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Energy Miser 02-04-2011 02:13 PM

Alternator Elimination on 1998 Civic EX
I have been trolling the forums and have read several posts about people removing the alternator (through various methods). My Civic got smashed by a plow truck last month. I got paid for the damages ($3400), and I was able to keep the car. It runs and drives great but the trunk is crushed and the taillights are broken on one side. When I installed new bulbs in the holders, they all light and function right, so the car can be driven in good weather with no problems. It will now become a test mule for all the mods I care to try. I am going to start with the alternator removal first. To experiment with the idea, I unplugged my alternator so that it would not charge and I drove the car home on my normal commute (26.2 miles), with the lights off. When I reached my house my battery would still start the car, albeit weakly. I plan to approach the modification as follows;
1. Install toggle switch and relay to turn the alternator field windings on and off on demand.
2. Install a battery pack in the trunk area that is comprised of 33 – 4500 Mah Nimh batteries. The batteries are soldered together to create a cell that consists of 3 sets of 11 batteries wired in series, wired in parallel to create a 13.2 volt cell with a capacity of approximately 1.48 Ah.
3. Install a 750 watt fan cooled inverter, wired directly to the auxillary battery. The inverter will be turned on and off with a relay and a toggle switch from the dash.
4. Install a 6 amp battery charger that will draw it’s power from the inverter. This charger will be connected permanently to the cars starting battery.
5. Install a disconnect switch that will join the auxillary battery to the starting battery when desired. I envision tying the batteries together for plug-in grid charging, and leaving them disconnected for operation so that the charger, powered by the inverter, which in turn is powered by the auxillary battery, maintains the charge on the starting battery while driving.
6. Install a pair of 5 watt solar chargers, one for the auxiliary battery, one for the starting battery, to help maintain both batteries during the day on sunny days.
I have all of the components needed to make the modifications to the car, so the cost will not be a factor, but I think all the components I intend to use will run less than $350 total if purchased new. I believe it will work quite well, albeit in a somewhat Rube Goldberg manner. It should maintain the voltage required to keep the electronics in the car happy, at least until the auxiliary battery falls below 10.8 volts and the inverter shuts off automatically. With a pair of voltage gauges I will be able to monitor the voltage on both batteries and will be able to figure out how many miles can be driven with this setup before charging is required. The auxiliary charger, the inverter, and the aux battery weigh less than 25 pounds so the increased shouldn’t hurt FE too much. I have kept track of my mileage carefully over the years so I should be able to quantify exactly how much this will increase FE. The next step will be to shed as much unnecessary electrical load as possible to extend battery charge life.

Ryland 02-04-2011 04:35 PM

Why bother with the inverter and battey charger? a DC-DC converter would work better, be cheaper and waste less energy.
As it is your alternator cuts out under some conditions, check the battery voltage while driving and you will see.

Energy Miser 02-04-2011 04:55 PM

I don't have a DC to DC converter. I have an inverter and a charger. This is only experimental, not a permanent solution. It is merely to prove the concept. I have all the stuff to do it the way I described above, all free.:) Where can I get a DC to DC converter for free?

RobertSmalls 02-04-2011 10:50 PM

That's a big NiMH - twice as big as the one in a Civic Hybrid, iirc. Where'd you get the cells?

I'm pretty sure you'll need a BMS. You need to keep an eye on every cell to ensure it doesn't get too close to 100įC - Honda does this by monitoring twelve cells at a time with a PTC resistor. You also need to ensure that no cell has a polarity reversal - voltage less than zero. Again, Honda keeps an eye on the voltage of 12 cells at a time, and stops discharging at some predefined voltage around 1 VPC.

You can get a dirt-cheap DC/DC converter out of a wrecked Insight or Civic. In fact, I'm using a Civic DC/DC + Inverter as a decoration on an end table in my living room. There's also a great selection of MeanWell DC/DC's in the Jameco catalog, but they're not free either.

You said your whole array weighs 25lbs... by my math, your battery alone should weigh 90lbs just for the cells, plus more for a housing for 90lbs of battery.

