Experimental Electric Vehicles

January 18, 2010

In the City of Steel, Plugs are Replacing Pumps

Last Year’s 2009 Detroit International Auto Show was summed up my most as “disappointing as the city it’s held in”. I was not planning on attending the 2010 Detroit International Auto Show, until late November I heard there will be a new attraction at the 2010 Auto show. This new attraction was labeled the “Electric Avenue”, several automakers would proudly show off their new advanced Fully electric vehicles, and some new highly efficient Hybrids. Along with the larger automakers, small teams competing in the new “X prize” attended to show what they have accomplished on the road to energy independence.

Immediately after walking in the front gate was the ever impressive Tesla Roadster, along side was the super advanced and affordable Model S. They Had a very Impressive display this year with 2 roadsters, one model S, their drive train, battery and speed controller on display. They had several representatives there ready to answer your questions. The famous “Roadster 750” was there, still dirty from the drive across country to show how viable and usable electric vehicles truly are.

Tesla did a great job proving how simple electric drive trains really are, they displayed their one speed, direct drive, 215 Killowatt, 295 ft/lbs torque electric drive train right across from the Mercedes new Bluetec Diesel drive train, the pictures do the justice. This just shows how incredibly simple electric drive trains can be, and how few moving parts there are to wear out, and without running a dirty carbon based fuel which will inevitably coat the inside of the engine in hard to remove, and damaging carbon deposits.

-Thats it, Tesla’s motor and a gear reduction! there is only about a dozen moving parts, and 2 qts of lubricant oil.

-The super complicated Mercedes Bluetec Turbo-Diesel, mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. These 6 cylinder engines have an average of 200+ moving parts. several gallons of coolant, 8.5 qts motor oil and 9 qts of transmission fluid.

The very impressive Audi E-tron has not been getting the attention it deserves, The majority of people in the Audi display were starring at this beautiful E-tron. Not only is it aesthetically appealing, but the performance is not lacking either. Audi being the never disappointing automaker they are, they kept the quattro all wheel drive by utilizing four motors, one at each wheel. With four motors and lots of battery space the E-tron has 313HP and 3,319 ft/lbs of torque (that is not a typo 3,319) I will give you a minute to retract your jaw from the floor.
The quattro system uses four motors and the use of a “Torque vectoring system” which gives the Audi un-dreamed levels of agility and handling, un-matched to those of gasoline powered sports cars. The car may not be in everyone’s price range quite yet, at a stunning $200,000 it may be a while until I own one.

Perhaps not as stunning as the E-tron, the Mini-e has a promising future as an electric vehicle. With its small size, exceptional handling, and all around good looks this EV will has a plentiful market. It is powered by 150 kW (204 hp) electric motor and has a range of 156 miles/charge, this Mini will prove to be a great urban car for city dwellers that value a small parking spot, but usable trunk space. Although no price has been announced yet, there are leases that will be available very soon.

Michelin, an unexpected exhibitor at the Auto show had a very impressive display showing there partnership with electric vehicle manufactures to produce Motor-in-wheel technology and specifically designed electric vehicle tires. The Motor-in-wheel designs were state of the art to help reduce un-sprung weight and improve efficiency in every way. There exterior mounted disc brakes are based of existing technology making servicing simple.
Their electric vehicle tires were specifically designed to help grip even under high torque situations that electric power can easily supply. They are improving the tires rolling resistance to give the EV the efficiency it is supposed to achieve. Michelin is most defiantly on the cutting edge of Electric vehicle technology, and has a promising future.

Some of the “X-prize” electric competition vehicles attended the auto show to show off their feats of engineering, Everything from modified shelby kit cars, 3 wheel inverted trikes, and cars that look like they belonged in a sci-fi movie. They all brought something different to the show, either speed, endurance, or comfort, But they all came dressed to impress. Mostly built by teams to pursue a ten million dollar prize, but to win they must be put through, and pass many rigorous tests.

