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Motorheads! · 18 January 06

Motorheads Unite!

I get a regular flow of email from this site and the first conversion diary. Much of it consists of folks who are thinking about maybe trying out an EV conversion, but just aren’t sure.

Sometimes it’s an email from someone who already has or is in the middle of their conversion. Being a bit of a gear-head it’s always interesting to hear about other people’s projects, to see how they solve some of the same problems and to learn from their unique ideas.

Orlen sent along an email with a picture from his current conversion project. I don’t have all of the details yet, but from what I understand he’s working on a ‘91 Aerostar extended body van conversion.


He sent along a picture, which I figured all of you fellow motor-heads would appreciate. Click the image to see the full size view, including the huge tranny.

Orlen's Motor setup

The motor is the same ADC FB-4001 that Eve has, but somehow it looks more menacing on that transmission. He wrote to add:

The transmission is actually not too big and is light enough that I can pick it up with one hand (but I wouldn’t want to hold it that way for long). It is a Mazda M5OD 5 speed OD manual transmission that is stock in some Ford Ranger and Bronco II trucks as well as in the Aerostar van although not too many of the vans were made with manual transmissions. Since Ford and Mazda are combined (at least partly) they seem to use parts and assemblies interchangeably.

My van was automatic with AWD but I retrofitted the manual as part of the EV conversion. The fun part was finding a junked Aerostar with a serviceable manual transmission. I finally found one at a junkyard in Leadville CO, a hundred miles from home at about 10,000ft and removed it during a blizzard. Liked to froze my a** off doing it. The yard owner allowed me to use his forklift to lift the van for removal but the forklift should have been a resident of a junkyard itself. The hydraulics were leaky and it had no brakes so the removal job was quite exciting. Anyway the manual transmission is a lot lighter than the AT and transfer case that was in the van. That combination weighed over 300lb. It took both myself and my son to drag it out from under the van after we unbolted it.

He’ll be using a DCP Raptor controller with 144vdc pack composed of 24 six volt deep cycle batteries (Trojan T-125).

Orlen’s first EV was a Mazda R100 coupe, built back in the late 70’s. That’s back when you had to hunt down old aircraft to harvest the electric starter motor. This was a shunt wound motor rated for 30V and the battery pack was four marine 12V deep-cycle batteries.

Control was through some 36V relays scrounged from a junkyard forklift carcass and a bank of microswitches from an old fire alarm sequencer to select 24 or 48 volts to the armature and a large potentiometer to control field weakening. The throttle pedal force required was quite high with all that stuff connected to it.

According to Orlen,

The whole thing was inadequate for my transportation requirements as I had a 50 mile commute and the rig would only go about 20 miles on a charge. It was a fun toy for trucking around town on weekends though. When I moved from Maine to Berlin, Germany I sold it to the local college where I worked part time. It would have probably given the German TUV vehicle inspectors a coronary at port of arrival.

Best of luck, Orlen!. Maybe we can get some more actions shots of the conversion as it comes together.

Comments 19
  1. jcwinnie    Jan 18, 2006 14:41 PM    #
    Land shark
  2. — Greg Coleman    Jan 22, 2006 01:13 AM    #
    That “supercharger” is a bigger ripoff than the one on ebay. Why was it included on this website???????
  3. Jerry Halstead    Jan 22, 2006 07:24 AM    #
  4. — Dan    Jan 22, 2006 19:05 PM    #
    I think he’s refering to one of the “ads by google” for the turbonator (it’s a set of inline vortex-generator vanes you hook up to your car’s air intake). It sounds like Arnie should be giving testamonials for it. ;)
  5. Jerry Halstead    Jan 25, 2006 15:37 PM    #
    Ah, sorry about that. Sometimes “automatic” google ads come up with either totally wrong matches (“Meet Republican Singles!”) or features businesses that are less than reputable (“Big Bob’s Magnetic Fuel Atomizer”).

    If you send me an email with the name of the company AND the url shown I should be able to filter them out.

