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TheSGC 03-08-2013 10:03 AM

David's Solectria Force Rebuild
 
Last week I picked up my latest EV project, a 1992 Solectria Force. The Solectria Force was a manufactured electric car that used a Geo Metro glider and AC motor and controller setup. They were built using lead acid, NiCad or NiMH batteries. This Force is a 144 volt with a 28 KW drive train setup.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-n2beFygaer...0/IMG_2912.JPG

The Solectria Force I have just purchased was in a wee little parking lot accident at my University. It has 8,407 original miles on it and has back end damage, front right fender and headlight damage. There was solar panels on the hood and roof that have been removed.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-fZA3214KRa...0/IMG_2914.JPG

With the car I also got a pack of NiMH batteries and a bunch of parts from past Solectria employee who was emptying his supply and the Azure Dynamics auction this past fall. This car has heat and air conditioning, needs a new radio, but has no rust and besides the body damage is in decent condition. It's never seen salt or snow as it was garaged during the winter times and only driven during the summer.

My Plans:

Over the next several weeks and months I am going to be rebuilding this car up with my dad. Right now I am reviving the NiMH batteries and see how much range I can get out of them. I also have a charger that I hope I can reprogram, or I will use my own charger that I've been working on for a while.

The first thing I am doing is checking over the entire electrical system. The driver of the car said it went "run away" during the accident. Upon investigating I don't think it really did, I think it was just driver error, but I will put the car on stands and check everything out. The car currently has a AMC320 controller which is 28 KW peak and I have a UMOC440 controller which is about 50 KW that I am considering installing.

Once I get the electronics running we are going to bring the car down to the body shop to get a quote on fixing all the damage and get a new paint job. Right now it has decals all over it and Velcro that held the solar panels. We want to clean it up and give it a bright green or bright blue paint job.

Here is the link to my blog: 1992 Solectria Force Rebuild

MetroMPG 03-08-2013 10:49 AM

Subscribed. I drove a Force sedan once, and really liked it. (Regen is awesome.)

MetroMPG 03-08-2013 10:49 AM

PS: I don't suppose you're going to spill the beans on what kind of a deal you got? :)

TheSGC 03-08-2013 12:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MetroMPG (Post 360309)
PS: I don't suppose you're going to spill the beans on what kind of a deal you got? :)

I picked it up for $1k, then I got AAA to tow it to my house. The accident happened back in October and sat in the garage at school until they could figure what to do with it. I made them an offer for $1k when the accident happened (it happened 3 inches from my Civic EV!) and the University sat on it for a few months while they decided what to do with the car. Last week they got a title and called me up saying it was mine and we picked it up.

The goal is to get it all running by this summer so my dad can drive it. He's getting sick of $65 a week in gas in his Honda Odyssey (the camping towing vehicle) and we have all the parts to make this drive, even upgrades I can add.

MetroMPG 03-08-2013 01:01 PM

Have you driven one of these before?

Regen is cool, eh? (Can you tell I really like regen? It's awesome to not have to throw away all that energy when slowing down.)

TheSGC 03-08-2013 01:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MetroMPG (Post 360331)
Have you driven one of these before?

Regen is cool, eh? (Can you tell I really like regen? It's awesome to not have to throw away all that energy when slowing down.)

I have driven them a few times. Regen is nice because we have a lot of hills and stop and go traffic, but you really can't coast without a very trained foot.

I've spent the past few days with the NiMH batteries. They are Cobasys 9500 series cells, which is the Ovonics before all the patent things went down in the 90's. These suckers have just been sitting for so long that they were at 0v, but I've gotten life back into them. I have 11 packs, each with 11 cells and some are missing jumpers but I can fix that. So far 6 packs are taking charge, I just need to find a good way to cycle them. Maybe I'll get a CellPro6.

MetroMPG 03-08-2013 02:24 PM

Is there not a switch to disable accelerator pedal regen? That would make for easier coasting.

The sedan I drove had a switch: you could choose between "normal" operation (with regen mainly on the brake pedal), or "1 pedal" biased operation (with variable regen on the "first" half of the accelerator pedal travel, and power on the 2nd half of travel).

