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ElectraVan! 100% Electric Powered Van w/ Car Computer

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  • ElectraVan! 100% Electric Powered Van w/ Car Computer


    I reckon since I've gotten my first bit o' mp3car hardware, I should start a worklog. I'm gonna back up a little bit and tell about my vehicle first. It's a story in itself!

    I found the ElectraVan in an alley in Cheverly MD, outside of Washington DC. It belonged to someone at a roofing company, and I saw it while making a delivery to them. I contacted the person I knew at the company and he in turn contacted the owner who said I could have it, if I'd haul it away.

    On Saturday, September 27th I took my little landscaping trailer and picked up the ElectraVan. It has one tire that won't hold air. So, I initially dropped it in my driveway while I made space in my overflowing garage for it. This Sunday, October 5, I brought it in the garage. I don't always do things in the best sequence. My initial objective is to assess the vehicle overall, and determine what it needs to have done, vs. the resources ($$) that I have to do it. So the first thing I did was jack it up and put it on dollies so I can move it within the garage. Then I opened all the doors & windows and cleaned it out. Condition Today: The van seems to be in pretty much the original condition - no batteries, but most of it is intact. There's a box inside full of parts - battery connectors, a few controller modules of some sort, and (Bonus!) a complete set of turn signal assemblies. 3 out of 4 on the truck are broken so this is a bonus indeed! So I sorted parts and took a few pictures as I contemplated what I want to do with this thing. My original thought was to use it at my nursery as a cart to bring things back & forth between our two greenhouse areas. But when I saw that it's intended to be road worthy, I had an internal debate as to whether I want to do that or get it on the road. I considered several choices on propulsion: 1. Use the existing GE motor, replace the T105 batteries, and try to 'just get it running' with the current configuration. 2. Upgrade the motor to an advanced 9" and replace the controller with something more modern. 3. Swap everything out and go with an AC system. Why? I dunno. The Body: The body is in pretty good shape overall. The glass is great. Gaskets are better than average for its age. Upholstery in intact, if worn. The dash & related wiring seem perfect. Just very very dirty. No matter what else I do, I think I'll pull the body & strip it and fix the few little dents and have it sprayed. Mechanical: I haven't looked all that closely at it yet, beneath the skin. The Subaru 360 has 10" split rim steel wheels and drum brakes all around. I really would like to put larger wheels on it and modern brakes. I've spent a bit of time on the internet looking for parts sources and brake upgrades. Found a few sources for parts, but very few options to upgrade the brakes. Seems air shocks are a good idea, or at least upgraded struts to better handle the weight. Mileage - 12,900.

  • #2
    More on the EV

    Part II of my story - Pics to follow

    So I was scratching my head, wondering what to do with the van, and how to convince my wife it was a good idea to have a 30 year old electric van in non-running condition.... But wait!

    In September, the Maryland Energy Administration announced a grant program intended to promote renewable / alternative energy for transportation. As a board member of a local biodiesel coop I heard about it and helped the coop write several grant proposals. On the due date, I quickly put together a proposal to rehabilitate my EV as a way to promote EV's and educate folks on conversions. To my surprise - the state accepted my proposal and I now had funds to buy a completely new propulsion system!

    Here is the essence of what I've proposed and am currently in the middle of building:
    • 240V Lead-acid battery pack (Other battery technologies are a bit too pricey for me at the moment),
    • 3 Phase AC motor & Controller: DMOC445 Controller
    • Azure Dynamics AC24LS motor
    • DMOC445 Controller
    • Regenerative Braking
    • Programmable performance
    • 30 HP, 15,000W Generator, mounted on a trailer to provide optional Hybrid operation
    • Carputer for Performance monitoring and hybrid controller.

    These are the high points.

    Current status:

    All of the major components have been purchased, and I'm beginning to put it back together. I had body work done and had it painted 'Circuit Board Green'. I have the motor & controller. The transmission has been shipped to CA to have a plate made to adapt the motor to the tranny. The battery rack was complete this week. I have a lot of body work to finish - reattaching door handles, weatherstripping, etc. And a lot of wiring to install. As soon as I get the transmission back I can reinstall it along with the motor & controller. Hoping to have it running by sometime in August. I'll post more technical details and some info about the hybrid later too.