    I've read various people's thoughts on these kinds of “bad” ads:

    * ignore them, ads that don’t get clicked much supposedly end up going down in rankings and being shown less by google
    * I try to filter them out, maybe google will lower ranking too?
    * leave them alone, hopefully people who click the ad figure out it's a scam and don't buy: company pays for ads, no sales, quits advertising

    I haven’t given any of them much thought nor condone any of these. It would be nice if I only saw ads that appealed to ME, but then again those might not be ads that appeal to YOU. Overall I think google does a pretty good job of showing ads that are on topic.
  6. Gerrit    Mar 01, 2006 05:50 AM    #

    I came across this add on your site today. HTTP://sironic.com/order_remover.jpg
    Entropy in a can: Use a little for disorder. Use a lot for total chaos.

  7. Jerry Halstead    Mar 01, 2006 08:10 AM    #

    That’s excellent!

    I think I inadvertently sprayed some of that stuff in my garage…

  8. — Woody Becher    Mar 02, 2006 16:14 PM    #

    Made Maiden voyage with Nissan this weekend (buddies have named it Juicy.) It seems to be drawing too many amps (200-300 just to maintain 30-40mph) How much does your’s draw.

  9. — James May    Mar 02, 2006 18:12 PM    #

    Pump your tyres up really high, Woody. My little EV uses about 100A-120A at 35MPH at 96V. Hills make all the difference. Check for brakes binding and possibly replace the gear oil.

  10. Jerry Halstead    Mar 03, 2006 11:12 AM    #

    Congratulations Woody!

    Tires is a good check. Also, I’d prop it up on jacks and check to see how freely each wheel turns. Make sure you don’t have stuck brake pads or cables.

    My old nissan truck kept having it’s emergency brake line system rusting up and the rear brakes would be partially on all of the time. Real bummer.

  11. — Woody Becher    Mar 07, 2006 13:44 PM    #

    Checked the brakes…not it. Tires are at 47psi (44 max recommended)don’t know how high I should go. Tonight I will drain the differential, check carrier bearing on drive shaft etc. I’ll disconnect the drive shaft and isolate it to the rear-end at least.

  12. — James May    Mar 07, 2006 18:41 PM    #

    I run 41/42 psi on 36 Max recommeded tyres. I’m not going very fast and I think that rating is for a speed of 70MPH. The high front tyre pressure makes my steering nice and light. The car doesn’t grip like a racing car but it does have good poise with all that low down weight.
    I’ll be watching the tyres for centre tread wear but I will be surprised if I get it appreciably.
    I had quite bad toe out when I got the car. It does waste a little bit of energy so it, and any other geometry maladies might be worth checking

  13. — Woody Becher    Mar 13, 2006 08:20 AM    #

    I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why the back wheels turned so hard. I disconnected the drive shaft and found that it turned easily. Asked a mechanic and he said the back wheels should turn very easy when jacked up….unless you happen to have a posi-trac rear end….uh…thanks. When both wheels are turned at the same time they moved freely. Go figure. The real problem ended up being the rear caliper pistons were not free in the cylinder. I lubed them up and had the rotors turned and WOW! The car uses 1/2 amps and gets more than twice the range. Thanks guys!

  14. — James May    Mar 13, 2006 09:31 AM    #

    Glad it was something simple!

  15. — James May    Mar 13, 2006 09:34 AM    #

    By the way, I am suspicious of my motor bearings. The flywheel doesn’t seem to keep spinning when the power is off the way I think it should. Does any one have any idea what the symptoms are for worn motor bushes/bearings?

  16. Jerry Halstead    Mar 13, 2006 11:47 AM    #

    Good news, Woody. I guess that means you’ll get better range if you drive with both wheels on the ground too? ”:^)

    Hey James, I had an incident with my first EV where the adaptor slid into the front face of the motor and slowly wore it away over the years, thereby destroying the bearing. The only indication was that it didn’t “sound” right.

  17. — James May    Mar 13, 2006 14:51 PM    #

    Mine rumbles under regeneration. I hope the shft adapter hasn’t moved! I expect I’ll get round to looking at it in the summer. Will probably lighten the flywheel while I’m in there. Its too heavy.

  18. — Woody Becher    Mar 14, 2006 08:32 AM    #

    Best way to check for bearing damage is with a vibration monitor if you can access one. It can detect vibrations in tune with RPMs to give 1st, 2nd etc. vibrations and can differentiate between allignment, ballance, bearings etc.

  19. — James May    Mar 14, 2006 14:39 PM    #

    Thanks Woody