Friday, September 10, 2010

On the road!!!

I had finished the dash gauges and the battery connections on Tuesday, and considered if I should try to run the car or not.  I was a little squeamish about doing the "smoke test" and wondered whether I should push the car outside the garage so it wouldn't take the garage with it when it caught on fire.  But the garage owner convinced me to do it, sooooo....
  1. Connect the accessory battery.  No smoke.  No blown fuses.
  2. Connect the Anderson connector to put the traction battery voltage to the DMOC.  No smoke or sparks.
  3. Turn the key to the "on" position.  The usual warning lights come on then go off except for "service engine soon" (yep, better check that!) and "low fuel" (no gas here!).  The vacuum pump runs for about 8 seconds, then shuts off.  Other than that, nothing.
  4. Put it in neutral.  Press on the accelerator.  Nothing.  No spinning sound.  Bummer.
  5. Hook up the laptop to the DMOC.  Read the ccShell instructions.  1st thing it says to do is load the .ccs file that came with the DMOC.  Oops.  I forgot to bring the file!  Go home with my tail between my legs.
Next day, Wednesday.  I've loaded the .ccs file on the laptop and all I think about all day at work is getting to the car and trying it.  I've also thumbed through the ccShell manual (interface software for the DMOC).  Yeah, I know.  I didn't read the manual before I started - who does?  Anyway, in the manual it says that there are 4 things that have to happen before the DMOC will spin the motor, after the main contactor closes.  Hmm, I never heard the main contactor close last night.  Reading on, I see that the controller comes configured to look for a "Drive Enable" signal before closing the contactor.  I don't remember seeing that signal in my ElectroAutomotive instructions.  Apparently it's a signal that is used when connecting the motor directly to the differential (no transmission).  There are instructions on how to configure the DMOC to bypass the "Drive Enable" signal.  Now I'm antsy to try it.  So I sneak out of work as early as I can and .....
  1. Connect the laptop to the DMOC.
  2. Turn the key on.
  3. Check the "Drive Enable" configuration.  Yep, it's looking for the signal.
  4. Disable the signal, save the parameters.  I hear a nice ka-chunk as the contactor closes.  Yes!
  5. Disconnect the laptop, close the hood, get in the car.
  6. Put it in neutral.  Press on the accelerator.  I hear spinning!
  7. Put it in reverse.  Back out of the garage.  I'm moving!
  8. Put it in forward to drive out toward the road.  Nothing.  I feel a little rocking motion, then the motor kicks out.  Reverse, 1st gear, 2nd gear, doesn't matter.
  9. Put it back in neutral.  Motor spins.  Hmm.  Transmission problem?
  10. It's late and I have to go.  So I get some help and push it back in the garage.  That's a bummer.
Here's the car while I'm trying to go forward.

Later that night I do more reading.  There are a number of variables and parameters that could cause the motor to cut out, related to torque limits, current limits, what have you.  I figure I'd better connect the laptop again and see what the DMOC is saying.  The next day I'm anxious all day.  It's almost as bad as when my wife was expecting - the anticipation is killing me!  As soon as I can, I get over to the car again.
  1. Connect the laptop to the DMOC.  This time I use a longer serial cable so I can run it out of the hood and through the open passenger window so I can keep communicating with the DMOC.
  2. Turn the key on.
  3. ccShell says the last error was #16, PS_FLT_CHARGER_ERROR.  Apparently it's an error related to inadequate grounding or shielding.  Hmm.  It also says that in subsequent revisions of the software this error has been deleted, and can be ignored by setting a variable.
  4. I set the variable to ignore the error.
  5. I get in the car, put it in reverse. Back it out of the garage.  So far so good.
  6. I put it in 1st gear.  Forward motion!
  7. I drive out toward the road.  I slap on plates from my other car.
  8. I drive to a friend's house.  We chat.  I show him the car.  I drive home.  I turn the regen on, then off, then on, noticing how it changes the driveability.  I like it when the ammeter shows negative amps.  Recovering energy - cool!  All in all a 4 mile trip, speeds from 30-45 mph.  Very satisfying.
Here's the car in the driveway after my successful forward motion.
Maiden voyage complete!

So, my take from the experience.
  1. The EV grin is real.  And very satisfying.
  2. Pick-up was not great.  I was able to get up to speed, but it took longer than I liked.  On the other hand, I noticed that I was never pulling more than 150 amps.  The paperwork says that the max current is just under 300 amps, so maybe it comes tuned down at first and the pick-up can be improved?
  3. The car needs some (non-EV) work.  Back-up lights don't work, one of the headlights and fog lights are out, the tires are LOUD, it needs a front-end alignment, and there is some noise/vibration from the drive train (transmission?).

I'm off for a week now, taking my daughter to her first year of college (in IL), so nothing's going to be done for a while.  Next steps: fix the broken things, install the Pak-Trakr (battery monitoring), finish the dash switches (that control the cabin heater and DMOC regen settings), install the battery box lids, and get the car registered!

I'm excited and motivated again!

Catching up - battery connections and dash gauges

I've been neglecting the blog lately (again), but have made progress.  And last night, yes, the car went on the road for the first time!  Very exciting.  Still much to do before it'll pass inspection, though.  More on that later.

Battery connections:
In order to make up the battery cables, I "splurged" and bought an el-cheapo hydraulic crimper from Harbor Freight and went to town.  Following the instructions from the ElectroAutomotive kit, I cut back the insulation on the cable, filled the lug with Noalox, inserted the wire, crimped it, slipped a piece of heat shrink tubing over it, heated it up to shrink it down, and voila.  A completed connection.  Repeat 137 times.  Or so it seemed.

Here are a couple of views with the batteries connected.  The big piece of pink plastic tubing seen in two of the views is 1" heat shrink covering the fusible link for electrical isolation.  The same pink heat shrink is covering the main tie-down for the lower box - during installation that steel tubing has to come very close to terminals!
Next I made the connections to the main shunt and the motor controller.

Dash gauges:
For the 3 gauges supplied with the kit (traction pack current and voltage, accessory battery voltage) I bought a generic 3-gauge pod that mounts on top of the dashboard.  Nothing spectacular here.  I ran the wires up from under the dash and through a couple of small holes drilled in the top of the dash.  For mounting the pod I cut out a small piece of aluminum (.1" thick), drilled and tapped holes to match the mounting holes on the pod, and sandwiched the dash skin between the aluminum and pod.  Very solid.  Here are a couple views of the installation.  Sorry for the dirty windows.