Open Source Civic EV Kit

An Easy EV Conversion Kit For People

Open Source Civic EV Kit

After spending the past year and a half converting a Porsche 914 to an electric vehicle, I decided to expand my horizons by designing an open-source electric vehicle (EV) conversion kit for a commonly used car. The intention is to create detailed designs and directions so that anyone who has a garage and is moderately proficient with hand-tools can convert their car to an EV. This project started about a month ago when I became co-chair of the Oregon Electric Vehicles Association.

2008 156

Replacing and Saving the Aux Battery

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Well, the car's back on the road again. I replaced the 12V auxiliary battery (a group 30 motorcycle battery) and got a 2 year warranty on it just in case. I remember in the past, I fully drained my 12V accessory battery at least twice by accidentally leaving the headlights on. In fact, I almost did it again yesterday when driving the car over to a friend's place. The car is a bit older and doesn't have an alarm when you leave the headlights on when turning off the ignition.

2009 116

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Open Source Civic-EV documents moved

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Hi All, It's been a verrrrry long time since I posted here since I sold the Civic-EV. Due to Google removing the Files and Pages feature of Google Groups. All files and documentation at the civic-ev Google group has now been moved to the "civicevkit" Google Site: https://sites.google.com/site/civicevkit/ If you need to access the build instructions or Google Sketch-Up files, please go there now. Happy New Year for 2011! Cheers, Tim

Google 100

Battery Racks, Continued

Open Source Civic EV Kit

I did some more work on the battery racks over the past few days. The biggest challenge is getting everything to fit properly without hitting any blockages. At this point, I think I have all of the metal pieces cut, but I don't have the bolt holes drilled. Note: the following descriptions are a bit verbose because I'm trying to keep track of all the detailed measurements as I go. Here is a closeup of the front battery rack on the driver side.

2008 133

Rotating the Brushes on the Warp9 Motor

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Many people don't realize that the Honda crankshaft going into the transmission actually turns clockwise for the forward direction, as opposed to counter-clockwise for the vast majority of cars. As such, most EV motors have advanced timing on the brushes to optimize counter-clockwise rotation. Since we have a Honda Civic, we're going to rotate the brushes on the Netgain Warp9 motor so that they have optimal advanced timing for the clockwise direction.

2008 130

Saying Goodbye to Electric Blue

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Well, as most of you have seen, there hasn't been a lot of activity for several months on this blog. I sold Electric Blue to my friend Murray (shown above) and he is taking good care of her. It's time to move on from this electric vehicle conversion hobby and see where life takes me. I have a reservation for a silver Nissan Leaf coming in December, so maybe I'll post my experience with it. Maybe I'll even reverse engineer some of the guts and share it with y'all.

2010 100

Range Anxiety

Open Source Civic EV Kit

As you've probably noticed, things have been a bit quiet here. The new vacuum pump is working well and is nicely quiet. As the temperatures drop, the capacity of my batteries drop as well. After almost a year of hard driving, I suspect the batteries are also losing capacity. Over the past week, I've been driving a gas car because I had long errands after work that would have exceeded the maximum range of the Civic-EV.

2009 109

Controller Overheating and Vacuum Pump Issues

Open Source Civic EV Kit

It's been awhile since I've posted because, well, things are just kinda boring and working well on the Civic-EV. I passed 4,000 EV miles a few weeks ago and things are still moving along. For those of you who have been keeping track of weather in the NorthWest lately, we had a hot spell at the end of July. One day of that week got up to 107F. I had a bit of a scare coming out of work when I found that the Civic-EV wouldn't start at all.

2009 109

EV Awareness Day, Synkro faults

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Yesterday was our local EV organization's big annual event called EV Awareness Day. We held it at Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland. I gave a press event with the Mayor Sam Adams and two VPs from local power companies (PGE and Pacific Power). Probably one of the coolest things about the show is that a Tesla Roadster showed up unexpectedly! Here I am with the Tesla Roadster. After talking about electric vehicles to people all day in the sun, I was rather fried at the end of the day.

2009 109

Analyzing PakTrakr Files with PrestoPlot

Open Source Civic EV Kit

I took the Civic out for a spin today with my neatly installed PakTrakr and captured some data while pulling some reasonably high currents. I programmed the Synkromotive controller to limit the battery amps to 250 to help prolong the life of the batteries. It takes a bit of the acceleration edge off while on the freeway at 60mph, but otherwise, the power is just fine for commuting. After loading the PakTrakr data into Excel 2000 (yeah, I know it's old.),

2010 100

Mounting the PakTrakr

Open Source Civic EV Kit

It's time to mount the PakTrakr on the dashboard. Since I have a low-end model Civic, there are several unused accessory plates that I can tap into. Here's one that I popped out just to the left of the steering wheel. I drilled holes in the pop-out plate to match the mounting threads on the PakTrakr as well as a 1" hole to thread the wires through. After taking off two nuts on the back of the PakTrakr, I decided to disassemble the whole thing just to see what was inside.

