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Old 01-12-2012, 08:38 PM   #1 (permalink)
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DIY Open Source Plug-In Hybrid

Hello everyone!

I have decided on a new project.

For the last few years, I have somehow managed to fall into the world of home-built electric vehicles, renewable energy, and DIY ecology.

For a guy with absolutely NO EXPERIENCE working on cars, I managed to stumble my way through building an electric motorcycle and an electric car.

And I love hybrids! They do save gas - but there's the problem right there - they USE gas. An electric is nice because it totally does away with that, but an affordable homebuilt EV ends up having a pretty short range. (Which is actually just fine and a very practical vehicle for somebody in a city.)

I've also played around a bit, experimenting in my Electro-Metro by adding a generator to it. Which would have worked much better if I had ever really gotten that generator running right. Unfortunately, the Metro is a bit small to simply throw a generator of the right size in there. My experiments lead me to the thought that a home-built plug-in hybrid could be an excellent project and very good transportation, as long as it was PLANNED AS A HYBRID in the first place.

My situation is most likely not an uncommon one either. I live only a few miles for town, but 35-40 miles away from the big city ( 80+ miles round trip is common.) There are plenty of times where I only have to go a few miles, and would love to not fire up an engine at all. But there's also times that I have to drive a distance that my Electro-Metro couldn't reach in it's wildest dreams.

Thinking about it, a vehicle like a Chevy Volt would actually work pretty well for me. Other than that I have no money for one. And the Volt still runs on gas after it's 30-40 miles of batteries. I'd really prefer to be able to run on any sort of alternate or bio-fuel.

The other thing that has been really amazing is all the people that I have met while working on my projects! All sorts of amazing folks who know motors and diesels, and machining, and batteries and all the other fun things I've been learning about. Especially the electronics. Those are really fun! (Just a couple days ago, I got to destroy, er, beta-test a 1000A DC motor controller!)

So, here is what I am proposing...

THE DIY OPEN SOURCE PLUG-IN HYBRID PROJECT!

We have all the skills, tools, and brainpower to do this with people right here on this forum.

So, the plan is:
Build a vehicle that can run on batteries or liquid fuel (preferably bio-fuel when available), build it affordably, and share how it's done.

Main components of the vehicle will be either "off-the-shelf" for cost savings and availability due to mass-manufacture - or - DIY Open Source components to custom create the unique parts required for the project.

The mechanics of the vehicle must be relatively simple - no made from scratch planetary transmissions. Electronics can be wildly complicated, as long as we have somebody who knows what they are doing designing them. Schematics for electronics can be easily replicated for other people to build a similar project.

Right now, I am leaning towards a plug-in parallel hybrid, using lead acid batteries. Here's why. Lead-acid is cheap, reliable, and available. Should somebody see the project and realize how cool it is and want to donate a large sum of money THEN I would happily upgrade the system to Lithium batteries. (Note to self... please design system to make it easy to upgrade to Lithium batteries...)

A parallel hybrid system has a few advantages that people often don't think about. It could be designed to run on EITHER the Electric OR the ICE system. If one part fails, you can still drive home. Especially nice feature when I am in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!

Properly designed a driver would simply use whichever system is more appropriate at the time. For example, you could have a switch on the dashboard that says EV/ICE. Flip it to EV for in town, and ICE for the freeway.

The Electric system would use either an AC motor or a BRUSHLESS DC motor. I have enough experience working with DC motors that I would like to continue on and learn all about AC and/or brushless DC. Either one makes a much better generator than a brushed DC motor does. This will allow for not just regenerative braking, but also CHARGING WHILE CRUISING.

Another thing I would like to do is MAKE IT FOUR-WHEEL-DRIVE. If two drive axels are used, the gas/diesel engine could be connected to one set, with the electric motor connected to the other. This would allow for four wheel drive, which is great for snow and off-road, and can also provide additional torque for quick starts.

Using two driven axels would also make it simple to propel the vehicle at freeway speeds with the ICE, while the AC motor is set to light regen. This would recharge the battery, while also loading down the engine, with a little planning, this could be used to get the engine into its "sweet spot" of fuel economy. If an AC motor with an appropriate range of RPM is used, it ALSO could be used to propel the vehicle at freeway speeds. Microproccesor control could be used, checking battery voltage, to turn the engine on and off, and alternate between using the ICE and electric motor to propel the vehicle at full freeway speeds. Think Pulse-and-Glide, but with the electric motor filling in to keep you from slowing down!

One possible way of doing this whole project would be to start with a front-wheel drive car, with engine and drivetrain in just the front. The rear axle could get replaced with a driven rear axle, where the electric motor would be attached. A properly chosen motor should be able to get connected more or less directly to the differential.

I did manage to find a person whole has two Volkswagon Rabbit Pickup trucks. Those are front-wheel drive, with small diesel engines. Small diesels get great fuel economy, and could be run on diesel, bio-diesel, or (with a few small alterations) straight vegetable oil. On the rear, it's just a plain axle with leaf springs. That could easily be replaced with a rear-end from a small rear-wheel drive pickup truck, such as an older Toyota or Mazda. The pickup bed would allow for space for the batteries, motor controller, charger, etc. (A station wagon would also have many of the same good characteristics.)

