Camira Conversion

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Post by jstan » Sun, 24 May 2009, 22:32

   In October of 2005, I purchased an unregistered 1985 Holden Camira station wagon which showed no signs of rust, and during the following month, I stripped and cleaned the car, and purchased the required parts.
These parts included a 9 inch advanced DC motor, Curtis controller, 12 twelve volt supercharge lead acid batteries, main contactor, Heinemann circuit breaker, Gast vac pump, Baccara Vacuum switch, three Pictronik 45 volt computerized 18 amp chargers and various gauges, cables, and relays.
    By the end of December, we tried a test drive, and were ready to take the car to an engineer for a certificate. But at that time Victoria announced it was adopting national guidelines for electric vehicles (Feb 1st 2006) It took me till 10th May to make the necessary changes to comply with these, and the car was finally registered on 23rd May 2006.
     The lead acid batteries proved unsuccessful, only giving a range of 50 km due to the difficulty of fully charging overnight, not quite enough for our needs. We live about 30 km from Bairnsdale and 26 km from Lakes Entrance. This meant we needed a charging location in each town. This could be quite inconvenient, although only an hour charging was enough to get us home again.
     Mistakes were made in the process of learning with the lead acid batteries, however Supercharge were very helpful, and even replaced a set for me which were still under warranty after I inadvertently cooked them.
     During this first year we noticed a slight flat spot or momentary loss of power, which appeared to be connected to the potbox. Bylong in Sydney replaced it for us free of charge, but the problem nevertheless persisted, and by 2007 had developed into a noticeable hesitation. Once again Bylong obligingly replaced the potbox for me.
In mid 2008 I had finally had enough of the lead acid batteries and replaced them with 45 Thundersky 90 amp hour lithium ion batteries, which proved to be better than I ever expected. 12 lead acid batteries weighed 370kg, were 115 amp hours, and had a range of 50 km. 45 lithium ion batteries weighed 135kg, are 90 amp hours, and give me 75 km.
In retrospect I should have bought more.
     By 2009 we were driving our E.V. for all our local driving without needing to charge in town. (A total return trip of 65 kilometers) After 6 and a half hours charging the BMS shuts down the charging system. But our flat spot problem remained, and had developed to the point of feeling like a slipped gear
    In early March I decided to try an extended trip from Swan Reach to Swan Hill, towing a small aluminum trailer fitted with a 5.5 kva generator with 13hp motor. I didn’t try to convert the 240volt AC to DC, but simply ran the AC to the onboard 20 amp chargers…..not very efficient, but simple.
I drove from Swan Reach to Yallourn Nth, about 190km, using the back roads and keeping the speed down to 60kmh. At Yallourn Nth plugged into 240v and recharged for 6 hrs, then started off on the freeway. With the multi-lanes I was able to keep to no more than 60kmh.
   At Warragul, my dash voltmeter showed very good battery charge, and I felt confident of reaching Melbourne. Then my flat spot problem returned and this time I lost all power, and had to hire a small truck and trailer to get my EV home. On testing the problem proved to be the Curtis controller. Curtis denied warranty as the controller was three and a half years old; I had always claimed that the problem started in the first months of purchase. Eventually Curtis offered to sell me a new controller for $800.00 if I returned mine, however this replacement unit would have no warranty. After looking on the “net” for other peoples’ problems with Curtis controllers I decided to keep my unit, have it repaired and keep it for a spare, meanwhile I have ordered a Logisystems controller. That brought our attempt at an extended trip to Swan Hill to an end. However I believe that with careful slow driving I could do 200 to 250 km, not a very satisfactory mode of travel. However it is an alternative to having a large car and car trailer.
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Post by Johny » Mon, 25 May 2009, 15:47

Hi John and welcome to the forum. That's a very condensed history of your EV - a good read. I love the bit where you purchased all the parts and the next paragraph is about the test drive.
I'm assuming that there is a tail-to-tell in the gap between getting parts and test driving the car. Image

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Post by jstan » Mon, 25 May 2009, 20:02

