30 March 2016

Wires Galore

Like the tedious task that took up most of our time yesterday, Adam, North, and I continued laying down and labeling wires throughout the engine bay and interior of the car today. Since the only wires that need to travel through the interior of the car are the low-gauge ones which need to be more protected from the elements, the actual functions of these lines were widely different from one to another, and many of their tasks were very minor. Regardless, all of these connections were necessary for the car which, when it is done, will have at least a couple hundred connections throughout. After each wire had been laid out, Adam helped us identify each one and mark them with their eventual task using take and a marker. The result was a scene of chaos inside the glove-box and left-hand side of the engine bay.
Just a handful of the wires we laid out during the day
While we were working on this, Alex, John, and Max all worked with Calvin to remove the charging port from one of the trucks they were working on and installing it inside the gas door of the car. However, the charging port was significantly smaller than the opening where the gas tank was, so they had to fabricate a plate that would allow for a correct fit. Afterwards, they attached a button to detect when the port is in use which will eventually connect to the controller, whose job it is not to let the car run while charging, similar to when someone is filling up their gas tank. They also significantly cleaned off the area behind the door and even the door itself, even taking away the screeching sound caused by opening the door too far that was present previously. 
The charging port inside the gas door,.
The door itself has been temporarily removed.
During the second half of the day, North and I worked together to create a piece of wood that would fit where the gearshift used to be and cover up the huge hole that removing it left. Eventually the wood can be upholstered and, visually speaking, be a very nice addition to the car. Its purpose, at the moment, is simply to hold the small switch which changes the car from forward to reverse. It has much more surface area for other controls, but none are needed yet. For the last task of the day, we had to remove the gas pedal entirely so that we could install some special instrumentation needed for acceleration in an electric car. This was no easy task, but we managed to finish up before finally heading out at the end of a very busy day.

29 March 2016

Week 2 Day 2

After a long day of budgeting with Mr. Preston, I was ready for some real work. Nothing against him or Excel, but nothing beats working on the car with the guys. But, to my pleasant surprise, Calvin had brought a friend into the shop today. Piddles the Chihuahua is probably the smallest and most adorable dog that has ever and will ever exist.
Piddles, the shop's mascot
Besides the excitement of a new face, we had a lot of work to do. Much of my day was spent calculating what gauge of wires we would need to go to every single component in the car from the hairball located in the glove box all the way to, say, the charger in the trunk. Below is a picture of Max hard at work under the dashboard of the car working with Calvin to wire some conduit through the dashboard, a tedious and difficult task.

Max in the zone
Tomorrow will be filled with even more work as we must do more part fabrication out of steel. While having everything in the car be custom can be fun, it is time consuming. By the end of A-term we hope to have a great deal done on the car.

12 Volt battery Box

          Today at the shop, we were able to grind down the weld beads on the 12 volt battery box while Garrett helped Adam and Calvin with the bracket that would hold the controller and other various components to the motors. Max, John, and Alex all worked on the donor proposals while Calvin cut the bracket. However, when Calvin was cutting the bracket, the cutting wheel got caught on the metal and under the pressure from the saw the cutting wheel shattered, cutting Calvin badly enough that he had to go to the hospital to have his arm stitched up.

The remnants of the cutting wheel that injured Calvin.

          After Mr. Preston and Calvin left to go to the hospital, I finished the 12V battery box and inserted the batteries. I then took the battery box over to the car and tried to find a way to fit it into the car. It turned out that the location for the battery box was uneven so we had to build small brackets that would fit onto the bottom of the battery box so that it would be level. We worked on the brackets and measured them before we permanently welded them to the box. The brackets fit perfectly so we decided to bolt the 12V battery box to the car. Then we went to lunch, and when we returned, Calvin noticed that the battery box was shaking and moving around more than what we would consider stable, so I fabricated a fourth mount to attach to the side of the box to prevent it from moving. 

The four batteries in the newly fabricated battery box.

          At the end of the day, we had fitted the 12 volt battery box, the bracket, found the points for the controller, inserted the four batteries, and prepared the bracket for the motor components.

The strip of aluminum that the level is sitting on is the bracket that the controller will rest on. 

