Adding an air filter to the intake on Jen’s Wheego LiFe

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Jen’s 2013 Wheego LiFe has over 15,000 miles on it and is running OK. Like any small production vehicle, it has its quirks, but overall has been an OK electric car. It has an HPEV AC50 motor, Curtis controller, 3 Delta Q charger(s) (two of those pulling double duty as DC-DC converters) and some type of BMS all packaged into a vehicle originally manufactured for use in China

The car has had some issues compared to modern cars built for the North American and European markets: a few extra rattles, the fit and finish is more GM circa 1980 than Tesla. One of the axles is about ⅜ of an inch longer than it should be and this causes an occasional bang or popping noise in the steering linkage and lower ball joint.

The only other issue we’ve noticed with it is related to living in the country and driving on hard pack gravel roads. The AC50 is an air cooled motor. The Wheego’s 12 volt fan draws air from underneath the car and routing it to the side of the motor to keep it cool. The problem we’re running into is caused by a combination of things. The upgraded AC50 uses an optical sensor known as an encoder to monitor motor position, opposed to the previous magnetic encoder. Life in the country, where it’s dusty from agriculture, corn pollen, soil field erosion, and gravel roads, is not compatible with the cooling system drawing unfiltered air from the underside of the car.

Once the dust and pollen collects and blocks the encoder optics, the Wheego begins behaving erratically at higher speeds. When the encoder optics became dirty enough, low speeds also become inhibited. Which is to say, when the encoder is dirty, the car jutters violently as if it’s about to drop a motor or transmission at any moment.

Naturally, the answer is to clean the encoder. I had to put the car on the lift every three months or so. We added an aftermarket filter to the intake and turned it upright so it wouldn’t be drawing air right off the dusty gravel road. It worked. Now about once every 6 months it needs cleaning and that we think that’s mainly due to the re-rocking of the roads.

The air filter we used is a small old-school style, 4 inch round paper filter as opposed to a K&N type filter. Why, you ask? The K&N filters are covered in a light coating of oil, which really helps increase their filtering efficiency, however it also slowly coats any downstream sensors with a fine layer of oil…which then collects dust. Using an uncoated paper filter yields better results.

Eventually we may have a shorter axle made to address the banging/popping issue before it causes other problems.

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