Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's Alive! Updates coming...

Okay, the cat is out of the bag. I've been working many hours a day over this four-day weekend to try and get the Civic running. As luck would have it, my internet connection went down Thursday morning and is still not back up (I'm typing this from work). I'll post all the progress and pictures when my connection comes back.

Suffice it to say, I'm exhausted, but the wheels are spinning as of 12:15pm yesterday(Saturday). I still have some charger connections to finish, but things look good at this point. If I'm lucky, I'll take it for a spin around the block this afternoon.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Arranging the Electronics

The next step was to figure out where to put all the control electronics under the front hood to minimize wiring.

The Belktronix system comes with velcro attached to the underside of most of its components. I was able to fit the Integrator and Charge Controller in the passenger-side nook, next to the main charging unit. I attached the IsoBatMon circuit to the top of the closest AGM battery (right side of photo) to minimize cable runs.

Also, notice that I kept the thick wire that came from the alternator (thick white wire in lower-left of photo). I plan to re-use this to take current from the DC-DC converter (hmm... just like the alternator...)

Several of the fast-on connections on the Belktronix components are really tight (like the double blade connectors). After feeling uneasy about forcing the existing crimp connectors into these tight holes, I took the advice of another Civic EV converter (Bob Kaiser) and replaced the plastic enclosed crimp connectors (on the left) with bare ones (on the right).

To keep all conductive surfaces unexposed, I added heat-shrink tubing to the bare crimp connectors (sorry for the blurry picture). These slid right into the double blade receptacles without any undue force.

Next up: more wiring!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Buying Heavy Battery Cable

I spent last night visualizing how I could most effectively connect all the traction batteries with the least amount of welding cable and the shortest distance to the controller and motor.

This morning I took some thick rope to serve as a fake battery cable and used it to measure the long cable lengths needed to connect the front and rear batteries. Measuring this is important because welding cable is expensive and you need to get enough but not too much. Here are the measurements I came up with:

Rear battery rack:
  • battery 1 to 2: 6"
  • battery 2 to 3: 12"
  • battery 3 to 4: 6"
  • battery 4 to 5: 12"
  • battery 5 to side battery: 14"
  • battery 5 underneath car, through the circuit breaker to the contactor: 16 1/2 feet
Front batteries:
  • front battery 1 to 2: 6"
  • front battery 2 to firewall battery 1: 34"
  • firewall battery 2 to 3: 6"
  • firewall battery 3 to 4: 6"
  • firewall battery 4 underneath car to rear battery 1: 13 1/2 feet
Controller connections
  • controller to motor: 19"
  • controller to front battery 1: 14"
  • controller to contactor: 8"
  • contactor to motor: 15"
All in all, I calculated about 44 feet of welding cable. I already have 13 feet, so I purchased 33 more feet to have a little extra. For those in the Portland, OR area, I highly recommend United Welding Supply up on MLK for 2/0 cable. The price is based on the commodity price of copper and was $2.90 a foot today. This compares to $4.75/ft from Electro Automotive, $6.00/ft at Parkrose Hardware and $8.85/ft at

I also dropped by Napa Auto parts to pick up all the fuse holders required for the BatMon battery monitors. I'm thinking this is going to end up like wiring spaghetti, but we'll see.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hacking the Final Hold-downs

I installed the remaining hold-downs for the 12V auxiliary battery and the extra battery in the rear trunk this evening. I hadn't designed these hold-downs before I sent all the pieces off to powder-coat, so I'll have to paint them with POR-15 protectant before I finish.

Here's a picture of the 12V aux battery hold-down. The battery is a smaller motorcycle battery. The bar across the top is held down by a 3" piece of 5/16" all-thread with 1 5/16" spacing between the bar and the hold-down for the traction battery next to it. It turns out this is five nuts and a 1/16" thick washer.

Looking the other direction, the other end of the hold-down bar is simply held down with a piece of 5/16" all-thread going down to a hole we drilled in the last post (see third picture down in the last post).

This is a view underneath the passenger side of the car looking up at the 12V aux battery (which looks scratched up alrady). The nylock nut in the center right caps off the 5/16" all-thread above and holds it in place.

