Living in the Past, Getting Beat by the Future! (Dec. 13th, 2000)

Considering the Silver Streak project – the 400 mile per charge EV1-powered Insight currently under construction, it seems appropriate to repost the following story about my adventures driving an EV1. Recently discovered photos I had taken on that trip thirteen-plus years ago, help

tell the story better this time around:

Hello to all, I am once again, on the road on business, traveling by air and doing the usual car rental thing, but this trip is a bit more interesting, and I wanted to share a highlight with all of you.

As my travels had me going into Orange County, CA, I had originally made flight arrangements into John Wayne. As I have made it my policy to rent environmentally friendly vehicles whenever possible, I often rent from ‘EV Rentals’ who is associated with Budget Car Rental. While in Phoenix, I rent Insights as they do not offer pure EVs at this time, but since I was in southern CA, I looked into flying to LA instead of Orange County, as the EV Rental facility there has the largest choices of EVs and hybrids to choose from, and if possible, I wanted to rent an EV. As it turned out, I also saved my company some money with the less expensive Portland / LA round trip fare, as opposed to the Portland / Orange County trip fare.

The plan was, that I would drive the 45 miles or so from LA to Orange County. After my business was completed, the following day I had a meeting set up with a certain magazine who will be doing a feature story on my Honda Insight. That evening, I was to drive back to LA, return the EV1, hop on a plane to San Diego, and rent an Insight for my travels there (no pure EVs to rent there, either). Next, I would fly back to LA, then fly to Portland.

I had made all of the rental plans in advance with Gail Lee (she was extremely knowledgeable and helpful), so the folks at EV Rental in LA were expecting me. Arriving at the Budget facility, I was surrounded by EVs and hybrids  - there were Honda EV Pluses, Priuses, and RAV4-EV’s…they even had a space alien green Insight on the lot…I was in EV heaven!

I was treated like royalty by the nice folks at EV Rentals, and was even taken out to breakfast by their Director of Operations and Planning, Terry O’Day, where he and I talked about everything from air pollution to EV drag racing. As we talked, Terry suggested that I cancel my flight to San Diego, and instead, just keep the EV1 a few more days and drive it down instead….why not? With NiMH batteries, the EV1 has a 140 mile range!

I was turned over to Joe who walked me through the orientation procedure they take all EV renters through, and just like Gail and Terry, he too, was very friendly and well prepared. He knew I was an EV God, but I asked him to nonetheless, pretend that I was an average consumer who knew nothing about the EV1.

The beautiful baby blue EV1 had an estimated driving range of 115 miles displayed on the dash as Joe and I sat in the car. This represents what the car’s computer has calculated (based on how previous drivers had driven the car) to be the range the next driver will get, if that next driver operates the car in the same fashion. This then represented ‘the game’ for me, that is, I HAD to beat that figure and get the estimated range to a higher level. As Joe explained to me, most drivers get from 10-12 miles per bar segment of the 10 segment ‘Fuel gauge’ display, so I also took this in as part of ‘the game’, and was determined to better that as well….after all, I am the ‘EV God’!

All of the above quickly evaporated from my brain, because as I was being a good boy accelerating gently and driving in my ‘range-oriented Clark Kent EV mode’, I came to the 405 on-ramp. As I was driving up the ramp and onto the freeway, on my immediate left was a guy who had just rented a white V8 Mustang and he was looking over at my EV1 and smirking as though he thought the EV1 was a joke.

The on-ramp has two lanes that squeeze down to one, and after pacing along side me checking out the unusual car, he looked over at me, laughed a bit, and stepped down on the throttle, evidently thinking he was just gonna blow off that pesky, weirdo eeelektric car. I of course, had him all figured out and was expecting his macho move, and at the same instant that I heard his mighty V8 growl and dig in, I ripped open my shirt to reveal the big ‘S’ on my tight fitting under shirt, and punched the throttle hard.

It was great, because the pavement was smooth and shiny asphalt, and as the EV1 squealed its front tires at 30+ mph, one of the car’s many dash-mounted ‘idiot lights’ flashed “Loss of Traction” (I kid you not). The 0-20 mph prowess of this AC powered car is just ‘OK’, but the thing comes alive after that and really gets with the program! No, the EV1 is not a muscle car, but it’s 20-70 mph performance is pretty close to that level. With the front end shimmying as the front tires bit in, I rocketed in front and around the idiot on my left with ease…..what fun! I kept the pedal down as the little EV1 pulled hard right to 75 mph or so, then eased off and gently hit the brake pedal just enough to light up the brake lights so that the Mustang dude in hot pursuit could see my intentional slow down.

Sheepishly, he came around me on my left, looked over at me again, but this time simply shook his head in disbelief. I smiled, gave him a thumb’s up (much better than that other hand gesture), and settled down to reasonable freeway cruising speed. I saw that the computer had been watching me, and the estimated range had dipped a few notches to 112 miles…..argghh! OK, time to go back into the Clark Kent routine…time to employ my usual high miles per charge techniques.

I switched off the coast-down (we EVers call this off-throttle regen) feature, so that I could let the EV1 glide along on slight down hill runs without the car trying to slow down putting a small bit of juice back into the batteries (I’d save this feature for later, as when exiting the freeway and for congested traffic stop and go driving). As I cruised along at 58-66 mph, and as the miles went by, the estimated range figure began to grow….115, 116, 118…eventually hitting 125 miles. Forty some odd miles later, I took my exit, and ending up at my destination, I had traveled 45 miles, and just two of the bars had gone away on the 10 bar fuel gauge!

I parked the car and met with my contact people, who after learning I had driven an electric car to the site asked, “Why don’t you pull around to the back area and use the electric car chargers?” Man, this was way cool! However, I was in for two surprises when I found the ‘chargers’. The first surprise, was when I found that there was another EV1 at one of the stalls, a bright red one, and the second surprise, was when the ‘chargers’ turned out to simply be dedicated 120 vac outlets lined up on a brick wall with ‘Reserved for Electric Vehicles Only’ signs above each outlet for each of four stalls. This was true irony….allow me to explain.

Those of us in the EV community who have been designing, building, and driving our ‘backyard built’ EVs for the past 20 years (especially southern California EVers), were pretty excited when we learned that up to 200 EV charging stations were being set up to provide an EV charging infrastructure…what a great idea! We then really felt a rub, when we learned that most all of these sites would have a Magnacharger for the newest breed of EVers driving their GM EV1′s and Toyota RAV4-EV’s, but that 120 vac and 240 vac standard issue outlets for the rest of us, the EVers who had paved the way and paid their dues for years, had been left out of the picture.

Now, here I was, driving an EV1 and thinking how great it would be to find a Magnacharger at this work location waiting to refresh my EV1….imagine my surprise when I found that there were no Magnachargers, but instead, the elusive outlets we had been crying for. To add insult to injury, with the exception of the red EV1, I found three stink’n, gasoline burn’n, air pollute’n cars had hogged the EV spots! I slinked away in defeat and returned to the main parking lot with all the other cars, but this was no big deal since the EV1 still had the bulk of its charge left….thank you, NiMH batteries. Still, it would have been pretty neat to have driven from LA to Newport Beach and to have found a Magnacharger at the worksite. I told my friends in the building what I had found, and we laughed as I told them how I should have been driving a converted EV instead.

Later in the day, I was at my motel and hooking up to the Magnacharger (I booked myself into hotels that had chargers) which displayed a reading that reported 68% of the battery power was left, this, after traveling 47 mostly freeway miles. The EV1′s ‘Full-Empty’ fuel gauge still had just two bars missing out of the ten. Today I will be putting more miles on the EV1, then after a recharge, will head south to San Diego. Having more fun than an EVer is allowed to have….

Wednesday morning I awoke in my room at the Atrium Hotel in Newport Beach, a very nice place adjacent to another nice place, the Orange County Hilton, where the EV1 had been left overnight at the Magna-charge EV refueling station.

I was excited, because on this day, I would have a fun freeway drive over to Anaheim where I would meet up with the magazine folks (sorry, they’ve asked that I keep which magazine it is a secret until just before the issue’s release….hint, it is an autosound type, and my Silverstone Metallic Honda Insight gas/electric hybrid with its 750 watt Phoenix Gold-MB Quart sound system will indeed, grace the cover as the world’s first hybrid soundoff car) to discuss the upcoming article.

The charger was indicating that my baby blue electric steed was raring to go, fully charged, and ready to respond to my Wayland ways. Speaking of Wayland ways….because of my antics on the way back to the hotel Tuesday evening, as well as when I went out for a Chinese dinner, both the charger and the car’s ‘Range’ meter indicated an estimated driving range for the topped-off battery pack of 105 miles…even less than the original 115 mile estimated range I saw when I first picked up the car Tuesday morning from EV Rentals. I guess that showing off to those young guys in the Lexus on Von Karman Avenue, plus the bodacious tire squealing launch (sometimes the traction control gives up on trying to keep me in line) for the benefit of the guy in the lowered Honda, when at a light on Michelson Drive out his window he asked if the car had any guts, had taken their toll and the car’s computer had gotten to know me.

No worries mate (love that Aussie lingo)…It was a new day and another chance to redeem myself. I took it pretty easy on the way to the lunch meeting, partly because I was trying to convince the computer that I really could be a model citizen, and partly because I was unfamiliar with where I was going and had a specific set of hand-written directions I was constantly looking at.

My diligence paid off, and after 20 miles or so of mostly freeway driving, when I arrived at my destination the range meter reported that 99 miles of driving was still available…that was just 6 miles less then the beginning total of 105. It’s weird how this gauge works, as even though it estimates how many ‘miles per charge’ you will get based on the average current draw over time (including the time before the last charge), it also counts down and reports the miles left and available as you drive along (as it did on my first day as I saw it actually increasing as I drove along with a very light throttle). Thus, it is possible for the estimated range per charge to grow as you drive along if you are driving at very light current loads, and conversely, if you drive like a madman (who, me?) you will see the gauge plummet to ever lower numbers as it recalculates the estimated miles per charge.

The meeting with the magazine guy could not have gone better. He had never ridden in an EV, much less an EV with as much spunk as the EV1 posses, and when he asked how well it accelerated (this after he had also told me how he is ‘into’ import drag racing), I couldn’t hold back. I planted my foot down as we rounded a corner and the EV1′s induction motor spun up instantly as the Michelins lost their grip (again) and screeched in protest…..his response, “Geezzzzzzz!!! Oh my gawd!!!”

After some killer Mexican food and intense conversation over lunch, we returned to the business tower where on the 11th floor, I had the ear of many top magazine execs as we talked hybrids, EVs, car stereo, EV drag racing, etc. I had to take one of them back down and out of the building to give him a test ride in the EV1….so much for Plasma Boy, model citizen. With their enthusiastic permission, the EV1′s traction control was again put to the test, and with those poor front tires screaming in protest and the ‘range per charge’ meter shaking its finger at me, I resurfaced the front driveway, and a couple of blocks out on the street with a thin film of black rubber.

As I’m doing this, while the magazine exec next to me is living it up and hollering uncontrollably, inside my brain I’m thinking, “Hmmmm, I’ve gotta drive 90 miles or so after this, all the way down to just north of San Diego, and here I am, bleeding off electrical power like a Ford Excursion sucks gas.” On the other hand, I also knew of a certain Magna-charger back in Newport Beach that could put it all back. in short order. It was near 4:00 PM when I finally left, and the EV1′s dash told me I had squandered my charge down to just 87 miles availability (listen to me, after just two days with a NiMH powered EV1, I now think of this kind of range as ‘just 87 miles’). I reverted to an easy driving style again, and cruised along the freeway in the slow lane at around 58 miles per hour to keep the current draw to a minimum.

Arriving back at the Hilton, I had added another 41 miles to the car’s trip odometer for the round trip, and I had now racked up a total of 98.2 miles since I picked the car up at EV Rentals. By taking it easy, I managed to keep the range per charge meter from dipping too low, and it now indicated that 79 miles were still in the tank. At 4:30 PM, I hooked up the paddle, and with the ‘time to full’ shown to be 2 hours 5 minutes, figured that I could leave for San Diego at 6:30 PM. I went inside the Atrium Hotel, settled in at the bar for a coke and a cheese & fruit plate, and had some lively discussions with other patrons about EVs and the whole EV Rental thing.

At 6:00 PM I took in Al Gore’s “every vote must count (unless they’re for George)…love them pregnant chads…I’m outa here to fix horse fences” speech, then afterwards, returned to the EV1. At 6:30 PM, 2 hours since first going on charge per the charger’s estimate, I was a bit surprised to see that the EV1 was still taking on juice with a not-yet-full reading of ’87% full’ displayed, so I sat inside the car and allowed the NiMH batteries to suck in even more juice as I perused the EV Rental ‘charger sites’ notebook.

The batteries hit the full mark at 7:00 PM and the car’s range meter displayed that 120 miles were available. In the early night, a weather front had moved in and it had turned from mild daytime temperatures in the mid sixties, to a pretty cold (for southern California), barely 50 degrees, though this was still the banana belt compared to what was going on back in iced-up Portland!

If this had been a lead acid powered machine, I would have been worried about reduced range due to cold batteries, but I was comforted knowing that those NiMH guys would be happy campers in the cold. Still, the forecasted low was for the low 40′s , and I had some higher elevations to pull on my way south and I knew I would have to use the car’s heat pump to keep warm. Would I need to stop along the way for a drink at a Magna-charger, or would this remarkable EV take me all the way from Orange County to San Diego County? With George W. speaking to me through the not-so-space age EV1 sound system, I was off for a longer range adventure.

I brought the EV1 up to 58 mph on the 405 freeway, but when I split over to I-5 South, I nudged the speed up to 70-72 mph to keep up with the traffic flow. With George W. telling me he was gonna keep his promises, the cabin was fogging up and it was a bit chilly, so as planned, I turned the heater/defroster on then waited…..and waited….and waited for some semblance of warmed air to flow from the vents. It took a very long 15 minutes before any appreciable heat could be felt…come on GM, how about a good ‘ol ceramic element, at least for some instant warmth?…it could later be backed off when the heat pump got going.

About 20 miles down the freeway, I was finally feeling pretty good heat, but I had to keep the temp selector on high for about a half hour. Finally, I had to back it off to about midway to keep things comfortable inside my electric cocoon. Tired of the political game, I found some pump’n rock on the FM groove to keep me entertained; for such a high tech car, it’s stereo is lack luster. Oh well, at least I had some tunes to listen to. After an hour of continuous 70+ mph freeway cruising that included quite a bit of hill climbing (nothing really steep), and with the heat pump using juice the entire time, and with the car’s multitude of fans, pumps, and lights all getting in on the current gig, I was astounded to see that the range meter still showed 79 miles left, this, after having gone more than 70 miles!

To make a long story short (is that possible with a Wayland adventure?), I never even came close to needing an in-between charge. I even screwed up and missed a freeway exit, and this blunder cost me quite few extra miles, but even so, as I rolled into the La Jolla Hyatt Regency hotel, a massive structure built to accommodate the well heeled (what was I doing there?), at close to 9:00 PM, and after an hour and forty five minutes of continuous driving (a pretty steady drain of those NiMH batteries) the EV1′s odometer registered 183.2 miles….I had traveled 85 miles while running all the lighting and heating for all that time, without the car breaking a sweat!

I drove the car into the huge and impressive valet/courtyard area that was lined with maybe twenty, forty foot-tall palms with white Christmas lights spiraled up their slender trunks. I maneuvered the futuristic looking EV1 along side the ritzy BMW’s, Mercede’s, Porches, and Vettes that were already staged for the proper effect for their owners, and so I too, parked my ride where it could be seen by all.

Just as I had figured, by the time I was getting out of the cozy cockpit, there was an immediate gathering of the well dressed night life crowd, and they were very interested in the electric car that had arrived to crash the party! My getup of blue jeans, polo shirt, and my nifty magazine-logoed baseball cap added to the effect, I’m sure.

There was intense interest in the EV1, and suddenly, no one cared about the ‘Benz next to it, and they didn’t notice the jet black Acura RL, either….it was the electric car that had stolen everyone’s hearts and interest! After a 15 minute show and tell, one of the bell boys was twitching with excitement, so I looked at him and said, “Well, get in!” As we silently moved out of the limelight and past a stately looking valet dude, I asked if it would cause any problems if I ‘hit it’ as I pulled out. His response? “No sir, no problem, please have fun…enjoy yourself.”

With the small crowd watching,, I wondered how much zip would be left after driving 85 miles for nearly two hours, but when I turned out of the courtyard and slammed the ‘Go’ pedal down, the tires instantly sang that familiar song, the ‘Loss of traction’ light lit up, and the bell boy and I were off for a quick ride around the block! When we returned, my passenger got out and immediately started to rave about the fast electric car…this certainly lifted the eyebrows of the BMW fold. One guy spouted off with, “Yeah, but you really can’t go anywhere in one of those without running out of power…aren’t you worried about getting stranded?” My response…”Well, I’ve just driven down from Orange County, and because I got a bit turned around with my directions, I’ve driven for nearly two hours straight to get here. I didn’t get stranded, and the car still has plenty of power left, enough to blow off any one of these pollutionmobiles.”

This brought a bit of laughter out from some, but this dude kept going with, “Yeah, but where are you going to plug it in now?” My response…”Well, if you’d step aside, I’ll be driving it down there around the corner and into the parking garage, where my EV parking spot awaits me. Once there, I’ll slip in the charge paddle, let the charger’s computer take over, and walk away to get settled down in my room. By the way, I drove here without using a drop of fuel, without making any pollution, and will now charge the car up for free as my reward for doing so….how much did your last tank of fuel cost you, and what are you doing to help keep our air breathable? Surrounded by snickers, he gave up.

Thursday morning after I had checked out of the Hyatt, when I arrived at the Magna-charger, I was a bit alarmed that someone had removed the charge paddle from the slot in the EV1′s nose and had neatly tucked it away back inside the charger’s paddle cradle. I pulled the paddle back out and inserted it to see what had gone on in the night, to see if this was someone’s idea of a joke, or if someone had thought they were helping me out over worries of an overcharge (not possible with this sophisticated charger). The charger’s digital display told me that 97% of the charge had been returned to the batteries, and that there was 10 minutes left of charging ‘time to full’. I surmised that perhaps an overzealous valet attendant had been, well, ‘attending’ the EV1 and probably thought they were doing me a favor.

It was time to leave, time to head east, then north up a good incline, towards Rancho Bernardo to the work site. The EV1′s odometer indicated just shy of 184 miles, and the range meter told me that I had 127 miles possible range. In spite of my late night aggressive run with the bell boy, the sedate 85 mile drive down from Orange County to La Jolla had caused the computer to reconsider my previously harder driving style, and it had arrived at this new, more optimistic estimated range figure.

It was about a 20 mile drive to Rancho Bernardo, and with no on site charging in the plans, I parked the EV1 and reported to work. If all had gone well, by the day’s end, I would be headed further north where I’d give my electric horse a drink at the Magna-charger trough, courtesy of Saturn of Escondido. However, all did not go well with my workday, and I found myself making overnight arrangements so that I could return a second day to complete the job.

I drove back to the Hyatt Regency in the early evening, and slipping the charge paddle into the slot once again, the charger started to replenish what approximately 40 miles of driving had subtracted….the odometer read 224.4 miles. A while later, I drove away for a quick dinner break, and so added a few miles to the total before putting the car back on charge and retiring for the night.

Thursday morning it was check out time again, and as I squared up my bill for the second night’s stay, I noticed I had been charged an additional $13 for parking charges. When I politely asked about the charges and told them that the only reason I had used their parking garage, was to gain access to the Magna-charger, they quickly apologized and removed the charges….I had been told ahead of time, that parking was free for electrics!

Punching in the startup code (the EV1 has no conventional ignition or door lock key) and awakening the car, the range meter indicated 125 miles, and the odometer was at 228.2 miles. As before, it was pretty much all an uphill pull to the Rancho Bernardo location where I needed to complete my job duties, and as I arrived the odometer showed 247.5 miles, while the range meter indicated there was still 102 miles in the tank. This time the job went according to plan and I was finished in time to make a short drive north to Escondido where I figured I’d top off the charge and have a late lunch.

On my way to the freeway, I stopped at a full service type gas station where they had a handy air/water station. I checked the EV1′s high pressure Michelin Proxima LRR tires, and found that they were all below the 50 psi GM suggests, and so I pumped them up accordingly, two of them took nearly 15 lbs. of air! I wondered how much better this EV that was already getting terrific range, could do. My hybrid Honda Insight really responded to running higher air pressure levels in its LRR Bridgestone RE92 tires, so I was curious to see what difference I would find in the EV1′s range per charge performance.

I began my official trip back towards LA, with the stop in Escondido along the way for a top-off charge before the long drive back to EV Rentals. Heading the extra miles to Escondido, the elevation continued to rise. It was 1:15 PM when I got to the Saturn dealer, and the odometer read 258.2 miles while the range per charge meter was down to 74 miles. I had only put about 30 miles on the car since starting out in the morning from La Jolla, but the uphill freeway pulls had drawn heavier than average currents and the computer figured this was how things might continue, so it reduced the estimated range.

I was greeted by Andrea McLean and I found her to be well informed about EV1′s, Magna-chargers, and the state of the EV1 in today’s market. She informed me that one could still order and get an EV1, whether it was a refurbished Gen I model, a Gen II lead acid model, or a Gen II NiMH model. She and her associates were quite friendly towards me, and after showing me to the Magna-charger (it reported that the batteries were 72% full) , they even gave me a desk where I could run my computer and check emails while the EV1 was on charge. The charger had estimated that it the would take 1 hour, 20 minutes to fill the batteries back up, so this seemed like a great time to have lunch. I walked a short distance away to the restaurant, Mexican, of course, and enjoyed my Tamale, rice, and bean meal. After stuffing myself full, I returned to a nearly full car as well, and at 3:15 PM with the pack at 97% full, I considered it close enough, removed the paddle, and left for the longest stretch back to LA.

Leaving Escondido on highway 78, the range meter indicated 119 miles were available. This wide open freeway was slightly downhill for several miles, and as I drove along at minimum current levels, the computer kept refiguring the estimated range. With 270 total miles on the odometer, the range per charge estimate had actually risen to 130 miles. As I cruised along seemingly effortlessly (a combination of the level and smooth freeway and the higher tire pressures), even though I was racking up more miles on the odometer, the range meter continued to upgrade with even higher range estimates…136, 142, 143… a high of 145 miles, this, after driving a little over 20 miles since leaving Escondido!

With approximately 100 more miles to cover before reaching my destination, I had planned to stop along the way for a charge if needed, but with a heady 145 miles of estimated range left, thoughts of opportunity charging faded away. I crossed the 308 mile mark on the odometer, and having traveled exactly 50 miles at freeway speeds, the NiMH pack was taking it all in stride with 101 miles of estimated range still in the tank! Twenty seven miles later, I had gone nearly 80 miles and was flying past Newport Beach at 80 mph with an estimated range of 90 miles still left, down just 4 bars on the fuel level gauge!

The fun of those higher speeds suddenly went away as I entered into a full-on traffic jamb near John Wayne International, and I had to pull back the reins and slow down to a crawl. After a few miles of stop and go driving (EVs love this sort of thing), I remembered that sticker affixed to the butt of the EV1 that read ‘<> Access OK, Clean Air’ that allowed me to use the HOV lane.

In seconds, I had found my way into the special purpose lane, and was once again, cruising along at a good clip. At 348 miles on the odometer, I had traveled 90 miles when the fuel gauge dropped to half at 5 bars, but there was still an estimated 61 miles left…this while averaging 75 mph or so. Even when I had crossed over the 100 mile mark, the car was still full of power, and the lightest dip of the throttle would bring an immediate power rush forward as if I had only driven a few miles.

At almost exactly 110 miles since I left the Saturn dealership, I had pulled off the freeway and was on Century Drive, stopped at a traffic light near EV Rentals. The EV1 had been flying along for about an hour and a half at 70-80 mph speeds, and had never once felt like it was running short on power. I noticed that there was an estimated 36 miles left on the range meter, so when the light went green, I decided to see what was left as I planted my right foot down one last time…..screeeeechhhh….,chirp-chirp…..scrreeechh….damn that traction control! What an EV! After running along at freeway speeds for so long, and after 110 miles, the thing could still fry the tires at will!

I reluctantly pulled into the EV Rental lot and finding a Magna-charger, parked my electric friend and slipped the charge paddle into its nose…..29% battery left! And so ended my four day love affair with the Gen II EV1…one terrific electric car.

It’s a shame GM has to put their negative spin on this wonderful achievement, and its a shame the rest of the world can only dream of having such a beauty to drive everyday. While the naysayers are still out there telling everyone electrics don’t work, the EV1 continues to deliver 0-60 in the mid sevens and 130-160 miles range per charge. So, how do I sum this all up?


(1) Great acceleration performance! (It eats Insights, Priuses, and BMWs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)
(2) 130-160 mpc range
(3) Great handling
(4) Great braking
(5) Futuristic space ship styling
(6) Intimate cabin with futuristic controls
(7) The digital dash gauges (not the dash pod as a whole) are wonderful and easy to read, once you’ve taken your eyes off the road and have looked over to the middle of the car.
(7) Advanced, automated, and easy to use charger setup


(1) Horrible ‘takes longer to warm up than an ICE’ heater system
(2) Funky, uninspired steering wheel (it needs the wonderful Momoesque wheel of an Insight)
(3) Cheesy sounding stereo with overpowering rear speakers that like the front ones, sound bad.
(4) Though I love the look and effect of the console switches and controls, the ergonomics are pretty bad, with important switches almost impossible to get to.
(5) Central dash located gauge pod is about as bad as that in the Prius…it belongs in front of the driver!
(6) Get rid of that traction control and let me have my way with those tires!

Conclusion? I want one!!!!!!!

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Silver Streak Update – Rinehart Motion Systems to Power EV1 Motor!


Hello to All,

It’s been a rough road to get to where we are today with the Silver
Streak project, the l-o-n-g range 71.5 kWh, EV1-powered Insight, but I’m
happy to report that this past weekend on Saturday Sept. 17th, we
finally began the conversion process. A project of this magnitude needs
to be carefully planned with all the pieces lined up before the
tear-down can begin. The final crucial element I had been searching for
- the all important inverter/controller, has been procured. I am very
excited to announce that we have partnered with Rinehart Motion Systems
(RMS) and will be using their model PM100DX to power up Silver Streak’s
very special AC motor. Conservatively rated at 70 kW continuous, this liquid-cooled inverter can easily output 100 kW and is an ideal match up to this car, as it’s compact size and resulting light weight (just 16.5 lbs.) frees up valuable real estate under the hood while its output capacity is right at my target power level. More details on this great product – including how I will squeeze a bit more power from it, and RMS’s involvement in the project, to follow.

The focus of the Silver Streak project is simple. Take the 1st gen. Honda Insight to where we had all hoped it would go – a full electric version, and take an artifact from the glory days of the GM EV1, it’s 137 hp AC drive motor/transaxle, and drop it into the Insight. When first introduced, Honda used the Insight (as did Toyota their Prius) to poke at pure EVs, boasting how you ‘never had to plug it in’. That really stung to this die hard EVer and it nearly kept me from purchasing my Insight. I ended up buying it anyway, but with an eye towards some day, finishing the job Honda failed to do. My late 90′s – early 2000 experiences renting and driving EV1′s when traveling turned me into a big fan of that ground-breaking EV, so it was a dark period when GM recalled them all and began crushing them in an attempt to extinguish the electric car.

Fast forward to now… I’ve owned the Insight since I bought it new in
2000 (ser. # 904), I have this new condition EV1 motor/transaxle that
escaped the crusher – special thanks to Otmar Ebenhoech for his friend’s
‘insight’ to source it over a GM parts counter before they were all gone, with generous sponsorship from Dow Kokam I also have 258, 75 ahr LiPol cells, and I now have an inverter… no more excuses! My wife had accused me of being nuts for wanting to take apart our like-new car that we paid $21,000 for in 2000, while at the same time – as she always did, challenged me to follow my dream. The car has just 46,193 miles on it, it’s in as-new condition, and it ran perfectly, but this past weekend it got totally disassembled with video cameras rolling – I am now knee deep into it, and there’s no turning back! The FabTek duo of Bob Westcott and Mike Christopherson, Team Plasma Boy members Steve ‘The Taunter’ Schrab, Gaylen Aust and J Bills (capturing Hi Def footage), and a special producer/ film crew on hand, unanimously designated me as ‘Project Manager’ … then they told me to stay out oftheir way! They attacked the mint condition Insight, like Piranha devouring an unsuspecting Capybara crossing a tropical stream, and literally picked all the meat off the bones. With not a spot of grease on my hands (project manager, remember), I delegated other duties to myself. Perhaps the hardest one, was the disassembly and total removal of the competition grade stereo system I had painstakingly designed and assembled into this car eleven years ago. The high end stereo system made my Insight the world’s first car audio soundoff hybrid, and landed it on the cover and was the featured install of the October 2001 issue of ‘Car Audio and Electronics’ magazine.

It was emotionally tough to tear down the system I had put so much effort into. The original story can be read here:


The amps and audio processors were contained in a custom upholstered aluminum enclosure (crafted by Marko Mongillo) that resided over the hatch floor area just behind the seats, and most notably immediately above the car’s hidden IMA (integrated motor assist) compartment where the factory NiMH battery pack, inverter, DC-DC converter and other electrical stuff was located.

