Monday, April 21, 2014

Third time's a charm

A couple of months I wrote my last entry to this blog, I got the batteries installed and everything was ready for the body the be reunited with the chassis. Two day´s ago everything was ready, checked and it was time for the first drive of my full electric Reliant Robin! You´ll read the full story below:

Starting where I left of in the last entry, every thing was ready for the body to be placed back on the chassis so that's what we did the next day in the garage. 

It all went very smooth and with all the help I got my three wheeler looked ready to drive that same day. The original wiring stayed in place and was connected back, everything still works fine. The seats where installed, steering wheel put back in and the break lines connected. 

When the Reliant was put back to gather it was time to start with wiring. The high voltage and small gauge wiring needed to be fitted from the back of the car on the chassis and the front on the body. I started with the wiring in the small box in front of the batteries and worked my way to the controller, dashboard and motor. It was quite a big project with room for error, but in the end we managed to get everything connected. 

Here is a photo of the small box without wiring, when it of the car some day I'll make a good photo with all the wiring.
It shows the contactor on the far left which breaks the high voltages current, I can switch it on and off with the key on the dash. The shunt is connected on the bottom with the 400 amp fuse. The BMS is placed above and will be powered by the two 12v 9ah batteries on the right. The fuse box in the middel will work as a easy disconnect for all the wiring and of course for safety. (ps. the photo is upside down)

When the wiring was done we tested the car for the first time but a small glass fuse broke and I did not have a new one so that was it for the day. The week after I towed the car back home where I will finish the car. With a new fuse installed we tried again, I turned the key and we heard a loud bang. The 400amp main fuse.... It turned out I wasn't to concentrated when I installed the high voltage cables. So second try no luck. It was only the fuse that broke, the controller and all other parts where not damaged. 

New fuse, again, and it was the third try to start the car. Every double checked, two weeks further and with some nerves I turned the key again. A click, the contractor, it worked. I switched the red main switch, we got power on the controller! Now it was time to connect the throttle. After some trail and error we got it going and turned everything back on. No weird noises so I put the car in neutral and touched the throttle paddle. A mechanical wine from the gearbox was music to our ears. I put it in gear and this was the result:

It works, third time's a charm! I build my own electric car with awesome help from the people around me, especially Ben :) Such a great feeling and ev grin from ear to ear!
The reverse gear jumped out of gear when I tried to accelerate backwards. 

I drove it around the block a couple of times and it drives perfectly. It accelerate very smoothly and it's fast! The screen from the BMS gives great info on voltage and current. When I floor it everything starts to go red so it has it limited but for now it's working and it's perfect! We measured 75km/h with a GPS and that was not on full throttle so it will be fast enough for me. 

Here are some photo's of the dash, the motor compartment and the batteries in the trunk:

It will need some paint, the charger need to be installed and I will need to buy a DC/DC converter. I charge my aux batteries with a solar panel now, works well but it's not a long term solution until I can place them on the roof.
The certification is the obvious next big problem. There are a couple of solutions which I will study the next couple of months. 

For now it's done, it works and I'm very very happy with the result. More data and driving stories soon.   

Saturday, January 4, 2014


At the start of November I drove to Germany and picked up the batteries at Rimo, the dealer from Elite Power Solutions in Europe. 24 Li-ion GBS cells to make a 72v 100ah pack. The cells came in sets of four that make a 12 volt pack with purple caps for protection. Below a photo of on set of four and a cut-away of one battery. 

Cutaway of one cell

The pack came with a Battery Management System that included 24 chips for each cell, a LCD screen, a shunt for measuring amps and a 'computer'. Photo of the battery pack without and with the chips.

After testing the batteries and checking that everything works we started building the case for the batteries and mounting them in the chassis. Starting with a sheet of plate steel and ending up with a welded box in the chassis. I rust proved the box used old seat belts to make sure that the batteries can't move. The big hole in the last photo is in the trunk of the car for access to the batteries after the body gets put back on the chassis. I'll make a plexiglas lid to seal it off.

