Saturday, August 31, 2013

My Electricfly - Struggling with Cancer - a time to decide it's fate!

When working on My Electricfly - I was struggling with a Seized Bolt and a Fender that had gotten Brazed to the Rocker Panel - and so I attempted to mam-handle it off - the old fashioned way: Cut it off, with a plan to re-attach it with a braze or well later, after cleaning up the Rust issues!

Unfortunately - in the process - I caused a large piece of (very rusty) metal to fall out of the under-body! Upon Closer examination - using a large mirror under the car and a light - I could see that the car's body was under attack by a large area of rust - body cancer - in my baby!

As such - since it is a 1989 Pontiac Firefly at its roots, being 24 years old, with questionable rust prevention both before my acquisition, and since, it is suffering with a major level of under-body rust.

While I have been working on ideas and research to integrate a new-technology battery chemistry - Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) pack into the car - considering both Prismatic styles and Cylindrical styles, and coming to the plan to use Cylindrical Headway Cells in the original Gas Tank space for a 7.5 kWh Battery Pack, the car has been silently dying in front of me!

As a number of components on the vehicle have been added or upgraded by me - it is hard to just write it off. Installing Individual Battery Chargers was my first attempt at better battery management. This included using standard 12V Chargers - one for each Battery. I had a custom built case installed in the front of the car, with 4 such chargers inserted into the one case. Three of the chargers were for the front three traction batteries, and one was for the normally located accessories battery.

I also added, after discovering that even charging each battery individually was not enough to keep them drifting wildly apart on discharge, a battery charge balancing system, and also - a Individual Battery Monitoring System - which was able to allow me to see which batteries were going low first, and adjust my driving accordingly and sooner - saving extreme discharge from the Batteries.

A Newly machined and custom throttle connect was also created and integrated, so as to properly deliver a straight movement from the solid cased and sealed Throttle Pot to the Rotating throttle Pedal arm.

It also has an interesting and storied past, as well as ties to the development of some interesting transitional businesses in the world of Electric Vehicles. The original High School students that built it - have had further experience in the EV World, and after furthering their careers post High School, two of the students went on to create Hymotion - the Prius PHEV Conversion Company that used the original A123systems 26650 Cells in their Enhanced drive system. This was ultimately bought out by their Battery Supplier, and has since been closed down.

It was from reaching out and connecting with them, that I discovered more about this vehicle - since I was sent a pdf file with information about many of the original components - the motor, the controller, and the throttle pot.

Of course - the Car was acquired at a time when there were no OEM Electric Vehicles to choose from, and a lot was learned with it as I used it and developed better battery management control.
OF course - it forced me to do a lot of research on Batteries, and to learn about the differences between Battery Labeling, Specifications, and Reality in an Electric Vehicle when it came to Lead Acid Batteries.

Time changes many things, and one thing in particular - is that OEM Electric Vehicles (EV's) are now coming from Mitsubishi (iMiEV), Mercedes Smart (Smart ED), of course - the Nissan LEAF, The Ford Focus EV, and the Coming Chevy Spark EV. Also available new since I bought this car - are (if I could afford them) were the Tesla Roadster, and now the Tesla Model S - reported as the Best Vehicle ever - not just the best Electric Car!

Other Categories have been developed and delivered - the Chevy Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle (a Variation of a Plug-in Hybrid, or PHEV), and others like the Toyota Prius PHV and the Ford Fusion Energi and the new Ford CMAX Energi, as well.

These are all new choices to pick from, that didn't exist in October of 2006 when I bought the Electric Firefly and began to brand it as My Electricfly!

Along this time - my own Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle collection has changed a few times - from a 2005 Chevy Optra Wagon bought in August 2005, rated at 10.9 L/100 km City, and 7.4 L/100 Km Highway, to a Leased 2008 Dodge Dakota SXT, rated at 14.4 L/100 KM City and 9.8 L/100 Km Highway (Traded the Optra, in January 2008), to buying a new 2010 KIA Soul, Rated L/100 km: 8.5 city, 6.6 hwy in July 2010. The Dodge Dakota was returned in December 2010 at an early end of lease completion. It had been used to tow my Electricfly to Ottawa EV Shows, Newmarket EV Shows, and Toronto EV Shows.

I have also bought a used 2004 Prius to experiment with the aftermarket Plug In Battery Options that exist. the Prius was used this year for a trip to Wisconsin, to attend Oshkosh AirVenture and on that trip got me a typical best average of just 4.5 Litres per 100 Kms. With such a good base of fuel burn - better than my KIA Soul by quite a bit, it has come down to thinking over the car equation: Keep the Prius and Buy an EV from an OEM, Sell (or Trade) the KIA Soul, and as for my Electricfly - the choices are a bit grim:

  1. Sell the Electricfly as is and hope for the best sale price,
  2. Take out the Good Stuff -Like the Custom Embroidered Seats, and sell it without seats,
  3. Take Everything out that is EV Related, and Scrap the Car,
  4. Sell Components (Motor , Controller, and Throttle Pot; Battery Equalizers; Tires/Wheels, etc.)
  5. Patch it up, clean up the surface rust and finish the progressing white paint job, and donate it to a museum (Oshawa?) for the History in it,
  6. Or - Trade? it in (with the KIA) at a Dealer - for a new Electric Vehicle!

With that said, I would like to hear some of your thoughts!

Of course - along the way - I have gotten involved in organizing Electric Vehicle Shows - helping with the first in 2010, the EV Show & Shine BBQ, with the Electric Vehicle Society and Scarborough Toyota, and then the first EV Fest - as EV Fest 2010 at Toyota On The Park, and continuing to develop EV Fest with EV Fest 2011 and EV Fest 2012 shows at the Evergreen Brick Works, and EV Fest 2013 coming to BAKA Mobile at 630 The East Mall. All of this has put me in touch with a variety of Electric Vehicles, their owners, and a few additional opportunities to experience them.

It was this experience that first lead me to buying the used Prius - with an eye to getting used to it - and then adding the Plug-in Hybrid upgrade from (as planned) the product line.

Between doing that - and outright buying a new EV is where I am working the thoughts at present, and trying to determine the best mix of having a Two-Car Collection - with a Hybrid and an EV, or to just have one car - and add the Plug-in pack to the Prius!