Electric Vehicle Conversion Videos:
EV Secrets

EV donor car engine bay

You know Gavin Shoebridge, the (now) famous New-Zealander who did an electric vehicle conversion and video-documented it on YouTube a couple of years ago?

If not, here's the breakdown:

  • Ordinary guy, no particular mechanical expertise, is dismayed by the increasing price of petrol (he's in New Zealand, they don't have gasoline there, only petrol), and he wants to do something heroically green for his country, and says to himself one day, "Hey, I think I'll do an electric vehicle conversion!".
  • Ordinary guy jumps in with both feet, a video camera, and a smile.
  • Ordinary guy successfully converts his little Tredia to electric, and documents every funny, exciting, excruciating, frustrating, and even romantic moment on video (his conversion was racing the clock with his overseas wedding - also documented in his conversion videos; ). Uploads video to YouTube. Over a million people watched.
  • Ordinary guy inspires a lot of other people to try electric vehicle conversion themselves, and he even got himself on local television a time or two, and then...
  • ...so many people wanted to watch the videos all together that Gavin started selling them from his website for pretty much the cost of postage.

After a while, Gavin discovered that not only could he DO an electric vehicle conversion - lots of guys have done that! - but he could also translate the process into plain English, remove the intimidation factor, and even make it fun. He also went where no man had gone before and created excellent video to assist with the "plain English".

I'm talking with him today about his new project, an electric vehicle conversion manual called EV Secrets: Insider Secrets Revealed.

Interview: Gavin's Electric Vehicle Conversion

electric tredia

Gavin: Gidday to you Lynne, all the way from "Downunder".

Hi, Gavin. I got a chance to read your downloadable electric vehicle conversion manual, and I saw that it says on the ebook cover, "As seen on TV". Did you sell EV Secrets on one of those infomercials?

Gavin: Well sort of. While filming the instructional videos I played them back on my TV while checking for errors etc, hence the "As Seen on TV" sticker. I saw it on my TV so we decided to put that on there for a laugh! I know, it's as close as I'll get to appearing on Days of our Lives.

I did appear on television when a national current affairs show did a piece on my electric car. I also documented my electric vehicle conversion on YouTube and ended up with over a million watchers to date so it's kinda made me a reluctant overnight star - for a few moments anyway!

If you want to see me looking uncomfortable on national TV you can watch the interview on my website evsecrets.com.

Gavin on TV...

EV conversion on your butt in front of the TV!

EV conversion videos

I was just telling folks about your new project, EV Secrets, and how this electric vehicle conversion manual is really kind of different from the other ones we've seen. You've got a downloadable manual, then you've got supplemental videos to demonstrate some of the hard-to-visualize stuff...and there's also an option to get the whole thing on DVD and watch it on your TV.

Gavin: Right. If you're like me, and you'd rather watch the videos on your TV than your PC we offer the whole ebook and videos on a packaged DVD. This means you can sit down and watch the basics of a conversion from the comfort of your sofa before you begin...and sitting on my backside and watching TV is my favorite method of learning!

Yes, and you won't spill your beer into the keyboard that way.
(Not that you should be drinking beer before, during, or after working on a high-voltage system. Ahem. Well...okay, maybe after; )

KM/H equals volts? That might not be an EV Secret

Next question:
On page 32...you talk about volts roughly equaling km/h. Where did this come from?

Gavin: It's a bit of a generalization, but yes it's true, your car's voltage will often equal your car's top speed. The higher the voltage, the more performance available and the higher the achievable top speed. For example, a 72 volt car will typically struggle to get past 72km/h (45mph), and a 96 volt car will top out near 96km/h (59mph).

Therefore a 120v to 144v car is a better solution if a higher top speed is required. Obviously with any generalization it can never be completely accurate and it is possible to get a 72 volt car up to 100km/h (62mph) with aerodynamic modifications & weight reduction. There's plenty that can be done to maximize your EV and I list a heap of those in the ebook that comes with the videos.

So that's a Gavin Shoebridge Original observation, then?

Gavin: Yeah, as far as I know I created the volts=km/h thing but I'm sure someone else must have noticed it too!