Hi Johny Yes there is a bit of a gap, late October I searched for a rust free Camira I chose Camira as they have a history of problems which should have made a good one cheap - I wanted a reasonably sized car as I have a number of grandchildren to fill the back seat, Early November I stripped the engine parts (got $7.00 from the scrap metal dealer) and cleaned the engine bay, next I took the gear box to Simon Dodd in Coburg and arranged for the 9" motor to be delivered to him, he did the adapter and bell housing plate, no clutch , My neighbour works with aluminium so I used his workshop to fabricate a heavy plate for the rear engine mount Front battery tray and a small plate for mounting Vac pump, main contactor, Fuse box, electrical connectors etc - I started off with lead acid batteries so I had four batteries in the front and a battery box in the rear of the station wagon with eight batteries ( since then I have changed to 45 Lithium batteries and have them mounted in a box under the floor of the wagon (where the spare wheel was)- I mounted a circuit breaker on the floor next to the driver and fitted a voltmeter and ampmeter in the dash- after bolting it all together I did a test drive and found that reverse gear was far to aggressive so I parallel wired a 10K pot box to Curtis's pot box and fitted this under the dash, simply switching this on, halved the power and turning it almost a full turn allowed for a very gentle reverse gear, the charging system is three 48 volt computerised chargers with an interlock to disable the car. When the 240 volt is plugged into the petrol filler port this interlock also turns on fans in the battery box. The biggest problem I have had is the controller, as mentioned in my first post I had a continuing problem with Curtis and am now getting used to the Logisystems controller if anyone is interested I will put a post on dealing with my experience with the two controllers.
             John
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Post by moemoke » Mon, 25 May 2009, 21:59

Hi Jstan, just read your report in the latest AEVA newsletter, great story (and your house sounds cool as well)
Next time your driving past my 'hood' (Moe, Warragul) give me a call. The old Camira wagon would make a great conversion, Didn't a school in SA do one as a project.
Would love to have a look and a chat.
Do you have pictures for us to view?
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we borrow it from our Children.

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Post by Johny » Mon, 25 May 2009, 22:11

Ahhh - I thought the Camira rang a bell and I knew I'd seen a picture of one towing a trailer. Duh - it was in the newsletter.
I had a pre-unleaded 1600cc Camira then the first of the 1800cc unleaded ones a long time ago (company car - not choice) so I know them well. I can understand why they were cheap but it was mainly the powerplant that was at fault. The 1800cc took us on many camping trips to NSW and Queensland and was a great handler. The timing belt is another story...

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Post by jstan » Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 01:01

Moemoke
Unfortunately I passed your "hood" when I had the Controller failure at Warragul, I don't know if or when I will attempt another trip your way. For those that missed the Newsletter I will include some photos.
Moemoke please Email me at jstan@nex.net.au
Plenty of other photos of car and house and for interest below is a copy of a letter I sent to some of our federal ministers.
Dear Mr Rudd,
                 I understand our government is undecided as to what level our target for carbon emissions should be. We are concerned that if we commit to the ideal level, and other countries do not, then we are at a disadvantage.
               Over the past 20 years or so our family has little by little lowered our personal power usage at our own cost even though we were told it was not economically viable.
              We built an earth-covered home which maintains an inside temperature of 17 to 23 degrees year round, and installed photovoltaic panels to provide 12volt electricity. All lighting is 12 volt L.E.D…resulting in well lit rooms with a power requirement of 10 watts and small reading lamps using less than 1 watt. The refrigerator is powered by a 12 volt compressor.
             Last year we converted a Holden Camira to a plug in electric vehicle, once again with seemingly no interest or help shown from those in government.
               We can drive locally powered by electricity from our photovoltaic panels, and intend to purchase more panels when finances permit.
            We’ve done all this completely on our own, not because it was affordable, but because we felt it was the right thing to do. Our carbon footprint is now very small, and others are starting to take notice and follow the example.
           If little people such as us can make a start when there is seemingly nothing to be gained ….it follows a government commanding the attention of the world should be able to lead ., and others will inevitably follow.
                      Regards                  John Stanton

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Post by weber » Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 01:27

Hear hear! Well said John.
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Post by acmotor » Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 01:40

John,
Good on you for stating your position ! Image
I was wondereing if you need to clarify whether or not you received the PV rebate ? I am saying this as if I were in Canberra receiving the letter.
You say "We’ve done all this completely on our own" that implies you did not receive assistance. But I would make it very clear to the office clerk who opens the letter.

