Tuesday, October 28, 2014


After weighing the Fiero yesterday, I decided to take if for a test drive to see if my watt hours decreased. As  274 pounds of batteries were taken out of the front of the car, I was expecting the watt hours per mile to decrease around 27.4 from the 288 to around 261 watt hours per mile. To my surprise, the watt hours per mile came down to 228, using 120 volts as the average. 

When I removed the batteries, not only was the weight reduced but the front of the car came up a couple of inches, possibly changing the aerodynamics of the car. Additionally, the belly pan was removed. The other issue is what do you use as voltage when figuring how many watts you used? Before I started the drive, the voltage was around 135 volts and as the drive progressed, the voltage was slowly declining. Below is a graph that illustrates the difference in watt hours depending on what you use as the voltage.


Another factor is that the entire test drive today was in forth gear, as the shift cables are out of adjustment again. As stated above, I was expecting the watt hours per mile to decrease by around 27 watt hours but it dropped anywhere from 31 to 60, depending on the voltage I plugged in. I can see a real need for a good watt hour meter that counts up and down and gives an average watt hour reading based on samples of current and voltage.

I thought I had a log file of the drive but when I opened it, there was nothing but zeros in the accelerator voltages, so I must have actually turned it when I was sitting in the driveway.

The garage is cleared out and ready to pull the car in when the weather turns cold this weekend and I have started getting contactors and wiring ready to bottom balance the other two packs.

Thanks for dripping by,


Saturday, October 25, 2014


Last week, in response to Jack Rickard's comment on the EVTV Blog that, 1 watt hour per mile per each 10 pounds of weigh was a rough estimate of how large of a pack you will need, I posted that my car was using 288 watt hours per mile, so the car must weigh 2880 pounds. I went on to post that I would really like to weigh the car, to see how heavy it actually is. A few days later, Brian Couchene  emailed and offered to let me use his scales. This Friday we made arrangements and I drove out to Brian's house to pick up the scales.

As always, I had a very informative visit, with a demonstration of the Lear Charger and the software that was operating it. Brian has a UI set up to change the voltages and turn off the charger. He is now working on trying to get the charger's 12 volt capabilities to work. The Coda, which these particular chargers were used on, did not use the 12 volt system in the charger but the EVTV team working on reverse engineering the CAN programming, is hoping it can be enabled. Brian has the engine and transmission out of the S10 he is converting and we went outside where it was parked,  to talk about how he was going to install the E-Drive transmission and Siemens Motor. As always, it is quite enjoyable getting to spend an evening with a fellow EV converter, talking about electric cars and in the case of Brian, hybrid and battery powered switch locomotives.

Late Saturday morning, the scales were hooked up and zeroed, then the car jacked up, and the scales placed under each wheel.


Weight measurements were taken with the HighPower cells still in the front of the car, with them removed, and with them removed and me in the dirver's seat.


With the HighPower cells still in the front of the car and adding 199 pounds for my weight, the car would have been at 2825 pounds, so pretty close to the 1 watt hour per 10 pounds per mile.I will do some test drives with 274 pounds less than before and it will be interesting to see if I drop down close to 260 watt hours per mile.

By now, I was on a roll, so started taking the belly pan off the front underneath of the car. I was actually able to get all of the screws out without jacking up the car as the front of the car had come up several inches when the HiPower cells were removed. With the belly pan now out of the way, I started removing the heavy angle iron battery racks that were designed to hold lead acid batteries. I didn't have the car on jacks, so had to cut off one of the brackets to finally get the rack to drop out of the bottom of the car but finally it was out!


I was finished by 5 PM but was totally wiped out from crawling around on the driveway all day, so it was time for a little rest to get ready for the Buckeye game against Penn State tonight.

Thanks again to Brian Couchene  for the use of the scales!

Until Next Time,


Saturday, October 18, 2014


After taking the car on the 20 mile interstate test drive, the voltage had settled around 119.5 volts and even though, there should be another 9 watt hours in the pack, according the the JLD404, I  decided to go ahead and charge. At $0.15 per kilowatt hour, it cost me $1.04 to put 6.786 KWH into the pack.

