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Charge On!, Issue #009: Easy Electric Car Conversions
September 15, 2009
Insider Secrets Revealed
I got a chance to talk to Gavin Shoebridge the other day about his latest project, called EV Secrets: Insider Secrets Revealed. It's an electric car conversion manual, but this one really stands out from the rest for a couple of reasons.
First: How often do you get a series of (excellent) videos to supplement your conversion manual? No, these aren't the same videos we're all familiar with that he posted to YouTube documenting his conversion. These are new, a sort of 3-D illustrations for the manual.
Second: How often does the writer of a conversion manual offer online support with an invitation to contact him if you run into difficulties? This manual comes with a real human behind it.
It's well done and thorough.
If you want to know how to convert your car, and see it done, and go step by step through the process, and know EXACTLY what parts you'll need to finish it...this might be just what you're looking for.
It's not geared towards the gearheads and geeks.
It's not cheap.
I've heard some people say, "Why would I pay for conversion information when I can read stuff online for free?" And that's true, sort of. Me, I spend a lot of my day trying to pull together good EV information and weed out the nonsense, and I've found that's not as quick and easy as it looks. There IS good information available online, but there's also a lot of horsepucky and other animal byproducts.
It's up to you to figure out who's an expert, and who just THINKS they are.
Here's what I think, though: I'm spending 1500 bucks on the electric motor ALONE, so if I can spend less than a hundred dollars to learn how to fit it into the engine bay if space is kind of tight, how to bolt it in, which bolts not to use, how to mate it to the transmission - it makes sense to me in terms of value. We've all heard of guys who spend 1800 bucks on a battery pack and then fry it in a second with a bad homebuilt charger. Don't be one of those guys. (Unless I can get an interview; )
Is the price excessive? I don't think so. It costs money to produce videos, it costs time and energy to research and write, and it is valuable to be able to contact the writer as a client if something doesn't make sense or goes wrong. It's only logical for Gavin to expect to recoup his costs and make a modest profit. I don't think he's getting rich.
Build Your Own Electric Vehicle is a pretty darn good book, and actually there's a lot more information in it than in Gavin's EV Secrets...but it's information that's not specifically conversion how-to-do-its.
It's stuff about motors, and torque curves of different types of motors, and speculation about what the EV of the future will look like, and a chapter about what the EV of the past looked like, and such. Excellent stuff, and I highly recommend that book too...but when you're actually in the act of converting your car, you need a manual you'll have printed out and open in your garage, and BYO is probably not it.
It's got a slightly cheesy presentation.
So with that said...here it is, Gavin's conversion manual and video series - EV Secrets.
Speaking of EV Secrets...here are some questions I asked Gavin that only you, my loyal newsletter subscribers, will ever see; )
So, Gavin..."Insider Secrets Revealed!" Are the insiders angry that you've revealed their secrets, and do you fear for your life now? Ever heard of the EV Ninjas?
Gavin: Yes, revealing these “insider secrets” has forced me to become an outcast. I live under a different name and have had extensive plastic surgery to alter my appearance. (I'm also now a woman, hence my renewed interest in your site, Electric-Cars-Are-For-Girls.com.)
Hopefully the ninjas don't subscribe to my newsletter.
Gavin: Actually, there are some secrets revealed. When I started my EV conversion I read outdated technical books, emailed complete strangers asking for their advice, learned how to read schematic diagrams & visited others starting their conversions.
I learned everything by trial and error: things like reading the voltmeter to determine how much power I had left, reducing the car's weight, connecting all the components, different range-extending driving techniques. You name it, I've had to figure it out! So, yeah - there are some secrets revealed - stuff that only people who converted their cars could know about & understand. The interesting part was translating all that tech-speak into really simple English that people could understand without thinking.
On p. 135 of EV Secrets, you said, "If you get the wiring around the wrong way and your charger is in contact with the cars body then your car could become 'alive'...." Hmmmm. This is very interesting to me, because I believe there was a procedure similar to this in that other excellent DIY video, "Frankenstein". Have you ever actually caused a car to come to life, as in "Transformers"? I'm pretty sure I didn't see this illustrated in your supplemental videos, but I'll look again.
Gavin: Ah, my old mate Mr. Frankenstein. Many people don't realize he was an avid EV nut. Last I heard he was recalled & crushed by General Motors.
Those people again!
Gavin: As for those pesky electrocution hazards, remember that electricity is always trying to get to the ground. Therefore your car's battery charger will most likely come with an Earth pin on it's plug to provide a path for electricity to travel down if things go bad, subsequently blowing a fuse and neutralizing the circuit - instead of neutralizing you.
If you are installing your own mains power plug onto your car, make sure you have the correct wire on the correct pin of the plug. This part is important and some countries have different color-codes so if you're unsure, check with an electrician in your area.
You could be electrocuted if this part is done improperly. For example, if your charger is mounted to the metal frame of your car (which is normal), yet your chargers earth wire is connected into the phase (live) pin of a power plug, the car body would become “live” with mains power crawling all over it looking for a way to get to the ground. If for some reason your house fuse hasn't blown then simply touching the car body could allow the power to get to the ground through you. This can be fatal so if you're in doubt don't be scared to ask an electrician and always, always use a Ground Fault Interrupter/Residual Current Device.
What's an "earth pin", Gavin? Read the rest of the interview here.
In other news...
Who Stole the Electric Car?, premieres in Hollywood next month...heard about it yet?
Here's the press release...
In the year 1995, a self-centered average guy steals a prototype electric car in a crazy attempt to win back his Africa-bound environmentalist girlfriend. During his road trip from the Motor City to Southern California, he teams up with a vegetarian sidekick and, pursued by the police, the duo race across the country. . . without using a single drop of gasoline.
WHO STOLE THE ELECTRIC CAR? is a feature length comedy that focuses on a man's inability to look past himself, and the society around him that is too consumed by its own problems to concentrate on human progress. You'll have the adventure of your life. . . at 99.9 miles per gallon!
...so that will be coming soon to a theater near you.
One more thing:
EV University has acquired a few more instructors, who are busily working on creating their classes.
Eric Pedersen - Jim Husted's shopmate - will teach "How to Build a Transmission Adaptor Plate for your EV", and Gavin Shoebridge has agreed to teach a conversion class based on his manual.
I'm particularly excited about the capability that EVU has to allow students to upload photos and video of their own projects and to participate in chat and forums with other students. It's a collaborative, collective learning environment that brings people together from all over the world!
There's still time to vote on your "most wanted" class. The EVU survey can be found here.
That's the news! Happy September!
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