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This site is now archived.

Please note that I am no longer adding new content to this website. It is now a static archive with content frozen on Thursday April 9, 2012.

Having converted my car to all-electric, this information is still provided for those looking to convert their vehicles cheaply and effectively.

Electric Starion on the road

Electric Mitsubishi Starion on the Road

Soliton Water Cooling Update – and the MKARS80

HNY to all and sundried, I hope this year is better than last, not that I really celebrate the passing of a construct let alone an integer (but any lame excuse will do for a party). For my electric vehicle (leaving MKARS80 aside for the moment), all is going well, very little maintenance, until my Thermaltake water pump failed (supposedly guaranteed for 80,000 hours – my ass). This is used to cool the IGBTs in the Soliton 1 motor controller. Thankfully this situation was an opportunity for improvement; I purchased a cheaper (and better pump) off eBay and Rod found his unused oil breather tank and this is now the reservoir replacement for the bodgy plastic bottle that was there before.

Now that my system is pressurized; there is not much force in the entire system and under test everything flowed well and connectors did not leak. This set up is definitely better than the old one. There is even a level indicator. I highly recommend this type of reservoir if you plan to install water cooling for your electric vehicle motor controller.

New water cooling reservoir tank

New water cooling reservoir no longer a dog


Fully digressing here, a radio project, so feel free not to read further if you are only interested in electric cars…

On to other matters both geeky and retro, I took some spare time to finally build a MKARS80 lower sideband qrp transceiver for the 80 meter band (this is a project from the Milton Keynes Amateur Radio Society). This has been a real fun project, assembling the components on the pcb was relatively simple even though one capacitor was missing which caused a quick drive to the local Jaycar in the pouring rain (I have virtually every other value ceramic in my junk box except the one I wanted – isn’t that always the way??). And despite what some friends said, I don’t see any problem winding my own toroids. The radio employs a PIC and uses ‘huff n puff’ stability which takes a little time to settle after warm up. This is a proper LSB radio, not a dsb (double sideband) that some other qrp projects have. Having no smd components meant construction was kind to my eyes.

The basic radio is pretty low budget and doesn’t have an AGC so I may add one later (there are a few mods sites with agc details, and substituting the polyvaricon, different mounting configurations etc). I added a couple of my own mods including an internal speaker, an s-meter circuit I made up on separate vero and an internal battery pack. Rod and I sat down and designed a new case for it in SolidWorks and I had this bent up and powdercoated for a reasonable cost. Everything fit nicely though if I redesign the front decal it will look considerably different.

Mounted mkars80 pcb inside new custom-made case

Mounted mkars80 pcb inside new custom-made case

mkars80 with added s-meter board (for analog s-meter) and internal eneloop batteries

mkars80 with added s-meter board (for analog s-meter) and internal eneloop batteries

Finished mkars80 LSB Transceiver with matching Starion red color :)

Finished mkars80 LSB Transceiver with matching Starion red color 🙂

Initial contacts gave good signal reports even on 3 watts, beating some others on a hundred watts (which only goes to prove that a good antenna is almost everything), and this particular radio design always results in good audio reports. This will be a great qrp (low power) radio for the field. A friend wants me to make one for him, hah, maybe if time permits (and I don’t start building the mkars pic-a-star), though this project was a lot quicker to do than the electric vehicle!

Stay well,


Let’s Hope The Nissan Leaf Never Falls

My boss decided to send me up to our San Francisco head office to work for a while and I am glad of the opportunity, since a few of the other engineers working here own Nissan Leafs. Having heard about my own electric car conversion, they were eager to show me their Leafs, three of them parked side-by-side on the parking lot above our office, all three in the beautiful ‘sky blue’ color (someone joked that’s the only color they come in. Surely not!).

image of under the hood of a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle

Under the hood of the Nissan Leaf

Having only been driven about in a Mitsubishi MiEV in Australia, I was keen to compare it with the Leaf and my first instant impression was that this car looks like any mid-sized family car, not some purposeful differentiation in aesthetics just to outwardly state that it is different, i.e., electric, ‘so that’s why it looks quirky’.

Continue reading

Revenge of the Electric Car

Casual presentation at a local R&D company

Casual presentation at a local R&D company

In 2009 I created a PowerPoint presentation titled, “Revenge of the Electric Car,” where I discussed the technology involved, the politics, the cowboys, promising enterprises that merely leech the money from the fatter end of town to no end, and a bit of history; but mostly it was tech stuff to prove how easily and safely a conversion can be done to any car, or applied to a new design, with my conversion as an example. I have presented this at several businesses, R&D companies, certain community organizations and clubs, with many taking an interest in how they can convert their own cars.

