Friday, July 25, 2008

A Little Late to the Party

I have been busy researching the specifics for my EV conversion. About the first thing I learned was that parts are very difficult to get. It seems that since about the first of the year, doing EV conversions has become very popular. Many manufacturers are swamped. So what at first appeared to be a 2 week job has now turned into a multiple month project.

I have ordered my electric motor, which will not arrive until sometime in September. On the plus side, this extra time has allowed me to more thoroughly plan out what I intend to do. This will make for a much better job. I have settled on what I think are the best components and methods for my particular conversion. Turns out that it's really a much more complicated job than just pulling out the ol' V8 and inserting an electric motor in its place.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Suitability of the Duster

The 1971 Plymouth Duster is a somewhat unusual candidate for an electric motor conversion. In fact, other than an '83 Delorian, I have not encountered what I consider to be a cool street car converted to electric power. Most people seem to be converting the lightest, ugliest and cheapest vehicles they can obtain. In fact, I sense that the choice of that type of vehicle is even part of the sub-culture of "conversionists". I have felt an attitude of slight disapproval when discussing this project on a couple of EV forums. It doesn't meet the sub-culture's idea of a practical conversion.

I guess if cheap practically were my only consideration I'd have to go with the usual beat-up silver or white 4 door foreign piece of crap that is popular with the people that have already done conversions. But, I'm just not that kind of guy. I'd almost rather keep buying gasoline - or walk - than to have to drive something like that to go electric.

I believe that the Duster possesses several advantages for conversion. First, it is a solid, road-worthy, working automobile that needs nothing. Stripped of its engine, exhaust, radiator and other no longer relevant parts, it is actually a fairly light roller. Oh yeah, the sub-culture calls them "gliders". My glider is quite large compared to most. That means plenty room for batteries, controllers and chargers, etc. It does not contain a computer or sensitive electronics to contend with as newer vehicles do. It was built without power "anything", which is good. The non power brakes were built to stop much heavier cars than a Duster. Also, the previous owner of my car installed super stock leaf springs in the rear. As far as I can tell, that car could easily support 10 head of cattle in the trunk - and there is room for them! Lastly, an advantage to me is that I have worked on several of these cars. I know every square inch of it. There is no learning curve with the car itself. Yes, there will be challenges and required modifications, but I expect the results will be quite satisfactory.

Why An Electric Duster?

Having now decided upon building an electric car, I researched the current technology to determine what was available and what to expect from the build. This opened the door to a wide range of possibilities. I could certainly build a vehicle from the ground up but I had to closely examine my purpose, desires and needs for building an electric car.

It quickly became evident that converting an existing vehicle was the only viable option for me. By doing this, I could fairly quickly produce a form of transportation that would satisfy a large percentage of my transportation needs, AND it would have the ability to actually pay for itself if I was able to drive it enough.

I find it amazing that after all of the research I had done, I stumbled upon a working solution that was right in front of me. Vehicle conversions were actually already being done successfully by thousands of people around the world. Why was I, a car guy and former electrician, not already familiar with this movement? Complacency I guess. I really should have been on this years ago.

My choice to convert the Duster was a natural one. I grew up when American Muscle cars ruled the road and we cruised around on 25 cent gasoline. My first car was a 340 Duster in 1970 and most of my friends drove Plymouths and Dodges. Ever since those days, I have had a love for 60s and early 70s Mopars. In 2003 I purchased a 1968 Dodge Dart, and thus began a passion for restoring, modifying and customizing my favorite old cars. Over the course of five years, one old Mopar grew into six, and a little garage workspace grew into a 1200 square foot shop with a lift.

I had just (mostly) completed my resto-modification of the '71 Duster and was beginning to regularly drive it around town when I had the "electric car epiphany". Driving the Duster is an incredible experience. It draws attention wherever I go . I guess I like attention! The Duster is a rolling work of American art and inspires gawks and stories from people I would never have interacted with otherwise. Converting this car to electric will be the ultimate modification. It will retain it looks and connection to the past, but will also exhibit something of future technology. I expect that the gawks and stories will turn into open jaws when I pop the hood. Hopefully it will inspire others, and make them want "un-petroleum" power as well. Ohhhh, a new name to consider: The "Non-Petrol Plymouth".