    On Friday, I visited Rob and the gang at mp3car here in B'more and picked up my computer and lilliput monitor. Those guys were great and gave me a tour, advice, and suggested many components for when I begin integrating the carputer.


    • #3

      Here it is as I got it:

      The Van originally was sold in Asia as Subaru 600 [Sambar] van. It originally had a 2-cylinder, 2-stroke, 25-HP engine with a 4-speed manual transmission. A company called Jet Industries bought them new and and converted them to electric. It had a 102 VDC battery pack and a General Electric DC Controller and 20 HP GE DC Motor. Here it is before I removed the old motor:

      The Dashboard:

      Starting to look a bit better!

      Here's the paint job:


      • #4
        no hazmats: there is a meet in DC next weekend (the 27th) at turkey run park you should show up. the mp3car crew sometimes comes by, but there are always at least a few of us there and it's a good place to swap stories, get ideas, etc.

        Very nifty looking van, are you planning on a flip-out screen or embedded in the dash for the carpc?
        "stop with the REINSTALLS, what do you think we got some lame-o installer!!!" - mitchjs
        My Shop


        • #5
          Originally posted by malcom2073 View Post
          Very nifty looking van, are you planning on a flip-out screen or embedded in the dash for the carpc?
          I haven't gotten that far yet. Since it's 30 years old, the radio opening has the two holes for volume & tuning knobs. I bought a non-flip out Lilliput transflective touch screen. I think I'll initially mount it on a swivel.

          But there is a panel below the dash that held the original (mono) speaker and was adapted for the original EV charge gauges. It might be a good place to embed the screen.

          Here's a pic of the dash with all the plastic coverings removed:


          • #6
            ElectraVan Updates

            I've been working on the front-end for the ElectraVan. In addition to the typical front end functions, the carputer will provide status of the electrical drive system, the hybrid, and the state of the batteries.

            Right now, I'm using the free trial of Centrafuze. For the hybrid control & EV status, I am planning to use a tool called "Daqfactory" from Azeotech and an I/O unit from Labjack. The Labjack is similar to the fusionBrain that mp3car sells, but it supports industry standard data formats over either USB or tcp/ip.

            Here are some mock-up screens I've begun putting together for the EV / Hybrid system.

            Here is a gauge panel that would provide instant view of Amps, Voltage, and remaining capacity for the primary drive battery pack and the 12 V aux. battery:

            Here is the start of a Hybrid Status page. Each picture would be a button that will link to a details status page. THe battery icon includes a bar graph showing total capacity remaining:


            • #7
              I have a question for any centrafuze experts out there.

              I have been able to configure a centrafuze button that will 'OPEN' my Daqfactory program. If I go back and forth between the centrafuze FE and the Dacfactory program using that button, it opens multiple instances of Daqfaqctory.

              If there is another windows program open (like Daqfactory), what is the best way to bring that window to the front and / or minimize centrafuze?

              I also have the same problem within Daqfactory. It is a script-based tool, and there are many pre-defined functions. They don't provide a button script to minimze Dacfactory, only one to close the program. I also think there is a function that can call (open) another program but not to switch to another already-open program like centrafuze. Anyone familiar with Daqfactory or have any ideas?




              • #8
                I wonder if you could assign a gesture to the hot key "alt-TAB". I will try to look into this today.

                Any updates on the hardware install?


                • #9
                  I appreciate you checking into the gestures - I would imagine if 'Alt-Tab' could be assigned to a gesture, it should be able to get assigned to a button, but what do I know? I am using the trial version at the moment, and I don't know if this is a limit of the trial version, but it won't let me define any new gesture assignments at all.

                  I have been tinkering with the vehicle, re-attaching the doors & light fixtures, etc. I finally got the shipping notice that the transmission & adapter for the electric motor were shipped from CA yesterday, and should arrive within a week. As soon as I mount the motor, I can then install the controller, the battery charger (Which just arrived a couple of days ago), and the batteries. I won't have any power on the vehicle until all that stuff is done.