Are you grid connected ? Will you receive FIT benefit ?
Is the FIT net or gross in your location ? (so many questions !) Image   
iMiEV MY12     105,131km in pure Electric and loving it !

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Post by jstan » Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 04:12

I have never received any benifit grant rebate or assistance from any government. For the Pholtovoltaic rebate you need to purchase and install a complete system, I have bought panels as we could afford them starting in the early eightys. I suggested to the state government that there should be special consideration for the registration fees for electric vehicles as most people who own a EV must have a second car for extended trips and can only drive one at a time. I received a letter saying that these things would be considered, this was over a year ago and as yet i have received no help. This may have something to do with the fact that our governments have a lot to gain from keeping our petrol exise going.
John
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Post by Squiggles » Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 05:24

If you drive 18,000km per year in an electric vehicle instead of an ICEage car that averaged 7.5L/100km your are effectively taking $800 out of the hands of the government. There is no way in hell they are going to support any serious move to electric vehicles until they find a method of recovering that lost income. I suspect we are going to go down the path of registration fees based on KM driven. You might get a discount base cost but they will want $0.05 / Km usage excise!!

Lets not forget the power and influence of the oil companies as well.


edit: can't spell 100 !
Last edited by Squiggles on Sun, 14 Jun 2009, 19:25, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by acmotor » Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 06:38

John,
I thought that was the case that you were really self funded. Good on you.
IMHO I would add to your letter (next one) that you were not the recipient of any PV rebate so the poly can't suggest that you were.
That happens if you leave the door open ! " done this all completely on our own" is not watertight ! Polies will wriggle if they can.

Yes, petrol excise is a stumbling block for now ! Image
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Post by jstan » Tue, 16 Jun 2009, 00:01

For anyone interested here is my controller comparison.
My car was originally fitted with a Curtis 1231c 144volt controller which failed after three and a half years, this failure started to show itself in the first few months of use however Curtis refused warranty on the grounds Quote” They are very reliable but a failure after 4 years of use is possible”. In view of this I decided to try a different brand of controller that the manufacturer does not expect to fail after four years.
I purchased a Logisystems 201-144FFX controller. These are my thoughts on the two controllers

The Curtis is undoubtedly the better controller, with the right adjustment it starts smoothly and gives plenty of power. With a price tag of aprox $2600.00 I was not willing to buy something that the manufacturer thinks may fail in the first four years.

The Logisystems controller was not really suitable for my vehicle which has no clutch, there is a nasty jerk at the start which I could not get rid of, I tried turning the throttle ramp screw right back this softened the jerk but left me no pickup, I have now turned the throttle ramp up about 1/3 turn and rely on a second pot box on the dash to start off. At aprox $1800.00 this controller may suitable for a clutch conversion.

I used to be proud to tell friends to take my car for a drive, now a driver needs careful instructions and even then is not smooth like the Curtis. If I had a third choice I would take it the. The Zilla seems to be out production.
I am following Paul and Sabrina's controller and hope to build one when they finish.
John
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Post by Squiggles » Tue, 16 Jun 2009, 01:05

On that note, maybe those of us in Aus with an interest in Paul and Sabrina's Cougar should consider pooling resources for purchasing power when the time to construct comes. Just a thought.

Interestingly the prototype PCB they had made was through a contact here in Newcastle, maybe we can arrange a local delivery from the next order.