Once gutted, the empty IMA chamber would be used for lithium cell storage. In addition to the amps and processors rack, in the right rear corner of the car there was also another signal processor, a 12 disc CD changer, a 144V – 14V DC-DC converter used to charge a Hawker 12V AGM battery, and various fuses and brackets – dedicated to running the power-hungry 700 watt rms system.

Central and in the rear the tw in 12 subwoofer enclosure and the hidden 26 ah 12V stereo system battery were also removed. It was a lot of work, and I was at the same time, amazed and appalled at the complexity of my design. For those who have heard the system and may be lamenting its disassembly, no worries – an improved (simplified) version using most of the same audio gear is going back into this machine. Plasma Boy cannot hit the road for hours on end without a rock’n sound system! Disclaimer…I actually did do this on this past summer’s long road trips in White Zombie, but there’s something musical about the whir of a Siamese 9 motor at the upper edges of the 70 mph speed limit :-)

In addition to its inherently light weight body structure’s aluminum
construction, shedding weight on nearly all items is how Honda was able
to get the Insight’s curb weight down to 1887 lbs.! There were many
impressive ‘weight savings’ techniques that kept leaping out at us,
everything from formed hollow aluminum tube braces, to Styrofoam support
blocks, to paper-thin aluminum sheet metal shaped, bent and stamped into
a strong enclosure, to the air-cooled power electronics, it’s all
designed to be efficient and light. All this had me sweating over my
target converted weight of 2850 lbs., as it wasn’t looking like I could
count on much weight being removed from the car to offset the heavy
battery pack that was going into it.

There was however, considerably more weight pulled out (that won’t be going back in) than I had expected. The Insight’s ICE lean burn engine was touted as the lightest 3 cylinder passenger car engine in the
world at just 124 lbs. and I had worried that it and the other removed
items would not do much to offset the 985 lbs. of Dow Kokam LiPol cells
I was about to stuff into the car. As it turns out, that 124 lb. figure
did not include the IMA’s electric motor, nor the 5 speed transaxle. I
was pretty happy, when we weighed the removed assembly and saw 278
lbs. on the scale. The reported 55 lb. weight of the car’s 144V D cell battery pack
turned out to be 71 lbs. with its modules, fuses, brackets and such
still attached. The fan-cooled ‘power sandwich’ of the little 10 kW
inverter and 75 amp DC-DC was another 25 lbs. of stuff pulled. The 12V
under-hood battery, the exhaust system, and other parts all pushed the
removed weight to comfortably more than 400 lbs.

Replacing about 300 ‘under hood’ lbs. with the 152 lb. EV1 motor/transaxle gets rid of weight while the more compact electric drive assembly frees up the area considerably. The stock 3 cylinder was centered in the engine bay while its transaxle was offset rearwards towards the firewall. The EV1 motor is positioned nearly directly above
its single speed transaxle’s axle shafts, so it mounts much further back in the engine bay, opening up the space between it and the radiators – a lot! I had hoped to gain enough space for one battery module, but
there’s enough for three. At a projected 100 lbs. per module (one will be less at 80 lbs.) 300 lbs. of the ~ 1080 lb. pack will be in the nose of the car to help balance the pack weight. Front end weight then, goes from about 300 lbs. to about 450-475 lbs., just right. Of course, the suspension is all being upgraded by FabTek. The rest of the batteries will be midship in the IMA chamber and underneath it where the fuel tank was…all of it, a very tight fit! It will be a difficult task, but well worth it with a total capacity of 71.5 kWh.

Unlike the Zombie’s smaller prototype-only Dow Kokam ‘Ultra High Power’
30 ah cells, these larger ‘High Power’ 75 ah cells are a regular Dow
Kokam product (model SLPB125255255H). The cells shrug off 100%
discharges, and at 80% DOD they are good for 1600 cycles, so shooting
for longest possible range by occasionally extracting the full rated
capacity is no big deal. Additionally, Dow Kokam cells are very
conservatively rated – case in point, these 75 ah cells are typically closer to 76.5 ahr, so the actual pack capacity could be as high as 73 kWh. I imagine we will be able to pull 71.5 kWh with change left over. Dow Kokam makes ‘High Energy’ (HE), ‘High Power’ (HP) and ‘Ultra High Power’ type cells, and with its modest max power draw of 117 amps per cell (each module is 3P8S), an HE type would have been the cell of choice for this application, but you take what’s being offered under sponsorship, thus the use of HP type cells. At 3.82 lbs. HP vs 3.55 lbs. HE per 75 ah cell and considering the cell count of 258, in the weight game it amounts to a 67 lb. penalty. On the flip side, using the more aggressive HP cells means less voltage sag, even considering the low max. currents involved, and less voltage sag at a given current draw amounts to more hp. The extra hp should more than negate the extra 67 lbs. in terms of acceleration, but those 67 extra lbs. don’t help in the range per charge game. It’s an accepted compromise that worked out well for both Dow Kokam, and Plasma Boy Racing . We are very appreciative of their support for this project.

Plasma Boy Racing and Manzanita Micro have been a team for years now, so it should be no surprise that Silver Streak’s high capacity pack will be juiced by a custom liquid-cooled Manzanita Micro PFC charger. The car will also be equipped with a J1772 interface – the new EV standard for level one and level two charging, so the electrified Insight can suck amps alongside Nissan Leafs and other new factory EVs at the various charge stations popping up. All 258 cells will be protected by the same Bruce Sherry/Manzanita Micro 8 ch. BMS we use in the Zombie, but plugged into specially designed RegDeck boards (circuit board interface for the BMS) the Madman himself designed for us. These RegDeck boards are in the prototype stage and will mate to the 75 ah cell tab clamps (8 cells in series) and will become a new Manzanita Micro product.

Team Plasma Boy member and longtime EV sidekick, Marko Mongillo, gets the first ‘test set’ of the RegDeck boards for his 36 cell pack going into his cute ’59 Fiat, the dumpster green inverted Italian bathtub he affectionately calls ‘Fiamp’.

Fiamp’s previous pack – 610 lbs. of Optima group 31, 75 ah (C20) Yellow Top lead acid batteries, was 120V and in warm summer months gave about 50 ah under easy driving EV traction use for about 6 kWh capacity…less as the temperature dropped in the Fall and Winter. Being such a little vehicle, even with this modest kWh rating, the 1800 lb. car could do about 40-45 miles with fresh batteries. Of course, lead being lead, that range dropped to about 35-40 miles after a year or so as the batteries aged and the deep cycles added up. The new 36 cell Dow Kokam pack is a carry-on luggage sized affair rated at 133V, 75 ah (C1) and will give that ah rating under pretty much any type of driving style in EV traction use. The cells can output 750 amps for 10 seconds or so and about 450 amps continuous, so a simple series string can handle most EV conversion applications. Cycle life with 80% DOD is about 1600 cycles, so the little Fiat should be good to go for 100,000+ miles! The completed traction pack assembly weighs a ridiculous 150 lbs. while storing just shy of 10 kWh. The assembled lead acid pack weighed about 650 lbs., so Fiamp’s curb weight

is dropping 500 lbs., putting the tiny car close to its gas car stock weight of 1330 lbs. again. Even with a pack just 1/4 the size of the outgoing lead pack, we are expecting range to improve to about 60 miles, regardless of temperature and minus any ‘egg-under-the-foot’ antics, and as high as 75 miles at lower urban speeds. The same RegDeck boards and 8 ch. BMS is being used for the revitalized Blue Meanie project with its 20 kWh ~290 lb. (fully assembled) pack based on the same 75 ah Dow Kokam cells. The Meanie will drop from 2460 lbs. to about 1950 lbs. with the range projected to about three times greater at 90-100 miles.

With these two EVs powered by the same cells as a comparison point,
here’s how the range per charge for Silver Streak pencils out. The EV1
was heavier but had a better cd of .19 compared to the Insight’s .25
rating, and managed an impressive 164 Wh per mile @65 mph. I feel the
less areo but still very slippery Insight at ~ 100 lbs. less weight,
with identical-sized wheels and LRR tires as the EV1, with the identical
AC motor and a slightly more efficient inverter, will achieve at the
minimum, 185 Wh per mile @ 65 mph – this translates to 386 miles @ 65
mph! If I’m off and it gets more like 180 Wh per mile, then we’re
looking at right near 400 miles @ 65 mph. At a more sedate 55 mph, the
Wh per mile consumption should drop to about 160 for close to 450
miles…hence, my claim of building a 400 mile per charge EV.

Back to the Rinehart PM100DX … I had struggled for some time with the
dilemma of the all important inverter to run the EV1 motor, before getting in touch with my friend Chris Brune. Chris has followed what I’ve been doing with EVs all these years, and has been very supportive of the White Zombie electric drag car project. Back in the days of lead acid power, Chris would ride shotgun setting up controller parameters and helping us collect valuable data. Working in the high tech industry, Chris had created a DC-DC converter for us to use in the Zombie. A few years ago he told me he was changing jobs and joining a start-up in the area. With big changes in his life and the same for me, we didn’t see each other as the years ticked by. I was pleased to learn Chris was the VP of Engineering at Rinehart Motion Systems (RMS), a company I had heard great things about. The Motoczysz electric bike that won the Isle of Man TT Zero did so using a Rinehart inverter, and the Lightning Bike that just hit 214 mph at Bonneville did it on AC power created by a Rinehart inverter – the company is obviously into EVs that push the envelope, just the kind of guys I like to work with! Chris Brune and Larry Rinehart have agreed to help get the EV1 motor powered up and are lending their expertise to the project by custom matching an inverter to the special motor. Additional help from famous EVers / designers and very good friends, Otmar Ebenhoech and Dale Glubrecht, is making this a fun exercise that brings back the good old days of EV skunk works.

The PM100DX inverter is rated for 300 amps, but it can actually do 350
amps for 30 seconds, and the mighty 318V (nominal) Dow Kokam pack with
its triple paralleled cell setup will supply that kind juice without
breaking a sweat. Each 75 ah cell can do 10C, so the triple parallel
stack (if asked to) could belt out 2250 amps! At just 350 amps (less
than 120 amps per cell) the voltage sag will be ridiculously low, and
at 80% SOC (like driving 80 miles before testing acceleration) the pack
will be at around 330V, so I expect loaded to 350 amps there will still
be 320V on tap. 320V x 350 amps = 112 kW, boosting the EV1 motor up from its 102 kW, 137 hp rating when powering the 2970 lb. EV1, to an
estimated 150 hp for the 2850 lb. Silver Streak. Motor Trend road tested
the EV1′s 0-60 in 7.7 seconds. Tipping the scales 100 lbs. less and with
an additional 13 hp, I expect Silver Streak to do the deed at 7.2 – 7.4
seconds, absolutely vaporizing the former hybrid’s tepid 10+ second 0-60 time. Though the electric version will be about 1000 lbs. heavier, it will
have fabulous pure electric torque – flat as a ruler from 0-7000 rpm,
and more than double the hp stretching out over a broad power band!
While it certainly won’t be a muscle car, it will nonetheless be quite
snappy and should do a nice job of roasting the tires at will
- not that I’ve ever done that before :-)


Stay tuned for more reports, as the car is on a fast track to hit the road by December.

See Ya…John Wayland

Posted in NEDRA Discussion List Posts, Silver Streak | Comments Off

82 Miles In the Zombie @ 77% DOD

Responding to another thread on the SEVA list, Steve Lough brought this up:

By the way of HIGH PERSONAL CURIOSITY, how is the Insight project coming ?? Keep thinking for my self a 60 or 80 mile per charge All Electric Insight.. say… round the $22,000. price tag.

The Silver Streak Insight project is behind schedule but is still very much alive. We had a glitch with the CNC guy we had been using and have been waiting for clamp/conductor parts for more than a month. A new shop is now being looked into. The clamp/conductors we’ve designed for these larger 75 ah cells (the Zombie uses 30 ah cells) are totally different than what we use in the race car’s modules, and have to be made ‘just so’. Once I have the hundreds of clamp/conductors in hand, the dress rehearsal Meanie project’s 20 kWh, 266V pack can be assembled and road-tested. Then, the Insight goes under the knife.

I am very happy with both the track performance and the street performance of the Zombie’s large format 30 ah Dow Kokam ‘ultra high power’ cells, and am looking forward to seeing what these even larger format 75 ah ‘high power’ cells will do. As the model type name suggests, though physically larger than what we are using in the Zombie, the 75 ah cells are not as crazy-powerful, so instead of 1200 amps @ 10 seconds (40C), these guys are rated at just 750 amps (10C) @ 10 seconds. Their continuous rating is 6C, or 450 amps. Both the Meanie and Silver Streak need less peak power than 750 amps (the Insight’s max. current should be 380 amps or so and Blue Meanie should be about 600 amps), and both will merely sip juice on the open highway at around 40 amps for the Meanie and 25-30 amps for Silver Streak. The stronger suit of these 75 ah cells, is their energy density. One 75 ah cells weighs 3.81 lbs, nearly the same of what a paralleled pair of the 30 ah cells weigh (1.8lbs. X 2 = 3.6 lbs.), so that’s 75 ah for 3.81 lbs. vs 60 ah for 3.6 lbs.

Minus its 147 lb. 9 inch DC motor, flywheel, clutch, transmission, 700 lbs. of 12V batteries and all the brackets, enclosures and heavy cabling for them, and with just 275 lbs. of cells in one light container and a smaller and lighter AC drive, I am predicting that the Meanie will drop about 500 lbs. in weight from its former 2460 lbs. and will be at around 1950 lbs. curb weight. Using a 93% efficient AC motor and a 20 kWh LiPol pack, I am predicting 100 miles range. Given this info and with regard to Steven’s electrification of his Insight, I think a 20 kWh pack of less costly cells in the similarly light but much more areo car, and using an affordable small (light) DC motor and using the stock tranny, 80-90 miles range is very likely for about $22,000.

Speaking of range…

I had previously written:

The Zombie is fully street legal and is driven often on the streets with its 100+ miles range per charge. Last weekend it delivered 60 miles in aggressive driving that included a 3 mile 6.5% grade pull at 65 mph (punched it once and shot way past the speed limit briefly going uphill just for fun), freeway cruising, and in-town side streets as well. Returning to the EV Juice bar the lithium pack had about 55% capacity remaining!


The Zombie on display in late April at Rosedale Elementary School’s ’Green Festival’ in  Hillsboro, Oregon, after traveling 30 miles west of Portland.

Completing a 60 mile round trip to Hillsboro and back, without a recharge the car sat for a week. The following weekend I took it back out for some around-town runs to see how close to my prediction of range per charge the car could come. As before, I used a GPS unit to keep track of the exact miles driven. This weekend, I am ‘finally’ getting a proper sensor wheel built and installed on the Siamese 9 motor so all the cool functions of the EVision system can be utilized. I am also ‘properly’ installing the Bruce Sherry SOC gauge as well. The two systems will really give me accurate data on the next range tests. I again, did not baby the car and drove in a spirited fashion. Another welcome change is the new Superior Gear brand ring and pinion set, at the same 3:50 ratio used to get the 10.2 runs…only these are heavy duty street cut gears, not race cut as were the previous set that were ear-splitting LOUD! The new gears are super quiet, though you can still hear the whir of the meshing teeth. The Zombie is now very quiet and smooth on the road at speed sup to about 45 mph. After that, the age-old drive line rumble comes into play – we’re working on a solution for this as well.

I know many think my estimates of my EVs’ performance capabilities are too optimistic at times (many doubted the Zombie could run high 10s, let alone nearly cracking the 9s), so I love to prove them wrong ;-) I am happy to report it is the same with my range predictions for the Zombie. I have been saying that even with the car’s high drag Ford 9 inch rear end (they are known to be bullet proof tough while at the same time inefficient) and it’s fat 225 rear tires on 8 inch rims, that due to efforts to reduce drag in all other areas (145/65 LRR tires on 4 inch rims up front) and with the Datsun 1200′s small frontal area and the Zombie’s low curb weight (2352 lbs.) that the car would achieve somewhere in the neighborhood of 195 Wh per mile when driven conservatively. Based on all this, plus my general seat-of-pants feelings I’ve been predicting that with a 100% discharge (the cells can do this 1440 times and still retain 81.1% capacity) 90 miles urban driving and 110-120 miles highway.

Drum roll please…with the front LRR tires at 45 psi and the drag radials pumped-up to 43 psi (they are rated to 44 psi) the Zombie logged 82 miles total with 23% charge still remaining. I would have kept going with the tests, but had to get the car to a show (May 2nd ‘Taste of the Nation’ charity event) I had made a commitment for. This last portion of the range test included several hard near-full-throttle street launches, too…as I said, I did not baby the car, traveled at speeds in excess of 70 mph at times, and fully expected the Wh per mile to be higher than for more moderate 55 mph cruising. The pack’s resting voltage is only a few volts higher than the indicated voltage while driving under light cruise conditions, and was down to 325V after 82 miles for 3.38V per cell. I consider the safe discharge range to be from 4.0V down to 3.0V, even though they are rated from 4.2 – 2.7V. The cells are 30 ah rated @ C1, but are 32 ah at C3, so the paralleled cell pairs are 64 ah (X 355V gives the 22.7 kWh rating). It took exactly 49 recharge ahs to put all the cells into low current regulation at 4.17V per cell. 49 ah X 355V = 17.4 kWh used for 82 miles driven, giving 212 Wh per mile…22.7 kW divided by 212 Wh per mile gives 107 miles range – this with aggressive style driving.

It’s clear the Zombie can easily hit my predicted 90 miles city driving range, even when driving with a heavy foot. In a more conservative style and at a steady 55 mph the Wh per mile should be quite close to my estimate of 195-200 Wh per mile. I don’t think there are too many EVs are there that can rip 0-60 in 1.8 seconds, run a 10.2 @ 123 mph 1/4 mile ‘and’ do this kind of range :-) With exception to the EV1s I used to drive and the Teslas I’ve had the pleasure to drive, the only other EV I’ve had that gave this type of range was Red Beastie – Dick Finley’s Toyota truck stuffed to the gills with just shy of 2500 lbs. of lead acid batteries. Though I ran that truck 120 miles on one charge, it was a 100% discharge that left the 6V batteries with their tongues hanging out and ‘not happy’ about it. Staying within the reasonable 80% DOD for lead acid, the 5300 lb. truck could do about 95 miles per charge. Of course, its 0-60 was a bit slower than the Zombie’s! It took 2500 lbs. of lead acid to get 100 non-pack damaging miles per charge – the Zombie has this same range with just 345 lbs. of LiPol cells contained in the trunk, 11 of the 12 modules recessed down low in the floor. Were it not for the required 6 point roll bar system the Zombie would still have its back seat.

Though the Zombie’s Dow Kokams have seen many high current discharges at the drag track, this range test was the first deep cycling of the 355V pack. After the recharge the already stiff cells seemed even stiffer. Typically, after taking the pack to full charge at 400V on the nose, right off charge the pack sits at 395-397V ‘surface charge’. Keying-on and moving the car out the driveway dissipates that surface charge quickly though, and the pack settles in at 383-385V…3.99-4.0V per cell. Moderate driving at 45 mph sags the pack to somewhere around 379-380V, but after the 82 mile/49 ah run and subsequent recharge, driving on the freeway at 60 mph the pack was hanging at 381V!

The Dow Kokam cells have been fantastic and have surpassed my expectations. Though they were delivered in un-opened boxes in the Fall of 2009, they were already nearly 3 calendar years old. They are now 4 years old, have seen 1500+ amp discharges per cell, and are easily hitting their rated ah capacity. I realize I am fortunate to have Dow Kokam as a sponsor and wish these large format ‘ultra high power’ type LiPol cells would be mass produced at a reasonable price that everyone could afford. The new even larger 75 ah ‘high power’ type cells that are going into both Blue Meanie and Silver Streak will be fun to wring out to see what they can do.

See Ya…John Wayland


Posted in Blue Meanie, EVDL Posts, Kokam, NEDRA Discussion List Posts, Racing, Red Beastie, Silver Streak | Comments Off

Blue Meanie Gets Meaner!

You all knew it would happen some day, and that day has come…Blue Meanie is headed to the drag track! The Meanie’s entire attitude is shifting from bad boy to bad ass. Along with a big bump in horse power there will also be a threefold jump in range per charge, too.

I had previously written:

The much-awaited shipment of LiPol cells were delivered on Tuesday this week, when 1300 lbs. of lithium arrived at the NorthWest Handling Systems shipping dock. Just shy of 1000 lbs. of these are earmarked for the Insight project.

Hmmm…I wonder where those extra cells are going? Here’s a hint – last weekend we had an EV party in my backyard shop where fueled by pizza and beer, we got together to pull the 700 lbs. of Hawker lead acid batteries (168V pack) from the Meanie. Those 12V batteries are still in very good condition with maybe 30 heavy cycles on them and they’re going to a very good home to re-power J Bills’ (Mr. Softy) Fiat EV convertible.

In terms of lead acid, 700 lbs. is a small and light weight pack, especially when it’s compared to larger lead acid packs like the standard fair set of 20, 6V golf car battery range-oriented packs often used in small pickups. Still, in the little Datsun those 14 good sized 12V lead acid batteries took up some real estate with 6 of them under the hood area and the remaining eight tucked away midship just behind the rear seat back (factory location of the gas tank) in the car’s motorized retractable rear battery tray. That clever rear storage system allowed the Meanie to keep all of its original trunk space and its rear seat in tact while the well distributed batteries gave the car good balance. The 168V lead pack able could effortlessly feed a full 1000 amps to a Zilla Z1k while sagging down to 130V and making an impressive 130 kW of power. Pumped into an ADC 9 inch motor mated to a lightened flywheel and heavy duty clutch with the factory 4 speed tranny, it was enough juice to rock the little Datsun 0-60 in ~ 5.5 seconds. That’s what happens when you put ~ 130 hp @ 300 ft. lbs in a sub-2500 lb, car! While the Hawkers are rated at 60 ah @C20, their C1 rating is 47 ah – this of course, is the most realistic rating for EV traction applications. When they were new and discharged at C1, in the warm summer months the battery pack made about 7.8 kWh of usable energy giving the Meanie 30-35 miles range per charge under Wayland style driving. Here’s what the web page ‘Blue Meanie’ section has had up for the past couple of years:

25-30 miles driven aggressively, 35-40 miles at constant 55 mph, 45-50 miles at lower urban speeds of 35-45 mph

I admit that the past year or so hasn’t been kind to the battery pack, as the Meanie hasn’t been driven as much as it should have been. A lot of the fun went away some time ago when I broke the tranny for the third time, wiping out 2nd gear – too many 2nd gear foot-to-the-floor tire squealing launches :-( The car was still usable, but the days of EV grin inducing acceleration blasts had given way to lethargic 3rd gear roll-offs from rest, or a balky 1-3-4 shift pattern. Last summer I scored two 1200 trannys, one that had been rebuilt, too, but what little free time I had went into pushing the Zombie ever quicker down the track while the trannys sat in the shop. Languishing sometimes months at a time, the Meanie’s batteries weren’t properly exercised so the capacity has diminished to where in these recent cold months the car’s range is down considerably. For now then, the Meanie sits in the shop 700 lbs. lighter, and minus a battery pack. The rest of the Plasma Boy team will be assisting Mr. Softy in getting his Fiat back on the road, and Hawkers being Hawkers, they’ll more than likely bounce back and work well for him.

Drum roll please…tomorrow we are headed to the metal shop with the Meanie’s rear slide-out tray. We are making a new one, very simliar but a few inches wider while being shallower in depth, designed to hold the entire Meanie replacement battery pack! Back in the early ’80s as I stuffed 1000-1200 lbs. of lead into everything from Ford Escorts to pickups, I would tell anyone who would listen, that some day we’d have battery packs the size of a suitcase that could take an EV 100 miles even in the winter time…I’m happy to report that day has arrived! Using the same 75 ah high power Dow Kokam cells we are using for the Silver Streak long range Insight project, 72 of them (275 lbs.) will be strung in a simple series affair to make up a 266V, 750 amp capable 20 kWh rectangular shaped pack that is indeed, the size of a suitcase! With a battery pack more than 400 lbs. lighter and able to make an easy 162 kW of power, and with the Meanie’s curb weight dropping to ~ 2035 lbs., with the current 9 inch motor, Zilla controller, and a rebuilt tranny the 0-60 run would be in the 4s! With 20 kWh of storage capacity, the flat discharge profile of a LiPol pack, and a 400+ lb. curb weight reduction, I predict the car’s range would go up to about 100 miles. As a comparison point, the Zombie is heavier by 300 lbs. and has a high drag Ford 9 inch ring and pinion plus high drag fat rear tires to push and yet, it can do 110-120 miles on its 22.7 kWh pack, so 100 miles for the svelt Blue Meanie with its 175/70 13 LRR tires and 88% the capacity of the Zombie’s pack, seems reasonable. Which brings me to the next subject…

What if I diss the LRR tires at all four corners? What if I pull the stock light duty rear axle with its tiny rear pumpkin and replace it with the chopped and narrowed heavy duty Nissan axle affair with the large case pumpkin that was once used in the Zombie in the Late ’90s? What if I return to the classic ’70s Datsun setup of American Racing four spoke alloys – 13 x 5.5 up front and the rare 13 x 7 wheels in the rear? The narrowed heavy duty Nissan axle allows the normally too-wide 7 inch wheels to barely stuff under and clear the rear fenders. What if I then lower the car to improve handling and toughen the stance a bit? Seems taking a hit in range down to say, 90 miles from the possible 100 with the benefit of way better handling and superior traction in back, is worth it. Did I say superior traction? Why would I need that? This brings me to the next subject…

As much as I love the power that this car currently has with the 9 inch series motor and Z1k, the Meanie is going AC direct drive! Unlike some other AC drive conversions that have tepid performance however, the AC drive in this car will deliver POWER! Though I cannot reveal all the details yet, let it suffice to say I’m working with a group of performance freaks and am considering using their 150 kW system with BIG torque. The beauty of the large case Nissan third member, is that I can get a seriously low ratios (higher numerically) which would work well with the high-revving AC motor. Using the efficent AC drive would push the range per charge back up to around 100 miles, too. This AC system also weighs less than the previous DC system, and there’s even more weight savings from discarded bracketry for the Meanie’s former lead acid pack. These weight reductions will help offset the increased weight of the beefier rear axle setup.

When it all comes together, the meaner Meanie stats might look like this:

~2000 lbs, curb weight (down from 2460 lbs.)
20 kWh LiPol pack (up from 7.8 kWh)
150 kW, 200 hp AC drive (up from 130 kW, 130 hp DC)
~100 miles range (up from 35 miles)
~0-60 in 4 seconds (down from 5.5 seconds)
~13.2 @ 104 mph 1/4 mile ET (quicker and faster than the current estimated DC stats)

With no more transmissions to break, no arcing brushes/commutator to worry about, a stout Dow Kokam LiPol battery pack, and enough ahrs to drive to the track, race, then drive home without recharges, the Meanie will see 1/4 mile action. Stay tuned!

See Ya…John Wayland

Rubber ought to be laid electrically’ (Dale Glubrecht)

Posted in Blue Meanie, Kokam, NEDRA Discussion List Posts | Comments Off

We hit the ‘Start’ button on ‘Silver Streak’

It’s been in the works for quite a while, but I’m happy to announce the birth of an exciting project, Plasma Boy Racing’s long range electric Honda Insight ‘Silver Streak’! My Silverstone Metallic colored Insight with its teardrop aero shape looks much like a drop of mercury as it streaks down the highway. Additionally, the ’70s movie ‘Silver Streak’ was a comedy revolving around a ‘long-distance’ train trip. The Art Deco Silver Streak train was indeed, a long distance machine, just as our Insight (with its own Art Deco look) will be.The Insight has a striking resemblance to the 1948 Pontiac Silver Streak – from its sensuously rounded curves to the near horizontal rear window and down to its rear fender skirts, and the Insight’s aero wind-cheating shape embodies that of the 40′s Pontiac with the same name. I think the name fits :-)

Some may recall this car has already been in the spotlight years ago, when in 2001 it graced the cover of ‘Car Audio and Electronics’ magazine. Search ‘Hybrid Heaven Car Audio’ to find the original story and photos. Back then, the emphasis was on the soundoff quality audio system’s light weight components so as not to interfere with the car’s mission of being very light weight. I’m happy to report that ultra hi fi system is alive and well, and it will stay in the car. My 2000 Insight has 45,000 actual miles on it, and it’s in mint condition. It’s IMA inverter/controller and NiMH battery pack were swapped out for new items at 41,000 miles under a warranty situation, and its 3 cylinder lean-burn engine runs like new – yet here I am, about to tear the entire car down! Someone out there looking for perhaps a replacement power train for their Insight will have hit the jackpot if they get these from my car – the 3 banger with just 45,000 easy miles on it, and the IMA/battery system with just 4000 miles of use.

White Zombie has pretty much settled the argument of whether or not an electric car could provide muscle car acceleration (or better), so we are now moving onto the open road for the Silver Streak ‘long distance’ project. It will take an extraordinary battery pack to accomplish our goal, so we have once again partnered with Dow Kokam.This time, it’s one of distance rather than ultimate acceleration. The challenge is simple and straight forward – travel from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington and back on a single charge at the posted freeway speed limits in a converted modern production car for ~ 350 miles at 55-70 mph on the I-5 freeway system.

