Sparky the Electric Samurai

The converting, maintenance, and operation of a Suzuki Samurai conversion to Electric power.

Friday, September 2, 2011

RIP Sparky

No cause has been determined. Definitely not the Volt. This is the front of the garage.The back of the house. Solar collectors visible at top right were undamaged. Hard to believe that the fire dept was able to save this house!Bye, bye Sparky. Hope you weren't the cause of the fire. Certainly were a victim. :-(

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fire destroys 2 EVs
So far, no cause of the fire has been detected. Volt has been pretty well vindicated. Suzuki charge system checks ok.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Garage fire burns new Volt and Suzuki conversion

Ya gotta love the media and the public's perceptions. Tis true that the Volt
was suspected of causing the fire. So was the Suzuki, the electrical wiring, candles, discarded ashes, oily rags and any other possible ignition source. We have been reviewed by the Fire marshal, the state fire marshal, the CT State Police forensics group, the National auto safety board, 5 engineers from GM; all of whom seem pretty sure that the Volt did not cause the fire. A state electrical investigator spent 4 hours examining the wiring to the Suzuki charger and gave it a clean bill of health.
It will be quite a while before we will be able to occupy the house, despite Heather's observation. Smoke odor is the biggest problem, but we still have no electricity. The local fire department did a super job in confining the fire to the attached garage.
My advice would be to have a smoke detector in the garage, clean the junk out of the garage, and take lots of pictures. It is really hard to remember what stuff you had before the fire.
Storm Connors

Saturday, December 25, 2010

GM 1968 Hybrid

I found a copy of Popular Science from December 1968. Looks like the Volt concept.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I had to send a 24V module out for replacement by the vendor. This means I have a 132V pack and a charger that has 144 and 156V settings. How to charge? I decided to try a "bad boy" charger. A bridge rectifier is connected to the 120V AC with the battery pack connected to the + and - of the rectifier. This bridge rectifier is about an inch square and consists of 4 diodes connected such that the AC is converted to DC. It works out to about 160V of pulsating DC. It can be used to charge batteries from 96V up to about 144V. 144V won't fully charge.

This is certainly not a recommended safe practice.

Bolt the rectifier to a chunk of sheet aluminum to act as a heat sink. Make the connections to the battery pack. Hook together all the extension cords you can find and plug in the rectifier. See what the charge rate is in amps. If it is over 10 amps, borrow some more extension cords. (The extension cords lower the voltage.)

Mine turned out to be 2 amps. I kept removing cords. One short cord worked fine. 10 amps when the batteries were low tapering down to 5 when the batteries approached full.

I recommend that you have a timer that will shut off the power when you expect the battery pack will be fully charged. If you don't have a timer, set an alarm clock to remind you to turn it off. I use the alarm on my cell phone to remind me to check on them every couple hours. Remember, the max voltage you should charge to depends on temperature.

A ways back I explained how to use a transformer in buck or boost mode to give better output voltage control.

Please be careful. I am not recommending anyone do this. Electricity is dangerous. Touching bare wires and connections can cause shocks which can be fatal. Don't set your lawyers on me! You've been warned.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NiMH cooling

Here is the tank installed near the firewall. You can see the water flowing out each hose. The red hose is because I ran out of plastic. The copper tubing is a U that is supposed to feed the pump. Once it was primed, it worked fine.
See the next post for the solution. I am using the charger set up for lead acid batteries. The cooling system comes on when charging nears completion. It seldom comes on when driving. It comes on at 90 degrees, so we will have to see what hot weather does to it.

Here we go again! Having the usual problems with blogger.

My pump was not self priming so I had to eliminate the copper tube U that I had tried. In my marine supplies, I found a thru hull fitting that I fitted into the bottom of the resevoir.

I found the tank at Ocean States Job Lots. It was sold as a pasta cooker. 88 cents. I guess I will put the other picture in the next post.