2010 100

PakTrakr Signal Integrity

Open Source Civic EV Kit

I finally got to trying out some filtering on the PakTrakr lines today with some pleasing results. I've read several places, that the PakTrakr signal line really needs a 0.1uF capacitor across it to deaden out any extra noise. My series 100 ohm resistor that helped on my previous EV didn't work this time. I found a tiny 0.1uF tantalum capacitor at work.

2010 100

Fixing the Batmon Resistors

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Well it's about time I get the Civic working again now that the weather seems to be getting warmer. The biggest concern I have with my current system is the Batmon balancer resistors. The existing ones seem to be always on the verge of catching fire. To replace the existing resistors while keeping the same mounting holes, I cut some 2.5"x3" x3" rectangles of aluminum and bolted some beefier power resistors to them. Here's the rectangle of aluminum with the larger power resistors.

2010 100

Seeing the Nissan Leaf in Person

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Things have been nuts this week, but I did get a chance to see the Nissan Leaf come to Portland today. It arrived at OMSI this morning and the OEVA got a private session with the Leaf this afternoon. Here's Nissan's spokesperson who graciously answered all our geeky questions about the car. The Leaf boasts a 100 mile range on a 24KW battery pack. I have a 14KW battery pack and I only get about 20 miles when going on the freeway.

When Things Fall Apart

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Yesterday was not a good day. My landline and internet connection went dead on Saturday and the lamp globe for my ceiling fan broke apart above my bed, putting glass shards in the covers. This gave me an excuse to get off my computer and drive over to Home Depot yesterday (Sunday) to try and find a new globe for the ceiling fan. I had recently installed the PakTrakr system, so I cleared out the serial logging attachment and started collecting data.

2009 100

Hints from Paul on Paktrakr Installation

Open Source Civic EV Kit

I'm just cleaning up my e-mail this morning and found a message from Paul Pancella about more installation issues regarding the PakTrakr system: I can share my experience with the PakTrakr if you want. Ken Hall was very helpful, but the device itself was a little disappointing. The main thing is to be very careful with installation. The directions mention it, but it can't be emphasized enough, the remotes are easily destroyed if the ring terminals contact any battery terminals out of sequence.

Comparing Conversion Costs with Paul

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Paul Pancella (see link at right) put together a great spreadsheet comparing his Civic conversion costs with mine. There are a few minor updates, but things are very close for the most part. The only things that have changed on the Open Source Civic are the MES vacuum pump for the brakes and the fact that I ditched the custom tachometer and pillar pod. Even with these differences, the prices only change about $100. Thanks for assembling this list, Paul!

Installing the PakTrakr, Dead Aux Battery

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Hi All, The Civic-EV blog has been slow due to my bad batteries and being swamped at work. I got the recalibrated PakTrakr back a few weeks ago and finally had some time to install it tonight. I've heard of some other folks blowing up their PakTrakr modules, so I tried a few tricks that seemed to work quite well in preventing spurious voltage spikes from killing the modules. First of all, I needed to install two modules with six batteries apiece, so I split the battery pack into two halves.

John's PakTrakr Display

Open Source Civic EV Kit

I shipped the PakTrakr modules back to the owner (Ken Hall) for calibration. Ken mentioned that they were rebuilding their calibration unit and would send the modules back as soon as it was finished. I also received an e-mail from John Barton who used the open-source Civic battery rack design as a starting point for his own lithium-ion battery racks for his Civic DelSol: Hi Tim, I'm finishing up my second ev conversion, this time its a '93 Honda del Sol. My blog is [link].

2009 100

Installing the PakTrakr

Open Source Civic EV Kit

I took some time to install the PakTrakr modules today. I was a bit disappointed in the voltage measurements from the PakTrakr remotes, so I'll probably send them back for recalibration. Here are the voltages I measured: Unit #1 Battery # Battery(V) PakTrakr(V) Difference(mV) 1 13.43 70 2 13.49 210 3 13.48 13.4 -80 80 4 13.49 410 5 13.52 380 6 13.28 12.9 -380 380 Unit #2 Battery # Battery(V) PakTrakr(V) Difference(mV) 1 13.41 90 2 13.46 240 3 13.47 13.4 -70 70 4 13.46 240 5 13.5 200 6 13.29

New Vacuum Pump and Fixed Wiper System

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Sorry folks, no pictures today. I'm taking this long weekend to just relax and get some things done around the house while avoiding the crazy Labor Day weekend traffic. One thing that's really been annoying me about the Civic is that the intermittent wiper setting doesn't work. After taking awhile to pry out the ICU (Integrated Control Unit) mounted on the back of the fuse box, I opened it up and tried some tests with a 12V battery to verify failure.