To accomplish this we needed to have a very high capacity battery pack, and we now have the cells to do it. The much-awaited shipment of LiPol cells were delivered on Tuesday this week, when 1300 lbs. of lithium arrived at the NorthWest Handling Systems shipping dock. Just shy of 1000 lbs. of these are earmarked for the Insight project. When completed, the pack will be a 318V, 225 ah, 71.5 kWh LiPol setup consisting of 258 cells in a 3P86S design employing Dow Kokam’s 75 ah high power cells. These are similar to the ultra high power cells we use in the Zombie, but they are not as outrageously powerful as those smaller 30 ahr cells. They do however, have a higher energy density – perfect for a range oriented car. The Zombie’s cells can crank-out 40C currents (1200 amps), where these are more like 10C – still, 750 amps from each cell is nothing to sneeze at. As used in this pack, even this level of power density will be way overkill. To get the ahrs up, the cells will be paralleled in groups of three to make 225 ah, then those buddied cells will be strung 86 long to get to 318V. Three cells in parallel raise the 10 second max current rating to 2250 amps, but the Insight will never tap into that level, as the peak amp pull will be in the 300 amp range for the 100 kW inverter and about 600 amps for the optional 200 kW inverter – yes, I’m still weighing my inverter options. With the 100 kW inverter 0-60 should come up in about 8-9 seconds, with the 200 kW inverter 0-60 should be in the 5 second range. Cruise current at 65 mph should be very low, in the 30-35 amp range…even lower to about 25 amps at 55 mph.

Whichever inverter way I go, Metric Mind, longtime sponsors of Plasma Boy Racing, will be deep into this project with us. Over the years, Victor Tichonov and I have taken jabs at one another on the various discussion groups in the never ending AC vs DC argument, but we’ve always had respect for each other. In fact, even though most think he’s an AC-only type of guy, Victor has always been there at the drag track cheering on the DC powered Zombie, and his company is one of our great sponsors – I’m still crazy over his EVision all-encompassing EV battery and performance monitoring system with its artfully executed brightly lit LED display! One will be used in this project. On the flip side, as I usually argue in favor of affordable and very powerful DC drives, so many may think I’m an DC-only type of guy, but that is far from the truth. My work as a forklift tech. has me immersed in AC drives every day, and I’ve been involved with AC powered EVs for a very long time. Both drive types have their place, but have advantages and disadvantages, for sure. DC still rules the drag strip in four wheeled vehicles, and this Spring we are looking to push into the 9s with the Zombie, but for Silver Streak, it’s AC, baby!

We are of course, staying with Manzanita Micro as our battery charger experts. A custom liquid-cooled charger is being built for us. We will be using the same Bruce Sherry designed wonderful 8 ch. BMS as is used in the Zombie. Bruce’s SOC gauge, too will be used. The Metric Mind EVision system will also be used – can’t have enough instrumentation in this car! We will have the ability to transmit data from the road, so full and open data will stream from the car as we travel the freeway system, negotiate hills, regen down the hills, and drive in city traffic.

Another terrific sponsor is FabTek, our suspension and brake experts that helped transform the Zombie’s under-performing front suspension and wimpy stock brakes into high performance items that helped the car set new world record ETs. FabTek is on board to redo the Insight’s suspension and do the structural mods needed to help the aluminum-bodied car handle a half ton of LiPol cells.

The heart of Silver Streak will be a genuine EV1 motor/transaxle setup powered by either the aforementioned 100 kw MES inverter or possibly a prototype Metric Mind 200 kw inverter. You’ll find lots of references to the EV1 as this projects unfolds, as the thrust in this whole project is to take both the EV1′s light and powerful AC induction motor and Honda’s original Insight to the levels they both should have attained. Go back to the introduction of the 2000 Honda Insight, America’s first hybrid, and remember how Honda made fun of cars that had to be plugged-in…then realize that still today, Honda does not embrace full electric drive. It’s my opinion that the Insight should have been offered as a full electric in addition to the hybrid model. Now go back to earlier on in this decade and remember GM crushing to death the EV1. The Insight’s body size, teardrop aero shape (including rear fender skirts and narrower-than-front rear track), and low curb weight were all derived from the EV1 (Honda even admits this).
GM had a red EV1 test car with a lithium pack – I saw it with my own eyes, but it too, was crushed. The special combination of an Insight powered by an EV1 AC drive with energy coming from a high storage capacity lithium pack is definitely going to raise a few eyebrows!

Considering the .25 cd aero capabilities of a stock Insight, its LRR tires mounted on ultra-light alloy wheels (identical tire and wheel size as the EV1), projected converted weight hundreds of lbs. lighter than an EV1, and the super efficient AC drive, I’m predicting an efficiency of 185 Wh per mile at 65 mph, or 386 miles @ 65 mph on level ground. As a comparison point, the EV1 was more aero at .19 cd but it was heavier – it achieved 167 Wh per mile at 65 mph. At 55 mph, Silver Streak’s efficiency should improve to about 160 Wh per mile, so a steady state 55 mph on level ground would give close to 450 miles. The 2723 lb. Tesla with its 53 kWh pack can do 245 miles per charge in spite of its so-so aero and 225 section width rear tires.

The round trip drive on I-5 between Portland and Seattle is a mix of long flat runs but also miles of grades to negotiate, too…the regen will come in handy to recoup things on the downhill portions. The grand plan is to make the run in style flanked by a squadron of Teslas while a film crew captures the entire affair. In fact, producer Vince Patton (Oregon Field Guide ’07 Zombie video) has already begun filming of this exciting project that will show the world what Honda and GM could have done! We’ve already got some footage of Chris Paine (Who Killed the Electric Car?) and I discussing the project while looking at photos of the saved-from-the-crusher EV1 motor. Our own J Bills will be capturing everything on video as well.

There’s more exciting things planned for 2011, so stay tuned!

See Ya…John Wayland

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Interview on PDXTV

PDXTV interviewed John at the Portland Auto Show:

Posted in Kokam, Media Apperances, Racing | Comments Off

The Tale of the Skyline GTR

Hello to All,

No, it’s not the same story you’ve all heard about when we raced a
menacing Skyline GTR in our Godzilla vs Godzilla drag race – this is a
new story!

It was during my work day as a forklift wrench, and I had a need to make
a stop at the local hardware store to pick up some non-stock hardware. I
pulled my clattering service truck into the lot and as I was parking,
saw a gun metal colored Skyline GTR parked in the end spot near the
store entrance – diagonal of course, so as to avoid door dings. Yup,
there it was, the same badass machine we all drooled over that exciting
night back July 30th. My mission to the hardware store suddenly changed
from finding a few 1/4 -20 Allen cap screws, to finding the large man we
met during our record-setting 10.4 run at PIR. Matt is a big buff guy,
so I knew he’d be easy to spot in the store. So I’m walking around in my
grungy work-stained uniform stalking Matt, but he’s nowhere to be
found…then I spot him, no, not Matt, but a fellow about my size and a
bit older, grey-haired and wearing a black racer’s coat embroidered with
‘SCCA’…this ‘had’ to be the Skyline guy. I had assumed that at ~ $85K
and a limited production type machine, there was probably only one gun
metal grey Skyline roaming in my area – I was mistaken!

I found him just paying for his hardware and about to exit the building,
so I nearly missed the opportunity to chat with him and check out his
beautiful twin turbo super car. As he was still at the cash register,
there was a line of customers behind him waiting to pay, so there was a
mini audience for what was to follow – a ‘very’ entertaining back and
forth with the GTR guy. I approached and asked:

“You the owner of the gorgeous Skyline out there? Don’t worry, I didn’t
hit it or anything, I’m just a big fan!”

Skyline guy (look of relief knowing I hadn’t run into his car): “Yes,
it’s mine, and thank you.”

Me: “I had the thrill to race against a Skyline, the same color as yours.”

Skyline guy (with his mild British accent): “Oh, what course?” (he is
wearing an SCCA badge, after all)

Me: “PIR’s 1/4 mile drag track”

Skyline guy (with a smile): “Oh…drag racing, how bad did he beat you?”

(at this point, pretty much all the guys in line to pay are now leaning
in to hear)

Me: “Oh, he didn’t beat us, we had the better ET”

Skyline guy: “You out-accelerated a Skyline? Must be a powerful car-
what is it?”

Me: “An electric ’72 Datsun”

Skyline guy (puzzled look on his face): “I’m sorry…I thought you said
you beat the GTR?”

Me: “Oh, we did! He ran an 11.8 – we ran a 10.4″

Skyline guy: “You beat a Skyline in a drag race, with an electric car???
How’d you do that?”

Me: “1250 ft. lbs. of torque – 538 electric horses!”

At this point, there are many jaws hanging open. I tell all, that they
can go to YouTube to see the Skyline vs Zombie race. The SCCA guy pulls his iPhone out at the same time I’m reaching for mine, and in short
order there’s twin viewing screens playing the same video…what fun!

The Skyline guy paid his bill, then a bunch of us went outside to see
the car. A good time for everyone, and a nice break in an otherwise
ordinary work day.

See Ya…John Wayland

Posted in NEDRA Discussion List Posts, Racing | Comments Off

Wayland’s 2010 Comparo – Exotic Cars vs the Zombie!

Hello to All,

Each year I try to put together something comparing the Zombie’s current performance to high powered production gas cars, and with our recent runs at the track have set out to do it again. I have been traveling a lot recently, and as I always do, I picked up a car mag or two to keep myself entertained and informed. The November issue of Car and Driver’s cover story caught my eye immediately … ‘ExotiCar Mega-Test!’ This bold title has an intro above it that reads ‘The State of the Supercar Art’, and the eye candy cover photo shows this list of formidable machines:

Audi R8 V-10
Ferrari 458 Italia
Mercedes SLS
Aston Martin V-12 Vantage
Porsche Turbo S

I love all of these cars, but I’ve always had a special place in
my heart for the Porsche Turbo – it’s a badass machine with blistering 0-60 and 1/4 mile performance! The 2011 Turbo is simply over the top! It is one of very few production gas cars no matter what the price, that can run 0-60 in under 3 seconds. Years ago I thought it would be super cool, if I could ever make my electrified Datsun out-accelerate a 911Turbo, but Porsche being Porsche, always keeps raising the ante! This year their Turbo dipped into the 2s in the 0-60 run and into the rarified 10 second ET region of the standing 1/4! With exception to the 1.4 million dollar 1005 hp Bugatti Veyron, the Porsche’s stats are simply the best for any production gas car you can buy…period! Nonetheless, I am happy to report that in terms of 0-60 and 1/4 ET, the Zombie now outguns this icon!

As always, a disclaimer before the comparo list that follows. Yes, the Zombie is not a production car you can buy, it’s a purpose built drag machine, it’s about 1200-1300 lbs. lighter than these cars, and with its high end Dow Kokam batteries it’s no longer a $15,000 car. If put in regular production, the battery pack might be in the $30,000 range, so it would be fair to project the cost of the Zombie to about $50,000 – gad, a $50,000 Datsun? The Zombie cannot begin to compete with these exotic machines when it comes to handling, top speed, comfort, and fit and finish. On the other side of things, the Zombie is a home built car without the benefit of the R&D a high end car manufacturer has at its disposal. The Zombie is still way cheaper than any of these cars, it achieves it’s performance without a drop of gas and gets the equivalent of about 200 mpg, and is still after all, a converted econo-box! It’s also fully street legal and is indeed now regularly driven practical distances with its 110-120 mile range per charge.

OK, there will be varying opinions on whether or not this is a fair comparo, but I think everyone will agree that it is very interesting! With the disclaimer out of the way, and knowing that White Zombie’s mission has always been to dispel the myth that EVs are slow, dull, and boring; check out the following:

Aston Martin V-12 Vantage… $197,165, 3738 lbs., 510hp – 420 ft. lbs., 0-60 in 4.2 seconds, 12.5 @ 117 mph 1/4 mile, 17 mpg

Audi R8 5.2 FSI… $171,900, 3671 lbs., 525hp – 391ft. lbs., 0-60 in 3.7 seconds, 12.0 @ 118 mph 1/4 mile, 17 mpg

Ferrari 458 Italia… $210,790, 3451 lbs., 562hp – 398ft. lbs., 0-60 in 3.3 seconds, 11.5 @ 125 mph 1/4 mile, 15 mpg

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG… $203,500, 3748 lbs., 563hp – 479 ft. lbs., 0-60 in 3.5 seconds, 11.6 @ 125 mph 1/4 mile, 16 mpg

Porsche 911 Turbo S… $162,460, 3491 lbs., 530hp – 516 ft. lbs., 0-60 in 2.7 seconds, 10.8 @ 129 mph 1/4 mile, 20 mpg

White Zombie … $50,000, 2348 lbs., 538hp (est) – 1250 ft. lbs. (est.), 0-60 in 1.8 seconds, 10.2 @ 123 mph 1/4 mile, 200 mpg (equiv.)

The Zombie’s hp figure listed was obtained using the Wallace Racing calculator and actual stats from time slips. Data from the car’s BMS seem to validate this ‘motor’ power level in that battery hp peaked at 981 hp with no current limits, and with limits back in place was in the 720 hp area on all of the low 10 second runs. Lightened muscle cars with a gutted interior, Lexan windows, etc. that are of simliar weight to the Zombie that weigh in the 2400-2600 lb. range need about 550-700 hp to run mid to low 10s, and heavier regular non-gutted muscle cars weighing 3000 lbs. with 500+ hp run in the mid to high 11s, so that 538 hp figure seems correct for the 2348 lb. low 10 second Zombie.

See Ya…John Wayland

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Wayland’s Recap of the Zombie’s Performance at the NEDRA Nationals – pt. 1

Hello to All,

OK, it’s now been one week since the NEDRA Nationals, so most already know that the Zombie laid down record ETs approaching (but not hitting) the 9s with four runs in the 10.2xx @ 123.xx mph range, and on the same weekend the Zombie also became the 1st street-bodied (or street legal) electric car to ever run faster than 125 mph in the 1/4 mile…but this story has already been told. What’s not yet been told, is the chain of EVents that led up to all this. It seems that immediately preceding any successful racing EVents, at least in Plasma Boy’s case, there’s always some kind of drama-trauma that has to be played out. You know that saying ‘We blow things up, so you don’t have to!’? Well, it’s safe to say I lived up to that mantra! It has always been my policy to help others learn from both our accomplishments and the mistakes we (I) make along the way. Though this is sure to be another long-winded Waylandesque tale, I’ll give you the ending up front for those who may not wish to wade through this post, summed up as follows:

  1. Because of a controller cabling error, the Zombie was insanely powerful but a nearly uncontrollable beast!
  2. Because of a controller cabling error, we learned that ‘Cool Hand Luke’ Tim Brehm has terrific sphincter control!
  3. Because of a controller cabling error, the Zombie had worse 60 ft., and higher ET numbers.
  4. Because of a controller cabling error, the Zombie blasted through the 125 mph barrier and into the Roger Hedlund 125 mph club!
  5. Because of a controller cabling error, we discovered just how much power the Dow Kokam batteries could make!
  6. Because of a controller cabling error, we learned that a Zilla Z2K can output 3000+ amps and live through it!
  7. Because of a controller cabling error, we learned that Jim Husted’s Siamese 9 can handle 3000+ amps and live through it!
  8. With the controller error corrected the Zombie posted the quickest and fastest 1/8 mile numbers of any street legal electric car!
  9. With the controller error corrected the Zombie posted the quickest 1/4 mile ET of any street legal electric car!

OK, on with the story…

Team member Gaylen Aust wrote:

Some nut that changed the Zilla the week prior for reasons I will not say had reversed 2 motor leads that caused it to not current limit.

That would be me :-)

It all started out quite innocently, really. I had been out in the Wayland EV laboratory the week before the NEDRA Nationals, all by myself and in quite a relaxed mood as I was tidying up things on the car, checking this and that out to make sure the car would be ready for the following week’s racing weekend. I decided to freshen-up the 12V system’s 13.4V battery and hooked up a charger to a connection point under the hood, as I’d done many times before. There was a design flaw at the main 12V circuit breaker that I had made note of and needed to change to avoid a possible electrical catastrophe. It was wired in a fashion where the 50 amp Anderson charger input port was on the load side while the battery positive cable was on the other. Connected this way, if the breaker was flipped ‘open’ the charge port was disconnected from the battery while still being connected to ‘certain’ 12V loads. It was a simple error I had made where the 8 gauge loop end connector off the positive leg of the Anderson connector was secured to the wrong side of the circuit breaker…I knew about it and was going to get it changed around, but then I forgot to actually do it. No problem, because as long as the breaker was closed the charge port was connected to the battery B+. Because of the 13.4V battery’s need to go to 16+ volts to get a full charge and because other more important items on the car took precedence over finishing a dedicated charger for this battery, I had gotten lazy and would connect a mighty PFC50 charger to the 12V system’s charge port. Continuing the lazy theme, I didn’t bother to readjust the fully charged voltage set point either, because I never charged it this way without being ‘right there’ watching both charging amps and the rising battery voltage and being ready to shut it down manually. I know, I know, it was a bad idea.

So anyway…I had just plugged the 50 amp Anderson extension cable from the PFC50 into the car, set the current knob to a low area, and flipped the charger’s breaker on. I had walked away and was on the other side of the shop when I heard a sound that made my stomach ache…’BZZ-ZAPP-ZORCH’!!!!! This all too familiar sound was accompanied by a mini mushroom cloud rising from of all things, the Zilla’s Hairball! As I rushed to get back to the charger’s breaker the sounds worsened to where I could hear popping noises that resembled fire crackers going off as the acrid smell of vaporized silicon filled the shop air! Once I had the power shut down, the Hairball continued to sizzle and smoke …it ‘was not’ a good situation :-( I had of course, failed to close the car’s 12V system breaker, thus the PFC50′s output was unloaded and had sent 480+ volts through the Hairball! In the horror of the moment my thought turned to the charger – had I blown it up as well? They are known to not like being unloaded. My mind then switched to the Zilla itself. Could the unleashed high voltage have traveled through the data cable and into the Zilla’s internal electronics board? Man oh man, this was definitely not a good situation! It was late at night, I had to go to work early the next morning, and so after waiting to make sure nothing might erupt into flames, I closed down the shop and went back to the house to go to bed. Yes, I actually had nightmares about what I had done.

Following work the next day, I went back out to the shop to do a post-mortem. Pulling the still-pungent smelling Hairball and carrying it to the workbench, a couple of good shakes turned this Zilla control box into a fairly effective maraca. Inside, it was as ugly as it gets :-( Bye, bye, Hairball! No problem, I’m a quad Zilla guy – got a Z2K in the Zombie, a Z1K in the Meanie, a spare Z2K on the shelf and next to it a spare Z1K. Oh-oh, wait…that’s right, I had loaned my spare Z2K to Madman Rudman…no wait, it had come back on a ride south from Seattle to Portland with Mike Willmon…no wait, inside the box was the Z2K but no Hairball…oh yeah, that’s right, he had kept the Hairball but returned the Zilla…damn! Hey, that’s OK, there’s still that brand new Z1K in the box…I’ll use its Hairball. And so I did – got it all mounted and hooked up, had the car up on jack stands, then tried to power things up…silence, no ‘click’ of the main contactor, and a glowing error light on the Hairball :-( Oh no, had the high voltage of the 12V line made its way to the Bubba contactor’s coil? These babies go for a cool $1000 nowadays – time to meter-out the coil. Whew, Bubba OK and clicks in nicely with an external 12V input – OK, dodged that bullet. Checking the codes of the Hairball, one kept cropping up, the dreaded ’1132′ code ‘Controller did not communicate during precharge’! Calls on the secret Bat Cave line to Otmar were ‘interesting’ and to my surprise, my longtime friend didn’t scold me at all – whew! He didn’t feel the high volts would have migrated down the data cable into the Zilla to damage things, but subsequent tries at everything to wake up the Zilla failed – more of that sick stomach feeling. Time to pull the other Z2K out of the box. Removing the shock therapy brain dead Z2k, I took the time to clean off the power cables to make them conform to my wiring neatness standards, as someone had marked them with goofy white dots from a white-out pen…note to self: sometimes having cables clearly labeled is a good thing. Once the backup Z2K #2 was mounted and hooked up, the car woke up on 1st try and all was well again – well, except for one fried Hairball and a dead Z2K. At this point I am now down to no spare Z2K with a racing weekend approaching, and a Z1K minus its requisite Hairball interface.

A new problem arose though, when trying to feather-on the throttle, as the motor would instead jump to a fast idle type rpm, then after that not-so-subtle ramp up, it was very controllable…hmmm. I left the car up on the jack stands. Monday night, Sept. 6, after we were both off work, Gaylen showed up to pull the rear end so we could do the 3:70 to 3:50 gear swap…the races were just 4 days away. Gaylen lives very close to our great sponsor FabTek, so before starting work Tuesday morning, he delivered the rear end to FabTek’s Bob Wescot could set up the Strange differential with the new gear set. Bob had previously sent the 3:50 gear set out to have the same special low friction process done to them, as we had done to the 3:70 set. The 3:50 gear set was not new…they had been given to me from a friend who runs an 8 second class rail dragster, and the set actually came from his friend who races in the same points series – nice gasser guys who just wanted to see the little Datsun go quicker and faster :-) Trying to avoid last minute work on the car, we had hoped to get the diff. back Tuesday night, but business is good for FabTek right now and Bob couldn’t finish it until the following day, Wednesday. Bob had trouble getting to the job on Wednesday too, but being the good guy he is, he stayed late finishing it by around 7 pm! Gaylen picked up the rear end in the early-evening, then arrived at my place to put the rear axle assembly back together. Spinning things up with the car still off the ground, we were both taken back by a very loud gear whine…I mean LOUD! Just what I needed, more problems just before a big NEDRA race weekend!

Thursday, the day before the races, Gaylen and I took the car out for ride to see if the gears would be safe to run on. From Gaylen:

…we head down the road and he just barely gets into it and the back kicked out and the car just took off. I can say that I have never been in a car that accelerated that fast it was insane but so much fun.

Yes, the Zombie had more power than I had ever experienced! It was weird though, because other than the slight lurch on what would otherwise have been a butter-smooth take-off, the car was easily driven with smooth throttle response – but when you pushed your foot down harder, there seemed to suddenly be hundreds of horsepower more! I know, many of you are thinking, “For crying out loud, it’s a 10 second street car”, but trust me on this, it felt way stronger than that! At the time, we couldn’t quite figure it out, and so chalked it up to the gear ratio change…silly us! Back in the EV shop, opening the trunk to check the batteries out, I was quite surprised to see many red LED low voltage set point lights on…what the heck? I had the battery current limit set to 1500 amps. With the low volt set point adjusted to 2.8V per cell, even with 1800 battery amps dialed in, they had never come on before, why were they coming on now? With the charger connected and cranked to 29.7 amps, the pack was initially at 396V (a cool 11.7 kW charge rate) and it quickly came back up to 400V at low current as all the green bypass LEDs winked, reset the BMS, and knocked out the red LED low volt indicators. Hmmm…it didn’t take much of a charge to turn off the telltale red LEDs, so the pack was never at a low SOC…hmmm.

Friday arrived with c-cold temps, dark grey skies, and a chill in the air that promised a night of poor traction at the track. July’s mid 90 temps were a warm memory, it was September now and summer was definitely slipping through our fingers here in Oregon. Though forecasted to be in the low 70s, I think it never got any warmer than just above 60 degrees. By the time we arrived the track it was early evening and the temperature was down to the mid-50s. The conditions were bad with a cold track surface – even the low hp street cars were having traction problems.

Our first run of the night was at 7:28, a run I’ll remember for a very long time. Steve ‘The Taunter’ Schrab had picked a hot Firebird running 11s as our first match up. Realizing traction was going to be an issue, Tim and I discussed the importance of getting the tires as hot and sticky as we could, so the burnout was spectacular! Tim didn’t waste any time staging so as to keep the tires warm, but when the tree sent him on his way, instead of our usual ‘stick & go’ hole shot, the Zombie instead lit up the G Force drag radials like a funny car! The Firebird got a decent 1.748 second 60 ft., while the Zombie’s fog show gave us a miserable 2.480 second 60 ft. The Firebird left the Zombie far behind and roared on to a quick 11.697 ET, while the Zombie’s tires kept smoking – 40,50,60,70,80 mph and they’re still boiling! I’ve had this car at speed with the tires breaking loose – not a good situation in a short wheel base car, and I knew what was coming next as the blood surely drained from my face. Then it happened. The Zombie pitched sideways then fishtailed as it tried to get away from Tim, but he would have none of that and he expertly kept control of the car. The gasps from the bleachers turned to cheers as the Zombie rocked to a full stop, albeit a bit sideways out on the track. Tim then planted his foot back down to show the car who was boss, and even after coming to a full stop, managed to run 14.553 @ 113.06 mph.

Back in the pit area the Firebird driver joined us, wondering what had happened to the little electric car he was convinced was going to blow him away, as we all tried to regain our composure after such a scary run. Laptop screens were glowing while connected to the Zombie gathering data, but there other things glowing as well – those red LED low volt telltales again. Bruce ‘Doc’ Sherry’s wonderful Manzanita Micro BMS system had the evidence we were looking for and showed that the stout Dow Kokam cells had dipped to 2.44V! What?? It takes HUGE amounts of current to make them dip that low! What was going on here?

We reduced the battery amps and motor amps numbers in Hairball, and sent Tim back to the track, where at 8:12 he was staged at the tree. Things were still not right, as the tires refused to grip, we got another 2+ second 60 ft., and we still could not get back into the 10s with an 11.008 @ 122.28 mph pass. The only good thing was that trap speed of 122 mph, the fastest the Zombie had ever run in the 1/4 mile.

Back in the pit we again saw the red LEDs, but the Dow Kokams had not broken a sweat and were barely warm to the touch. We force-cooled the motor with cold compressed air and looked at data again, Dr. Sherry looking at BMS info and ReVolt’s Mark Farver looking at the DAQ4 Hairball info. Mark tired to tell us about the odd fact he was not seeing ‘any’ amperage readings and that they all came in as ’0′…hmmm. Should have listened to him. Meanwhile, the rest of us ampheads were adjusting tire pressure for the next run.

At 9:26 Tim and the Zombie were back on the line while the rest of us were zipping up our hoodies trying to stay warm. Another poor launch at 2+ seconds 60 ft. and another 1/8 mile at over 7 seconds, but in spite of smoking tires and constant wheel spin we finally got back to the 10s with a 10.846 @ 124.91 mph pass. Though nearly a half second slower than July 30th’s record 10.40 run, we had just raised the bar for an electric street car trap speed and by the narrowest of margins had just missed getting into the 125 mph club! It looked like the decision to go taller to a 3:50 gear ratio was the right choice. Back in the pit area once again, we saw the red LEDs. A quick recharge turned them back off, so again the pack was not depleted in any way…hmmm.

The car was back at the tree at 10.08 for what would be the final run of the night for us. It was just too cold, the track was not being cooperate traction wise, and the Zombie was still a real handful to keep straight. We were all concerned for Tim’s safety and I was ready to pull the plug if things got worse…and they did! I think Roderick Wilde covered this better than I can:

The Zombie had been having massive traction problems all night. Tim was trying to get the tires a bit stickier, but the batteries didn’t care. When he launched it still boiled the the tires until it hit about 80 mph and then came up into one of the best wheelstands I’ve seen in years. It was long and drawn out and came down like the nose on on jetliner on landing, nice and easy, and shot straight forward. It crossed the eighth mile at 108.57 mph. At this time it had left the nitrous enhanced Dodge Charger in the left-over tire smoke from the launch. He crossed the finish line and into the history books as being the first street bodied car on this planet to break 125 mph with a speed of 126.01 mph. This put the car firmly in NEDRA’s Roger Hedlund 125 mph club.

The ET was the best of the night at 10.542 and though the Zombie easily took out the 500+ hp Nitrous Hemi Charger, it was still not as good as we had done back in late July (10.400). As Rod pointed out, we at least set a new number for street EVs in terms of trap speed….still, it’s the ET that counts. After the power wheelstand at speed where the ~ 80 mph wind under the car appeared to have kept the car’s nose floating in the air (visions of the car lifting higher and flipping over), I had seen enough and made the decision we would not be going back out. There was a new forecast calling for mid 70s on Saturday, and with the prospect of a warmer and hopefully stickier track, we were determined to return the next night to get the job done.

To be continued…

See Ya…John ‘Plasma Boy’ Wayland

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Wayland’s Recap of the Zombie’s Performance at the NEDRA Nationals – pt. 2

Hello to All,

We had left off:

After the power wheelstand at speed…I had seen enough and made the decision we would not be going back out. There was a new forecast calling for mid 70s on Saturday, and with the prospect of a warmer and hopefully stickier track, we were determined to return the next night to get the job done.

Saturday arrived with more ocean clouds blanketing the Portland metro area, but it was still warmer than Friday’s unfriendly weather. We all gathered at the Village Inn for the traditional Electric Breakfast show & shine EVent, and it was as usual, a great time for all. As the hours clicked by, the clouds gave way to warm sunshine and clear skies. We had all hoped for this so the track could be heated up all day for a better night of racing.

Back at the Wayland EV Juice Bar, everyone did their typical fix and repair thing before the night of racing. We were still perplexed as to why the Zilla in the Zombie was being so unruly with it’s not-so-smooth throttle making for jerky take-offs from rest in mild street driving, and of course its insane power bursts whenever pressing hard on the Go pedal. It was also weird to see those red low Volt set point LEDs lit up on the battery pack modules, even after brief throttle jabs on the street – accompanied by instant twin black marks on the road! The pack was still measuring 4.05V per cell even with the tell-tale LEDs glowing. What the heck?