I made the smaller box (left bottom photo) for all the electronics needed near the batteries. It needs some wiring and installment of a couple last instruments but is almost done. More on that later.
For now everything is done and the body can be put back on the chassis. That's the job for next week and then its all about wiring. I also have to decide on a charger and a 72v to 12v converter for the auxiliary power.
More soon!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pre battery projects

It's been awhile since I wrote the last entry in this blog. I was planning to write about the having the batteries and trying to install them... But due to some difficulties with the supplier it takes a bit longer then expected. Luckily the problems are solved and the battery pack is coming my way asap. 
So in the meantime I tried to do as much as possible without having all the parts. After the first drive I finished the motor support with a top cover, a copper part to let current flow between the A2 & S2 pole on the motor and a some paint against rust and to make it look good.

On the chassis I placed brackets for attaching the two high voltage cables and the extra wiring loom with tie-raps. It's a guess where to put them not having the cables but it was a nice small project to do. 

In the last post I wrote about testing the Hall Effect for the throttle. During the last couple of weeks I installed the throttle box and connected it with the paddle using as much of the original car parts as possible. I think I have to use an extra spring to get some more feedback from the paddle. But for now it's good and I'll figure out how much tension the paddle needs for a good feel when the car drives. 
After the throttle box I made a mount for the Alltrax controller. I've placed it in the old spot of the radiator. It has original mounting points and it will give cooling for the controller in case that's necessary. For now I used an aluminium beam that was lying around in the garage. I might make a new mount of sheet metal that covers more of the radiator hole and gives more room for the cables with the 8 fuse holder I installed beside it. I'll use the 8 fuse holder obviously for safety but also for easy connection of the cables coming from the rear of the car to the controller, throttle box and dashboard.
When I got the throttle box and controller installed I connected them to test, program and readout the parts in the car with the laptop via USB (yea my 37 year old Robin has a USB port :D )

One of the projects I did the last weeks will be the most visible when the car is finished. I installed some parts of the new dashboard and I'm quite happy about it, I think it looks good!

For now it's all about the center console. The missile style switch, key switch and emergency switch turn on the controller and contractor which turns the car 'ON'. By law I need the three different switches and the key switch can't be removed when the car is 'ON'. Sounds normal but was quit difficult to get right. The white paper will make place for the LCD display of the Battery Management System (BMS) (yea my 37 year old Robin will also have a 4,3 inch display) and the button beside it is used to switch between the different screens. The voltmeter below will show the voltage of the two 12 volt circuits (lights etc. and BMS and other new parts) and will be switched by the toggle switch on the right. The amp meter will show the signal of the Fuel Gauge from Zeva. It can show the amps that the car pulls in RPM. 300 amp will be 3000 RPM in an original gauge. I guess I'll buy a matching set of volt/RPM meter but that's a thing to do later on. 

The last thing I did has nothing to do with the new parts but it makes the old system more reliable. I replaced the glass fuse older with a new one that holds modern car fuses. 

There is nothing to write about the batteries but I hope to have them soon to make some big steps in the project!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

First drive

After a couple of weeks a lot of small things came together and the first part of the build was finished. Today I drove my electric car for the first time! 

Starting at the beginning, after the last blog I finished up the rear axle. Painted the springs and other metallic bits with anti rust paint just like the rest of the chassis to make sure the whole car will withstand an other lifetime of use. All the rubbers and small parts are still good. I'm thinking about changing the rear springs, especially with the battery pack at the rear wheels. But that's about the only thing that needs to be changed. The car is in surprisingly good condition. 

At home I tested the electronics and found a way to get the Hall Effect paddle working. With a 5v regulator 12v turns into a steady 5v for the paddle that then gives a 0v to 5v signal to the controller so that I can control the amount of power just like with a normal gas paddle. I had some trouble with the paddle not going all the way down to 0v but with the micro switch I was able to get the signal down and I think its a workable solution but I'll have to see when its in the car and running on 72v. 

