Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bon Voyage: Engine Going to Wyoming

I was finally able to get that engine out of my overburdened garage. My friend Charlie's self-proclaimed "redneck" brother-in-law was in town visiting from Wyoming and has been coveting the old engine since he heard about my project (I am kicking myself for not getting his picture). He plans to use it in a dune buggy and intends to keep it as a fuel injection dune buggy. I wish him well! He has promised to send a pic when he has it going. I picked his redneck brain, which seems to have that genetic understanding of all things car, for some tips on my upcoming attempt to change the suspension and a few other things. He, Charlie and I were able to lift the engine and put it in the pickup truck cab without too much trouble.
I was also able to do some of the wiring I had on hold, as Electro Automotive has come out of hibernation and sent me a part that I was shorted. I'll try and get that step up this week. There is a bit of a gap where I couldn't understand the instructions, but most of the step, which involved some spaghetti wiring (a type of spaghetti for which this Italian is not fond) is thankfully over. I should be getting to the suspension next weekend, while I wait for the new engine mount.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ground Control: We Have Contact

Electro Automotive has finally gotten back to me. They say that they were thrown a curve by the Warp9 rear shaft engine (the original Warp9 didn't have it and was supposed to have the same mounting holes as the ADC they used in the past). They are now working on modifying the engine mount to fit the rear shaft Warp9 and it will probably be a few weeks (I'm guessing that's optimistic). I think I will go a little out of order on the manual and start working on the suspension. The car needs a heavy duty suspension upgrade, which is part of the kit. This is because of the extra 1,000+ lbs. of weight added to the car from the lead acid batteries.
Also, someone is coming by for the old combustion engine this weekend, which will free up a little space in my garage.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Earth to Electro Automotive

Another Porsche 914 EV'er, Ted, e-mailed me and I'm thinking I might be able to work around the shaft issue and maybe even make some use of the rear shaft. I would feel a little more confident about it if I could get in touch with Electro Automotive and discuss the problem, but it has been well over a week and they have not responded to my e-mails. This project could be done in a few weeks if it weren't for these delays that require me to contact the ever-elusive Electro Automotive.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


I have been working on some of the mounts for the electric engine, but I've run into a problem. My engine has a shaft on both sides. Here is a picture of the unneeded rear shaft:

I should have noticed that this is different than the picture, but the manual is for the ADC model rather than the Warp 9 that Electro Automotive currently uses in the kit and I figured I would work around it. As I write this, it occurs to me that the rear shaft might be separate from the front shaft and perhaps is removeable. I'd go open it up and take a look except for the ominous warning in the EA instructions not to undo any bolts from the engine or you'll damage the coil. So I've written EA and the Warp 9 people and will wait for a response before going any further. The engine is quite heavy and would be tricky to reship if I have an incompatible engine. As it stands, I can't put the engine mount on because the rear shaft is in the way. One possible advantage of the rear shaft is the addition of a tachometer, but that is certainly outweighed by the possibility that it won't fit under the car with the tranny attached.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Step 10: Clutch and Flywheel Removal

Description: Removing the clutch assembly (Pressure plate and clutch disc) and Flywheel from the combustion engine.

Tools Needed: Socket wrench and 13mm, 17mm sockets, flywheel lock.

Estimated Time: 1 - 2 Hours

Caveats: May require some torque. Careful when removing pressure plate that clutch disc is also secure before you pull it off.

Purpose of these parts: Okay, I needed the flywheel after all. One of its functions is to work with the starter (that's where the serrated edge comes in). That function I don't think I'll need, but the other more important function is as a rotating connection to the engine. The clutch disc (via the pressure plate) is pushed flat against this to engage the transmission to the engine, causing the transmission to spin and the transmission, in turn spins the axles.

