below the controller's tray. Here's the tray and the components I'll mount to it.

Traveling clock wise around the tray from upper left, we have...
1. The off delay timer. It will turn the electric power steering pump on when it receives a signal from the positional switch Len sent me. I'll set it so that once the pump comes on, it will stay on for a minimum of 1 minute. This way, I avoid "short cycling" the motor and burning it out.
2. The heavy duty relay that will deliver up to 85 amps to the power steering pump.
3. A self resetting breaker to protect the power steering pump from drawing too much current.
4. A 30 amp relay that will be wired to deliver power to the fuse box. When the ignition comes on, it will trigger the coil in that relay to turn on power to all the devices wired to it (i.e. the motor blower, the vacuum pump, the ceramic heater, the water pump to cool the Zilla, the pedestrian horn and a few other odds and ends).
5. And last, the relay to provide power to the ceramic heating element. With no engine to provide hot water to heat the inside of the car, I'll be using something similar to the guts of a modern space heater. They draw a lot of current, but fortunately, I live in Arizona so I won't be needing it very often :)

I also sealed the drain plug for the transmission and filled it up with fluid again. Lets hope this time we see no drips.

Last, I gave the car a new model name. When it was new, it was the 2.3 version of the Z3, which I thought was odd because the motor was a 2.5 liter motor, same as the 2.5 model. Anyway, on the back of the car, opposite the Z3 badge was a smaller 2.3 badge. It has been replaced.

Seemed appropriate.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Odds & Ends Part VII

No big projects today because I mangled my hand last night while trying to drain the transmission: more on why later. I had a craftsman ratchet wrench fail while I was putting all my might into it, and my hand was crushed/sliced open against that beautiful, accursed aluminum plate I made a few weeks back. I had thought the drain plug just gave way quickly, but that wasn't the case. The ratchet system on the wrench failed. You can imagine my surprise. So, what did I do today? Where to start...

1. Using a solid breaker bar I managed to break loose that drain plug with no further harm to my hands. Since I put the transmission back in and filled it with fluid, there's been a slow persistent leak coming from the bottom plug. Every few days, there would be a couple new drops of fluid on the floor. I kept looking at it, willing it to stop, but that didn't seem to work. The plug originally had some sort of blue sealant painted on it before it was inserted. I got some thread sealant to use, and soon, I'll be able to get the plug in and the tranny full of fluid again.

2. I ran all the coolant lines from the Zilla, the pump and the radiator. The Zilla controller will be handling up to 1000 amps and nearly 160 volts DC, so it will get hot without adequate cooling. A constant flow of coolant will keep it safe.

3. Using some JB Weld, I affixed some bolts to a side panel inside the electrical compartment. Those bolts will hold a big 12 volt distribution block. In the electrical compartment I found the original positive battery cable that supplied some of the car's power. I'll be tying that down to this distribution block for easy access to power. From that I can draw all the 12 volt power I'll need for the car's subsystems. Most of lines off of that will run to relays that are triggered only when the car is running. That cable originates in the back of the car where the original battery was, right near where the DC to DC converters are. Clever huh?

4. I also did a bit of repair work on the front bumper's lower spoiler. Someone had hit a parking structure at one point, and cracked the plastic. I was able to use a bit of the insanely strong plastic from the gas tank as a brace, and epoxied it in place from inside the bumper. The bumper has the original line now even if there is still visible damage. Perhaps some day, I'll replace it, but for now, I have more important things to work on.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Power Steering Pump

Well, after a two week hiatus (which I took unwillingly) I'm back working on the car. Today was the day to mount the power steering pump. I got the high pressure line back from the custom hose shop, and it looked perfect. They really did a good job. I figured the next thing to do was to see if all my measurements were correct, and if it actually fit.