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Post by woody » Tue, 16 Jun 2009, 01:13

Did I miss the discussion on the Cougar ? I've never seen it before.
Planned EV: '63 Cortina using AC and LiFePO4 Battery Pack

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Post by Squiggles » Tue, 16 Jun 2009, 01:55

Woody, what are you meaning to ask there?
I have been following the Cougar development on the forum at
http://ecomodder.com/forum/showthread.p ... 4-170.html or there abouts (sorry not smart enough to make it a link). Occasionally I make some minor comment, having been in electronics for 30+ years you see things that are different to how you would go about it. Basically they are making pretty good progress and learning heaps of things on the way.

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Post by jstan » Tue, 16 Jun 2009, 03:02

Woody
Type Paul and Sabrina's into google and you will get their forum. They are on the last leggs of a open source free 144volt controller, it has got so good that I am sure that it has outstripped any thought that Paul originally had when he started the thread. I can't understand most of it but when they finish it in a few weeks I will be one of the first to get all the bits from them and build my own. If you want to read the whole thread settle in for a couple of days it is now 170 pages.
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Post by jstan » Sat, 11 Jul 2009, 02:02

Squigles
We are looking at options for buying bulk for parts for Paul and Sabrina's controller on Forum/ Technical discussion/Electric Motors and Controllers/ Open Source DC Controller. you may want to join us, you mentioned that someone in Newcastle did the first board.
John
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Post by Mesuge » Sat, 11 Jul 2009, 06:24

Hi John, you developed some very interesting projects. I'm wondering about your long experience with Piktronik programmable charges, so the shift from Pb to Li-ion batts. was uneventfull in that regard? I've got one smaller Piktronik for assisted bicycle but only since mid 2007 and so far so good. Their top product line 48V @ 9-18A is quite expensive but looks pretty sturdy. A couple of NEV/boat users in Europe choose them as well.

Piktronik:
http://www.piktronik.com/index.php?type ... 3&lang=eng
PC setup overview: http://www.meanwell.co.za/images/Piktro ... meters.gif
Dealer's more informative pages:http://www.meanwell.co.za/Piktronik/Piktronik.html
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Post by stevetooke » Sat, 11 Jul 2009, 21:53

Hi,
I recently got my car going with the logisystems 120-144v 750amp controller and found that it also had a terrible thump when starting. This was as you say totally unsuitable for clutchless design.

However, after talking to evsource where I purchased the controller, they told me that the potbox I had was incompatible with the controller. I bought a new one from them which is much more accurate and now have very good slow speed control and no thumping.

Found here:potbox

Steve

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Post by Squiggles » Sun, 12 Jul 2009, 03:59

jstan wrote: Squigles
We are looking at options for buying bulk for parts for Paul and Sabrina's controller on Forum/ Technical discussion/Electric Motors and Controllers/ Open Source DC Controller. you may want to join us, you mentioned that someone in Newcastle did the first board.
John


John,
I am guessing the Newcastle company was just an agent for an Asian circuit board manufacturer. I suggest waiting a few more weeks before buying anything unless Paul is getting power boards made in bulk. With the beta testing about to start changes in the design are possible.
Also depending on quantity if there are enough interested it might be economical to buy the components and get an assembly company to fit and solder the control board. They just place the components and pass through a wave solderer or equivalent and the result will be reliable and consistent quality. There are certainly companies in Newcastle and Adelaide that provide such services.

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Post by Thalass » Sun, 12 Jul 2009, 08:41

Sounds like a great conversion, John. How did you have the genset hooked to your charger while you were driving? You said you had the generator producing 240vac and had it plugged in to the charger as a wall plug would be. I assume you had an interlock override? Do your chargers charge the whole pack as one, or as three sub-packs? I'm interested to see how one would do both at once as my conversion is going to rely on an on-board generator for long trips later on.
I'll drive an electric vehicle one day.

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Post by Ribbit » Sun, 12 Jul 2009, 12:27

Excellent post John

You are a man after my own heart - EV and an Earth house.

I have just sold my EV and moving to Australia - looking to convert a car similar to yours a wagon.

I don't like the noise of the Curtis controller - so like the different with Logic Systems - with the appropriate pot. So shall look into that.

45 lithium ion batteries weighed 135kg, are 90 amp hours, and give me 75 km. In retrospect I should have bought more.

