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The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

Posted September 22, 2008 6:00 AM by jloz

Tesla Motors is in new kid on the block in a neighborhood that's all-electric. A manufacturing start-up, the California car company is building mass-production capabilities for its all-electric vehicle, the Tesla Roadster. Back in Detroit, General Motors is planning to release its own version of an electric vehicle (EV) by rolling out the Chevy Volt in 2010. The electric car is back! Or is it?

As you may recall from Part 1 of this series, GM has traveled this road before. Before abandoning its ill-fated EV-1, the American automaker once sought to comply with a 1990 California mandate that called for 10% of the cars on the road to be "zero emission vehicles" by 2003. That mandate, along with the EV-1 itself, have since been sent tothe scrap yard. In the meantime, gasoline has topped $4 a gallon.

Critics complain that General Motors was short-sighted. The EV-1 wasn't minting new millionaires, but the company's forecasters and analysts could have stayed ahead of the curve instead of waiting to play catch-up. Now, domestic car commercials tout the fact that GM's new vehicles will reduce the impact on the environment and reduce America's reliance upon foreign oil. These are great selling points, but what's the cost? And are we really saving energy or preventing pollution?

Unfortunately, there seem to be more questions than answers. What will it cost to build all-electric vehicles? Specifically, what is the cost of using other forms of energy to manufacture "energy-efficient" EVs? The automakers use electricity that comes from wires attached to the grid. Typically, this electricity come from nuclear power plants and coal-fired power plants. In the end, renewable energy sources play only a small role in generating the power that automakers need.

It seems unlikely that solar power or wind energy will end America's dependence on foreign oil, or make it easier for carmakers to retrofit old plants or build new ones for the production of all-electric vehicles. In the end, it may take just as much fossil fuels (or nuclear energy) to build electrics car as a non-electric vehicles. EV drivers won't have to buy gasoline, of course, but they'll still have to pay (indirectly) for the cost of the fuel used to generate the power for batteries. Let's be careful what we call "green".

The American car industry claims that it is committed to the electric car, but it must also pay attention to the bottom line. EVs must be affordable in order for the car companies to remain profitable. Otherwise, the time may be right for shorter commutes and moving back to the city.

Editor's Note: Click here for Part 1 of this two-part series.

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Anonymous Poster
#1

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/22/2008 7:24 AM

The EV is back for sure. And this is not only because of rising fuel prices but becuase soon we are going to have a lot of options in the EV space, with a lot of major car companies focusing on EVs. Plus smaller companies like ZAP are scheduled to roll out their two seater sports vehicle the Alias next year. This will cost about 30 K and have a 100 mile range. Battery technology is improving all the time. So definitely i think that the EV is back.

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#2

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/23/2008 12:51 AM

"It seems unlikely that solar power or wind energy will end America's dependence on foreign oil." This cliche is frequently included in energy articles, but I have never seen numbers run out to show this to be true. On the other hand, solar and wind proponents put forth that x number of square miles in Texas, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico can produce all the electrical power needed. Obviously infrastructure inadequacies are an obstacle. Any other ideas on this?

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#3

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/23/2008 2:12 AM

I have been driving a two-seat electric car since 1996. It's my secondary car, I mainly use it in the city and occasionally for shorter trips to our cottage. Its range is about 60 miles and its highest speed is a bit more than 45 mph. In the city that's more than enough. I drive about 6000 miles a year.

It has a 7.5 kW 60 V DC motor with PWM motor control with a two-step field-weakening. The battery is a 60 V 240 Ah lead-acid one, a set of normal truck batteries. I can use a set for four years (it could me a bit more but I swap batteries in every four years when I feel the range or top speed starts to decrease). The full charging time is about 6 hours. The charger is a built-in automatic one.

It contains significantly less part than a gas-powered car so manufacturing must be much cheaper.

About the costs: In Hungary, insurance and car-tax depends on the built-in power so this car is in the lowest category. Insurance and tax together is about 60 $ for a year. The battery cost for a four-year interval is about 1200 $, it means 5 $/100 mile. The electricity for 100 miles costs about 2.5 $. I would say the TCO for 100 miles is less than 7 $.

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Anonymous Poster
#4
In reply to #3

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/23/2008 8:30 AM

That is a right cute lil bug. By the time it is street legal here in the US it will weigh 10 times as much and have a range of about 6 mi before recharging... We have placed so many regulations on vehicles trying to make them idiot proof that we have to engineer them out of all practicality.

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/23/2008 8:47 AM

I take it that is a locally-made car? I have a friend who drives this one (from 1916) and I am under the impression his batteries are the originals...

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/23/2008 3:09 PM

the original batteries? i would guess that they were edison batteries. as long as you maintain them, they last forever, (or at least that is what i have read). have read stories of people pulling edison batteries out of forklifts that had not moved in 20 or 30 years. filling them up properly, putting a charge on them and they are as good as new.

they are still in production in china. they are not cheap.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/23/2008 4:00 PM

I'll see if I can confirm that - but I swear I remember him telling me they were part of the original equipment. Here's the front view...