The last blog showed the drawing of the coupling. A couple of weeks later it was done and just perfect. Milled from solid piece of 7075 T6 aluminium with a bronze bearing for the end of the gearbox shaft for easy alignment. At the side of the engine a key-way was made and the original pressure plate is attached with space for the prings of the plate in the coupling. With special thags to Gerrit Hengelaar! (The other one)

When I got the coupling I started to build the motor support. I've made a box between the engine and the gearbox out of steel with a plate under the engine attached to the front support. Ben welded everything together (many thanks for that ;) ) and then we fitted it to the car and went for a drive! Buy using the original supports the whole assembly is detachable from the gearbox and with the whole the engine including the coupling can be removed as well. Some small supports will be added but for now its in and it works. Because this is the point where old and new meet it was a challenge to work out how to get everything in line and attached properly but I'm happy with the fairly easy solution we came up with!

Now I guess the body can be put back on the chassis with three major things to be done. Fitting electrical parts (controller, paddle, etc), battery pack and paint! It's getting somewhere :)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Motor startup

The last couple of Saturdays I've made some progress on the car but it has been spread out so here a summery of the last weeks. First I went with the motor, clutch plate and gearbox to (probably) the only other Gerrit Hengelaar in the world to make a proper drawing of the coupling. I showed my drawing in the last blog entry but this is the real thing:

This Auto-CAD drawing will go into the milling machine to make a perfect fit to the motor and clutch plate/gearbox. Inside there will be a bearing to make sure both axle's are aligned perfectly but still keep the clutch plate free to move on the center line and absorb some of the force when I floor the car ;) This will also make the making of the motor support easier because it will be centered and I can take the coupling and therefore the motor and gearbox as reference point. 

While the coupling is being made I've treated the chassis to make sure it won't corrode. First I've removed all the superficial rust last week and today I sprayed the whole chassis with tactyl so its nice and black again.

Last week at the end of the day we started the motor up for the first time to check if it works, and...

It does! Nice and smooth, no instant shock or anything. So, very happy!
Now I'll wait on the coupling so that I can start making the support and mount the whole assembly into the chassis. From that point I'll go further with the batteries and the new wiring. 

I want to keep the engine block from the car to keep the chassis and block together and as a memory. So I've cleaned it up and maybe it will make a nice (small) table or something, any thoughts? 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Yea first steps

Since the last update there have been some small changes and design of special parts that need to be made. Starting with the design, I made a drawing of the coupling that's needed to attach the new motor to the original gearbox and a drawing of the new motor support. 
The coupling is directly attached to the motor and gearbox, so there is no more clutch. There is no need for it because the motor stops in front of a redlight and I can still shift because there is so little weight to shift with one moving part in the motor. I can still shift through the gears but only using the synchromesh not the clutch. 
The entire clutch assembly is removed including the pedal, flywheel, etc. The only thing of the clutch that is used is the clutch plate. The plate is used for the tread that slides over the gearbox spline. The outside will be removed to save weight especially because it moves with max 5000 RPM (the brown part, see last post for photo). The middle part will be drilled trough so it can be screwed to a aluminium cylinder. This cylinder will be machined to precise specifications. It will have four holes for the screws, room for the gearbox spline and room for the four springs in the plate. This will attach the the new motor. There are different ways of doing this, and I'm not sure yet what's the best way but we'll make it work ;) Drawing below, blue part stays, red goes and white is clutch plate.

The motor support is a bit less high tech. I'm planning on using the original  motor support but I'll need to attach that to the new motor. I can screw the motor at the bottom and at the front. So I'll use a (probably) steel plate that goes underneath the motor. That will attach to the original support and the bottom of the gearbox. An other plate will go in front of the motor to screw it in there. This will end after two other small parts at the top of the gearbox. Maybe some sort of A frame for strength, and thin metal to box it all op. This same metal will be used to cover the bellhousing of the gearbox so it can't get dirty. Same story, drawing below:

I'll try to make the motor support myself, the coupler has to be made.