How many would you have purchased ? 45 are pretty pricey.

I like where you placed the batteries- I read somewhere the engineers don't like you fooling around too much with the chasssis . Did you have to cut a lot out to sink them in?

I so want to build an Earth house with ground pumps and PV's etc - I was a little concerned with the termite problem - another forum / ? PM I would love to know your experiences in this - I shan't be building for probably 5 yrs - but this all needs planning ahead.

Cheers

Garry

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Post by jstan » Sun, 12 Jul 2009, 18:21

Mesuge
The Pictronik seems to be very reliable, I had a lot of problems at first with the lead acid batteries mainly trying to program the chargers to fully charge overnight. I now believe that the batteries I was using needed to be trickled for an extended time to get them above 80%. I also blew up a couple of the chargers by accidentaly connecting them to overvoltage ie more than 48 volts, be careful, one touch to higher voltage and the charger has to go back to Europe for repairs.
Switching to Li-ion was no problem, you must have a battery management system in place to shut down the charger if any battery gets to the predetermined voltage I think that was 4.2V. I think that Zero emission vehicles Australia has a management system that does everything, I opted for a cheaper version that is being used by Blade Electric Vehicles.
stevetooke
Thanks a lot for that.If I was going to keep the Logisystems I would get one of their pot boxes, however I am still trying to repair my Curtis, and I intend to make a Paul and Sabrina controller, I will then sell my Logisystems,use the Paul & Sabrina, and keep the Curtis as a back up.
Squiggles
Yes I agree entirely with everything you say, I await the testing.
Thalass
Yes I rigged an interlock override and I have a switch board under the back seat that allows me to charge one two or three packs so for travelling I had the three packs all charging, this pulls a little over 10 Amps and was easily handled by my 5.5KVA generator. The on board generator allowed me to go further however 18 amps is not much and you need to keep your speed down and even then I don't think I could go much over 120 kms, this will improve when I get more batteries.
I normally charge my car from my household battery pack via my inverter which is only 1300Watt so I charge one 48 volt pack at a time. With my 90AH pack if I drive about 65Kms I am about 80% discharged, and it then takes about six and a half hours to charge, or three times that if I charge from my inverter. I have photovoltaic panels on the shed roof for my household batteries, I also am connected to the grid however I do not feed back to the grid as my system is 12volt and it grew bit by bit over thirty years so no solar rebate, and 12volt is not suitable for the inverters that feed back to the grid. My house is wired for 12 volt lighting (all LEDs) and a 12 Volt Danfross frige.I regard the trouble involved to convert everything to 24 volt to accommodate the grid as not warranted.
Ribbit
As for the number of Li-ion batteries, I am looking at putting a second pack under the bonnet wired in parallel with the first so with a battery management system wired to cut them from the first pack when they reach voltage I should be able to use my existing chargers. My new pack will be either 40AH or 60AH depending on space and price. I should have bought 160AH in the first place. The battery box may be a problem for your engineer, however Ross Blade is converting Hyundai Getz for sale and he replaces the spare wheel well with a battery box. Re underground house our house is all concrete structure and I don't think there are any termite problems. Where should we go to start a forum for underground houses?.
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Post by Ribbit » Mon, 13 Jul 2009, 12:34

Heh John
Took my kids and wife to London to see the Lion King ( the last fling into London before coming out to Australia) - and was walking in St Jame's Park - we sat down for an ice cream and I was talking to them about how I want to build an earth sheltered home. Two minutes down the park - earth sheltered restaurant - how cool was that. Could not have planned it if I tried. Suddenly the family wants live in an underground home.
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Post by Thalass » Mon, 13 Jul 2009, 15:11

haha good timing!

With the house: the ecomodder forums also have an ecorenovator sister forum for all that sort of thing. It's only new, but there's still quite a bit of stuff there and people to talk to.

What size generator do you think you'd need to keep the batteries topped up constantly? That would give you the 'unlimited' range series hybrid.
I'll drive an electric vehicle one day.

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