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#22
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Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 9:48 AM

This is very interesting stuff. Edison was something else.

Back when I was working in a wholesale food warehouse during high school/college, I drove around forklifts and electric pallet jacks. I was always amazed at the size of those batteries and how much power they had to propel my forklift through the warehouse.

Edisons are still used at RR crossings and home power? Nice to find one more thing that fights planned obsolescence.

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#8
In reply to #5

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/23/2008 4:14 PM

It's a Hungarian car. It was in production in 1993 and 1994 but unfortunately the (small) company went to bankruptcy... I am its second owner.

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#9
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Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/23/2008 4:27 PM

Looks like an effective mode of locomotion to me - too bad they went broke!

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#10
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Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/23/2008 4:32 PM

hello ogberci,

so, why don't you a little investigation and see who owns the rights to the design/company.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/23/2008 10:39 PM

when clinton lied, nobody died ???????

Can you goggle two words?? Clinton, Deaths

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#12
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Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/23/2008 11:11 PM

no! i will not google Clinton, Deaths. can you google deaths in iraq since we occupied their country because we wanted their gold, opps i mean oil, opps i mean so that they can have the freedom to kill anyone who isn't of their faith? the death toll for the iraqies is almost reaching the level of the vietnamise. so, what over rideing moral ground do we have to stand on there? might makes right? what about the psychic damage to our own troops who know that what they are doing is useless, and eventually will be for nothing. also their minds, knowing that they are killing innocent men, women and children. knowing that if we had not invaded their country, that all of those people would still be alive. that al kieda would still be only running around in afganistan and pakistan. so, what do we do when we try to apologise to the iraqies, say opps, sorry.

how would we feel if another country decided that our war criminal administration had to have a regime change. if they invade us for our own good? sounds different from this end doesn't it.

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#13
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Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/23/2008 11:28 PM

I agree with "Guest." This is a Bush hater who sloganeers and slimes a man he never met. I am glad someone finally called him on this dishonorable tactic.

He thinks he is clever with this underhanded prevarication. It is an indirect assault that he cannot defend so he obfuscates. This is what it has come to with the blame America first crowd that he belongs to. It is appalling.

I loathe slugs like this who feel it is necessary to place an irrelevant slanderous non-sequitur in the midst of engineering discourse. I would ask him to reveal to us, specifically what lie do you refer to?

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#15
In reply to #13

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 12:39 AM

when clintion lied in front of a grand jury under oath about not having sex with monica lewinsky, the conservatives tried to hound him out of office. but his lie didn't cause any deaths. when bush lied about iraq, a million people have died. i thought everyone knew that.

please notice that in posts 6 and 10 i was talking about edison batteries. just because someone does not like my tag line and attacks it, doesn't make them right. i have the right to my beliefs and i won't be trivialized or demonized for my beliefs. i will call you a lier or a fool right back. it is not my fault that we are in the state we are today. i did not vote for GW. the conservatives believe that the least government is the best government. with GW that is what they got. and look what we have gotten from it.

can we get back to talking batteries and electric cars now? i still think edison batteries are amazing. edison spent many years and much of his fortune developing them. they are still used to this day anywhere long life and durability are needed. railroad crossings, emergency lights. for home power storage, they are expensive, but they will never have to be replaced. you put them in once, maintain their fluid levels and they will out last you and your children and probably your grandchildren. no planned obsolescence there.

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#16
In reply to #15

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 12:58 AM

Specifically -what lie? Don't change the subject Iraq, blah, blah, blah . . . what lie?

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#29
In reply to #16

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/25/2008 2:47 PM

can we get back to talking batteries and electric cars now?

Amen. This is an engineering forum. He's not changing the subject. He's talking shop.

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#18
In reply to #15

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 4:30 AM

corneliusvansant

excuse me sir, i thought you were asking what lie about clinton. it never even occured to me that anyone in this country could possibly ask what lie in relation to bush and his administration.

i find it disingenuous that you claim to not know what lies i am talking about. have you had your head in the sand for the last 7 years? have you just woke up from a dream? do you only listen to rush and fox for your news. even bill o'rielly had to eat his prediction that within a year they would find the wmd's. the only reason bush and cheaney were not removed from office for high crimes and misdemeaners was that there were not enough democrats in the senate to impeach them. impeachment is a political process to fix something wrong, not a criminal trial where proof is required. why do you think 70% of americans think bush is wrong? it is not because our soldiers are dying. it is because bush and his administration "took us to war under false pretenses". to me, that is a pretty way of saying lieing.

yes, my tag line says that clinton lied about getting a blow job, and implies that bush lied about the reasons for going to war.

no, i throw no slime at america. yes i throw slime at this administration. i detest them i lay every coffin from iraq at their feet. patriotism is not blindly being sheep led to the slaughter. patriotism is defending the constitution from tyrany and standing up and saying no.

so, you just go ahead and blow your cork off.

in the future, why don't we send these comments directly to one another, instead of taking up everybodys time, in discussions that started out talking about engineering.

all you need to do is click on my name, then click on send a message.

then you can rant and rave all you want. i will read your comments. i will reply to your comments. i will tell you when i disagree with you. then you can call me whatever makes you feel better.

thank you

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#23
In reply to #18

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 4:05 PM

Blah, blah, blah. You are the one who is disingenuous because you will not answer . . . what lie? You just continue the digressions because you have no answer . . .