This is the clutch assembly sitting in the engine. We can see the outer half, which is the pressure plate. That needs to be removed along with the clutch disc as one piece. The Flywheel is behind that (you can see its serrated edge)and will be removed after we get out the clutch.
The Hayne's Manual says to make a magic marker line from the pressure plate to the outer shell of the flywheel for alignment when you put it back together. You can just make it out in the picture (incidentally, removing the transmission, clutch and flywheel are not in the ElectroAutomotive manual). In the left of the picture you can see one of the bolts, I think there were six, that need to be removed. they tell you to loosen each one a little bit at a time so as not to distort the pressure plate. I don't really see why it would matter, but I did it that way. The bolts were a bit tough, but came off with some elbow grease. Again, when pulling off the pressure plate, be careful to get hold of the clutch disc which is no longer connected by the bolts to the pressure plate.

Here's a look at the pressure plate. I think it looks pretty good. If anyone knows differently, let me know. I think it's a keeper.

And look at this clutch disc. A little airbrushing and it could be a model for the Pelican Parts catalog, I think. It's just beautiful to look at in the afternoon light. Sorry, I'm getting a bit carried away...

Next up is the flywheel, which is held in place by 5 very angry bolts. I could not budge these bolts. To make things worse, anytime I tried turn a bolt, the flywheel would turn, killing my torque. I tried a number of different things to keep the flywheel from moving (screwdriver, plastic vice, my hand, etc.). I figured they must have been put on by a machine. Then I got the idea to use my drill to turn it. I figured there must be a bit that will take a socket and got one at the local hardware store. That didn't work, either. My drill smoked up, but not the slightest turn. I was about to give up, when I remembered that my kit came with a "flywheel lock".

I had seen it sitting around in the box and had no idea what it was until that moment. I was able to fit that on one of the two bolts just below the flywheel (perhaps that is their purpose?).

I then got one of my jack handles and put my socket wrench in it to give me some more serious torque. I finally had a stationary flywheel and some serious torque. The bolts all gave easily at that point.

The flywheel also looks fine to me, so unless someone can say otherwise, I'll stick with the same pressure plate, clutch disc and flywheel.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Step 9: Removing the Transmission from the Engine

Description: When the engine is dropped, the transmission is still attached. The transmission will be removed and later attached to the electric engine (along with the clutch).

Tools Needed: Various wrenches and ratchet wrenches (metric). Also some sort of support will be needed to put the transmission on. I got another furniture cart for 20 dollars at Home Despot.

Estimated Time: 1 hour

Caveats: None

I spent a lot of time worrying about this, and it turned out to be a very simple procedure.

Here is the transmission and engine mounted. The top left black cylinder sticking out of the transmission is the starter motor. It took me awhile to figure that out. It appears to hook up with the flywheel to spin the gas engine to get it going. Presumably, I won't need it for the electric engine, so will give it to whoever takes my old combustion engine. There was also a little plug leading leading down to the side of the transmission (not pictured) that I believe is used for the reverse light indicator. I'm not sure if I'll need that or not.
Removing the starter was a simple matter of unscrewing a couple of nuts and bolts.
Next, the exhaust has to be removed in the back, as it impinges on pulling the transmission from the engine.

First the rear part of the exhaust can be unscrewed (3 nut/bolt combos on each side) and removed. This almost clears the way, but we still have the transmission mount to the exhaust.

This is just two bolts on the tranny and two (already removed) from the exhaust. Once you have that out, you are clear to detach and remove the transmission.

This involves removing two bolts from up top (one was already part of the motor starter mounting) and two nuts from below. the one pictured is a little tricky as there isn't much access, but I finally managed to get it out of there. The transmission can then be detached from the motor. It is heavier in the back, but one person can move it. As mentioned, I moved it onto another furniture cart to make it easier to move around the garage as needed.

Here is the detached transmission. I will also drain the transmission fluid, which I haven't done yet and put in some new stuff (It requires a whopping 17 mm hex wrench, which is available at most auto parts stores).

The clutch casing is still attached to the engine. So far, I think it looks okay, but the next step is to pull it off and take a look at the whole thing. Before I started this project, I didn't really know that a clutch and transmission were two different things, so I am certainly learning!

