What a summer! The Austin EV group ( www.austinev.org ) is slowly forming. There are about 5 guys serious enough to show up every month. EV3PO is doing well. I finally got it insured through Progressive as an Assembled motorcycle. I also had a machine shop make "lifts" for my car out of 2" thick steel. Dave will help me weld them in place sometime over the next two weeks. I still have to design some sort of lift for the rear wheel. The car is riding too low and the tires rub when I go over bumps or turn too sharp to the left. I have been driving it regularly and it gets more familiar to me all the time. It's definitely a head turner, and I often get many positive remarks. Since it has been so much fun to drive, I have yet to finish all the things that need to be done. I need to finish the interior, add a heat sink to the controller, secure the motor fan, buy and install a 110VAC opportunity charger, etc. etc. I have a long list, but it's hard to take it out of commission to work on it. After August 20th, I plan on revamping my webpage with new pictures. I have to get through summer school first.
Hooray! EV3PO is finally home. After a bundle of fiascos with Customs and paperwork and money, the car has been released from jail and is safe and sound in the garage. I put it on charge for 7 hours today trying to bring the batteries back to life. I couldn't resist, so Andrea and I (her first trip in the car) went to the grocery store to get some milk. A simple 7 mile round trip that included several honks, thumbs up, and even a few laughs from passers by. One car slammed on it's brakes to get a better look at EV3PO and almost got rear ended! I will now start cycling the batteries, tomorrow a 10 mile run, then maybe a 20, then 30 and so on. I am so excited. A group of Austin EV enthusiasts are starting to hold monthly meetings. I am supposed to be the guest speaker at the next one on June 2nd. I should have it cleaned up by then (right now it is a little rough looking, showing battle scars from the journey).
I would like to personally thank you for your support in helping me go down to Costa Rica for the first international coast to coast electric vehicle rally. Even though I have been in electric vehicle races before, this one was truly special. I had my own vehicle and I had a dynamite team. Your contribution helped pay for the shipping charges that I incurred getting the car, “EV3PO”, down to Costa Rica from Austin, Texas. Without your support my wife surely would have strung me up by my toenails for stretching our finances even further. Besides the monetary help, your willingness to help with no benefit to yourself gave me a sense of mission. I wanted to do well for you. The name of our team was “Kohler Controller”. A controller is an electronic box which switches power from the battery pack to the motor in a “controlled” manner, dictated by the position of the accelerator. I chose Kohler Controller, not because I made my controller, but because controller is one of the few words that (somewhat) rhymes with Kohler. My team consisted of four members; my father, Tom Kohler, my brother Jared Downs, and one of my best friends, Blake Dickinson. It was a great experience to share with people I hold so dear. Blake was the only one with electric vehicle experience, but even his assistance wasn’t needed because the car ran perfectly the entire race. This made me very happy and proud, because I had only driven it three times (shaking it down, working the bugs out) before it was shipped off. How did we do? We officially received 3rd place in our class, but were first in nearly every town square. Let me explain. The rules of a rally race state that you are supposed to go from point A to point B in an exact time. You get penalized whether you get there late, or even early. Since this was the first race for the organizers, they gave us more than enough time to reach our destination. This meant that, even going the speed limit, that we would have to wait outside the city until our time was near to cross the finish line. After consulting with the team, we decided to go for the publicity by being the first car to come into each town. We were penalized over 2000 points for arriving early. We didn’t care. The reception we received from the townspeople and children was worth it. The unique shape of my car made it a crowd favorite. Each stop offered the participants a hero’s welcome. At the first stop, so many kids rushed the car, I felt like I was one of the Beatles! The people of Costa Rica were extremely nice and generous. The country is beautiful. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to have such a wonderful experience with my friends and family. We are going again next year, possibly taking a new vehicle that Blake plans to have. Instead of trying to spur awareness of electric vehicles through a flashy car, we will demonstrate one with fast charging capability (charge the car in 15 minutes).
Thanks again, Marc Kohler
Well, the car made it there and held together all week. The staff and other participants were extremely nice and a pleasure to be around. I'll write up a formal report later. Please check out the latest pictures.