Specifically . . . WHAT LIE?

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 4:11 PM

How about the one where he claimed he was qualified to be President? And how about we ALL just stop this nonsense on an otherwise perfectly interesting thread, and save the political commentary for PM's, pub rants, and wild dreams? OK?

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#19
In reply to #15

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 7:17 AM

"...can we get back to talking batteries and electric cars now?..."

Yes, we can! (Although I totally agree with your "other" position...) At the Cave of the Winds Park in Colorado Springs/Manitou Springs, Colorado, there are parts of the cave where guided tours go that are lit by electric bulbs made by Edison Electric back when Tom himself was alive. Those lights are never turned off, and have been burning merrily for over a century now.

Talk about no planned obsolescence! Once it was a point of pride to design and build things that would last longer than the builder. Now, it seems the goal is for the object to last about as long as the builders' lunch break. That way, when he finishes lunch, he can make you another...

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#21
In reply to #15

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 9:31 AM

Yes, I would appreciate that you use the personal send a message feature as well, Guest and corneliusvansant, for any future non-engineering or non-science related "political" discussion, unless it relates to policy on electric vehicle and highway usage, or any automobile and engineering related issues, of course.

Thank you.

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#27
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Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 6:27 PM

consider me shut up, so that this can end.

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#14
In reply to #3

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/23/2008 11:39 PM

Qgberci, Good Answer. Quite elegant, in a minimalistic sort of way. Very impressive. And welcome to CR4.

Regards, Dragon

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#17
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Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 1:48 AM

I think when you design a secondary car should be used for short in-town trips you must simplify it as much as the safety and usability lets it. In this car the constructor used several parts of the Polski Fiat 126p (brake and steering system, wheels, dashboard), a forklift motor as traction motor, head- and rear lights form other different cars and built them into a fiberglass body. The control electronic comes from an Italian electric vessel. Though the parts came from a large variety of vehicles they harmonize well and are widely available if they need repair.

All the rights are owned by two private persons and though the car is not in production anymore sadly they don't want to sell the rights.

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#20
In reply to #17

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 7:20 AM

Aren't building it, but don't want to sell the rights...how sad (and foolish)! The market for such a car has never been better, but it is likely to be, and soon.

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#25
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Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 4:33 PM

You are right...

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#37
In reply to #17

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

10/23/2008 5:10 AM

I am fascinates to see, read nd hear the story about both your car and its manufacturer.

Did they make many, do you know? And what is its market value as we speak? Honestly, when I saw its front I thought you modified it out of a Samara.

I guess, these days the maker wouldn't go bankrupt so easily over this design. I presume, had they not given up on it then, by now they could be well ahead of the Gwiz design from India, which is apparently doing not to bad as I hear.

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#38
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Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

10/27/2008 4:29 AM

There were two variants of Puli:2D was a two-person Diesel with a Japanese 400 ccm engine and 2E was the electric version. There were made some hundreds of both versions.

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Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 5:51 PM

Electric Vehicles Questions and Answers

  1. How much will it cost me to do the conversion?

Not counting the cost of the donor vehicle, you will spend between $6500 and $9500. It depends on the type of vehicle you are converting, which determines the size motor, controller and number of batteries. The total cost also depends on how much metal work you can do yourself. See the Bill of Materials page for cost estimates for major components.

  1. Which vehicles are the most commonly used for conversion?

· Vehicles that are most often converted have a 4-cyl. engine and a manual transmission.

  1. What driving range can I expect on a charge?

Of course it all depends on the conversion – vehicle type along with the number and type of batteries. However, most people who drive electric street vehicles say they get between 30 and 50 miles per charge, without saying what they mean by 'charge'. I believe it is only reasonable to state the range based on a 50% drop in charge capacity. You can go lower, but repeatedly going down to 40% and less capacity (remaining capacity) point will shorten the life of the batteries. We don't want that. I have found that my Chevy S10 pickup truck conversion, which has 16 six-volt golf cart batteries and weighs a total of 3700 pounds, has a maximum range of about 35 miles, 20+ miles at the 50% point. Keep in mind that driving habits impact distance.

  1. How fast will my converted vehicle go?

My converted Chevy S10 has a top speed of almost 60 mph using 16 batteries. Most people who convert a Chevy S10 use 20 batteries, have a top speed of near 80 mph and a range of about 40+ miles (not at 80 mph). I don't have a need to drive on the freeway, so a top speed of 60 mph and a range of 35 miles are just fine for me.

  1. How do I determine the charge state of the batteries?

A simple way to measure state of charge is to measure the voltage of the battery bank a couple hours after you have driven it – and before you start charging, of course. The chart below is the one that I use to determine the percent charge remaining. You can make your own chart for the number of batteries you use. The third column, Individual Bat. Voltage, is simply multiplied by the number of batteries to create the first column. Many say that measuring the specific gravity is the best way to determine charge level, but who wants to mess with battery acid!

