Mercedes A and B class donors; stability control

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Mercedes A and B class donors; stability control

Post by coulomb »

Around the lunch table at the Weber Wigwam recently, the discussion turned to donor vehicle selection. (Weber thinks it should be called the "recipient" vehicle, since it receives the electricals, but the conventional terminology seems to be "donor" vehicle, since it donates chassis, brakes, steering, etc to become an EV.)

As has been mentioned on these forums at various times, it was stated that merely owning a vehicle already is not a good reason to convert it; you should want to drive the car. So it should be a moderately good car, possibly even new. Apparently, in the USA, you can actually buy a chassis with no motor, and get full warranty on the parts that you do buy. Blade EV may be doing something similar with Hyundai Getz chassis.

Someone mentioned that they'd seen a Mercedes A-class up on a hoist, and were very impressed with the amount of room available for batteries under the cabin floor. The A-class is the first and apart from the B-class, which seems to be a roomier version of the A-class, I don't believe that any other vehicle uses the "sandwich" structure, which allows a variety of drivetrains to be supported by one chassis design, and also enhances safety by pushing the engine or motor under the cabin in the even of a head-on collision.

Mercedes Benz vehicles have a good reputation for reliability; I've seen 70's model Mercs with over 600,000 km on the clock for sale still working well. So I did some research on them, and thought I'd post my findings here as a discussion point.

There is a cost however; the ICE engines are a strange triangular shape with the pistons at about 45° to the horizontal:

Image

Note the elaborate belts along the right side, and the starter motor right under the 45° sloping firewall. From this advertisement:

"The A-Class range have some problems that other people will not tell you about. If they aren't serviced well they have have issues.
These issues are:
The starter motors fail in them, while this is easy to fix in most other cars, due to the design of the A Class the job requires the engine, gearbox and subframe to be removed, this costs anywhere from $2500-3600 for parts and labour to do. There are tell tale signs and when they show, people get quotes and when they get the shock, they sell them (that's how I purchased mine).
The rubbers around the front quarter window perish which is not a big deal. Also the hydraulic system for the clutch fail when fluid is not replaced regularly."

Wow, $3600 for a starter motor. That might push some people to sell them before the chassis is totally worn out. Also, it means you could replace the starter motor once you take the engine out for conversion, and sell it as a working motor for the cost of the parts. (They literally look gold plated, see below where A marks the starter and solenoid, but it would presumably be a lot cheaper than $2500).

Image

So to the car itself. The A-class is the smallest car that Mercedes make, and the B-class is just a little bigger. With the false floor, the seats are higher, making the car easier to get into and out of. The car is tall for a small vehicle as a result. In fact, the early A-class cars failed the severe moose test by overturning and injuring the testers. The story goes that after playing down the issue for a while, Mercedes fixed the problem with wider tyres, stability control, and various tweaks, and recalled all 2600 or so vehicles sold to that point. So the problem is presumably fixed for the ICE version, but with a lot of battery weight down low, an EV A-class or B-class would be very stable, I would think.

This is a 2003 A-class I looked at yesterday:
Image

Some drawings I've found on the net:

A-class:
Image

B-class:
Image

My attempt at overlaying the above two, aligning the front tyres:

Image

There is a "long wheel base" model of the A-class, and there was a "face lift" in 2005 which improved various details of the cars. The face lifted cars have 270° speedometer and tachometer, which I prefer over the older 120° speedo with 90° tacho.

There are various transmissions that come with the A-class and B-class models; they are all front wheel drive. There is a 5-speed manual transmission with clutch pedal, a 5-speed manual with "auto" clutch (no clutch pedal), but you still have the same H-pattern gear selection. So this is not a sequential manual transmission, unfortunately. There is a 5-speed auto with sports-like + and - options, which can of course be driven as a full automatic by leaving it in "D". On the B-class, there is also a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) option, which still seems to have a torque converter. This has 7 "virtual gears" to choose. I'm still in the process of deciding which of these is suitable for EV conversions. The auto-clutch manual sounds interesting, but it would presumably require interaction with the engine computer.

There are several models, with the model giving a strong clue to the ICE engine size.

For under $15K, you can find the A140, A160, and A190, which start at years 2000, 1998, and 1999 respectively. The A160 with the 1.6 L motor is by far the most common.