The car is floating in the Gulf of Mexico somewhere. Hopefully on a big ship. I got the VIN and title paperwork all done in the knick of time. Blake came in to help me install the Panasonic batteries. They came in on Friday, two days before the car was to leave, or as some call it JIT, "just in time" shipping. Too close for me. With the added weight of the batteries the front is quite low. I had to cut some of the front wheel wells also. We tried to buy spring adjusters but they are mainly made for trucks with big wide springs, where our coils were very tightly spaced. There is still some vibration between the motor and transmission and the left front tire hits the brake booster when turning left. It's a little rough but it will make it through the race and I can make it a smooth cruiser after it gets back. We put about 50 miles on the car during 3 trips around town. We got tons of looks, smiles, honks, and an occasional thumbs up. The best was when I pulled up next to an Infinity Q45 at a stop light and a father had four 8 year old girls in the car. As I pulled up, the windows came down and in unison the girls yelled out "COOL CAR!". I was beaming.
I drove the car tonight! First time on her own power. I borrowed some batteries from work and put them in place of the passenger chair. I wired up all the power wiring and the first time I tried it, a large blue spark loudly clapped over my shoulder. I thought for sure I had blown up the controller or something. I tried the accelerator anyways and absolutely nothing happened. The motor should be spinning. Upon investigation I realized that I had attached the B+ battery cable to the last battery, but did not tighten it down. I had also not attached the M+ cable to the last battery. When all wires were attached and tightened I tried it again. Success. The motor spins, albeit with some vibration. I think it may not be aligned with the transmission just right. The next night I secured most of the wiring, screwed in the dash and planned to drive out of the garage for the first time. When I did, I heard a screeching sound from the rear and the rear wheel felt like the brakes were locked up. Actually, we didn't make the wheel well deep enough so when I added the batteries and myself, the rear tire was rubbing the underside of the car! It took me a while to come to a solution. I cut the wheel well off from inside the car. I'll build a new fiberglass cover for the rear wheel this weekend. Now I was ready for the first spin around the neighborhood. I turned on the car, turned on the lights (which need to be adjusted), and slipped it in first. The pedals are shifted to the left off center so it took a little while to get used to it. I drove down the road in second gear about 15 mph. I tested the brakes on the first hill. I may have to hook up the brake booster after all. I really had to push hard for them to work. The front tires need to be aligned, they look pigeon toed now, but all in all, it was a good first trip. The batteries were pretty weak and the voltage was sagging so I went back home. 2.2 miles total trip. I will try to get a VIN tomorrow again. I tried today but found that the police officer who checked my car for stolen parts had apparently checked off the wrong box for the DMV lady so no VIN for me today. The batteries have not shown up yet, maybe tomorrow or Monday (fingers crossed). It's coming down to the wire. I still have a few electrical items to clean up, lots of mechanical issues to straighten out and the unknown of VIN, Inspection, Insurance, and Title paperwork to solve, all in 10 days.
The car's 12V wiring system is finally installed. You really would not believe how many wires it takes to light up every light and switch. The plexiglass windows have been installed and look nice. Jared and I painted the inside edge black to give it that production shading around the edges effect. We also added the electromagnet hood latch. The battery trays have been made and are welded in. Unfortunately the Panasonic batteries won't arrive in the states until Feb. 21st! That leaves me very little time to get them shipped here and installed before the I have to ship the car off on March 5th. I've cut all my projects down to just the bare essentials that will make the car run. I have to go to Chicago this week for a trade show, but when I get back I plan on using some batteries from work temporarily to drive the vehicle around, get it inspected, and get a VIN. Can't ship it out without one.
Jared came up this past weekend and helped me wire up the head lights and tail lights. One thing I did not take into account was the condition of my salvage yard parts (i.e. the steering column cluster and tail lights). After 15-19 years on the road and in the junk yard, a good amount of corrosion had built up so that the turn signal didn't work, nor did some of the tail lights. After dismantling everything, I cleaned the contact tips and reassembled. Works fine now. It was fun to see how the inner workings of a turn/headlight switch actually works, but it was not on my time table. My goal is to finish the dash wiring, weld up battery boxes, and spin wheels by the end of the weekend! Stay tuned.