25 March 2016

3/23/16 Components

This morning went by very quickly. Alex and I started to fabricate mounts for the charger, and Garrett and North worked on the placement DC-DC converter box and controller. I enjoyed using the angle grinder again, but unfortunately, we did not get to use it for long. After we worked on the mounts, I read the manual for our controller so I could figure out the wiring configuration for the car.
In the afternoon, we reevaluated the components of some of the car components. Yesterday, we decided to place the charger in the trunk of the car to the side and place the DC-DC converter inside the glove box. There were, however, several issues with placing the converter there. For example, there was a plastic cover that shielding most of the metal mounting points, and sections of the air conditioner ran through the opposite side of the wall, so puncturing the system was a very real danger. We decided to relocate all systems to a display in the trunk of the car, but there was a debate about how we would do it. Half of us argued that the back seat of the car should be removed, to create an aesthetic, spacious display rack for each component, while half argued that the back seat of the car should be kept and systems built behind them. I personally argued for leaving the back seats. There is a common understanding within the EV conversion community that preserving a car’s identity, (I.e. keeping as close to stock as possible) .is always the number one priority. This gives the car a certain shock value. When you tell someone that your 1990 Toyota Supra is actually electric, even though it looks identical to a normal Supra, they might reevaluate some of their opinions on electric cars. I also thought it would be best to preserve the back seats since the car would be used as a transportation vehicle. We decided with the latter option, and began fabricating mounts and panels to make our new layout possible.

22 March 2016

Back to Business

While yesterday was a great re-introduction to the project, today we began to make physically evident progress on the car once again. When we first arrived at the shop, Alex and I were tasked with mapping out the wiring that will eventually connect all components of the car. For this, their are two different channels of cables that will run from the batteries in the rear, to the core components in the front. Low power wires will travel inside the car, under the seats and carpet, due to their comparatively worse weather resistance, while higher power wires will travel under the car, along the edge of the out of commission transmission tunnel.

Soon after this, we decided to choose the locations for the final components of the car we hadn't considered yet- namely the DC/DC converter and the charger. For this, North and I created a cardboard mock-up for the converter, and John made one for the charger. We spent some time working with different location possibilities before settling on final places.
Holding the converter mock-up in place
Next, the Calvin arrived with the batteries at long last. We unloaded the box from his truck using the engine hoist, and he began opening the extremely secure enclosure. After it had finally been opened, we quickly got to work placing the batteries in the box. As we began to do this, however, it became apparent that the fit for the batteries would be very tight. Eventually, with the use of a mallet and multiple sets of hands, we crammed all of the batteries into the box.
All of the batteries sitting in our custom box
The batteries haven't yet been wired to each other, and we're certainly a decent way away from wiring up everything in the car together, but today felt like some real concrete progress, involving our reception of one of the three core components of the car, and the finalized plans as far as location of the other parts.

21 March 2016

Home Stretch

The sunny attitude of the group was matched by the weather today as we made our way back to Humble again. We set off later than normal after every member of the group presented research on the next steps forward, I personally worked with Garrett on informing the team how the charger for the batteries should be wired and which system we should use. The goal of this group is to have the car running and moving by April 1st, and to have the car ready to show off to interested parties who want to donate to the project by Earth Day, April 22nd.

For this two week span of A-term, the group is slightly different. Shiraz is out of town for this particular segment of the project, and Mr. Preston is our teacher instead of Mr. Grisbee. However, it's the same core desire to finish the car that remains. Our time in Humble was mostly spent learning of what the next steps will be for the car up until the summer. We documented what needs to be purchased for the car, what already has been ordered, and what will be completed by the end of these two weeks. We also got a presentation from Adam that detailed how a bottom-loading battery test rig works. This concept only works with the chemistry of battery that we ordered, and is essential for having the batteries recharge evenly and not having any accidents like destroyed batteries when charging. It also allows us to save money by not relying on a battery management system.

Unfortunately there's no pictures to this blog post because there was not much to show for the work we did today, but tomorrow we will have the batteries and controller in the shop and will start on the journey of wiring and programming!

24 January 2016

The Final Day of the Term

This morning, I expected a day much the same as any other day of J-Term, if not less eventful than usual. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see we had another busy and unique day ahead of us. Upon arriving, we immediately noticed that the Supra was missing from the smaller shop, only to find it sitting atop of Adam and Calvin's newly acquired car lift. As we walked in, we were introduced to a friend of Adam's and fellow EV enthusiast, John. He spoke to us a bit about his background and specific love for Supra's, which explained why he was interested in our project.

After meet-and-greets were over, we began to work towards fitting up the beam for mounting the tailshaft housing. First, we had to clear away the thick protective coating on the underside of the car with a grinder. Next, Adam spot-welded plates on either side of the transmission tunnel where the beam will be connected. This was much easier than it would have been previously, because we had a chance to stand directly under the car with full mobility as opposed to laying on the ground.

Next, in order to patch up a hole that had been created in the surprisingly thin sheet metal when grinding down the coating, we welded another plate to the inside of the car, near the feet of the driver's seat. This was fairly simple to complete because the carpets and seats had been removed from the inside of the car for easy access to the transmission tunnel .

Afterwards, we began to prepare for the end of the term, setting up some storage solutions for the next 2 months. First, we helped move Adam's old stripped down Mustang from the back of the big shop to the smaller shop. Then, we brought over the engine hoist and carried the old 7M engine that was originally in the Supra to the back of the small shop. Finally, we moved everything over so the Supra would have a dedicated space for when Adam wrapped some final tasks up after we left.