Sunday, January 25, 2009


Things are moving forward slowly. I sold the engine and a few other parts to a local independent BMW service shop. We had a 60 degree day this week, so I took the transmission and clutch parts to the carwash to clean the gunk off.
I heard this morning that my electric motor has arrived at my buddy's fab shop, so I'll take the transmission over tomorrow so they can start scheming on the coupling and adapter plates.

I've been noodling with a 3D modeling environment, Google's SketchUp. It's pretty easy to pick up for simple shapes and designs. There's also a big library of models that other people have put together. I found a 3D model of a mid-90s BMW 325 sedan. The rear is not the same as my hatchback, but the front is the same. I was able to delete the ICE components from the model and add simple blocks that show the layout of major components in the converted car. The batteries, motor, and controller blocks are all dimensionally correct, although I don't really know if the original model of the 3 series is truly the correct size, so i don't put much stock in the appearance of lots of extra room. Anyway, it's fun to go spinning around in space, looking at the pieces.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Fleet

Someone asked me if I was going to sell the Yukon once I had the EMW finished. I pointed out that I still needed something to tow the EMW home when it runs out of juice in town!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Pull Continues

This weekend, work continued on pulling parts. Saturday 1/10 I got the transmission separated from the engine. Now I need to get it to the car-wash to get it cleaned up.

Today I finally got the gas tank off. On this car, the tank is a single molded plastic tank with two "lobes" that sit like saddlebags on either side of the driveshaft under the rear seat bench. The thing that makes taking this thing down tricky is the fact that the e-brake cables run underneath it and the driveshaft runs underneath it. This means that you can't take it out in one piece unless you take those three parts off first.

After going through two or three 16mm sockets trying to get the brake caliper bolts off so I could get the calipers off so I could get the rotors off the rear wheels so I could get the e-brake cable end off the e-brake shoes (inside the disk...) so I could pull the cable off the back so i could pull it out from underneath the gas tank...whew...I decided to cut the gas tank in two and pull it out on either side of the shaft and cables.

It took a couple of hours to get the tank cut down the middle. Of course I was trying to be very careful to avoid making sparks whilst hacking through this thing. Now that it's done, I'm trying very hard to not think about potential ways this little task could've gone wrong.

The Big Pull

On Saturday the 3rd of January, we got serious. My buddy James came over to help me pull the engine and transmission out. Actually, it was much more like James was pulling the engine and I was handing him tools as he asked for them, and keeping his coffee warm.

It went real well. He all the necessary gear to make it smooth. I had disconnected most of the hoses and wires in advance. There were a few that were too hard to get to. I had been trying to keep everything together so that the engine might be installable in someone else's car with little or no rework. However, there was one bundle of fuel injector sensor and controller wires that was too hard to reach. So, we got the wire cutters out and snipped a big bundle of stuff. That bundle and the heater hoses were the only real casualties of the removal.

First Steps

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I got started on the teardown. The hood came off, and the battery came out. I don't know how detailed I'll be on each step of the way, but this was fairly simple.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, I got the exhaust system down and out of the way. While down there, I took off miscellaneous heat shields and stuff that won't be necessary in a setup without the exhaust pipe running the length of the car.

The beginnings of an Electric Vehicle conversion project

I'm sure someone's going to give me grief about whether or not a kilowatt-hour is analagous to a gallon of gas, but the blog URL was available and that works for me.

For years, I've thought about doing a project like this. In summer '08, it occurred to me that if I was ever going to convert my own car from gas to electric, I should probably get on with it. Sooner or later, the major manufacturers will get on with making EVs available, then it wouldn't make a lot of sense to go through all of this one your own.

Michele and I started talking about it, and she agreed that I needed some sort of project or hobby to keep from just working all the time. The final straw was an "icebreaker" activity at a men's retreat I attended. We were supposed to identify something interesting about ourselves, and include that in our introduction. It occurred to me that I didn't have anything really interesting since my time living in Germany in the early 90's.

The research and hunt for a donor car began in September. Skipping ahead a little bit, in mid-October, I found a nice little 1997 BMW 318ti with bunches and bunches of miles. 207k of them in fact. It ran fine, and probably would've been a lot of fun to zip around town in as it was. But that wasn't the plan.

So here's a summary of design goals for my EV Conversion Project

  • Target Range: 40 miles
  • Max Speed: 60 mph
  • Typical Top speed: 45-50mph
  • Typical Avg speed: 30-40mph
  • Typical Route: Home -> School -> Church -> Grocery -> Home ~11mi
  • Capacity: 2 Adults & 2 kids + light groceries or school backpacks
  • Total Budget: $15,000
  • Completion Goal: 3/31/09

That's how the whole thing got started. I'll add more entries with pics of the teardown of the "ti". We're still looking for appropriate nicknames for the ride once it's done, so the terms I use to refer to the vehicle may change now and then. I think it'll be related to the number of knuckles that are skinned up.