After a pulling the old ICE parts out and getting plenty of tangible feedback the next step is more difficult and slower going. In a sense the EV can be built using hundreds of different ideas and types of components: there are AC and DC motors, regenerative motor controllers and those that don't, six - eight - twelve volt batteries, various voltage configurations depending on the motor/controller choice, the list goes on...
Bob Brant has a good book, Build Your Own Electric Vehicle that covers many of the details and options, along with an index of EV suppliers. I have a list of other publications on the EV Resources page. I also took a trip down to Electric Vehicles of America in Maynard, MA to visit Bob Batson, a long time supporter, conversion expert, and supplier for EVs on the East coast. I picked up flyers for many of the EV components he carries along with a look at a couple EVs they had. Their flagship EV was a Sonoma pickup conversion which was beautifully done. All of the batteries lived in the back underneath the truck bed, which tilted up for access. Bob takes special care to make a well thought out and safe conversion and it showed in the many details of this truck. On this day an Engineer from Curtis, one of the primary suppliers of EV controllers, was working with Bob to install a regenerative Curtis controller in the truck. Regenerative controllers are more complicated and can require extra steps and components for installation. Curtis will not sell these controllers to individuals, possibly for this reason.
Having opted for the less sexy commuter car conversion I decided that I wanted to do something to differentiate my EV. Something cutting edge or fancy. For this reason I've been shopping around for a regenerative controller. The internet has a number of good links (see my EV Sites ) with places for information and parts. Still, EVs are a relatively new and low volume industry and many of these folks are also spending additional money and time on trying to promote EVs. So patience is needed as you try to make contacts and understand what is available.
I also ran across some IEEE magazine issues featuring EVs, one using a regenerative controller solution from GE. GE proved difficult to navigate, perhaps that is one of the downsides to the Internet and all of this ready information: when it comes to dealings outside of the net the pace suddenly seems glacial. After a week of waiting, a two page fact sheet showed up from GE with brief descriptions of their EV related products: but no pricing or availability. Another week of phone calls and phone tag produced the name of GE's authorized EV distributor. They said they would mail an information package with pricing: argh! Another week and the mailman brings an envelope: he should have delivered it on a silver platter, the price is a couple thousand more than I am hoping to get away with.
The only other regenerative controller that I've found readily available is the ZAPI line. These are from Italy with local distributors, and in the brochure they look promising. I exchanged email with a gentleman who was buying the very newest ZAPI controller, which can handle higher current in addition to providing regeneration. He admits he's taking a gamble.
After all of this I still haven't come away with my solution, but I am leaning towards the ZAPI. In November there is a Sustainable Transportation trade show and conference in Rhode Island that I'm going to attend. I'll make my controller decision afterwards.
I called up Bob Batson on Monday (Oct. 11) and ordered the Advanced DC Motor, FB1-4001A. This nine inch diameter motor tips the scales at 143 pounds and has drive shafts on both ends so one could, presumably, attach an A/C compressor if so inclined. We'll see. Along with the motor order I sent down the clutch plate and three measurements from my Transmission housing. Bob will use these to create a custom Motor Coupling and Adapter plate. I left the 5 speed transmission in the car and the motor will hook right into this. The clutch has been disconnected and shifting will, reportedly, take a second longer sans clutch. I don't understand this fully but remember that when you let off on the "gas" in an EV the electric motor stops: doesn't idle or create back pressure like your gas engine, merely spins freely. This makes it possible to shift without the clutch, or so I am told. Also, electric motors don't work the same as gas motors when it comes to power and operating ranges. A gas motor needs to get up to a certain RPM before it will do any work, whereas an electric motor generates its highest torque when starting from a standstill.
Next: Battery musings
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