Here's where the extra battery in the trunk sits on the passenger side. I cut a 15" long piece of 1" wide steel bar (1/8" thick) and drilled a 5/16" hole in each end 1/2" from the end. I laid this piece down where the battery sits and marked through the 5/16" holes. The rear-most hole sits right on top of rear-most structural bulge. The front hole sits just in front of the forward-most bulge.

After marking the holes, I drilled them with a 11/32" bit so the holes would be a bit larger to allow a bit of inaccurate drilling.

Here are two pieces of 11 3/4" long 5/16" all-thread. I used regular nuts with washers on the top side.

Here is the underside of the car with the two pieces of all-thread through the holes in the 1" bar we laid out earlier and capped off with nylock nuts.

With the all-thread in, I added a piece of 3/4" angle iron with 11/32" holes drilled in it through the angle-iron corner at each end. It's held down with a washer and wing-nut. Drilling the holes in the corner of the angle-iron was rather tricky; I had to use four progressively larger drills to get the final hole size without the drill corner binding on the inside faces of the angle-iron.

I think I'm finally done with the vast majority of the mechanical design. I'm tired of designing mechanical things and just want to wire this puppy together. Let's see what we can do tomorrow.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Charger, Controller and Contactor Mounting

Today involved trying to mount the major electrical components to the car.

Before covering up the transmission, I thought it would be a good idea to fill it with transmission fluid. The Honda Civic specifies 10w-30 oil for the transmission. Since the fill hole is really hard to access, I used a funnel attached to a plastic hose to get the oil in.

Before mounting the plastic panel to mount the EV components on, I drilled two 3/16" holes, 6 3/4" apart on the passenger side battery support. This will be used to mount the large 3-ohm resistor used by the charging system.

I still haven't figured out the hold-downs for the cars 12V auxiliary battery or the extra battery in the rear trunk. Since access will be more difficult after I install the EV components, I drilled a 5/16" hole (top center in picture) in the passenger side front battery support iron. I think I can use 5/16" all-thread with some angle iron to get this hold-down working.

Okay, on to mounting the control board plastic. As we stated before, this plastic is 1/2" thick, 28" long and 8 1/2" wide. I clamped it in place with a plastic clamp to prevent marring the surface. I placed the main contactor near the right edge, approximately centered front-to-back.
With the the plastic and contactor in place, I scratched circles in the plastic for the two 3/16" contactor mounting holes and underneath the plastic in all the 1/4" mounting holes from the angle-iron that juts out.

Afterwards, I removed the plastic, and drilled out all the holes (3/16" for the contactor, 1/4" for the board mounts). I used a countersink bit to taper the bottom of the contactor holes so the bolt-heads would be flush with the bottom side of the plastic. I also countersunk the top-side of all the 1/4" holes so that the main mounting bolt heads would be flush with the top-side of the plastic. By making all these bolt heads flush, I don't interfere with any components or support angle-iron.

Here's the plastic installed on the angle-iron supports and the contactor in place. I used six 1/4" flathead bolts 1" long for the main supports and two 10-24 x 1" long flat-head bolts to mount the contactor. All bolts were held in place with nylock nuts.

With the plastic mounted, I placed the charging unit and controller unit on the plastic. The front edge of each component was 3/4" from the front edge of the plastic. The charger was on the passenger side and its heat-sink fins aligned with the inside vertical wall of the passenger-side angle-iron support. The controller unit sat between the charger and the contactor with 1/4" of clearance between the heatsinks. With the two units in place, I dropped a 1/4" bolt down through the mounting holes and marked the plastic.

After removing the units, I drilled out the 1/4" holes. The hole closest to the passenger seat had to go through the plastic and the metal support. After drilling these holes, I bolted the components to the plastic using 1/4"-20 x 4" long bolts with washers and nylock nuts underneath. The rear bolt on the motor controller was very close to the transmission housing, so I added some spacer washers to raise up the bolt a bit to prevent interference.

Whoops! I accidentally mounted the contactor with the activation terminals on the high-voltage side, so I had to disassemble the whole thing, flip the contactor around, and re-install it (shown correctly here).