Since the engine is gone, the means of driving a traditional power steering pump went with it. The most common solution amongst EV'ers that need power steering is to use an electric power steering pump. The most popular is the pump that Toyota put on the 2nd series MR2. If you're lucky, you can get one cheap at a salvage yard. If you're like me, there aren't any at any of the salvage yards in a 100 mile radius, which means they aren't cheap.

I put the pump in the fitting we'd made for it and began assembling the lattice work of steel I'd built to hold it, when I realized there was a better way. I've made an effort to avoid building things twice. In other words, build it once only to realize I'd missed something and then have to rebuild it. But in this case, it was clear I could do it much better. So, some quick measuring, steel cutting, shaping and drilling, and it was ready to go. I was actually able to eliminate twice as much steel as I added, so that's a nice bonus.

Once I got the pump mounted, I ran the new line to it, and it fit perfectly. Ok, it is a tad too long, but that's better than the alternative! Next, I had to figure out where to mount the power steering fluid reservoir.

I had an idea where I would put the reservoir, but hadn't sorted out how I would do it. A moments thought, and I figured it out. I quickly mounted it up and then ran the original feeder line from it down to the pump, only to find it was too short. A quick trip to the auto supply store, and I had one slightly longer hose.

All the mechanical aspects of the power steering system are done. I just need to fill it with fluid, and hope that there are no leaks. That's one more task finished, and that much closer to getting her on the road.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Power Steering Line

Well, I did manage to get something done this week, in spite of that horrible flu that was trying to keep me down. I carefully measured out the new power steering line that I need fabricated. I took the measurements, photographs and drawings I made down to Alternative Hose in Phoenix and showed them what I need. They were all over it. They had the right fittings and had a plan straight away.

I expected it would take a week or so to get the hose done, but these folks are serious about getting their customers fitted with hoses and fitted quick. The guy I worked with apologized because they were busy that day, consequently it wouldn't be ready for 2 and 1/2 hours. That caught me way off guard; I would have planned my day differently to take advantage of that. But since I didn't anticipate such quick turnaround, I didn't plan for it, and my schedule happens to be tied up for a while. I can't pick it up until October 19th! I'll have to wait until then to examine what I'm sure will be some top notch work.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


No work today, and probably tomorrow. The flu has got me flat on my back.

Happy 16th birthday to my daughter Emily!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Odds & Ends Part VI

Today was a day to take care of some smaller things.

I cut a hole in the trunk's battery box and mounted the ventilation tubing in it. I also ran the tubing to the fan mounted under the box that occupies the space where the gas tank was. I routed the tubing where I need it to go and secured it to the under side of the chassis so it doesn't move around and run into the suspension.

I also secured the wire loom that had been hanging in the trunk to the box mentioned above. Here's a shot of the trunk as it is now.

Notice the nice clean appearance, and the tubing inlet in the lower left corner of the picture.

I marked and drilled several holes in the tray that will hold the Zilla controller. Once I sort out the position of all the other electrical components, I'll be able to just mount the Zilla to it and then drop the tray in place and bolt it down.

That's all for now, back next week.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Last of the Mechanical Stuff

It's a late post today; it's been a busy day. Let's see...

I built the support for the tray that will hold the Zilla and the Hairball, and mounted it in place. Looking at the space, it's clear that some of the electrical stuff will have to be placed under that tray. There simply isn't enough room on top. So I laid it all out on the garage floor, trying to pick the items that were likely to need any attention after install. Apart from a failure of any one component, I think I'm set. There is one thing I'm going to have to do, and that's to sort out what the remaining wires from the cars electrical system do. There aren't many, but I need to track them down. Bleh, not looking forward to that.

I took off the power steering line that ran from the old pump to the steering rack. I took several careful measurements and soon will be taking the old tube and the new pump down to a shop that can custom fabricate a new line. I'm dreading how much that's going to cost.

Spent some time cutting and fitting some duct work for the fan that will blow fresh air into the back battery box. It will be controlled by a thermal switch in the box.

