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Old 07-28-2009, 03:07 PM   #1 (permalink)
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A Look at a Solectria Force

Hey everyone.

A couple weeks ago, I got to take a look at a Solectria Force.
The owner is doing some work on it, and planning to sell it sometime when he is done fixing it up.



Click here:
MobileMe Gallery
to see some photos of this factory converted electric car.

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Old 11-30-2009, 02:42 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Is there a story behind the ZEBRA logos?
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Old 11-30-2009, 08:45 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Hi Ben,

Thanks for posting this -- I had forgotten that you had; and now that I am considering buying a 1993 2 door hatchback Force, I'm glad to be able to pour over these pictures.
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Old 11-30-2009, 08:56 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I don't know for sure....BUT:

This vehicle was originally owned by a California electric utility.
It had a lot of extra little wires on it the are NOT part of the Solectria conversion. The owner told me that they were sensor wires for testing the batteries, tracking power, etc.

Also, the battery box had a number of ventilation ports on it that looked like they were thermal management.

Which leads me to believe that the vehicle originally had a molten salt battery pack. Molten salt battery - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the Wikipedia entry, scroll down to "ZEBRA".

The THINK Electric has this type of batteries as one of the options. ( Click here for info on their web page. )

I believe that this was also the type of battery that Ford was using in their EV Minivans during the "EV1 time period" of the CARB mandate.

I think that the "standard" Solectrias ran on group 27 lead-acid gel batteries.
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Old 11-30-2009, 08:57 AM   #5 (permalink)
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That would be an awesome car to get. Just throw some lithium in it after the lead acids are dead and you'll have a very nice car with great range.
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Old 11-30-2009, 09:46 AM   #6 (permalink)
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You've peaked my interest -- are there lithium ion battery "kits" that could be installed in a 144v Force?
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Old 11-30-2009, 10:16 AM   #7 (permalink)
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There probably are from a few online places that could put together a 144V kit. However, all you really need is a pack voltage of 144V (45 lithium cells) and a 144V lithium compatible charger. I'm not sure what charger the Force uses, but some chargers can be reprogrammed by the manufacturer for different types of batteries (Zivan chargers come to mind). I would guess you'd still have to find you own way to mount them in the car though.
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Old 11-30-2009, 10:21 AM   #8 (permalink)
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The only type of Lithium "kits" that I know of are the ones for converting Prius's into plug-in hybrids. Those have a rather limited electric only range, and are still very expensive.

The only guy that I know with an electric car using lithium, when asked about the cost of the batteries, said "about that of a new car".

I think it would make sense to drive an electric car right now with lead batteries. When the price of exotic batteries comes down, upgrade to something fancier.

Also, I believe the Solectrias can run on a range of voltage, with 144V being near the lower end. I had hear that they can sometime have trouble as the pack discharges, it hits the low voltage cut-off point of the controller. For example, if you try accelerating up a big hill with a low battery, your power could cut out completely. I had that as an issue for a while with the DC/DC converter on my motorcycle. An extra battery solves the issue as it brings you voltage up another 12v.

I think most of the Solectrias ran 156V (13 x 12v batts) so that it wasn't a problem

There is a guy in Georgia who has a collection of 3 Solectrias, each with different batteries, but it looks like he must have recently sold the Lithium one.

Stephen Taylor's Solectria Forces
Stephen Taylor's 1999 Solectria Force
Abel Saucedo's 1997 Valence Lithium Solectria F

The third link above (Green Stripe) is the lithium car. The batteries are marked as "engineering samples", so possibly the original owner got the batteries somehow through his work or industry.

Stating how much money that was spent on a conversion is OPTIONAL on the EV Album, and it seems that it is often left off on exotic battery types.
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Old 11-30-2009, 10:43 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I think lead acid is viable if you don't need range. However, in the long run, I'm quite sure lithium is cheaper. This is all due to how many cycles you get out of the batteries. You can (according to online info, I'm sure actual life is shorter for both lead and lithium) get 1000 cycles out of lead acid (@ 50% dod), but you can get 2000 (@ 80% dod) to 3000 (@ 70% dod) out of lithium. So, lithium would have to cost more than 2-3x more to come out even because of the depth of discharge advantage of lithium. It also has the weight advantage which makes the vehicle more efficient.

Right now, the price is right around 2.5x as much. So, the advantage isn't gigantic, but its definitely there.

Still, looking at a pack to rival a 156V 100Ah pack is gonna cost a pretty penny. You're looking at around ~$4900 just for the battery, then tack on $800-1500 for a charger. You'll probably want balancers since that seems to be the thing to do with lithium to preserve life too, and I'm not sure about their cost. Assuming you can get the car for a few thousand, I don't think that is all that bad, especially since you just gained at least 50% more range by going to lithium (between weight and dod advantages).
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Old 11-30-2009, 11:22 AM   #10 (permalink)
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A huge part of the economics of electrics is also what you compare it to.

I can buy a running (or one I can make run) Geo Metro right now for about $500 and have it get 50 mpg.

Thats the cost equivelant of a couple of lead batteries, without an electric car to put them in.

On the other hand, if you compare buying a used Solectria and put $10,000 worth of batteries in it, you still have a car you CAN NOT BUY!
There is currently NOTHING commercially available that would equal it.

I guess I have always been a used-car buyer, and numbers like $10G are house down-payments, not car payments.

Even with the Nissan Leaf slated to come out in a couple years, and to be "affordable" it's still going to be at least double the cost of what you could do with a Solectria with a high-end battery system.

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