TheSGC 03-08-2013 08:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MetroMPG (Post 360346)
Is there not a switch to disable accelerator pedal regen? That would make for easier coasting.

The sedan I drove had a switch: you could choose between "normal" operation (with regen mainly on the brake pedal), or "1 pedal" biased operation (with variable regen on the "first" half of the accelerator pedal travel, and power on the 2nd half of travel).

I am not sure if there is a switch or not. It might have separate pedal sensors so I'll check it out when the weather is better.

TheSGC 03-11-2013 07:24 PM

I've been working on the batteries for the past few days. So far I've had 7 out of 11 taking charge. I just need to make buss bars for the last 3 battery packs. I'll get some pictures up later tonight.

I'm hoping to get the batteries charged enough so on Thursday I can install them and test the drive train.

bennelson 03-11-2013 09:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TheSGC (Post 360300)
Last week I picked up my latest EV project

I think it's fair to say that you have a problem when you say things like "my latest EV project."

It's OK. I'm in the same boat.

"Hi, I'm Ben. Welcome to E.V. Anonymous...."

I don't have a Solectria, but since it was THE factory EV Geo Metro, I've been on the Yahoo group ever since I first started playing with non-gasoline Geos.

TheSGC 03-11-2013 10:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bennelson (Post 360864)
I think it's fair to say that you have a problem when you say things like "my latest EV project."

It's OK. I'm in the same boat.

"Hi, I'm Ben. Welcome to E.V. Anonymous...."

I don't have a Solectria, but since it was THE factory EV Geo Metro, I've been on the Yahoo group ever since I first started playing with non-gasoline Geos.

Yeah, I seem to have a problem with EVs. :D

This little car will make a good commuter. We needed another car for this summer and the Solectria should do the trick. I'm hoping I can use these NiMH cells and get a charger running to work with them.

JellyBeanDriver 03-12-2013 11:44 PM

I 'raced' them back in 1991. Well the company I worked for did (DEMI)
Solar Electric 500 at Phoenix International Raceway in 1991. We had a zinc-air/aircraft NiCd powered CRX.

The next year, Solectria entered a zinc-bromine battery powered car. One of the lines came off during a turn, ended the race for everyone early with a plume of brown smoke.

TheSGC 03-16-2013 03:27 PM

I keep on forgetting to take pictures of the batteries, but I hope to soon.

So far I have found a single dead cell, good news is that I have several spares to replace it with.

I also managed to kill my 10A power supply I've been using to charge them. I just ordered a proper CellPro6 system that I can use to properly charge each pack and determine the actual capacity of these batteries. I should have it for next weekend.

In the mean time I am going to make buss bar connections for the last 3 packs that are missing them.

I'm hoping to have the car running by end of April, then I will get the body repaired and I am going to paint it my self. I have a spare door for this car that I am going to use for practice once the weather warms up more.

TheSGC 03-24-2013 09:31 PM

My PowerLab 6 arrived this week and I finally got around to trying it out. After playing with all the different settings I determined I need the programming cable so I can make a profile to properly handle the NiMH cells.

The PL6 can do a 20 A charge/discharge on NiMH cells, meaning I can cycle a battery a day. I already have a few cells that I need exchange out but the packs really need a full charge with trickle balancing. I am hoping the PL6 can do that for me.

Daox 03-25-2013 10:41 AM

Why do you say they need trickle balancing? You should be able to do this, but only to 6 cells at once because that is the most that the PL6 can handle.

TheSGC 03-25-2013 03:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Daox (Post 363106)
Why do you say they need trickle balancing? You should be able to do this, but only to 6 cells at once because that is the most that the PL6 can handle.

Some of the documentation I've been reading on these cells say that they should "balance" themselves a bit when they reach full charge, then are put onto a trickle charge after.

TheSGC 03-29-2013 10:24 PM

I got my USB adapter for the PowerLab 6 and I started battery cycling today. The first battery tested with 43 AH output @15 AMPs, so it is somewhat usable. I am working on the 2nd battery and I think it will take a few cycle to figure out how to properly use the PL6 and figure out what settings work for these batteries.

