ElectroClassic EV
Classic Cars Reborn into the Electric Future

May
31

405north

Fear is a choice. The question is not how far your EV will travel, but how much anxiety you feel about it. The next range test was a trip to Mulholland Highway near Calabasas to drive the electric Porsche on a world-famous segment of asphalt called The Snake. I’ll describe that more in a bit.

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101_mulholland_exit As reported in an earlier post titled Nailbiter, the little 914’s absolute maximum range on a single charge is about 74 miles. From our house, The Snake is about 39 miles for a round trip of 78 miles, putting it just beyond the capacity of my battery pack to get us safely home. For this mission to succeed, a charging stop would be needed somewhere along the route, preferably at the midpoint in Calabasas. This is why EV homework is so important.

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sagebrush_sign

I remembered my buddy Steve told me about a watering hole in Calabasas that erupts into a complete zoologic spectacle of rockers, bikers and trailerpark supermodels on Saturday nights, called the Sagebrush Cantina. A visit to their website confirmed they also have a Sunday brunch buffet, making it a good candidate for a battery break if there are any charging stations nearby.

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sagebrush_ev_stations

The Recargo app on my smartphone found two charging locations in Calabasas right at Mulholland Highway, and one of them was coincidentally the Sagebrush Cantina! Kismet is always unexpected. It’s a complete mystery why a biker bar would install seven EV charging stations, but it merits a tip of the hat to their management. There were four stations open when we arrived, so I plugged in, tapped my Blink card, and escorted my Sweetie inside for brunch.

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sagebrush_serenade

The Sagebrush itself is sprawling, with several large inside and outside dining areas, multiple bars, an indoor and outdoor stage, and room for half a thousand patrons. Even on a Sunday go-to-church morning, it was still rife with big hair, collagen lips, shameless muffin tops, huge sunglasses, impossible heels, and a variety of interesting wardrobe choices. Pin your Google maps for some prime people-watching.

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karen_sagebrush

Food makes a happy face. The Sagebrush is billed primarily as an authentic Mexican restaurant, although they also serve a variety of American and Southwestern dishes. The brunch itself was fairly traditional but the selection was good, including omelettes, waffles, lox and bagels, crab legs, oysters, several Mexican items, endless champagne, and flavored vodka shots. I would highly recommend spending a leisurely couple hours there, even without an EV to recharge.

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cornell_tunnels

Getting to Calabasas via the steep Sepulveda Pass had knocked the battery pack from 95% down to a 60% charge. Two hours on a Sagebrush charging station returned the pack to 87% for a nominal $3.00 charge on my Blink account. Now the batteries had plenty of juice to get us to The Snake and home again. We jumped on the 101 for a few more miles to the Kanan Road exit, then headed south on Cornell Road to Mulholland Highway. I have a special place in my heart for mountain tunnels, and am always surprised when they show up unexpectedly.

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rockstore_bikes1

At the head of The Snake on Mulholland sits another renown biker hangout called the Rock Store. The building is a page out of Los Angeles history, crafted from volcanic rock and serving as a stagecoach stop in the early 1900s. Surrounded by winding mountain roads, the Rock Store is a likely spot for bikers of every ilk to congregate, swap stories, and drool over their expensive machinery. We popped in just long enough to get a peek, but then continued to the main event.

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snake_road

snake_map

This is The Snake. It’s 1.8 miles long and has 21 turns. Among enthusiasts, The Snake is one of the best known segments of Mulholland Highway; equally one of the best known roads in California. The photo at the top looks east toward curves #19 and #20 on the right side of the picture. The final turn #21 on left side is called Edwards’ Corner, where many a biker has pushed beyond their skill limit.

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paul_herold

Be advised, we didn’t trek here to test my driving skills or watch for crashes. We came to this iconic strip of asphalt to get sweet pictures for this blog, taken by a photographer whose specialty is capturing the action on The Snake. Every Saturday and Sunday, Paul Herold from Rock Store Photos stakes out the choicest corners with his expensive camera rig, and shoots very high resolution images of modern, classic, and vintage cars, motorcycles, and racing bicycles in the mythical context of Mulholland Highway. The watermarked photos are then posted online for perusal and purchase. Quite often, Jay Leno is caught tooling The Snake in anything from an overpowered superbeast to some esoteric vintage roadster borrowed from his famous garage for a Sunday joyride. I was quite excited be initiated into the annals of Mulholland Snake History.

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_DS35891-flat_guardrail

We entered The Snake coming south from the Rock Store, twisting, turning, and hair-pinning our way through all the curves from #1 at the bottom to #21 at the top. This shot was taken as we rounded the last turn, where the camera is usually perched for the afternoon session to make best use of the sun. For the record, it was insanely fun. My female passenger thought we were finished until I did a turnabout at the overlook and ran the full course again in the opposite direction. (She should have known.)

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_DS35895-tilt-line-best

This shot was the pick of the litter. I like the slight angle and the mild blur on the wheels. Clicking it will link to the medium resolution photo downloaded from the Rock Store Photos website. I’ll order the full rez photo to make my bedroom wall poster.

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_DS36025-cu-cabin-faces

After clearing the final corner at the bottom, I pulled another U-turn and shot The Snake one more time for good measure, giving ample time for quality photos at the top. This was all to my wife’s chagrin, who staved off motion sickness by chewing her gum into a foam while nearly snapping the armrest handle off the door. Don’t let that sweet smile fool you.

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kanan_road_south

We chilled at the overlook for a while, watching the pageant of expensive cars and bikes wind their way to the top for their close-ups. After not seeing any crashes or Jay Leno, we split for the coast via Kanan Dume Road. The beauty of this route is a nearly 6 mile downhill, offering an 8% grade at points. It was a great opportunity to see how much charge could be recovered through regenerative braking. The pack’s state-of-charge was 53.5% at the start of our descent, and when we dropped onto Pacific Coast Highway it had climbed to nearly 58%. Money in the battery bank.

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mailbu_ev_charging

We rolled into Malibu Cross Creek with plenty of juice to get home, and with no hurry to get anywhere on this Memorial Day eve. The charging station outside of Ralph Lauren was wide open – an irresistible opportunity to wrangle a free charge. However, we paid in flesh at the theater, with two tickets to the new Star Trek 3D movie costing $36. But on the bright side, the electricity for this all-day adventure totaled about 5 bucks. And by the way, the movie was worth it.