The voltage and current were lowered last week at the end of the charge, so this charge dropped from 18 amps to 17 amps. I watched the end of the charge a little closer this week and the charger still is not shutting off as soon as I would like. At 138.2 the average half cell voltage is 4.312 volts or 0.112 volts over the recommended cutoff voltage.

I decided to stay with the Zivan NG3 charger because it only weighs 15 pounds and it fits neatly in the space on the engine side of the trunk, tucked away and barely visible. The drawback is it can not be programmed without sending it in the the manufacture rep in California, paying $75 and hoping they program it the way you want it programmed. Enter DIY Electric car and a thread on putting a PIC chip in the charger that can change the voltage cut off. I got one of the chips but have never programmed it because the original HiPower cells I purchased were never going to work. Now that I have the Better Place modules, it is time to put the Pic chip in the Zivan charger, get it back in the car and hooked back up to the J1772 and 220 volt sockets.

I left the chip with Mark Weisheimer when he worked on the Zivan charger after I blew one of the IGBTs., so contacted him to see if he had ever loaded the code. He has been heavily involved with reverse engineering the CAN commands for the Lear charger, used in several of the OEM electric and hybrid cars, so I was a bit worried he may not have time right now to program it but was relieved to get a reply telling me he would program the chip and help set it up in the charger. He also gave me some good recommendations on setting up a back up system to shut off the charger, just to be safe. I have a JLD404 and a spare contactor, so it is just a matter of wiring it up to shut off the charger if it's programming fails to do so.

A couple of the rollers on my garage door had pulled loose and the door would hardly close, so I made a trip to the hardware store for some new rollers. After working on it for a couple of hours, it is opening and closing just fine now. Also, the garage cleaning continued to try and set up space to charge the other two Better Place modules and still get the car in when it gets cold. Shouldn't be long and I will be able to get the car back inside for winter.

Until next time,


Monday, October 13, 2014


EVTV's Friday show was downloaded early this morning, so by the time I finished watching, it was after 2:00 AM Sunday morning. I woke up at 7:am but decided to sleep in a little. About 10:00 am, I got moving and went outside to prepare the Fiero to test on the interstate. Having run the car out of juice a couple weeks ago, I was a little nervous, needless to say. Before leaving, the names of a couple of towing companies were written down, the charge cable was disconnected, and voltage, amp hour, and mileage reading were recorded. The shift linkage was inspected to make sure the cable had not pulled out again. The camera was taped to the dash, the laptop booted up and the Synkromotive UI was brought up. Finally before backing up, the JLD404 was reset and the Synkromotive log program started. So finally, I was driving down the road in front of my house toward the entrance to interstate 70 and even with all the planning and preparation, the 12 volt negative lead to the inverter that the laptop was plugged into came out of the terminal. So much for planning, so I decided to drove across the interstate to the Flying J parking lot and re-connect the terminal. Ok, the log program is running again, so off to the interstate entrance ramp. Just when I made the turn, the negative lead came out of the terminal again. Oh well, here we go anyway and at least the camera was working. The car ran great and I cruised along at 60 mph until turning onto the off ramp at Etna and turned into the McDonald's parking lot to try and get the log program back up. This time I taped the negative lead to the inverter so it could not come out and got the log program back up and running. Then back on to Route 70 to continue the test drive. The car was still doing fine so I decided to pass the Rt158 exit and to on up the road to the Route 37 Exit. The shifter was still acting up but I was able to get it into fourth gear when on the interstate. 


Upon arriving back at the house, the drive was 20.9 miles and 50.5 amp hours were used giving me 2.4 amp hours per mile or 288 watt hours per mile. The controller had not limited amperage and drove normally the whole drive. When the other two modules are installed, I should have a good 60 mile range, that should be sufficient for me to drive to work in downtown Columbus, OH and back with out having to charge. 