I had the goal of getting these batteries to hold some kind of charge by next weekend so I can install them back into the Force and test the drive train out. I should have 4-5 batteries tested by the end of this weekend, assuming things go well. I still need to make buss bars for 3 packs, but a trip to Ace Hardware tomorrow might help.

Daox 03-30-2013 09:58 AM

I don't know if you saw MetroMPG's thread on reviving his insight's nimh pack. He had to cycle them multiple times to 'revive' them to their full capacity. Each cycle (at least for the first few) ended up showing greater and greater capacity.

How many times did you cycle it? What is the rated capacity?

TheSGC 03-30-2013 10:25 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Daox (Post 364182)
I don't know if you saw MetroMPG's thread on reviving his insight's nimh pack. He had to cycle them multiple times to 'revive' them to their full capacity. Each cycle (at least for the first few) ended up showing greater and greater capacity.

How many times did you cycle it? What is the rated capacity?

I only did one cycle, and it's rating is 85 AH. I definitely need to cycle it more, I just need to fine tune the PL6 to meet the specs of these Ovonics. I probably need a good 5 or 6 cycles per battery to get a proper capacity reading. I also need to setup my lead acid battery bank to be the source for the PL6. I am going to set it up with 3S2P for 24 volts and ~200 AH of lead so I can use it as a regenerative charging source.

TheSGC 03-31-2013 09:15 AM

I did some more fine tuning of the PL6 last night. I adjusted the charging current to 8.5A (C/10) and the discharge current to 10A. For my first few cycles I need to charge at C/10 to give the NiMH a "forming" charge, then I can start increasing it.

My 2nd battery is now discharging and so far 45 AH have been pulled, with 75 AH being put into it last night. If all these batteries can give me ~40 AH then I will have a pack that can be somewhat usable. I think some packs will need cells replaced, but I have spares.

I found some buss bars online but I really can't justify $225 for a few pieces of bars for batteries I don't know even work. My dad and I are going to get creative by either making out own braided connections, or layered strips of copper like the bars on my Civic EV.

Daox 03-31-2013 10:03 AM

I made some for my PHEV kit out of 1/2" copper pipe. I smashed it flat with a hammer / vise and drilled holes, wasn't too hard.

TheSGC 04-01-2013 05:57 PM

So far I've done single cycles on my first three batteries:
Battery 1: 43 AH
Battery 2: 53 AH
Battery 3: 47 AH

I am reconfiguring my source pack so I can make continuous cycles before needing to recharge my source pack. I did change my charge profile from the 1st battery to 2nd battery and I hope to get these batteries cycled at least once by the end of this weekend. I am hoping to get two a day after tonight and I have 7 batteries ready to test, one has two iffy cells that the last three still need buss bars.

TheSGC 04-07-2013 10:39 PM

This weekend I started experimented with painting the scrap door I have that came with the car.

Here is the door after we removed the stickers. There is some outlines of the old stickers and the white is just boring.
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ju4cxSYuSj...0/IMG_2943.JPG


And here is the door after I put the primer on.
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Y_SyKGUgIf...0/IMG_2944.JPG

And now here the the door with the first coat drying.
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-H31kT_kGC_...0/IMG_2945.JPG


I am really impressed with the way this is coming out. I am using the Rustoluem Sail Blue mixed 50/50 with mineral spirits to thin it down. I am using foam rollers to apply the paint and a small foam brush to work in the small spaces. Here is the steps I am going to take for this experiement:

- Remove stickers
- Wash and let dry
- Dry sand to remove excess dirt and marking from the stickers
- Wipe off the panels
- Roll on first coat of Rustoleum with 50/50 mineral spirits
- Let dry for 12+ hours
- Wet sand the surface and paint again
- Repeat for 3-4 coats

I am really pleased with the first coat. I had a few issues that I need to sand out before I do the next coat, but the coverage is good and I really like the color. All the Solectria's were white in color and I just find that boring. We really want this little car to stick out when where are done, and this color really sticks out in a good way.