I am NOT saying that's the only way to go, just that it meets some of the criteria I've been thinking about. I want YOU to weigh in with your best ideas on the ideal vehicle to use, and how to cruise it down the road.

I'm very serious about this project. This is not one of those threads with "Well, I've been thinking about this...." and nothing ever comes of it. I've created two real-world vehicles so far, which were both affordable and practical. I'd really like to build something that can combine practically, range, and minimize fossil fuels.

The Open ReVolt motor controller would be a great start for the electric side of the project. Of course it would have to be an AC or brushless DC version, but the cost savings and Open Source nature of it would be perfect.

Anyone working on a DIY battery charger, please chime in! An AC system is going to be at least 156V, and we'll need a charger to match. Ideally, one that can charge from 120V AC (60hz) and 240V in and selectable amp draw of 15A up to 30A+

Anyone who is knowlegeable on diesels, generators, bio-fuels, please add to the project!


And what good is a homebuilt vehicle that gets better fuel economy than a Volt or Plug-in-Prius while costing far less, if you DON'T SHOW IT OFF! That's why this vehicle is going to some big events this summer! (Assuming it can be built in time. But I already told them the Team Ecomodder is "bringing it!" so now we gotta!)

Events include driving the car to and showing it off at:
Midwest Renewable Energy Fair
Green Drive Expo (and competing in the "unlimited class" of the fuel economy challenge)
Mother Earth News Fair (There were no less than TWO X-Prize contestants and cars there this last year.)

And here's the new thing. A while back, I started a thread saying how I wanted to do "Something Big". I didn't know what, but wanted to do something related to fuel economy and DIY culture, with some social networking and video/film thrown in. Not long ago, somebody was interested in having me build an electric car, drive it cross-country, and make a film about it. While nothing has come of that, it did make for a nice little mock movie trailer. (See that HERE) But more importantly, it really got my brain going.

Frankly, there have been many events that feature a drive across the country. What happens when I get to the end? I would just have to turn around and drive a few thousand miles back home. That sure doesn't make sense from a fuel-use point of view! Also, here in the middle of the country, we sometimes get left out a bit. All the EVs come out on both coasts first. All the new movies appear there first. How about something here in the Mid-West, or near the Third Coast as I like to think of it. Yeah, you heard me, we have some GREAT LAKES here.

I propose to drive the DIY Open Source Plug-In Hybrid AROUND Lake Michigan! That's about 1000 miles on varying terrain through four States (plus tagging Canada on the way) and dipping my toes in Lakes Superior and Huron while I am at it. I can charge it up at campgrounds in Mighigan's Upper Penninsula, and at real EV Charging Stations in downtown Chicago!

A circle makes sense, it arrives back right where it starts from, just like an electric circuit or the water cycle. The event will be called "LOOP THE LAKE" - and will be a do-it-yourself fuel economy challenge. I'll be twittering the whole way and shooting video, documenting fuel use, where I charge and gas up, and meeting all the interesting folks along the way!

Want to challenge me? Please do! Start anywhere you want - just make sure you end back up where you started, and no cheating by taking a ferry!

If anyone knows anything about getting sponsorships for a crazy event like this, let me know! (I've got 1.5 million views on YouTube so far, that must be a good start.)

So, who is with me!? Raise your fist with a cartoon lightning bolt in it and say YES! I will be encouraging! YES, I have ideas on how to make this happen! YES, I would send you money or components or schematics or positive feedback!

I really, really, mean it.

-Ben

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Old 01-12-2012, 09:01 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I would like to throw my hat into the ring, on both sides. I'm willing to give any advice I can when applicable, and continue with my alternate fuel build, at the same time. I'll be on both teams, and therefore, can't lose.
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Old 01-13-2012, 12:27 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I've thought about both these options. The series hybrid or ghetto volt (EV with a generator mounted somewhere) and the parallel drive idea.

Both have their advantages. The series hybrid is simple and would work great when extended range is rarely needed. I think a gas gennie would work best as power to weight ratios are important.

The parallel hybrid would be cool as well. The simplest way to go would be with a vehicle that has AWD as an option. Most of the small SUVs fit this description. That way you get one with FWD and go to the boneyard for rear drive parts from an AWD version.

Of course, these vehicles aren't the lightest out there, so going with a lighter FWD rig would probably be better. It would just require some fairly decent fabricating skills for the electric rear axle.

I really think this parallel idea should be done by automakers. Someone with a lot of AWD experience like subaru would be perfect. I believe such an AWD system would be more efficient than a traditional AWD system.

I also think ther could be a market for a well done kit which could be installed on existing FWD cars, giving them the advantages of AWD and hybrid economy.

For batteries, I think NiMh might be the way to go. Lead acid is cheap, but, so damn heavy. I think NiMh gives the best bang for the buck regarding weight/cost.
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Old 01-13-2012, 12:37 AM   #4 (permalink)
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For the series hybrid, I would like to see someone build a gennie using a motorcycle engine. A 250 cc single cylinder out of a dirt bike should make enough power to push a metro sized car at reasonable speeds (40-50 mph). I don't know if it would have the grunt to push it at freeway friendly speeds. Might need to go to a 450 for that.