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May
25

You may remember a previous post that painted a comprehensive picture of today’s crop of electric supercars, called Sexy Beasts. They are exotic and appealing, but merely a pipe dream to anybody who makes less than six figures. For widespread adoption of electric cars by the car-buying public, the auto industry needs to provide a product that speaks to the average consumer in economic as well as functional and stylistic terms.

Let me paint for you a new picture of electric cars that the green driver can buy now or before the end of 2013. Many of them are tiny, but provide only the amount of car that is necessary for most purposes. Haters say they are ugly, but negative opinions will change once the future arrives and commonsense shapes our cultural tastes.

Surprisingly, all but a few of these cars are being produced by major established auto makers. Below is a showcase of just those that are currently available in the US (or will be soon).

Cheers.

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Mitsubishi i-Miev

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

  • Mitsubishi i-MiEV website
  • Cost

    • $29,125* for the ES and $31,125* for the SE (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – Water-cooled AC synchronous permanent magnetic motor
    • Rated output – 66 hp (49 kW) @ 3000~6000 rpm
    • Max. torque – 145 lb.-ft. (196 Nm) @ 0~300 rpm
    • Top Speed – 81 mph
    • Acceleration – 13 secs (according to Car and Driver)
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 330V, 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 22 hours
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 7 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 30 mins
    • MPGe – 126 city, 99 hwy and 112 combined
    • Range – 62 miles combined
  • Powertrain

    • Rear wheel drive
    • Single speed, Fixed reduction gear
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 2,579 lbs
    • USA Payload – 750 lbs

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Honda Fit EV

Honda Fit EV

Honda Fit EV

  • Honda Fit EV website
  • Cost

    • $36,625* (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – AC synchronous permanent magnet
    • Rated output – 123 hp (92 kW)
    • Max. torque – 189 lb.-ft. (245 Nm)
    • Top Speed – 90 mph
    • Acceleration – 8.4 secs (according to Motor Trend)
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 20 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 15 hours Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 3 hrs
    • MPGe – 132 city, 105 hwy and 118 combined
    • Range – 82 miles combined
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 3,252 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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Tango T600

ClooneyTango_electrifyingtimes

Tango_EV

  • Official Tango website
  • Lowest tier models are within reach of regular electric car buyers
  • Actor George Clooney took delivery of the first Tango kit on August 9, 2005
  • The second car eventually found its way into the second-floor office of Google CEO Eric Schmidt as part of an April Fool’s Day joke.
  • Cost

    • T600 – $200,000 fully assembled, $160,000 partially assembled
    • T300 – $80,000
    • T200 – $44,000
    • All above prices are before $7500 federal tax credit
  • Motor

    • Motor – Dual 2 Advanced DC FB1-4001 9″ motors
    • T600 Rated output – 805 hp (600 kW)
    • T300 Rated output – 400 hp (300 kW)
    • T200 Rated output –  268 hp (200 kW)
    • Max. torque – 3,000 lb-ft
    • T600 Top Speed – 150 mph (approx)
    • T600 Acceleration – 3.2 secs (Holy @#%&!)
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 32 to 60 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 24 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 4 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = (not offered)
    • MPGe – (not specified)
    • Range – 200 – 240 miles (depending on sustained speed)
  • Powertrain

    • Dual rear wheel drive
    • Dual direct drive transmissions
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 3,326 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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BMW i3 Electric Coupe

BMW i3 Electric Coupe

  • Slated for worldwide delivery in November of 2013
  • BMW i3 website
  • Cost

    • $52,000* (range extender option for addl $4000) (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – AC permanent magnet
    • Rated output – 170 hp (125 kW)
    • Max. torque – 250 lb-ft
    • Top Speed – 93 mph (limited)
    • Acceleration – 7.9 secs (according to BMW)
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion, temperature-regulated
    • Capacity – 22 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = (not specified) Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 4 hrs Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 30 mins
    • MPGe – Ratings not yet provided
    • Range – 100 miles (200 miles with extender)
  • Powertrain

    • Rear wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 2,755 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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Fiat 500E

Fiat 500e

Fiat 500E

  • Slated for sale in California in the second quarter of 2013
  • Fiat 500E website
  • Cost

    • $31,800* (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – Three-phase AC synchronous
    • Rated output – 111 hp (83 kW)
    • Max. torque – 147 lb-ft (200 Nm)
    • Top Speed – 85 mph
    • Acceleration – 8.9 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion – Liquid-cooled and heated
    • Capacity – 24 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 23 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 4 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = not specified
    • MPGe – 122 city, 108 hwy and 116 combined
    • Range – 87 combined
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – less than 3,000 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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Chevrolet Spark EV

Chevrolet Spark

Chevrolet Spark EV

  • Slated to street in the US in late Summer 2013 in California and Oregon.
  • Chevy Spark EV website
  • Cost

    • $27,495* (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – Oil-cooled, permanent magnet
    • Rated output – 130 hp (100 kW)
    • Max. torque – 400 lb-ft
    • Top Speed – 90 mph
    • Acceleration – 7.6 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion – Liquid-cooled
    • Capacity – 21 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 20 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 7 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 20 mins
    • MPGe – 119 city/hwy combined
    • Range – 82 city/hwy combined
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Automatic transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 2,989 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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Wheego LiFe

wheego_life

  • Official Wheego website
  • The body and chassis come from Shuanghuan Automobile in China.
  • Battery pack is rated at 230 Ah for better range
  • Cost

    • $32,995* (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – AC-50 three-phase induction
    • Rated output – 60 hp peak
    • Max. torque – 95 lb-ft
    • Top Speed – 65 mph
    • Acceleration – 11 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 30 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 21 hrs
    • Charge time from 50 to 100% SOC (240V) = 5 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = none supplied
    • MPGe – Figures not provided
    • Range – 100 approx
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Graziano one speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 2,828 lbs
    • USA Payload – 472 lbs

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Smart ForTwo Electric

Smart ForTwo Electric

2013-smart-fortwo-ev-automotive_com

  • Smart is owned by Mercedes-Benz
  • For a very Smart and funny commercial, click here.
  • Smart Automotive website
  • Cost