Once again, in a non-typical mode, we all left for the track on time and we caravaned down to the track. It was now in the mid-70s and it was windows down driving. Upon arrival, we could tell this night was much busier and had to wait in line for nearly 1/2 hour. After tech-in and a recharge to top the pack off, we were ready to see what the night had in store for us. There was a group of bracket racers running 9-11 second cars, so lots of rubber was being laid down and the track was the opposite of Friday night’s horrible conditions, with a hot sticky surface to give good launches…we would soon explore this situation like never before!

Tim and I discussed the technique to hopefully get the car to hook up, which included dropping the tire pressure in back and doing extended burnouts to ensure hot sticky tires. It worked, but just a tad bit too well! The car had crazy wheel stand launches that continued even after leaving the 60ft. area and the nose popped up multiple times as the Zombie went down the track. A longtime drag racing friend, Bob, was on hand to give his always respected analysis of what was going on. He helped us adjust the pre-load of the CalTrac bars, but that made the car hook up even harder! Turning down the battery and motor amps in the Hairball had no effect, and each time Tim returned after a run, he had that look on his face of ‘HOLY sh#%&*tt!!!’ We ran high 10s and an 11 flat, not bad but not as good as in late July when we ran 10.4. The cell low set point LEDs were always lit after the pass, yet the pack seemed unaffected and was at very good cell EQ and SOC. Doc Sherry was pointing out the lowest sag levels per cell that we had never seen before and suggested that we were somehow pulling really BIG currents to make then dip to around 2.5V per cell. Meanwhile poor Mark Farver was still trying to get me to pay attention to his warnings that something was not right in the Zilla’s data that contained no amp readings. I had both Bruce Sherry and Mark Farver with their respective laptops connected to all the Zombie’s electronics pulling data and helping us try to solve the problem at hand…note to self: ‘listen’ to them!

Otmar joined in with us while we were all trying to figure things out, as we decided to simply pull my Zilla and swap it out for the one from Otmar’s 914 Porsche…and that’s when he noticed that some idiot had reversed the B- and M- power cables at the controller’s lug terminals! Remember that bit about how I had removed those annoying white marker dots? From my pt.1 story:

I took the time to clean off the power cables to make them conform to my wiring neatness standards, as someone had marked them with goofy white dots from a white-out pen…note to self: sometimes having cables clearly labeled is a good thing.

This ‘unique’ way of connecting a Zilla resulted in an interesting situation to where the controller still worked and still varied the speed to the motor, but it was running blind as to how much current it was making. Here’s the deal…the B- and M- power studs enter the Zilla and are bolted directly to the two ends of an internal shunt. If you were to measure this chunk of metal with a simply DVM it would be pretty much at 0 ohms, but it is of course, it’s not exactly 0, and from one end to the other it generates a varying amount of mv in proportion to the amps flowing through it to tell the Zilla’s brain what’s going on. With the two power cables reversed, the controller still had a B- input to operate on, and the motor as well, had its B- to operate on. The Zilla could still output the pulsed B+ juice to the motor, but it had no idea as to how much juice it was sending. In fact, as it was sending pulses out, it was probably saying ‘Huh? No amps yet? OK, I’ll send more!”…reminds me of ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’…”Mom, he’s a vegetarian” – (Greek mother’s reaction)…”What, he don’t eat meat? – OK, I make you lamb!” Good thing Otmar over-built his creation, because absent feedback from its internal shunt it just kept cranking up the amps to the tune of more than 3000 amps! How do we know this? OK, we really don’t know the exact figure right now, but we do have a pretty good idea based on the cell volt sag we saw in the BMS data, the lowest being 2.44V under the highest loads – thus those 2.8V low set point LEDs lighting up!

Here’s how we have figured things. Note that we have also talked with our good friend and engineer at Dow Kokam on this and he too, is working on the data we provided him to see just how much juice we actually pulled from those ultra high power cells. At the near-400V pack level, the Zilla will limit its max battery input to 1800 amps, and we have very accurate data on cell sag at 1800 amps, that being 3.12V for a paralleled pair or 900 amps per cell. The cells sit at 4.13V or so off of charge, and settle in to 4.05V after pulling them down a bit, then just stay there. The cells sag from 4.05V to 3.12V @ 900 amps. From what we’ve seen all along as we’ve gradually pulled increasing amps from the battery pack (that is until the 9-10 thru 9-11 weekend’s crazy stunt), the cells seem to be very linear and predictable. I saw this trait last Winter when initially testing the cells. We saw it as we started using the pack in the car, and we continue to see it. Subtracting 3.12V from 4.05V, we get a .93V drop, so that is .103V per 100 amps pulled. Now, knowing the cells sagged to 2.44V with the unlimited Zilla doing its thing, we see the cells dipped 1.61V…divide that by .103 and you get 15.63 times, or 1563 amps per cell! In the paralleled pairs then, this was 3126 amps! There are 96 pairs of 3.7V cells to get the pack’s 355V nominal rating, but at the 2.44V per cell low point this was 234.2V @ 3126 amps, or a whopping 732 kW of power for 981 hp! I had written a long time ago as we were creating the pack for the Zombie, that it would make 926 hp and it seemed that some thought that might have been an exaggeration. From my 11-28-09 post entitled ‘Dow/Kokam Powered Zombie…10s in 2010! (pt. 3)’:

I wanted to assemble these cells into modules. I worked closely with Rich Rudman on this with many brainstorming sessions over pie and scribbled-on napkins, and also with him back in Missouri where we ran the concept past the Kokam engineering team. The idea was to keep the design clean, simple, and accessible. It’s the accessible part that dictated a modular design, because having a large assembly of cells all ganged together in the trunk space of the car, makes a package that although small compared to the lead acid pack, is still too heavy and bulky to work on. It also makes it difficult to quickly get to cells if there’s a problem. With a possible TV show in the works (more on this in pt.4) and with Kokam interested in being a supplier of cells for that project, I wanted the modular design so other packs could be configured by adjusting the numbers of and the placement of modules for a given vehicle. Other factors that shaped the module’s design were weight, physical size, shape, current carrying ability, and cell numbers per module. I wanted each module to not be too heavy, so 35-37 lbs. was the goal. Rudman’s newest BMS board is an 8 channel unit, meaning it can keep track of 8 cells (or 8 paralleled groups of cells). At 1.8 lbs. per cell, and needing to have pairs of cells in parallel, a 2P X 8S, 16 cell module made sense. Each module would be made of tough clear Lexan, and the cell’s output tabs would be tied together with high current nickel plated copper buss and clamp bars. With just shy of 29 lbs. of active material (cells) and the heavy 3-4 lbs. of copper interconnects (needed to pass 2.4 kiloamps), hitting that 35-37 lb. goal would be a challenge. At 29.6V, 64 ahr @ C2, and ~36 lbs. per module, and with pack voltage, space constraints, and a pack target weight including cabling and hold-downs of 450-460 lbs., I went with a 12 module, 192 cell design for a 355V nominal, 22.7 kWhr @ C2 power package capable of outputting 2.4 kiloamps for 10 seconds! The very low voltage sag at high currents is very impressive with these particular cells. Graphs provided by Kokam reveal that for every 5C rate of discharge, the cell sags ~.1V, so beginning at 3.8V if one were to extract 150 amps, the cell drops to 3.7V, and at 10C or 300 amps, it goes to 3.6V, so at its continuous rating of 20C or 600 amps, the cell drops and stays at 3.4V…this is very impressive stuff! In theory, at the 10 second rate of 40C -1200 amps, the cell still hangs at 3V! Do the math for our 2P96S pack, and this equates to a staggering 691 kW! It’s amazing, that 345 lbs. of Kokam cells will generate 926 battery hp! This is terrific power density.

Well, as the bad toys out for a night on the town say in that great Kia commercial (music by The Heavy) say, ‘How you like me now?” As is typical from what we’ve seen with Dow Kokam’s cells, they have once again exceeded their specs, in that the Sept. ’09 predicted 926 hp actually turned out to be 981 hp! Note that a year ago I had said “Graphs provided by Kokam reveal that for every 5C rate of discharge, the cell sags ~.1V”…looks like these guys know their cells, as we saw .103V per 100 amps pulled – lining right up to that ~.1V per 100 amps from the Dow Kokam specs! Of course, the Zombie’s motor didn’t make 981 hp, but it’s a good guess it was well over 700 hp at times. No wonder the car went airborne at 80 mph on Friday night and did monster wheel stands on Saturday night! 700+ hp in a 2348 lb. car is for now, too much power. I know, I know, I’ve always subscribed to the notion that ‘too much is just right’, but watching Tim save the car numerous times (and himself) plus seeing much worse ETs with this level confirms it was way too much.

Getting back to the story…once we had the controller swap done, with the Zombie up on blocks in the pits the more typical butter-smooth throttle response was back. Having survived crazy power levels, we were no longer too afraid to crank the Zilla all the way up, which we did with 2000 battery amps and the full 2000 motor amps. As noted earlier, the Zilla would only pull 1800 battery amps due to our pack’s near 400V level. The next trip to the line was entirely different. The Zombie simply stuck, raised up the body level, then shot straight and true to the tune of a 10.258 @ 123.58 mph establishing the best ET ever for a street legal electric car…cheers from the bleachers and lots of sighs of relief!

Back in the pit, Tim said the car was boring now :-) Not a single red LED could be found, and the pack had stayed right near 300V for the run… if my memory serves me correctly, Doc Sherry figured it went to 305V @ 1800 amps…incredible cells! The car didn’t spin much, and simply took care of business, knocking down run after run in the 10.2-10.3 range, all at 122-123 mph. With it’s 110-120 mile range per charge energy density, the last two runs on of 10.261 @ 123.54 mph and 10.287 @ 123.38 mph were done without prior recharges, then the car was driven a bit hard leaving the track, then driven 16 miles uphill back home. The next morning the 3.7V nominal cells were at 3.87V, and not a single red LED could be found!

It was a weekend we’ll all remember for a long time, and though we didn’t make it to the 9s, none of us are too upset about only running 10.2 with a street legal electric car! We had gone to the dark side of electric power, but lived to tell about it. That being said and strange as it seems right now, Otmar and I have been scheming together again just as it was all those years ago during the skunkworks days. With some new ideas about Zilla current control mods, and with more suspension work to the car, we’ll return to the dark side in 2011 as we head into the single digit ETs! A note on safety here…my accidental mod to my Zilla is not something anyone should purposefully do in terms of safety and in terms of possible damage to an expensive Zilla Z2K. The controller was not intended to run this way, and I in no way am recommending it. It does however underscore the high degree of ruggedness Otmar designed into this mighty controller!

Thanks go out to our sponsors, the Plasma Boy Team, and all our friends who were there to cheer us on.

See Ya…John ‘Plasma Boy’ Wayland

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Rich Brown: “..scares the crap out of any sane person”

This is Rich Brown (the former owner of the Dualin’7) on John Waylands nifty iBook G4. Last night was the first NEDRA event I have been to since 2003. I arived early and saw all the EV folks arrive and re- introduced myself to many. It was good to see many old friends.

Now let’s talk about the Zombie, the little white Datsun that scares the crap out any sane person. On the first run we all made our way to the stands in anticipation of a now “routine” 11 second or so run.  They had just gone to a lower numerical ratio differential gear set.  I thought it would take them a while to get it dialed in.  The Zombie rolls into the bleach box…sets the line lock and lights up those fat drag radials like a Hollywood smoke machine on steroids…billowing clouds of smoke that that creep up and envelope the Zombie like an evil fog.  When the Zombie fired off the start the tires spun as if the bleach box was filled with oil. Tires yelled “mercy” and Fearless Tim had to let up then pound the throttle again…the powerful Dow Kokam batteries still had more power than the tires could handle. Tim went sideways and fishtailed and there was a simultaneous gasp from the crowd. As bad as the traction was he had an E.T. of 11.0x seconds!

We all rerturned to the pits to see if Tim needed a change of shorts, but he was cool as ever. John is lucky to have a cool hand like Tim driving his Zombie.

Curious about this high powered Dow Kokam Li-polymer pack, I thought I would take a look at the trunk area. You walk up to the Zombie in the pits and there is a team of people around the car two people pouring over battery data on a laptop, another pluging in the charger, another handling the charger and spider box, there is a dedicated videographer and dedicated still photographer. There is of course, the master builder and promoter, John and a cadre of on lookers. But I digress…it was getting dark and as I peered into the trunk at the pack of batteries that turn this little Datsun with attitude into a fire breathing monster (literally), I saw little blue lights and some little red lights and little flashing green lights, commincation cables  and lots of Lexan.

Stolen Alien Propulsion System

This confirmed  my thoughts that John had actually stolen this power system from a crashed alien space craft.

When John first saw his new battery management system, designed by Bruce Sherry, he must have…well you can just imagine what went on in his shorts.

Ok, run two was not as scary as the first, but again the Zombie had trouble controlling the massive power being fed to it by the mighty Zilla and Dow Kokam batteries. When the tires did finally hook up to the track, it was like the Zombie was shot out of a cannon – or they had a secret nitrous button. It passed the gas car it was racing like a cartoon and left it spinning behind, at least the gasser guy’s  head was spinning. This run was 10.8 at 124.xx mph.

It was time for the last run of the night. Everybody headed for the stands to get a good seat for this much anticipated spectacle.  The two previous runs had been exciting, but we had no idea what was about to happen. Tim made the Zombie put up probably the largest cloud of smoke I’ve ever seen from a tire burn out. He was determined to make those tires warm and sticky.  This time Tim himself fanned his door to try to relieve the interior of smoke…the crowd laughed, I think to relieve some of the tension. Tim was racing another gasser that made some smoke of his own.  The the two cars were staged and the tree lights were counting down. The gasser took off, but the Zombie couldn’t get traction. About 80ft out and 80 mph suddenly those sorely abused drag radials caught hold of pavement and the Zombie transformed from a little tire burner to a fire breathing monster. The front tires lifted almost a foot off the ground from the massive application of horsepower, breathing fire from the motors. As the Zombie shot forward it gently settled to ground  and passed the gasser again leaving him in the dust to wonder what just happened to him.

That was the most exciting EV drag run I have ever seen. It is all on video and I am sure will be posted somewhere soon, but it can not do justice to being there at that moment, at that time to witness history.

Heart Still Pounding,

Rich Brown
SC/E Record holder

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More Zombie Street Driving

I’m enjoying getting used to the Zombie’s increased range that the compact 22.7 kWh Dow Kokam pack provides. I’ve had the occasion to play around with tire pressure, and having had a special low friction process done to the ring and pinion gears, and am happy to report the Zombie’s Wh per mile has improved as a result. With the rear tires now set to 40 psi for street driving and in mostly freeway type driving at 60-65 mph speeds, the Zombie is in the 190-195 Wh per mile area. It’s still not as good as Blue Meanie, but considering the big footprint in back, a sub-200 Wh per mile is pretty good.

Two runs from the Wayland home downhill to the airport, then back uphill to home again at 14 miles round trip have given me some good data. Both times, at 27 amps charge current -r amping down to 25 amps, then to a one minute finish rate much lower, it took about 17 minutes to recharge the pack to where the regs were all lit up with all cells very well equalized…call it 27 amps for 15 minutes. This represents ~7 ah put back into the pack. Usually, one uses the nominal pack voltage to figure watt hours consumed, but to be as accurate as possible I used the actual voltage of the pack for the run. That started out as 391V under light loads and going downhill at freeway speeds, and it was in the 385V range returning uphill at 65 mph – call it 390 pack volts to be on the conservative side of things. 7 ah X 390V = 2730 watt hours. 2730 /14 = 195 Who per mile. The 355V pack can easily give 55 ah while not fully draining it (it’s rated at 60 ah @ C5 and 64 ah @ C2). 55ah / 7ah comes to 7.85. If the car uses 7 ah to travel 14 miles, then the math is 7.85 x 14 = 110 miles.

It seems my early estimates of 90-100 miles of mixed regular driving, and 110-120 miles at steady state highway cruising is still reasonable. I’ve got an 85 mile run from Portland to Corvallis planned in about two weeks for a Wayland/Otmar test session where he and I will take data and investigate the high voltage – parallel bucking problem we had, so it’s good to explore the capabilities of this pack in these incremental ways before taking on a longer range run. I think a few 60-70 mile runs are in order, too. The Zombie is rock’n pretty hard in straight series mode, so I have no plans to go back to the series/parallel shift for now…in fact, after Otmar and I have had our weekend session, I will be simplifying-rewiring the motor loop circuits removing the series/parallel contactors completely.

See Ya…John Wayland

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My Favorite Datsun vs Godzilla Story so Far!

Hello to All,

As many probably already know, ever since we ran out back-to-back 10.4 second runs, the Internet has been set ablaze with various versions of what happened on July 30th. One of my sponsors has found perhaps the best one yet, and has turned me on to it…now I’m turning you all on to it. The record run of 10.400 was against Japan’s super car, the Skyline GTR. Other than their use of the old torque specs for the Siamese 8 (772 ft. lbs. instead of the est. 1250 ft.lbs. of the Siamese 9) and their claim that the Zombie is an all wheel drive (not), the rest is very well written, and oh-so entertaining!

I hate showing GT-Rs losing (and thankfully, those videos are so few and far between that I never really have to) but this one is too cool to pass up. Of course, the ’72 Datsun 1200 in question (affectionately called White Zombie) is no normal Datsun. This 1200 runs off an all electric drive-train which delivers an immediate 772 pounds of torque. That’s right, 772 pounds of torque delivered to all 4 wheels the second the accelerator is hit. That power makes this Datsun the fastest electric car on Earth. This incredible vehicle uses a cavalcade of batteries to power the vehicle for as much as 100 miles of driving, or if you’re more interested in speed than conservation, 1/4 mile of all-out hauling ass. The EV Datsun 1200 hits 0-60 in 1.8 seconds and finishes a 1/4 mile run at a very very respectable 10.4 seconds. Not even the monster that is Godzilla can top this thing. The stats are impressive, but it’s even more fun to watch. If you don’t get a sick laugh watching a ’72 Datsun 1200 run a 10 second 1/4 mile, you probably don’t have a car-loving soul.


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Street Driving the Lithium-powered Zombie – 48 miles on less than 50% battery use!

It’s always good when actual results verify previously crunched numbers :-) As we were designing and building the Zombie’s Dow Kokam LiPol pack, with 22.7 kWh available @ C2, and with my up-close familiarity with Datsun 1200s ( I have a pair of electrified ones), I had predicted 110-120 miles per charge at easy freeway cruising, and under not-so-perfect conditions 90-100 miles. Many doubt it, when I report that Blue Meanie only consumes about 178-185 Wh per mile, but the reality is, those are the numbers. The Datsun 1200 coupe is a small car, thus it has a small frontal area, and stock the little Datsun only weighed 1587 lbs. Blue Meanie is fitted with 175/70/13 LRR Goodyear tires pumped up to 50 psi, its wheel bearings are easy-rolling, and its rear end has the stock small case pumpkin that again, has little drag. With 700 lbs. of Hawker lead and a hefty quad subwoofer stereo system adding weight, the car weighs 2450 lbs. and can go 40-45 miles at 45-50 mph speeds with a lead acid pack that only has 7.9 kWh of energy.

The Zombie of course, is a different story! In back, everything is wrong for range. There’s a large and heavy Dutchman Street/Strip racing housing fitted with beefy (heavy) parts…there’s a Ford 9 inch differential with its low pinion angle well known to be inefficient, 31 spline racing axles (heavy), large case bearings (heavy), and traction assist devices attached (heavy). Then there’s 15 x 8 wheels (huge for a little 1200 that came stock with 12 x 4 wheels) fitted with 225/50/15 rubber (huge for a little 1200 that came stock with 155/80/12 tires). Pushing 9.5 inches of rubber down the road is not conducive for high efficiency! The extra weight of the sub frame connectors and heavier gauge floor steel added weight. The larger diameter Siamese 9 motor, too, adds weight. Bigger ‘everything’ in the front suspension added weight, but not as much as you might think – read on.

To fight the weight increases hi pro components often add. a lot of thought has gone into the design of the 2010 Zombie – a lot of it! The weight savings actually started a few years ago when I switched out the steel Ford 9 inch housing to a racer’s all aluminum ‘Strange’ housing…28 lbs. dropped from the car. Before last week’s 10.4 runs, we had a special process done to the ring and pinion gears that greatly reduce their friction – the gears came back looking as if they were chrome plated. This year, the addition of monster-sized rear ‘Wilwood’ drag discs & 4-piston calipers that replace the heavy Ford drum brakes, in addition to adding tremendous stopping power, also shaved a tidy 12.4 lbs. off each side for 25 lbs. weight savings. Out of interest, these 11.5 inch rotors are nearly the same diameter as the car’s original 12 inch wheels! Likewise, the new CalTrac traction bar/link type system that replaces the old traction bars, in addition to their awesome hard-launch axle control, it’s only 2 lbs. off each side, but that’s another 4 lbs. off the car. To make room for the w-i-d-e rims in back, I had Dutchman Motorsports chop and narrow the custom rear housing 1 inch on each side…again a small weight decrease, but it’s still 2lbs. of steel gone. Though way bigger than the outgoing 14 x 6 rims with 215/60/14 G. Force tires, the because American Racing has always focused on wheel strength with light weight, the 15 x 8 ‘Torque Thrust D’ rims with 225/50/15 G Force tires are only 3 lbs. more per side. In terms of tire drag, there’ not much to do with this, other than pump them up to 42 psi for street running (we lower them to 20 psi at the drag track).

Up front, weight savings were thought of throughout the design process of the new suspension and brakes. We started with much more robust (heavier) Datsun 280ZX struts that come with big 10.75 inch, ventilated rotors (stock 1200 are 8 inch solid). These at first, really increase the weight, going from the 1200′s 37 lb. strut/brake assembly to the Z’s 54 lb. assembly for each side. Again, we worked to make things better. We had to create new hubs to convert from the Nissan 4 on 4.5 bolt pattern to the new Nissan/Ford 5 on 4.5 bolt pattern, so we made the hubs from high strength aluminum…nearly 4 lbs. off each hub. The new ‘Brembo’ rotors were custom cross-drilled to knock 1.7 lbs. off each ventilated rotor. New aluminum caliper brackets replaced the stock steel ones. Eibach adjustable coil-over springs are lighter but stronger…the list goes on. The new ‘skinnies’ up front replace the old fatter 13 inch setup comprised of 13 x 5.5 rims with 185/55/13 rubber. The new 15 x 4 American Racing ‘Torque Thrust D’ rims with 145/65/15 LRR EcoContact tires are 5.5 lighter per side! Of course, all new bearings ensure smooth rolling, too.

My thoughts in this design process, were to make the Zombie handle better, stop better, and roll easier down the track track, while also doing the same on the open highway. The super low rolling front end should help make up for the sins of fat drag tires and beefy axle assembly in back.

I had predicted that while not as thrifty as its brother Blue Meanie in terms of lowest rolling resistance, with its lighter curb weight of ~ 2300 lbs. vs the Meanie’s 2450 lbs. and all the above tricks, the car might come in at 190 – 210 Wh per mile, and if so, with a max. of 22.7 kWh capacity in the tank, the car could do 110-120 miles on the open highway, and less at around 90-100 miles in mixed style driving round town.

Yesterday morning, I had a meeting with Bob Fagliano and a body/paint shop, so off I went for a fairly long street drive in the Zombie. It needs to be noted, that I forgot to re-air the rear tires that were still dropped to a baggy 20 psi for track racing. The lithium pack was fully charged over the weekend and sitting at 395V, as is normal for this 355V nominal rated pack. It settles in at a lower 191V or so, and hangs in the 180V range initially driving on the freeway. This was the pack’s 6th cycle. so the cells are starting to get broken in a bit more. I haven’t repaired all the ‘Murphy’s law’ problems we had last weekend, so the car’s dash was dark….blown Emeter, blown EVision system…only a trusty 0-15V gauge analog was left functioning to tell me the ~ voltage point of the 13.4V Thunder Sky 12V system battery. Anyway, off I went in the Zombie with a lot of faith in the Dow Kokam cells to not let me down.

Distilling this story down a bit – I traveled from Portland, past Oregon City, into West Linn, then into Lake Oswego, then back home for 48 miles of driving (checked on Bob’s Mercedes odometer who paced me the entire way). About 2/3 of it was at 65 mph freeway speeds, and the rest was stop and go with some pretty good hills along the way near Lake Oswego. Near home at the 45 mile point I had some guys in a Mitsu Eclipse running along with me on the 205 freeway, and to change lanes and so gave them a little demonstration of Zombie go-power. I stabbed throttle to accelerate away and over two lanes….HUGE power instantly with not a hint of power loss! Arriving at the Wayland EV Juice bar, the Siamese 9 was warm but far from hot, and aside from a nice com. patina, looking as new. The pack was at near nominal voltage with the cells at 3.68V (they can go down to 2.6V) and all the modules were at ambient temp…not even warm, and not a single low set point (2.6V) red LED was glowing :-) It was as if the car took a walk in the park! It took exactly one hour at 27.5 amps start current that dropped to 26.5 amps, then ramped to 25 amps near end of charge – 27 ahrs to get to a full charge with all the reg boards winking away and remarkably all in sink within 2 minutes at 3-5 amps finish current. This pencils out to 208 Wh per mile.

Considering that the pack is rated at 64 ah @ C2, the car used less than half the capacity of the pack to do close to 50 miles…with the rear tires at 20 psi for half the trip – we aired them up at the body shop. Of note, there is also a very bad drive line/universal vibration that both Tim and I are certain is robbing lots of power…being attended to this week. Additionally, the front end has not yet been aligned…again, being attended to this week.

It seems the Zombie can do 90-100 miles as it is right now, even with unresolved issues that keep it from being 100% for range driving…not bad! How cool is it, to have a low 10 second electric car that also has a 100 mile range?

See Ya…John Wayland

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Wayland Invitational – Version 5.2?

By now it’s fairly well known we had a good night on Friday. Perhaps more important than exceeding our goal of ‘cracking the 10s’ however, is the way all our friends, family, supporters, and sponsors were there to make it even more special. Indeed, Friday was more like version 5.2 of the ‘Wayland Invitational V’ than just another weekend’s Late Night Drags! We had Tom Saxton’s red Tesla there that he and fellow Tesla owner Dave ‘Rat Boy’ Denhart had traveled to Portland in (Dave’s yellow Tesla was still in the shop recovering from problems caused by a rat that had chewed through the battery pack wiring system). Plasma Boy team members Rich Rudman, Bruce ‘Doctor Sherry’ hauled Don ‘Father Time’ Crabtree down from northern Washington. The younger EVers that make up the Manzanita Micro group – Clarice, Travis, and Steve also came down. EV friend Damon Henry from Vancouver came with is electric Datsun pickup, Victor Tichonov came in his AC-powered CRX, and team member Marko Mongillo arrived in his electric Datsun pickup…so we had five EVs present. My heart was warmed when quite a few coworkers from NW Handling Systems showed up, too. Team member Bob Fagliano and his wife were there, and many more friends I won’t continue to list, but nonetheless appreciate were there, too. Yes, it was like a continuation of the Wayland Invitational V!

There was drama before I even left the house, when the car’s series-parallel contactor setup acted up to the point where ‘nothing’ was working and the car was un-drivable :-( Having told everyone we were headed back to the track on Friday, the pressure was on to get it fixed…which I did only after copious amounts of sweat and panic! The car drove beautifully on the way to PIR, but manually switching from series to parallel brought back the bucking and snorting symptoms again. Hmmm…at least we would would be able to keep the controller from ‘trying’ to go into parallel with the manual setup employed. We had also changed the gear set from the 4:11s to the taller 3:70 ratio, something I was convinced would improve both the hole shot and the top end, as the set had done back in ’07 with the super lighten Zombie and the borrowed A123 pack. With the Dow / Kokam cells sooooo stiff, the series mode seemed to pull like crazy anyway and it was doubtful that parallel was even needed…this was to be proven later. Plasma Girl and I arrived in the Zombie at PIR, Tim met up with us and teched-in, we did a recharge as Tim suited up, then we hit the track at 7:27 pm.

With the motors left in the series mode and with the controller quite happy about the situation, the car was now able to keep accelerating the full length of the track. We were all blown away with an eye-popping opening run of 11.111 @117.77 mph! What the heck?? Evidently, the stout lithium cells high voltage under load keeps the motor sections at full boil even in series mode – parallel no longer needed? An 11.1 was the quickest ET the Zombie had ever run – a full 3/10 quicker than the previous best of 11.4. Without recharging and with no changes to controller settings, just six minutes later at 7:33 pm we ran a quicker 11.069 @ 117.70 mph….so close to a 10, but yet not one!

