Plans, plans and more plans

We’re always planning something. The plan seldom works but generally something good will come out of it. Our current plans include:

  • A paint job for Seven (editor’s note: still waffling over the color)
  • Converting a converted van
  • Expanding into and the future of EVs and how hacking will be a part of it.


Paint color has been a question now for a couple years: when are we going to paint it? What color are we going to use and why? This summer I took a few minutes and a laser pyrometer out to the parking lot where I work and started measuring car hood temperatures. I always took Seven’s reading first to use as a baseline, only used a max temperature read on the hoods, and all cars measured had to be facing generally the same direction.

What I found is that the colors I like get hot in the sun. Really hot. Seven’s temp would reach 172 (all temps in ˚F) on an 85 degree day at noon while parked in the sun. In contrast, a white car would be about 120. The problem is that I’d like to put a deep blue paint on seven, metal fleck of course, but deep blue is only 5-10 degrees cooler than the flat black primer, and the epoxy used for Seven’s carbon fiber body panels is only rated to about 180 degrees. It’s not like it’ll suddenly catch fire at that temp or anything, but the epoxy, which is a plastic, will soften a little, making door alignment an issue. But I think we’re going to paint it a deep blue anyway, because dang it, I like blue! We’ll just have to do some magic and see if we cant find a heat reflective paint or IR resistant clear coat…both of which, if we can get them (if they exist), should keep Seven cooler.

Converting a converted Van.

Last fall Nate picked up a GreenVan from Jack Rickard of EVTV. It’s a small Chinese delivery van (not sold in the states) that was converted to an electric vehicle with a lead acid battery pack. Jack swapped out the batteries to lithium, had all the fun he could stand at its top speed of 25 mph, and sold it to Nate.

Nate is a whimsical guy and absolutely took to this van. It looks like a smaller, white version of the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine van. Nate and I brought this mini Mystery Van home and started working on it. All sorts of suspension components need to be replaced from its days of carrying in excess of 1000 pounds of lead battery everywhere it went. Nate translated a bunch of Chinese parts sites and ordered what he needed.

The plan behind this vehicle is to convert it from a very low speed neighborhood vehicle into a not-so-low speed neighborhood vehicle: something that will go 45 mph and hold 4 people and a bicycle. Therein lies our problem: how to make this van do that. Did it ever go that fast?? Where will we put the batteries? What will we use for a drivetrain? And how will we do it without spending a fortune on a van that cost about $3k brand new in China??

That leads us into the future of EVs and EV hacking. So how do we do this? It’s easy with parts we have laying around, like aluminum honeycomb to make a new battery box and entire new floorpan for the van and a drivetrain from an electric Smart ForTwo. You see, the parts we put in Seven, the motor, controller and DC-DC converter are all obsolete; the company doesn’t even make them any more. As with car companies, we’re likely to see many of the old tried and true but low volume, suppliers for EV conversions disappear as cheaper OEM parts become available either through the dealers or more likely from the boneyard. In fact that is exactly what Jack at EVTV is focusing on now: making it so you can use those high quality OEM parts in your build along with hacking your car to make it possible to use those parts in conjunction with the existing gauges and other power equipment already in your soon-to-be-converted vehicle.

How are we getting involved with this? We found a supplier for Smart ForTwo parts from decommissioned vehicles–all used and low miles. “Great,” you say, “how does that help me?” Jack makes these really cool boards that should enable us to hack the Smart drivetrain just like he’s been hacking the Tesla and others. Once hacked, the information will be available to use so others can put a 55kw Smart ForTwo drive in their conversion vehicle. So no, we aren’t writing the software or building any boards. Jack’s already done that and sells them for a good price at his store.

EVWEST is selling the drive system in their online store: motor control combos for under $1000. Once we’ve hacked them it’ll give people another drivetrain option and Nate a van that will go faster than the Mystery Machine ever did (it was only a cartoon, after all).

So wish us luck and we’ll put in the long nights and weekends and see what comes of it. Probably a little Chinese delivery van that can do wheelies (at least once).

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