    • $25,000* for the coupe and $28,000* for the cabriolet (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – Water-cooled permanent 3-phase AC motor
    • Rated output – 55kW / 74 hp
    • Max. torque – 130 Nm / 96 lb-ft
    • Top Speed – 78 mph
    • Continuous Output – 35kW (47hp)
    • Max Power (Peak/Boost Function) – 55 kW / 74 hp
    • Acceleration – 0 – 62 mph, 11.5 s
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion – Manufactured by Deutsche ACCUmotive
    • Capacity – 17.6 kWh (dependent on power output and temperature)
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (240V) = 6 hours Charge time from 20-100% SOC (240V) = 4.5 hrs Charge time from 20-80% SOC (240V) = 3.5 hrs
    • MPGe – 122 city, 93 hwy and 107 combined
    • Range – 76 city, 59 hwy and 68 combined
  • Powertrain

    • Rear wheel drive
    • Stepless automatic transmission with built-in bevel gear differential
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 2,094 lbs (coupe) 2138 lbs (cabrio)
    • USA Payload – 419 lbs (coupe) 397 lbs (cabrio)

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Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf

  • Nissan Leaf website
  • Cost

    • $28,800* for the S
    • $31,820* for the SV
    • $34,840* for the SL (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – AC synchronous motor
    • Rated output – 80kW / 107hp
    • Max. torque – 180 lb-ft
    • Top Speed – 93 mph
    • Acceleration – 0 – 60 mph – 9.9 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 24 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 14 hours
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 8 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 30 mins
    • MPGe – 129 city, 102 hwy
    • Range – 73 miles combined
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed, Fixed reduction gear
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) ~ 3,300 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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Ford Focus Electric

Ford Focus Electric

Ford Focus Electric

  • Official Ford Focus Electric website
  • Cost

    • $37,995* (after $2000 cash back and before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – AC synchronous
    • Rated output – 143 hp (107 kW)
    • Max. torque – 181 lb.-ft. (245 Nm)
    • Top Speed – 84 mph
    • Acceleration – 9.5 secs (according to MotorWeek)
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion – Liquid-cooled
    • Capacity – 23 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 20 hours
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 4 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = Not offered
    • MPGe – 120 city/hwy combined
    • Range – 76 miles combined
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 3,691 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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VW Golf blue-e-motion

vw-golf-blue-e-motion-autoblog

  • Slated for sale in the US in “late 2013.”
  • Official VW blue-e-motion UK website
  • Click here for a shot of the power plant.
  • Cost

    • $30,000* (according to Car and Driver) (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – permanent magnet synchronous
    • Rated output – 114 hp (85 kW)
    • Max. torque – 199 lb-ft
    • Top Speed – 87 mph
    • Acceleration – 11.8 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 26.5 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 15 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 7.9 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 50 mins
    • MPGe – Not provided
    • Range – 93 miles
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 3,410 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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Toyota RAV4 EV

Toyota RAV4 EV

  • Toyota RAV4 EV website
  • Cost

    • $49,800* (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – AC induction motor
    • Rated output – 154 hp (115 kW)
    • Max. torque – 273 lb.-ft.
    • Top Speed – 100 mph
    • Acceleration – 7 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 41.8 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 44 hours
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 15 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = Not offered
    • MPGe – 103 city, 76 hwy
    • Range – 103 miles average
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 4,032 lbs
    • USA Payload – 937 lbs

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Toyota Scion IQ EV

  • Only 100 iQ EVs will be built for colleges and fleets – 90 for the U.S. and 10 for Japan.
  • In March 2013, UC Irvine took delivery of the first 30 units for use in its carsharing fleet.
  • Official Toyota Scion IQ EV website
  • Cost

    • ¥3.6 million (~US$$45,000)
  • Motor

    • Motor – Air-cooled
    • Rated output – 63 hp (47 kW)
    • Max. torque – 120 lb-ft (163 Nm)
    • Top Speed – 78 mph
    • Acceleration – 13.4 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion – high output
    • Capacity – 12 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = not specified
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 3 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 15 mins
    • MPGe – 138 city, 105 hwy and 121 combined
    • Range – 50 miles
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – (not specified)
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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BDY e6

BYD e6

  • BYD e6 – Currently sold in the US for fleet customers only.
  • Company backed in part by Warren Buffett.
  • Official BYD e6 website
  • Cost

    • $35,000* (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – 1 or 2 permanent magnet synchronous
    • Rated output – 100.6 hp (75 kW)
    • Max. torque – 332 lb.-ft. (245 Nm)
    • Top Speed – 87 mph
    • Acceleration – 8 secs (according to BYD)
  • Battery

    • BYD Fe Battery – lithium iron phosphate
    • Capacity – 61.4 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 20 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 9 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 40 mins
    • MPGe – not specified
    • Range – 186 miles city/hwy combined
  • Powertrain

    • Front/rear all-wheel drive (2 motor option)
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 5,202 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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These are just the offerings in the US. An upcoming post will give a taste of the cars that are defining the EV market in the rest of the world.

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Mar
27

914pickup_firetruck

My Saturday began with an early morning run and breakfast with my buddy Fordy, followed by a tour of the Expo light rail line construction on the Los Angeles westside. While crossing Centinela at Olympic, I noticed a bevy of emergency vehicles focusing their attention on a 914. Of course, I swung around in solidarity with a comrade, only to discover it was actually a rare 914 pickup! The owner was pensive because he had just suffered an engine fire, and because his baby had been doused in white fire retardant powder. Concerned it might be a battery fire, I lowered my window and asked if his Porsche was electric. The firemen answered “negative,” but when they discovered mine was an EV, a whole show-and-tell broke out right there in the intersection. You can see them ogling and taking pictures in the background. I passed out a few cards, offered the owner my sympathies, and went on my way.

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kill_a_watt

That morning started with a 70% state-of-charge, but after running errands, I returned home with the battery pack emptied down to 20%. It was the perfect opportunity to test out my new Kill A Watt, a cool little device that tallies the electrical usage at any household outlet, displaying voltage, current, watts, and kilowatt hours. I put the EV charging cable into the Kill A Watt, and plugged it into my laundry room outlet to run overnight. The next morning, it reported 18 kilowatt hours were used to charge the car. Knowing that my pack’s capacity is approximately 22kWh (based on the amp hour rating multiplied by the combined voltage of all the cells), it accurately reflected the 80% charge needed to refill the batteries. Very handy!