                  I've been using my carputer in the house with a 12V bench supply, but I think I'm gonna lay it under the back seat of my truck and velcro the Lilliput to the dash to start playing with the radio connections, GPS, OBDC, etc.

                  I've had to put the hybrid controller on hold for a few weeks to work on other projects, but I won't have the electrical converters for a matter of months, so there's not a real hurry on that. In the meantime, my competing project also uses the same DaqFactory software, so I'm learning more about it in general.

                  Finally, I repainted the plastic dash facade last week, and it looks great. I realized that the radio opening is just above the ashtray - so by combining them and a wee bit of bondo / polystyrene work I may be able to embed the Lilliput nicely there! Is there a 'generic' bezel for the 7" Lilliput for mounting on a flat surface? Look at the dash picture above (The one with the brown plastic dash in place). You'll see the radio opening and below it on the left is the ashtray and to the right of the ashtray is a blank cutout for a knob. The Lilliput should fit in this area. There is also a larger blank cutout farther to the right of the radio opening that will be perfect for the round USB insert I got from you (or maybe the force-feedback knob). Bonus! I'll start post a pic of the repainted dashboard and I'll looking at this later in the week - If I can embed the Lilliput, it will make for a very very nice installation.


                  • #10
                    Dashboards, Diesels, and other thoughts

                    So, I got tired of playing with my carputer inside the house so I decided to temporarily install it in my current daily driver - a '99 GMC Suburban Diesel. It would give me a chance to test out the touchscreen, GPS, Bluetooth and all that. as well as listen to my entire music collection (I'm apparently the only person on the planet without an iPod.)

                    Here it is all laid out. The computer will go under the passenger seat, and the screen will go on the center console temporarily. It will play through the aux input on my POC Panasonic stereo. There is a tiny bluetooth dongle, an ELM usb OBDC adapter, and a DeLorme GPS Puck:

                    So I hooked up an outlet adapter and plugged it all in to the stereo and and the touchscreen. WooHoooooooo!

                    On other fronts, while I was at it, I took a look at the screen vs. the ElectraVan dashboard.

                    Here's a shot of the old dash:

                    Here's the Dash with a new paint job, propped up on the hood of my Suburban:

                    Here it is with the 7" Lilliput in the area of the radio / ashtray opening. I'm not sure if I'm up for cutting up this dashboard. I'll need to think about it for a while....



                    • #11
                      Looks like lots of progress. Do you have any shots of the batteries, electrical systems, motors or regenerative braking?


                      • #12
                        This is an interesting discussion. thank you for sharing

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                        • #13
                          I started the electravan project nearly a year ago and had been busy with too many other things, so the project languished. When I began working on it again this autumn, I discovered that for various reasons, the van's transmission would not work for an EV application (It's a long story...).

                          So I made two choices. We'll see how they work out:

                          The first was to replace the host vehicle with something that's more practical and more fun than a midget Japanese delivery van: My favorite car that I've ever owned was a 1988 RX-7 Convertible. I regret the day I sold it. So I did a little shopping and found another '88 vert. with a bad engine (PERFECT for an Electric Vehicle Conversion!!!)

                          I bought the car and when I was towing it home, I swung by the home of one of my best friends, Ron, who is an out-of-work machinist. He's actually a mechanical savant - if he can imagine it, he can build it and make it work. He's also an RX-7 enthusiast, having bought one of the very first series-1 RX-7s sold in the US. I had earlier tried to get him interested in an EV conversion, but he wasn't too enthusiastic about it. But, as I had hoped would happen, when he saw the car on the trailer, and had time on his hands, he immediately jumped in and started working on it. So the project has advanced a lot in the past several weeks.

                          I've started a new weblog for the EX-7 here:


                          • #14
                            Hi great job and great idea . Any photos from your work completed ?

                            I have the same car left hand drive in Greece and I'begginig restoration...Did you find any parts for body such as lamps , grille radiotor etc ?