State of Charge

Unloaded

Bank Voltage

(16 Batteries)

% Charge

Individual Bat. Voltage

Spec. Gravity

(80o F)

101.90 100 6.37 1.277
100.96 90 6.31 1.258
100.00 80 6.25 1.238
99.04 70 6.19 1.217
97.92 60 6.12 1.195
96.80 50 6.05 1.172
95.68 40 5.98 1.148
94.56 30 5.91 1.124
93.28 20 5.83 1.098
92.00 10 5.75 1.073
  1. How much does it cost to charge the batteries? What is the cost per mile?

The actual cost to charge your batteries depends on your overall design, your charger and your driving habits. In my case, the cost per mile ranges between 5 and 6 cents. I have devoted an entire page to carefully answer this question. Click here!

  1. What can I do to keep the cost per mile as low as possible?

· Use low rolling resistance tires and keep the tire pressure up.

· Don't be a lead-foot. It's the same as a gas guzzler - take it easy.

· Learn to coast a lot - you are traveling for free when you coast.

· Use a high-efficiency charger so as not to waste energy while charging.

· Plug into the neighbor's house instead of yours when charging. (I'm not serious.)

  1. How much do batteries weigh?

The 6-V golf cart batteries are around 65 pounds each. The 12-V deep cycle batteries are usually about 10 pounds more.

  1. How should I care for the batteries to ensure long life?

· Use a quality charger that has three charge phases: constant current, constant voltage with decreasing current and a lower constant voltage for the final phase. The final charge phase is often called the finishing phase or the soak-in phase. The charger should also provide a manual equalization charge mode that you can use at wide intervals to restore balance to your series connected batteries. Equalization removes sulphate build-up on the plates and helps restore performance.

· Keep the batteries charged.

· Do not routinely discharge the batteries down to 40% or less of remaining capacity .

· Check water levels in the batteries at least once per month, especially during hot weather. Only add water after charging, not before.

· Never add acid to the batteries.

· Inspect the battery terminals to ensure they are tight. A loose terminal connector has contact resistance that will create a large amount of power loss in the form of heat and even melt the lead terminal post down.

· More. . .

  1. How long will the batteries last before they must be replaced?

I don't have personal experience with this yet, but it all depends. Battery Service Life: How long will the battery bank last?

This is a tough question. There are many variables involved in the service life of a bank of batteries. Personally, I don't yet know how long my battery bank will last because of these variables. I have heard some people say that they should last about 3 years, if they are well taken care of – the following will give you an idea of what that means.

The service life of lead acid batteries depends on many factors. . .

Charge Cycles

Service life is often expressed as the number of discharge and charge cycles. I have read figures ranging from 300 to 1000 cycles for lead acid batteries. The reason for the wide range of number of cycles is because depth of discharge (DOD) and operating temperature directly affects the number of discharge and charge cycles, along with other factors. Many battery manufacturers specify the number of charge cycles at a DOD of 80%, which is quite deep.

Note: I go through 6 charge cycles per week, or 312 times per year. If I can only get about 300 charge cycles, I have to replace the battery bank every year. However, DOD does factor in here. I should get many more than 300 charge cycles because I operate the batteries in the 0 to 60% DOD range.

DOD

The service life, and number of charge cycles, can be extended if the batteries are not repeatedly deeply discharged. Many experts recommend that the batteries be used in the 0 to 60% DOD range. The rule of thumb is: the deeper the discharge (on a regular basis), the shorter the service life will be.

Charge Rate

Do not exceed the manufacturer's maximum charge rate specification. Lead acid batteries cannot be quick charged like NiCad and some other battery types. Usually, lead acid batteries must be charged over a minimum of a 6-hour period. Exceeding the maximum charge rate will deteriorate the plates, reduce capacity, unbalance battery voltages in the series string and shorten the life of the battery bank.

Temperature

Battery service life is also related to temperature. Service life for lead acid batteries is usually specified at 77oF or 80oF. If the battery operates in an ambient temperature higher than this, the service life is shortened. Summer high temperatures are hard on lead acid batteries, but cooler seasonal weather brings relief and may equal out.

Water Maintenance

Another factor that affects service life is water maintenance. The water level (electrolyte level) in the batteries must never fall below the top of the lead plates. If this occurs, the exposed plates will corrode and degrade the capacity of the battery. Always use pure distilled water to replace what has evaporated from the cell. Using any other type of water will degrade the cell. (See the Battery Watering System page.)

ADD DISTILLED WATER ONLY AFTER THE BATTERIES ARE FULLY CHARGED.

If you add water to a discharged cell, the water/acid will actually overflow while the cell is being charged by expanding and coming out under the cap seal.

Charge Maintenance

Good Charger - A good charger makes a big difference in the length of service life. Charging at too high a voltage will deteriorate the lead plates and charging at too low of a voltage will allow sulfates to build, increasing internal battery resistance and preventing full charge. Good chargers have three stages of operation: (1) bulk stage during which a constant charge current is applied and voltage increases, (2) constant voltage stage during which charge current decreases and (3) finishing or soak-in stage during which the voltage is decreased and charge current continues to decrease. The charger should have either manual or automatic equalization capability.