Lastly, a lot of bloggers put up pictures of their pets, so I'll leave you with a picture of one of my dogs, Whitman. I got him shortly after I met my wife ten years ago. We picked him up at the pound in San Francisco. He was a stray found in Golden Gate Park, presumably a cocker spaniel mix. He definitely cemented our relationship and I sometimes wonder if he was the real reason my wife married me.

Step 8: Installing the Compartment Wiring (Incomplete)

*This step is still in progress until I get a part from EA, but I want to get it up now so it is in the proper order. I'll add the rest when I get the part.

Description: Attaching various electrical relays (Main Contactor, Potbox relay, battery negative terminal block, guage/fan terminal block, and interface terminal block) and spaghetti wiring utilizing some of the old wiring for the car.

Tools Needed: Drill, rivnut tool, rivnuts, screws provided...

Estimated Time: Pending

Caveats: Make sure you have all the parts. The holes for rivnuts need to be drilled bigger than 1/2" as described in the manual.

Purpose of this: This is a somewhat tedious procedure, with smaller parts and a lot of wiring. The basic idea is to have a relay station and electrical cutoff for ease and safety. It is mounted to the left side of the engine compartment. It will hook up a lot of new stuff, like fans and guages and will also make use of the original wiring of the car. In truth, I'm not all that sure what some of this stuff does, but I'll update as I figure it out.

Here is the workspace. The two metal supports in the picture used to hold up the fuel injection "computer". I tried to remove them, but I broke a needle nose plier and screwdriver and gave up, deciding to work around them. If necessary, I'll take them off later, but I'm hoping not. The colored wires are original and will be hooked up to this stuff. The brown wires attached to the screw I believe are the ground wires.

The first step is to install the Negative battery terminal. This is done using rivnuts and just screws in (I suppose this is obvious, but the negative terminal is the black one - I must admit I put the red one on first by mistake). I don't know whether this will hook up to the standard 12 volt battery or will be for the the other batteries or what.

Next the Main Contactor is mounted (although it might have to be removed to add the other stuff). They describe this is a safety cutoff for the electric engine, so what else it does, if anything, I don't know.

This is mounted with two rivnuts as shown here and the included mounting hardware screws into those. The taped wire in the background was getting in the way, so I taped it against the wall. I don't know what it is for, but it goes to the back trunk, so may be to open the trunk.
Anyway, here is the main contactor mounted. It is slightly off of where they mounted it in the manual due to the previous mentioned metal supports getting in the way, but I think it will be alright as is.

Next up is the guage/fan terminal block. Thi will presumably be a relay station for wiring of some of the guages and fans. It is mounted above the main contactor.
This is the mounted terminal block. The missing part is the other terminal block, but I use it twice to set up the mounting on the right for the other terminal block (the interface terminal block). It is probably a 3 dollar part and I hope it gets here soon (EA is in their usual casual delivery mode).

Next is the potbox relay. I'm not sure how this interacts with the potbox, but I believe it allows a cut off of the potbox if the acceleration needs emergency stopping. I'll update if that turns out to be wrong.

That's it for this step until I get the other part and begin the spaghetti wiring.

I'm back....

The second terminal block arrived in the mail and I begin the spaghetti wiring:

The next step is to remove the multi-plug that used to hook up to the relay board. You are then left with these connectors, which then are clipped off and stripped to add standard connectors.

These are crimped on with a crimp tool (you can't use the big crimp for the larger guage wiring). No glue necessary, but it takes a little practice to figure out where to crimp. These are then attached to the interface terminal block as seen here. Only some of the wires are used from the original loom. They include things like the oil pressure light, so I assume they will have new purposes when all this is done.

I should point out that I skipped a few steps right here involving some of the wiring that I am just not able to understand in the EA instructions. I am hoping that they will make more sense when I do the second part of the wiring later.

You then hook a few more wires to the main contact and potbox relay, before moving on to the new loom provided in the kit.