While it’s an old image above, I still do the occasional presentation today. Appropriately, here’s a trailer with the same title, 🙂 enjoy…


Oh, and spot the Zilla. And yes, the image on the first slide is from Repo Man.

Will Social Energy Drive Change?

<tech digression to rant>

Having experienced first-hand working with scumbag bosses, I can understand some of the objections people have to the excessive accumulation of wealth by a small handful of self-serving power-players with big egos and big lies to get them to where they are now; and that includes some of the mongrel electric car cowboys I have come across who have scammed millions from governments and wasted resources with little fruition for the betterment of society.

Yes another ramble, but interesting times nonetheless, paralleled by the Death of Jobs, mirroring the drive of human endeavor blemished by the darker side of opportunism at the expense of human liberty and quality of life.

Some sobering links; news spread by the people, not the compromised media.




The result of all this? Who knows; people have a tendency to hush into quietness, but history shows that social movements can bring about change not only to the tactile things around us (what we do, buy and drive) but to the hearts of fellow humans who may learn one day that ‘greed is not always good’.

</tech digression to rant>


Movin’ On

Been off the air for a while, not only with other work but dealing with the death of another loved one. Blech, life, well it leads to death, at least I’ve got an electric car to boast about even if in these rapidly-changing times my car is rapidly becoming somewhat of a Model-T, but heck, I love driving it and being electric it’s been the most reliable car I have ever owned (putting aside some dodgy components from a certain supplier in Melbourne).

However, since things change fast yet probably more slowly for me these days, better, new, newsy stuff that’s real news; that’s news-worthy stuff, can be found elsewhere (excuse the alliteration).

As other things have my attention these days, not just working hard in another R&D firm (a nice bunch of people; we put the oomph into your cell phone), but other issues, please feel free to drop by this site on occasion just in case I do have something useful to say.

However, if you want more recent news on electric car happenings, you could always visit the AEVA site or go to this link, Green Car Reports which has more tantalizing stuff that’s up-to-date. Sure I may post something quirky like some new developing battery technology or some lateral tech I see that can have an application for four-wheeled momentum that others may not see (yet); so I’ll leave it at that.

I must say that while a lot of new electric vehicles are coming out, in many countries you can only lease them, few can be purchased outright (and I hope this changes soon once standards and other issues are resolved) and also, they’re still goddamn expensive. For this reason (and the fact that tinkering is good) I still encourage you to convert your own beast. You get what you want, not what someone else dictates, and it’s yours.

Again, if you want to convert your vehicle, here’s the best advice one can find out there for the home builder, http://tinyurl.com/4qdcwja. And as I have said many times during the building of my car, it’s not as complicated as the auto makers want you to think.

If you want a decent conversion guide, that link is the one to visit. Others have failed in delivery of some content or other, or blatantly plagiarized other people’s research into EVs (including some well-known commercial establishments we won’t name here) or are just plain selling you sophistry and BS.

Have fun, always tinker and build a better world,

Carbon Nanotube No-Loss Energy Storage?

heat lamp with cork, representing heat storage

Putting a cork in energy storage for vintage heat.

That’s what the guys at MIT claim, a blend of carbon nanotubes, latticed with something better than ruthenium (an expensive component with similar results), that being azobenzene – it’s all about storing energy in a chemical bond for later heat applications, rather than converting the energy to heat and insulating it to retain for later.

News here, and rub your hands warm with the paper.

Newshounds are hailing it as the new cheap heat that doesn’t degrade after countless hours recycled in the same apparatus. Not sure I recall all my physics training but you know what I’m getting at. Entropy, external conditions, abuse, you name it. Still, looking at the nearest-neighbor high frequency interaction of juxtipose molecules in this arrangement, one can easily get excited with this stuff.

Oh, don’t pay for the academic material through the web link above, download here for free!


Yet Another Flow Battery, Flo

An easy flow battery for the energy dense

Yes the game of thrones in the battery kingdom continues with a new beast, this time a kind of flow battery that has a much greater energy density. With all the new batteries looming on the never-ending horizon, will this be yet another glimpse of high-energy hope that will fade into the hydrogen or diesel mire that most folks would rather talk about?

In the energy-dense flow battery developed by MIT, discharge is handled separately from storage, i.e., separately compartmentalized porous membranes meaning a more efficient delivery of power/cycle life and extended shelf life. Having a semi-consistency, it could be juice for batteries, in that a battery pack is filled at a nano-fuel station and the battery cases themselves merely containers such as we have for gas tanks.