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pt_mugu_google

So with a fully charged pack, I rallied the wife out the door early Sunday morning to begin the momentous 43.5 mile drive up Pacific Coast Highway. Destination: the cleft at Point Mugu. Our last attempt was foiled by LA Marathon road closures, so we were excited to finally have clear highways. On the way, we stopped for a quick coffee at Malibu Cross Creek, a joint crawling with so many Tesla Model S cars that we actually saw WASH ME written on one’s hood. I can’t believe they’ve had them long enough to get dirty. Anyways, who does that to a $100K+ electric luxury sedan? We finished our Joe and then scrammed up the coast.

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pt_mugu_rock

The road was smooth, the weather was perfect, the drive was stunning, and the car performed like a champ. We arrived, parked and spent the next hour surveying the ocean off the rocky coast of Point Mugu, just south of the Naval Station. To our surprise we witnessed a whale spouting and breaching in the kelp beds very close to the shore, and a larger whale spouting much further away in deeper water. We were amused by a long runway of small black seabirds as they dove underwater in perfect sequence, and minutes later bobbed up in the surf several yards away. We also spotted a sea lion, and had several sightings of bottle nose dolphins.

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pt_mugu_dreamin

It turned out a banner day for seawatching, and without the need for binoculars! Of course, the car attracted its own share of attention, generating some fun banter with a few interested spectators. My favorite exchange of the day:

“Is this a four, or a six cylinder?”

To which I replied as I popped the motor deck lid:

“Neither!”

After some engaging conversation and more show-and-tell, I handed out blog cards, offered salutations, and we turned back down the coast.

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torque_malibu_ptmugu

Knowing the remaining energy in the pack wasn’t enough to cover the 43 mile return trip home, our goal was to drive 20 miles back to Cross Creek and plug in at the Malibu Civic Center. We’ll hang and relax while the car charges just enough to get us the remaining 22 miles home. Above is a screenshot of the Torque trip log from the Galaxy tablet. The red color indicates my top speed at about 65 mph, while green indicates slow or stopped, reflecting the location of traffic lights enroute. My wife immediately noticed the color coding was backwards. Normally, doesn’t Green=Go, and Red=Stop? Somebody should prod Torque to swap those colors, seriously.

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malibu_charging_civic_center

We rolled into Malibu Farmer’s Market with our state-of-charge at 11%, which is a bit under the 20% rule of thumb for maintaining battery health. I recognized there was no immediate harm if it was done just once in the name of science, without making it a habit. After a little stalking and praying, we landed a cushy level 2 charging spot courtesy of Saint Doris, the Patron Saint of Parking. After plugging-in, we skipped off to the pop-ups to have some lunch. Later, the Malibu Cinemas gouged us for two tickets that literally were 40 times what it cost to charge the car. Engine fires…? Range anxiety…? Child’s play! That’s the real nailbiter.

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Mar
18

tablet_setup

Here is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 seven inch tablet that I picked up from Best Buy at a $20 discount. It was a backlogged holiday husband gift that I finally redeemed after 3 months. As you can see above, I am setting up the Android Torque app per the instructions on the Ewert Energy Systems website. It involves downloading a custom set of EV parameter IDs (PIDs) onto the tablet, created by Ewert specially for the Orion BMS. Each custom PID equates to one virtual gauge displayed on the tablet, e.g. Pack Voltage, Pack Current, State of Charge, and so on. A more detailed explanation can be found on the previous blogpost: Torque My Console.

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otterbox_exploded

I toyed with the idea of cutting a hole in the Porsche’s center console panel and mounting the tablet from behind, so just the screen would be visible through an upholstered bezel. Very elegant, but it would become a permanent installation, with no convenient way to remove the tablet for offline tinkering. So instead, I settled on an Otterbox Defender Series case with an outer hard rubber holster that can be mounted directly on the front of the console panel. This makes it easy to snap the tablet in place for driving, and just as easy to take it with you when you park the car. Starting on the left, the above image shows the Otterbox faceplate, hardcase, rubber boot, and finally the holster on the far right.

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console_raw_plate

The emergency disconnect plunger needed to nudge downward a smidge to accommodate the tablet, so a new custom console panel had to be fabricated from plywood. The tablet’s holster will attach via the four screw holes at the top half of the panel. The small rectangular hole allows the charging cable to pass through from the power supply inside. The larger circular hole at the bottom defines the new position of the disconnect plunger. The two holes at the top will also permanently fasten the panel to the console, in lieu of the stock spring clips.

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console_plate_upholster

Once the correct position of all the holes checked out, a swatch of surplus seat vinyl was cut, fitted and fixed to the panel with upholstery spray adhesive. Gorilla snot has nothing on this stuff. Razor cuts were made in the vinyl across the holes to allow installation of the charging cable and plunger switch body.

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console_mounted_holster

Here you can see the tablet holster attached to the center console instrument panel. The two top screws also hold the panel tightly in the console via a couple speed nuts clipped to the mounting bracket underneath. The Samsung-style connector is seen dangling loose at the bottom of the holster. It runs behind the console panel where a 2 amp cigarette lighter USB charger is located, providing power to the tablet when the ignition key is turned on.

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tablet_installed_insigniaHere is the finished product, plugged-in and displaying the home screen, which I’ve loaded with a Porsche insignia to match my key fob. The tablet becomes more dashboard-friendly using a Torque submenu called “Dash installation settings.” It wakes or sleeps the tablet based on whether it senses charger power, it toggles the tablet into airplane mode when charger power is absent, and it sets Torque to automatically restart when the tablet is rebooted. Finally seeing this virtual display migrate from my dreams to reality is incredibly satisfying. The flat panel display makes it feel like a bonafide EV.

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Mar
12

dmv_exterior_7am

These were the only people ahead of me in line at the DMV last Monday at 7:30am. Early birds get in and out much faster than those who like to sleep and drop in later. It requires standing outside in the Southern California cold for a half hour, but when the doors open at 8am, it’s a short wait to the head of the line.