For under $20K, there are the A150 and A170, which came out around 2005. The A200 (with a 2L motor) and B200 models are also from 2005, starting at just over $20K, and 26K respectively. The B180CDI (diesel) is from about 2006 and also starts at about $26K. Of these later models, the A170 seems to be the most popular in carsales.com.au. There is also an A180 CDI from 2008, starting at well over $30K. But I guess you may find one with a blown engine cheaper.

So what can you fit into one of these cars? There is Lester's B series (see also the EVAlbum page). He fitted 96 100 Ah Thunder Sky cells.

Daimler Benz fitted this Zebra battery in:

Image

From http://www.nyteknik.se/multimedia/archi ... 52405a.pdf. That battery measures 933 x 793 x 280 mm, according to the article. It might protude into the vehicle slightly, since the false floor seems to be 220 mm high.

From looking at an actual A160 with a salesman at close call, I couldn't get a feel for how much equipment is located in that space. At minimum, the anchor points for the various seats would protude down slightly into the space. Certainly, the petrol tank and exhaust system are there. I would have had to take off some plastic covers to see what else is in there.

Lester's is the only modern Mercedes in the whole EV Album. Why aren't these cars more popular as donors? Is it just that most people are on a tight budget, or are there other problems I haven't forseen?

A useful resource, there some of the above pictures came from: http://www.aclassinfo.co.uk/mypage.1.htm

Edit: added A150 and A180 CDI models.
Edit: add "stability control" to subject
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Mercedes A and B class donors; stability control

Post by coulomb »

Duplicate post.
Last edited by coulomb on Fri, 23 Apr 2010, 08:48, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Johny »

I was impressed with the Mercedes conversion as well. Good research coulomb - thanks. I have a feeling that this is part of the answer to marcopolo's $70K EV.
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Post by Tritium_James »

I'm the one that suggested it after seeing it up on our hoist. I think they'll be a fantastic vehicle for EVs, there's basically two chassis rails running the length of the car at about 1/3 and 2/3 of the width, and that's it. Three large rectangular spaces to put batteries in, it really couldn't be easier from a pack layout point of view.
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Mercedes A and B class donors; stability control

Post by coulomb »

Tritium_James wrote: ... there's basically two chassis rails running the length of the car at about 1/3 and 2/3 of the width, and that's it.

Well, there are some other bits and pieces under there. For example, the 12 V battery and a lot of fuses and relays is apparently located under the driver's foot:

Image     Image     Image

Moving the 12 V battery might not be too bad, but moving the fuses and relays would be a lot of work. (Plus, there's not much of a bonnet to move them to.) But that's just one corner of the floor area; hopefully, most of the rest of the space is available after the fuel system and exhaust are removed.

Edit: from http://www.aclassinfo.co.uk/mypage.13.htm.
Last edited by coulomb on Sat, 24 Apr 2010, 05:19, edited 1 time in total.
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Mercedes A and B class donors; stability control

Post by rhills »

Hi guys,

Fantastic bit of research! I've been considering a Honda Jazz as a donor vehicle, but the Merc A class seems to make more sense. I have liked the A class since it first came out but have been surprised how many people hate it.

I live in WA, but could be quite interested in helping with research on this if there's any way I can contribute.

My dream conversion would be 4 x AC wheel motors, but I suspect this would be extremely difficult/costly to do. It would make the question of which transmission redundant though!

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Mercedes A and B class donors; stability control

Post by rhills »

I notice there's a number of A-Class available on eBay for under 15K (A-Class Search). Interestingly, there's one there in NSW for $7,700 - the seller actually specifically says that the starter motor was replaced last month.
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Post by antiscab »

*adds A class of ebay auto search*
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Post by marcopolo »

Johny wrote: I was impressed with the Mercedes conversion as well. Good research coulomb - thanks. I have a feeling that this is part of the answer to marcopolo's $70K EV.


Yes, let me add my congratulations for a most interesting post!

I have just obtained the full spec's and original spec's for the A class EV prototype. They will make some interesting reading!

What do you think of the 'B' class as opposed to the 'A'?

In regard to the Vehicles considerable weight, this may be possible to lighten without affecting the structural integrity.

In the later model 'A' how do you integrate the ESC system?
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Post by coulomb »

marcopolo wrote: In the later model 'A' how do you integrate the ESC system?

Um, is that electronic stability control? And is that not part of the ECU?

I haven't yet considered any of the computer units.
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Post by Johny »

coulomb wrote:Um, is that electronic stability control? And is that not part of the ECU?
Boy, that's opened up a whole new set of research for checking into "current" vehicles that have ABS, ESC, collision avoidance and whatever. How are these systems generally implemented and can they be isolated from the ICE.

