Sunday, July 31, 2016

CALM BEFORE THE STORM (cont or) NOTHING HURT WORSE THAN MY PRIDE!

... the LED communication light was still green and blinking normally on the controller. I got back in the car and turned the key off, waited for a moment and switched it back to start to put 12 volts back to the controller. Upon pressing on the accelerator, still no power to the motor, so went back to the back of the car, and now the LED was flashing yellow, indicating a problem with the controller. Then I got back into the car and cycled the ignition again, hoping the error would clear and the controller would start working so I could continue to the store. Still nothing, so I called my wife and asked her to look online and try to find me a tow home. While waiting for her to call me back, I cycled the ignition again and still nothing, so started to exit the car to see if the LED was still indicating a fault when the car started moving. Fortunately the parking brake was set so I quickly jumped in the car and pulled on the emergency brake, as I thought the car was coasting. Quickly I realized that something had happened inside the controller, as black smoke started poring out of the back, so hit the brake. The controller must have been delivering full power to the motor as the brakes did little and quickly turned the steering wheel to keep the car from going out into a field on the other side of the road. I got the car turned into the lane but was headed toward a car that had stopped at the stop sign at the end of the road where it intersected State Route 310 so turned the wheel to avoid hitting it. Then I switched the ignition off but in all of the excitement, actually locked the steering wheel. Fortunately, the wheel was locked with the wheels turning left enough that I missed the car at the stop sign but was quickly approaching the State Route from the wrong lane of the street I was on. With the ignition off, I also lost the power brake vacuum pump. The ignition switch was switched back to the run position and I quickly scanned for cars coming so I could try to make a quick turn if necessary to avoid them but no cars were approaching, so got the car onto the berm of the State Route and the car to a stop. By now, smoke was poring out of the engine compartment, front battery compartment, and the inside of the car. A car had stopped and called 911, so I opened the hoods on the motor and front battery compartment. There were flames poring out of the controller and periodically arcing as the insulation was melted on wires and they shorted together. Also, there were capacitors popping and at this point the scene was just chaos! My wife called back just as I was getting the tool box and charging cables out of the trunk of the car and as she was talking to me, the bystanders who had called 911 were screaming, get back, get back! My wife was freaking out on the phone as I am sure I was also. After ending the call, I got into the cab of the car to retrieve the tablet, as at this point, thought the whole car was going up in smoke. After what seemed to be an hour (more like 5 or 10 minutes) the Pataskala Fire Department arrived and I preceded to tell them the car was electric. They put the fire out with a type C electrical fire extinguisher but I was also concerned about the batteries catching on fire. Since it was an electric car, they would not cool the base of the batteries down with water but did get out their temperature camera and determined that the internals of the controller were 300 deg and the outside of the batteries were at 200 deg. They did get the hose out and sprayed water under the car to put out the grass that was burning and kept monitoring the battery module. After the temperature came down to around 100 deg on the batteries, they offered to take me to a carryout up the street, so I could cool down in the air conditioning while waiting for the Sheriff to arrive.

The Pataskala Fire Department was great but it was obvious they had never received any training on Lithium batteries and they were totally opposed to using any water. We discussed how they could tell that a car is electric and I explained that the power cables are normally orange on an electric car. It became obvious after talking to them for awhile that there probably should be an emblem or sticker on the outside of the car that identifies it as electric, as in the case of the Fiero, it just looks like an ICE car on the outside. The fire fighters gave me a cold bottle of water, helped me load up all my tools and cables, and gave me a ride to the carryout to wait for the Sheriff.

By the time the fire truck dropped me off at the carryout, the Sheriff pulled up. I had been standing out in 90 deg heat for over an hour and was drenched with sweat. The deputy let me go inside the carryout to use the restroom and cool off a little then we discussed the fire. This was his first car fire, so had to talk to his Sargent back at the station to find out how to proceed. We then drove back to the car to get the registration and insurance card and then he gave me a lift back to my house. My experience with the fire and law enforcement folks was great and left with a much better appreciation what they do for the community. Both were very interested in the EV conversion and I had a very great opportunity to discuss some of the recent unrest in our country over law enforcement and their perception by the Citizen in their communities.

After the deputy dropped me off at my house, my insurance company was called, as I have towing coverage. My wife had called all of the local towing companies and none of them could tow my car or hours. The Safeco Insurance road side assistance representative took all of my information and told me they would leave a voice message of when to expect the tow truck to show up and would have the tow company give me a call when they were close to where my car was parked. I drove back to the Fiero and surprisingly, the 12 volt system still bad battery power and I was able to put the windows up and also closed the front hood and rear engine compartment hood. Then I headed to Krogers to pick up the items my wife needed when I originally took off in the Fiero. As soon as I had all of the bags carried into the house, we received a call that the tow truck was almost ready to pick up the Fiero and when I arrived back to where it was parked, the driver was actually hooking it up. We drove back to the house and he dropped the car in the back corner of my driveway. Finally the end to a rather long afternoon and evening that by now,  kind of seemed like a dream.


More to come!

 

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