Only 13 minutes after the 2nd pass at 7:46 pm – again with no changes to controller settings and without a recharge, we went back out for run #3. This one is where the real drama comes in, because we could all smell the 10s… but then it happened. On this ‘almost 10′ run with its 1.588 60 ft. time and a stunning 6.642 @ 103.09 1/8 mile, the car slowed in its thrust and even with an 11.170 ET, the trap speed was only 94.13 mph. We all knew ‘something’ had happened. When the Zombie didn’t return and the track rescue vehicle sped away down the track, our stomachs collectively sank as we were suddenly thinking about the 10s that got away! We would learn that it was a pretty exciting run for Tim when the 12V systems control wiring for the dash mounted ‘Forward-Reverse’ switch had shorted to the chassis and melted down filling the interior with smoke while shutting the car down…the Zombie coasted across the finish line and still ran a low 11! Steve ‘The Taunter’ Schrab, Mike Willmon and I piled into Mike’s truck and towed the Zombie back to the pit area where a one hour rewire of things took place, and it wasn’t limited to just the interior control wiring! I was able to reconfigure Hairball and contactor inputs to get the car running again, while the pack was freshened up…we were ready to run again! We adjusted the power from 1400 battery amps to 1800, and took the motor current up from 1500 amps to a full 2000 amps. Of note, 1800 amps is still 600 amps shy of what the Dow Kokams can put out!

The 4th run of the night came at 9:08 pm. With the juice cranked up more, I was hoping it would be enough to push us into the 10s, and thought it might be a 10.85-10.9. The launch had a strong 1.62 60 ft., and the 1/8 mile was a quick 6.522 @ 106.33 mph. As the Zombie sped away we all leaned in anticipation, then saw the reader board light up with ’121.09 mph’ as I’m thinking we got the 10.9 – then it switched to display ’10.424′!!! Screams and yells followed. We had done it! And we didn’t just touch the 10s – we blew deep into them!

Even though the Dow Kokam battery pack had shown that its voltage didn’t change much run after run, I decided to do a refresh charge anyway so that the backup run would be fed off the same pack voltage level as the 10.424 run…gotta have this run come in 1% of it. With the feeling that we were about to cement a low 10 second record for a street legal EV, and with an in-car camera and a hi def camera capturing the entire scene outside the car, The Taunter jumped into action to find the ultimate competitor to take on. He found it in a Skyline GTR that had been stoking the crowd – Japan’s super car, affectionately called Godzilla by the automotive press and road tested with 0-60 at 3.3 seconds. This rare and exotic 485 hp twin turboed monster had already run an 11.4 at speeds approaching 120 mph on this evening! Matt, the owner and driver was a very good sport and agreed to take on the Zombie, knowing we had just ripped off a 10.424 ET. With cameras rolling, Nissan’s Godzilla lined up against a 38 year old Nissan with a green Godzilla across its small white hood. At 9:47 pm history was repeated as the Zombie launched hard, immediately pulled away from the potent super car, and ripped off 10.400 on the nose with a slightly lower trap speed of 117.21! Out of interest, the Skyline was hot on the Zombie’s heels – its pressurized V6 wailing and pulling hard in a game of catch up it could have easily won had there been another 1/8 mile of asphalt to devour. The GTR flashed across the finish line with a Zombie-matching speed of 117.87 mph but trailing by nearly a second and a half with its 11.8 ET. What a race, what a thrill, and what an honor to go heads up against such an incredible machine!
Thanks to all my friends and sponsors for helping us make history!

See Ya…John ‘Plasma Boy’ Wayland

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Zombie to make another Attempt at the 10s tonight, Friday 7/30

I’m fairly certain we found the issue with the Zilla problems of last weekend, and I’m happy to report it wasn’t a fault with the controller or Hairball interface…more like a lack of sleep in the weeks prior to the EVent :-) We’ll know for sure tonight, whether I’ve got it figured out or not, but again, I’m at the 95% mark of confidence that I know what I did wrong. In the rush to transplant the Siamese 9 into the Zombie (no small feat) in one short day, the reversing contactor setup was not completed, and thus Hairball did not ‘see’ the safety interlock when trying to switch from series to parallel. Just exactly as Tim had described, the car was a rocket up through the 1/8 mile, then it faulted, jerked, and sputtered right about where he expected the jump to hyper speed parallel mode to happen, then the controller would give up and shut down. Tim would then have to key-off, then key-on and wait for the precharge, before resuming acceleration – and we still ran an 11.7!

I found the problem, when after de-selecting automatic series-parallel shifting the manual shift would still not engage the parallel contactors. They only began to work when I turned off the reverse flag. The Zilla design and safety feature set worked perfectly, as not ‘seeing’ the reverse contactor sense during switch-over told it to shutdown for fear of welded reverse contactor tips. Thanks to my longtime friend Otmar for his support last night, and for designing such a brilliant controller package!

Anyway, it’s all fixed now, the new motor has full reversing capabilities again, the parallel contactors are back on line, all codes have been cleared, and the Zombie is cleared for take-off into the 10s tonight! We’ll be at the gates before 6:00 tonight.
See Ya…John ‘Plasma Boy’ Wayland

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Headway Cells & Zombie Misc. Info

Mike, sorry but 10Ah Headways are not 15C (it’s closer to 8-10C) and 8Ah Headways are not 30C capable.

I’m building a 880 cell pack for my BMW

Mate, I was in on some of the 8 ah testing and personally watched them effortlessly and repeatably dish out 240 amps for 15 seconds without the cells going below 2+ volts – that is indeed, 30C. I also help abuse them to the tune of 540 amp for pulses of around 3-4 seconds and they still were not yet down to 1/2 their voltage…that’s a 67C discharge!

On another note – preparations for the assembly of the 29.6V, 2.4 kiloamp, 64 ahr (C2) LiPol modules (2P X 8 S) has been going on the past couple of weeks, with this weekend slated for the actual loading of the cells into the modules. We’ve had to come up with creative ways of assembly to keep adjacent opposite polarity cells tabs from touching each other as they are passed through then bent over the slots in the Lexan top piece and clamped into place on their respective conductor/clamp pads. Rated at 1200 amps for 10 seconds each and 2400 amps with each paralleled pair, these cells make one sweat a bit when being handled!

Interesting info on these Kokam cells…at 3.7V nominal, fully charged just after charger shut-down, they fall from 4.17V to 4.15V, then stay there…three weeks later with imperceptible self discharge, the cells are all still at 4.15V! The Zombie’s 12 module race pack is 355V nominal but will sit at 398V fully charged, and with the surface charge pulled down, at around 375V ready to rock.

For longer street driving range, the 13th module will be added to make a 385V nominal pack that sits at 432V fully charged, and at a more Zilla friendly 406V with the surface charge pulled down. At C2 discharges this will be a 24.6 kWh pack. The 2650 lb. Zombie with the heavy 360V lead acid pack – 14 X 6 wheels with 215/6014 drag radials in back and 13 X 5.5 inch rims with 185/55/13 tires in front, had typically required about 25-30 amps to cruise on the freeway at 60-65 mph, so I think 120-125 miles per charge is possible, perhaps a bit less when we get the wider wheels and larger footprint tires in back. With the 12 module pack, the wider tires (225/50/15) on 15 X 8 wheels in back, but with narrower tires and wheels up front (15 X 4.5 with 165/50/15 rubber) and about 400 lbs. less weight than before, a solid 100 miles range no matter how we drive the car, should be a realistic figure… not bad considering the projected 0-60 of 2.5 seconds and high 10 second ET capability!

The new tire & wheel combo allows us to finally install our killer Wilwood disc brakes, as the large racing set wouldn’t clear the 14 inch wheels. The 15 X 8 American Racing Torque Thrust D wheels change all this, as do the newly released 225/50/15 G Force Drag radials (same diameter as the out-going 215/60/14s). Up front, we are redoing things as well, dramatically increasing the rotor size and switching to the same 5 on 4.5 bolt pattern that’s been in back. Even though the front wheel size is going up from 13 to 15 inches (stock 1200s came with 12 X 4 wheels), American Racing offers the Torque Thrust D in a drag racer’s narrow 4.5 inch width, so rolling resistance up front will go down (185 section width on 5.5 in rims down to 165 section width on 4.5 in rims, but tire diameter essentially stays the same – 21.8 original 12 inch tires vs 21.5 low profile 15 inch tires). The 165 footprint is more in keeping with the stock 155 footprint of the original 155/80/12 tires that the Datsun 1200 came with.

See Ya…John Wayland

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Zombie on the track in May – 400 lbs. Lighter & Kokam Power…10s in 2010!!

John W: When will we hear about White Zombie hitting the track with the new chassis mod’s and battery pack.

Try this:

(1) We’ve been ‘very’ busy here at the Wayland EV Juice Bar! Had an LA/Hollywood film crew here last week and the assembled Plasma Boy crew, and about 20 people milling around – shades of the Wayland Invite summer days! Can’t say too much more about what’s in store, other than it’s been in the works for one year on the 30th of this month.

(2) The Heavy Metal Garden Tractor just received a make-over, including a battery pack swap, and a fortified sound system backed by a 1 Farad cap to stiffen up the power supply to the subwoofer amp…the bass is back!

(3) I’m happy to announce the return of the Wayland Invitational series…this year being #5! The EVent is at this point, only penciled-in for the weekend of July 17th & 18th, pending PIR schedule approval and NEDRA board’s sanctioning of the races. A swarm of media coverage is likely, and I’m hoping to assemble another Tesla group.

(4) The Zombie has been being prepped for the past several months, and is shaping up to be quite a potent machine. A more aggressive stance with aggressive wheels and tires, Wilwood disc brakes at all four corners, a strengthened chassis, and the very powerful 355V, 2400 amp, 22.7 kWh Kokam LiPol battery pack are all new for this year. Testing of cells in the Wayland EV Laboratory have proved they easily deliver their rated ahr capacity, and power tests so far show the cells make BIG amps! At 400 lbs. lighter, more rubber in back on 15 X 8 rims (twice the width of the stock 1200 wheels), and enough battery power to send fully feed the Zilla and send the Siamese 8 into the 400+ hp territory (at 1/2 pack power level) the pumped-up Zombie should blast into the 10s leaving the 11s far behind…0-60 in an est. 2.5 seconds, with 110-120 miles of real street range per charge!

Once the 10s are in hand, we’ve got more tricks up our sleeves…hint – there’s a 2nd Z2K on the shelf, a Siamese 9 lurks close by, and the Kokams are capable of supplying the amps!

See Ya…John Wayland

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Dow Kokam Powered Zombie…10s in 2010! (pt. 4)

Hello to All,

Just in time for the Christmas holiday weekend, here’s the final installment, pt.4:

Continued from pt. 3…

On the surface, it seems the car will lose 450 lbs. or so, but other structural mods to the car adds back some weight. You’ll have to tune in to pt. 4 to get that and other interesting info on how things are progressing.

To understand where the status of the Zombie’s redesign is currently at, I need to back up a bit and redefine the timeline. When a big break through like a major battery sponsorship occurs, it’s as if a huge puzzle gets dumped on a table with all the pieces scattered about – pieces that you have to assess, then assemble into a completed project – and completing this project proved to be harder than I thought. Like any Waylandesque tale, there’s drama in how it has unfolded.

Following our failure to have an updated Zombie at the July 24th & 25th summer WI-IV races, the Kokam sponsorship deal we had been nurturing suddenly went on a fast track timeline. Just two and a half weeks after the races, we had our first meeting in mid-August here in Portland with Kokam’s national sales manager, Don Sandler. Two weeks later as August turned into September, Rich and I were in Missouri at Kokam America. Two weeks later in mid-September as promised by Kokam (and mentioned in my pt. 2 story) a shipment of 210 ultra high power Kokam cells arrived at the NWHS forklift facility, where I wasted now time grabbing a Crown stand-up reach and loaded the pallet into my service truck and took it home. In just minutes after backing the service truck to its resting spot in my home’s shop driveway, the pallet load of exotic cells were safely tucked away in my EV shop. – it’s sure handy to have my three wheel Hyster electric sit-down forklift at the ready! Before turning in for the night, I had to go back out to my shop ‘just’ to see if it was a dream, or if after years of trying to get lithium, I ‘really’ had all those ultra high power cells in my shop :-)

With a pallet full of lithium in my shop, the pressure was now on (by me) to get the job done. I ‘really’ wanted to get the Kokam pack designed, fabricated, and installed in the car – and then get back on the track to lay down 10s this year. PIR stays open all through October while flirting with the Portland metro area’s changing-seasons weather, then gives up the fight at the end of October to close for the Winter – not to reopen until March. The Kokam guys too, were quite excited and did all they could, to help us achieve that ambitious goal.

When we were back at Kokam America, we got to see some packaging designs of how various sized and shaped cells were assembled into batteries. One had a cast-formed plastic end cap that had slots where the cells’ tabs came through and then could be connected to adjacent cell tabs. I liked this design, as did Rich Rudman. As stated in my pt. 3 story, I wanted to have the Zombie’s modules made of clear Lexan – nonconductive for safety, strong, and transparent so that the cells could be seen and inspected, plus it would make for great show ‘n tell for PR purposes! It seems that some EV builders just don’t get it, that when you have something special, it needs to be visible and exciting to look at. Nothing frustrates me more, than an EV with boring ‘stuff’ hiding one of the most unique aspects of an EV – the electric motor, or having exotic batteries only to have them completely out of view. In addition to breaking records and going quicker and faster, White Zombie has always been about being a great show ‘n tell vehicle to help get every day non-EVers excited. I feel quite privileged to have these expensive and rare model Kokam cells, so putting them inside opaque boxes was not an option.

September was already half over and I still needed to figure out how to make the Lexan modules happen. The tricky part would be creating the slotted end cap piece. Kokam’s CAD guys worked on and sent terrific files of what we wanted, so we had the drawings to aid in CNC-ing the parts we’d need. How cool is it, that our sponsor turns over their engineers to help you out? Rudman warned had me that to do it right, it would take thousands of dollars for material, machining costs, and especially the costs to make a cast plastic end cap piece, if that was the way we would go with the design. He also felt it was pretty much impossible to ‘properly’ design and assemble the modules, for him to finish testing on his new 8 channel BMS boards, then get completed modules installed in the car in time to go racing this year. I knew that too, but I was still pushing to get the car ready to make the last two weekends of October racing at PIR…I’m at the same time a driven person ‘and’ the eternal optimist!

I was looking for someone who would have access to a CNC setup, and, who we might just get excited enough about the lithium-Zombie project that we could get the work sponsored, so I made a call to Bob Fagliano (silent G). You’ll recall from my pt. 2 story, that I said, “Bob’s one of those guys who seems to know everybody, and as I’ve learned, he’s a guy who can get things done!” Without missing a beat, he simply said, “I’ll see what I can do.” The next day, Bob called and asked if I was available for a dinner meeting that night, as he had a guy he wanted me to meet that might be able to help us. At a nice dinner restaurant, I was introduced to Colin Murdoch, who worked at ChemWest, a plastics machining and fabrication facility based here in Portland with a branch in Austin, Texas as well. Their main customer base is the wafer fab industry, and they make pretty much anything that might be needed in the way of plastic shapes and forms. I had brought my trusty Mac laptop, and over dinner and great conversation I showed him Zombie drag videos. It was my hope that I would come away from our meeting with a commitment that ChemWest would sponsor the machining needed to build the complicated end cap pieces out of Lexan. Colin was pretty excited about what we were doing, saying he’d get back to us in a few days. When he called, we got more than we had hoped for, with ChemWest offering to not only provide all the labor and machine work, but all the high costing materials as well! It was a huge bonus to have ChemWest providing the material as I was still trying to budget dollars for everything. ChemWest in Portland was quite busy, but Colin had the Austin location ready to do the work for us. I was at the same time, excited about the generous support, and a bit concerned about not having the work done right here in Portland where I could keep an eye on things and have hands-on involvement with the work. We sent the CAD files of the module design to ChemWest, Austin, and hit the ‘go’ button!

ChemWest does plastics only, and will not cut metals with their equipment as metal contamination is a big no-no in the wafer fab industry. I know a bit about this, as in another life I worked for a company that built, sold, and serviced wafer contamination monitors, but that’s another story! Anyway, I still needed to find a machine shop that could CNC copper, as we needed to build all the conductive parts that make up the interconnects and terminals of the module design. Kokam’s engineers had also drawn the design specs for all the copper interconnects and terminals. In the pt. 2 story I wrote, “It took me a while, but I finally realized that sometimes it takes a team approach to get things done, and that’s exactly the change I made in 2009.” Once again, the team approach pulled through, when speaking with Jim Husted, he reminded me about his subleasing setup with Eric at Mountain Machining in Redmond, Oregon. I had met Eric before, and knew he was a nice guy who also happened to be a highly skilled machinist! Eric already has a commuter EV he’s put together, and he’s the guy who does all trick machining for Jim’s hotrod EV motors, so he’s already into EVs. Eric offered to be a Plasma Boy Sponsor and said he could make the hundreds of copper parts for the Zombie’s 13 modules. Did I say 13? Yes, I did! At my request, Kokam had provided enough cells so we could make a spare module, as the car’s design called for an arrangement of 12, 29.6V modules for a 355V system. Track side the 13th module will always be on hand just in case we have a module failure, but it will have a second more ‘street oriented’ role. After shaving off the pack’s initial surface charge, the 13th module can be added to the 355.2V pack to up it to 384.8V and a higher capacity 24.6 kWh over the 12 module’s 22.7 kWh capacity…can you say 130 miles range?

Back to the story…as luck would have it, at about the time the Austin facility had been given the green light to acquire material and create the five different Lexan pieces that would make up the module cases (2 thin side panels, 2 thick side panels, a floor panel, the complicated top end cap, and the top cover panel), they suddenly got overloaded with new work, and understandably, paying jobs got the priority – our module project was on hold until early October. This wasn’t good news if we wanted to be on the track by late October! To help us plan the copper pieces needed for the buss bar system however, Adam, the Austin guy, CNC’d the top end cap pieces first, and sent one out to me so we’d have the ability to hand fit metal to check for proper clearance before making an entire run of parts out of expensive copper. Eric came up with a good plan to make a single set of test pieces out of aluminum.

The next chapter in this tale is pretty weird. I had been in both phone and email contact with Adam at ChemWest in Austin. He had sent great photos of the Lexan parts as they were being made, and the workmanship was awesome…things were finally on a roll after a slow start. A little more than a week into October after Adam had worked long days and into the nights working on getting our custom parts finished, everything was finally packaged up and ready for pickup the next morning, as Bob had arranged for overnight next day UPS shipping to Portland. Things get cloudy here, but suffice it to say that the Austin ChemWest guys affirmed the package was sitting in their front office ready for UPS pickup. The UPS driver says he went to pick up the package, but that the ChemWest office was closed…the ChemWest guys said they were there all day and that they even stayed open late so that they would not miss the UPS guy. According to them, the UPS guy never showed. The next day, the package however, was gone and nobody seems to know how it left. UPS claims they never picked it up. In any EVent, all of the custom built one of a kind stuff worth who knows how much, had vanished, and with this misstep so had my dreams of racing with the new pack in 2009! Subsequent tracking of the package showed it was never picked up, and it has never been found. Word on the street however, has it that Dennis Berube’ drove nonstop from Phoenix to Austin, snuck in and grabbed the package, and is now stuffing the enclosures with top secret cells…OK, I made this last part up :-)

It was now mid-October, we had lost all of the Lexan parts, and I had no idea how things would work out. After getting such a late start on making them, the lost module pieces sealed the deal…we were out of it for racing in 2009 :-( Good friend and Team Plasma Boy member Jim Husted put it best in an email he sent to me:

Hey John,

There is no doubt in my mind that the forces of darkness have teamed up against us on all fronts. It’s kind of a bitch that the passion that drives us to do what we do can also work against us in our time of need when the light of the world dims our light. I too, struggle against falling into the pit of darkness during times of trials and tribulations and as much as I realize it, I still fall victim to it. On the other side of the coin, it is very much like the statement that 1 ant won’t kill you but a 1000 will, and I understand how frustrating a 1000 “little” issues can at least just knock the snot out of you. That all said, I am excited about what might be around the bend and hoping a fool’s hope that the anti-EV Gods focus on others so we can get down to making something fun happen. So, in as much as our window may have passed to get Zombie down the track this year, there is much to do to build and ready this pack.

Oh well…in addition to Rudman’s warnings that we would not make my deadline, Tim Brehm (Zombie’s driver and team Plasma Boy lead mechanic) told me that we ‘really’ needed to rework structural parts of the car’s chassis that had been punished by years of wheel-standing launches with a 900 lb. gorilla in the back seat! Inspection of the Zombie’s underside revealed numerous cracks in the warped rear seat area floor boards, cracks in support weldments, cracks at the front floorboards where the roll cage supports met, and deformed leaf spring perches that were literally pushing up through the bottom of the car! With an assembled pack weight of 906 lbs. and with 525 lbs. of that just ahead of the forward spring perches, the violent slams of the slapper bars against the leading end of the leaf springs acted like a BIG hammer banging from underneath at the perches, and once firmly pressed against things, the bars would then lift up the entire car from the spring perch contact point – all this rude force over the years had been tearing welds and bending things! I had to agree with Tim, that the structural problems we’d found needed to be dealt with before powering the car into the 10s.

Side bar…the little Datsun 1200 was built from ’71 through ’73 as a light weight (1587 lbs. curb weight) fuem-sniffer econo-car – it was never intended to handle the massive torque of a Siamese 8 hit with 2000 amps -it takes two V8s to do the same! That said, the 1200 sedan has proven itself to be quite sturdy and the 37 year old unibody’s left and right side rails are still straight as an arrow and the rest of the body is in good shape, but as I said, the floorboards and factory subframe rails were definitely tweaked! When I first acquired the car back in 1985, it was already 13 years old and had been through a couple of non-car-guy type owners who had simply put gas in it, driven the crap out of it, and had evidently taken it to the corner gas station repair type shops (not Datsun factory approved dealership shops) whenever work was needed. Evidence…the floorboards had already been mistreated and beat up by what looked like 5 ton floor jacks misplaced under the sheet metal floors (not the structural subframe rails) then slammed up quick where their jack claw had punched through the metal floorboards. Even the two inner front section frame rails had been bent and tweaked by the same rude treatment. I remember lifting the factory rubber floor mats (1200s were so cheap they lacked carpet accept on the tranny tunnel) and seeing the mistreated floorboards, with rust and a few holes in the driver’s side where wet feet had left standing water over the years, and thinking some day I’d redo the floors in the otherwise straight and clean body. Twenty-four years later and with extra destructive help from hard-launches at the drag track, I’m finally forced into getting that done.

With the warm days of summer behind us, PIR about to close for the season, the cold Fall Oregon rains drenching Portland, no module parts, and the bulk of the lithium cells still in their shipping boxes, I gave up my hopes for any more racing in 2009, so White Zombie went 30 miles away to Scapoose, Oregon ending up inside Tim’s shop. It was immediately up on blocks and the tear-down began. All 60 of the Hawker lead acid batteries that comprised the Zombie’s dual string 360V pack were removed, and the car was essentially gutted. Everything removed was weighed on very accurate digital scales, from the battery trays to the power cables to the hold-downs & mounting hardware to the twin pack rear contactors (no longer needed) – everything was weighed.

Tim had hooked up with a couple of car buddies, one who runs ‘Flatline Fabrications’, a place that specializes in creative metal fab for off-roaders, drag racers, etc., and the three man team got out the plasma cutter and went to work. The car’s original mid-body subfloor unibody frame rails extend from the front of the car, then bend down vertical along the lower area of the firewall (where it bends to horizontal to join the front floors) then follow the sheet metal horizontally under the front floors getting smaller and ending about halfway between the firewall and the leading mounts for the front seats. Their spot welds were drilled through to separate them from the floorboard metal, then the original funky floors were cutout and removed. The unibody frame rails were then cut away right at the point where the under-hood portions wrap around the firewall to the underside of the floors, and removed to become scrap metal. Next, two new sheets of steel – one 16 gauge for the floors and the other 11 gauge for beam material, were obtained and readied for some very nice work to follow. I freaked-out a bit, when I learned that the two sheets together weighed 240 lbs.! This is not the way to keep the car light. Tim assured me they bought more steel than would be needed. I insisted that every piece of metal the guys cut away from the car was to be saved and weighed…I’ve always been very good at keeping track of the car’s ever-changing weight through all of its versions, and it’s the reason I’ve been so accurate in predicting the Zombie’s completed curb weight, year after year. I also had the target weight for the new Zombie to not be any heavier than 2300 lbs., and preferably, under that limit.

Unlike classic ’65-’66 Mustangs or ’69 Camaros where you can simply order up either factory or replica body panels from fenders to floor board metal, Tim and his friends had to create each piece for the ’72 Datsun’s floors by hand, with a lot of credit to Flatline Fabrications for their expert work. Copying the basic shape of the four cutout factory pieces (driver’s side front – driver’s side rear, and passenger’s side front – passenger’s side rear) but making one long continuous floor panel for each side and making them completely flat instead of the slight bowl shapes of the original rear floor pieces, the new pieces were drawn up and sheared from the 16 gauge steel sheet, together weighing 37 lbs. The four thinner gauge factory floor pieces, the pair of small subframe rails removed, and the stamped steel seat mount structures together only weighed 23 lbs. – yes, I weighed each part, but the 8 lbs. of undercoat Tim scraped off of the underside of the floors (yes, I weighed that, too) brought the total factory floor weight removed to 31 lbs., so we only gained 6 lbs. with the thicker gauge new floors while losing a bit of sound deadening. The floorboards were nicely welded to the tranny tunnel and the unibody’s side rails (door sill boxed sections), and to the mount pads of the six point roll bar, then everything was seam-sealed, just like factory!

The new ‘under floor’ structural reinforcements are the big change – an improvement the car really needs, and a mod allowed under the Pro Street racing class. 32 lbs. of the 11 gauge material was sheared and folded on the metal brake to create a beefy pair of rigid full length subframe rails. With completely flat floors now, the U-shaped beams were welded to the underside of them and mated to both the under-hood factory beams that bend down and under the front floors and tied into the rear spring perch points, where no subframe beams ever extended to. The spring perch mounts were also boxed-in and fortified. Pictures of are up at the ‘Photos’ section of the web site, under ‘New Floors…out with the old, in with the new!’

With just 345 lbs. of lithium polymer cells taking place of 852 lbs. of lead acid batteries, this is a 507 lb. weight reduction in active material for the car, but the chassis upgrades added 38 lbs. of weight. In addition, there’s a much stronger redesigned drive line loop that’s 5 lbs. heavier, so now the increased weight is at 43 lbs. Then there’s the weight of the Lexan modules, new hold-downs, and new cabling to consider that will add weight again. On the subtraction side of things though, there’s another 54 lbs. that was part of the 906 lb. total weight of the twin 360V lead acid battery pack system, including the rear seat battery box, the trunk floor battery tray, hold-downs and hardware, long inter-pack cabling no longer needed, all the copper bus bars, Lexan pack cover lids, etc. We even shaved 3 lbs. off the aluminum seat mounts made years ago. Back and forth it goes, but in the end it appears the net result will be about a 385 lb. drop in curb weight from 2660 lbs. to an estimated 2275 lbs.

While the car was getting worked over in Scapoose, and prior to the missing Lexan caper, I had been trying to get the best deal on all the expensive copper needed to make the buss bar system for the battery modules. Once again, Bob Fagliano pulled through when he got a killer deal on electrical grade copper flat bar stock. I was grateful that he stopped by my place on the evening of Oct. 22nd and dropped off more than one hundred lbs. of copper (more than we needed), but this was after the bad news of the lost module pieces.

Meanwhile back in Texas…Colin had really gone out on a limb for us, so after all the extra time their guy in Austin spent on our nonpaying job, then the resultant loss of it all, I figured the owners of ChemWest were done wasting their time with us. You can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was then, when Colin called to tell me the ChemWest owner told him to remake all the parts for us!
Of course, now that we had missed our deadline and all urgency had faded away, this time it all went like clockwork, and on Oct. 30th a pallet of 91 Lexan parts (7 pieces per module X 13) was shipped to Portland.

In mid-November, after a lot of hard work with long weekend hours at the Redmond, Oregon Mountain Machining shop, Eric aided by Motor Dog Jim Husted, completed the creation of the hundreds of copper buss bars, copper clamp pieces, and copper output terminals. Bob Fagliano just happened to be in Central Oregon at the time, so as he passed through Redmond on his way back to Portland from the high desert town of Bend, he picked up the copper and hand-delivered them to me. The next week I got together with another of my longtime friends and Team Plasma Boy member, Marko Mongillo, at the sheet metal shop he works at. After hours of effort, I had every single piece of machined copper smoothed and buffed, ready to get nickel plated.

The Lexan parts, as mentioned in pt. 3, turned out to be way thicker than needed (our particular cells do not have to be compressed) and thus were pretty heavy. Lexan is tough stuff, so the half inch thick slab sides of the module body were overkill. Same goes for the other parts of the design as well. The main body – the box part of the module, was a screw-together affair that weighed 5.5 lbs…..yikes! Enter Marko Mongillo again. Re-using the old 1/8 inch Lexan battery compartment lids from the lead acid pack for prototyping purposes, Marko and I came up with a two piece box to replace the five piece screw-together module box. Colin Murdoch helped us figure out how to mate the two pieces, and offered to hot air weld the box pieces at ChemWest. The prototype formed, bent, and welded 1/8 inch Lexan box weighs just a pinch over 1.5 lbs., so that shaves a whopping 4 lbs. off each completed module! We hope to have the lighter weight module cases done in January, then will begin the assembly process of making thirteen, 29.6V, 64 ahr C2, 2,400 amp @ 10 second batteries. Each will be loaded with 16 cells in a 2P8S design, with a Manzanita Micro 8 channel BMS board built in.