Beside the thinking and drawing I also did some real work. To be able to clean the chassis and treat it for the next 20 years every thing has to come of. So today I started further disassembly with the shocks, springs, stabilisation bar and breakline. This resulted in the entire back axle to fall of the chassis. Which was the goal ;) Next week the front wheel, and then I'll start grinding the chassis to get to bare metal, ready for tectyl or something.

From EV West I got two new parts! Left you see the throttle (hall effect throttle box 0-5v). It hooks up to the original pedal and gives the controller data about how much power I want to get. It also has an off switch when the my foot is off the pedal to shut the contactor or controller of if necessary. The blue thing on the right can measure the voltage of the whole battery pack and the flow of amps to the controller. The nice part is that it connects to a normal fuel and RPM gauge. So in the car, all original! It works by putting the high voltage cable though the hole and wire it up, that's it;) (No idea how it really works, haha). Its a Zeva fuel gauge plus, so with the rev counter. 300 amps will be shown as 3000 rpm. 

When I got home I tested the controller. Needed a 18v power supply, and the cable I bought. It started up, no problems. Installed the driver and software needed and it recognized the controller right away. With the software I can set the min-max voltage and amps, the kind of throttle(0-5v), Throttle up and down rate(how fast it reacts) and top speed. The fun part is that I can monitor the parameters of the controller how much throttle input, temperature  output current, etc. Also works perfect and the controller was a cool 19 degrees today.

Next time I'll start working more on the chassis, hoping to see some bare metal. And maybe spin the motor for the first time. To see if it works and if it turns the right way ;)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Small update

On Friday I had a couple of hours to work on the Robin. Me and Ben managed to get the engine out after which I removed the engine from the gearbox. I also removed the exhaust and fuel line. So everything that has anything to do with gasoline is gone!

The goal was to make the Robin electric but now that I have easy access I think I'll work a bit on the chassis and replace some parts to make my three wheeler last for at least the next 20 years! 

I'm thinking cleaning the chassis and repainting/tectyling it. Changing the 

shocks, some rubbers, refurbishing the springs and other things I'll find on the way. I'll probably have time for all of that while I'm thinking about the electrical part of the build ;)

The big parts and the overall things to do are clear to me but there are some questions about the details that are not answered yet. Luckily I have great help from the and 
Reliant forums, Jan from 
and the guys from E&R Autobedrijf!

After dealing with the engine and thinking about the chassis and other bits I started to try to get my head around the one off parts that need to be made for the car. Coupling between the electric motor and gearbox(using the clutchplate), cover plate for gearbox with or separate motor mount to the gearbox, motor mount to chassis and battery box  The rest of the components are going on the body in the engine compartment of near the batteries. 

The last couple of weeks I made a lot of visual progress which I'm very happy with, now it will be more details, thinking and slowly building. I'm still exited and looking forward to the next steps!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A bit closer to the beginning

On the second day of stripping the car the goal was to separate the body from the chassis and so finish where I started last week. But first things first! The first parts have arrived. After some discussions on different forum about the EMC, 5v throttle box etc. I bought the kit I wanted form EV Drives and a Hall effect throttle box and fuel gauge from EV West. The kit arrived this week with the motor, controller, contractor and some small stuff! I'm a very happy man today :D ---------------------->

Last week I wrote some stuff that needed to be done before I could start the ´divorce´. I removed all the small parts like break line, grounds, handbrake etc. and I removed three large parts. The radiator and altimeter to make the separation easier and the fuel tank to finally be done with it ;) 

Then we (me and Arjon) used the lift in the garage to lift the body up, blocks on the polyester besides the chassis beams. Worked like a charm although I mist some small stuff of course and it was quite difficult to balance the body on the lift, we had no idea about the weight distribution without the chassis. But we got it done it the chassis is free!