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dmv_interior

Just look at the empty seats and available windows. The DMV is rarely this thinly populated. After announcing my business at the information booth, I was given a numbered ticket and asked to have a seat. My goal this morning was to update my vehicle registration and title to reflect the conversion from gasoline to electric. When my number came up, the agent asked me to produce my documents, and then instructed me to pull the car around back for verification.

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dmv_verification_danny

After a couple few minutes, I was met by an inspector with a clipboard who asked me to pop all the hoods for a look-see. He asked all the required questions on his DMV form, and then asked several more out of natural curiosity. He said this was the first electric conversion that he had seen at the Santa Monica DMV. Herewith, I plant my flag!

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dmv_circled_E

When the verification was complete, I was instructed to go directly to the same agent that had previously assisted me. She conferred with her supervisor for several minutes over recently changed procedures regarding electric conversions, and then printed out my new registration. It looked identical to the old reg card, except for one tiny difference. Under the heading MP (which stands for Motive Power), the code changed from G to E. That change of one letter marks a huge milestone for me. Sure, it’s a thrill actually driving the vehicle that I converted to electric, but there’s a deeper satisfaction at being officially acknowledged for it.

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Feb
25

I’m having lots of fun driving the little electric 914 around town – to work, to the store, to meetings, to visit friends, to movies and to restaurants. I always daydreamed about converting a gas vehicle to electric, but I never thought it would actually come to pass. I’m growing accustomed to the novelty, but every so often it dawns on me all over again: “Holy Crap! I’m driving an electric car!”

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screenshot

The picture above is a shot of my new little friend, the Torque app. I mentioned it in an earlier post, but since then I’ve realized how indispensable it is, and I don’t drive anywhere without Torque open on my Android device. The console shown above is my preferred arrangement of gauges, which are graphic representations of Parameter IDs, or PIDs. There is a large selection included with the Torque app for regular gas-burning vehicles, but the electric vehicle PIDs shown above were created by Ewert for their Orion BMS. The complete set can be downloaded from Orion’s website, transferred to the MicroSD storage of the Android device, and then selected from the setup menu to display on the main console. The various gauges I’m using above are as follows:

– SOC (state-of-charge): Displays the percentage of charge left on the pack, similar to a fuel gauge. The SOC meter above reads about 75%, which is equivalent to about 60 miles.

– Amphours: Shows the amount of amphours remaining on the pack. The cells I am using are rated at 180Ah per full charge, and the gauge above shows 136Ah remaining. Like SOC, this display also acts like a fuel gauge. Although somewhat redundant, it’s very instructive and interesting to watch how the amphours get used.

– Pack Voltage: After a full charge of about 3.6 volts maximum, all cells quickly come to rest somewhere around 3.4 volts. Multiply by 36 for a total of 122 volts when the pack is fully charged. Pack voltage is just one of the variables used to calculate amphours and state-of-charge, although it is not an indication of state-of-charge.

– High and Low Cell voltage: Crucial data, because cell voltages must remain balanced within a narrow range relative to each other. Any cell that strays too far from the pack is either overcharging or over-discharging, and should be given immediate attention before it affects the health of the others. Think of it as your oil pressure light.

– Amps: This is the actual current being drawn by the motor and controller to propel the car at any given instant. At the moment the above Torque screenshot was taken, the motor was drawing about 60 amps. When the car is in regenerative braking, juice flows back into the pack and this gauge displays negative numbers.

– DCL (discharge current limit): The amount of amps that can safely be drawn from the battery pack at any moment without overstressing the lithium cells. This figure is based on the “C” rating of the cells, and is manually programmed into the Orion using the BMS Utility. Using this number as a baseline, the Orion then continuously calculates the appropriate DCL for the pack’s present state-of-charge. The above DCL gauge is reporting 450 amps as the discharge current limit that the pack can sustain over an extended period without harm. However, the pack can handle momentary bursts of 500 to 1000 amps for several seconds without harm. That’s the fun midrange muscle on the freeway.

– Safe Amps: Torque allows the user to build custom gauges by running calculations on any combination of existing PIDs. Safe Amps is an example that I built by subtracting Amps from the DCL, revealing the amount of instantaneous free amps that are safe to draw before the batteries enter stressland. It’s the display I watch while I am accelerating, similar to watching the redline of a tachometer. Torque also allows the creation of audible alarms that trigger according to user-defined criteria. In this case, the alarm sounds when Safe Amps reaches zero, suggesting I let up on the pedal.

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torque_maplog_screenshot

Torque has many other cool features, like recording error codes and performing realtime graphing on multiple selected parameters, but one of the coolest functions is trip logging. It uses Google maps and GPS to give an incredibly detailed record of your travels, complete with imbedded data from your selected parameters. The default data used above is MPH, displayed in colors. The distance travelled figure is also very handy when tracking EV range per charge. The Porsche’s maximum range of 80 miles is still speculative, but Torque has given me the confidence to begin planning a test drive that will nail the range figure down once and for all.

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Feb
07

borrowed_spot

The social politics of EV charging could easily turn into an interesting little side column. Here’s the rundown: I had returned from vacation and the Porsche EV had sat for a week in my garage without a charge, leaving the battery pack a little sleepy. Some additional pack charge was consumed when I installed and tested my replacement HID headlight bulbs. My Torque app showed that there was still a decent charge left on the pack, so I drove the car to work the next day without topping off. It performed well, but the available free amps were somewhat anemic. An opportunity charge would hit the spot, but where to plug in at work? Good question. It was the perfect excuse to case the office parking structure for free electrical outlets!

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apology_borrow_parking

I found just one receptacle, but it was surrounded by RESERVED parking spots, except for one. What a surprise to find a Chevy Volt in that free spot, already feeding through a very long extension cord. I had stumbled on somebody’s private little watering hole! Although there was still another outlet, using it would involve parking in a RESERVED spot. This little conundrum caused me to recall a saying: “Seek forgiveness, not permission.” I parked and plugged-in, composed and printed the apology above, and left it under my wiper blade with my card.

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note_charging_stations

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to bond with an EV comrade, I left another note on the driver window of the Volt, opening a dialog about the lack of charging stations in the parking structure. As the hours passed, I waited for the phone call urging me to ‘Please vacate the reserved parking spot’ that I had wrongly occupied. But the call never came. When I returned to the garage that evening, my battery pack was full and the Volt was gone. But I did receive an email. The Volt owner informed me that the building management did not have any plans to install EV charging stations, and we bantered via email about the hassle of foraging for electricity.