As stated, the pack will be capable of 926 hp, but when we hit the track in the Spring, we’ll sneak up on all that power by restricting the controller’s input current. We expect that tapping into only half of the total power available from these killer batteries, White Zombie will run a 10 second ET. After we nail down the 10s, later in the year the full 2.4 kiloamps will be accessed when a second Z2K is connected, a 4 link with a taller ratio goes in back, wheelie bars are added to keep it on the ground, and aero aids are fitted to keep it stable at 130+ mph speeds through the traps. A Siamese 9 may have to replace the smaller Siamese 8 to handle the additional power…we’ll see how this all works out…

It’s going to be a fun 2010!

See Ya…John ‘Plasma Boy’ Wayland

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Dow Kokam Powered Zombie…10s in 2010! (pt. 3)

Hello to All,

Continued from pt. 2…

With the background of this tale now properly set up, and continuing with my tradition of sharing technical info as freely as possible so that others can take advantage of it and help advance EVs by pushing the performance envelope, as promised here are the details of the high power Kokam LiPol pack:

I had hoped that when I got a lithium sponsor, that along with a big weight reduction for the car and the high power output needed to fully feed a hungry Zilla Z2K, that a properly configured lithium pack (read that 300-400 lbs.) might also give the Zombie more than the 30-35 miles of range the lead acid pack gave. I had gotten a sample of the range capabilities of lithium with the borrowed 175 lb. A123. Even though the 880 A123 cells in it weren’t ‘energy density’ types, that tiny pack could still out-range 852 lbs. of lead acid batteries. What could say, twice that weight in lithium do? How cool would it be to have a street legal EV that burns from 0-60 in less than 3 seconds, runs a high 10 second 1/4 mile, ‘and’ had 75 miles range? Do you think that might get the public’s attention? I figured that about 350 lbs. of good lithium power cells would be about right. Anyway, these were the target performance parameters I was hoping a lithium pack could provide for the Zombie, but as I studied the specs of these ultra high power cells and spoke with Kokam’s EE who confirmed that the specs were, if anything – conservative, I began to realize that ‘these’ cells could not only meet my dream specs…they would far exceed them!

The Kokam ultra high power cells really live up to their name, and are seemingly made for EV drag racing. They are considered large format type cells, but at about just 7.5 inches square they’re still smaller than other LiPol type cells. Each is about 1/3 inch thick, and weighs just 1.8 lbs. At 3.7V & 30 ahr, they have a beefy continuous discharge rating of 20C (600 amps) but it’s their <10 second rating of 40C (1200 amps) that puts them in killer territory! Unlike the small cylindrical type cells that have to be paralleled anywhere from 8 – 12 wide in order to achieve the high currents needed for EV drag racing, it takes just two of these Kokam cells in parallel to crank out 2,400 amps for 10 seconds – I’ll repeat that… 2,400 amps for 10 seconds!

Paralleling pairs of cells does more than just making the extraction of extreme currents possible – the pair also effectively creates a 60 hr cell. At the higher C2 discharge rate however, their capacity actually increases to 32 ahr. The cells pass the nail puncture test without exploding (seen it done), without catching on fire (seen it done), and without spewing fountains of chemicals (seen it done)…read that ‘they are safe’. If all this doesn’t already sound terrific, check this out. They have been tested at 100% discharge for 1450 cycles and still had 81% capacity remaining! At 80% DOD they are good for 2500 cycles and still have 91% capacity remaining.

The Zombie started life as Datsun 1200, a little economy car from the early 70′s powered by a tiny 1200cc 4 cylinder gas engine that sipped fuel, and with the body’s small frontal area, its low mass, and its fairly good cd, the Datsun 1200 was rated as America’s highest gas mileage car in ’73. As a high powered electric car, though it can suck the amps when called on to dispatch a 500 horse Vette, the Zombie’s got a Jekyll and Hyde personality that turns it from a track terror into an efficient EV when driven ‘nicely’.

Before moving on to my predicted specs for the Kokam-powered Zombie, looking back at things (White Zombie History pages makes this easy) will put it into perspective. As we go through this together, forget that White Zombie is primarily a drag racing-focused EV, and rethink of it in terms of usable range per charge. You’ll begin to see why we are so excited about these cells!

Example (1)

The 60, 12V batteries that made up the lead acid pack weighed 852 lbs. and in terms of ‘power density’ could output 1500 amps at an initial sag to 220V at launch, then they would sag lower and lower towards 180V at the end of a run. That’s a max output of 330 kW dropping to 270 kW, or 442 battery hp declining to 362 battery hp. Of all the lead acid batteries I’ve tried over the years, from Optimas to Orbitals and including the various models of Hawkers, the combination of 60 small 16 ahr Hawkers gave the highest ‘power density’ of any lead acid battery, and power density has always been the focus with the batteries used in this car.

In terms of ‘energy density’ with twin strings of 360V @ 16 ahr C20, the combined pack was 360V @ 32 ahr C20, but lead acid being lead acid, at EV currents the actual ahr the combined pack could deliver at the real world C2 was about 16 ahr, resulting in 5.8 kWhr of what I refer to as ‘usable EV capacity’. Even at its heaviest 2660 lb. lead acid state, with the drag radials pumped up hard to 35 psi, the Zombie rolls quite easily and is efficient to the tune of about 190 Whrs per mile @ 55 mph. With the lead acid pack hanging at 375V at 55 mph, the ammeter indicates just 25-30 amps of current being pulled from the pack, so this backs up the 190 Whr per mile claim. An hour of continuous driving at 55 mph would then, give 55 miles range if the batteries could produce about 10.5 kWhrs…but they couldn’t. At 5.8 kWhr, you could get 30 miles of range, and 35 miles at lower urban speeds, hence the 30-35 miles per charge I rated my car at. The battery to vehicle weight ratio (BVR) was 32% so it all fits with the accepted calculations for a lead acid powered EV. Though the Zombie’s primary mission has always been acceleration, it’s also been great to have a decent range per charge (for lead acid) that has allowed the car really be a functional street legal drag car, with the emphasis on the word ‘street’. Being able to drive to and from the track (16 miles one way) with opportunity charging at the track, for me, has always added credibility to the car’s mission. As the lead pack aged, that 30-35 miles became more like 25-30 miles. This was again, pretty much proven that Friday night in July of this year, when running on just half of the pack (covered in pt.1) the car did 13 miles of spirited 65 mph freeway driving, then started to fade away, stranding me about 2 miles shy of my place…call it 13 miles of good driving. If both strings had been working, that comes out to 26 miles range @ 65 mph.

Example (2)

Borrowing the crazy little A123 motorcycle pack was an enlightening experience on many levels. Like the Zombie’s lead acid pack, the 175 lb. ‘box ‘O batteries’ was designed with one thing in mind – power density! Bill Dube could care less about energy density when trying to push Killacycle ever quicker and faster through the 1/4 mile…it’s all about power density! 1400 amps from 175 lbs. of cordless drill cells is pretty amazing!

Lithium being lithium, even when the chemistry and the cell’s mechanical design is oriented towards power density, compared to lead acid chemistry you still end up with outstanding ‘energy density’. Point in case…just 175 lbs. of these cells made 6.9 kWhrs of usable EV power (880 cell pack configured at 8P110S – 2.3 ahr X 8 = 18.4 ahr – 3.4V X 110 = 374V – 374V X 18.4 ahr = 6881 Whr or 6.9 kWhr) You can look at it as 5 times the energy density as the lead acid pack, lb. for lb., or perhaps more entertaining, is that a little box 1/5 the size and weight of the lead acid pack, that fit inside the spare tire well area instead of taking up a large portion of the car, made ‘more’ kWhrs, at an impressive 6.9 kWhr vs 5.8 kWhr! To back this up, in an unplanned range test, I put on 32 miles without a recharge driving the Zombie back home from PIR after a night of racing, then drove it back the next night. After 32 miles the pack’s voltage was still ‘right there’…I probably could have made a few hard runs without recharging! Those 32 miles ate up 6 kWhrs of juice, but true to the reputation of lithium having a very flat discharge, with just .9 kWhr left in the pack it seemed quite ready to keep going!

OK, with this out of the way, here’s what I decided would be the best way to utilize the Kokam ultra high power cells to push the Zombie to the next level:

When going from lead acid to lithium, it takes a bit of adjusting one’s thought process on pack voltage. A lead acid pack comprised of 12V ‘nominal’ batteries is pretty easy to figure out, as everyone knows the ‘actual voltage’ of a fully charged 12V battery is about 12.85V or so…call it 13V. If you design a 360V pack, you know it sits at about 390V unloaded. You also know that at full charge when still connected to the charger and in the final constant voltage stage, each battery goes up to around 15V, so the pack rises as high as 450V. You also know that immediately after shutting down the charger, that the 450V rapidly goes away and the pack is below 400V in seconds. By the time you key-on, the pack is in the 390-395V range, safe for the Zilla, and ready to go. Things change with lithium. Knowing that I could pretty much name the number of cells I wanted, I thought of going higher in voltage for the pack. thinking that 208 cells (2P X 104S) would be perfect and would give 384.6V nominal. The problem is, these cells get taken to 4.2V at full charge, then off of charge only drop to 4.1V, for a 426.4V resting voltage after charging…Zilla, not happy :-( I’d have to drop the pack voltage.

As mentioned in pt. 2, I wanted to assemble these cells into modules. I worked closely with Rich Rudman on this with many brainstorming sessions over pie and scribbled-on napkins, and also with him back in Missouri where we ran the concept past the Kokam engineering team. The idea was to keep the design clean, simple, and accessible. It’s the accessible part that dictated a modular design, because having a large assembly of cells all ganged together in the trunk space of the car, makes a package that although small compared to the lead acid pack, is still too heavy and bulky to work on. It also makes it difficult to quickly get to cells if there’s a problem. With a possible TV show in the works (more on this in pt.4) and with Kokam interested in being a supplier of cells for that project, I wanted the modular design so other packs could be configured by adjusting the numbers of and the placement of modules for a given vehicle. Other factors that shaped the module’s design were weight, physical size, shape, current carrying ability, and cell numbers per module. I wanted each module to not be too heavy, so 35-37 lbs. was the goal. Rudman’s newest BMS board is an 8 channel unit, meaning it can keep track of 8 cells (or 8 paralleled groups of cells). At 1.8 lbs. per cell, and needing to have pairs of cells in parallel, a 2P X 8S, 16 cell module made sense. Each module would be made of tough clear Lexan, and the cell’s output tabs would be tied together with high current nickel plated copper buss and clamp bars. With just shy of 29 lbs. of active material (cells) and the heavy 3-4 lbs. of copper interconnects (needed to pass 2.4 kiloamps), hitting that 35-37 lb. goal would be a challenge. At 29.6V, 64 ahr @ C2, and ~36 lbs. per module, and with pack voltage, space constraints, and a pack target weight including cabling and hold-downs of 450-460 lbs., I went with a 12 module, 192 cell design for a 355V nominal, 22.7 kWhr @ C2 power package capable of outputting 2.4 kiloamps for 10 seconds! The very low voltage sag at high currents is very impressive with these particular cells. Graphs provided by Kokam reveal that for every 5C rate of discharge, the cell sags ~.1V, so beginning at 3.8V if one were to extract 150 amps, the cell drops to 3.7V, and at 10C or 300 amps, it goes to 3.6V, so at its continuous rating of 20C or 600 amps, the cell drops and stays at 3.4V…this is very impressive stuff! In theory, at the 10 second rate of 40C -1200 amps, the cell still hangs at 3V! Do the math for our 2P96S pack, and this equates to a staggering 691 kW! It’s amazing, that 345 lbs. of Kokam cells will generate 926 battery hp! This is terrific power density.

As exciting as the prodigious power density of this pack will be, there’s that other side of things, energy density, that is equally exciting for my street legal EV. With a full 22.7 kWhr @ C2, and with 190 Whrs per mile efficiency, White Zombie’s highway driving range will be a dream-come-true 110-120 miles! Remember, it doesn’t hurt these cells to take them down 100%…they can be taken there 1450 times and still retain 81% of their original capacity! Being conservative and just using 100 miles per 100% discharge, and being conservative and stopping at the 1000 cycle point, this equates to 100,000 miles of driving!

Knowing that my Datsun is a Nissan, it seems very handy for comparison’s sake that Nissan is unveiling its new electric car, the Leaf. Larger than a Datsun 1200 and heavier by more than a half ton – the Leaf weighs 3400 lbs. vs the predicted Zombie curb weight of 2275 lbs., Nissan’s new electric car has a 24 kWhr pack made from 192 flat-shaped cells, and they claim 100 miles per charge. Other early testers have this to say:

“The Leaf sports a 24 kilowatt-hour lithium manganese battery…air-cooled battery provides enough juice to go 100 miles”

“The Leaf, an all-electric five-door hatchback, will have a 100-mile range…driven by a 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.”

“…said the 100-mile range suggests the car will have a 20-kilowatt battery.”

As with any production factory EV, you are not allowed 100% discharges from the battery’s capacity, so it’s safe to assume those 100 miles are accomplished on anywhere from 20-22 kWhrs. I am predicting 110-120 miles in my smaller car with its lower frontal resistance and that only weighs 2275 lbs. and with close to 23 kWhrs of usable battery capacity. Coincidentally, my old Nissan uses 192 flat-shaped lithium manganese cobalt cells @ 23 kWhrs while the new Nissan uses 192 flat-shaped lithium manganese cells @ 24 kWhrs. …it makes for a very interesting comparison:

Nissan Leaf:

3400 lbs. curb weight
mid-sized, 5 passenger
24 kWhr
100 miles per charge
0-60 in est. 8.5 seconds
est. 1/4 mile ET 17 seconds
top speed 87 mph

Nissan / Datsun 1200 ‘White Zombie’:

2275 lbs. curb weight
small, 4 passenger (2 now due to 6 pt. roll bar)
22.7 kWhr
110 – 120 miles per charge
0-60 in est. 2.5 seconds
est. 1/4 mile ET (at 1/2 power level) 10.8 seconds
top speed est. with ratio changed to 3:50, 135 mph

345 lbs. of these Kokam cells are 59% lighter than the out-going lead acid pack that was comprised of 60, 14.2 lb. Hawker 12V batteries that weighed 852 lbs., but considering module packaging with their built-in copper interconnects, cabling and hold-downs for the 12 modules, as stated, the Kokam pack as installed in the car should be 450-460 lbs. The lead acid pack had 852 lbs. of batteries, but with the copper interconnects, long cabling between the rear seat and trunk areas, the twin string bridging contactors, compartments and hold-downs, the actual lead acid assembled and installed pack weight was 906 lbs. On the surface, it seems the car will lose 450 lbs. or so, but other structural mods to the car adds back some weight. You’ll have to tune in to pt. 4 to get that and other interesting info on how things are progressing.

See Ya…John Wayland

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Dow Kokam Powered Zombie…10s in 2010! (pt. 2)

Hello to All,

Just in time for Thanksgiving, here’s the second installment:

Continued from pt. 1….

After a two year drought seeking lithium, in the period immediately following the Wayland Invitational IV races things really started to happen. Figures, it all happened ‘after’ the races! Oh well, I guess I shouldn’t complain!

It took me a while, but I finally realized that sometimes it takes a team approach to get things done, and that’s exactly the change I made in 2009. I am fortunate to have good friends in the EV community, and many assisted in my efforts to acquire a high power lithium battery maker’s sponsorship. I had been working through Dick Brown to get in contact with Kokam. It was Dick Brown who had acquired sponsorship from Enersys in 2005 when a friend of his was high up in that company. This man, like Dick, knew and appreciated the value of proving a battery’s power and reliability on the race track. Soon after though, he left Enersys and moved on to form Kokam America, becoming the company president. Dick and I were in contact with him about the possibility of a Kokam sponsorship for the Zombie project, months before the WI-IV races. At the same Jim Husted and my new friend Bob Fagliano had also been talking with Kokam engineers about cells for another very high profile project. For those who were at the races and may have met him, Bob’s the guy who had that glossy-black ethonal powered T-Bird at the WI-IV races on display. I had met Bob in the weeks just before the WI-IV races, and we hit it off from the start. If you were at the Wayland EV Juice Bar enjoying the backyard craziness and social time, Bob provided those twin big coolers packed with icy-cold refreshments. Bob is heavily involved with alternative energy – ethonal, electric power, solar, wind, you name it, he’s into it! Like Dick Brown, Bob’s one of those guys who seems to know everybody, and as I’ve learned, he’s a guy who can get things done! Perhaps his best quality though, is that he’s just a good guy.

Bob had also established a relationship with Kokam’s national sales manager. Kokam’s markets have been mostly military and medical, but they have plans to get deeper into the EV market. Stimulus money was looking good for Kokam’s expansion plans to build an 800,000 square foot facility in Midland, Michigan that would produce advanced large format superior lithium polymer batteries for EVs. The sales manager is a sharp guy and saw the value in proving Kokam’s LiPol cells’ power and reliability in a stressful environment like EV drag racing, and he was convinced that showing off the cells in a high profile street legal electric car – not just a pure racing vehicle, was a great opportunity – the White Zombie project seemed a perfect fit. He also liked the whole TV series thing that was also brewing in the background. As it turned out, several of Kokam’s USA based engineers had seen the OPB video and were already hip to White Zombie. During the ongoing conversations and tech talks with the sales manager and key engineers, Dow was ironing-out their their partnership deal with Kokam America. At about the same time we were looking into a very special ‘ultra high power’ type lithium cell Kokam had made for a defense project, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $161 million federal grant to Kokam for developing a new generation of high-power battery technology for supplying the automotive industry’s electric vehicles. All of the pieces were falling into place.

Bob had been in touch with one of Kokam’s top engineers, who besides being an expert on lithium cells, was very much into hi pro cars. Bob had been talking with him about White Zombie when he recommended the perfect cell for a street legal drag car – a cell with very high power density, yet also a cell with high energy density as well. Could it be, that the Zombie could have both insane levels of instantaneous power ‘and’ have a pack with enough energy density to up the ante in the miles-per-charge game? I had checked out the specs on this ultra high power LiPol cell, and quite frankly, was blown away with the stats!

While doing my daytime gig of wrenching on lift trucks getting beat up and covered in hydraulic oil, Bob called me in the very late afternoon, saying ‘he had something for me’. As it turned out, he and I were both in the same Oregon City area, so we arranged a top secret meeting in the darkened parking lot of Shari’s restaurant, and in the early evening, like some illegal drug deal, we met where he handed me ‘the package’. The box was a flat affair, about the size of a thick dinner tray and weighing maybe nine lbs. I opened it, to find a pair of vacuum-formed black plastic trays stacked together, and inside each were a pair of Kokam ultra high power lithium manganese cobalt polymer cells, looking like square pancakes sealed inside static bags and with two wide metal tabs at the top side. In my trembling hands, I was holding less than 8 lbs. of not-yet-available-to-the-public lithium cells that if connected in series could effortless crank a highway tractor – over and over, while making more instantaneous power than the tractor’s standard 200 lbs. of 8D lead acid cranking batteries!

One thing led to another, and I suddenly found myself in very positive negotiations with Kokam America. I studied the specs of these cells, and the more I read and the more I talked with Kokam’s engineers, the more excited I got over the possibility of getting enough of these to power-up the Zombie! Kokam America’s national sales manager even came to Portland for a face-to face meeting with team Plasma Boy. One of the team’s longtime members is Rich Rudman, who’s steadfastly supplied me with ever-increasingly more powerful chargers, BMS, and track side support from little known weeknight racing outings to full blown NEDRA EVents. Rich has always been there for me. Rich and his Manzanita Micro guys have been working with various brands of lithium and the BMS for it, for years now. Kokam was comfortable that we could handle the BMS to keep the cells alive.

We still had not been given the full go-ahead on cells, but we were very close. After being invited to visit the Kokam America plant in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Rich and I were on a plane to the Mid-west. To say we were treated well, is an understatement. After a terrific night out to dinner, the next day was all business and a very productive meeting ensued. I wanted to design a modular type system for the Zombie, and the assembled Kokam team agreed with the plan. Kokam added that they would provide engineering assistance with detailed mechanical drawings and all the EE help we might need, As part of the plant tour we received, we got to see the stack of ultra high power cells with a ‘Plasma Boy Racing’ label on the rack! Kokam America had worked with the US Navy on a special limited run of these ultra high power lithium polymer cells they had been developed for helicopter rotor crank duty, one of the most stringent applications for any battery.

Not long after returning home from Missouri, 210 of the special ultra high power cells found their way to Portland…we had our lithium! It’s ironic that these LiPol cells were developed for helicopter rotor crank duty, because the very first version of White Zombie used helicopter rotor crank NiCads! From the June 2009 Design News magazine:

A little more than a decade ago, virtually all racers considered electric vehicles to be glorified golf carts. That began changing in 1994, however, when the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association decided to stage an electric drag race to show the public that environmentally-acceptable EVs could be “fun and exciting.” The organization cordoned off a little street in downtown Portland, grabbed a few stop watches, and laid chalk lines on the cobblestone surface. Wayland, however, was not about to stand for the idea of a genteel, 30-mph drag race. He found the concept offensive; it was as if someone had tried to paint a smiley face on his soul. “I thought about the 72-volt cars that could barely get out of their own way, lumbering and wheezing uphill at 30 miles per hour,” Wayland recalls. “And I said, we can’t show this to the public.” He didn’t. Wayland used a helicopter battery and transformed his Datsun 1200 into a 175-volt race car. “They weren’t expecting cars like mine,” he says now. “Here I came with my Datsun, burning rubber in all five gears and smoking the tires. Women and children were running for cover!”

To see photos of the first time I used helicopter batteries in White Zombie, go here:


Stay tuned for pt. 3 where I get into the nitty-gritty specs and details of these cells, and tell all about the many changes being made to the car to better handle the new power level. How much power did I say? The answer, in pt. 3!

See Ya…John ‘Plasma Boy’ Wayland

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Dow Kokam Powered Zombie…10s in 2010! (pt. 1)

Hello to All,

It’s been a while since I’ve put together a full-blown Waylandesque post, so here’s one coming at you! As I never really got around to writing much about the Wayland Invitational IV races, I’m making this a combined story covering what led up to the races, what happened immediately after the races, and then I’ll get to the exciting stuff happening right now – the late ’09 tear-down and rebuild of the Zombie that includes the design, creation and assembly of what I consider to be the ultimate battery pack for a high performance street EV!

From Rod Wilde:

>I can’t wait! It will be Sunday in less than 6 hours :-) I have been a bit >bored lately and could use a Wayland tale for a lift in spirits.

OK Rod, there’s a lot of details to follow, so kick off your shoes, grab a cup of hot coffee, and sit back and enjoy the tale…

From Rod Hower:

> I always read your posts on this list, but I might have missed one about the >details of your ‘most potent ever’ White Zombie. Inquiring minds want to >know what’s up your sleeve.

No, I haven’t really talked too much about this, but since you asked…it all started like this:

Ever since tasting the forbidden fruit more than two years ago when we borrowed the spare A123 lithium pack from the Killacycle team, I have been engaged in a quest to get lithium for White Zombie. As some will recall, in the Summer of ’07 we pulled the heavy 852 lb. lead acid pack and dropped in the 374V, 6.9 kWh, 880 cell assembly that once powered Killacycle. It was the smallest of the three different lithium packs used in Killacycle. The 880 cell pack was the first one, then the team pulled and replaced it with a new pack at 990 cells, and now the current pack is at 1210 cells. With the heavy lead out of the Zombie and a tiny 175 lb. pack of lithium replacing it, the curb weight fell to around 1900 lbs.! Though the A123 pack didn’t quite match the fives time bigger 1500 amp-capable lead pack, the suitcase sized package of cordless drill cells still cranked out an amazing 1400 amps! Minus all the lead weight in the back seat and trunk areas, the car had a poor launch and excessive wheel spin that occurred throughout the entire run – even still, White Zombie still posted an 11.4 @ 114 mph ET. If we had more time to experiment with controller settings, tire pressure, and driving techniques, Tim, I, and most everyone else who were there that night, knew that the lithiumized Zombie was a high 10 second runner! Once the car ran broke through the 11.5 second barrier however, without a roll bar system and a fire suit for Tim (NHRA and NEDRA safety rules), we were politely escorted off the track and were not allowed to make any more runs. The next day, Sunday, we pulled the feisty A123 pack from the Zombie’s trunk, and with a tear in my eye, handed it back to the Killacycle boys :-(

Following that exciting July weekend, it was tough going back to 852 lbs. of lead :-( Even tougher, was installing a six point roll bar system knowing it would add close to 100 lbs. to the car! The Zombie’s curb weight ballooned to a porky 2660 lbs…by today’s standards about an average weight for a compact car, but for a 70′s economy car that used to be just under 1600 lbs., way too heavy! Even so, with the lead acid pack unleashing its full 1500 amps, in August at the NEDRA Nationals 10th Anniversary races WZ turned in an 11.882 @ 109.58 mph, the quickest ET it had ever run on lead acid – considering the amount of weight to move, not too bad! Back at PIR one week later at the ‘Street Warriorz’ drag races, the Zombie had launched hard carrying its front tires more than 100 feet as it walked all over a hot Corvette Z06. Looking at the timeslip’s 1/8 mile stats the Zombie was on its way to an 11.7, but damage to the Siamese 8 in the last 500 feet wiped that notion away as Tim shut the car down and it power-off coasted to a 12.07 ET :-(

As positive as 2007 was, most of 2008 was anything but! The problems started with motor parts delays, then there was the EVDL censorship nightmare that led to soured relationships and the cancellations of both the Wayland Inv. and the NEDRA Nationals in Portland. In spite of the troubles, I was busy all through 2008 trying to get lithium sponsorship on many levels. The l-o-n-g delay in the airing of the now infamous OPB ‘Electric Drag Racing’ video that we had put a lot of effort into and had hoped would be a catalyst for sponsorship, only contributed to the sponsorship drought. The EV drag racing story kept getting bumped off OPB’s play schedule, there was nothing new to show potential sponsors, and nothing materialized while the Zombie sat out the 2008 racing season.

After shelving it for a year and a half, in November of 2008 OPB finally aired the story in their weekly show ‘Oregon Field Guide’. To the surprise of the series’ executive producer (who had held its airing back) it immediately went viral. In fact, in their ’20 Years of Oregon Field Guide’ three hour long anniversary celebration show aired at the end of the year, the show’s executive producer went on camera to announce that our EV drag racing episode had been was unofficially voted the #1 Oregon Field Guide video of all time – unofficial because it was aired too late in the year to be in the list of shows to vote on, yet the votes still piled in! In a few short months, there were over one million views at the OPB on line videos page! The OPB story was followed with the December 2008 release of the center fold-out feature story on my twin 1200 EVs in the Jan. issue of ‘Retro Cars’ magazine, and the media frenzy continued into 2009 with lots of interest pouring in – including being contacted by numerous network TV series producers who, inspired by the OPB video, had ideas for a Zombie-based TV series…more on this to follow.

In the early Spring of 2009 I was negotiating with an LA based TV series creator, who understanding the importance of having powerful lithium batteries in White Zombie, was making follow-up calls to prospective lithium companies on my behalf. I was getting closer to a lithium deal, and was ‘really’ hoping to have a lithium pack installed in the Zombie in time for this past Summer’s WIIV races – alas, that was not to be.

In July, with the EV drag races bearing my name about to happen, a White Zombie no-show was not an option, so I swallowed my pride and accepted the fact that the car would run slower than it had in the past. Tim and I resurrected the nearly three year old Hawker lead acid pack by initially pulling and replacing eight weak batteries, thanks to generous help from longtime friend and past sponsor, Dick Brown, who had scrounged up and sent eight new Hawkers to me just in time. It was Dick Brown who had gotten me sponsorship from Enersys (Hawkers) when a friend of his was high up in that company. Tim and I went through the pack that had little exercise during first half of ’09, save for a few EV car shows and an occasional 10 mile run & recharge. We found that the majority of the batteries were all sitting at 12.6V or so, but we did find eight of them that were bad. It was ironic that we found exactly 8 bad ones, when Dick had sent exactly eight news ones. Through various techniques, we got the new batteries pretty well matched in SOC with the old ones, then we reconnected everything back into the twin 360V string affair it had always been. I took progressively longer trips followed by recharges for a few days, and the pack seemed to be getting stronger and stronger.

Hoping for maybe mid 13 runs so as to not be too embarrassed, the Zombie surprised us all when Friday night when it broke out of the gate with a 12.694 @ 96.7 mph! The ET was better than I had hoped for, but the low trap speed had me concerned. When Tim returned to the pit, we could see a mist on the Lexan cover for the back seat area portion of the pack…not a good sign, and we both knew the pack was in trouble. The second run came in slower at a 12.996 and just 89.60 mph, so before the car came back to the pits I knew what to expect. This time, the Lexan was fully drenched from what I thought were numerous batteries letting go…we were done for the night. I told Tim that we had made a good showing for what we had to work with, and said we’d just be good hosts Saturday.

The drive home from the track with fully exercised and hot batteries is usually one the Zombie can make on the freeway at a good clip all the way – this was not the case Friday! I felt the pack going soft about 2 miles shy of the Wayland EV Juice Bar and had to pull over as the pack was sagging lower and lower. I had to be towed back by my crew, and I was now fully convinced the pack had done its swan song and would never power the car again.