Equalization

Use a digital voltmeter to measure the terminal voltage of each battery in your bank. Ideally, all terminal voltages should be the same and remain the same over time. In practice, terminal voltages will not be the same as the batteries age. This causes some batteries to get a higher charge than others. To combat this, either each battery must be individually charge-managed using electronic circuits in a method called 'active equalization' or the overall bank charge voltage must be increased for a period of time to force a higher charge voltage across the low-terminal-voltage batteries in a method called 'passive equalization'. In each case, equalization forces a higher charge voltage on the batteries to 'melt' away the sulfation and restore the cells of the batteries to 'normal'.

You cannot constantly charge the batteries at the high equalization voltage level. Not only will they dry out, but the plates will quickly erode from the frantic chemical activity. Over time, at normal charge voltages, sulfates will slowly buildup, requiring an equalization charge session.

The best method to use is active equalization, but it requires an electronic circuit for each battery whose purpose is to even out the terminal voltage for all of the batteries as they charge. This method ensures that stronger cells are not overcharged and weaker ones are not under charged.

During passive equalization, a great amount of bubbling and some water evaporation will take place, so the water levels in the cells must be monitored. Also, during equalization, some hydrogen gas may escape the cells, so make sure this process is done out in the open, not in a closed area.

Steps for Passive Equalization

  1. Using the normal charge cycle, charge the batteries to what appears to be all they will take.
  2. Check the water levels in all cells of the batteries to ensure that the level reaches the bottom of the fill ring. Add distilled water as needed.
  3. Apply the equalization voltage to the battery bank. This voltage should be between 7.4 and 7.8 V per battery (assuming 6-V batteries).
  4. Monitor the terminal voltages with a digital voltmeter during the equalization process. When the terminal voltages of all batteries closely match, equalization is complete.
  5. The length of time for equalization may be many hours to several days. For long equalization cycles, keep an eye on the water levels. Keep the caps on the batteries (cells closed) during equalization except to check water levels.
  6. When equalization is complete, add distilled water to each cell as needed.
  7. Reapply the equalization voltage for about 30 minutes to allow the bubbling action to mix the distilled water into solution, evening out the density of the sulfuric acid throughout the cells, top to bottom.

. . .

  1. Why can't I just use deep-cycle 12-V batteries to save space and weight?

Assuming that your goal is to have the same voltage either way, you will have less capacity and range using the 12-V batteries. However, if the vehicle is small and light, 12-V batteries are the best option because of lack of space and the need for less weight. Many Geo Metro and VW Rabbit conversions use 12-V batteries. Realize that these are not 12-V automobile batteries. They are deep-cycle batteries intended for golf cart and other electric vehicle use. 8-V golf cart batteries are also available as a design option.

  1. Why don't you use Lithium-ion batteries?

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are very expensive and they require an expensive charger and protection electronics for each battery. A company I investigated recently offers 12-V Li-ion batteries for vehicle applications at a cost of $2500 each plus another $500 each to cover the special electronics and charger. Compare one of these to two of my 6-V golf cart batteries at a cost of only $130.

  1. What size cabling should I use for the high-current connections?

#2 should be the smallest cable size that you use to interconnect the batteries, high-current fuse, circuit breaker, high-current contactor, current shunt, controller and motor. #4 and #6 are smaller diameter sizes that should not be used – too much power loss and heating. Visit your local welding supply store to obtain a flexible welding cable of size #2, #1 or larger. I used #2 and it is just fine for my application.

  1. For battery terminal connections, should I use the wing-nut bolt on the terminal post or should I use terminal-post clamps?

Terminal-post clamps are best because they offer more contact surface area to handle the high current and will stay tight. If you decide instead to use the wing-nut bolt on each terminal post, make sure you use the correct size cable terminal end, usually a 5/16" hole and that you use a spring-type lock washer under the wing nut. If you fail to use the lock washer, the wing nut will become loose, contact resistance will increase rapidly, heat will increase dramatically and the terminal post will melt – not pretty.

  1. Can I use an automatic transmission?

An automatic transmission will use more energy than a manual transmission, which means less range. I have heard it done, but not very often.

  1. Why do I need a transmission at all?

If a transmission is not used, a gear ratio that allows the motor to start easily under load must be used. The idea behind this is to ensure that the motor is not over burdened when moving the vehicle from a dead stop. With such a starting and fixed gear ratio, the vehicle will reach a top speed that corresponds to the top safe RPM of the motor. For example, I can start off in 2nd gear and accelerate to about 30 mph. If the ratio of my second gear is to be used for a fixed gear ratio, my top speed will be about 30 mph. To get higher speeds, gear shifting is needed. Gear shifting allows for increased speed as the electric motor stays within its rpm design range.

