Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Earth Day and Some Coming Changes

This last Tuesday, the Arizona Army/Air National Guard post celebrated Earth Day.  They invited a number of people to exhibit everything from composting technologies to solar panels.  The also contacted me and asked me if I'd bring the EV Z3 down to show at the event.  I let the members of the Arizona Chapter of the Electric Vehicle Automobile Association know about it as well, hoping there might be more than just the Z3 on display.

But of course, the event was held Tuesday during most peoples work hours, so it ended up being me and Gene Cosmano with his late 70's VW truck.  Gene has installed a 600 Watt solar array on top of the truck which managed to fully charge his batteries while we were sitting on the field.  He's put over 200,000 miles on the vehicle since it was converted in 93.  It seemed the Z3 drew a bit more attention than Gene's truck, probably because it's a bit sexier, but I have to tell you, that truck is great piece of work.  I was kicking myself that I didn't bring a camera to snap some pictures.

Anyway, the day went well, with lots of people stopping by and asking lots of questions.  People are always surprised to find that I use the car as my daily driver.  There wasn't anyone telling me I was an idiot for ruining such a nice car, but I did hear one guy telling Gene that he should hook up some generators to his wheels so he could charge the car while he drove.  Apparently the first law of thermodynamics is really only a suggestion to this chap.

On to the next topic: Changes.

For some time now, I've been planning on doing some changes and performing some upgrades to the car.  Some of these are pretty extensive, so this week I'm pulling the car into the garage, putting it up on blocks and starting the work.  I've put this off for some time now for a few reasons.  One, the weather has been beautiful and it's been so enjoyable driving with the top down, I simply couldn't bring myself to put the car in the dry dock.  But second, since it is my only means of transportation (unless I take my other car back from my teenage daughter, and no one want's that) I have no vehicle.  Well, yesterday I solved the last problem by buying an older Toyota Rav4 that I can use for a few months before selling it on.  The coming of summer in Arizona has taken care of the first reason; it's starting to get hot enough that driving without AC is no fun.  Which brings me nicely to one of the primary objectives.

Air Conditioning!  I simply can't go through another summer in Phoenix without it.  I have the original compressor and a small 120 VDC treadmill motor that I'm going to try to use to power the compressor.  The problem is space.  There's space under the front battery pack, and I'm hoping I can fit everything in there.  If not, I may be buying one of the Masterflux AC units.  But at $1200 for the compressor and the controller, I'm really going to try hard to get the motor/compressor combo to fit.  I also need to solve the problem with the Zilla controller over heating and going into thermal cut back.  The tiny radiator I'm using to cool it is simply not up to the task, so I'll be putting a much larger one in it's place.

One of the other things I need to do is build a proper motor mount for the WarP11.  As I've thought about it over time, I've realized what I'd devised and put into place really isn't adequate.  But there's one problem with that.  Before I had the engine pulled, I failed to get one critical measurement.  Remember this for when you do a conversion.  Measure the distance from the from the top of the transmission to some fixed point on the car so that you'll know exactly where it should be placed, how high to elevate it when you're constructing the motor mounts to hold up the motor.  This may not be an issue on some cars, but it was on the Z3.  I failed to do this, so I was left to work it out based on making sure the drive shaft fit flush to the transmission output flange.  Not the best solution.

So what's a guy to do when he needs that measurement and there's no way to get it from his car?  I kept an eye out on Craig's list, and when someone advertised a version of the car identical to mine, I called and asked if I could measure it.  The kind person that answer that call was Frank Froncillo, owner of a company called Critical Cut here in Phoenix.  My request must have sounded very strange to Frank, but he was a good sport and told me to come on down and get my measurement.  He also showed my the machines at his business, which were some of the coolest CNC machines I've ever seen.  They use a super thin wire charged with several thousand volts to cut through any metal stock you need with astounding precision.  He handed me two pieces of metal about 2 inches thick that had been cut to fit together like a puzzle piece with absolutely no play between them.  One of the coolest things I've ever seen.  I found myself trying to think of how I could incorporate something he'd cut into the car.  Maybe Frank could make a motor mount...  Anyway, if you ever read this, thanks a bunch Frank! 

In addition to those changes, I've also purchased the newest version of the Xantrex Link 10 battery monitor called the Link Pro.  The Link 10 is a great instrument.  It fits beautifully in the dash and measures every variable I need (though I rarely take it off the "amp hours consumed" setting).  The problem is that it can only read up to a 500 amp pull on the batteries.  I could buy a 1000 amp 50 mv shunt and simply multiply most of the readings by two, but that would be a pretty rinky-dink thing to do in such a nice car.  The new meter will measure an honest 1000 amps and allow me to turn the controller up so I can enjoy it's full potential. 

One of the things the new meter will allow me to monitor is the temperature of the batteries.  Well, one battery.  I'll just bolt it to a terminal on a battery in the center of the pack and I can watch them to make sure they don't get too hot in the summer.  So with a solid AC system, a bigger radiator for the controller and at least some temperature monitoring on the batteries, I should be able to drive on most summer days with no problems at all.  At least that's the plan.

I have a few more things planned for the down time, but I'll bring those up as I tackle them.  Stay tuned, it should be fun, and hopefully we'll all learn a thing or two.