Adventure EV

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

by on Dec.24, 2009, under Batteries, EV Land Rover, The Knowledge

Sorry for the gap in posts.  It’s been a very hectic couple of weeks!

Funding an electric vehicle conversion…  You’re not entirely alone here, depending on where you are.  It’s odd that there’s no real support for alternative fuel vehicle conversions at the Federal level, considering the country’s “green awareness” climate, but individual states, and sometimes even individual counties offer tax incentives for alternative fuel vehicles.  That’s good news.

Sometimes the programs are quite generous, but due to ongoing difficulties with state budgets most are being cut back quite a bit for 2010 and beyond.  That’s bad.

In order to take full advantage of one of these programs I need to have my Land Rover certified as an electric vehicle and registered before the end of 2009.  I’m also heading back to the east coast for the upcoming holidays.  It doesn’t leave me a lot of time to get stuff done.  That’s ugly.

Ahh, if that were all…

In order to ensure my shot at taking advantage of one of these programs, my Dad graciously booked a vehicle inspection in Broomfield, CO, just outside Boulder, CO, for December 17.  Broomfield is 350 miles away.  Ohhh, that’s bad.

And my batteries have been delayed from China.  That’s really ugly.

In fact, they will not get to me by the end of 2009, and that’s just sad.  But it is what it is.

Here’s the good.  Christmas came a bit early this year:

Of course those four, deep-cycle, lead-acid batteries weren’t just for testing the controller!  They were, in fact, part of my backup plan.  That’s my Dad driving, and me on the wobble-cam.  Sorry about that.  My budget on this one is all going into the build…

First impressions:  Torque from zero rpm is a very good thing.  The Soliton-1 motor controller is amazingly quiet, there is no high pitched whining as the motor spins up, only the slight whirring of the two small cooling fans.  The motor is amazingly quiet.  In fact, pretty much the only sound you can hear in the video is the tires on snow.  A Prius in electric mode makes more noise.

Colorado doesn’t care whether the electric vehicle is finished.  They just care if it’s an electric vehicle, and that means no ICE.

Motor Bay

Temporary 48 volt lead-acid setup while waiting for the LiFePO4 cells to arrive. No ICE to be found. High tech broom handle acts as bonnet stay.

So with a top speed of 20 mph and range of… who-knows-but-I-don’t-want-to-test-it, we loaded the Land Rover onto the back of a U-Haul auto-transport attached to my other Land Rover (a Range Rover) and towed the rig up to the Broomfield Technical Center.

Loaded Up

I was actually surprised how well the Range Rover handled the extra weight.  All told, it was moving about 10,000 pounds over mountain passes at 5000-8500ft ASL, and even then we managed to maintain 65-70mph most of the way and average 11.5 mpg with nary a wiggle from the rear.  How the H2 Hummer, which doesn’t weigh 10,000 pounds, achieves less than 10 mpg is beyond me.

New and Old

Don't worry about the Range Rover's sagging rear. Once on the move, the air suspension raises to keep everything level. The Series Land Rover has no idea what that means.

This is definitely one arena where ICE will win out over EV.  It’s not that electric motors can’t provide enough power (diesel locomotives, after all, run electric traction motors,) it’s that the amount of energy required to move 10,000 pounds at highway speeds for 350 miles is just immense…more than 15 times the amount of energy I can store in a single charge of my battery-pack-to-be.


So we made it to our appointment with the state tech inspection station (apparently my camera did not, as witnessed by the terrible phone pic), and the truck passed with flying colors!  I didn’t even have to drive it off the trailer, which slightly disappointed me, but who was I to argue…  They just checked the VIN number, popped the bonnet to ensure there was no ICE in there, and issued a document indicating that a new title with change of fuel status to electric be issued.  The guy at the inspection center was gracious, very helpful and mentioned that there were quite a few electric conversions in the Boulder, CO area, but no Land Rover’s that he’d seen.

Pass Screen

Screen at the testing center reads: "This vehicle has been converted to dedicated electric power."

The next day we applied for a new title and registered the car.  So it’s all legal now.  And it’s technically an electric car.  So I’m claiming a bit of success regarding the challenge of converting the Land Rover to electric power by the end of 2009.

It’s not done, of course.  I still have quite a bit to do to fulfill my original design goals.  Pretty much all the fabrication is complete, save for some small bits here and there.  But I still have to load in the lithium cells, and obviously that can’t and won’t happen until 2010.  I’m actually writing this stuck in an airport on my way back to the east coast while a blizzard rages.  I won’t be back to the project until next year.

Temp Setup

Chances are that I won’t really be able to complete the project until the spring.  The last few weeks have been difficult, a true learning experience, and ultimately satisfyingly fun, but I need to get back to working on some projects that pay the bills.

This is a good thing.  The weather will be warmer, and I’ll have a battery management system (BMS) design in place.  I can finish painting.  And, I can work out why my clutch only disengages 90% of the way, I suspect my motor adapter spacer is too thick by about a 1/16th to a ¼ of an inch.

But don’t worry, I’ll try and get some pictures of those lithium cells.  They should come in just as I get back in the new year.

So have a great Holidays, everyone.  Stay safe!

2 Comments for this entry

  • Jules Minsky

    Mazel Tov.
    Maybe the next time you bid on a CG project you can use this as an example of bringing projects in on time and maybe even under budget.
    You really earned some family time R & R.
    Maybe you can get Stanley interested in writing a story about all of this.

    Great Job & Happy Holiday

  • mikefish

    Well, I would say that is a pretty good thing all in all considering everything that could have gone wrong! So I would say you have hit your mark, and should consider this a victory! Not like you have any control over when the batteries arrive or not. Congrats man! Enjoy your vacation in the snowy North East!

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