2009 100

Getting a new Synkromotive Controller

Open Source Civic EV Kit

After mentioning the motor controller temperature faults to Ives (the designer) at Synkromotive, he suggested we swap it out for a newer one. I went into the shop this evening and swapped out the controller. Ives looked at the old one and basically told me that I had beta test unit #2 with tiny heatsinks, bad ventilation and very little filtering on the temperature fault circuitry. Apparently other customers have had the same issues and the new controller should be far better.

2009 100

Super FET working Comments on Sykro Controller

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Last week I was mostly on vacation, so I didn't get a chance to really charge the car at full amperage many times. This week was back to work, so I was able to give the charge detector a more reasonable test. In short, the three huge FETs with heat-sinks seem to work just fine (I should hope so.). I've charged the car seven times in the summer heat and the charger can dump a full 8 amps into the batteries every time without heating up the charge detector box.

2009 100

Time to Get a Larger Hammer

Open Source Civic EV Kit

After two days of running perfectly, I found yesterday morning that the amps were down and the FET had blown again. This really stumped me because I thought I had done everything to keep it cool and out of the switching region. After showing the system to the power supply EEs at work, they told me that any FET in a TO-220 case like the one I had would not handle a constant 8-amps for a long time.

2009 100

Cautious Optimism

Open Source Civic EV Kit

After talking with the power supply EEs at work, I came home and tried a few experiments to see if I could fix the alternative charge detector circuit. First, I used an external 12V UPS battery instead of the AUX power output on the Belktronix charger to see if noise on the power supply was causing my problem. Nope: The circuit still behaved as if the opto-coupler latched closed. Next step was to pull out my oscilloscope and start probing around the system.

2009 100

Failure Again!

Open Source Civic EV Kit

I came home this evening after a 20 mile drive with excitement to see the new charge detector circuit work. I plugged in the car and the circuit had an interaction with the optocoupler on the BatMon board and didn't see the correct signal. Nothing is burning up, but the FET is stuck in the off state for now, leaving the system to charge slowly with a really hot 3-ohm resistor. I'm so angry at this charging system!

2009 100

A New Hope

Open Source Civic EV Kit

After the utter failure of the Soneil and the Joule chargers, I did some more research on individual battery chargers.

2009 100

A Very Dark Day with the Joule Chargers

Open Source Civic EV Kit

This whole experiment with the individual chargers has been a very humbling experience. After the whole set of failures with the Soneil chargers, I learned from the distributor that the 1214S model doesn't support series strings of battery packs: Tim, Well, based on this email I sent an email to Soneil. Apparently there has a been a design change in some of their chargers (these included) which prevents you from being able to charge while in a "series" configuration.

2009 100

Sleuthing the Soneils

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Against my better judgment, I took apart one of the failed Soneil chargers yesterday afternoon to see if I could find out anything about the failures. There weren't any burned components or obvious damage. After powering up the unit with the cover off, I could verify that the isolation transformer between the AC side and battery side wasn't getting pulsed, and thus passing no power to the battery (or the LED).

2009 100

A dark day with the Soneils

Open Source Civic EV Kit

This morning was a dark morning. I received the Soneil chargers yesterday around noon and stayed up until 11:30 last night to install them. After installation, I powered them up and all chargers lit up with an orange LED. This morning, I got up and half of the chargers had a green lit LED and the other half were dark. I used a Kill-a-Watt meter to determine that the dark units were pulling no current at all. I've heard rumors that Soneils don't like to be attached to a series pack.

2009 100

Fixing the Potbox, Soneil's Arrive

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Over the past few days, the car has still been lurching around despite the potbox parameter adjustments that I've made inside the controller. I contact Bob Bath, the original CivicWithACord builder who sold me my PB5 potbox. It was brand new from KTA Services and not used/worn-out. Yesterday in stop-n-go traffic, the car was lurching again and the controller faulted when I haphazardly floored the accelerator with the car out of gear.

2009 100

Going to the Electrathon/HPV Event at PIR

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Last weekend, I took the Civic-EV to Portland International Raceway to show it off at the Electrathon/Human-Powered Vehicles event there. Memorial Day weekend is the one weekend that PIR can't make any loud noises, so they actively recruit electric vehicles and bicycles of all types to race. Here's Gary's Honda Insight EV with lithium ion batteries and an Siemens AC motor. This shows some of the velomobiles (encased recliner cycles) present at the event. They really fly.

