Friday, July 31, 2009


How on earth have I missed this concept / website for so long?
"Gridbeamers are the Grid Beam Users Group united to build a better world through logical thinking and reuseable parts."
Basically, the idea here is to build an erector set system for larger projects. Brilliant! I love coming up with projects and playing with them, but tearing them apart for re-use is really a paint. Enter, the GridBeam:

If you think that this is just some square stock with uniform holes drilled in it, then you are absolutely correct. I love it!

Check out this project... It's an EV! It's a small one, but I can see how the GridBeam approach could help build a normal EV. The first thing that comes to mind is battery racks. It's a whole lot less intimidating to build a rack of out these than to weld from scratch for some builders.

I can almost picture it now - build up a car frame and keep tweaking it until I like it. Then, when everything is running the way it should, mold some fiberglass over foam and voila! My new custom EV is all ready to go!

This is pure simplicity - wonderful!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

BatterySpace now carrying ThunderSky batteries

BatterySpace is now carrying the ThunderSky batteries here.

The above is the 3.2V 200Ah battery. ThunderSky makes even bigger batteries (I never noticed until I was digging around the ThunderSky site for links) like this 9000AH battery for submarines:

That's a serious battery.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Plasmaboy EV Racing

If you haven't heard of PlasmaBoy EV Racing, check them out. They built the White Zombie which has been blowing the doors of traditional ICE dragsters.

And here is some video... It's great seeing this little bitty car tear up the competition on the drag strip.

I'm always fascinated by the comments for EV's on YouTube. My favorite topic is "well, the power comes from Coal anyway so why bother"

"very cool, electric has possibilities, can definitely be fast, but incredibly boring on a visceral sense, at least to a spectator... the claim of not polluting is a joke, coal plants are THE number one sources of manmade greenhouse emissions, and the batteries themselves are highly polluting, mostly in disposing of them... but speed rules... if you're into sci-fi, and spaceships with futuristic power, electric seems the next stage... but i just wish it had some SOUND that was appealing, ya know?"
Fortunately, I'm starting to see more correct information being posted:
"When the well to wheel (total energy uses and conversions) emissions of a gasoline and electric car are compared, even if all of the power to run an electric car comes from coal fired power plants, it only produces one fifth of the pollution as a gas car. Considering the entire power grid and not just coal, electric cars produce, on average, only 3% of the pollution that gas cars do. Way to go Zombie!"
The more we can educate the masses, the more likely people will demand EV's. Good work PlasmaBoy! This is a great way to chip away at the "Golf Cart" performance stereotype/

Treasure Trove of EV Information

Recently, I've been scoping out Jack Rickard's videos on his Porsche and Mini Cooper EV conversions. Here are the links:

  • YouTube Channel - There are two series - one on the Porsche which talks about the Porsche as well as Jack's reasons for putting together an EV. There is great information here about battery management as well as charging.
  • Web Page - Not a great looking site but it points to a bunch of resources.
In particular, I like how Jack's shoes matches the color of the mini:

There is some really good in-depth information on dealing with batter balancing and how to charage a large battery pack. Jack is using the Thunder Sky batteries that I've been looking at longingly for some time. This is the same company that provided the batteries for Kearon's Ford Capri conversion.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Power Supply

Here's a little project that I've been meaning to get to since before the big move to the new house - building a benchtop power supply out of spare computer parts. Why build a power supply? Good question - lots of answers:
  • The only motorcycle battery I currently have is in my running Kawasaki Vulcan. I don't really want to spend time disconnecting the battery from that bike just for bench testing (there is no way that I would test stuff while hooked up to my bike).
  • I would rather not have to fool with recharging a battery just for testing
  • I've been itching to solder something and do an electronics project.
  • If I really mess something up, the power supply is smart enough to shut down rather than fry itself. If I cross the leads on a battery, ouch (I've heard that it's like crossing the streams).
  • This power supply also outputs +5v and -12v. I'm sure that will be handy for an electronics project sooner or later.
Behind every great project (and even mediocre ones like this) is usually list of semi-willing contributors:
  • Chris H for providing phone support while in Radio Shlock picking up parts (the power resistor worked like a champ).
  • Tim M for providing the donor power supply.
  • Ulysses and Wendy for the gift certificate that bought the heat shrink tubing.
  • Mr Barrowman for letting me play with breadboards in Technology class during the formative years.
Turning an ATX power supply into a benchtop power supply has been done many times by people who take much better pictures than I would, so here is what I used (there are many available online, but this is what I stumbled on):
  • This was a nice simple post on to build the unit. It even had some notes for making a more simple setup (no switches, LEDs, etc).
  • Instructables via Make - This was an okay set of instructions, except for a few key issues (the plan was more complicated than I wanted - I just wanted to plug it in - no switch necessary). More importantly, the plan called for a fused ground (readers tore the author a new one for that in the comments). That's not a safe / cool way to fuse a circuit, so I didn't do that.
Things I Learned
I always learn something from these projects.
  • I really need a better soldering iron. I still have my old nasty 30W pencil from Radio Shack. Specifically, I need something that I can rank up the heat on for soldering larger gauge wires. Make has had a lot of articles about just this sort of thing lately.
  • I need a better soldering station. I'm using an old sponge for cleaning and a screwdriver rack to hold my iron. It's neither safe or efficient.
  • Heat Shrink tubing is just cool as hell. It really makes a project look nice and neat. I think that it's a bit more robust than electric tape as well.
  • I should have drawn the circuit before I started. It was a dirty simple setup, but drawing it out would have saved some unbundling of "unused" wires. My workbench is a whiteboard, so there's no excuse there.
  • I should have saved the rest of the computer that I pulled the power supply from. It had handy things like LEDs that would have made the project look a little more nifty. Although it should be noted that it's pretty obvious when the power supply is on because the fan is louder than hell.
  • Wearing eye protection while drilling isn't as dumb as it sounds. My drill bit caught and spun the power supply around while the wires whipped around and broke one of my favorite Coke glasses. Darnit.
It looks like the "cool" way to build the unit is to stick the fan on the outside of the power chassis. I didn't really need any extra room on the inside, so I just left it where it was (the wires for the fan were pretty short anyway so this was the lazy option).