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800px-500kv-power-lines-australia

Which raises an issue: In the age of smartphones and intelligent networked appliances, our electrical grid is painfully out-dated and entirely inadequate to mediate the needs of a new breed of energy user. To wit, the initial communications in my office parking garage required paper and ink because there was no better channel available. In fact, both of my paper notes pointed the recipients to smarter channels of interaction: cell, text or email. This is because the power grid is not smart enough to recognize when and where people need energy, and then connect them to available electrons and each other. Granted, autos have become network savvy and much smarter about themselves and their surroundings, but I’m willing to bet these recent innovations are part of a macro-trend toward electrifying our fleet. However, because our power grid is so outdated, those advances are as useful as a transistor radio to a caveman.

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 flintstone_radio

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Jan
18

what_is_the_electric_car

I have the honor of being asked a second time to show my Porsche EV conversion at the screening of What is the Electric Car? at the MLK auditorium at Santa Monica Library this Sunday, January 18th at 2pm. If Who Killed the Electric Car? and Revenge of the Electric Car interested you in the EV game, then this film answers all of the questions you might have about actually owning an EV yourself. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by for the free screening, or just to check out the cars – including the P914 EV if you haven’t seen it yet!

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SM_library_ext

Addendum – Sunday afternoon was a stunningly beautiful day to show EVs at the Santa Monica Public Library. After the film screening, there was a brief Q&A panel, and then the audience convened in the outside lot for a show-and-tell. Most of those above gathered around the 914EV are students in a Samohi class that is converting a donated Super Beetle to electric. The roster that day included a couple Nissan Leafs, a Tesla Roadster, and a very elegant Tesla Model S visible in the background. The Model S is capable of very quick acceleration, and showboated by burning 20 feet of rubber on leaving the event. Click here for more pictures.

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Jan
13

candapter_large

CAN stands for Controller Area Network, which is a protocol adopted by the auto industry to allow micro-controllers and other devices in a vehicle to communicate with each other. Shown above is a CAN adapter sold by Ewert Energy Systems that lets the Orion BMS communicate with a computer. Data flows from the Orion’s CAN bus through the adapter to the USB port of a laptop, where the Orion BMS Utility displays real-time cell voltage, state-of-charge, internal resistance, pack voltage, current, and a variety of other data sets.

More importantly, the utility can be used to program the Orion’s charger control settings, maximum and minimum voltages, current levels, battery profiles, cell-balancing settings, and many other parameters that allow detailed control and monitoring of a battery pack.

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kiwi_bluetooth_candapter

The Orion provides two CAN ports to allow multiple devices to communicate with the BMS simultaneously, with each CAN circuit consisting of three connections: CAN high, CAN low, and a shield. The CANdapter shown above at center left will communicate on CAN1 via the DB9 connector on its top end. Its CAN high lead is connected to pin #3, and CAN low to pin #5. CAN1 is already terminated inside the Orion, so only one external 120 ohm resistor is needed across the CAN leads at the DB9 connector. The Orion will use CAN1 to interface with my MacBook via the USB cable seen above, providing a way to change BMS settings and update firmware.

Also shown at center right is the PLX Kiwi Bluetooth module, which will use CAN2 to transmit cell and pack data to a touchscreen that will be installed in the center console. The Kiwi talks to the Orion via an OBD-II connector, which is a standard On Board Diagnostic data port for all cars made after 1996. CAN high is connected to OBD pin #6, CAN low to pin #14, chassis ground to pins #4 and #5, and 12 volt accessory power to pin #16.

The shielding wires on both CAN pairs should also be connected to chassis ground to eliminate any extraneous electrical noise that could interfere with clean data transmission.

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cells_populate

In order to see the CANdapter on the USB port of a PC or Mac, you’ll need to install specific USB device drivers. Next, plug in the CANdapter and put the BMS either in Charge or Ready mode so that it’s visible to the Orion BMS Utility. Then use the FILE pull-down menu to connect the utility to the Orion. Once successfully mounted, all of the tabs across the top of the window become active, and the utility is ready to start processing pack data. My first step is to populate the cell table using the setup wizard, which offers many different brand names, capacities, and quantities of cells. I chose 36 CALB (blue) 180 Ah cells to correctly match my pack.

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laptop_candapter_usb

Once the charger brings the pack to a preset upper voltage, the Orion then sets about top-balancing the cells by slowly draining them to match the level of those least charged. It does this even after the BMS has turned the charger off. As seen above, live data on cells that are balancing are indicated in red. Since this is their first charge with the Orion, most all of the cells are being balanced except the two lowest. I was informed by Ewert that the pack balance will tighten up after multiple charge cycles. From then on, the only reason to break out the laptop is to periodically check pack health, and to install firmware updates.

*NOTE – Among the multitude of data, I was happy to discover that none of my cells were suspiciously undercharged, all internal resistances were normal, and the pack State of Health was reported at 100%. What a great relief to know that all my cells had dodged the fatal bullet of deep discharge.

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torque_shot

Adding to the excitement, my Android phone paired perfectly to the Kiwi, giving me access to BMS/pack data without a laptop. That’s vital out on the road, where it counts. There are several apps that allow users to access and display OBD data from any vehicle using either USB or a Bluetooth device like the Kiwi. The above Android app is called Torque, and works cleanly with the Orion BMS due to its flexible OBD support. I chose the EV gauges above from a drop-down menu after loading the extended PID (parameter ID) file into the Torque folder on my phone. The Orion website offers instructions to coach you through this. Once loaded and locked to the BMS, Torque displays real-time pack data, with valuable logging and graphing functions. The above image is a screenshot from my drive into work this AM.

More blogposting about Torque here. Next up: Picking out a 7 inch touchscreen tablet!