  1. What kind of meter(s) should I install so I can monitor as I drive?

Most people install both an ammeter and a voltmeter. The ammeter helps you determine when to shift gears and how to optimize the use of the 'gas' pedal and conserve energy. The voltmeter is of little use at all because it will vary widely as you accelerate and coast. The voltmeter cannot tell you the true state of charge until the vehicle has rested for a couple hours. Unless it is a digital voltmeter, it won't be accurate enough anyway. So, an inexpensive multimeter can be used to measure your bank voltage until you are familiar with the discharge and range capabilities. If you have some extra money, you may be able to find a computing meter that keeps track of discharge and shows you what is left.

This photo shows how I embedded the ammeter in the instrument cluster, replacing the fuel gauge.

  1. After the conversion, will the vehicle be heavier?

Yes. My Chevy S10 started at 3,040 pounds and ended up being 3700 pounds. The good news is that it is below the chassis and suspension ratings and the weight ended up being evenly distributed front and rear. I did add height-raising extensions (shackles) to the back of the leaf springs and a set of air shocks. The reason I did this is because the front of the vehicle was now lighter and caused the front to be higher than the rear. I wanted the rear to be slightly higher. For smaller vehicles, the suspension system will be challenged, especially with passengers. Add booster springs or shocks with coil springs.

  1. Are conversion vehicles really reliable?

My experience thus far (see 6-month Evaluation), and the experience of many others, says yes! Build it well. Keep an eye on battery water and terminal tightness. Still an unknown to me is exactly how long my battery bank will last until I am forced to replace it (see Battery Service Life).

  1. Can I make my own adapters, one for the motor shaft-to-clutch plate and one for the motor-to-transmission mount?

A few people have done so. However, you need access to a metal lathe and other precision tools. It is a difficult process that requires a precision outcome. Balance and alignment are critical. My advice is to buy these parts already precision manufactured and ready to bolt on.

  1. Should I make a new bed for my truck like you did?

I discovered that the truck bed on my Chevy S10 weighed 320 pounds. The truck weighed 3,040 pounds with the bed and 2,720 pounds with the bed off. I made a light-weight bed using 2" square aluminum stock, used for patios, and ABS plastic sheathing (3/16" on the sides and ¼" on the bed floor). That saved me a couple hundred pounds. It allowed me to make a nice compartment with a lid to cover the batteries. Some people make simple flatbeds, add trailer lights and call it done.

  1. Why didn't you put your batteries in multiple racks under the truck frame in front of and behind the rear axle?

I have seen some truck conversions that place 8 batteries under the frame behind the rear axle – that's 500 pounds of weight behind the rear axle. It not only places a great strain on the rear springs, but it also adds a lot of outward force when going around a corner – not good on wet or icy pavement. Placing the batteries in a secure steel rack behind the cab and resting on the frame yields an even balance of weight front and rear and provides great handling.

  1. Can I still have air conditioning?

Some people do try to keep the air conditioning. They use a motor that has a shaft sticking out of both ends. The front shaft interfaces with the flywheel and clutch assembly. The shaft sticking out the back end is used to mechanically connect to the airco compressor. Keep in mind that if you do this, you will have no airco when the motor is stopped, which as it turns out is a lot of the time during stops and coasting. Also, the energy needed for this airco comes from your battery bank, shortening your range.

  1. Where can I purchase all of the components I will need?
    See the Resources page.
  1. Why don't you add a gasoline generator to keep the batteries charged all of the time?

This is a very common question. The short answer is that the generator would have to be fairly large to constantly replace the energy that is being used. The gasoline engine on the generator would be large enough to run the vehicle directly without the generator or electric motor. That brings you back to a conventional vehicle.

The long answer involves some math. In round numbers, let's say it takes 16 kWhrs of energy to replace what is used from the batteries over a 1 hr period (average speed of around 35 mph). It means that a 16 kW+ generator must be used over that 1 hr period to replenish the used energy. At 100% efficiency, it takes 1 horsepower (hp) to create 746 watts (W) of electricity. In reality, the conversion process is not 100% efficient, meaning that it is more like 1 hp can create only 634 W (0.634 kW), a safe estimate at 85% efficiency. Now, we divide 16 kW by 0.634 kW and we get 25.2. That means we need a 25.2 hp gasoline engine to drive the generator to produce 16 kW of electrical power. Over the 1 hr period of operation, that's 16 kWhrs of electrical energy.

The advantage of such a system is that you have a limitless range of travel, like a conventional vehicle, as long as you don't exceed an average speed of 35 mph or run into other circumstances that would increase the battery drain beyond what the generator can replace. If you plan on driving at a higher average speed, the kWhr energy usage will be higher and a larger generator and engine will be needed.

The disadvantages include the extra weight, system complexity, noise, increased maintenance and being once again tied to gas pumps and prices.

  1. Can I add a generator, or several generators, to my EV to keep the batteries charged?

This is a very common question, but it requires a detailed answer

Adding Generators to Your EV

This is a very frequent topic. Many people believe they can add generators to their electric vehicle and run around town for free, never exhausting their batteries.