Here's the final installation with the two main EV components and the contactor on the right.

The last item of the day involved installing the large 3-ohm (90 watt!) power resistor on the passenger side angle-iron support. This simply used two 10-24 round-head bolts 1" long and nylock nuts. I thought it would be easier to wire with the terminals up, so we'll see.

Next up: mounting all the small EV control boxes

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Re-Using Computer Wires

The Belktronix system instructions call for attaching all the Batmon boards with twisted pairs of wires. I couldn't find a spool of twisted wires at the hardware store, but it dawned on me that most desktop computers use twisted wires to connect the motherboard with the switches/LEDs on the front panel. So, I went over to my friend non-profit computer recycler FreeGeek and picked up a handful of twisted wires out of their wire recycling bin for $1. This is great because I get a huge variety of colors and a few LEDs and small switches included. I even got a ferrite core that could be useful for reducing noise.

In short, if you have a local computer recyling place, there are tons of colorful twisted pair wire sets available.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Component Placement on Plastic Control Board

With all the components under the firewall rack installed, I put the four remaining batteries in the rack and started figuring out the placement of parts on the control board.

Here is the tentative placement of charger and controller. The contactor is off to the far right. I purchased a piece of black "UHMW" plastic (28" long x 8 1/2" wide by 1/2" thick) to mount the components on. My EV cohort Ron used this plastic in his VW Jetta EV at Shorepower Technologies and it seems to work well.

I wanted to put all the high-current, high-voltage cables on the right, so the controller, contactor and motor terminals are all over there. The charger/DC-DC converter is on the left. I'll put the AC power inlet on the passenger side bumper and velcro the system integrator and charger monitor in the remaining space behind the passenger side headlight.

I still have to re-assemble the drive-shafts and suspension underneath the car, but much of the mechanical work is getting close to complete. Based on the detailed instructions in the Belktronix installation manual, I think the wiring will go fairly smoothly.

Starter Blockoff Plate Template

I took some time this morning to finish all the vacuum pump connections and installing the wiring harness discussed a few posts back. Before installing the batteries in the firewall rack, I needed to measure the starter block-off hole to make a cover for where the starter motor used to be.

Here's the engine compartment with the engine wiring harness plugged in and tie-wrapped to several locations. It's hard to see, but you can just make it out as a black tube with pieces of red electrical tape on it. I tested out the vacuum pump system by attaching the pressure switch and connecting a small 12V UPS battery. It seems to work fine, but I have a small leak at one of the fittings. I probably need to put some vacuum grease around the fittings where the hose connects to make a tight seal.

Here's a .jpg file of a rubbing for the starter blockoff plate. It's accurate at 100x100dpi. If you click on the picture to enlarge it and save the result, you should be able to print it out (in MS-Paint or something like it) and get a pattern for your own transmission. Don't forget to tell the paint program that the picture is 100x100dpi and print it out a 100% scale.

Since I have the original rubbing, I'm going to simply trace it out on this 1/16" piece of steel I found and cut it out with a sabre saw. The two bolt holes are 10mm in diameter. Others might just do their own rubbing instead of using the template above.

Here's the starter block-off plate installed underneath the firewall rack. The heavy bolt on the upper right is overkill but came from the original car. The lower left bolt holds the transmission to the motor adapter plate.

Charger/DC-DC Arrives

The last piece of equipment from Belktronix arrived today.

Here's the charging system from Belktronix. The 1200 watt charger is combined with the DC-DC converter on the right. The small black box on the left is the charge controller box which interfaces with all the Batmon units that monitor the voltage on each battery. I'm psyched that I finally have all the critical pieces and nothing left is holding me back.

Last week, I also dropped by my favorite overpriced EV parts store: West Marine. This is a 15 amp charging inlet used for boating. This will fit nicely on the front right bumper to allow me to plug in without opening the hood. Many people use the space behind the gas-tank cover for their charging inlet, but I much prefer it near the front of the car because that's where all the components. Having the inlet on the front also makes it much closer to the ground and closer to the charging station if I'm parked front end in.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Preparing the Engine Wiring Harness

Before I can put in the firewall batteries and start hooking things up, I need to finish cleaning up the engine wiring harness.