Given the black tar-like substance turning the noses of several competitors who claim it is merely scat energy for go carts, one could be fooled into thinking this is another (digested) pie in the sky.

Reminding me of what I ate last night and paid for this morning, the battery is in a permanent state of semi-solidity, the carrier liquid making me too sick just to think of it since solids are passed at a straining high C to get one going. And with a percolating network of nano-scale conductor particles this technology really has me running.

More efficient than current thin-film LiCoO2 batteries, a higher-graded charged suspension ‘fluid’ will not damage the alkyl carbonate electrolytes, while the battery structure, or container itself can be customized to suit energy demand behavior, cold or hot climates and so on.

Check it out here and decide for yourself.

Meanwhile Better Place still get a pasting…

A friend who just emailed me wrote, “MIT have solved the problem of long recharge times for electric vehicles by swapping the electrolyte rather than recharging or replacing the whole battery. Go Juice is to be made obsolete by Go Poop (so what’s new?). Better Place is to be renamed Better Paste, (rather than my omega3-powered Batter Plaice). Service stations are to become mud marts and 4×4’s will be able to mud-wrestle”.

Battery Management Tripped? Check Your Connections!

For my electric vehicle I currently use a battery management system where each module uses an Atmel Tiny13 chip to manage the charge and shunt (the chip looks like a triple5 and has a simple C program for managing the voltages).

If you have a similar system, you may experience charging issues, i.e., plugging your electric vehicle into the wall socket and switching on does not engage the charger.

This simply means the daisy chain arrangement is broken. The chips work fine, however the master system supplied by BEV (Blade Electric Vehicles) does not have a reset feature (unlike some later systems provided by other suppliers). Consequently, when a module drops from the gestalt for whatever reason (perhaps from oxide buildup on battery terminals), the unit needs to be reset. Since the master control box is sealed and difficult to get access to, this involves physically removing the offending battery board, disconnecting the fly-leads and re-attaching. Of course a connection may be so bad that physical removal is the only way to fix the problem as a reset will not have any effect.

In my case, it’s not a big deal since I soldered the charge LEDs ‘the wrong way around’ (but I love the serendipitous Christmas tree effect from my lithium battery pack). For my pack, when charging completes for each battery the pilot LED shunts off and comes back on when the battery voltage settles.

From the following video, you can see that it’s easy to pick out the tripped module…

Those I know who have the same BMS have wired LEDs to switch on only when charged and this would be the expected way to do it. Luckily for me however, it’s easy to locate the offending BMS board straight away by its lack of illumination.

Just another story for anyone experiencing a similar situation, to ensure all connections be tight and dry. I may upgrade the system when funds permit; EVWorks have some neat compact battery management designs for Thundersky batteries that are sealed and use compact SMD (surface mount) components. Their master controllers also have reset switches. Despite this, if a connection is not making it:

  • Ensure battery terminals are clear of oxide buildup. If you remove a board, or battery for that matter, clean the terminals (CRC spray) and/or use a fine wire brush.
  • Ensure BMS boards are tightened to within manufacturer’s tolerance, not too tight, not too loose. Your battery supplier will recommend the correct number of turns, or even Newtons if they want to get picky. While many DIY EV builders won’t have a high quality torque wrench, it is not super critical to ‘count Newtons’, though I know a couple of people who do 🙂 *.
  • Always use spring washers so nothing comes loose.
  • NEVER let lithium ion battery voltages drop below 33% safe level.

Putting the minor issue of BMS tripping aside, my car still proves to be way more reliable and economical than the gas guzzling equivalent sitting next to it in my garage.

More about EVWorks BMS system

*For those not familiar with newtons, it’s a SI measurement of net ‘force’, the amount needed to accelerate a mass of one kilogram at a rate of one meter per second: F=ma, multiplying m (kg) by a (m/s2), the dimension for 1 newton unit is therefore: 1N=1(kg*m)/(s^2). Fun, eh?

Driving around Deutschland in an Electric Vehicle

This electric vehicle uses lithium polymer batteries; don’t forget that these have a shorter life cycle than lithium ion phosphates (unless the technology has improved).

Mind you lighter polymers and more compact cell footprint means more batteries and volts packed under the hood with greater C delivery. Some local electric vehicle builders have been using polymers for a couple of years now, no complaints yet despite their propensity for thermal runaway. From the DOE link below you can see that charge state levels are more acute in these types of batteries and should be taken into account when comparing life cycle statistics. Consistent smooth cation on an autobahnen would be kind to polymers 🙂