With the completion of the power steering pump, and then mounting up the A/C compressor, there will be no more major mechanical things left to do. At that point, it will be just sorting out the electrical stuff. The truth is, what remains for the A/C and the power steering are pretty minimal, so I'll be setting those aside until I have all the parts. That means I'll be starting all the electrical work in earnest tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Charger and a Home for the Zilla

I finished installing the charger in the electrics box in the trunk. I connected the charger to the power line that comes in from the gas door, and mounted the charger itself to the floor of the box. I also mounted the DC to DC converters in the box, simply bolting them down into place, and I sealed the perimeter of the box where it meets the chassis, to be sure that any water that splashes up can't get in the trunk area.

I still need to finish up the wiring on the for the converters and connect the charger to the batteries, but as I don't have them yet, that will have to wait. One of the things you can't see is a port in the back of the box that will vent fresh air into the compartment. When the car is running, or when the charger is on, a fan will kick on to force fresh air into the box, helping to keep everything cool. I also need secure that wire loom to the top of the box and eventually cut the carpet that was there to accommodate the opening.

I mentioned yesterday that I'll be using the original location that was used for the car's electronics as the home for the Zilla and anything else I can squeeze in there. Here's a shot of that space complete with an aluminum sheet I cut to fit.

That sheet will act as a tray that I can mount the Zilla and the hairball to. I still need to build the support for the sheet, it will sit a little higher than where it is in the photo. I'm a bit concerned I'm going to run out of room for all of the electrical doodads that I need to install. Some of them I can put under the tray because I won't need to access them unless they fail. Others I may end up running into the cabin and mount under the dashboard. I'll just have to play it by ear.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Never Say it's Done

Last Friday I mounted, for what I thought was the last time, the aluminum tray under the motor. Well, over the weekend, I realized that with a few modifications I could improve the way it fits into the chassis. It nagged at me all weekend until I could bear it no more. Today it came out. Again. I made the modifications, wrestled with it again and finally got it back into place. While I'm not saying that it's permanent, I did put thread lock on all the bolts that hold the cross brace that it sits on into place.

I mounted the water pump as well. Not that exciting or time consuming, but one more step closer. Notice the nice brass housing.

I also permanently mounted (doh! there I go again) the back box that will house the charger and DC to DC converters. Next I'll be mounting all the components in them. I can't begin too much of the wiring at this point, but I'll do what I can before the batteries arrive.

I also sorted out how to mount the Zilla controller. There is a nifty little water tight area back near the firewall, right in front of where the passenger sits. It held the car's ECU and many other electrical connections. Most of those are gone now. I'm going to have to build a little tray to hold the controller and the hairball, but there's plenty of room, some good places to anchor the tray and it shouldn't take too much work.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Tray is Done

This morning I mounted the tray I've been working on. The tray is sandwiched between the sub-frame/chassis and the stability cross brace which mounts to both. It went on fairly easy. No pictures because it looks pretty much like the pictures I posted yesterday. Only difference is that it's not coming out again.

I began working on getting the box that will hold the charger and DC to DC converters in the trunk mounted up. I got as far as I could without help. I need someone either under the car or working in the trunk to help me tighten down the bolts.

I did manage to mount the fan that will blow fresh air over the batteries in the trunk should they get too warm. That fan will hang from the box I mentioned above and I will be routing some 2" flexible tubing into the battery box. I have a temperature switch that I'll mount in the battery box which will control the fan. When it gets above 122 Degrees F. the fan will kick on. It's set to turn off at 104 which means that in the summer time in Phoenix, it will pretty much run non-stop.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Power Steering Switches

I've mentioned earlier in the blog that I'm not the only person to have undertaken transforming a Z3 to an EV. A gentleman by the name of Len, who happens to reside in Malta started his conversion within a week of when I started mine. Well, he is clearly more skilled than I because his has been up and running for nearly 2 months now.