The seats have been reupholstered and look nice. The floor is carpeted. The plexiglass windows have been cut. The charger, charging port, DC-DC converter, and cooling fans have been added. The seat belts have been attached. The speakers have been installed. I still need to mount the heater, and make a console to house the radio and a variety of lighted switches. A friend at work made some battery racks and they turned out so nice I've asked him to make a few custom battery racks for EV3PO. Lots to do but things have been working out. I probably won't update the pictures anymore since most of the work is in areas that you can't see. I hope to have everything done by Feb 15, hopefully the day when the batteries arrive.
When I took the seats in to get upholstered I found the perfect fabric, only to find out I picked one that was discontinued. So I picked one they had in stock, on site, so that they could get started right away. Most of the interior is a graphite color. I had planed on sending it out to get it professionally upholstered, but then realized the time involved, the money that they would require, then decided that I could do it myself with some awesome spray adhesive. I have also separated the picture page into 2 so that it won't take as long to load. I ordered my batteries. They should be here next month. Till then I will wire everything up, 12V and 144V. I installed the clutch cable only to realize that I should have had it extended two more inches! (Doh!) The seat belts arrived but I need a 7/16"-20 tap. I've ordered one from McMaster Carr along with a electromagnet latch that I'm going to use to keep the hood closed.
I picked up my car from the paint shop. They said it had a few "high spots". Look at the picture section. All the red spots are "high spots" that were sanded down. It looks like the car has the measles. Anyway, I think it turned out okay with silver paint. The color makes it look like it's made out of metal instead of fiberglass. Granted, the body work probably could have used another months work done by a professional to make it perfect, but I don't have that kind of time. I was afraid of people calling it the Silver Bullet or Silver Streak, but now that I see the irregularities in the body, I'm afraid they will call it the Silver Nugget. I have put in the headlights, taillights, turn signals and got the seats reupholstered. I am in the process of carpeting the inside. I had the windshield installed today. It's really starting to look like a real car!
I finally found a place willing to paint my car without doing 1 month of body work on it. It's being painted silver and will be done in a week. They are using a special primer called "feather fill" that's supposed to hide nicks and scratches.
I took the car around town to get some bids on the paint job. One shop wanted $4800. After they woke me with smelling salts, I realized that they thought they were going to do the body work to get everything perfect. I told them I just wanted it painted and for them to do only body work that would help them paint the car. I'm supposed to call on Monday. Another place closed before I could get there, so Monday at lunch I will try to take it to three more places for estimates.
I purchased a few wiring harnesses from Jim Reed's Subaru Salvage yard. Andy Reed threw in a dash and extra steering column so that I would have all the necessary connectors. It must be a slow month for him. I was very thankful. I have finished everything but the driver's side window. Please check out the picture page. I've added some before and after pictures. Tomorrow I will weld the roll cage to the main chassis and on Friday get bids for a paint job. Hopefully I'll drop off the car at the body shop on Saturday. I'm leaning towards silver.
I'm on the home stretch. I WILL FINISH the body work this week. It's looking pretty good. I have added some pictures to the picture page, they are of the foot pedals, shifter, and rear bondo work. As soon as I get the new pictures developed you will see the before and after shots. Quite a change.
During the past two weeks, my younger brother, Jared, and my brother in law, Warren, have helped me with the car. We added more body filler, and sanded more body filler. It is slowing becoming one color and much smoother. We hooked up the clutch cable too. There seems to be a return spring that needs to be added that I can't find. I got the new Toyo tires put on and spray painted the rims black to make the hubcaps stand out. I have some pictures to scan in and post. I got a new computer at work that uses Windows ME edition, which my scanner cannot operate under (without the correct drivers...and ACER, the scanner company, is supposed to be working on them). I'll post some of the pictures as soon as I get access to a scanner or mine becomes available.