TheSGC 04-13-2013 10:50 PM

I have three coats of paint on my test door and now it's getting a really nice shine to it. I'm going to give it another two coats over the new few days then I am going to let it harden for several days before giving it a buff.

I'm also making progress on the battery pack. I have most of the batteries tested to hold at least 40 AH, most in the high 40's to low 50 AH range and thats only with one or two cycles on them. I had one battery start off with 26 AH but after 3 cycles it's over 43 AH now! I'm going to try and get the last few batteries ready to go over the next few days and by the end of the month do some tests on the drive train before I bring the car to the body shop.

Daox 04-15-2013 09:45 AM

Good updates, keep em coming! :)

TheSGC 04-26-2013 04:30 PM

I've been busy finishing up my last semester at college, but I have time this weekend to do some work on the Solectria. I'm working on the last two batteries, each had a dead cell that I had to remove and replace and next I need to get a metal banding tool to strap the batteries back together.

I also have to reconfigure the charger. It's an NLG423 6.6 KW that is programmed for 198v of NiMH and I need to change it to 145.2v. I'm hoping to do a basic test of the car systems this weekend and get the batteries charged up to a test point.

otedawg 04-30-2013 01:47 PM

SGC,
Looking good! I'm toying with the idea of painting my Force... the same way you're painting yours.

Let me know if you need any help with your NLG - I don't know as much as Wolf, but I've torn mine apart and put it back together, as well as reprogrammed it.

Did that car have a UMOC or one of the older controllers in it?

-Otedawg

TheSGC 04-30-2013 03:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by otedawg (Post 368927)
SGC,
Looking good! I'm toying with the idea of painting my Force... the same way you're painting yours.

Let me know if you need any help with your NLG - I don't know as much as Wolf, but I've torn mine apart and put it back together, as well as reprogrammed it.

Did that car have a UMOC or one of the older controllers in it?

-Otedawg

It has an AMC320 in it, but I have a UMOC440F that I may put in for some more power. I'm putting the last battery on the PowerLab 6 this afternoon and I'm going to work on the NLG4 wiring so I can reprogram it. I don't have any temperature sensors on it yet so I'll probably disable them on the charger until they get in.

TheSGC 05-03-2013 08:41 PM

Ok little update. I've been working on the Solectria for the past few days and I have the batteries in the car but I've having a problem getting the NLG4 charger running. I need to reprogram the charger but I have no clue on what parts of the Charger Interface Box needs connecting. When the charger is plugged in the Fault light turns on and I cannot connect the programming software to the charger. I'm assuming that I've missed a connection as the manual says the charger will not power up if it detects a fault coming from the interface box. I don't have the temperature sensors, but there are a number of other cables that I haven't identified yet.

I'm hoping the charger still functions and I'm missing something simple, like a 12 volt power not plugged in or something.

TheSGC 05-05-2013 10:39 PM

After working with the charger I've found that is is broken. I opened it up and smelled the unmistakable scent of burnt electronics. I could not immediately see any problems so this week I am going to start playing with it. If by the end of the week I don't get this charger running, I am going to just buy a new one that I can program myself.

Tomorrow night is my last final so the rest of the week I am going to work on this EV and I want to get it running. I'm going to try and borrow a high voltage power supply so I can charge the battery pack enough to test out everything.

TheSGC 05-08-2013 07:29 AM

Just a quick update, this morning I got the charger to run! My problem was with the control harness it came with, the section that was supposed to activate the main relay was busted so I just bypassed that and now I can freely reprogram the charger!

I think I found some temperature sensors that should work. This afternoon I am going to reprogram it for my 144 volt pack of NiMH and hopefully on Friday I can get it back into the EV and give it a charge.

TheSGC 05-08-2013 09:07 PM

I gotta get my camera out and take some photos.

I reprogrammed the NLG423 and set it for 145.2v nominal and pull no more than 12A from the mains. I got it into the Solectria and did a quick test run and it's looking good!

I'm now on vacation for the rest of the month so I have plenty of time to get this EV going. It's raining for the next few days so I will be setting up a tarp tomorrow and if I have any luck I will be able to test the drivetrain.