Len had figured out how to create a position sensitive assembly for the steering column that will turn the power steering pump on as soon as the steering wheel is not straight ahead. Since there is no need for power steering when you're driving in a straight line, this will help to reduce the draw on the batteries and increase range.

Earlier today, a package arrived on my doorstep from Len. He was kind enough to send along the necessary switch, shims, spacers and plans for how to duplicate the assembly on my car. What great and generous thing to do. Thank you Len!! I am most grateful.

Isn't Malta beautiful?

Vacuum Canister

Just finished mounting the vacuum canister this evening. Essentially it will store the vacuum created by the pump until the brakes are applied. (The thought of storing a vacuum is rather odd. How do you store nothing? I guess it's really a canister that keeps everything else out.) Once the vacuum drops below a certain threshold, the switch at the top of the canister will kick in and start the vacuum pump again.

You can see the orange line running from the newly installed canister on the right, to the brake's vacuum assist on the left.

More Work on the Tray Under the Motor

More work in the engine bay today.

Here is a shot of the engine bay at it's current state. The tray under the motor is mounted in place (although not permanently just yet). But it does give you an opportunity to see the tray under the motor, the duct work for the motor fan and the final position of the vacuum pump assembly.

Here's a detail of the passenger side. I believe I know what you're thinking. I can nearly hear it. "What on earth is that pink and yellow monstrosity next to the motor?" Well trust me when I say that the picture really doesn't do it justice. It's far, far uglier in person.

I mentioned earlier in the week that I need some way of keeping water from splashing on the motor fan and it's filter. Well, the space is tight and irregular, ruling out a tidy piece of aluminum. And by the way, for anyone who saw the work I did on the housing for the vacuum pump, you know I may not be capable of a tidy piece of aluminum.

Anyway, I constructed the shroud out of two flexible plastic cutting boards. I hot glued them together, and then ran some small screws along the seams just to hold them tight. It's not water tight, but it will keep all flying water off of the assembly. I'd show you a more complete picture of the whole assembly, but my fear of being mocked by all has gotten the better of me. Truthfully though, it works just great. It contains the assembly quite well and flexes around all the little things that stick out here and there.

I don't know that this picture is really all that different from the one I posted last week. But there is one important difference. The vacuum pump is actually in the housing now, and the housing is bolted down into place.

This whole tray assembly has taken a terrific amount of time, but it's all been necessary. It's a small car, with precious little space. Dropping a WarP 11 motor in that engine bay instead of a 9 hasn't helped matters as far as space is concerned. Everything that I need to fit in place I have fractions of an inch to spare at best. It makes for one challenge after another. But it's fun anyway.

Vacuum Pump Part II

I promised a picture, and here you go!

This is the vacuum pump nestled all nice and cozy in it's little home. It should keep it protected from the elements nicely. I'm not taking any bets on how it would do in a torrential downpour or hurricane, but then again, I do live in Arizona.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vacuum Pump

I finished positioning and mounting the vacuum pump today. It was a tight fit, but there was really no where else to put it. It down below the steering column linkage, between the motor and the chassis. I had maybe a 1/4" in either direction to play with when fitting it in there. Sorry, no pictures today. By the time I was done, it was too dark to take a decent picture. I'll see if I can post some tomorrow.

Also tomorrow, I need to figure out how I'm going to shield the motor blower from water before I mount that to the other side of the tray under the motor. I've got a few ideas, but not one that strikes me as really good.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Charger Plug Completed

The charger plug under the gas cap is complete!

Notice the little green switch at the top. That's the kill switch I spoke of in the last post. I admit that it's not the prettiest thing I've built, but it should do the trick. Now to decide what to tackle tomorrow...

Charger Plug

Here's a couple shots of the charger plug assembly that I've put together.

Basically I just cut a disk out of aluminum plate, carved a hole to match the back end of that plug and then fixed it into place by putting the plug on one side of the plate, and the stress relief clamps that the plug uses on the other side. Once I screwed them down into place the plug is secured and doesn't move.