Below are the graphs from the Synkromotive log file showing pack and motor voltage, pack and motor current, and all four on the last graph.




The last graph is a little busy but shows that just one module can power the car on the interstate without sagging the pack voltage too much. Also, the 12 volt system did not sag below 11.5 volts and always recovered to at least 13 volts after an acceleration.

There is a feed store and a granary close to my house with scales, so as soon as the other two modules are installed, I want to have the car weighed. The 288 watt hours per mile is a little higher than expected and may just be a result of the weight of the car. Fieros are notoriously heavy for a two seat car, so that may be the reason for the higher than expected watt hours per mile.

Below is a video of the test drive and I didn't put any music or voice over as I wanted to show just how quite the car is when cruising down the highway.


The day ended with a visit from my son Shane, his fiance Vanessa, and their husky, Finn. Shane and I enjoyed a growler of Buckeye Lake Blond draft during dinner and while visiting the rest of the evening.

Thanks for visiting,


Sunday, October 12, 2014


This morning I drove the Fiero another five miles around the neighborhood, to drain the pack down  before charging again. While still not perfect, the gears can be shifted reasonably well now and I was able to go through all four gears without any hang ups. The amp hour reading was down to around 14.5 and the voltage was at 120 volts before starting out.  During the drive the voltage did not dip below 98 volts, under light acceleration and stabilized around 113 volts, when cruising at 40 mph in fourth gear. The car had been driven 19 miles since the last charge and had used 45 amp hours, so it used around 2.4 amp hours per mile or using 120 volts as an average, 284 watt hours per mile. 

When I got back from driving the car, the charger was hooked up and the fourth charge of the Better Place module was started. The voltage had come back to 120 volts and I took readings after charging for one minute, and then every half hour, until the end of the charge, where I tried to document when the charger started cutting back the amperage.


This time the module was charged to 136.9 volts or 4.27 volts per cell. The amperage cut back to 2 amps but the voltage did not hold steady and kept climbing. Even after adjusting down the voltage and current pots, the charger still did not shut off so had to be manually shut off again. The pack took 47.71 amp hours and had 14.7 amp hours left in it from the previous charge, so should have 62.41 amp hours or 7489 watt hours in it. Tomorrow I am going to take the Fiero out on the interstate again and have a route that should give me about a 18 mile drive.


While the module was charging I rearranged the air compressor, shelves, and table, in the front of the garage, so the Fiero can be moved back in. The other two modules will be moved to the front of the garage to bottom balance but there should be room now for the car to be pulled in if the weather turns cold. I moved some items that were on the shelves into a plastic storage box and put it all in the Better Place shipping crate. It has proven to be quite handy to store the unused components from the Better Place packs, like the contactors, cell measuring connections, and BMS. The new location for the table will be much bette, as their is an electric outlet close by and it will be more out of the way now.

My focus is going to turn back to getting the meters, tablet, and interior installed in the car, so I can get the passenger seat back in. The car runs so much better with just one of the three modules, I am excited to take my wife, son and his fiance for a ride. I also have some co-workers asking me about the build, so would like to be able to drive it to work sometime soon.

Until next time,


Sunday, October 5, 2014


Sunday morning I went out to try and adjust the Fiero shifter linkage, armed with the shift position diagrams that were posted yesterday, and after pinning the shifter in third gear, disconnected the shift and select linkages at the tansaxle. After moving things around a little, I found that the select linkage was actually trying to lift the shift stem going down into the transaxle. This time I made sure that with the lever on the transaxle in the correct position, the cable could not push it up farther, causing the shaft to lift. Then the shift lever was put in the correct position, the play in the cable was taken out and then the connector tightened. There seems to be some play in one of the rods on the shifter and on one on the transaxle linkage, so that is probably the areas I will check out in the future. For now, it's working, so I am not going to mess with it.