Now for the odd duck, they refer to it as the Tango, others may call it a porta-potty with wheels, but we can all agree that it got a lot of attention at the show. The Tango’s unusual shape allows it to “lane split” where it is allowed too, like in California. This means you can drive between the stopped or slow moving traffic. I know what you are thinking, this thing looks tipsy, but it uses all its batteries as ballast which is mounted literally between the wheels to give a very low center of gravity. The acceleration is amazingly fast with two dc motors powering the rear wheels it achieves 0-60 in 4 seconds and a top speed of 130mph, if you dare to go that fast in something narrower then most coffins. On top of this the Tango can park just about anywhere, and carry a passenger, well a small passenger. This all sounds stupendous, but with a price tag of $108,000 many people will opt to purchase a Tesla Roadster, or two Model S’s. Its not that I do not like the idea of the Tango, in fact for urban areas I could see this as a viable transportation option. Tango, you dared to do something different, to that alone, nice work!

The ever popular BMW appeared on the scene with an electric version of their hot new M1 labeled the “ActiveE”, its slick looks and exquisite engineering will defiantly prove to be a capable electric vehicle of the future. For now there are few specs available other then its 100 mile range, BMW hopes to improve this greatly before the ActiveE goes to the market.

With GM teetering on the edge of complete collapse, they hope to gain new market shares and new investors with their Chevy Volt. This Series hybrid uses only battery power for a mere 40 mile range before the Gasoline engine kicks on to only act at a generator and start re-charging the battery pack. The Volt has comfortable seating for four and aesthetically looks fairly nice. The disappointing areas of this car is that you must now maintain both a Gasoline engine and a electric drive system, this type of setup requires many complex computer controlled systems, and is similar to blending an automobile and an airplane, it doubles the systems and becomes a over complicated mess that nobody can repair or diagnose.
Unfortunately GM failed to see this, and has produced an expensive to purchase, expensive to operate, and expensive to service vehicle that still requires gasoline. Because of these reasons alone there is nothing on this car will save energy, nor is it “green” it still requires gasoline to operate past 40 miles, and that’s if you are not using the A/C or heat!
This car was inherently a failure from the drawing board, unfortunately GM cannot see what the public wants. GM should admit they screwed up in the past with ending their EV-1. Hopefully GM will eventually pull their heads out of their rear, and build something that is simple and something the public will be impressed with.
It is disappointing to see that GM had the technology to develop a 75 mile per charge EV1 over 17 years ago, and that was with simple lead acid batteries! If GM would have stuck with the EV1 their technology would have advanced to a level that could supply hundreds of miles per charge. But no, for some un-known reason GM felt the need to crush the existing cars, and stop the project in its tracks. This new Chevy Volt is a sorry excuse for what they could have achieved otherwise.

The 2010 Detroit auto show had some new exciting vehicles and prototype’s there, The electric cars were there in force from many manufactures and will hopefully continue to grow in the oncoming years. The days of owning an affordable electric car will be upon us soon, and driving to work may soon cost less then the change in your pocket.

January 10, 2010

Tesla Brings an Electrical Storm to Grand Rapids

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 11:09 am

Electric Vehicles have always had the “Range Anxiety” (how far you can drive on a single charge) worries that have turned off buyers for years, with most drivers only having an average daily drive of 45 miles, even with the roadsters 240 mile range it still seems to deter would be buyers. Tesla made it clear that there should be no Range Anxiety when they decided on December 17th that they would road trip their famous Tesla Roadster from Los Angles California to the Detroit International Auto Show.

They made their road trip into a marketing endeavor by stopping at several cities, and meeting fellow EV groups and fans of the company throughout the United States. As soon as I saw they were stopping in my home town of Grand Rapids Mi I made sure to greet them with a warm west Michigan welcome.

On January 7th they were planning on driving from Chicago to Grand Rapids On I-94, Just off the Coast of Lake Michigan. Unfortunately Michigan’s weather did not want to cooperate with Tesla’s plans. We were getting several inches of wet and slippery lake effect snow. If you have never experienced lake effect snow for yourself it is absolutely treacherous to drive through, and usually the visibility is reduced to a few car lengths in front of you. I even had trouble getting home from work in my all wheel drive car, I was fairly sure the rear wheel drive and super torquey Roadster was not going to make it to to Grand Rapids.