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Why An Electric Car? (Part 2 - Epiphany)

The convenience store across the street from my office recently erected a towering sign to display their gas prices - I guess because they are so proud of them. At one of the workstations I inhabit, I can gaze out the window and behold the wonderful sign.

One dark day recently, crude futures shot up $11 and it was all over the news. That afternoon, the massive numbers on the giant sign began to move. When they stopped, the gas price was 12 cents higher. I immediately attributed this price increase to the news that the futures had risen big that day. It was so obvious. I became furious. You mean to tell me that because the future price of crude oil would be higher, that gave them the right to make an extra profit on the gasoline they already had in the ground? I guess for me, this was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I am sick and tired of being robbed. I am tired of that store, the gasoline distributors, the refineries, the futures traders, the government, foreign countries I care little or nothing about, and who knows who else, stealing my money. We, the people are continually being "prepped" by the media, and then systematically robbed of every last cent that can be squeezed out of us. And for what? Greed and nefarious purposes!

That very moment, I began to research what I could do to begin eliminating this evil petroleum from my life. I studied all available alternatives, present and future. I researched converting my current vehicle to ethanol, natural gas, or propane. I researched bio-diesel fuels. I researched purchasing a hybrid vehicle. I read all about hydrogen fuel cells. I researched growing and distilling my own ethanol. I researched the prospect of producing my own hydrogen. There was no reasonable transportation alternative that even came close to presenting me a financial advantage. Not even close! Yes, I could reduce my use of petroleum, but it would cost dearly. The only financially sensible thing to do was to keep purchasing gasoline at whatever price I was told to.

It was about this time that a coworker told me about the Tesla electric vehicle and the Chevy Volt concept car. Wow, I had no idea that electric vehicles had progressed that far since the demise (crushing) of the GM EV-1 many years ago. Why had this technology so secretly evolved? After watching the video "Who Killed The Electric Car", I came across the book pictured above. Within an hour of opening that book, I knew that I could - that I would - build my own damned electric car.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Why An Electric Car? (Part 1 - State Of Mind)

Like almost everyone else, I am TOTALLY fed up with rising gas prices. I do not like the helpless feeling of being at the mercy of whatever today's price is. I do not like having the feeling of pressure upon my lifestyle that high gas prices imposes. I don't like knowing that it will cost me $2 in gas to drive to Home Depot to get a $1 part that I need for a home project.

What irks me the most is that there is no "real" reason for gas prices to be so high. It is simply because we will pay whatever we have to, and those that "create" the cost of gasoline know it and take full advantage of that fact. We the public are being squeezed for every cent we can spend to feed our addiction to gasoline. And for what? For greed and nefarious purposes - no other reasons. The greed and nefariousness is far and wide. It's not just the oil companies, not just the "Arabs", not just the futures traders, but our elected government as well. There is no incentive whatsoever for prices to come down and lessen the drain of cash from our pockets - for we will pay whatever we have to in order to feed our addiction.

However, I really don't feel any kind of satisfaction to just whine about this problem and remain feeling helpless. I want to DO something to make things better for myself. How can I stop giving away my hard earned money to faceless entities I have come to despise? What can I do as just one person?

Oh, I guess I could try to jump on the out-of-control train and buy oil stocks or trade crude futures. I do have some experience with stocks and futures. My experience is that the "little guy" still looses. Somehow, the brokers make money, the big traders make money, the business that cater to traders make money - I LOSE money. I give all my money to those people. I also have the knack of picking the exact top of the market to buy, and the exact bottom to sell. In fact, the SINGLE best hope for gasoline prices to retreat is for me to become involved in trading them. No, that's out.

I feel that the best way for me to alleviate this problem in the long-term is for me to somehow deal with my dependence on this drug gasoline. I am sick of my money going to people and causes that I despise.

Choosing A Project Name

First things first. Every car project these days gets a catchy name. Well, this is a very unique project so deserves a cool name of its own. Currently (pun) I am torn between two different potential names.

The car will be 156 volts dc so I was thinking of naming it "DC Duster".

But, since I am a meteorologist, and the car will contain 26 batteries to power the electric motor, I thought an appropriate name might be "Super Cells".

I guess I'll just wait a while before deciding on a project name and see which name "sticks".