Not much got done on the car this week, however, I did have a birthday which helped out the fund raising quite a bit. I've been trying to secure a set of Panasonic batteries, the same kind used in General Motor's electric vehicle, the EV1. So far it looks like I'll be able to get a set. If I can find room to fit 12 in the car, I'll have over a 60 mile range. I can fit 10 in pretty easily, but 12 will be a challenge. I'm also toying with the idea of adding an air conditioner to the car after the race. Work is getting very busy so I don't think I'll be able to take off a week like I thought. Oh well, I'll keep at it.
I finally received the clutch cable. Now I need to make a hole in the firewall. I have a tachometer in the dash but have no way of picking up the speed of the motor (it doesn't have a tail shaft otherwise I could sense the rotation of that). It's at the bottom of my to do list, but I would like to know the rpm's of the motor. I spent all day yesterday adding body filler to the rear of the car, making the rear taillights look like they are part of the car rather than warts sticking out the back. I added a lot (a gallon), and sanded a lot (3/4 gallon) off. It gets better with each pass. I am working my way up to the front of the car. I have taken pictures, but need to wait until the roll is finished to get them developed, scanned and posted to this page for you. I'm planning on taking a week off from work in October to finish up the body work and find a paint shop for the car. I really need to be done with the paint in October, the interior in November, and the electrical work in December. That will leave January and February to get it inspected, titled, registered, and insured. I need to have it on the docks in Houston two weeks before the race for shipping.
Yesterday was a pivotal day for EV3PO. I went down to the Dept. of Transportation to see what it would be classified as, a motorcycle or a car. Doran had his considered a motorcycle based on California law, but Texas was unknown. I wanted motorcycle status because there is no place in our design to add a windshield wiper system. It was going to be very difficult to add if it was going to be a car. Strange thing about Texas law, a vehicle must have a windshield wiper but is not required to have a windshield! I did some research and found the statues for definitions of cars and motorcycles. The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration defines a motorcycle as "a motor vehicle with motive power having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground." The Texas Transportation code is very similar, "a motor vehicle, other than a tractor, that is equipped with a rider's saddle and designed to have been propelled not more than three wheels on the ground." So it is apparent that they structured theirs after the Federal code, however they left out the word seat and left saddle. When Chris looked into classifications they told him that because the driver did not straddle the vehicle while driving that it would not be considered a motorcycle. We were bummed (windshield wiper problem). I took pictures and other examples of interpretations for three wheelers down to the office to plead my case. They didn't even bring up the seat/saddle issue, they strictly determined in a motorcycle because it only had three wheels. It will still have all the safety devices a car has, seat belts, turn signals, disc brakes, everything except for a wiper. A good coat of Rain-X should get me through rainy days. I guess I'm going to have to get a motorcycle license now.
I purchased turn signals for the front bumper. I plan to cut out holes and install them this weekend. I also finished fiberglassing most of what's left of the exposed foam. I bought a few cosmetic items for the car, a shifter knob and a set of foot pedals, both with a carbon fiber look. The clutch cable people called me and said that their shipping department shipped my cable to another customer, so there has been a slight delay. I ordered some business cards with the web site printed on them so when people ask about the project, I can give them a card for them to check out the progress. I am also starting to investigate paint shops that specialize in fiberglass. I've thought of Corvette shops or boat repair shops. More research is needed to select the proper paint that won't peel or crack due to the fiberglass gassing or flexing. Also, I was reminded that white was the best color to hide imperfections in the surface of the vehicle.
My computer's hard drive crashed last week so I've been focusing on getting it fixed. However, my brother, Jared, came up this weekend and helped me fiberglass underneath the dash board. Our first attempt was a disaster. I ended up with resin in my hair, which Jared had to cut out later. We also mixed the resin/hardener ratio wrong on the first batch and the resin hardened within 5 minutes and our paint brush stuck to the can. I have purchased some hubcaps which I feel really help out the looks of the car. Now it doesn't look like it's running on spare tires anymore. I've sent the clutch cable off to be lengthened and I plan on finding a wiring harness soon. If I fiberglass around the tail lights this next weekend, I should be able to move on to some electrical work.
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