2009 100

Synkromotive Potbox Issues and Temperature Faults

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Over the past week, I've been able to give the Synkromotive controller some good real-world experience during my commute. The controller is very smooth and has several parameters to keep the battery pack healthy. I also like that the Synkro controller doesn't tap off the main pack for part of its power supply which has led to pack imbalances in the past. You can see several voltage-current graphs on the Synkromotive website here. Click on SynkView at the bottom.

2009 100

Moving the Instrumentaiton

Open Source Civic EV Kit

Since the Synkromotive controller has its own motor speed limiter based on input directly from the Zolox sensor, I decided to clean up the instrumentation by removing the RPM gauge and moving the Link-10 E-meter onto the dashboard. While this removes some of the "coolness" factor without a tach, I like the more simplistic look as I tend to be a minimalist. Here's the empty pillar pod with the gauges and wiring removed.

2009 100

Installing the Synkromotive Controller

Open Source Civic EV Kit

I stopped by the Synkromotive shop this morning and picked up my beta-test controller that I've been wanting to try out. After running out and buying some more magna lugs and welding cable, I came home and removed the Belktronix controller and all the associated wiring. With the old controller gone, I had to figure out how to place the new contactor and controller. Here's my mock placement.

Installing a New Potbox

Open Source Civic EV Kit

As with many EV projects, much time is spent waiting for parts. The replacement Soneil chargers haven't shown up yet. On a more positive note, Synkromotive figured out some of the glitches in their new beta controller, so one should be available this coming Friday. This new system will require a different potbox, contactor and other wiring. I'm excited to install the controller, so I installed a new potbox to get ready.

Taking a Vacation

Open Source Civic EV Kit

It's been over a month since I've blogged about the Civic and people have started to ask where I've been. I'm still commuting (even with a blown charge detector) and the car has 1500 miles on it. Several events have happened with the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association (of which I'm the Chair) and I also went on vacation. At the end of march, I went on an amazing backcountry adventure, skiing the Wapta Traverse with a 45 pound pack on with Randonee' skis. Here I am near the start of the trip.

2009 100

Planning to Replace the EV Components

Open Source Civic EV Kit

In a month or so, I'll be getting a beta-test motor controller from Synkromotive which will have a variety of programmable features as well as more power. Since I'm replacing the controller, I looked into replacing the other components with off-the-shelf items that might work better than the current Belktronix system I have.

2009 100

Researching a Paint Job

Open Source Civic EV Kit

One of the downsides of a home-EV conversion is that most of them don't have air conditioning. The AC tends to suck precious power from the battery and adds extra weight to the car while taking up space that could be used for batteries. Thus, it's often best to get a white (or light colored) donor vehicle to repel the sun's rays during the summer. The conversion vehicle I purchased is dark metallic blue, which get's really hot inside, even on a mild day in the sun.

2009 100

Charge Detector Blown Again

Open Source Civic EV Kit

A few days ago, something funny happened to the vehicle. I drove home and my LVP light came on earlier than I expected. When I got home, the front battery was rather lower than the others in the pack. I attributed this to being just behind the front grille where a lot of cold air is blowing in. to remedy the problem a bit, I slide a large sheet of foam-core board between the batteries and the radiator grille which gives a bit of insulation and forces the air go around the side.

2009 100

EV Driven Link

Open Source Civic EV Kit

A few weeks ago, I added an "EV Driven" link to the right menu bar of this blog. EV Driven is a group of folks trying to spread the word about EVs and are behind the upcoming movie Revenge of the Electric Car. It contains several searching features for this blog as well as many other blogs related to electric vehicles. Please check it out when you get the chance. Cheers, Tim

2009 100

1000 Miles and Still Going.

Open Source Civic EV Kit

There's not too much to report on the Civic. I just passed 1000 miles yesterday and it still seems to work fine. I've definitely noticed over the past several weeks of commuting that my range is highly dependent on my speed. Even driving at 55mph instead of 60mph on the freeway gives me a few extra percent of battery life on the Link-10 E-meter.

2009 100

Fixing the Charging System.Again

Open Source Civic EV Kit

After doing another fix to the Charge Detector box on Monday, I enclosed all the BatMon boxes to prevent them from shorting out due to grime and automotive fluids. Here are the plastic boxes I talked about in a prior post. They are held in place with velcro adhesive tape and the box lids are held together with red electrical tape. I don't seem to be having any trouble with overheating (yet.) and the clear plastic lets me see the OVP/LVP lights.

2009 100