This is the assembly in place under the gas cap. Seems like the most logical place to put it after all. I still need to figure out how I'm going to affix a switch in that compartment so that when the door is open, the Zilla controller is deactivated and the car won't run. After all, I don't want to mistakenly drive off with the plug connected.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Engine Bay Pan and More

What a busy week! I got quite a lot done, and at the end of each day, I was just too tired to post anything about it. So I have some make up work to do.

Over the weekend, I decided that the big battery box in the front could really use some lateral cross bracing. So Tuesday I went about designing, cutting, drilling and painting some cross bracing that will mount to the steel we've welded in place, and the battery tray it's self. Only 1/2 lb of steel added, but it will add a lot of stability to the structure.

Wednesday I went about designing a pan to fit under the motor in the engine bay. It will do a couple things; 1, make the under side of the car a bit more aerodynamic, and 2, give me a place to mount a few of the components that I've yet to fit. I made a cardboard template, cutting, fitting, cutting, fitting, cutting some more... you get the picture. There is a "x" shaped cross brace that mounts to the chassis and the front sub-frame of the car. The idea is to shape the piece to sandwich between the brace and the car. Lots of trial and error and I got the cardboard just right, so I went and bought some aluminum plate.

Thursday was spent cutting the sheet of aluminum, shaping it and bending it to fit in the place I'd envisioned. I'd never given much thought to having a 10 ton press break in the garage, but I can tell you it would have been handy the last couple days. Instead, my work bench, some angle iron, clamps and a rubber mallet had to suffice. It took a while, but I got it to work out real nice!

In the top picture, you can see the passenger side of the motor and the aluminum plate underneath it. This space will hold the blower that will force air into the motor for cooling. In the bottom picture, you can see (although just barely discern) a box on top of the aluminum plate. This is located on the drivers side and that box will hold the vacuum pump. Which brings us to what I did today. I cut and shaped the aluminum for that box this morning. I have to do just a little adjusting to it before the vacuum pump is ready to be mounted into it, and then it to the plate.

Man, I can't wait to finish!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Zilla's Radiator

I mounted the small radiator that will be used to dissipate heat from the Zilla controller. It may be a bit difficult to see what's what in that picture. It's a black radiator with the car's black condenser serving as the back drop, with a little bit more black thrown in here and there for good measure.

I'll be routing the coolant tubing from those white inlets up to the passenger side next to the firewall, were all the electronics will live. I'm also thinking that I might put some ducting in that will help to pull air through it. The fan that blows air into the motor has to such that air from somewhere, why not through that little radiator? My only concern is wet conditions. I don't want to suck any moisture into the fan, not blow it into the motor. I'll think on it a bit more.

Painting Work is Done

I pulled all of the masking tape and paper out of the engine bay this morning and paint work turned out great. No over spray and a good clean surface on each. The paint doesn't match perfectly in the engine bay because the original paint was subjected to 9 years of oil and road grime, but it looks good enough to me. Check it out:

I fit a few of the parts together to figure out how I'm going to mount the AC compressor. After a couple hours of work, I think I've got it sorted. I made a cardboard template for the base plate and fabricated a small piece of angle iron that should work out as a top bracket. Now I just have to see about having that metal cut up properly. A plasma cutter is what's in order.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Masking Up

This morning I discovered a black hole of time under the hood of the car. It took me more hours than I thought conceivable to mask the engine bay off in preparation for paining.

This is the right or passenger side...

and here is the left, or drivers side. Like they say, put the time in masking properly before you paint and you'll be that much happier with the end result. If that's true, then I should be apoplectic with joy once I peel it all off. I've already primed the pieces, so tomorrow, I'll paint. I figured that I'd paint everything that's permanently affixed to the car red (BMW 314 red), and everything I bolt to the car will be black.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Paint Prep

After a week spent in cool San Francisco, I'm back in the desert heat and ready to resume work on the car.