I think such a gennie might be kept light enough to be portable, but, i'm not certain about that. It would be nice to not have to tow it around for short trips.

if not, another option might be installing it on a light trailer. You can get them for about 300 bucks new at harbor freight. i bought mine used for 50.
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Old 01-13-2012, 06:31 AM   #5 (permalink)
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GO BEN !

The VW pickup sounds like a good start. Swapping in a 1997 up TDI will help FE, parts, etc. A wrecked Golf would be a good donor.
If you make the dash switch positions ICE/both/EV you will have a 4WD for the winter as well.
Of course you will need to have BamZipPow come and do some Aero work !
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Old 01-13-2012, 09:02 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I also love the VW Rabbit P/U (Caddy) idea. That's why mine is out back waiting for money and time to do a similar project. Good luck I will be following this.
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Old 01-13-2012, 09:46 AM   #7 (permalink)
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You know I'd love to help out on the project.

156V system that can pull decent amperage is going to be quite heavy with lead and take up a lot of room. I'm guessing you want some decent capacity though, not just a couple kWh pack? If you only need ~1kWh there is someone on craigslist in milwaukee selling an 06 Prius battery pack for $350. It is around a 240V pack.

I also have that AC motor controller (same as Tom's neon) that I picked up for a good deal off ebay, and that spool of 1 or 2 ga wire. I'm not using them (and don't know how soon it would be until I got to use them), so they are for sale and were very reasonably priced (which is why I picked them up).
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Old 01-13-2012, 10:37 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Neat idea, Ben.

While reading your thoughts about potential host vehicles PLUS your desire to use a renewable liquid fuel...

What about your Chevy S-10 diesel pickup?

Bio-fuel capable: check!
Capacity to carry a heavy lead-acid battery pack: check!
Additional OEM axle available (front) for parallel electric 4 wheel drive: check!
Already have it: check!
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Old 01-13-2012, 11:01 AM   #9 (permalink)
EV test pilot
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MetroMPG View Post
Neat idea, Ben.

What about your Chevy S-10 diesel pickup?

Bio-fuel capable: check!
Capacity to carry a heavy lead-acid battery pack: check!
Additional OEM axle available (front) for parallel electric 4 wheel drive: check!
Already have it: check!
You've secretly been reading my mind....

That is another vehicle possibility.
The "Bio-diesel Pickup Project" has been sitting around for a while. I have the truck, the engine, the transmission, and the custom clutch plate. The big part is figuring the adapter plate, and marrying everything together, then getting it back in the truck.

If it were a front-wheel drive truck, I think I might already have jumped on finishing the diesel conversion and adding an electric system.

I have no idea what it would take to change out a front axel. I would imagine that it would also need the transfer case, and then suspension to match. That sounds like it starts to get complicated.

The EMIS system uses a series-would DC motor IN THE DRIVESHAFT as a "booster" for a gasoline engine. That wouldn't make for regenerative braking or freeway cruise-charging, nor would it give me four-wheel drive (which would be pretty cool!) but I wouldn't have to go to 4x4 components on the front of the vehicle either.

I really haven't seen any AC or brushless DC motors with a nice big tailshaft on them that could be hooked right onto a shortened drive-shaft.

I'd like to use something other than Lead-Acid, but I just don't think there's budget for it. Charging is a little less tempermental with lead-acid as well, and I have a feeling that may become an advantage for cruise-charging.

I know of at least one current AC motor designed to run on 156V. (The old Solectrias all ran that voltage as well.)
I saw a brushless DC motor that I think would be powerful enough that can run on 96V.

Daox, the motor controller that you have, do you know if that can run on lower voltage? Tom's car is running around 300V - now THAT's a lot of lead to be dragging around.

JasonG's comment "Swapping in a 1997 up TDI will help FE, parts, etc. A wrecked Golf would be a good donor." might also apply to the potential use of a Rabbit Pickup. The guy I know who has the pair of them also has another VW engine kicking around. I think it's a TDI (2L?) While larger displacement, I would LOVE to use a turbo!

As for any comments earlier about trailer range-extenders, I want to avoid that. In theory, they are a good idea - only have it when you need it, etc. In practice, trailers are one more thing that you need a place to store it in, and you have to connect and disconnect them. One thing that I have found in my vehicle experiments is that things just have to work AND THEY MUST BE CONVENIENT. A pusher/generator trailer is a good idea for a single long-trip for an EV, but not the best solution for an all-purpose daily driver. That said, they are kinda cool and I would love to see one somebody designed in the real world. Mr. Sharkey has one I thought was pretty cool. Come to think of it, that was built from a Rabbit too!
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Old 01-13-2012, 11:10 AM   #10 (permalink)
EV test pilot
 
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PS - If a pickup truck was used as the final body style, an aerodynamic cap would be used to cover the bed.

And I'll need to find somebody to teach me fiberglassing....

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