The next day during the crazed afternoon Wayland EV Juice bar activities with a congress of Teslas, a Tango, Crazy Horse, and all the other EVs being either recharged or repaired from Friday’s racing strewn all over, Tim was inside the Zombie quietly checking out the carnage… the idea of sitting out Saturday night’s track action wasn’t part of his plans! Though I was convinced the tired old pack had thrown in the towel, Tim talked me into joining in the post mortem exam. To our surprise, only ‘one’ of the old batteries had caused all the trouble, and it had let go in a spectacular fashion and was totally open-circuited. ‘Now’ I understood what had been going on during both runs and why the trap speed was so low…with one string having the troubled battery in the loop, that battery’s initial high resistance made the string weak, then when it fully opened, it essentially took the string out of the picture entirely. The resultant good string was doing all the work, and sagging very low while doing it…low volts equates to low trap speed. This also explained why the car felt so strong for about 12 miles on the way home from the track, then simply took a dive…it was running on only one string all the way home. All of this was verified, in that the batteries in the good string were very heavily discharged – but they were all very ‘evenly’ discharged and all sitting at a stone dead 11.9V. I had gotten lucky we didn’t reverse cells in a few batteries! The batteries in the string that went down with the one bad battery, were all nearly fully charged…proof the Zombie had been running on just one of the two 360V strings, and still managed to run 12s!

Fresh out of new Hawkers, I rummaged through my forklift service truck and found an old spare Hawker that had seen rough service, thought ‘what the heck’, and after getting it charged up, put it in the pack that had the weak battery, as the rest of them were fully charged. I did a replay of the ‘short trips followed by recharges’ and the pack seemed to be OK. Because of Tim’s failure to give up attitude (why he gets to be the car’s driver) the Zombie would return for a second night of racing!

We weren’t the only team with technical problems. After the extreme effort and exhausting drive from Anchorage to Portland, the Crazy Horse Pinto team of Mike and Hank, like us, had problems at the track Friday night. They felt their problems were in part, caused by a weak battery in their traction pack. Side bar….though we’ve tried many times, we’ve never had a good solution for the Zombie’s 12V system, as DC-DC converters seem to die in the application…something about a wildly-swinging supply voltage as high as 450V at full charge and a low of 180V at full discharge racing currents plus demanding high reactance contactor coils seems to take them out! Thus, the Zombie has had a sub-standard 12V system simply supplied by an unassisted 16 ahr Hawker battery – exactly like the traction pack units.

From Ken’s post ‘Frustration’:

>Another major part of that frustration is Hot Juice Electric projects that I >can’t get to. Work on the Chassis Juicer has not been touched in over six >months! I feel awful about that because I promised John Wayland a Chassis >Juicer for the White Zombie. It was promised for the Wayland Invitational >and it is still not done! Please wait… Pardon me – I had to go scream.

Knowing our racing friends from Alaska needed a Hawker, we pulled the healthy under-hood 12V Hawker and gave it to them to get the Pinto back on its game. Thinking we could get by with one of my ’50%’ type extra Hawkers on the shelf, we grabbed one and replaced the one we pulled for the 12V system with it. I figured recharging it hard between runs at the track would help it keep up. At the time, I was wishing Ken had brought a brand new beta unit Chassis Juicer for us – but he didn’t :-( It was sure great to have Ken and Heidi at the Wayland EV Juice Bar just the same :-)

Back on the track Saturday night, the pack was acting like it had two years ago, and the first ET of the night was a surprising 12.418 @ 100.7 mph! There were no indications of battery problems at all, and the Lexan stayed dry and clear. The 2nd run was even more impressive, almost dipping into the 11s with a 12.073 @105.53 mph! Wow, we were on track to run an 11 the next pass! Remember that 50% 12V under-hood battery? It raised its ugly head and bit us in the ass when on the 3rd run contactor dropped in and out, and the pass came in at 12.468 @ 102.11. The 4th run had even more sagging 12V system problems, this time not having enough juice to pull in the parallel contactors and rebooting back to series mode for the entire 1/4 mile run that came in at 13.804 @ 87.43 mph. Oh well, we gave it a good try, and our best run was only 2/10s off from WZ’s best lead acid ET two years ago when the pack was fresh, with an 11.882 @ 109.52 mph. A pretty respectable showing, enough to stay well ahead of my new Tesla friends, and a wonderful final curtain for the mighty Hawkers!

Stay tuned for pt. 2…

See Ya…John Wayland

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White Zombie featured in Wall Street Journal

Plasmaboy in the Wall Street JournalJohn J. Fialka writes an in depth article about the John Wayland, NEDRA and the history of electric drag racing for the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Don’t miss the excellent video in the middle on the on-line article.

PORTLAND, Ore. — On a recent Friday night at the Portland International Raceway, John Wayland scanned the dragsters, looking for an opponent for his geeky looking 1972 Datsun sedan. Finally, he challenged the owner of a souped-up 2005 Corvette, the hottest-looking car at the track, to a quarter-mile race. See how an electric car dubbed the White Zombie is leaving conventional muscle cars in the dust. When the starting light flashed, the Datsun, known as White Zombie, shot silently past the Corvette and kept widening the lead as the two cars faded into the distance…


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11s in ’07…Timing is Everything! (pt 2)

Hello to All,

The above title now seems at odds, as I finally get this part 2 post out. The timing for it sucks. By now, everyone knows that another EVent has come and gone (Wayland Invitational III) and I should be writing about ‘it’ instead. Oh well…chalk it up to being over-the-top busy the past three weeks, chalk it up to just being plain wrung-out from all the ups and downs of putting on a major racing EVent, chalk it up to being worn-down from weeks of constant media attention more fitting of a visiting Hollywood super star than some Greek geek playing around with his electric car. On the other hand, to fully appreciate the July 13th & 14th weekend’s track numbers you really need to know the build-up to the Wayland Invitational III, which our racing from June 29th was very much part of.

Anyway, here it is at last, part 2:

Continue reading

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Setting a Battery on Concrete Myth Answered

Hello to All, wrote:

I always thought that sitting batteries on a concrete garage floor would suck out the charge. If it were true, wouldn’t direct contact with the ground do the same?…but is the concrete myth even true?

I’ll take this one on. Continue reading

Posted in EVDL Posts | 3 Comments

11s in ’07…Timing is Everything! (pt 1)

Hello to All,

As usual, there’s a Wayland story here, so go get that cup of coffee and maybe a nice cinnamon melt, kick off those shoes, relax, and enjoy!

All I can say, is WOW! Finally, we’ve broken into the 11s that have eluded us for now for the past two years….and yes, we drove it to and from the track! As Rod Wilde posted, Tim Brehm drove White Zombie into the 11s twice, with the fourth run the best ET at 11.948 @ 109.75 mph, and the fifth and final run an 11.960 @ 110.14 mph. Remember when we were trying to be the first street legal EV to crack 100 mph in the 1/4 mile? Geesh, now we’re flying up to 110 mph!

Continue reading

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White Zombie 11s in 07

Hello everyone,

After many hours of work on the car to get ready for racing, Friday finally came. It had been raining off and on all day with downpours in the afternoon. It was starting to look like the anti-EV vortex was back. I arrived at Wayland’s around 4:00 pm to find the shop full of cameras and crew interviewing Wayland. Between the weather and the distractions it wasn’t looking good for racing.

Continue reading

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Re: Siamese 8 Lives Again…Seattle here we come!

I had written:

Tonight, after I return from yet another 320 mile round trip to Central Oregon and back (7 trips in less than 4 weeks now), Tim Brehm >and I will meet up at my house at 6:00 pm or so to re-install the Siamese 8 in White Zombie.

For the first time in a long time, it actually went as planned. I returned from my service call to Bend back into the Portland area right on schedule at 5:35 pm. Continue reading

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Siamese 8 Lives Again…Seattle here we come!

Hello to All,
Before getting into my post here, I want to publicly thank my friend Jim Husted for his heroic effort in rebuilding & improving the Siamese 8 these past weeks! Jim is ‘THE’ DC motor king! His artistry is amazing. I had the motor in the back of my work service truck yesterday in all its purple glory, and the ‘wows’ it got from all those who had the pleasure of seeing it, told it all. Thank you, Jim!

OK, here we go…..Advancing motor timing as you increase the volts to the motor under high amperage has been long known for its benefits, so it’s nothing new. Continue reading

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White Zombie featured in May 2007 Car and Driver!

White Zombie Car and Driver Article This month’s Car and Driver magazine features an excellent article written by Ted West entitled “Batteries Included; In Oregon the Merry Lunatic Fringe Builds a Green Screamer.” The article highlights John, Tim, the White Zombie and many others from the electric racing community.

Link to online article

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Mike’s Pinto Project & Gear Ratios

Mike Willmon wrote:

So another question for the list. Since welded gears are not EVen allowed under NHRA rules and spools are only allowed with aftermarket housings, whats the strongest type of locking differential to get for drag racing? Detroit, Auburn, ARB (are ARB Air lockers EVen strong enough for racing?)?

I think they’re all pretty strong. I love the Detroit Locker in White Zombie. Not a lick of problems to report, and it simply goes about its business. In a quiet EV, it’s pretty cool because you can clearly hear the locker ratcheting and clicking as the car turns, then when you line up straight on the strip launch pad, it goes ‘Ka-clunk!’ as if to say, “Yeah, I’m ready to help you paint twin blacks stripes.” The Detroit has taken all the power the Siamese 8 has twisted into it and has easily handled the torque. I would highly recommend one. Continue reading

Posted in EVDL Posts | 3 Comments

Re: Mike’s Pinto Project


My next concern is the strength of the assembly housing itself.

I see John’s mentioned going to a built aluminum carrier (and maybe a whole aluminum housing)

Mike, the new ‘Strange’ aluminum third member has arrived, though I haven’t picked it up yet. I am not going to an aluminum housing for the rest of the axle setup though. I am very pleased with the Dutchman Motorsports steel ‘Street Strip’ housing and have had no problems with it at all. In addition to this new aluminum third member casting, a new ‘Wilwood’ drag raging disc brake conversion setup has also arrived. These are specifically designed for drag racing, are extremely light weight, and for a little Datsun 1200 are huge at 11.3 inches. Together, these two changes should chop another 50-70 lbs. weight off the car, and the having four wheel discs will certainly make the car haul itself down from 110 mph quicker.

After Sunday’s foray into flash-over motor volt limits, I’ve decided to do another gear ratio change, too. More on this later.

Aside from the cracks around your pinion shaft carrier, how did the chopped assembly housing from the ’57 Ford hold up to the abuse?

Very well. I had no problems at all with the stock housing. The only complaint, was that chopped as it came to me, it placed the third member off to the passenger side too far. By the time the Dutchman would have been finished modding the housing and its two axles, it was not a lot more money to simply start over with the ‘Street Strip’ housing fitted with the big bearings and the beefy 31 spline Dutchman axles over the stock 28 spline ones.
See Ya……John Wayland

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Live from PIR, Fireball Incident (as told by Roderick Wilde)

John, Tim and White Zombie went for a day of racing at Portland International on Sunday. No post from John yet, but here are a series of posts made by Roderick Wilde to the EVDL.

3/18/2007 1:19PM

John has been calling me from the track so for those very few EV race fans out there here is an update. The first run on the new batteries with the current turned down to a measly small street amps of 1000 it turned a 12.64 at 98.69 mph. The 60 ft time was 1.67 and it was at 84.5 mph at the eighth mile at 7.85 seconds. The second run netted a 12.38 second ET at 104.21 mph. Of particular note is the fact that in all of last years racing 104 mph was the top speed they ever got out of “White Zombie”. They have a great announcer at Portland International Raceway that is really playing up the fact that this is an electric car and also the specs on the car. The first two runs annihilated the cars in the other lane. The second run was against a built V8 Chevy Nova. The poor guy didn’t have a prayer being matched up against the electric. On the second run he was at 87.73 mph in 7.74 seconds. With these leaps in performance they just may get into the elevens without turning up the amps. I personally believe this type of publicity does a lot for the cause of EVs. People at the track go home and tell their buddies, “hey, you wouldn’t believe what I saw at the track last night!” The word is definitely starting to get out there and with the Car and Driver article EVs may become part of the general population’s consciousness.

Roderick Wilde
“Suck Amps EV Racing”

Continue reading

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450 HP in 60 little Orange Boxes!

We have a new slogan at Plasma Boy Racing….11′s in 07!

I’m happy to report that Dick Brown (Aerobatteries) pulled through again for us this year and working with our sponsor Enersys, our new 40% more powerful batteries have arrived! This year White Zombie will again, be running on Hawker power, but instead of the 30 – 24.5 lb. 26 ahr Aerobatteries models we used last year, we will be using 60 of the smaller Genesis model 16 ahr batteries. Yes, these are nearly the same battery we ran with from ’98 through ’02, back when White Zombie had 28 of them making up an ultra-light 378 lb. 336V battery pack. Before they had been abused and super-heated to extreme hand-burning levels, we could pull 750 amps from them with very few failures. Even 800 amps was doable for less than 10 seconds. Yeah, we did blow quite a few of them up as the years were added on, but again, they only began to fail after substantial abuse. Details for those interested, can be found at the Plasma Boy web page…just click on the ‘White Zombie History’ button and scroll to ’1998 Early Version’.

Continue reading

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Car and Driver EV Racing Article Debute Delayed

Hello to All,

I had been assured by the editors at Car and Driver, that the anticipated EV racing story was slated for the April issue that’s about to hit the stands in the next week or two…then I got the phone call. For whatever reason, the story got bumped I’m now told, to the May issue :-(

It was sad news for me, as White Zombie is returning to the Portland Roadster show this year and will be on display at the Oregon Convention Center March 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. With the April issue to be on the stands at the same time, the timing ‘was’ perfect! There’s nothing better, than to have your car in a BIG show while at the same time, it is featured in a major magazine…. oh well.

The good news, is that Bill Dube’s exciting Killacycle is in the current April issue of Hot Rod magazine! Congrats to Bill and the crew for their recent success.

See Ya…..John Wayland

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John and Ted’s Excellent Adventure…Delivering the Mail!

Back in July I had written:

Sob….though I’ve been in, under, and all around GP, I’ve never had a ride :-(

That’s all been changed. With all the current talk about Gone Postal, instead of ‘talk’, I’ve been out driving it! Yeah, the rad postal van sits behind the locked gate here at the Wayland EV Juice Bar as I write this. What a beast it is!

I got to take it home after Saturday night’s racing, a calm and get-to-know-one-another 16 mile drive back home….just me and GP. It helped take my mind off the fact that I had just relinquished control and possession of White Zombie to FT and Roy to send it halfway across the country to the RPM trade show. Arriving at my backyard EV shop, I stuffed lots of juice back into all 40, yes, count ‘em, all 40 of the thirsty Exide Orbitals. I topped the twin-twenty 240V packs off the next morning before taking it out for a spin.

Going out the back door of my neighborhood onto a wide open road, with the front drive in 2nd gear and the rear drives kicked in, at around 20 mph I decided to stomp on it and see just what this machine had in it….OH MY GAWD!!! Instantly, I had my hands full, as the full fury of twin Zillas, twin 8s, a pissed off 9 in front, and 40 warmed up and rock’n Orbitals simply mauled me up to perhaps 50 mph in, what, maybe a second??? The torque was massive and it felt as if I was riding a bull trying to buck me off! Where White Zombie feels brutal, this thing feels possessed! If the forces behind this project ever get the planets all aligned in just the right order, I have no doubts that this 4300 lb. brick monster can run low12s (perhaps a high 11) and an easy 115 mph.

Continue reading

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Reversing White Zombie

OK, it’s Monday 5:57 am…cobwebs are clearing, the day after day 3 of a crazed weekend of racing and fellowship with the best of friends.

In response to Jim Husted’s first part of his Late Night Nationals post, James Massey wrote:

So how did John do reverse in Zombie? Did he go with the tried-and-not-so-true reversing contactors that he had trouble with before, or do something less conventional?

C’mon, wanna know…

James has been great helping me with ideas on the best way to reverse the not-so- conventional motor & contactor setup in my car, so I want to thank him for all his support. In the end, I went back to the way I had done it two years ago, only in a much more aggressive design. To clarify, I reverse the front motor section only while the rear motor section is off line and is just along for the ride. Here’s how it gets done…

Much to my not wanting to do so, I replaced the beefy 4/0 external field-to-armature cable connection (~ 1ft. long) on the front motor section, with two short 4/0 cables and an SW200 Albright contactor with a single set of contact tips normally open (NO), the same model as the three I use for the series/parallel switchers. The racer in me was convinced the added extra set of high current contacts would add too much resistance and negatively affect the car’s performance at the drag strip. When you’re hunting 100ths of a second, even small losses affect things.

Fast forward to this weekend’s runs…the car ran 12.3 ETs, the same as before the reverse mods, so I’m happy to report that I was wrong :-) , and boy is it sa-weeeet! Flip a switch, and it silently goes the other way!

Back to the reversing project…In my car’s original design, I wanted to avoid using the array of F-R type contactor sets used for series, parallel, forward and reverse (times two) as is the norm for a Zilla equipped EV that takes advantage of its ability to drive twin motors. From my extensive experience with forklift contactors, I’ve learned that despite claims from contactor manufacturers to the contrary, the F-R contactors burn their normally closed tips that rely on spring pressure much worse, than their normally open tips that are closed under high pressure via the magnetic pull of the contactor coil. In White Zombie running at 2000 amps, all those spring-closed tip sets add up to unwanted problems. Thus, the way I wire the sections of my Siamese 8 requires just three single pole type contactors (NO tips) to accomplish the series and parallel modes. For the series mode, just on SW200 slams shut and connects the motor sections in line for the high torque series configuration launch mode. To switch to parallel, the series contactor opens and a pair of parallel SW200s slam shut connecting the motor sections across each other for the parallel configuration max hp top end mode. Simple, and no NC spring pressure contact tips, and just three easy to see and easy to replace NO contact tip sets, and after two years in service they look almost as new still! To continue…with the 4th SW200 inserted between the field and armature of the front motor section’s field-to-armature series connection, with it energized and pulled in I can still operate the Siamese 8 motor as I had been doing, or, by opening this ‘field contactor’, the front motor section can now be reconfigured for reverse via a set of 300 amp GE single pole NO contactors. These are the same heavy duty contactors I had installed and experimented with for field weakening. Yes, in the forward direction series mode of operation, the Siamese 8 now has two SW200 Albright contactors to loop the 2000 amps through instead of just one, but when I looked at the tip condition of the series mode contactor and saw they had not burned at all the last two years in service, I figured there must not be all that much resistance to worry about, and the results from this weekend’s runs backs this up.

Soooo…that’s how reverse was accomplished, at least from the high current high voltage path perspective. The other ‘control logic’ circuit is a whole ‘nuther story! I wanted to use the Hairball’s great set of convenience and safety features, especially the ‘roll detect’ circuit Otmar built into its design (inspired by yours truly back in the formative days of the Hairball) that prevents catastrophic reversing of the motors during an apposing direction under detectable rpm. I also wanted a true ‘Neutral’ direction position with the dash mounted three position toggle switch, so that nothing can run when the switch is in neutral. I also wanted all the fault code options intact….etc. etc.

The high current reversing wiring was actually completed a week ago and had been tested in a crude ‘disconnect all these wires, hook up all these’ wheels off the ground trial operation. The control logic job was intense and required lots of new wire looms, a lot more relays, more switches, a new bracket, and more stuff too boring to keep listing. Tim Brehm and Chris Brune literally sweated through a day long under-hood ordeal getting it ready for racing Friday night while I hung out on the shaded deck sipping lemonade through an interview with Car and Driver’s Ted West. Thanks to both of these guys for taking on the challenge and taking the pressure off me.

In the end, it all worked as planned…..oh yeah, there ‘was’ that little glitch of frying 25 amp fuse! Seems the last minute snubber we installed across the reversing contactor coils couldn’t handle the inductive kick-back and failed in a shorted condition! Once we figured that out though, reverse was available at the mere flip of a switch…beautiful!

See Ya….
John Wayland

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Car and Driver Runs 12.3 @ 103 mph in White Zombie!

Yes, it’s crazy time here at the Wayland EV Juice bar… a hot 90+ degrees, people and EVs everywhere! A more detailed report will follow after this weekend’s behind me, but for now this update.Tim warmed-up the Zombie with two 12 second runs, then it was Car and Driver’s Ted West’s turn. The nervous journalist received last minute instructions from Tim and I on the best launching techniques and what to expect before he was strapped into the electric Datsun from Hell and sent out to the track. First run…12.6 even after letting off the throttle too early with the finish line still ahead of him. With his head hanging in shame, he vowed not to repeat the error and delivered smack-down 12.3 @ 103 mph second run. Third run 12.3 @ 102 mph. This last run Ted lifted both front tires about 4 inches off the ground immediately, so the front wheels were stationary and not rotating for about 40 feet…a very cool looking power-launch!

Earlier this year, Car and Driver road tested a new 500+ hp V10 Dodge Viper that turned a 12.5 ET, so it’s now fairly official from the magazine’s perspective, that an electric street sedan runs a quicker 1/4 mile!

One additional stat…White Zombie ran 12′s on all runs defeating every gasser challenge of the night!

Gotta go…time to head to the track.

See Ya…
John ‘Plasma Boy’ Wayland

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Oregonian Reporter Gets Zombied!

There’s been a frenzy of media coverage lately over EV drag racing, and in particular, over White Zombie’s routine weekend drag racing runs against the gasser boys. A certain well known car magazine has been in contact (can’t release details right now), Dateline Australia was here, and last night a reporter from Oregon’s biggest newspaper ‘The Oregonian’ spent time with me and the little Datsun from Hell.

It seems that the battery problems we had at the Wayland Invitational a few weeks ago where we blew up a Hawker, are behind us now, and it was just one weak battery that let go. We had replaced it with a pre-cycled spare Hawker and had carefully worked the pack back up into equalization with numerous 10-15 mile road drives, long low amperage charging, then several high current discharges and heavy charge cycles. We raced this past weekend and got four 12 second runs in without a single battery problem. Following Friday night’s racing, I’ve been driving the Zombie every day and the 360V pack of Hawkers are beautifully equalized and sit at 392-393V. They’re rock’n hard and are performing at high levels of power.

Fast forward to the best part….Oregonian sports writer Doug Binder’s ride in White Zombie. So….I’d been trying to explain to him the way the car launches from rest and how even against really powerful gas cars known to run 0-60 in 4 seconds or so, my EV is 4-5 car lengths ahead of them at 60 mph. I told him the Zombie’s 0-60 time is estimated to be somewhere in the mid 3′s. He’s a nice guy, so no disrespect is intended, but I just don’t think he got it. He evidently, had no idea what the car would really be like.

Anyway…it was a hot day, so the recently repaved asphalt on Burnside was warm and sticky. We rounded a corner and just when I had straightened out the Zombie and was rolling at about 5 mph, I planted my right foot down hard! To my surprise, instead of the usual 100 feet of constant wheel spin and copious tire smoke, the damn thing simple stuck and did a wheel stand, instantly slamming the poor guy into his seat as both his eyes were big as saucers as he was now looking through the windshield at the sky instead of the road. When the front end came back down, it unloaded the rear tires a bit and they were breaking loose and squealing as we rushed up to speed. It was about the best power demo I could have hoped for! He was at the same time, in a state of shock, scared absolutely sh….tless, and yet, had the biggest EV grin I think I’ve ever seen…well, OK, Matt’s was pretty big, too! I almost felt bad, because he was shaking a bit afterwards. He told me he had never, ever been in a car that accelerated like that…ever! He said it was more like an amusement park ride :-)

The best news for the Late Night Nationals coming up the 25th & 26th next weekend, is that the article will be the lead feature on Thursday the 24th the day before the races, in the Oregonian’s sports section…great pre-race PR! An Oregonian camera man is scheduled to be at the Wayland EV juice bar this Sunday to take the photo that will appear. I think a line-locked full tire burn is in order.

I can hardly wait to read Doug Binder’s write-up.

See Ya…
John ‘Plasma Boy’ Wayland

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Fun at the Movies…Chris Paine meets White Zombie! (pt. 2)

Hello to All,
From part 1…..

At a little before 7:00 the line formed to go into the theater, so show and tell was over and the real show was about to begin.

I was excited to see this movie. In a past life of getting on airplanes and flying into various parts of the country to work in wafer fabs as a high tech trouble-shooter, I found myself in California and Arizona often, two places where the elusive EV1 could actually be seen touched, and yes, even driven if one was fortunate enough. I drove EV1s in San Diego, and I drove EV1s in Phoenix. Though not nearly as lucky as those who were leasees of EV1s, I did get to drive perhaps twenty EV1s over a period of maybe three years. I got to see the Impact, too, the forerunner of the EV1, and got to see and sit inside ‘Sunnyside Up’, the race prepped EV1 that went 183 mph and set a world speed record for a production electric car. Rod Wilde raced drag raced his Maniac Mazda against this car and beat it (to the dismay of the GM engineers) while we were both in Phoenix. I’ve even drag raced White Zombie against Marvin Rush in his EV1…what a fun memory that is (video up at Plasma Boy Racing). I loved the EV1, it’s truly one of the world’s great cars.


During its heyday, an EV1 was available for rent through ‘EV Rentals’, a subdivision of Budget Car Rental. I took advantage of this, and got to know the good folks at the LA Airport’s Budget Car Rental well. Whenever I had business in that area, instead of flogging some wheezing econocar gasser and adding to the LA Basin’s pollution problem, I was whirring about in a high performance electric car, the fabulous EV1 (driving experience story at the links page of Plasma Boy Racing)! When I first heard of the idea that one could actually rent this rare and exotic car, it seemed too good to be true, and it reminded me of the tales told by aging hotrodders of a time when the legendary AC Cobra, an ultra hi performance muscle car, could be rented from ‘Hertz Rent a Car’. Today, any sane hotrodder would give his left arm for a chance to get a ride in a for real AC Cobra, so to think that ‘anybody’ with a driver’s license could merely waltz into a Hertz Rental facility, drop down some pocket change, and go out and wreak havoc on poor saps in their Mustangs, GTOs, and Vettes, is well, the stuff that makes great stories! Of course, an original Cobra is a highly valued, rare collectible that broke all the rules, set the bar high, and today represents a time gone by. At the time, I remember thinking that some day, aging EVers (guys like me) would tell tales of how one could rent an exotic, rare, limited production, hi performance EV1. Today, the EV1, like the Cobra, is a highly valued, rare collectible (for museums that hide them away when GM tells them to) that broke all the rules, set the bar high, and today represents a time gone by. Back to the movie….

Before the movie began, Chris addressed us all, which really added to the whole thing. All I can say, is WOW! Chris and all involved did a terrific job.

The film is expertly crafted with great camera work and full fidelity, well mixed audio. A highlight for me, was music by Joe Walsh during a drag race scene between a Hummer and an EV1. Other highlights was seeing lots of folks I’ve spent time with either in person or through correspondence, from Chelsea Sexton involved with the EV1 program (she and I hung out together, then she handed me the keys to an EV1 in Phoenix and told me to go play with the car), to former GM CEO Robert Stemple (wrenched on EVs with him in Orlando), to Iris and Stan Ovshinsky (had a wonderful discussion about NiMH batteries with them at EVS 14), to Alan Cocconi (met him one night in the Arizona desert), to Dough Korthof (traveling through Oregon in his Honda EV Plus), Wally Rippel (his first EV was a Datsun 1200)…it was like I was ‘part’ of this movie and that I had lived through the whole thing with everybody. Yes, there are parts of this movie where I thought I might be offended, such as the areas dealing with politics, but it was handled in a way that didn’t seem to be ‘bashing’ for bashing sake, rather, it was dealt with on a factual basis that left the viewer feeling it was up to them to decide…good job, Chris. So great was this movie, that my eyes welled up several times (I can’t say tears for fear of ridicule by male compatriots) during certain scenes. Imagine, a documentary with this kind of power! Even if one is not already an environmentalist or EVer, this movie would move them as well.

After the lights came back up, it was open forum question and answer time with Chris and others. A proud moment for me, was when all those who had electric cars were asked to stand, where we received a huge round of applause.

After the show, Chris was the ultimate host, handing out large format posters and autographing them for all who asked. When the time was right (no, this is not a Cialis commercial), Chris and I had a great one on one discussion about the film. We discussed our mutual appreciation of Joe Walsh where I learned Joe was an EV1 leasee…didn’t know that! Walsh normally does not allow his music to be used in movies, but he was happy to give permission for use in this film. Too much to cover in this area, but let it suffice to say Chris and I had lively conversations as the night went on.

As things were winding down, Chris and friends joined us back outside for the anticipated Zombie ride…or should I say rides? Tim was instructed by my wife to not get too crazy on the streets, while I was standing behind her silently mouthing ‘NAIL IT’. Chris asked for his life to be spared…too bad no video footage was shot of all this fun. It wasn’t the best setup for a full blown Zombie experience. The Hollywood district of Portland is very congested with cramped streets, lots of traffic, people everywhere…you just can’t do 100 mph down Sandy Boulevard! Tim left with Chris and disappeared into the night for a good 15 minutes, while we all worried that maybe they had wrapped themselves around a telephone pole somewhere. They returned though, and Chris’ EV grin was pretty large! I would later see lots of 30 foot long tire patches in the area where they had been. Chris said he could only imagine what the car could do if they hadn’t had such a tight area to drive through. We did see Tim launch the car once as they were leaving a stoplight, and the front tires popped off the ground a little, so at least Chris got to feel that gut distorting torque :-) As he got out of the car, one of the first things he said was, “That does it, I’m coming back for the Portland EV Drag races in August!” In my head I said, “Mission accomplished!”

