[Oeva-list] Conversion hopes realistic

java at xprt.net java at xprt.net
Tue Jul 12 00:57:06 PDT 2005

Hi All

I spend a lot of time lurking I'm certainly not up to the speed most of you are, but I thought I could give some insight to this particular message from my own experience. So please forgive any technical errors I might impale upon you.
For the longest time I wanted to become an EV owner, spent money on books, built an electric bicycle and reworked a 24 volt scooter, my finest project was for my mother when she had terminal cancer and was limited on how well she could get around, I found a trashed mobility scooter and rebuilt and modified it better than new, it was a fairly late model scooter its owner must have passed away and was used as a backup scooter at a retirement home. It got great range and was driveable by anyone. I learned a lot from these projects and most importantly I learned that trying to estimate what the cost was going to be for any project should be best padded by double what you think its going to cost.
During the dot com boom in 2000 my companies stock soared and I found myself with a serious bag o money. I knew the time was right for my electric car, at that time I was fully committed to purchasing a Sparrow, had the cash was hot and ready for a bright red bird, unfortunately Mr. Corbin could not produce enough to meet the demand and to top that off most if not all had enough problems that Corbin motors were spending more time repairing more than they were making new.
This was becoming a big disappointment for me as the dot com had peaked and I needed to do something now or lose what I had, I started calling on a regular basis and finally one day actually got to talk to Mr. Corbin himself. It was a nice conversation and he pointed me to a dealer in Seattle that had one for sale and explained that I would have to get on the list and wait, but not to fear the next generation would be worth the wait. What he was saying in the politest way possible "You'll have to wait" 
Tell that to my stock options, well the Sparrow was out and options were sinking, I sold what I could paid the penalties and put the money in savings, good thing because everything went down the tubes really quickly and many of my coworkers who thought I was foolish to bail out were left with very little.
Moving on I knew there wasn't enough to build from scratch so I started looking for used, and what I found was also disappointing, any Used EV that was worth much was sold in short order and what was left was peoples projects that were well failures, lots of good parts but perhaps poor choices of donor cars or older conversions that weren't really roadable any longer. I was now really disappointed. (Translation if you find a deal buy it because someone else win if you don't)
But not to make you give up before you even start, I can say I came across my car at the annual City of Eugene auto auction, a 1987 Mazda pickup. Took a day off and drove down to look at it, I wasn't able to drive it but was able to talk with the manager who headed up the project, it looked right and all I had to do was make the right bid. So I wrote my secret bid on the form, but noticed another man looking over my shoulder as I was writing my bid. I stuffed my bid in the box and walked to my car, sat down and decided I should up my bid so I walked back and made out another bid form for a few hundred dollars more and satisfied I went home, had to wait for 3 days until they called I had won the bid but the manager I had talked to asked me why I had put in a second bid, turns out my first bid lost by $50 however my second bid just barely beat out a second bidder.
I found a towing company that was very reasonable and had the car towed back to Portland, after a couple of days of checking batteries, connectors and all the things that let out smoke I was on the road.
The battery pack under the bed of the truck were 20 Trojan T120's and they had seen a couple of rough years usage,  my best range was about 20 miles and on average 15 miles was normal, I believe with a new pack I'd get 35 to 40 miles. The conversion was done by the city of Eugene maintenance crew and I will say as nice as any conversion I have ever seen. These guys were artists. Unfortunately the truck was a pool vehicle and anyone could check it out to drive it and everyone had to try. Which meant an operator would drive out past its midpoint and then die on the way back, I was told this vehicle would be towed back to the shop weekly . It was not a car your wife or my wife or a lot of people could drive. I kept the car for a couple of years and drove on a regular basis until one day at a stop light I went to go on the green and heard a pop and the car just stopped, I called AAA and they came out and towed me home, it was then I had to open up the GE controller and troubleshoot the thing, I finally found someone at GE that emailed me the manual for the controller but when I went back to get a replacement IGBT Fet I was told there were none available, then I contacted International Rectifier and because the part had a GE house number they could not sell a replacement to me. 
I decided my experiment was complete and I learned what I needed to know about owning an electric vehicle, I sold the EV on eBay to a very nice gentleman in southern Oregon.  I currently drive an 1982 VW Jetta that I converted to run on Waste Vegetable oil. no I haven't given up on owning an electric car, for me and my current driving style an electric car isn't suitable with current battery technology and a Hybrid somehow doesn't satisfy my desire to free myself from petroleum.
That's my experience I'm sure it was more than anyone wanted to read, but feel free and hit the delete button.

Thanks Steve Boser

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Jason Gingerich 
  To: oeva-list at oeva.org 
  Sent: Monday, July 11, 2005 4:03 PM
  Subject: [Oeva-list] Conversion hopes realistic

  I'm interested in doing an EV passenger car conversion. I've done quite a bit of research online and have read "Convert it", but am having a little trouble putting the answers together. I live near Canby. Here is a description of the car and what I'd like to be able to do. Is this realistic with current technology? What kind of money would I expect to need to invest out for this? What battery technology would be best. If if my target vehicle is not realistic (or affordable), which factors would need to change to make it realistic and by how much?
    a.. Compact sedan, seats 4 (Metro, Mazda 323/Protoge,  or something similar)
    b.. Sealed batteries (I'm worried about gassing during charging and that I'll forget to top them off) 
    c.. Safe and simple enough to operate that my non-technical wife can drive it without extensive training about pulling circuit breakers, using fire extinguishers and monitoring several gauges, and that if she drives within range, she doesn't have to worry about being stranded. She'd be willing to learn about being light on the gas or pulse/coast driving, that sort of thing, but I don't want her to be scared of the car. 
    d.. Regenerative braking (OK, this isn't absolutely necesssary but would be nice) 
    e.. Heater that will keep my windows from fogging/icing 
    f.. Air conditioning would be nice, but not a necessity
  Performance characteristics: (These would be a "minimum," so imagine driving at night when the temperature is a (rare) 20 degrees day in January here in the valley, and not just when the batteries are brand new. But the batteries are fully-charged on a home 240V circuit.)
    a.. Can reliably do a 70 mile round-trip from here (outside of Canby) to most of Portland and back without recharging. There are some mild hills on the route, but I don't have to climb over the West Hills. 
    b.. Can accelerate and brake fast enough to be safe on the I-5 portion of the trip (about 18 miles each way)
  Once I'd select batteries, I'd want to estimate charging costs and battery cost/life, but I don't think I'm ready for that yet. Finally, I'm technically-minded, and once changed a clutch in a Maxima, but not extremely mechanical, so I'll probably need a kit, and possibly some advice/consulting. I do have some more mechanically inclined friends who are likely to help with things. Are there commercially available kits group members are familiar with that I should consider? Local businesses that I should visit?

  Thanks in advance,


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