Amp-hours, weight, and 12v batteries

batteries and controller

On page 51, you're comparing 6v, 8v, 12v batteries that have different AH, and you say that the 12v makes for a lighter battery pack, but I notice it has fewer amp-hours, so that's not surprising, since AH are heavy devils; )
Let's see if I can find the quote...here it is. "As you can see, 12v batteries don't have the same capacity as their 6v and 8v counterparts..." but 12v batteries come in many different AH capacities, including the 225AH. They're really heavy, as you might expect. The 12v you chose happens to be 105AH, but then 6v and 8v come in smaller AH capacities, too. What do you have to say about that?

Gavin: Depending on the quality of the batteries, a pack made up of 6 volt batteries can often take more abuse than a pack made up of 12 volt batteries of the same capacity due to the thicker plates inside a 6 volt battery. The main benefits to using lower voltage lead acid batteries is the higher capacity, higher typical lifespan, and lower overall cost per watt-hour.

Don't panic if it sounds confusing...it's not! It's actually very easy to work out capacity in watt-hours (W/h): It's simply voltage x amp-hours...which equals watt-hours.

I promise not to panic. Taking deep breaths now and going to my happy place.

Gavin: Let's look at these examples for a typical 72 volt battery pack (with Trojan brand batteries):

Battery Pack 1 uses six "SCS150" batteries (12v each and 110 amp-hours each) making a total capacity of 7,920 W/h total per pack, costing $1145.70 USD

Battery Pack 2 uses twelve "T105" batteries (6v each and 225 amp-hours each) making a total capacity of 16,200 W/h total per pack, costing $1871.40 USD

As you can see, the total capacity of the 6 volt pack is twice that of the 12 volt pack, yet the price is only $725 more. This means you can typically get more capacity, a higher lifespan, and a lower overall cost per kW/h using 6 volt batteries over 12 volt batteries.

Be warned, it's not all good news- there are the issues of the extra weight and the extra space required. Those problems force many converters to use 8 volt or 12 volt batteries in their cars. Yet as long as you buy quality batteries and look after them well, they should last between 3 to 5 years with normal use.

A bit like the The Golden Girls - but with a bit more battery acid.

And now, for some really dumb questions...

Have you ever been "bitten" by your battery pack in the process of electric vehicle conversion?

Gavin: No, I've not been zapped by my battery pack. I like to think of myself as proof that you can convert a car to electricity without being zapped just by following logical safety steps such as taping up your tools with electrical tape and wearing high voltage gloves (available from any good safety shop). If you do it properly and treat the batteries with respect they'll respect you too & they'll enjoy a long & happy life.

Have you ever asked yourself why we can't take the heat from the controller and blow it into the cabin?

Gavin: Heating the car with the heat of the controller is unlikely to work for most people because controller's are so efficient that you'd be lucky to shave more than a degree or two off your car's cabin temperature. Not only that, but your controller would struggle to get hot in very cold weather. By the time your car's cabin has warmed up summer would have arrived!

electric motor installed

Another suggestion I've been asked is using the heat of the motor to warm the cabin. Once again, it'd take a very long time to get the motor hot enough to make a difference in cold weather. I explain a few heating options for EVers in the ebook, but the option I recommend (for cars of 96 volts or higher) is modifying a household electric heater and installing it in place of your existing heater core under your dashboard.

It's very simple to do (there are no moving parts) and you could have your electric heater system up and running in an hour. There are video tutorials in simple, plain English accompanied with the ebook if it still sounds a bit scary. One of the big benefits to having an electric heater is that the heat is instant. No more waiting 10 minutes for the car's heater to warm up!

An electric vehicle conversion is way too efficient, then - they don't even give off enough extra heat to keep your fingers thawed without installing some extra device.
Now that I think about it, they're too quiet, too. We Americans are frantically working on the complex problem of noisy-ing up the hybrids so pedestrians don't get mowed down by our stealth Toyotas.
Before long we'll discover that they don't emit enough toxins into the air, and they'll all be recalled and crushed, you wait and see.
Hey, did you say "earth pin" here on page 138? What on earth is that?

Gavin: First of all, I'd better explain that mains power (what comes out of a power outlet) is always trying to find it's way towards the ground. That's why if you stick a knife into a power socket, the electricity will use you as a way to get to the ground, traveling up your arm, right past your heart and going out through your feet. Unfortunately this can often prove fatal.

On a typical 3-pin household plug, the earth pin is often the longest of the three, so when you plug in an appliance that happens to be faulty, the earth pin gets into the socket first.

This means that before any power has goes into the faulty appliance a path has been created for the electricity to get to the ground - instead of going through you! When power goes into the appliance it should trip a circuit breaker or blow a fuse.

