Ground Hogs

Jerry & the EV, Fall '96

Hi, remember me? I'm even later to pop back up after the long winter than the ground hog. Well, been so busy making web pages and web software at work 6-7 days a week that it's really hard to even consider doing more when I get home.

Here's how things stand:


    Still not a single word about my parts from Zapi in Italy. Back in December I was talking with Bill Conklin (North America distributor for Zapi) about other options to replace my defunct H3 and he asked in passing if I knew anything about a box of parts sitting in customs. I said "sure, I sent those puppies back in July, about time they made it back to the US!". Unfortunately they hadn't made it back, they hadn't even made it to Zapi, they were sitting in Italian customs because Zapi didn't know what they were or who had sent them. Very efficient operation. As it stands they have my pair of reversing contactors, which is worth a few hundred dollars.

    The reason I was talking with Bill was to find out if I could either get my H3 fixed and returned as a working regen unit (so much for that) or trade it in for another model, the H2. The Zapi H2 is also a regen unit and looks more like the Curtis. They had a newer 120 volt model and another Zapi H3 owner (Leon Levassuer) was just swapping his H3 for two of them. Also, supposedly, the H2 was even designed and tested to be used for regen on an EV as opposed to fork lifts. Well, Bill wanted me to send the rest of my H3 to Leon who was going to send a bunch of H3 parts back to Italy. I was pushing to get two H2's for my H3 (and all the other shipping costs & hassles accrued because of the H3) but Bill was hesitant and said he'd get back to me.

    Well, I should have known better, I sent in the rest of my H3 and he never got back to me. Meanwhile Leon recieved his two H2s and out of the box neither of them worked. He did some checking and found the wrong sized components and other stuff which he fixed. He hadn't heard from Conklin about about my H2's either but when Leon got the H2s working again he was good enough to send one up for me to try.

    You should understand by now what a pain it is to rewire the EV each time a new controller is installed. The H2 & H3 had some similar connections, but the H2 came with all of the contactors pre-installed and wired so it was as different an installation operation as the Curtis was from the H3. After a weekend or two I finally got everything wired up and tested. First thing is the programmer reported that the H2 was a different model than the label showed. Leon's H2 also showed another different model altogether. Curious. All tests checked out and with it up on racks the wheels turned. I kept it in standard traction mode for testing. The test drive was pretty much successful, nice smooth and quiet operation, but twice during the test drive (and not even under a heavy load) the controller just dropped out for half a minute or so. Curiouser.

    Back in the shop I rechecked everything and found that some of my control wiring crimps were overzealous to the point of only one or two strands still holding on. With the last of my pins I redid all of these connectors, sure that this was the culprit. The next test drive I had the programming module in the front seat with me and watched the error log while I drove. Again more dropouts and also while I was watching the programmer the display got all kinds of garbage characters during a dropout. Likely it's some kind of internal power supply problem and since this is the area of problems that Leon worked on I decided that enough was enough.

    So I removed the H2, sent it back to Leon, sent off some more email to Conklin to be ignored and reinstalled the Curtis. Around this time Gary Flo wrote and was wondering how things were going and when he might get the loaner Curtis back. So I explained the whole saga to him, asked if he knew of any way to have Italy send my H3 back (and just run in standard traction, forget regen). Gary wrote back and asked if I'd rather just keep the Curtis. That kind of took me off guard, but on the other hand I hadn't one lick of trouble with the Curtis and I knew that folks actually got good service from Curtis and their reps. So I said yes and would he like to buy back my regen contactors? Anyone??


    Believe it or not I haven't had a lick of trouble with my Bycan charger. This charger charges and does a good job of it. I always use it at 240v mode so it doesn't take forever to replenish the pack and then once a week or so I flip a switch and it equalizes the pack (a longer trickle charge at the end which causes the batterys to bubble and boil and "mix" things up). Every month and a half or two I top off the batteries (this would be a nice thing to not have to do) and otherwise I just leave things alone.

    I did get the Zivan charger back, but haven't had opportunity or reason to re-install it yet. Another item that I'd be happy to sell to someone who needs a compact on-board charger for opportunity charging.


    Quite a few folks have written expressing concern about using an EV throughout a New Hampshire winter. When I show my car to folks and tell them about the heater you can just see their eyebrows rise, like "uhuh, sure buddy". Well, actually, winter hasn't been bad at all. Here's what I've found out about heating an EV in the winter with a ceramic heater.

    • you never get a blast of blazing heat out of it, but you do get an instant flow of warm air, which is warmer than the air in the car
    • the car heats much faster if you recycle the air instead of heating air from outside, although on some days this causes steamy windows.
    • I have a six mile commute home and the car gets warmer faster and is just as comfortable as our gas powered autos on the same trip.
    • it doesn't greatly reduce the range, but if I'm getting low on juice then I can always shut off the heater and put on a pair of gloves: much easer to extract a little extra distance with an EV running low on fuel than it is with a gas car (just try to get your gas engine to quit wasting energy making heat!)

    But let's be realistic here: I have a short commute and the amount of heat needed and power taken would be much different if you had to commute 30 miles. What I have works very well for the 10-15 mile trips I take around our community.

    Other aspects of driving in winter are positive as well. I don't have special snow tires or anything, but get around just fine (plenty of weight over the wheels). We have a very steep hill to climb when going home and during a heavy snow or icy conditions (like last night) I can't always make it up the hill and have to go around a back route, but the same holds true with our other Mazda.

    One kinda funny thing is that I've had a couple days when my 12v auxillary battery has died. Remember I put a small lawn tractor battery there which doesn't have extremely long lasting power, especially if you leave a dome light on or something. The nice thing is that I can quickly "jump" start the car with a two inch piece of wire. I don't have my DC-DC converter hooked to the main pack until you turn the key on (which means the 12v battery turns it on essentially). But when the 12v is dead I can turn the key on and with a short piece of wire jumper the 144v to the DC-DC, which in turn puts out 12vdc, which in turn fires up the relay that normally provides the 144volts to the DC-DC and I'm ready to roll!

    The other sorta strange thing that takes some getting used to is that I don't have to "warm up" the car. With our other vehicles (especially when it's really cold) we let them run for a while so the oil circulates and the engine warms up. Not so with the EV, just pop in and drive, about three seconds after sitting down you can be driving away.

Next: Price of Change


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