Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I have been working on building an electric water heater for the EV. I have been using a KATs 1500 watt block heater and a Jabsco RV water pump, and so far the bench testing has been great. I have more work to do, like build a DC thermal switch that I can adjust the temperature, and possibly some sort of relief valve system. I don't need much heat, but from my tests for far this should give heat just as well as it did with the ICE.

I have also been investigating ways to warm my batteries. Right now I have about 12 miles of range, and I need to jump that back up to 20 miles so it can be an all year EV. My batteries are usually around 50-55F on a good winter day with insulation alone, and they need to be over 80F for proper battery performance. I am going to try an electric blanket, because they are inexpensive and have temperature control built in. I only really need it in the mornings after charging has completed before I go for a drive. The insulation on the batteries can keep them warm/hot but they need something else to get them up to temperature.

Tomorrow I am going to check out some local stores to see what they have for electric blankets, and if I do fine some I will try them out this weekend. I have to redo my insulation anyways, so it should be simple to wrap a blanket around the batteries before I tape up the insulation.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Efficiency Testing

I have been running a particular test route for breaking in my batteries and testing out my EV. It's about 3.3 miles long and includes everything I usually see during my commute. It also happens to be a little more aggressive than my standard commute because there is a fair amount of stop and go. I have been collecting lots of data over the past five or so months and this is what I have found:

Kelly Controller -> 333 WH/Mi
Zilla Z1K-LV -> 312 WH/Mi
Zilla w/Skunk2 -> 270 WH/Mi

What these numbers mean it how much power it takes to go 1 mile of driving. Less power required = more range. I also did not baby it during any of these tests as the roads were quite populated with travelers.

My new suspension has done A LOT for efficiency, more than I had expected. My rear wheels were bent in quite a bit due to the weight and stock struts.

I did the route a few times just to make sure, but it seems my EV has dropped it's WH/Mi requirement a good chunk from last time I drove it to school back in October. It's looking like a 19% improvement in efficiency, which is amazing. And for comparison, it was around 55F back in October to this past weeks high of 42 F when I drove it.

I am going to have to collect a lot more data this week just to verify, but these past few runs have been great. Not to mention the suspension itself feels a lot better, although stiffer.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Suspension Installation

Today was really nice out, around 50F so I installed the rear suspension. Here is the Old and Busted:

And here is the new Hotness:

What I first had to do was the obvious, jack up the car and remove the wheel. Then I had to use another jack to compress the strut so I could install the spring compressor I rented from AutoZone. That part was tricky because the compressor could barely fit, but I did eventually get the struts and springs off. I then had to disassemble the old struts to get the Dust Cover and the top part of the strut assembly.

Using the spring compressor wasn't as scary as I originally thought. In the above picture it actually did get a little scary on the second strut when it came to decompress the springs. One of the compressors started to slip, but it caught itself.

The lower control arms on Civics have a nasty habit of freezing and busting the lower bolts. So I did not undo this bolt like the Civic Service Manual says too, but instead undid the upper bolt on the control arm and used the spring compressor and lots and shoving to get it out. It was about an hour to remove each strut, 10 minutes to build the new struts and springs and another 10 to install them. Now I have only done the rear suspension, I will do the front later on after I get my inspection this week.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Today I removed my battery balancers because they were interfering with cold weather charging, and I want to rebuild their programs from scratch. I have also started to Equalize/Desulfate my batteries using my trusted Home Depot 12 volt 10 AMP automatic charger. I have found that at least 2 batteries needed to equalize, and I will be equalizing all of them just to be sure.

I have researching the proper way to break in and care for my batteries, and according to EV of America, batteries should be equalized every 5-10 cycles and a slow break in for 30-50 cycles. They recommend driving 10-20% of my estimated range, and then adding 10-20% more every two cycles, and I should be able to reach the designed range.

I have a whole bunch of EV things to do, but I also got a modified version of the ZillaConfig that keeps track of Ah usage and KWh usage. I will do my standard 3.8 mile run and see how much power it really uses, then try it again after a full charge from the first run.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Suspension Round Two

I called around today and drove around town and found a solution to my suspension problem. We could not removed a few bolts, so I went out to see how could I get the suspension installed. After some hunting, I found that the local Goodyear was more than willing to loosen my stuck bolts. They would have even installed the new suspension, but I didn't have it fully assembled because I need parts from my old suspension to do it. So now all my stuck bolts were professionally loosened up and I can attack the coils again.

I am going to rent a spring compressor from AutoZone this week and give it a whirl. I don't need it to assemble the struts, but to disassemble the old ones.

I also found that one of my batteries was not happy during my 5 mile round trip. I have had the EV in and out of full service since October, so the batteries aren't in the best shape. I have put my trusted Home Depot charger on it, then I will charge each other battery individually also. This charger has been wonderful, and it has removed just about all the sulfation from other batteries, so it should do a nice job. I also made the mistake of not doing any break in drives since last week, and that means I need to start all over again. Ooops.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Suspension Suspense

Yesterday we attempted to install the new suspension system, with the help of my neighbor, his garage and sweet tools. We had the wheels off and most of the strut tower bolts, then we got stuck. One flange bolt would not come loose, but we could see if wanting to give with a bolt breaker. My dad and I decided that instead of breaking the bolt, and then getting screwed with busted bolts and a car with just 3 wheels, I would reassemble it and drive it down to the local Honda mechanic and see if he can install the suspension system. I also have not been able to find the bolts that would need replacement at any local auto parts stores, so I would have to go to the mechanic anyways.

Tomorrow I am going down to see what he can do. I have all the parts, and yesterday the car was just about in pieces in 10 minutes, so it is not a huge job. It has come to a point where if I did it, I would cause more damage than good.

I do have most, if not all of my components for my water heater. I am going to measure out the hoses and mock it up and try a test with the pump using a bucket of water.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Winter Wonderland

I haven't made my test heater setup yet, but I did play with my new digital camera. Tomorrow my Skunk2 suspension should be arriving so I decided to get a before picture. You can see how low the rear is compared to the front. Once the new setup is in, I want stock ride height. I also need to bring the EV in for inspection this month, and I would like to do that after the new suspension is installed.

And my control tray setup with the Zilla 1K-LV. I drove around today and realized I still have a small vacuum leak that needs to be clamped off.

And here is my interior setup. I have the Paktrakr and Current meter on the top, and on the side I have my Cruise Control that activates the current meter and my Idle control. It works great and I activate it when the transmission computer finishes booting and the D4 light shuts off. And below I have my 5K potentiometer that allows me to change my shift points.

The holiday mayhem of family visiting, cleaning, etc is over and now the relaxing part starts. I have collected most of the parts to make my heater and they are all set on my workbench, I just need to assemble it.