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ElectraVan Project Bloggy

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Monday, 11 August 2008 17:13

Morgan!

I met with Dr. Corey Dickens from Morgan State University. Dr. Dickens is very interested in having some of his EE students participate in the ElectraVan project as part of their senior projects. We discussed the overall plan for the restoration, and what parts might be applicable for the student projects. The best candidates are: - Hybrid Generator Control and Cirtcuits - This would be all the monitoring & control to run the diesel generator as a charger (when parked), range-extender, and full hybrid (if possible) - ElectraVan Control & monitor console. This would be integrating all the sensors, outputs from the propulsion controller, and computational requirements into a small computer with a display mounted in the ElectraVan dashboard. I plan to present the ElectraVan project to the students as soon as the winter term begins.

Posted: 2008-12-18

The Beginning

I guess this is entry # 1. I found the ElectraVan in an alley in Cheverly MD, outside of Washington DC. It belonged to someone at a roofing company, and I saw it while making a delivery to them. I contacted the person I knew at the company and he in turn contacted the owner who said I could have it, if I'd haul it away. On Saturday, September 27th I took my little landscaping trailer and picked up the ElectraVan. It has one tire that won't hold air. So initially dropped it in my driveway while I made space in my overflowing garage for it. This Sunday, October 5, I brought it in the garage. I don't always do things in the best sequence. My initial objective is to assess the vehicle overall, and determine what it needs to have done, vs. the resources ($$) that I have to do it. So the first thing I did was jack it up and put it on dollies so I can move it within the garage. Then I opened all the doors & windows and cleaned it out. Condition Today: The van seems to be in pretty much the original condition - no batteries, but most of it is intact. There's a box inside full of parts - battery connectors, a few controller modules of some sort, and (Bonus!) a complete set of turn signal assemblies. 3 out of four on the truck are broken so this is a bonus indeed! So I sorted parts and took a few pictures as I contemplated what I want to do with this thing. My original thought was to use it at my nursery as a cart to bring things back & forth between our two greenhouse areas. But seeing that it's intended to be road worthy, I am now having an internal debate as to whether I want to do that or get it on the road. Initial thoughts? Choices on propulsion: 1. Use the existing GE motor, replace the T105 batteries, and try to 'just get it running' with the current configuration. 2. Upgrade the motor to an advanced 9" and replace the controller with something more modern. 3. Swap everything out and go with an AC system. Why? I dunno. The Body: The body is in pretty good shape overall. The glass is great. Gaskets are better than average for its age. Upholstery in intact, if worn. The dash & related wiring seem perfect. Just very very dirty. No matter what else I do, I think I'll pull the body & strip it and fix the few little dents and have it sprayed. Mechanical: I haven't looked all that closely at it yet, beneath the skin. The Subaru 360 has 10" split rim steel wheels and drum brakes all around. I really would like to put larger wheels on it and modern brakes. I've spent a bit of time on the internet looking for parts sources and brake upgrades. Found a few sources for parts, but very few options to upgrade the brakes. Seems air shocks are a good idea, or at least upgraded struts to better handle the weight. Mileage - 12,900. Finally, I called Ron at 9:45 last night and talked until 11:30. He responded more positively than he could have. He tends to like mechanical challenges more than electrical, so an electrical conversion of a car never interested him. But an 'already-converted' vehicle with mechanical & age issues is right up his alley. He challenged me on how I wanted to use it, and why not just throw 4 or 8 plain old car batteries in it just to see if the motor would run and the controller worked. Good question - why not? We talked through brakes & wheels and debated if drums weren't really the easiest for a car that wouldn't ever go that fast anyway. I taught him about AC vs. DC systems and regenerative braking. And the associated expenses. He told me he has two old sets of Honda 13" wheels. He also has a remote brake booster. This would be key for a power brake upgrade in this car. A remote booster has a vacuum assist like most modern cars do. But there is a standard (unboosted) master cylinder attached to the pedal. This drives a slave cylinder attached to the booster which then drives another master cylinder. The advantage is that the booster can be mounted anywhere on the car in a more convenient location. Of course all this would require a vacuum pump, etc. That's it for the initial steps. Next: Strip the body & look into pulling it from the frame, and pulling the wheels to see what the brakes REALLY look like.

Posted: 2008-08-05
Last Updated on Thursday, 01 January 2009 21:49
 
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