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View Poll Results: What should Ben's Next Big Project be?
Hybrid/Tribrid Diesel/Electric Pickup Truck 12 44.44%
Performance EV / Long-distance Documentary-ready Car 9 33.33%
The Family Car 14 51.85%
The NEXT Cycle 1 3.70%
The XR-3 0 0%
Something completely different (but let me know what!) 2 7.41%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 27. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 07-18-2011, 09:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Ben's next BIG project

Hey Guys,

By now, I think most of you know me.

I don't have a background in working on cars, anything mechanical, and I have only finally now taken a non-credit introduction to electricity class.

And yet, I have managed to build my own electric motorcycle, electric car, played around with some hybrid experiments, and even made an instructional video teaching other people how to build their own electric cars.

So here's my question to you - what should be my next big project?

I don't have much money, and I never seem to have enough time any more, especially with a baby at home now, and since my wife is now a full-time mother, I have to work extra hard just to pay the mortgage and keep in groceries.

So, that means that whatever my next project is will take some time, and I don't want to willy-nilly start something that might take a year to happen, or worse yet, never be completed.

So to start you out, here's a few ideas of what the NEXT BIG PROJECT could be, but don't let these ideas limit you. If you have a great idea for my next big project, just let me know!

1. Hybrid Pickup Truck -
I already have sitting in my driveway a plain-jane Chevy S10 Pickup truck, with no engine in it. In my garage is a 4-cylinder diesel engine from a Mercedes 240D. Not a powerful engine, but bullet-proof and you can burn ANYTHING in it.
My original plan was just to do an engine swap, and create a compact DIESEL pickup. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it might make a cool HYBRID.

The NetGain guys have a system called EMIS which uses an electric motor in place of part of the drive-shaft of the pickup truck. Their system is only designed for '96 and newer AUTOMATIC transmissions.

What if I did something similar to my pickup, swapping out the engine to diesel, and adding an electric motor in back!? The electric motor could help with acceleration (folks day that diesel is a dog!) and also allow me to run electric only in town. Of course I would have to figure out all the little things to make the two systems work together, keep power brakes and steering, even with the engine off, etc, but that would be half the fun!

This is the vehicle that I already use for my long-distance travel, making it into a plug-in diesel/electric hybrid would just make it even BETTER!

I also have some ideas for a aero cover for the bed, full moon hub-caps, and other aero-improvements.

2. The PERFORMANCE EV. Power AND Range.
A while back, I was approached by a documentary film-maker. He wanted to make a film about BUILDING an EV and DRIVING IT ACROSS COUNTRY! He and a couple of his associates came out and talked with me about my car and the project concept. In they end they asked me if I would like to be the guy the film focuses on - to be the person to build the car and drive it from Lake Michigan to Los Angeles.

Nothing much has happened in that project yet. The little I heard is that they are trying to raise money to make it happen. Here's the thing... In the back of my mind, even if THEY never make it happen, I think I could. The only thing limiting me would be the cost of the batteries, but I think some fund-raising or a sponsorship could make that happen.
Take an old Mustang, or some other "cool" (yet not too heavy, expensive, or collectable) car, throw a forklift motor in there, build a 1000 amp ReVolt Cougar controller, and hit Route 66. Show how EVs can do long range, power, AND cool!

If it was completely Open Source and collaborative, I think we could really shine with it!
The original idea can be seen at:GMEmovie.com
And there was even a "trailer" for the idea edited up from when the guys came out to visit. You can see that ... um, right here I guess (*embedds YouTube Video*)

3. The Family Car
My wife's car is getting old. Things are starting to leak. The body is rusting. It's been a good car. Nothing wrong with a Pontiac Sunfire, but nothing all that special about it either. It's going to need to be replaced sometime soon.
But I really don't just want another car. I want her to have something that works for her, but isn't in the old paradigm of gasoline and maintenance.

Three things we will need:
1. Air conditioning. She actually gets heat sick. Me, I like air-conditioning, but can live without it. She actually NEEDS it.
2. Something she can drive. Must be simple, not crazy, no manual engine kill buttons, pop starts, or anything else like that. Also, she doesn't drive stick, but I'm sure she could learn.
3. Must seat at least 3 people. We now have a baby girl. We need to fit at least 3 people in a car all at once.