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Jan
13

enroute_pasadenaWith the batteries less than fully charged, my lovely wife and I headed toward Pasadena to visit friends. Even though the pack was not full, it had spent the entire previous night soaking up electrons, so I wasn’t particularly worried. The drive is only about 25 percent of my projected range, and the needle on my anxiety meter was snoozing. So when the low voltage alarm sounded just a couple miles from our destination, I suspected a loose signal loop wire or some such, and continued driving. That was until my ultra-cool EV came to an ultra-uncool dead stop just a quarter mile from the finish line. We grabbed our bags from the trunk and walked the rest of the way to my friend Michael’s house, who threw a box of straps in his Prius and towed the electric Porsche the last leg.

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michael_mb_1Once in the driveway, Michael set me up with an outdoor 110 volt outlet. I plugged-in and cycled the ignition switch to reset the MiniBMS control board. Unfortunately, the charger remained disabled and the alarm continued to sound. I popped the motor bay hatch to peek at the rear packs, and noticed that cell #9 BMS module was dark, causing me to think the module had gone bad. I removed the yellow signal path wires from #9 terminals and tied them together, bypassing the suspect module. The alarm stopped, so I cycled the ignition again to reset the BMS, and the charger began a new session. Voila. (Thanks to Penny for capturing this moment.)

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night_drive_tunnelBy the following afternoon, the charger had completed its final cycle and the pack was full. Furthermore, cell #9 module was glowing green again. I didn’t know if it would cause another event on the drive home, so I left the bypass in place. My little 914 took the old Arroyo Parkway like a bullet – swift, steady, and delivering us home in much less time than usual.

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bms_modules_ecuThe next day, an email exchange with CleanPowerAuto revealed that the cell module had behaved as designed. The module went dark to indicate that lithium iron phosphate cell #9 had edged into deep discharge. The restored green LED signaled the cell’s return from dangerous territory. Given these new revelations, here are my conclusions:

1 – Cell #9 was always undercharged, and probably never went into shunt mode during initial pack balancing.

2 – The entire pack was at a low charge state because the charger reached a heat threshold and throttled back.

3 – Since I had not yet installed a state-of-charge meter, I did not realize the entire pack was low.

4 – I need a more sophisticated BMS that will provide detailed battery data on a cell-by-cell basis.

5 – I want a BMS that will wirelessly transmit that data to a touch screen installed in the cockpit.

6 – I need a BMS that will perform a more controlled and exact balance on the entire pack on a cellular level.

7 – The true health of cell #9 will not be known until the new BMS is installed.

8 – If the new BMS reflects any possible injury to cell #9, the cell will need to be replaced.

9 – Unless I exclusively use more efficient 240 volt Level 2 charging, I will need to install better charger ventilation.

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The MiniBMS performed exactly as advertised, living up to its name by taking up minimal space. But I wanted more control over each cell, including monitoring, reporting, real-time display, automated pack balancing and CAN integration, so the MiniBMS came out. Above is the box-load of modules that were removed from each cell in the pack. I will bundle these with the small control board, the current sensor and state-of-charge meter, and probably turn the whole system around on Electric Car Forum or DIY Electric Car forums. It’s a good distributed BMS at a decent price, and should make somebody very happy who is looking for an economical BMS solution. By the way, here is a nifty little video that explains why the main pack load should be disconnected before working on any BMS.

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Shown above is the Orion Battery Management System, built by Ewert Energy. It was given high marks by HPEVS, the maker of my AC-50 drive motor – who is in the process of integrating it with the Curtis controller. With that endorsement, I ordered one for myself. I’m impressed that it performs a very controlled top-balance on the pack by selectively draining cells that reach capacity before the rest, giving all cells equal opportunity to rise to the fullest charge. It literally levels the playing field. It also monitors the health of the pack by collecting real-time data about the condition and performance of each cell. It creates logs of all the data streams for later inspection, and is programmable to allow software tweaking of key parameters. Finally, it allows a way to send that real-time data via Bluetooth to a touchscreen display that will look bitchin’ in my center console.

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After meditating on placement, I decided the best home for the Orion was under the passenger side dashboard. Because the Orion is a centralized BMS, it consolidates all monitoring and control into a single unit too large for the prior location. It also prefers to be away from moisture and the elements, eliminating the rear motor bay as a mounting location. Shown above is the fabricated mounting plate taped under the dash for test positioning. Located here, the Orion will be accessible yet out-of-the-way, and will be near most of the electrical connections it requires at the front of the car.

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After poring over the manual, I segregated the wires according to their connections; either inside the cockpit, or beyond the firewall. The bundle in black heat shrink traveling off to the right is the pack voltage sensor and main I/O leads that will access various power sources in the former fuel bay. The loop of white/orange wires at lower left provide a way to drive existing analog gauges using 0-5 volts. The yellow/brown loops at the top left are for cooling fan power and control. The two black loops are the CAN bus (Control Area Network) connections, and the white loop wires are undesignated in the manual.

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Each cell in the pack needs to have a tap lead that delivers real-time data back to the Orion BMS main unit. Shown above are three bundles of 12 cell taps that will connect directly to the battery terminals. The red bundle will pass through the dash firewall into the ex-fuel bay, and the two orange bundles will travel to the rear pack through the ex-heater duct on the passenger side. I used a cable snake to pull them down through the duct inside the rocker panel, emerging in the motor bay under the battery packs.

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After entering the engine compartment, the cell taps were separated into two groups, bundled with heat shrink tubing, and directed to the tops of the rear battery packs. Each bundle has one ground lead, one temperature sensor wire pair for the thermistor, and a tap lead for all of the 12 cells in the packs.

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Here is the Orion securely mounted under the passenger side dash. Half of the main I/O harness is threaded through the bulkhead into the ex-fuel bay, and the remaining dangling wires will be either routed or tied-off. The three cell tap ports visible on the right side of the Orion provide management for up to 108 cells on this unit, though I will only use 36.

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orion_rear_packsHere are the cell tap wires routed and dressed-out for both rear packs. Notice the taps run to the positive terminal of each cell, in the same serial order as the cells in the pack. The MiniBMS didn’t care about numerical cell order, but the Orion tracks cells individually, so I renumbered them in serial order for better indexing. The thermistors are tucked down between the ribbed sides of the center cells of both packs to a depth of about 4 inches. The right pack thermistor wires can be seen ducking down between cells #33 and #30 above.

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front_pack_tapsHere’s the finished front pack with dressed-out cell tap wiring. It looks pretty straightforward, but both the above two images involved some main cable rerouting and represents about 8 hours of very tedious work.