Today I worked on getting all the proper holes drilled in the support structure for the battery trays so that I can anchor them down properly. Then I worked on cleaning all the new steel off, as well as all the body work nearby so that I can mask it up and begin paint work. Not all together exciting, but necessary if I want to keep it all from rusting away and looking bad.

Later I'll start masking it all up and I'll post a picture or two for all to enjoy.

It looks like the soonest I can expect the batteries is going to be mid October. Later than I would have liked, but that's how it goes. It will give me time to finish just about everything else before they arrive. With some hard, smart work, I'm hoping I'll be able to build the cables, drop them in and be ready to go shortly after they show up.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back Component Box

Pictured above is the box in the trunk with three of the cars components in it. The charger on the right, and two DC to DC converters. None of it is wired up yet, or even bolted in for that matter. This is just a dry fit test. Though you can't see it, there's a cord that runs out of the back of the box on the charger's side. That runs to the fuel door on the passenger side of the car. One of those cables you see will be routed back to connect to that. The other cable will be connected to the batteries in the box that you can barely see at the very bottom of the picture.

Also on that side is a 2" tube ducted into the box to provide fresh air to the charger when it's operating. The charger has two fans in the back that vent air out the front into what will be the interior of the trunk. I need to make sure fresh air can get to those fans, and that stale air has a way out (that vent will be elsewhere). Once I've put some paint on the steel I cut to make room for that, I'll be ready to bolt it all into place.

The DC to DC converters will be wired in parallel and will put out the 12 volts needed for the car's normal electric systems, and about 80 amps continuous, 100 amps peak.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Battery Support Part V

This may be the last post were the focus is battery support. Today my friend Tim and I welded up what should be the last of the bracing to support the battery trays. With the choice of the newer lighter batteries, I'm confident that the bracing is more than up to the task.

Here you see the cross bracing we put together on the passenger side of the car. The other side is similar.

This is a shot of the new trays I built out of 14 gauge steel. All in all, it saved 15 lbs of weight swapping the heavier ones out. With the batteries being lighter than the lead acid I'd planned, I no longer need the trays themselves to be a structural support, they just need to hold the boxes in position. You'll notice that the box in the back is smaller than the tray. Well that's the one I mentioned I was going to have to have redone. You can see the size of the footprint the box will take up has grown a bit.

I'm leaving the heavier tray at the very front because the power steering pump will be suspended from that one. It's going to need the strength.

Last is a shot of all the boxes in place. I haven't secured the trays down to their moorings just yet; I'll be doing that tomorrow. There's only a few more mechanical items to sort out now; mounting the blower fan for the motor, the vacuum pump for the brakes and the compressor for the A/C system. The compressor is going to be a challenge. It may not be running when the car hits the road, but it will need to be working before next summer.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Odds & Ends Part V

Well, it's been a very busy week and today was the first chance I've had to work on the Z3. Let's tally up what I did, shall we?

1. Finished the mount for the box that's going in the trunk. It will fit through the hole I've cut and into the cavity that was occupied by the fuel tank. Luckily, there was a mounting bracket welded to the chassis in very nearly the perfect spot for use to support the box. I cut a piece of light steel to bolt to it, and the box will simply rest on it, kind of wedged into place. I'll clamp it down on the front edge, and that will prevent it from moving at all.

2. I also cut a 2 inch hole in the back of the box. I will connect some ducting to it and it will do one, possibly two things. It will provide fresh air to the fans of the charger while it is running, and it may also be the conduit for the AC power line to the charger. I might just drill a separate hole for that so there is nothing in the tube obstructing air flow.

3. I figured out how I'm going to mount the power steering pump. I had decided that I would simply suspend it from the front battery box making use of the room there. Today I cut and fitted all the steel needed to support it. Next up for that is simply weld the steel up and then drill out a few holes so that I can mount it in place, easily removing it if necessary.