And you know what fits that description? A used Prius. But somehow that feels like cheating. It still just runs on gas (although more efficiently than most gas cars...) and seems like you still need to get those things serviced at the dealership.

On the other hand, a Prius can be hacked with an additional battery pack, either from scratch, or with a kit. But I don't know how to hack it, and kits cost money ON TOP of what I would pay for the car.

There must be something else out there that would be a great family car, yet still affordable and have some really solid modding capabilities. Any idea what it is?

4. The next CYCLE
Right now, I'm finishing up my BUILD YOUR OWN ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLE instructional DVD. As part of that project, I bought a gas motorcycle that was the same make, model, and year as my electric, but still in original form. It needs some work on the carbuerators, but other than that, it's in good condition, and would be ready to roll.

I think that cycle has some real potential as a modified fossil-fuel vehicle. Mostly, I was thinking it would still run on gas, but change the gearing, and add some major aerodynamic improvements. With a 440cc engine, it should be freeway-worthly, yet still get great fuel economy.

A friend of mine also has an old Goldwing frame, that's already had the engine removed. I could get it for free if I wanted it, but why would I want to build ANOTHER electric motorcycle? To teach how to do it. I've talked with some folks about doing a seminar where people would sign up and learn how to build electric motorcycles. Over several days, the class would BUILD an electric motorcycle from start to finish. The finished cycle could be sold, sold to one of the students, or even auctioned off with the proceeds going to a worth cause!

5. The XR-3
A while back, my friend Rich bought a set of plans for the XR-3.
Boy is it cool. It's a made-from-scratch hybrid two-seater enclosed trike

I don't think I would try tackling something like this all by myself, but if my buddy was building one, I could see myself building one right beside him, but about two steps behind....
This wouldn't be my first choice for a Next Big Project because I already have a two-seater electric car. It would be a fantastic project for learning fabrication and fiberglass though.

Take a look at the first one built. It's gorgeous! See it HERE.

6. Something else....
Have I completely missed something? Have you seen a cool project you think I should do? Let me know what it is.

I guess what else I should mention is part of the WHY I want to build the next big project. Part of it is the challenge. It's really FUN to learn new things and pick up new skills and meet new people by doing something different.
Also, I would really like to make a difference. How does me doing a project help OTHERS? How does it motivate people, challenge them to act, or think differently about their life? How does it build community and improve the world around us.

Also, I would really like to do something that I can document and use to teach others. That's a big part of what I like about the Electro-Metro. I've been a speaker now at several events talking about the car. Most of the response to my presentations is that it has been motivating and inspiring.
Selling the instructional DVDs has been nice in that I've made a few bucks. Not a ton, but it has already covered the cost of the car project. At least that means the car hasn't COST me money. Anything that I can do that gets a few dollars in the door means more time that I can work on eco-project instead of worrying about how the rent gets paid.

I really think the the coolest thing I have been involved in so far is the Open ReVolt project. It's amazing how many people have been part of that project - really smart people who really bring something to the table. Me? I can only design t-shirts and blow up controllers, but then I make a video about it, and people seem to dig that! In all seriousness though, the collaboration of that project was AMAZING.

So how do I do it? How do I make the next big project into something amazing? How does it not only help me, but inspire the world? Solve some problems? Bring people together

I know, I know, we aren't going to make world peace here or anything, but I DO want to make a difference, even if it's only getting a few guys to learn a new skill, or gets some new folks conserving energy.

But I'm just a guy with a wrench, a camera, and a laptop, what can I do?

Lets do something. Let's make it big. Massive. Make a difference. Mind-blowing.


My YouTube Videos

Last edited by bennelson; 07-18-2011 at 10:09 PM.. Reason: fixed a link
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Old 07-19-2011, 09:57 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I voted for the diesel pickup and family car. I can see both being very useful to you.