YukonCornelius 02-05-2011 02:16 AM

I'm curious what kind of mpg gain you'll see from this.

Energy Miser 02-05-2011 11:24 AM

I'm hoping to get a 4-5 MPG gain. If I can get those results in a 2 week (1 tank) trial, then I will look at how to make the mod a reliable, permanent addition.
I guess the main reason I want to try this is because I have a memory from when I was a kid and rode a bicycle. I remember wanting a generator driven light for my bike, you know the friction type that rubbed on your front tire. When I finally got one, I remember how disappointed I was when I went to use it the first time. It made peddling way harder, and used up what seemed like a lot of the energy to barely light my way with some dim lights. To me an alternator on a commuter car is like the stupid little dynamo rubbing against the tire on my bike. I would like to ultimately take any load off my cars ICE that isn't directly responsible for forward motion and make it manual or electric.

Varn 02-05-2011 02:07 PM

I see a lot of users here remove them. IMO it takes a lot of utility away from your car, night driving, weather driving, cold weather starts. I figure that the regulator circuit reduces the rotor current to the minimum that it takes to keep the battery charged. I could understand putting a booster on it when parked but beyond that you have a car that has some of the range limitations of an electric vehicle.

Energy Miser 02-05-2011 03:20 PM

I don't have a problem with imposing limitations on the vehicle, as the car is driven for one purpose, commuting back and forth to work, 26 miles one way, 26 miles back, then it's parked from 4:30 PM until the next morning. I have vehicles for every other purpose so I use them for the other stuff. I use the commuter car just for that, no other use. I seldom even makes stops in it.

Frank Lee 02-05-2011 03:39 PM

In that case just throw a big deep-cycle batt in there and forget about all that other gook.

RobertSmalls 02-05-2011 04:06 PM


Originally Posted by Frank Lee (Post 218778)
In that case just throw a big deep-cycle batt in there and forget about all that other gook.

There's an idea. Hook the NiMH pack directly to your 12V rail. Make sure it won't catch fire while you're cranking the engine, though.

And as I hinted at above, you don't have a 2kWh, <20lb NiMH battery. What do you have, and what's it sourced from?

Energy Miser 02-05-2011 04:58 PM

A deep cycle would be pretty simple. I have one, but it weighs about 80#s. I guess that isn't all that much.

Energy Miser 02-07-2011 12:53 PM

What do you mean I don't have a NiMh battery? I have a box full of 4/3 4500 mAh batteries with tabs that I bought at auction. I solder them together as needed when I do projects. I have them bolted into a plastic tray. I don't know where you got the 20KW number from, I have soldered the cells together in series of 11, and I have three of these in series. I use that configuration whenever I need to replicate car voltage. I use them to power a small inverter, a little fridge/warmer, a Dewalt battery charger, and a set of computer speakers. I make them all the time, the source is my workbench. I don't worry about monitoring the individual cells because I don't really care that much. If the pack goes bad early I'll take it apart and sweat together some new cells. My wife watched two movies last week when the power went out, using those batteries to power the TV in her sewing room.

watercat 02-07-2011 01:02 PM

seems like a lot of messing around to loose so much function. maybe it would be easier to move to where i went to school. it was up hill in both directions and it always snowed. you could put skis on it and just slide every where. 4, to 5 mpg seems pretty extreme. how about you just take off the alternator belt and drive it and see if its even worth it. I keep doing mods and most of them don't help so ?!

frank316 02-07-2011 06:18 PM

Completely pointless, you'll be lucky to gain 1/2 mpg.. WHY.. civics have a factory ELD (electronic load detector) that shuts off the voltage to the alternator field windings, which means when your car doesn't need anymore juice pumped into it the car shuts the alternator off and the only thing your spinning is the slight windage and friction losses in the alternator, not needlessly cranking out voltages..


RobertSmalls 02-07-2011 06:37 PM


Originally Posted by Energy Miser (Post 219040)
What do you mean I don't have a NiMh battery? ... I don't know where you got the 20KW number from

Do not confuse Watts (rate) with Watt-hours (capacity).