Note: I am not talking about a gasoline-powered generator here. I am talking about mechanically connecting the generator to the vehicle in such a way that it generates electricity as the vehicle is in motion. The energy to crank the generator comes form the vehicle itself - from the electric motor and batteries or from the inertial mass of the vehicle as it is in motion.

Richard wrote to ask if he could add three 90-V generators that produced between 250 and 500 Amps each.

Here is my answer:

Richard,

You are not alone in thinking that you can add generators to replace electricity in the batteries while you drive. In fact, there is a very small car company making claims that they have such a vehicle and will make it available soon. These are scam artists.

Let's look at the issue scientifically. Assuming 100% efficiency in motors and generators, the conversion of power is 1 horsepower to 746 Watts of electricity. In your email, you mentioned that you have some permanent-magnet alternators (PMAs) that produce 250 to 500 Amps at 90 Volts. Let's use the 300 Amps you are hoping to get to calculate the actual wattage and required mechanical horsepower needed to produce it. Again, for the time being, we will assume 100% conversion efficiency.

Power = # Watts = # Amps X # Volts, So, in this case we have 300 Amps X 90 Volts = 27,000 Watts.

Now, to generate 27,000 Watts of electrical power, you will need at least 36.2 horsepower (27,000/746 = 36.2 hp). Two of these PMAs will require 72.4 hp and three will require 108.6 hp. This simply demonstrates that it takes real mechanical power to produce electrical power and vise versa.

Let's dig in now and see how much power the vehicle's electric motor is consuming from the batteries as you drive down the road. Assume the electric motor is using 90 Volts worth of batteries (15 batteries X 6 V each). Your average running current, without generators being attached, is around 150 Amps. So, the electrical power averages around 150 Amps X 90 Volts = 13,500 Watts. That is equivalent to 18.1 horsepower, assuming 100% efficiency. This is just the power that is needed to move the vehicle down the road.

With each generator you add, the power to drive them is going to come from the electric motor and the batteries. Now think carefully here, let's say that you add one generator to produce 150 Amps of current to replace what the motor is using. Sounds good so far, but wait - to produce the 150 Amps of charge current, the generator will require 90 Volts X 150 Amps = 13,500 Watts and 13,500/746 = 18.1 horsepower. So, the generator is requiring 18.1 horsepower from the electric motor and the batteries. Now, the electric motor must produce 18.1 horsepower to keep the vehicle moving plus 18.1 horsepower to drive the generator - that's a total of 36.2 hp that must come from the batteries.

Can we simply 'ask' the generator, or generators, to produce more current? Well, I think by now you are getting the idea - if the generator is asked to produce more current, it will take more horsepower, which comes from the motor and from the batteries.

What you are seeing here is that the generator can never make up for the power it takes to move the electric vehicle down the road.

What is more, neither the electric motor nor the generator are 100% efficient, which means you need much more than 1 horsepower to produce 746 Watts of electrical power and vise versa. In most cases, it's more like 1.2 horsepower to produce 746 Watts (as applies to the generators), where 1 horsepower produces only 634 Watts of electricity, assuming 85% efficiency. Looking at it from the Watts point of view (as applies to the electric motor), it would actually take about 878 Watts of electricity to produce 1 horsepower from the motor. This all means that you experience compounded losses that cannot be made up in the batteries-motor-generator circle of life.

Regenerative Braking

After having mathematically explained the above, in some cases it is still useful to have some kind of generating capability. Those are cases in which you wish to replace 'some' electrical power as the vehicle is slowing down to eventually stop or going down a long hill. This is called regenerative braking. Braking action is the result of the mechanical horsepower that the generator is demanding from the moving mass of the vehicle - it slows the vehicle down (assuming a flat surface) as energy is being removed from the moving mass.

Most hybrid vehicles today use regenerative braking to replace 'some' of the battery energy. This is a computer-controlled operation to ensure the smoothest and most efficient recapture of energy. Regenerative braking helps extend your range a little, not a lot. In your case, it may be useful to mechanically connect (toothed belt or chain) one of your PMAs to the back auxiliary shaft on the electric motor, assuming your electric motor has one. The electric motor I use does have one - the Advanced DC 9.1" motor #4001A.

You will need to add a high current diode and contactor between the generator and the battery bank. The diode should be a 150 V, 400 Amp Schottky diode available from DigiKey Corporation. The heavy-duty contactor is the same as used to connect the battery bank to the controller when you step on the gas peddle. Now you have two heavy-duty contactors, one for the controller and motor and the other for the generator. These two contactors must work opposite each other. When you press on the gas peddle, the motor contactor slams in and the generator contactor releases. This ensures that the generator does not generate electricity, and act as a powerful load, while you are trying to accelerate and cruise. When you take your foot off of the gas peddle to slow down, the motor contactor opens up and the generator contactor closes so the generator can pass current through the diode to the battery bank. The diode is needed to make sure that current will not flow from the batteries back through the generator - yikes. As long as the generator voltage is greater than the battery bank voltage, current will pass from the generator through the diode to the batteries. By the way, for this to work, you must leave the transmission in gear. In neutral, the electric motor and attached generator will simply stop as the vehicle continues to coast with no regenerative braking.

