Sunday, November 2, 2008

Battery Acid Damage

I came out of work one day last week, and noticed a small puddle of liquid under the passenger's suspension console. "That's weird", I thought, "there has been nearly zero humidity today". I knelt down, and dipped a finger into it. It was slightly slippery, so I thought at first that it was transmission fluid. But bringing it close to my nose, I detected the distinct smell of... battery acid.

Last weekend, therefore, I disassembled the rear compartment. I took out the batteries and the boxes so I could both find the leak as well as repair any damage. I believe the leak is actually coming from the *tops* of the batteries. The Zivan charger is apparently notorious for "overcooking" batteries during the equalization phase, which can lead to acid boiling out of the caps. The rear box is a two-piece assembly, using only silicone caulk to try to keep it "acid-tight." Obviously not enough.

As far as damage goes, it was all paint and surface rust (if I had let it go all winter, it would likely have destroyed the suspension console, and possibly the whole car):

I scraped all the paint and rust off the area, washed the battery acid residue off of everything it was on (that's the white stuff on the rack), and spray-painted some rust-coat paint on everything. Three coats for good measure. Next summer I'll do a more thorough job.

As far as resolving the leak - I'm stuck with the Zivan charger for now. But I can at least make the box much more acid-tight. I have some heavy plastic sheeting I use for various things. So, I used it here to make a liner for the rear box. I cut a piece big enough to fill the box with plenty left over for good measure:

I then placed the batteries into the liner and box (this took a little care - although the plastic is heavy, the batteries are heavier, and it is not hard to stretch the liner enough to rip it):

I then cut the top of the liner even with the tops of the batteries, taking care to allow the hydrogen exhaust vent to work properly:

One final note. While I had the battery box out, I took the opportunity to find the tach wire. In my car, for some reason, it was *white* and purple rather than *black* and purple. Whatever. I attached a white 16-gauge wire to it, ran it along the DMOC wiring harness loom (attaching it at many places with electric tape) then hooked it to Pin 25 of the DMOC ampseal connector. Here is the wire in the engine compartment:

Just like Tim's, mine seems properly calibrated at an EE1SpeedoDiv of 70. It's nice to have the tach... but it points out that I, like most people, have pretty serious vibration issues from about 4500 to about 5500 RPM. Not sure what to do about it at this point - I don't drive in that RPM range (other than to test the vibration). Tim had no end of fun fixing it on his car...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Measuring Power - III

Well, it's Labor Day, the traditional Last Day of Summer in the USA. I've kept track of my electricity usage and trip distance all summer. Here is the result in graphical form (the blue bars are the distances of each trip; the red lines are the efficiency of each trip):

Unlike the earlier data, there is very definitely a correlation between trip length and efficiency. I'm measuring the actual electricity used to charge the vehicle. Plotting the data another way, and fitting a least-squares line to it, shows this correlation very well:

Basically, you can model the driving costs as 379 Wh/mi efficiency with a fixed 1.23 kWh cost per charge.

I drove 498 miles this summer, and used 244.3 kWh of electricity to charge it during that period (including the per-charge overhead). At 7.5 cents per kWh (my cost in Fort Collins, CO), that means I spent $18.32 on electricity to drive, at an average cost of 3.7 cents per mile. At $4.00 per gallon gasoline, this is the equivalent to about 109 miles per gallon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Measuring Power - II

As the previous post indicates, I am now measuring the kWh used to charge the car. I've been keeping track of per-day costs, and here is the chart for the first couple of weeks. As you can see, the cost per mile does not correlate well with the miles driven - which means that the theory I had about the rebalancing contributing a major portion of the cost for short trips seems to be incorrect (at least, for the length of trip that I've been taking).

The gap in the chart is for when I watered the batteries - no miles on that charge, so no wH / mi.

Over this period, I have driven 111.4 miles, and used 54.9 kWh to recharge. This nets out to an average of 493 Wh / mi (as shown by the green line on the chart). My electricity costs 7.5 cents per kWh, which means my average cost per mile is 3.7 cents, which, at $4.00 per gallon, is the equivalent of 108 MPG.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Measuring Power

I've had many people ask, "how much does it cost to run your car" . So far, I've been unable to answer very accurately. I have a decent understanding of the Wh/mile performance - but that does not account for charging loss, running the fans, etc. So, I picked up this little device over at

I then made a 24-inch long extension cord with this inline to see how well it works. Seems to be working well so far. If I continue to be happy with it, I'll get it mounted in the wall next to the 240V outlet (this extension cord thing is just a temporary kludge). I'll update this post later with the actual *measured* wall-to-road Wh/mile performance of my car.

June 3 2008 edit: I used 6.70 kWh to charge last night - roughly 50 cents worth of electricity. I drove 13.1 miles, which gives 489 wH/m - twice the cost I calculated from watts used while driving. This is likely because of the "finish" / "balancing" stage of charge, and also likely because I bet my tires need filling and my batteries need watering. I'll chart out this over the summer, and include significant maintenance events on the chart.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Replacing the Transmission Main Seal

Five months ago, when I first got the Volt914 on the road, I noticed a transmission fluid leak. Here is the kind of mess it would leave:

I spent today fixing it (better late than never!). After dropping the tranny (leaving the motor installed, with a jack supporting it), I popped the transmission main seal out with a slide hammer. Here is what it looks like on the back - no wonder it leaked!

Here is the new seal installed. I added a couple of other pictures at 914world if you're curious about the process.

While I had the tranny out, I also replaced the clutch on the theory that the tranny fluid would have impregnated and ruined the clutch disk. Which it did. The old disk is on the left, the new (not shiny!) disk is on the right:

I also took the opportunity to put new transmission drain plugs in (the old ones were fairly well stripped, you can see my adventures with them on 914world):

I took it for a quick spin around the block - I think the old oil-impregnated disk was slipping occasionally. I did not notice anything this time, but I'll keep my eye on it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Parade - Finally!

Some of you may remember that the original impetus behind me going 72 hours or so without sleep last fall was to have my car in the Colorado State University / Poudre School District Homecoming Parade. That, alas, was not to be. However, this Saturday, my car was in the Fort Collins Downtown Business Association's Saint Patrick's Day parade. I was part of the Debut Theatre Company entry - we won first place in Most Creative - it was a blast. The young lady standing and waving at the audience is named Paulina, and she will be playing Sleeping Beauty in Debut's production this May:

The car is plastered with magnetic signs, and the dragon head (my wife Jill's creation) on the hood is magnetically attached too.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Fixing suspension squeaks

I've been generally happy with the car - except for one thing: an increasingly annoying "popping" or "grinding" sound coming from the front passenger's suspension. The culprit turned out to be the A-arm bushings. I blogged the whole process on 914 World, but here are a few pictures. First, the A-arm before refurb:

The culprit - the old bearing and rusty bearing surfaces:

And the refurbished A-arm reinstalled:

The pops, squeaks, and grinds are all gone, and I'm going enjoy driving the car that much more...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Video Tour of the Volt914

A short video showing the main features of the Volt914, and giving a good sense of what it sounds like to drive around in it:

Youtube link