The chassis looks great! No big rust spots, a couple of rubbers are a bit dry. So it will need some attention but not to much. 

Next week I´ll remove the exhaust and the engine. Get the gearbox free so that I can mock up the new electric engine. 

I have to start thanking Ben and Arjon from E&R autobedrijf. Just perfect to be able to work in there garage!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

First day

Today was the first day of the conversion. I started with weighing the car, left was 130 kg and right 123kg. Front tire was more then 150kg but the scale did not go further... But it will get lighter at the front and heavier at the back so that's no problem. 

For now the goal is to separate the body from the chassis for easy access to the motor and later installation of all the new electric parts. I started with the interior, the seats, back bench, steering wheel/column, volt meter, clutch cable, speedometer cable, seat belts, gear leaver, center console and some lose bolts attached to the chassis. 

Then I began in the motor compartment removing the battery and heater. After that I undid the two bolts in the front of the compartment, heater/choke cable, ignition cable, break line, fuel line, and the radiator hoses. (next time gas cable, starter motor cable and radiator, rest of the earth connections) 

From the bottom of the car I removed the fuel tank, fuel pump and some more bolts holding the body and chassis together. (next time 5 bolts of back chassis, handbrake, break line bottom of motor compartment, reverse  light switch)

It was a good first day, nice to take things apart (except the rusty stuff..) and getting a basis from which I can work towards the full electric goal :)
I'm hoping to get the parts this week and separating the body and chassis next weekend. Then I'll see what really needs to be done.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Drive 'home'

Today I tried to drive the car from the storage garage to the garage where I can work. A 100km drive for a old English car that didn't drive for 6 months. First couple of try's no power, no ignition but the engine turned over so there was hope. After 10 min the car started but old clutch problems started. A loud rattle and when I pushed the clutch the engine stalled. So no driving but a friend joined me so we towed the car to it's new home. 
The real work will start next weekend, looking forward to it!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Start of the EV conversion

Since some years I´ve been planning to convert a Reliant Robin 850 to electric power. This is my blog about the conversion that I start tomorrow. In my mind is the Robin a perfect platform because its very light (400 kg incl. ICE) , a very simple set-up without complex Airco, power steering or even a radio and a separate chassis/body for easy access when the body is removed. 
I bought my Reliant 1.5 years ago and drove it quite often and semi rebuilt the engine because it blew up on me... But it's still a very lovable car, I know it pretty good by now and only more reason to make it a EV!

For my conversion I'm going for a DC setup with a clutch less coupling to the electric motor. I want to build it on a budget so I want to keep it as simple as possible. Here a scheme of what I have planed:

As you can see in the scheme the current plan is to use 6 battery's (accus) of each 12v for a total of 72v with one 12v battery for the auxiliary power. This runs trough a Alltrax AXE 7245 controller that breaks up the full power in to as much as the throttle tells it to. This controlled power goes to a D&D ES 15-6 motor which turns it into motion that goes via a coupler and adapter plat to the transmission and eventually the wheels. I'll some safety features, charger, link to 12v cables a fuel gauge and I should have a working EV.

I’m hoping on a top speed of around 80 km/h and a range between 50 and 100 km depending on the battery’s that I install. With 12v deep cycle battery’s as the cheap, easy, heavy and low range option and lifepo4 battery’s as the best option. For now I’m sticking with the cheap and easy option for the first try always leaving the door open for an upgrade.

The motor/controller combination on 72v has a less horsepower than the internal combustion engine (ICE) but more torque. Both horsepower and torque are peaked at low RPM with the electric set-up instead of relative high rpm. So it should be good from 0 km/h.
39 at 5500 rpm
25 at 1600 rpm
Torque ft/ib
46 at 3500 rpm
65 at 1600 rpm

I'm not so good at all the electronic calculations so I'll see what happens when everything is in. It's all theory now.

First things first, the car has to come to the garage before anything can be done. Then I'll check if the plans are feasible and if the first parts are ordered there is no turning back!