I can't think of a reason why ESC, which is just an extension of ABS??? , would require access to the ICE controls (ECU).
I am under the impression that ECU uses individual wheel braking to correct the trajectory of the vehicle.
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Post by woody »

I would have thought that an ICE emulator (how many sensors can you put on an ICE?) would be handy for this or any other system which "misses" the ICE.
sensors:
crank position
cam position
fuel flow
ignition
Exhaust oxygen
exhaust temperature
oil pressure
Throttle Air Flow

should all be able to be emulated with a single uC reading throttle position and RPM...
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Post by Tritium_James »

In theory that's right Woody, but the output to the rest of the car in a modern vehicle is CAN bus speaking a proprietary undocumented protocol that's different for each manufacturer! I had a good look at it when we did the Civic conversion and decided it was either a massive amount of work and/or actually impossible. It speaks both directions with things like the remote locking and other security items too, just to make things harder - consequently the RF key fobs in the Civic don't work without the ECU plugged in.
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Post by coulomb »

Tritium_James wrote: ... consequently the RF key fobs in the Civic don't work without the ECU plugged in.

Ok, but just plugging in the ECU with no faked engine sensors will likely result in the dashboard lighting up with errors like a Christmas tree, wouldn't it?
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Post by Tritium_James »

Yes :(   And there's about 30 sensors to fake, some of which aren't easy to do.
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Post by marcopolo »

I can see the ESC aspect of the ECU becoming a real problem for converters of late model ICE cars. The ADRS, and indeed insurance regulations will soon make it mandatory for all new vehicles to possess working ESC.

I'm not sure how this will effect ICE glider converters like Blade, but it must be resolved in vehicles like the Leaf. Perhaps the answer is an entirely new ECU, with ESC included, but exactly how to build such a system may prove very expensive.

VIC-ROADS, have stated that they will no longer register any EV conversions,regardless of the age of the donor vehicles, without working SEC, after the mandated period.

I'm not sure how this ruling will affect other states.
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Post by a4x4kiwi »

Hi Marcopolo,

Do you have a reference to Vic-Roads not registering EVs without ESC?

This could potentially eliminate all conversions if the ESC functionality relys on the ECU. If indeed it is an extension of the ABS it may be able to be worked around.

Looks like we had better catch up with TJ on reverse engineering the CAN bus.

The conspiracy theorist in me tells me only the auto makers would promote such an idea and realise that ev conversions may be a threat to them.
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Post by woody »

marcopolo wrote:VIC-ROADS, have stated that they will no longer register any EV conversions,regardless of the age of the donor vehicles, without working SEC, after the mandated period.
Where have they stated this? I assume you mean ESC = Electronic Stability Control?
Did they mean:

a) If the vehicle was fitted with ESC before conversion, it must work after conversion (like heaters, brake boosters etc.); OR
b) You must retrofit ESC (like Seatbelts).

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Post by Electrocycle »

eventually the ECU will be the motor controller, and it'll all be the same as now - just electric :)
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Post by Digger11 »

woody wrote:
marcopolo wrote:VIC-ROADS, have stated that they will no longer register any EV conversions,regardless of the age of the donor vehicles, without working SEC, after the mandated period.
Where have they stated this? I assume you mean ESC = Electronic Stability Control?
Did they mean:

a) If the vehicle was fitted with ESC before conversion, it must work after conversion (like heaters, brake boosters etc.); OR
b) You must retrofit ESC (like Seatbelts).

cheers,
Woody

The mandated date for NEW vehicles having ESC is 1 January 2011 in Victoria.
As it is virtually impossible to retrofit ESC, I highly doubt they are going to make this mandatory for a donor that doesn't already have it fitted.
I assume they do not want it disconnected from vehicles that had it standard - that would make sense, but also make it very difficult to perform a registerable conversion on a late model vehicle in Victoria.
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Post by Squiggles »

Wouldn't it be better to mandate that vehicles be designed well enough not to require ESC? Heaven forbid that we are sold cars that can be driven without elaborate driver aids.....

Add to that a mandate that says drivers must be adequately trained...
Hell they could even demand that cars be limited to a maximum speed of 115kph..or 120kW maximum power..

I hate it when laws are written and passed by idiots!!
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Post by woody »

I think the reason is that it's free & easy for the gubmit to make ESC mandatory - the costs get passed onto the consumer. Same deal as for seatbelts. Government gets mileage out of slugging the consumer.