Now I can get to work on getting some of the basic electronics kicking on the bike (signals, brake lights, etc).

Friday, July 10, 2009

Two brakes are better than one

This has been a productive week. I just finished getting the front brake all hooked up and working. I was really surprised - everything worked on the first try! I was tempted to skip the teflon tape when I was connecting the brake line, but thought better of it.

All I did was run a bunch of fluid through the system to flush it out and it's good to go! Tonight's run around the cul-de-sac was smooth and uneventful considering I had two working brakes (front and rear). Yay!

I would have had the speedometer cable hooked up, but unfortunately I can't find that cable. I can find every other cable (Tach cable, clutch cable, throttle cables) except that one. I'm hoping that it's just hiding in one of my totes or something like that. If not, I'm hoping it won't be too hard to find a replacement.

I'm getting to the point where I really need to find some actual EV bits - like a motor, controller, batteries, etc. Sweet!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rolling Chassis!

It's back! I was so excited that I took the chassis for a spin around the cul-de-sac. As it turns out, my street is much more downhill then I ever suspected. Fortunately, the back brake (while not fully adjusted) operated enough to prevent another trip to the hospital.

While trying to figure out how to fill the forks with oil, I ran across this little gem from Walmart:

While it looks like something from a slasher flic, it's a "Flavor Injector." It has two stellar properties that I needed:
  • It was accurate enough to measure the amount of oil I need to inject
  • The needle part allowed me to inject the oil down in the fork itself instead of waiting for it to drain in slowly. I customized the syringe by cutting of the end, but otherwise it performed brilliantly.
Next up is finishing up the front brake. After I took the pic, I went ahead and mounted the front caliper and the brake lever. The pads and the master are in great shape, but some of the bits in-between might need some love. The bits are around 35 years old, so it's a wonder any of it works at all.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Rear is in Gear

Well, it's not really in gear per se, but the back tire is on! And you were probably thinking that because it took me eons to get the rear brake apart that it would take me forever to get it back together. Well you were wrong!

The drawback of it taking so long to get the bike back together is that I had to do a lot of referring to the manual to make sure I was getting everything back in the right place. Fortunately, I only had to put the sprocket on twice. Also, I'm not putting the cotter pins or torquing anything down until it's all together and lined up correctly. In particular, it looks like getting the rear brake pedal adjusted is going to take a bit of fiddling. The good news, however, is that it (the brake) seems to work fine even after my taking it apart and cleaning it up.

The next step is to get the front forks back together and get the front wheel back on. Then it will be looking like a proper motorcycle again!

Sunday, July 5, 2009


If you haven't already seen it, there is a sweet open source DC controller project in the works by the name of ReVolt (I dig the name).

The controller is one of the more expensive bits of an EV. It looks like building this yourself would save gobs of money (a good thing).

The project is still getting off the ground, but a few prototypes have been put together and it looks like it's working well. I'm excited because this hits on all the cylinders of my interest in building EV's:
  • It's DIY so I have the pride of building it and I know how to fix it if it goes wrong
  • It's cheap
  • Did I mention it's cheap?
The designer of the unit is trying to get some kits together to make it easier for non electronics pros (e.g. me) put together a unit pretty easily.

Once I get the bike to a rolling chassis, I plan on putting one of these together. The idea is that I'll testbed the controller in the bike and either re-use or make another one for my eventual car conversion.

Head on over to Paul and Sabrina's EV Stuff for more information on the controller and some videos of their conversion in motion.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Victory is mine!

Yay! I finally got the rear drum brake assembly separated from the axle! A while back, I was a bit flummoxed on how to remove it. It wasn't textbook, but a monkey wrench, some cursing and a whole lot of PB blaster eventually delivered victory.

I'm stoked - now I can start putting everything back together and get back to a rolling chassis.

The new shop is up and running

Moving day has come and gone. Finally, I'm all settled in the new space.

The new shop a big improvement over the old one in many ways... For one, I took the time to epoxy the floors before moving everything in. Also, this garage has a cutout that was a perfect fit for my workbench. It's nice being able to have the workbench recessed because it doesn't take up valuable floorspace.

The EV bike isn't in frame for these shots, but it's there! Another bonus for this garage because the workbench has its own little cutout, I was able to set up shelves all along the back of the garage for storage. Finally, all of my spare parts are in one place (instead of the basement, attic, etc).

Now that everything is set up, I don't have an excuse not to get back to work on the bike!