As I said, you don't have a 2kWh NiMH battery that weighs <20lbs... it would be closer to 90lbs of NiMH cells, plus a housing.

Ah*V=Wh. I got 2kWh from the Ah*V you posted in the OP, which you've since corrected. Based on the new numbers, we're looking at 0.02kWh, or approximately zero. A molehill next to the 0.5kWh mountain that is a D51-R yellow top Civic battery, which itself gives "meh" fuel economy improvement.

Also, a NiMH cell IS a deep cycle battery.


Energy Miser 02-07-2011 07:27 PM

So there is nothing to be gained by removing the electrical generating load from the ICE in my car? I don't buy that. I have disconnected my alternator and I drove my car home 26 miles from work, at highway speeds. By the time I was home the car started to run poorly and wouldn't restart with the starter. The battery has a constant draw when the car is running. I don't want to generate electricity with my cars engine anymore. I will plug into the grid for that. I like using American made energy as opposed to foreign. I still get electricity that is made in the US at my house. If American made electricity offsets even a smidge of the fuel I use to get to and from my job, it is worth it. Someone once told me that I couldn't get 50 MPG from a stock Civic EX. Someone once told me I couldn't sell my own house and keep a $28,000 commission. Someone once told me I couldn't learn stock trading on my own. Someone once told me I couldn't drill my own water well. Someone once told me I couldn't plant and harvest 2 acres of corn by hand. If I listened to everyone that ever told me what I was doing was impossible or stupid, I can't imagine where I would be now. I love how forum posts always end up with people trying to discourage each other from trying things. I wonder what forums would have been like in Tesla's day, probably the same. I learn by trying, I learn more by failing. I was hoping for useful information on here, not just someone trying to convince me how stupid the things I want to do are. I want to do it. It is my time, my money, my car. If I fail, I will learn, if I learn I will try again.

Energy Miser 02-07-2011 07:39 PM

I guess I'll just solder in a few more chains of batteries, I have about 130 of them left. If not I'll use a couple trojan 6 volts I use for the electric fence. I am just looking to try it. I can refine the setup when it is to my liking. I have 4 feet of snow piled around my farm and a Civic that is just sitting there. I have two months until my farm will consume all of my free time. In the mean time I will play.

RobertSmalls 02-07-2011 07:43 PM


Originally Posted by Energy Miser (Post 219117)
So there is nothing to be gained by removing the electrical generating load from the ICE in my car? I don't buy that.

Good. There's a real, quantifiable benefit. By my math, an alternator + combustion engine is 12.5% efficient at turning gasoline into 12VDC, so .125*33kWh/gal = .25 gal saved for each kWh you don't need to generate onboard.

However, if you run the numbers, I think you'll see you need a much larger deep-cycle battery.

Energy Miser 02-07-2011 08:10 PM

I'll just keep adding batteries until I can drive 70 miles or so without seeing the voltage drop on the starting battery. That is the furthest I would ever drive this car without being able to grid charge it. I will figure it out through trial and error. It takes 25 minutes or less to assemble a string of 4/3s and add them to the pack. I just don't want them getting crowded or touching. They do get warm when charging. I should probably just throw a pair of LA batteries in the trunk and call it a day.

Varn 02-07-2011 08:20 PM

At what point does the cost of foreign fuel offset the cost of foreign made batteries. Truely you scheme to convert batteries to 120v ac then back to 14vDC is inefficient.

From what I understand it is only politics that keep us from using US dino oil rather than Saudi dino oil. If you vote correctly you might be able to use US dino oil.

If you saved 28,000 in selling your land you have one mighty chunk of land (500,000). I only say this is perhaps you can cook wood or corn and use the gas that boils off it. The Japs did it in WW2.

Frank Lee 02-07-2011 08:22 PM

I don't think post #14 was particularly useful; ALL cars have charging systems that are regulated to only supply what is needed. Getting that power from the grid does free up some more fuel economy.