Given the level of driver training out there I'd be happier if all cars had it.

I think in most cars you can turn it off though. It would seem fair to me that if you want to turn it off permanently through an EV conversion that should be allowed.
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Post by marcopolo »

a4x4kiwi wrote:This could potentially eliminate all conversions if the ESC functionality relys on the ECU. The conspiracy theorist in me tells me only the auto makers would promote such an idea and realise that ev conversions may be a threat to them.


I think you will find that the Automakers are not the villains. After all, the minscule numbers of EV conversions, wouldn't rally worry a major manufacturer! However, Vic-roads is an increasingly nanny state organisation, with a real down on EV's. This has very little to do with protecting the Victorian car industry, more to do with increasing bureaucratic power and general humbug!
digger11 wrote:The mandated date for NEW vehicles having ESC is 1 January 2011 in Victoria. As it is virtually impossible to retrofit ESC, I highly doubt they are going to make this mandatory for a donor that doesn't already have it fitted. I assume they do not want it disconnected from vehicles that had it standard - that would make sense, but also make it very difficult to perform a registrable conversion on a late model vehicle in Victoria.
Ah,.. I think that's absolutely the intention of Vic-roads! To make registering EV conversions very difficult!

In view of the decision to allow LHD vehicles to be road registered, this attitude makes no sense, but that's Vic-roads!

From my discussion with Vic-roads, any conversion will be treated as a NEW registration (or car built subsequent to 2011). This would mean that the original ICE specifications would have to be raised, (just like seat belts,indicators etc..), to include ESC. The degree of difficulty to include ESC in a donor built many years before ESC,or even ECU was invented, will not qualify an EV conversion for exemption.

However if the EV was already registered as an EV, or originally built as an EV, it would be exempted as a non-conforming vintage or veteran vehicle. Registration may be also refused on third party insurance grounds.

Bizarre!
woody wrote:I think the reason is that it's free & easy for the gubmit to make ESC mandatory - the costs get passed onto the consumer. Same deal as for seatbelts. Government gets mileage out of slugging the consumer. I think in most cars you can turn it off though. It would seem fair to me that if you want to turn it off permanently through an EV conversion that should be allowed.
Again, I don't actually see how the government gains! (surely you wouldn't argue that compulsory seat belts is a bad regulation?).

No, this is bureaucratic inspired nonsense!

I have a feeling you can disable most technology, but the penalties would be severe. Intentionally driving an unroadworthy, unregistered vehicle in Vic, would be result in heavy fines, possible loss of licence, and repeat offenders and face custodial sentences. If the vehicle was involved in an accident, the insurance would be void, and if injury, or death occurred,the penalties would be very serious indeed. (serious gaol time).

Victoria, is not a good state to practise righteous civil disobedience, when it comes to the Road Safety Act!

During my discussion with Vic-roads honco's, I never really obtained a definitive ruling on EV's registered in other states transferring to Victoria.

The issue will not arise in ICE models as the Australian ADR's ensure compliance.   




   
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Post by Johny »

woody wrote:I think in most cars you can turn it off though. (ESC)
Unfortunately no. The Subaru Impreza turns it back on when you hit 60 km/hr.
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Post by Digger11 »

marcopolo wrote:

From my discussion with Vic-roads, any conversion will be treated as a NEW registration (or car built subsequent to 2011). This would mean that the original ICE specifications would have to be raised, (just like seat belts,indicators etc..), to include ESC. The degree of difficulty to include ESC in a donor built many years before ESC,or even ECU was invented, will not qualify an EV conversion for exemption.

However if the EV was already registered as an EV, or originally built as an EV, it would be exempted as a non-conforming vintage or veteran vehicle. Registration may be also refused on third party insurance grounds.

Bizarre!

   


I disagree that this is bizarre - it is totally ludicrous !!! I thought an EV only changed the powerplant of the vehicle ??? and usually decreased the power (so less likely to need ESC???)

We are getting worse than a Nanny State in Victoria as even my Grandmother could not make sense of decisions like this.

If they do make these changes - then I will just not change the registration on the donour as an ICE (i.e. keep it registered and insured during the build period) - the Victorian Government can go and get stuffed.
The additional cost of 6-12 months rego and insurance will offset the lack of engineers expense.
My understanding is that the Insurance will still be valid, unless the modifications caused the accident. Would be a good court case with the Insurance company as less power usually could not be proven to cause accidents.




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