After keeping a close eye on the road trip website I saw an update that stated they would be at the Amyway Grand Hotel in Grand Rapids between 5 and 7pm. I was skeptical but I decided to head down there and see if they would arrive. Sure enough, a little after 6pm they came cruising into the hotel roundabout, caked in snow and covered in road grime the Tesla proved what a serious competitor it truly is.

After greeting Andria and Mike who drove the roadster from Chicago they were more then willing to give me a ride in the Roadster around town to truly show the Roadsters winter capability. The Roadster is equipped with a state of the art traction control system that works directly with the electric drive motor to give the car superior winter grip even in the worst of weather conditions. What also impressed me is the sound the Roadster produced, a light whine similar to a quiet jet engine is all you hear, the power band is un-matched as there is no shifting and constant power to the wheels, I cannot imagine how this car feels in dry conditions.

Soon later Andrew and Michelle Wright stopped by to see the Roadster, they drove from Kalamazoo Mi just to get a change to see the Roadster. We all then went to grab a bite down town to talk more about the Roadster, model S, and other EV topics. We all had a great time and appreciated Mike and Andria taking the time to have dinner with us, It was a great experience.

The Roadster has completed the journey to the Detroit International Auto Show, and will be on display, still dirty from the road trip to help prove to people what a capable vehicle the Tesla Roadster actually is. The Model S, Tesla’s 4 door sedan, will be on display as well. This is an even more capable every day car that has a range of 300 miles! I highly recommend attending the Detroit Auto Show this year, there will be many new Electric vehicle’s on display to help prove to the world that electric vehicles are the most achievable method to reduce our demand of foreign oil.

Hope to see you at the Auto Show!

January 3, 2010

Laying Out the Power Grid

Filed under: 1 — tonyhelms @ 7:43 pm

After a much needed holiday vacation that gave me plenty of time to work on the motorcycle, I can finally post what I have been doing to it.

The speed controller finally arrived in the mail, this is the Alltrax AXE 7245. When considering where to mount the speed controller, especially when high current will be run through it, it is most important that it not be tucked away. The controller is actually constructed of three sides being a heat-sink, therefore it is important that it has ample air flow around the controller at vehicle speed and while at a stop.

While the largest unit being the Alltrax speed controller, it is important to have all of the main electrical components ready to mount so you can organize the entire space accordingly.
The four main components I had to arrange were the speed controller, main fuse, main contactor, and shunt resistor. Keeping the power wiring short was another consideration that went into where they were placed. Keeping the power wiring short will help reduce wiring resistance power losses. Even after making strong quality power wiring and connections there will still be power losses from the wiring alone. To help reduce these minimal losses, simply try to make all the connections as short as possible.

As you can see in the picture above the Master positive from the battery is routed directly to the main fuse holder (black wire on left), this wire is critical that it cannot rub or short ANYWHERE! This wire is completely un-fused, meaning if a short ever occurred on this wire nothing will stop the build up of energy and heat, until a power wire or battery completely melts down, this will usually end up becoming a fire. Proper wire crimping, heat shrinking, wire-looming, and taping is crucial here.

These neat little things are often referred to as “buss bars” or “rigid wires” there essentially the same as a traditional “power wire” but these can supply just as much, if not more current then the equivalent wire size. and they will stay exactly where you install them, therefore they will not rub through, or short to ground.

Buss bars are very easily fabricated, simply get a sharpie marker out and start marking and bending the steel to whatever shape you need, and remember you can use 2 pair of pliers and twist it to make it conform to different shapes. Whenever making these you should use a highly conductive material such as copper or steel, these materials can usually be found at local hardware stores and dont cost too much. Remember to use a wire wheel to clean the contact areas before installation, otherwise it may end up being a poorly conducting surface. When youre all done take the part back off and simply wrap the piece with high quality electrical tape, if you do this in front of a space heater it will help the tape conform to any bends or odd shaped the buss bar has been formed into.

Dont forget to take your master negative battery to a part of the frame, only do this if you are going to be running a negative frame ground source like an automobile.

While you are wiring the power circuits in your EV it is very important to make it look neat and tidy, a messy wire job will end up in a disaster, especially when you have to service or diagnose a problem in the future. Not only that but your fellow EV friends will be very impressed when they see a super professional wire job.

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