The shifter went through all of the gears smoothly, while sitting in the driveway, so reverse was selected and the car backed up to pull out onto the road. Second gear was selected and the car moved forward out onto the street in front of my house. The shift to third and then fourth was fairly smooth, so I decided to run it around and make a pass back down the interstate. The car accelerated smoothly from second, to third, to fourth gear and I leveled the speed out at 60 mph. As I progressed down the highway, the current went as high as 503 battery amps at 91 volts and 576 motor amps at 79 volts. I believe these cells are only rated at 350 amps or so and appear to have been designed for higher voltage and lower current. When the other two packs are installed, the pack should not see such a drastic sag and I should be ok.


As shown in the graph above, the battery volts and motor volts are inversely proportional and actually were almost the same during the acceleration onto the interstate. I wanted to put battery and motor current on the graph but it kept formatting so that voltage just looked like a strait line, so did not really show anything.


The Synkromotive Controller does a great job collecting data  and I really should have hooked up more inputs to it. I originally thought that my low voltage battery volts were limiting the controller but it appears the pack voltage is limiting the controller, as the low pack voltage limit is currently set at 90 volts. You know when you reach the limit because the car slows down and you can not accelerate back up to the same speed you were at before the controller started cutting back.

The pack voltage and current for each entry were multiplied, then each line added together for a 60 second period, then divided by the number of entries to get the average wattage. I was driving at 60 MPH so the average watts were divided by 60 and came up with 432 watt hours per mile. I may not have done this correctly, as it seems a little high but the emergency brake may have been dragging, so that may have been the cause of the higher than expected watts per mile number.

In about 4 hours the voltage has recovered to 125.1 resting voltage. The car has been driven 13.5 miles and has used 32.5 amp hours, so using 120 volts as an average, has used 3900 watts. Dividing this by 13.5 miles is 289 watt hours per mile.This figure seems a little closer to what I was expecting. 

The temperature is up to 56 deg today, the shifter is working much better, and I got another interstate test drive in, so today really is a much better day that yesterday!

If any of you are using the Better Place Packs, I would like to hear your experiences.

Thanks for visiting,


Saturday, October 4, 2014


It is currently 45 degrees in Central Ohio and the realization sunk in that it is time to start getting the garage ready to put the Fiero inside, so it can be worked on as the temperatures keep dropping. It's time to put away the shorts and t-shirts and get out the long sleeves and jackets to continue work when cold weather gets here.



Last year at this time, the HighPower cells had been installed and the car could be driven, although because of the voltage sag, the contactors kept tripping out when the 12 volt system voltage dropped below 10 volts. Work on the interior and the addition of meters was also started. By spring, a new headliner, the dash , all of the interior trim panels, and the sun visors, had all been refinished, then put back in the car. Work was progressing on adding meters, and the Dell Venue tablet, so it looked like the interior would be wrapped up by early summer. 

Enter the Better Place battery pack sale. When the modules were offered by EVTV and I found out that one of the builders from Central Ohio was going to go out to Missouri to pick them up, the deal just could not be passed up. Once the pack arrived, work stopped on the interior and focused on dissembling, bottom balancing, and building a mounting platform for the modules to be put in the Fiero. After I missed getting the Fiero ready to take to EVCCON, work still continued and got to the point of test driving with the new Better Place module. 

Then the shift cable broke and so far, as hard as I try, does not want to come back into adjustment. I am a little worried that there is something wrong with the shift forks inside the transaxle. The shifter does not seem to want to go over far enough to properly engage 3rd and 4th gears but seems to work ok for first, second, and reverse. If it quits raining and warms up a little I am going to take another stab at adjusting it and found a diagram that shows the positions of the leavers for each gear, so maybe this will help. I had to make a new end for the selector cable, so I may need to figure out how to lengthen it a little


It is a little discouraging, as now that the module is mounted, it will be a real chore to put in a new shift cable or have to pull the transaxle so a shift fork can be replaced and now that the car in insured, I was really looking forward to being able to drive it a little before winter sets in.

So I guess that while some work will continue on the car, the next big chore will be to get the garage set up to get the Fiero back inside. Where did summer go!

Keep Building,