Energy Miser 02-07-2011 09:02 PM

You are close, I sold a house and 5.5 acres in Pennsylvania that I bought in 1999 for $268,000 for $470,000 in 2006. The Realtor that I was dealing with wanted me to list for $300,000 "for a quick sale". I fired him and held out a year and a half, finally settling for $470,000. I had to show the house 22 times, not bad profit.
I had a wood gasifier that could power an 11 horse engine, it was a terrible pain. I would do it in war or emergency, but not every day. I can't imagine driving down I-80 with a gasifier on my Civic. Someone would shoot me. It's bad enough trying to go 60 MPH on the highway without being blown off the road. I did burn some ear corn in my woodstove last winter when I ran out of firewood in the spring. That worked ok, not too much ash, but not an awful lot of heat either.

RobertSmalls 02-07-2011 09:15 PM

Sounds like a gasifier/electric series plug-in hybrid is in order. Or steam-engine/electric, running on wood. Steampunk = cool, but I seriously doubt it will make up for all the extra weight you'd have to haul around.

This thread is about to go horribly off track. Anyway, keep us posted on your deep cycling efforts.

Energy Miser 02-07-2011 09:29 PM

It's already way off the rails.

frank316 02-08-2011 04:35 PM

Okay well i'll try to do something constructive to help ya out then. Using the industy standard for reserve capacity of a battery (25A continous) An optima yellow top (deep cycle) has a 100 min reserve capacity and a 48Ah rating. If you run it completely dead you are looking at 50-70 miles depending on how you drive.

25A*100min=41.5Ah Using a 10A charger you are looking at a little over 4Hrs to charge that back up. 41.5A*12v=498 Whr/1000=.5 kWh per charge

You have a 50 mile commute letís say your car gets 40 mpg now, thatís 1000 miles a month 1000miles/40mpg=25 gallons of gas

Lets say your modification gets you 45mpg. 1000miles/45mpg=22.22Gallons
You save 25 gallons-22.22 gallons=2.78 gallons*3=$8.34 a month

Current Electric pricing in my area at least is $.11 kWh
cost to charge the pack everyday .5 kWh *.11=$.055 a day

In one month you drive roughly 20 days back and forth to work you would use $1.10 worth of electricity, and save about $7.24 in fuel.

On the battery note if your using 4/3 cells you would need 11 of them to get the 13.2 volts that you needed, and to get the 50Ah you would need 11 sets of 11 or 121 cells to replace your starting battery. Good luck!


Energy Miser 02-09-2011 10:44 AM

I don't want to replace the storage battery, I want to maintain it at 13+ volts. If I use replace my starting battery with a deep cycle, it will be putting out less than 12 volts after just a few miles and I think fuel economy will suffer.

I currently pay $7 per gallon for gasoline. I charge myself a 100% VAT tax on every gallon of gasoline I purchase. I put that money aside in an account. I use that money to finance my energy projects. I have found $7 gas, self imposed or not, is an effective incentive to keep plugging away on efficiency measures.

Frank Lee 02-19-2011 07:34 PM


Originally Posted by watercat (Post 219041)
seems like a lot of messing around to loose so much function. maybe it would be easier to move to where i went to school. it was up hill in both directions and it always snowed. you could put skis on it and just slide every where. 4, to 5 mpg seems pretty extreme. how about you just take off the alternator belt and drive it and see if its even worth it. I keep doing mods and most of them don't help so ?!

I want to know where you went to school...

watercat 02-19-2011 08:33 PM

Is there a advantage when i'm running a mpg test to do it on a full moon and if there is besides down what diretion should i head.

ran another test today and found that i was able to maintain highway speed and not start the cars engine as long as i had not reach the bottom of the mountain.

conclusion: best fuel economy is mountain driving so far. I never run the test going up the mountain i dont like the results as much. I am now considering adding a magnet to a tow bar like they use to pick up nails from parking lots. the idea is to pull in behind a semi truck in his blind spot and let it connect with his loading dock pumper. its standardized so it should work on all steel trailers. not only will it help the mpg but its a decent autopilot for taking a break to get of here and check your email. my gps will tell me when to tapp the breaks to release myself when i get to my off ramp. EV should be using this to have a drive wheel alternator charging the battery pack up.

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