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control_box_reduxNext comes an overhaul of the control box in the front fuel bay area. The MiniBMS control board was extracted, leaving room for a couple essential Orion BMS components. This includes a 12 volt DC power supply that provides a charging signal for the new Orion. It’s the TDK Lambda unit seen above in blue, mounted on the DIN rail to the right of the white heater power circuit fuse holder. Another essential component is a relay for the charger safety shutoff, visible in the lower right corner of the control box. A longer terminal bus was also included to provide routing for all of the new BMS signal wiring. Although better organized, the remaining items are the same, including the heater contactor at left, and fan speed switch snubber diodes at top right.

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wires.pins.diagramThe control box wiring is basic enough to warrant a simple flow diagram, rather than a full schematic. So I whipped one up in notepad, listing the box contents on one side, and all external connections on the other. My plan puts a 16-pin connector smack between the two, so I can easily connect and disconnect the control box when it needs servicing. Shown above are all of the control box connections, labeled, crimped and ready for hard-wiring.

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connector_spreadI really miss browsing a serious electronics store, with aisles of really cool lights, switches, relays, and connectors. A place where you can see and touch any component before you buy it. Conversely, wading online through the myriad of connectors at sites like Mouser, DigiKey, McMaster-Carr, Newark, Allied and Del City was an abstract and tedious undertaking. Unless you stumble on a complete connector kit, it requires locating both the male and female sides of the connector, and finding the correct pins and sockets to match them. Not knowing what to expect, I ordered a couple different connectors, hoping at least one would fit the bill. As luck would have it, either of the 16-pin connectors shown above are perfect for the main artery of the BMS, connecting the Orion to the control box and the rest of the car.

As a public service, I’m listing the connectors here:

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molex_assembled_heldIn my hand above is the male side of the Molex connector packed with all wires from the control box, including signal and control paths for the BMS charge circuits, and connections for the heater core and fan speed circuits. The female half shown beneath it will be connected to the car side, with recessed sockets that will isolate and protect the hot power leads carrying ignition and accessory power.

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molex_female_populatedHere is the female half of the Molex connector wired into the car-side harness, which includes the ignition lead, 12 volt DC power from the DC/DC converter and auxiliary battery, chassis ground, heater fan speed switch leads, and the Orion BMS harness. To avoid full pack voltage intermingling with all the other sensitive BMS wiring, the pack voltage sensor leads from the BMS will connect separately outside the box.

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all_carside_plugsThe remaining car-side leads are routed through various connectors, so each component can easily be disconnected for servicing, diagnosis, removal, and/or replacement. The rest of this paragraph is for EV builders who are truly interested in the above shot. If that’s not you, the following will be pretty boring. The female 16-pin Molex connector is shown above with the white mating face inserted. The 2-pin white Molex connectors at top and bottom allow the Orion to sense pack voltage. The black cord entering from the upper left routes live and neutral AC power leads from the J1772 charge receptacle to the TDK DC power supply, providing the BMS charge signal and powering the auxiliary cooling fan. The light blue terminals at middle right are the positive and ground connections for the same fan. Lastly, the big, flat Anderson connector in the middle delivers full pack voltage to the heater core and contactor. Kudos if you read this far; you are truly dedicated.

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box_w_plug2 The Orion is too pricey to risk hooking up without a final inspection. I double-checked all wiring against my schematics and flow diagrams, and tested the circuits one-by-one. It was very exciting watching everything check out, although this description may get technical. I started by disconnecting the charger and plugging the car in, sending AC to just the TDK power supply and confirming its correct output . Then I connected the TDK output to the DC fan to check its polarity and proper functioning. I used the same output to confirm the operation of the BMS charger safety relay. Click-click. I disabled the emergency shutoff, completing the battery pack power circuit, and then fired up the Elcon charger. Touching and separating the charger DIN wires toggled the Elcon ON and OFF. Happy times. Finally, I mated all connectors and mounted the control box on its support bracket in the trunk. Please take special notice of the installed 16-pin Molex at the lower right. There’s a lot of geek pride wrapped up in it.

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celltap_check2Before the cell taps are plugged into the BMS unit, they need to be tested to make sure all 36 leads are connected properly. If any wires are crossed, the Orion could malfunction and even suffer severe internal damage. Ewert Energy, maker of the Orion, rents out an electronic tap validation tool that plugs directly into each connector and confirms the proper polarity and serial order of each cell’s tap wire. However, Ewert also outlines a process in their install manual that forgoes the validation tool and operates directly on individual connector pins with a multimeter. With the black probe of the meter tied directly to the most negative terminal of the pack, each of the connector positions can be tested with the positive probe for cumulative pack voltage, adding ~3.4 volts per cell sequentially through the tap lead connectors until full pack voltage is reached. After running this sequence a few times for good measure, I confirmed all tap leads were in the proper polarity and sequence. More happy times.

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orion_final_installHere is the Orion fully installed under the right-side dash between the center console and glovebox. It’s hidden pretty well, and only the leading corner of the cooling fins are visible from the passenger seat. The cell tap bundles are seen connecting to the Orion from the right, traveling to the battery packs either through the firewall or heating ducts. The main I/O, pack voltage sensor, and current sensor connectors have been plugged into the opposite side of the Orion. The unused parts of the I/O harness were heat-shunk, coiled, and dropped into the console cavity. I didn’t want to delete them because they may eventually find a future use. Two shielded pairs remain for the CAN interface, which will be covered in the next post.

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dc_fan_speakerA very important addition is this auxiliary fan that will increase circulation around the charger. It’s mounted under the dashboard on the passenger heater port above the speaker, and will draw air across the charger’s cooling fins from the matching port on the driver side. This will prevent thermal events that cause the charger to throttle back and undercharge the pack. The choice was between a 12 volt DC or a dual-voltage AC fan. The AC fan moves more air (47CFM) and will run directly off the charger supply current, but is fairly noisy at 48DB. The DC fan is a tad quieter at 34DB, pushes slightly less air (42CFM) and would run off the same 12 volt supply as the BMS charge signal. Because the DC fan is quieter, it won out. If I need more oomph, I can easily swap in the AC fan at a future date. Maybe I’ll get schmancy one day and add a thermistor that will stop the fan when the charger shuts off.

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