Once I am satisfied that all the electronics function I am going to bring it on down to the body shop and get it repaired. I think I will have the electronics all checked out and properly mounted in the next week, then I will prep the body and bring it on down for repair.

TheSGC 05-11-2013 08:40 PM

The Solectria runs!

Yesterday I was able to check all the connections and did a quick test run of the drive train. It all went well so I put the car on the ground and did a few runs up and down the drive way.

I did notice that the throttle has a broken spring and has not been maintained at all. Once the rain stops I'm going to test the potbox to make sure it is sound electrically, but the car does drive! There is a problem with the air conditioner but it's not necessary for getting the car on the road.

This week I am going to properly mount the charger, temperature sensors and ventilation fans and prep the body for repair. I'm going to take a few photos of the damage down to the body shop for a quote.

TheSGC 05-21-2013 03:58 PM

Yesterday I got a quote for over $3k to repair the body so my dad and I decided to do it ourselves. Either this week or next week I am going to hit up the junkyards to get the necessary parts and have at it.

I'm looking forward to repairing the Force, I've always wanted to try body work and since the car is now running I want it repaired so I can register it and get some miles on it. I'm not sure how long the body repair and full paint will take, but I'm not rushed for time.

Right now I am estimated 40 Ah or so available from the NiMH pack currently, cylcing should yeild better capacity over time. I'm hoping this pack will get me at least 20 miles, then it will be usable for my dad's commute.

Daox 05-21-2013 04:49 PM

What all needs to be done bodywork wise? Looks like you're missing a hatch and there is some rear bumper and quarter panel damage at least on one side. Anything else?

TheSGC 05-21-2013 10:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Daox (Post 372539)
What all needs to be done bodywork wise? Looks like you're missing a hatch and there is some rear bumper and quarter panel damage at least on one side. Anything else?

The front fenders are also pretty junky and the front right headlight needs replacing. I don't think the body work is too difficult, the challenge is finding the time to hit the junk yard to get all the parts.

bennelson 05-21-2013 10:19 PM

Thankfully a Force is just a Geo Metro.

You should be able to find replacement parts at junkyards if you just want a new fender or light for example.

The sheet metal on Metros is thin and easy to work with. Here's a video of me doing some body work on mine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqGzjWFmYR8

All I did was remove the interior plastic panel, and then push out on the metal with my hand! :thumbup:

TheSGC 05-22-2013 08:19 AM

The Geo Metro is a simple car, which is why I think repairing it won't be too difficult.

I just need the weather to cooperate! There are thunderstorms for most of this week so I really can't get much done.

TheSGC 06-15-2013 11:02 PM

I haven't done too much on the Solectria due to weather and my new job. Last night I did continue removing stickers from the body and this week I want to get the body ready for the repair. I'm hoping to go get parts next weekend so we can get the body back into shape and work on the paint.

I do keep the batteries charged up and tomorrow I might drive it up and down the street to keep the brakes and drive train happy. I also have to get the batteries mounted better in the rear and get a fan ventilation running and the charger mounted properly.

TheSGC 06-22-2013 09:36 PM

Today my dad and I finally got time to hit up a junkyard. This morning we went to the local Pick N Pull junkyard and raided the only Geo Metro they had, a 1993.

We walked away with a trunk, tail light, rear bumper cover and hub caps.

I've also been spending nights here and there removing stickers form the body. Here is the Force with hub caps and the stickers removed from door and fenders:
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-73NkSsUowY...0/IMG_3008.JPG
Now here is the good stuff, the new rear lift gate (trunk) and new rear tail light. I also have a new bumper I need to put on, and I need to get rid of the plates at some point:
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/--jrGiOQXn6...0/IMG_3009.JPG
This is the gap that we need to repair before beginning the paint job:
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-w5OFEGEpTg...0/IMG_3010.JPG
The Force is now pretty water tight so the tarp is coming off it after several months! I am working on removing the adhesives from the roof and hood, then I plan on building some kind of paint booth and start the painting process. Once the paint job is done I am going to get the EV registered and on the road.


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