Here's what's left of the wiring harness after I removed all the things I didn't need. In the middle of the harness on the right is a nine-foot long loop of 4-in-1 automotive wire (16 gauge) that I'm going to attach to several wires as an extension so that I can easily route everything to the EV controller board in front of the firewall batteries.

The only items left are:
  • C104 - starting wire (black/white on harness, white on 4-in-1 wire)
  • C106 - 12V keyed power (black/yellow on harness, green on 4-in-1 wire)
  • C108 - temperature gauge sending wire (yellow/green on harness) - dangling
  • C110 - backup-lights - connector on transmission
  • C112 - speedometer sending wire - connector on transmission
  • C118 - oil light (yellow/red on harness, yellow on 4-in-1 wire)
  • C119 - battery light (white/blue on harness, brown on 4-in-1-wire)
  • C124 - main wire harness connector (2 thick wires)
  • C126 - main wire harness connector (14 small wires)

After I cleaned things up and covered everything with flexible cable cover, I'm left with the two main wire harness connectors in the lower left, the backup and speedo connectors in the middle right, and the 4-in-1 wire that will go to the EV control board in the upper right.

After I get some tie-wraps tomorrow, I'll thread this through the engine compartment.

That's it for the weekend... I'm wiped.

Installing the Vacuum Pump

I installed the Gast vacuum pump and pressure tank next.

First, I installed rubber motor mounts underneath the Gast vacuum pump. Since I'm mounting this on uneven pieces of metal, I needed to add two 1/16" thick 1"dia. fender washers to the two feet on the front. The rubber feet serve two purposes: keep the motor vibration from rattling the chassis and raising the pump to clear the supporting angle iron. The rubber feet are 1" in diameter, 3/4" tall (rubber portion) with 1/4" threaded ends.

After installing the rubber feet, I put the pump in place and marked the holes on the supporting angle iron. After drilling 1/4" holes, I placed a 1" dia. fender washer (1/4" hole, 1/16" thick) on each of the holes to give the pump enough height to clear the vertical wall of the angle-iron on the right side of the picture.

Here's the Gast vacuum pump installed. I'll figure out the wiring diagram later.

The next step is to mount the vacuum chamber. I tried several locations but found that under the firewall rack was the most convenient. I drilled two 1/4" holes 21 1/2" and 23 3/8" from the passenger side end of the middle-rear horizontal angle-iron support for the batteries. This should place the tank between the control board supports that jut out at 17" and 27" from the passenger end.

Since these mounting bolts will be under the batteries, I countersunk the holes with a 3/4" countersink bit (see drill in background).

Here is the bracket that holds the vacuum chamber. These are 1/4" tapered flat-head bolts 5/8" long with two nylock nuts.

Before installing the vacuum chamber, make sure you align the nipples for all the hoses correctly. The top nipple goes to the brake chamber. The middle nipple (black) has a one-way valve to keep a vacuum in the chamber after the pump shuts off. The black one goes to the Gast pump. The pressure valve is attached to the bottom opening.

Here is the vacuum chamber installed under the firewall rack behind the Warp9 motor.

The next task is to get the vacuum line from the brake chamber down to the vacuum chamber. I like to reuse as much as possible, so I undid the clamp for the hose on the brake chamber and rotated the hose counterclockwise about 90 degrees. This puts the free end of the hose across the brake cylinder and down behind the firewall rack.

I also undid the clamps on the piece of hose farthest away from the brake cylinder and flipped it around so that the angles in the hose more closely matched the contours of the car. The grey module inline with the brake vacuum hoses is another one-way valve that keeps vacuum in the system.

With the original brake vacuum line snaked behind the firewall rack, I was able to attach the other end (with some minor bending) to the brass nipple on the vacuum chamber. I'll use the remaining vacuum hose that came with the Gast pump setup to attach the black nipple to the inlet on the Gast pump.

Whoosh, this has been a busy weekend. I'll see if I can get the engine wiring harness prepped before it ends.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Installing the Circuit Breaker

Remember that huge Airpax circuit breaker that I got in the mail? Well, it's time to install it.