4. One of the biggest pieces of news this week is I've opted to scrap the idea of lead acid batteries in favor of Sky Energy LiFePo4 batteries. I'd come across a fabulous series of videos put together by a gentleman by the name of Jack Rickard, in which he talks about how best to treat LiFePo4 batteries. All fascinating stuff, but what really caught my attention was the price he mentioned that he paid for the batteries. When I started looking into the project a year and a half ago, a similar pack of Thunder Sky's would have run me over $20,000. Well they've come down substantially, making them much more economically viable. Jack was kind enough to answer some of my questions, and encourage me along. If you care to check out his project, you can see it here. First rate stuff!

The Sky Energy's will weigh in at 475 lbs, versus the 737 lbs that the lead acid I had intended to use would have weighed. In addition, if handled properly, they are rated to handle 3000 charge/discharge cycles. That amounts to approximately 150,000 miles, or for all practical purposes, the life of the car.

5. To that end, I need to redesign one of the battery boxes and the tray that holds it to accommodate the different shape of the batteries. Fortunately, there is no need to adjust any of the bracing that we'd welded up over the past few weeks. However, I will be able to reduce the weight of two of the trays used to hold the battery boxes. The two trays weigh in at about 32 lbs, and I should be able to drop that to about 10. Today I took all the necessary measurements and began cutting up the new lighter steel to hold it all.

That's all for now. Hopefully next week, I'll have more time for the project.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Battery Support Part IV

I know what you're saying, "Enough with the steel, and the welding and support and what not!" Well, I feel your pain. Trust me when I say that I'd much rather move on to sexier things, but I have a few remaining things to do to try and make the supports as road ready as I can.

Today I spent several hours cutting, fitting and shaping some steel tubing for cross bracing on the existing mounts we've already welded into place. Once they are welded to the existing supports, they should offer the extra bracing needed to support the batteries in the event of hard stops or accelerations.

I also spent some time cleaning up the hole I cut in the trunk's bulkhead yesterday. Took a lot of careful measurements and then went down and ordered the plastic box that's going to fit in the cavity. That should take a week to build. In the mean time I need to cut some more steel to support and hold that box in place. Ideally, I'd like to build yet another frame to mount in the area the fuel tank was in, to hold the accessory battery. I'm thinking I'm going to use an Optima battery for that because I can mount it anyway I want, even upside down!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More Cutting in the Trunk

Today was spent cutting out the bulk head in back of the trunk, that separated the trunk from the fuel tank area. Here's what it looked like before:

And after:

I have a bit grinding to do to get the opening nice and even, but that won't take too long. I'm going to have a plastic box built, just like the battery boxes, to fit in that space. I built another mock up out of cardboard to make sure it all fits.

This new box won't hold batteries (not enough room). Instead I'll be mounting the charger and the DC to DC converters. After giving it lots of thought, I decided to go with two DC to DC converters. Each one can put out about 40 amps at 12 Volts DC. The power steering pump alone can pull up to 75, so clearly one just wouldn't be enough.

I had thought that I'd put in an auxiliary 12 battery to handle the extra load, but realized the battery alone wouldn't be a good plan. Instead I'm going with two converters AND the battery. It just keeps getting more complicated. But that's ok, I'm trying to build this so that I have as few compromises as possible.

By the way, thanks to my good friend Len in Malta for the great suggestion of using the back of the trunk and fuel tank cavity in such a productive way. Hope you're well Len!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Battery Support Part III

Well, we're back from vacation and I'm ready to start tackling the car where I left off. We welded up more bracing for the battery trays today. Today we worked on the tray that will hold three batteries in the back of the engine compartment, near the firewall. We got a lot done, but had to quit because it was getting late. We have some cross bracing to sort out, and then I just need to mount them up to the supports we've put in.

There are not too many mechanical things left to tackle. Need to mount the power steering pump, the A/C compressor, the vacuum pump, the radiator for the Zilla, and finally, the cooling fan for the motor. After all that, it's on to the electrical stuff.