But wait! Why not use the motor as a generator to provide regenerative braking? Well, you can, but sometimes it is difficult. It is a complicated operation to get a series-wound electric motor to do that. It can be done, but it is very cumbersome. I decided it is not worth it. On the other hand, permanent magnet motors or parallel-wound motors make good generators. Unfortunately, there are not many available that have the starting torque to make good road-worthy full-size electric vehicles. In hybrid vehicles, the electric motor is specifically designed to also work efficiently as a generator to provide regenerative braking.

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#28
In reply to #26

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/24/2008 11:43 PM

The above is not my work but a file I had documented without a source. I apologize. However I thought that it had much interesting material pertinent to our discussion.

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#30
In reply to #26

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/25/2008 2:49 PM

That's not just a good comment. It's a great one. Thanks for getting back on topic.

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#31

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

09/25/2008 9:18 PM

http://www.evsociety.ca/links.php#motors

This website has an incredible array of links that those interested in electric vehicles would love.

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#32

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

10/08/2008 3:12 AM

of coarse theres solar panels to re-charge batteries at least a little bit, we shouldnt abandon that route. some days you can go 65 miles instead of 60 if its sunny. not a big boost, but the first gasoline engines werent extremely efficient either. what about using wind power on electric cars? in place of the radiator could you put a small turbine and funnel the air out the sides or back?

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#33

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

10/10/2008 10:23 PM

Electric cars have several drawbacks, batteries are heavy and expensive, they have limited range [many can go only 25 mi. from home] on a charge, it takes awhile to recharge, batteries wear out, the cars are usually small and EVs are expensive to buy. A family needs a car that will hold everyone in the family and some cargo, that can go over 300 miles before needing fuel, can be refueled quickly and would not need parts replaced for a long time.

Automakers seem unable to get away from the use of IC engines as direct power, through complex transmissions, to the wheels. For that matter they are wedded to IC engines. The EV people seem to think that everyone should have an EV as a commuter car. However there are people with 3-4 children [or more] who are required to have special seating and still need space for cargo, or even someone like myself who needs to carry 3 passengers and enough food to feed a number of homeless people, carry a lawnmower, building materials, everything for a week of vacation and a dog, all at different times. So you get a family where the wife stays home to run the house or home business, the children ride the bus to school, those too young stay home with mother and Dad drives the big IC car to work. The EV crowd wants them to have only a small EV commuter car and rent a large car if they need one. Not convenient or practical. Having a large IC car is bad to the EV fanatics and they would want those who have a large IC car to also buy an EV as a commuter car, thereby at least doubling their cost of transportation.

It would be far more practical to build a plug-in EV which has an onboard generator powered by a fueled engine. This would allow the car to have the range of a fueled car, yet operate about 80% of the time on electricity which saves fuel. Because the range as an EV would be short, the cost could be kept lower by not using so many expensive batteries. Using a very clean and efficient engine, such as a steam engine to run the generator would save even more fuel. An IC engine is about 12+% efficient while a steam engine can be up to 25% efficient. Forced draft External Combusion is much cleaner than IC. A computer would start the steam engine as needed to generate power to keep the batteries charged and could handle all the controls. An EC engine for a car can be built to use any liquid or gaseous fuel of choice.

A steam engine can be made light enough to power an airplane and fit into about 1.5 cubic feet and a Lamont water tube boiler [they do not explode] would be less than 18 in. in dia. and 16 in. high. There are several designs of steam engines possible, the double-acting compound uniflow, the Cyclone Engine, the Green Steam Engine, the Lysholm expander and the Tesla Turbine. EC produces less pollution than IC too. Steam engines also have fewer moving parts and are less liable to break down.

A lot of info from - beesidemeusa@yahoo.co.uk - e-mail and ask about steam-electric hybrids.

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#34
In reply to #33

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

10/11/2008 1:12 AM

Good Answer. I am in the process of developing an improvement on Tesla's design. It's efficiency will be in the ninety percent range, burn any fuel and is capable of retro-fit to nearly any vehicle in use to day.

I hope you do not mind: it is an internal combustion engine.

Regards Dragon

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#35
In reply to #34

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

10/11/2008 1:19 AM

OK, but it would be really nice if you tested it using steam.

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#36
In reply to #35

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

10/11/2008 1:43 AM

Oh, very well. If it will make you happy and stop whining.

Actually, we had planned to use steam to test a scaled up version for Geothermal Heat Capture.

I was, as you say, "just pulling your leg", about the the whining part.

Regards Dragon

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#39

Re: The Electric Car in America (Part 2)

10/27/2008 11:28 PM

Has anyone heard of the electric single wheel motor where you can convert an existing front wheel drive smaller vechicle over to a hybrid by replacing the rear hubs with these motors, and operating them in sync?

My friend says they will soon bring these in to the USA from China where they are made.

My only thought on this is, unless the car is very, very small, it seems that the entire rear area would be completely taken up with batteries??

It seems like there must be a calculation somewhere as to weight of a car in relation to the amount of batteries required to move it at minumum road speeds?

Any thoughts out there?

Donald

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