Chapter 21 - May Madness
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
At the Living Green Expo, I get to talk at length with a Minnesota State Representative. He is amazed that someone could convert a sports car so cheaply. He wanted me to get the car running and drive it to the State Capitol, so he could show the other lawmakers that electric cars were a real option. But, the current session would end by May 19, so I would need a lot of help.
I haul the vette to an out-of-town professional shop to get some full-time help. Tim and I work close to 12 hours a day for 10 days.
The middle battery box had been strapped in place for the Expo, but that was hardly a good permanent solution. Tim
came up with a way to bolt the box to the car frame, using welded aluminum, that was really slick. One less problem.
The car would need a new heater, to keep the driver warm in the Minnesota winter.
I spend 16 hours tearing apart the dash and removing the old heater core. What a pain!
What a mess!
The good news is that the new electric heat elements fit easily into the old heater housing.
Lee rebuilds the poorly made DC to DC converter, making it more rugged and less prone to shorting out.
A speed stall sensor is mounted to the tail end of the Warp 11 motor.
This will hopefully protect the motor from damage if the car stalls out. Next!
We really want power steering, especially on a car with fat tires, like this Corvette.
We kick around a number of ideas.
Finally, we take a 130 volt DC treadmill motor and hook it directly to the power steering pump. Then, we bolt everything down, and give the little motor the full 156 volts from the battery pack.
We have a lot riding on this.
But all we get is a puff of smoke, and a number of 4 letter words, which I failed to write down.
We spend more time thinking about the problem of power steering, while we work on other things.
Other thing number one.
We fear the Warp 11 might overheat at speeds under 30 mph. To deal with this, a blower fan is mounted so cool air is blown directly on to the motor brushes.
Tim makes a metal shroud for the Warp motor. This shroud forces the cool air down the length of the spinning armature and out the forward air holes.
A major job is wiring everything together properly. I’m pretty poor at electrical wiring, so I let Tim and Lee handle that critical task. It’s a difficult job and the instructions are some what unclear.
Earlier, back in the city, we installed a vacuum pump to work the power disc brakes. Nature abhors a vacuum, but power brakes demand it.
We bolted the Corvette vacuum tank back in place and spent a few hours deciding where the pump should go. The pump is very loud and we may have to deal with that.
The 2000 amp computer controller is a bit of a throw-back to the computers of the 1950s. Like some computers of 50 years ago, the Zilla needs to be liquid cooled.
We put in a small 12-volt coolant pump, mounting it as low as possible, so it wouldn’t suck air. I removed the old Corvette coolant tank and gave it a good cleaning before filling it with fresh antifreeze.
Back at the ranch, it was time to program the new computer.
I planned to communicate with the Zilla via an old palm pilot. But, when the two were plugged in together, they refused to talk with one another.
Even when I asked nice.
So Tim and Lee plug in a laptop and get the job done.
We vote on who gets to take the first test drive. Me.
Personally, I think someone with more electric car knowledge should do the test. Oh well.
I climb into the driver’s seat and switch on the 250-amp circuit breaker. Next, I turn on the 12-volt system and heard the sound of the blower motor and vacuum pump springing into action.
I take a deep breath and activate the Zilla controller and hear a distant electric “thunk”. The warning red LED and the go green LED light up. Not ideal! I put my foot to the petal; the car glides out of the shop. Tim jumps into the other seat and we drive away. With the power set at only 7%, our progress down the road was more stately than swift. Maybe 30 miles per hour, max. And with no power steering, the Corvette was not as agile as, say, a 60-ton tank.
Tim and Lee are happy that their hard work had born fruit.
I am happy too. But, not as happy as I would have been, if we had gotten the Volt Vette ready in time for a showing at the State Capitol. We needed to be done by May 19. It was now May 20; close, but no cigar!