Some appliances don't have an earth pin, and having an earth pin certainly doesn't make your appliance perfectly safe to plug in. Depending on what kind of fault the appliance has, it may still use you as a path to get towards the ground. That's why I recommend plugging in any outdoor device (especially an electric car) through a thing called a Ground Fault Interrupter (or in some countries a Residual Current Device).

These little gadgets detect power finding it's way to the ground in a fraction of a second and instantly switch off the power supply. They're life-savers...and available from any hardware store. I ask all EV owners (or potential owners) to please, please buy one. Going without it isn't worth the risk.

Oh. I always called it the third prong. I'll be referring to it as an earth pin from now on, of course, because it sounds so much more intelligent.
So that explains why I can't plug in half my fancy gizmos into my old-wiring house; the only place there are outlets that accommodate an earth pin is in the kitchen and the bathroom. (Sorry - that's "washroom" in New Zealandish.)

Bad boys and other unconventional charging methods...

Kiwi EV in the trunk

Next question:
I see that I'm in your electric vehicle conversion book, p. 135, in the bad boys section (much as in real life, I'm afraid)...or rather I should say there's a link to myinterview with Lee Hart where he talks about building and civilizing a bad boy (homemade) charger. You say, "...dangerous for the electrically unsavvy." Personally, I think it's completely safe for the electrically unsavvy, because they'd not even attempt it. It's the other folks I worry about.

Gavin: Yeah, the "Bad Boy" charging system is kinda dangerous for the unskilled. Personally I wouldn't even attempt it myself as it's an "all or nothing" style of charger. It typically needs to be monitored or it can cook your battery pack! I recommend for the average converter to use a factory-made battery charger such as a Zivan brand, which comes pre-programmed for your battery pack, extending the life of your batteries through "smart charging" (which is where your charger wears glasses and joins a book club).

The one-charger-per-battery method: Where did this come from?

Gavin: I first saw the one-charger-per-battery idea used by another converter Dr Larry Tillman. He used this method with success so I tried it myself. With any cost-cutting idea it comes with a lot of pros and cons, the biggest being:

A: It's cheap and simple, but, B: It can charge too slowly and be bad for the health of your batteries.

I explain how it's done and explain the pros and cons in the ebook. Including dealing with issues such as "voltage drop" (an annoying phenomenon where the voltage reduces - particularly DC voltages - over long lengths of cable) and the problem of very slow charging when using cheap, low current chargers.

There are solutions to these problems, such as buying high-amperage chargers and mounting them as close as possible to each battery, but with each solution comes more issues to work through. Don't give up though, the one-charger-per-battery method can work well in an electric vehicle conversion and save hundreds of dollars if done properly - and no, it won't short out your battery pack!

And finally, the somewhat irrelevant...

I notice you make quite a few references to tidiness. Are you a bit of a neat freak, and does it drive your wife crazy, or does she sensibly put it to good use?

Gavin: I think I'm a bit of a neat freak, but my wife would (and does) disagree. She tends to follow me around the house with the vacuum cleaner, clearing up my debris as if I were Hurricane Gavin.

Good spotting though! I do mention tidiness in the electric vehicle conversion manual and videos a fair amount, mainly because it really makes the car.

Too often I've seen cars that appear stunning from the outside but as soon as the hood goes up, it looks like a scene from a low budget sci-fi movie with wires everywhere! As you've seen in the ebook I recommend installing as many components as possible inside a ventilated box, on a shelf, with all the wires hidden under the board. It's very easy to do (just drill a hole when you want a wire to pop up) and yet it gives your home-built EV a seriously professional look - like you paid a pro to do it!

Not only is it good for your pride, but when you get asked about your car at the mall or supermarket you'll be able to proudly pop the hood and show off a little.

Believe me, once your hood is open, you'll have a small army of strangers asking questions, marveling, and taking photos of your electric vehicle conversion with their mobile phones.

And hey, there's nothing wrong with a little attention every now and then, is there?

Certainly not! Thanks, Gavin.

If you'd like to see a (free) preview of Gavin's new electric vehicle conversion manual, or are wondering where you can purchase the manual and supplemental video set, you can get Gavin's electric vehicle conversion videos here.

Verdict: I've watched and read the whole thing, and, despite the cheesy hype on the sales page (kiwi humor?), I think this video electric vehicle conversion manual is thorough and good value for your money.

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