This loom is inserted into a piece of "flexguard, which is kind of an eerie material. I found that the recommended 54 (or 51) inches is too long for the loom, but I leave it attached for now. this first hooks up to the controller, then the potbox, then to the terminal blocks where you've been doing the rest of the work. I am still not sure which terminal on the controller is the key switch input terminal (I'm assuming the front of the three) and the two potbox input terminals, since they are not marked. I also don't know whether it matters whether you have the black or white potbox wire connected to a specific terminal (I guess I'll find out).

Anyway, this is where I'm at with the wiring to date.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Goin' Solar

Well, we put down a deposit for a solar panel system for our house! We probably won't have it installed until later this year, but we wanted to lock in on the current California rebate amount. Solar is not particularly cheap, but it is working its way to cost effectiveness. Here is a view of our house from above:
The panels will be installed on the upper flat roof (the one above the 4 little windows). For aesthetic reasons, I told him I won't put up with more than a 10 degree tilt of the panels, which will lose a little efficiency, but so be it. We also have a Homeowner's Association in the neighborhood and I don't want to piss them off. However, the rep informs me that there is nothing they can do about it if someone puts up solar panels and they would actually be fined if they tried to stop us (that kind of appeals to me, ha ha). The panels would only cover about half the top roof, so there is room for more if we decide to add on later(*Update: They will actually cover most of the top roof, although I can still add more on the other roofs in the future). I should note that the system works with the regular power grid, feeding any extra power generated back to the grid, but your power bill only reflects the amount you use over the total amount you generate. They give you a wireless monitor that tells you how much electricity you are using at a particular time and how much the system is generating. If a cloud passes over head, you will even see a drop in the amount generated.
If you live out in the sticks and want to do a solar system off the grid, you would use battery generators rather than hooking up to the grid and the power created during the day and put into the batteries would be drawn out at night. That is a less efficient way to do it, so most people opt to tie in with the grid if they can.
There are still a lot of decisions to be made as to the size of the system. My wife and I aren't really big electricity users - there is just the two of us, we don't watch television except for the occasional DVD rental and we also have gas for heat and cooking top. Also, we live near the California Coast and we don't really need air conditioning. However, fingers crossed, we will soon have an electric car, which will probably double our electricity usage.
The company we used is called Rec Solar. They put together two separate options based on our estimated energy use. One would cover about two thirds of our electrical use and the other would probably cover all of it (it's difficult to say for sure, since I don't know how much electricity the car will use, but this is a reasonable approximation). Rec Solar, I think, likes to push for the two thirds option. The reason for this has to do with the way the electric company bills you for electricity (at least in California). The unit price for the electricity you use goes up in gradations. The first $40 or so you get a lot of electricity for your money, but then the unit price continues to go up as you use more. So their strategy is to provide enough panels to cover all but the low cost electricity. This would be the most cost effective way to do it. In their lower cost proposal (using the term "lower cost" in relative terms), we would have 16 solar panels, creating 3,000 Watts of DC power, which will be converted to 2,500 AC watts for household use. We would get a rebate from California of about $6,000, giving us an upfront cost of $17,000 dollars. Then we would get another $2,000 tax credit from the feds, making the actual cost of the system around $15,000. That's certainly not cheap, but would probably pay for itself in 10 years or so. If such systems were built into mortgages, people might even save money while using only as much electricity as they generate, but that is an issue for another day...
As I mentioned, the second more expensive proposal would likely cover all of our electricity use, but would not be as cost effective. I have to admit, though, that the idea of generating as much electricity as I use appeals to me. That would involve 22 solar panels with 4,200 DC Watts or 3,500 AC watts and would provide an $8,500 rebate from California with the same $2,000 tax credit from the feds, making it a $20,500 total. I am leaning towards this option if I can make it work. I would very much like to say that my house and car electricity use is entirely met by our solar panel output. Anyway, I don't have to decide for a few months, so I'll keep you posted.
By the way, if you end up making more electricity than you use, the power company does not send you a check at the end of the year (they used to). I have heard some people say that they have a "Power Party" at the end of the year and try to use up the difference. If I generate enough to run my car and house and still have some left over, I would probably get a little hot tub.