I learned how to remove the center console cover by reading the Civic shop manual. Here I've removed the cover and am holding back the driver's seat to show a better view. In hindsight, I had to remove the driver's seat and it would have been a good idea to do it right at the start. Things were really gross under here with spare change, coffee spills and lots of garbage. Ick!

After vacuuming things up, I cut out the rug piece just behind the mounting bolts.

Here's the rectangle where the Airpax will be mounted. The left edge (towards the front of the car) is 3/4" rearward from the center-lines of the mounting bolts. The rectangle is 1 1/2" wide and 2 5/16" long. I released the parking brake and unbolted the handle (with cable still attached) for easy access to the console metal. The green wire is the parking brake switch, so don't forget to reconnect it when you're done.

After drilling four holes in the corners, I used a sabre saw to cut out most of the metal plate. At this point, I've removed the driver's seat and dumped it on the rear seat so I could get the sabre saw in there. Looking back, I should have removed the seat from the start.

Okay, after half an hour of filing (grrrrr), I got the Airpax switch to fit in the hole.

The airpax has two small threaded holes in the top. The holes are centered on the front and back edges, 1/4" from the edge.

I was lucky enough to have two bolts with washers from my last EV project that fit. Here is the Airpax circuit breaker installed and flipped to the "OFF" position.

I put the console plastic back on and cut out a plastic rectangle to enable flipping the switch. If I had rotated the circuit breaker 180 degrees, it would have sat forward another 3/4", possibly making it easier to access. The downside to turning it around is that the "OFF" position would have been forward. It's much easier for me to flick the switch to the "OFF" position if I can flip it towards the rear of the car, so I went with the above orientation.

Since it's just me working on the car, I had to hold the Airpax in place while I bolted it in. I used a stack of 2x4s with a long vertical one to accomplish this.

Okay, time to relax and think about how to install the vacuum pump tomorrow morning...

Installing the Potbox

The Belktronix system tries to make installing the potbox a no-brainer by allowing the user to put it right under the accelerator pedal. For the Civic, this works out quite well.

Here are the heavy-duty Velcro pieces that come with the Belktronix kit. The intent is to put the "hook" side of the Velcro on the rear side of the potbox and simply stick it to the rug under the pedal.

I found that the rug moved around quite a bit, so I wasn't comfortable sticking the potbox directly to the rug. In the above photo, I've cut away the rug and the rubber pad underneath the rug to expose the firewall metal under the accelerator. I want to line up the bulge on the backside of the accelerator pedal with the plunger on the potbox. There's a seam with a right edge and bottom edge shown in the photo above. Mark a horizontal line 3/8" above the bottom edge of the seam, and align the potbox with it and the right edge of the seam.

Clearance is tight, so I added the "hook" sid of the Velcro to the backside of the potbox between the assembly bolts.

To get the "fuzzy" side of the Velcro to line up on the firewall, I just pressed the fuzzy Velcro onto the "hook" Velcro attached to the potbox and just pressed the whole assembly into place under the pedal. Again, the bottom edge is 3/8" above the bottom seam and the right edge lines up with the right seam.

Here's the potbox installed with the bump of the pedal resting on the plunger. There are also some small "L" brackets in the kit that I could also use to mount the potbox to the firewall, but I'll try the Velcro version first and see if it sticks (pun intended).

With the potbox mounted, I need to find a way to route the potbox wires into the engine compartment. After hunting around, I found this 25mm plug on the passenger side under the glove compartment. The picture above shows the plug (red arrow) from the engine compartment side. I'm guessing a 1" grommet would do just fine here. I could have drilled a 1" hole in the firewall, but I think this is cleaner.

Since we're on the topic of routing cables, I thought about how to route the high-current battery cables from the front engine compartment to the rear battery rack area. It turns out that there are also two 25 mm plugs (the ones we used to align the front bolts) in the rear area that line up neatly with the ends of the batteries. I figure I can route the cables under the car and tie-wrap them to various brake lines down there and they will come up through these holes (with grommets added) to attach to the batteries.

The next step will be to figure out how to attach the vacuum pump or extend the engine wiring harness to reach all the places we need it to.