NiMH cooling

Formatting pages is driving me buggy! Everything I add goes to the top and move doesn't seem to work. So here's the completed cooling system. Finding a fan proved difficult. My neighbor was using this in his office and donated it to the cause.
Big radiator fans are available and little computer fans, but I needed one around 6". I made a shroud to fit the fan to the radiator.

I cut a hole in the floor under the passenger seat and installed a radiator. I t hink it was a heater core. I found a pump on Ebay that was being sold to the hydrogen generation for injection crowd.
The relay in the front of the radiator turns on the pump and fan when the thermostat in the battery box turns off.
Hope you can see what I did in spite of the formatting problems.

When I was removing the seat supports this fell to the floor. A couple of years and they were still hanging on! Go Vice Grips!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

NiMH installation

Well, they are in and running-sortof.
An unbelievable amount of work. All the battery boxes I spent a summer fabricating and installing had to be removed and the support they provided had to be replaced. Additionally, the rust worm had been at work so some more body work was called for.

Here you can see what the installation looks like. The battery pack is now in 2 battery boxes, one under the hood and one in the bed. Unfortunately, there was not enough room between the frame rails to put the new rear battery box under the floor. I hated to lose the space in the bed! Anyway, the boxes are of plywood painted with aluminum paint.

Behind the front battery box to the left you can see a blue Zerex bottle that is the coolant reservoir. The pump pickup line is a U of copper tubing, and there are 4 return lines from the packs. I wanted to be certain that water was flowing through all the circuits.

I ordered parts to build a control to turn off my DC/DC when the pack voltage was high (like when charging) from a company called Master Distributors. Pieces are dribbling in. Worst run supplier I have run into. I have hopes that the last two relays will show up soon. They already told me that they "couldn't find" the listed as in stock fan I ordered. They seem to have mastered getting to the top of Google listing, but they are still working on fulfillment. Not recommended!!

Here is the view inside the rear battery box. I decided that the headers I was supplied could be replaced. I set it up so that there are just 2 flows in this bank. There are water jackets on each side of the battery. The sides to the front of the car are fed with one flow, those to the rear with a second. The batteries at the beginning of the flow are at the end of the other. I figured the temperature would be more uniform this way. The green hose with the copper tee is the feed line. Smaller clear plastic lines go to the water jackets which are plumbed in series.

I may have to replace the clear plastic with a reinforced variety. It gets pretty soft when heated.

This is the inside of the front box. It has 6 12v modules while the back one has 7. You can see the plumbing more clearly here.

The red fuse holders are lines from each battery to the test panel which allows me to check the voltage and possibly charge each battery from a central point.

I bought a circulator pump from Harbor Freight. It worked, but was way too noisy so I am awaiting another pump from an Ebay vendor.

These batteries put out a lot of heat toward the end of charge. Discharge doesn't seem to produce as much. I planned to modify an indoor/outdoor thermometer to handle 2 remote sensors, but I seem to have destroyed it. I got a unit with a wireless connection which works well for monitoring one box. Serendipitously, I can monitor the temperature from inside the house while she charges in the garage.

An electronic thermostat was recommended to control the pump, but I was not happy with its operation. I pulled a bimetallic thermostat from an old space heater and mounted it on a piece of sheet metal. It is designed to turn off 110v, and I want it to turn on 12v. I wired it up to a 12v automotive relay. Connecting the pump to the normally closed contact on the relay keeps the amperage through the thermostat so low that the 12v arcing is insignificant and when the thermostat is closed the pump is off. When the thermostat gets hot it opens and the pump is turned on.

I have driven it on several trips, one over 15 miles, and it is working well. I keep a wary eye on the thermometers, but they have stayed under 90. Charging is another matter. My charger is programmed for lead acid. It doesn't want to turn off! I am hoping that when the cooling system is operational all will be well. Until then, I have to watch the heat buildup very carefully. I pull the plug on the charger until they cool down.