The family car wouldn't be used as much, but like you said is going to need to be replaced relatively soon. I'd probably opt for the Prius as a first choice and Jetta TDI as a second choice. I've driven and worked on both and IMO its easier to get better mileage with the Prius. In the city the Prius mileage smashes the TDI, and even on the highway I seem to get better mileage than almost any TDI (that we have in the US) I've seen on these forums. Price wise they're both high now though. You can probably find a cheaper TDI, but the miles are going to be very high. As you mentioned, PHEV is possible with the Prius. IMO you/we/makerspace could help make our own 'enginer' type kit. The only item that really would need to be custom made is the dc to dc converter. One other project I've been thinking about for a long while now is a 4 door Tercel and swapping in a 1.4L turbodiesel from the European Yaris. It would be a 70mpg car easily, but I think that would be too small for a family vehicle.

The diesel pickup would be great for you for work. First getting the diesel in and later hybridizing it would be a great project and I'm sure the mileage would be very good in it.
Current project: A better alternator delete
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Old 07-19-2011, 10:19 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I'll offer up something that will blend the truck and the family car. Chevy/GMC Astro conversion van with the M-B diesel, turbocharged of course, hopped up A/C and a waste oil fueling system.

Rering and reseal the motor, do the timing chain and tensioners, maybe a valvejob, Swaintech coat the pistons with their Savercoat.

Add a freshened junkyard turbo, like an old TO3

An intercooler from a Volvo turbo car or whatever will fit.

Turn up the pump ever so slightly................

Go for 100 hp at the tire with the aircon on full tilt.
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Old 07-19-2011, 10:54 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I would like to see more videos on DVD, an open revolt dvd would be awesome and a motorcycle dvd would be great as well!
I'm also a fan of finished projects, so I'd like to see that truck back on the road.
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Old 07-19-2011, 11:24 PM   #5 (permalink)
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If you decide to do the performance ev... Maybe think Track/Bonneville 1923-27 Ford. It's light, pretty cheap to build a T. Looks good with narrow wheels and moon hubcaps.

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Old 07-19-2011, 11:26 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Oh, forgot... I voted for the S10 too.
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Old 07-20-2011, 04:25 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Old 07-20-2011, 08:13 AM   #8 (permalink)
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How about using (bio-)diesel to accelerate, and electricity to drive at constant speed, for either the pickup or family car? That way you could keep up with traffic despite having a smaller and cheaper electrical drive system. (and not have range anxiety as a bonus)

My solution as to controls would simply be:

1. clutch up in neutral stops the engine.
2. giving it "gas" while the engine is off gives electric push.
3. pushing down the clutch starts the engine.

And also:

4. The system is off by default and has to be activated so that a person who doesn't know
how to use it can drive like it was a normal car.

Naturally, in a city or in gridlock, you could just leave the engine off and inch the car forward with elecric only.

2016: 128.75L for 1875.00km => 6.87L/100km (34.3MPG US)
2017: 209.14L for 4244.00km => 4.93L/100km (47.7MPG US)
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Old 07-20-2011, 09:32 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I vote for the S-10. All electric first, with "plug in" charging using a two shaft motor similar to the Netgain. Then down the road, add a small high efficiency diesel engine running constant speed, to charge the batteries as needed. Use an engine which has enough power to drive the truck on the highway, say about 15-20 hp. This could then be connected to the front of the motor with a CVT belt drive or clutch, so the electric motor can drive the truck in town by itself, with the diesel for extended range on the highway. On the X-Prize car I designed, I used a layout similar to this, with two 10 hp engines, one ran the generator and could assist the final drive, the other was for the highway only.
I know a gentleman who added the Netgain system to a full size GM truck, and had a "minimal" MPG increase. If the normal engine is charging the batteries to power the motor to drive the truck, I think it's just better to drive the truck with engine directly.
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Old 07-20-2011, 05:54 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The diesel won't benefit as much from being a hybrid as a gas engine does. A gas engine has to run 14.7:1 air:fuel, and has to suck air past the throttle plate. The diesel can run with an open intake tract, and much leaner at low loads.

Propane injection makes a diesel much faster. I have wondered if things like hydrogen injection, natural gas injection, or propane injection would improve the fuel economy enough to be worth it. No idea if that's the case, just wondering.

Here's something else to consider: If a diesel outlasts 2 gasoline cars, it might be greener to have the diesel. It takes a lot of energy to build a car.

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