Remember how I had described how hungry Cheryl, Tim, and I were ‘before’ the show? Since then, only the late afternoon ice cream bars, the hype of the car show, the movie, the high octane discussions, and a couple bags of movie popcorn and a couple bottles of pop had sustained us. To my delight, Chris asked if we would like to join him for dinner at a brew house around the corner that his brother knew of. Yes, there’s a Portland connection to Chris, in that his brother lives here! As I was feeling ‘special’ to have had the personnel invite, it suddenly became apparent that Chris had tricked me with an ulterior motive, as he scrambled back into White Zombie for a ride to the restaurant :-0 Jay Donaway, Cheryl, and I got in Blue Meanie and followed. The pack was sitting at 152V static after the 6 mile drive without a refresh charge, and while the moment of all the excitement this evening had brought still had me zinging, I was also pondering the all uphill drive back to the Wayland EV juice bar on 6+ year old batteries that were already pretty darn tired. Would we make it back home? In the old days, circa the early 1980s, through periods of battery experimentation, there was many a night where Cheryl had to either help me push this car, or worse yet, had to walk home from some ‘stranded’ location with me. To this day, even after having Red Beastie with its easy 120 mile range that never, ever left us without adequate range, she’s still gun shy of the ‘little blue car’, and the first words out of her mouth were, “We’ve got enough to get home, right?” In my head I said, “Geez, the batteries are 6 years old, they haven’t been charged, it’s all up hill home, they’re sitting at less than 12 volts right now with no load on them, what do YOU think?”…but outside that strange head of mine, this came out, “Sure sweetie, the car’s doing great. Relax, let’s enjoy the evening.”

At the restaurant/brew house, the fellowship was fun, and the brew and food was terrific as well. In trying to get a Chris Paine quote describing his Zombie ride, Jay came up with ‘Had I ridden in White Zombie before I made this film it would have been changed to ‘Who Saved the Electric Car?” This brought out laughter from Chris and all.

Afterwards, Chris asked me how the charge was on White Zombie, and if there was enough to give a few more rides for his brother and friends and still get us home OK. Tim reported that the pack was quite stiff still and that the voltage was still hanging near 180 or so. And so rides, we gave! One of Chris’ friends was in the passenger seat and was talking to Tim about how he’s got this buddy with a super fast, built Dodge Dart, and just as he was about to say how fast ‘that’ car was, Tim stood on it, pulled the front tires up, and laid down twin black stripes as they clawed away down the street. Tim told me later that all kind of explicatives came out of the guy’s mouth as he was slammed back in the seat on launch, and that it was obvious he just wasn’t expecting ‘Zombie’ acceleration….Tim said it was great fun.

Near 11:30 pm, the time came for everyone to say goodbye. We thanked Chris and his entourage for making such a great film and for being so engaged with all the EVers who came on this fun night, and he thanked us for the dedication we all had, and of course, for his thrill ride.

Cheryl and I dropped Jay off at the MAX train station, and we were about to make our way back home when Tim flagged us down. Seems the DC-DC had just called it quits and the Zombie’s lights were dimmed down to an 11+ volt level again…hmmm. A quick check revealed a blown 5 amp HV fuse. We decided to not worry about the problem, as the drive home would be a just 12-15 minutes. Blue Meanie was my concern at the moment, with the pack sagging into the 145V range under 35 mph speeds. To my amazement, the pack hung in there fairly well most of the way home. After about 4 miles though (10 miles total), I started to see 130+V readings, then even lower as we continued to pull mild hills. Long story shorter…we made it home, a 12 mile round trip on Optimas with at least 600 cycles on them. Yes, I pulled the pack down HARD into sub 100V levels on the last 1/2 mile, but the pack recovered well and took in a 1.5 hour charge, most of that at 23+ amps! White Zombie’s pack was sitting at 375 volts right after shutting it down, this after 12 miles, and HEAVY repeated 1000 amp acceleration runs. White Zombie too, was recharged before I went to bed.

The next morning, the Zombie’s pack was sitting at 391V (perfect), and Blue Meanie’s pack seemed to enjoy it’s flogging, as instead of sitting at 158V static (new, it used to sit at 169V) in the winter of its life, it was now at 164V. Subsequent driving these past days has Blue Meanie feeling way peppier and the pack acting like it did a few years ago. No reversed cells and far less voltage sag. Guess those old Optimas can be woken back up.

What a fun night! Thanks again to everyone that made this come together, with special thanks to Brad Hippert who was instrumental in getting my car included as part of the show festivities. Of course, a big thank you to Chris Paine for his commitment to not letting this story get buried by GM and for having the courage to stick with it for three long years in the making.

See Ya…
John ‘Plasma Boy’ Wayland

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Fun at the Movies…Chris Paine meets White Zombie!

Hello to All, I had written:

…a few photos from last night’s fun with Chris Paine are up at the Plasma Boy web page. Look for a detailed post later tonight….

Then this from Jim Husted:

I’m so pleased that you got to pull it off last night…I’m not going to ruin the plot for EVeryone and I can’t wait to read the full post.

OK, here’s ‘the rest of the story’……As is typical, this all started bad, very bad. In Portland, Oregon, once we get past July 4th or so, you can count on Summer weather, we’re talking little to no rain and 85-95 degree temps the norm through August. So, anyone wanna guess where I’m going with this? Yup, that damn anti-EV vortex is still after me! I’m not kidding. After 20+ days of sun and warm weather, and with Chris and his crew arriving in town for the big film debut (and a scheduled Zombie ride), a weird July cold front was forecast for mid-week, most likely Wednesday. Geesh! In fact, you just couldn’t get a more deliberate conspiracy from the weather man, with his 7 day forecast showing 85-90 degrees Monday and Tuesday, then plummeting temps and rain ‘only’ on Wednesday, then Thursday and Friday rebounding into the 80s with Saturday and Sunday heading into the 90s again. It seems at every possibility for an EVent this year, weird weather has done it’s best to kill it!

Yesterday morning as I awoke early to start my forklift wrenching day, the smell of fresh wet air wafted through the bedroom window. Right on queue, on the exact day that of the movie debut, the rare for July cold front has rolled in off the Pacific and it’s raining! All day long, it rained. I’m in the back of my service truck doing this and that, and all I can hear is the sound of rain beating down on the aluminum roof…damn! To make matters worse, my planned ‘easy’ day (so I could get off work early at 3:00) is anything but easy and is rapidly going south on me, with one customer freaking out because five, count ‘em, five lift trucks are down all at the same time and I’ve got to get them back on line before I can go home. I call for backup to get an extra tech to help out, but it seems all the techs were slammed on this day…nice! I’m building here, so bear with me……

By noon, it’s still raining, and as I get something repaired and back in service, operators keep stopping by on forklifts carrying more dead pallet jacks over to me. By two, it’s raining even harder and the skies are getting darker. By three, it’s still raining. Work continued to get more insane and each time I got caught up, another repair would show up. The grand total of dead lift trucks came to eight. At near 4:00 however, the rain stopped, the clouds began to go away, and patches of blue showed up as the roads began to dry. Man, was I going to get a break?

I arrived at my house and hour and a half later than planned at 4:30. My wife’s work day had also went crazy and though she had planned to meet me at the house at around 3:30, she didn’t get home until after 4:00. The plan was, that she and I would take Blue Meanie, and Tim would drive White Zombie. The rain thing had just tweaked with me all day, work had gone to hell in a hand basket, and I had cars waiting at home to prep for a show that I really needed a couple of hours for. Now it was getting late and there was little time left to get the cars spiffed up. I had also wanted to take both out for a 4-5 mile ‘wake-up run’ with subsequent recharges to get their juices flowing. Blue Meanie in particular, with its 6+ year old Optimas, would never make a 12 mile round trip to the show and back unless I exercised the old pack before hand. Yeah, things had certainly not gone as I had hoped for. I was tired and dirty with a combination of sweat and hydraulic fluid, I stunk…I was stressed out over everything. Nothing like a shower though, to wash away problems, and by 5-ish I emerged a refreshed Plasma Boy. Tim too, had one of those days but in perfect timing fashion, he was at my door as I was ready to go out it.

We had wanted to be at the theater by 5:30 or so to get both of my EVs in the lineup near the theater entrance with other EVs from the OEVA group, and, we wanted meet up with Chris before show time. Instead, we hadn’t left my house, it was already after 5:00, and nothing had been done yet. My wife isn’t a real happy camper when things go this way. All three of us were hungry, too. I’m still building here……

Blue Meanie gets put on charge to top its pack off…White Zombie, too. At full charge (445V), Zombie’s charger is shut down and the pack rests at 404V right after. The Chris Brune DC-DC is put on line as the 12V system jumps to 14.4V and the packs settles in at 391 volts.

Time for Tim to take the car out for a spin. He goes up the shop driveway and is almost to the road, when the car suddenly looses power and coasts to a stop. WHAT???? Nooo-oooh, not now! A second press-down on the throttle allows the car to make it onto the street, then it dies again. This is definitely bad timing! What’s up with this? We got the car back into the shop, hooked up the Mac, and pulled all these Zilla codes: 1124 (Main contactor stuck on), 1141 (main contactor high resistance), 1221 (Major Overspeed Either Motor Beyond red line by X), 1224 (SLI Battery too low and caused shutdown of controller), 1231 (Propulsion pack open, no contactor drop, and controller is not responding). Geez, what the heck?

So now, it’s 5:30, we’re still in the driveway working on a broken car that’s expected to be at the show as one of the attractions, Blue Meanie ‘really’ needs to be taken out for pack warm-up (or we’ll never make the round trip), and we’re starving. Cheryl comes out with ice cream treats and though she knows things aren’t going well, she says nothing as she hands them to us. This is ‘not’ what I needed after the day I’d had! Tim and I tried to figure out the codes. I hadn’t cleared them since I had raced a few weekends ago, so the older 1224 code made sense…that was when I was driving home pre DC-DC and the 12V battery had lost its will (7-6-06 Electrics Wow the PIR Crowd Friday Night!). So did the 1141, because the contactor had dropped out due to the low 12V problem on that night. The 1231 code happens often, as both Tim and I occasionally forget to insert the interior emergency disconnect handle before atempting to boot up the Zilla. That left us with the freshly imprinted codes 1124 and 1221. Tim was all over it, and within a few minutes, had discovered the rpm sensor’s input lead to the Hairball had come loose…no input from that sensor while flag ‘a’ is on, and you’ll get that 1221 code! The 1124 then made sense, because when the car died due to the tach drive thing, the contactor did not drop out, thus the Zilla said the contactor was ‘stuck on’ because it was still on when the controller had shut itself down.

After reinserting the sensor’s wire at the Hairball and cinching it up with a small screw driver, all was well and the Zombie was ready to roll. Time now, nearly 5:45 pm. Tim takes the car out for the drive, while I take Blue Meanie for a short 1/2 mile cruise through the neighborhood, then return and put it back on charge. That would be all the time I had to freshen up the Meanie’s pack. Tim got back, the car was charged up again, and after quick wipe-downs and vacuum jobs, we were finally ready to leave for the show…it’s now 6:10 pm.

We drove conservatively to the theater, about 6 miles from the Wayland home. Blue Meanie’s tired old 156V pack of Optimas hung in there fairly well, but make no mistake, the days of seeing 165 volts while cruising at 40 mph are gone, replaced these days with 149-152 volts and lots of sag under any type of acceleration. At the theater, as I had assumed, there were no charging outlets to help the Meanie’s pack out. White Zombie’s pack laughed at the drive and still registered 185 volts on the Emeter!

The presentation of EVs was great. Going from memory, there was Gary Graunke’s silver AC powered Insight, Ralph Merwin’s super clean teal Geo Prism EV, a white electric Chevy S10 pickup, Myles Twete’s show stopper dark navy 1921 Milburn EV, Blue Meanie and White Zombie, and a couple other EVs I can’t clearly recall (sorry to those I’ve forgotten). There were lots of people gathering to see the electric cars, lots of video cameras, lots of digital cameras, lots of excitement! As I’m doing my typical show and tell of Blue Meanie (as always, the remote controlled motorized rear battery tray was a big hit), Tim is working a group of folks curious about White Zombie. I had talked with quite few people, but there was this one guy who was very intrigued with the under-hood area of Blue Meanie, and so we chatted for perhaps 10 minutes before he said to me, “Oh, by the way, I’m Chris” (as he gives me a firm hand shake). I was pretty embarrassed that I had not recognized him. We migrated over to White Zombie, where his face erupted into a very big EV grin as he took in its ‘racing attitude’. I told him Rod Wilde had asked me to present him with a pair of rubber shorts to prepare him for his Zombie ride, but Chris’ wit was readily apparent when he instantly quipped back, “Oh that’s OK, I’ve already got them on…wear them all the time.” I knew I’d like this guy! We decided to wait until after the show for his ride experience.

At a little before 7:00 the line formed to go into the theater, so show and tell was over and the real show was about to begin. To be continued…

See Ya….
John Wayland

Posted in EVDL Posts | 1 Comment

RIP, Red Beastie

The Red Beastie has met it’s end……

What a horrid thing to read when I’m away from home and excited to catch my email via Wi Fi somewhere in Alaska! As I download and begin to open my EVDL fix of the day looking for uplifting EV stuff, I instead read that Dick Finley’s and my creation, Red Beastie, has been destroyed…ARGHHH! And the way it happened? Incredible!

Of course, my condolences go out to my friend Tony for the loss of more than one EV, his home, and all its damaged goods. Glad to hear he and his mom were away at the time and unharmed.

And so ends the life of the electric pickup that could :-( Today, with NiMH and LiIon making longer distance range possible in our electric conversions, a 120 mile-per-charge electric conversion doesn’t seem all that significant, but back in ‘97, Red Beastie created quite a buzz when it made it from Portland, OR to Seattle, WA and back, 440 total miles mostly at 60-65 mph speeds over varying terrain, with just four recharges during the trip! Back then, it took close to 2500 lbs. of lead, forty T-105 Trojan 6V wet cells to do the deed.

Somewhere floating out there in cyberspace, there’s my EVDL post all about that incredibly fun trip, with guest appearances from Father Time, Marko Mongillo, and Madman Rudman. Twin tow-behind gencarts converged along the I-5 freeway corridor to provide on-road charging power, one brought south towards Portland by the deadly duo, and one towed behind the Beastie on the first leg Marko and I took on our way towards Seattle. Tied together with multiple tangled cords and connectors, they provided 120 amp roadside recharges. My gencart was tame compared to Madman’s. Mine was powered by a chugging twin cylinder air-cooled Onan who’s spinning alternator gave just 120 vac output and fed a variac ‘Wayland-made’ charger. Madman’s cart consisted of a high speed aircraft alternator spun by a stressed-out liquid-cooled Geo Metro 3 banger with a bad muffler. The alternator was hooked into 3 or 4 assorted sci fi project type rectifying devices and outputted 100+ amps! The mid-point recharge extravaganza happened at radical EVer Pat Sweeney’s place, where his ‘Ugly Box’ 240 vac powered capacitor chargers teamed up with our gencarts to pump a stout 190 continuous amps amps into the massive 2500 lb. thirsty Beastie pack. I’m convinced this charging frenzy altered Rudman’s brain and was the genesis of today’s terrific Manzanita Micro PFC Charger line. Man oh man, how we could have used a pair of PFC50s (or even better, a pair of my PFC50X) !!

Today, a 500 lb. stack of admittedly expensive LiIon batteries, could not only match the range capacity of the Beastie’s 2500 lb. wet cell lead acid pack, they could exceed it. I imagine a LiIon powered Beastie type truck (well, it wouldn’t even qualify as a beast with a mere 500 lbs. of batteries) could do the ~185 mile distance between these two major west coast cities on a single charge without breaking a sweat.

80 mile jaunts into the rugged Columbia River Gorge, extended snow driving with its 3000+ watt electric heater blasting, towing a 16 ft. tandem wheel trailer loaded with the Heavy Metal Garden Tractor and White Zombie 45 miles to race at Woodburn, taking Dick’s widow Shirley and her feisty toy poodle ‘Peppy’ out for an evening to see Christmas lights….Ahhh, the memories. Now, Dick is gone, Shirley is gone, Peppy too, is gone, and full circle, so is the electric pickup that made them so happy. RIP Red Beastie, my old friend :-)

See Ya…….John Wayland

Red Beastie lives on at the Plasma Boy Racing video page; scroll to the thumbnail for the Ch. 2 news segment:

Editor’s note: The article “420 Miles in the Red Beastie” can be found at the following links:

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4-19-06 Re: longest range?

Hello to All,

Victor Tikhonov wrote:

I know you can have a la Red Beastie lead sled built to
demonstrate a range number rather than be a normal commuter,
but it’s not exactly what most people would want to drive).

(Don’t get me wrong, I respect Dick Finley’s creation very much).

From Roger Stockton:

In all fairness, I think that Victor’s comment still stands.
The Red Beastie got about 2x the range of a typical conversion, and used
2x the amount of batteries…other aspects of performance suffered as a result: this was a 5000lb
2-person vehicle with reasonably slow acceleration despite a decent
motor and controller combination.

I agree with both of your assessments. The truck was actually even heavier, at exactly 5290 lbs. It’s acceleration was borderline, it was very heavy and felt cumbersome to drive, it slowed down on steep hills, and it took forever to get up to near 90 mph, but amazingly it ‘did’ reach the very high 80s on level ground. On the other hand, it was also capable of towing a 16 ft. tandem wheel trailer loaded with my 2300 car, the 500 lb. Heavy Metal Garden Tractor, and a generator plus tools and stuff, at 55 mph from the east side of Portland south to Woodburn, OR, a 45 mile trip, and it still had about 30% charge left.

Victor, I think you and Dick would have liked each other.

See Ya…….John Wayland

See a video of Red Beastie in action (19th thumbnail down from the top of the page) at the Plasma Boy website:

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4-19-06 Re: longest range?

Hello to All,

Alan Smith wrote:

What is the longest range everyone has gotten on their ev? If you’ve gotten
over 60, definitely let me know.

Alan’s request does not state specifics such as vehicle types (size and weight), battery pack chemistry, battery pack weight and or BVWR (battery to vehicle weight ratio), weather conditions, the type of terrain, the average speed, the acceleration loads, the number of passengers (if any), etc., etc. I think any response to this request should include as much info as possible so those perusing the results can know the full story. For me, it’s not too impressive to say one got 60 miles of range, if they drove as if an egg were under their foot and kept speeds at or under 40 mph, for example. On the other hand, if one drove their EV like one normally does in a gas car, that is, accelerate up to speed briskly to stay with traffic flow, run along at 60-70 mph freeway speeds, climb various grades, and participate in stop and go traffic driving situations….then achieve a real 50 miles, now that’s impressive.

Here’s three examples from my own experiences:

(1) Circa 1984….Blue Meanie powered by just eight 6V wet cell lead acid golf car batteries with a primitive 3 step controller ( 24V w/resistor – 24V straight – 48V straight) and weighing about 1800 lbs. with batteries, managed 54 miles in a closed loop range rally circuit in Seattle against other EVs. That may seem impressive, until you realize that the speed limit was a tepid 35 mph on flat terrain on a warm summer day (best conditions for range using lead acid batteries). On average, there were two passengers on board, and acceleration was sometimes full-on tire spinning launches contrasted to sometimes old man type starts (excludes Dick Finley type old men). The car had a bit about a 30% BVWR. Acceleration was pretty good for a 48V car, especially in the 0-40 mph range, but real life 0-60 was probably 15 seconds. Normal everyday driving yielded about 25 miles range per charge.

(2) Circa 1997….Red Beastie powered by a whopping forty 6V wet cell lead acid golf car batteries with a lower powered controller maxed out at 450 amps (max current from each battery 250 amps) and weighing about 5300 lbs. with batteries, managed 120 miles in mostly 65 mph slow lane freeway driving between Portland, OR and Seattle, WA on varying terrain that included moderate hill climbing, on a warm summer day (best conditions for range using lead acid batteries). There were no passengers on board, and all accelerations up to speed were deliberately careful to extend range. The truck had a 47% BVWR. Acceleration was OK considering its portly 5300 lb. mass and a 120V 450 amp system. Real life 0-60 was probably 16- 18 seconds. Normal everyday driving around town with mixed city and slower 55 mph freeway driving (the speed limit within the city) yielded about 130 miles range per charge.

(3) Circa  2000 or 2001? …….EV Rental car, a GM EV1 powered by about 1100 lbs. of Ovonics NiMH batteries with a high performance AC drive system and weighing about 2900 lbs. with batteries, managed 110 miles in mostly 70-80 mph freeway driving between Escondido, CA and LA, CA on varying terrain that included moderate hill climbing, on a warm summer day (not the best conditions for range using NiMH batteries, as they like to be cooler). There were no passengers on board, and all accelerations up to speed were deliberately brisk for fun factor. The car had about 40% BVWR. Acceleration was stunning considering its range capabilities. Real life 0-60 was in the mid to high 7 second range. Here’s an excerpt from my story ‘Living in the Past, getting Beat by the Future’ (

At almost exactly 110 miles since I left the Saturn dealership, I had pulled off the freeway and was on Century Drive, stopped at a traffic light near EV Rentals. The EV1 had been flying along for about an hour and a half at 70-80 mph speeds, and had never once felt like it was running short on power. I noticed that there was an estimated 36 miles left on the range meter, so when the light went green, I decided to see what was left as I planted my right foot down one last time…..screeeeechhhh….,chirp-chirp…..scrreeechh….damn that traction control! What an EV! After running along at freeway speeds for so long, and after 110 miles, the thing could still fry the tires at will! I reluctantly pulled into the EV Rental lot and finding a Magna-charger, parked my electric friend and slipped the charge paddle into its nose…..29% battery left! And so ended my four day love affair with the Gen II EV1…one terrific electric car.

See Ya……John Wayland

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4-19-06 Re: Have been collecting range data, how about acceleration data

Hello to All,

I was excited to see this request for acceleration specs, until I realized my car has to be excluded :-(
Steve wrote:

I would like to put together a spreadsheet with some real data on acceleration. I am looking for acceleration data in the range of 4 – 40 sec for 0 – 45 MPH with cars / trucks between 1500 lb and 5500 lb.

Steve’s range of  4 – 40 seconds takes my car out of the performance window he’s set, as it accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds, so I guess I’ve got to sit this one out.

See Ya…..John Wayland

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4-16-06 Re: Baby Blue Rides Again…cross country in an EV!

Hello to All,

I had written:

>I had also made it possible for Marko’s Fiat to be equipped with the same prototype group 31s, in fact, these two vehicles were the only >EVs on the street with these hard-to-get batteries.”

I heard from Rod who was quick to point out the following details:

>Actually we ran Group 31 Optimas in the British Land Rover with the large and very prominent “P”s on them at Moab. There were >pictures of the batteries in two major magazines, “Four Wheeler” and LRM (Land Rover Magazine) from England.

I stand corrected…sort of :-) If I recall correctly, Rod got his group 31 YTs  several months after I did, so at the time that Baby Blue and Fiamp were running on them, we were indeed ‘the only EVs using them’. If you go to the photo at the following link, you can see that the two center mounted group 31 YT’s shown in Rod’s EV have the retail production lot labels on them, something that took a couple of months for Optima to get around to doing after the initial prototype offer to me.

I’m certain Rod will re-correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure by the time Rod figured out what I was up to, Optima had run out of enough prototype batteries to fill his request for a full set of them, hence the two later production batteries mixed in with the prototype models.

Ah, the good ‘ol days back when Rod and I were EV rivals…now, it’s almost boring being good friends :-)

See Ya…..John Wayland

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4-16-06 Baby Blue Rides Again…cross country in an EV!

Hello to All,

I’ve always loved the 60′s thru early 70′s Datsun minitrucks, the original models that started the minitruck revolution that was the big thing for the 70′s period. Sadly, today there are no more true minitrucks as all have morphed into portly ‘midsize’ pickups. Anyway, some may remember a fun EV I put together back in the late 90′s, a ’68 Datsun minitruck I called ‘Baby Blue’. It was featured in a documentary about EVs called ‘Where the Rubber Meets the Road’, where I had to convert it from a gasser to electric in one day, on camera. Of course, after that exhaustive 14 hour build, I improved the design. The end product was a 192V, 1200 amp road terror that was super fun to drive. The drive train consisted of an ADC 9 inch motor (properly timed), a Z car 5 speed tranny, racing clutch, the first T-Rex high voltage controller, thick 4/0 cabling, and 16 of the first prototypes of the experimental group 31 Optima YTs. I had also made it possible for Marko’s Fiat to be equipped with the same prototype group 31s, in fact, these two vehicles were the only EVs on the street with these hard-to-get batteries. I had placed the batteries in a custom metal enclosure mounted forward in the bed, leaving about 2/3 of open bed space. The plan was to at a later date, do a tilt bed with the batteries all mounted properly between the frame rails, out of sight and down lower for a better CG. It was a fun little truck that one late night on the freeway, handily smoked a 5 ohh Mustang at 80+ mph to 100 or so. I enjoyed the truck for a couple of years, then reluctantly sold it to me friend John Tuss. The truck is still available for viewing at the EV Photo Album, and though he no longer owns it, is still listed as John Tuss’ truck:

Fast forward….several months ago, after 4+ years of simply driving this tough little EV as his daily machine, John sold the truck to friend Marko Mongillo of Fiamp fame (Marko’s Fiat 600 sedan also listed at the EV Photo Album). John’s a very nice guy but is not totally into maintaining an EV. The little truck had problems under his care and when two batteries failed (blew up from cell reversal)…he simply dropped it to a 168V truck and kept on driving. John drove the pickup way under its capabilities performance wise, driving as if he had an egg under his foot at all times (his normal mode of driving anything), so he noticed little difference at the reduced pack voltage. The pack never received regulators and pretty much was never equalized in any way. He simply charged it and drove it, day by day, until its range fell lower and lower.

Marko, with a little help from yours truly, has other plans now that he’s the new owner. I handed him 276V worth of brand new Exide Orbitals for the project. The past month or so we’ve been re-converting this nice little truck. Marko out-did his metalworking capabilities and made awesome stainless steel between-the-frame-rail battery boxes that somehow, hold all 23 batteries beneath the bed where they are out of sight. The truck looks like a stock, lowered minitruck with a fully functional bed again….nice! I’ve done all the high current wiring. Jim Husted just put some love on Marko’s motor:

Being that the High Voltage Nationals are only a month away….Thursday consisted of tearing into multiple motors and a lot of prep work…Added was a need to get Marko his motor as he also intends to bring out to Joliet this May.

Ah Jim, you’re letting the cat out of the bag! Oh well, time to let everyone know what we’re up to :-)

I had just returned from central Oregon earlier this week, and as Jim posted, met up with Father Time and Jim on my way through Redmond back to Portland over yummy Chinese food. This past weekend as we had all planned, Father Time came back through town with Marko’s motor in tow. Madman Rudman too, was passing through on his way to Newberg, OR to have Easter with his folks. On a previous trip to Jim’s motor shop, I had picked up the Husetedized front motor from Gone Postal and brought it back to my place, as a service to Rod Wilde. You see, we Pacific Northwest EVers tend to help each other out every chance we get. Why pay hundreds of dollars in shipping costs sending 150+ lbs. of motor the 450 miles or so back and forth between Port Townsend, WA to Redmond, OR, when you can piggy back the thing with your EV buddies? Why should Marko pay to ship a heavy motor from Portland to Redmond and back (300 miles), when John the forklift guy goes back and forth that way all the time? As the commercial says ‘It’s the network’. The circle was complete for Rod’s motor, when Rudman was passing through Portland for the holiday with his family, a guy who lives in Kingston across the woods from Rod’s hometown of Port Townsend. As a sidebar…I could have done an even sweeter motor hand-off, as Tim ‘Electric Monkey’ Brehm left on Friday for a weekend with his mom up in Port Townsend! He wanted to hook up with Crazy Rod Wilde while he was up there, and I could have simply handed Rod’s motor to him and he could have delivered it in person. Oh well, Friday was a hectic forklift wrenching day for me, and quite frankly, I forgot all about asking Tim to take Rod’s motor up there, but with Rudman passing through right on schedule, it wasn’t a big deal.

So here we all were, meeting up at Summit Sheet Metal…Father Time, Madman Rudman, Plasma Boy, and Marko Mongillo.
More from Jim:

I’d really like to stress here that there are some folks out west that are really pushing to ready their EV’s for the May Illinois race and for any of you who might be teetering on the fence to make the effort and attend.  Wayland I know has never been that far east with WZ, and I know EVeryone here is pumped about the Event!
Here’s the deal. Marko is planning a major cross-country trip in Baby Blue. The plan is to have the pickup all finished in time for a car show Tim, he, and I are part of at Mt. Hood Community College on May 5th. For the trip eastward, we’ll place my 10 kw generator in the bed of Baby Blue, along with a PFC 50 charger… a series hybrid for level ground cruising, and relying on stout battery power for climbing the Rockies. With all the recent talk here on EVDL about generators and all, this is a pretty timely project, don’t you think?

From David Roden:

When you add a genset, you have a series hybrid.  The energy conversions involved make it a real challenge to attain high fuel efficiency using this scheme.  It’s not impossible, but a garden variety consumer genset – intended to supply backup power for a few hours during a grid failure – is probably not going to get anywhere close…

Good points, David. We’d certainly like to have a beefier unit, say a 15 kw model, but we have to use what we have available, so we’re cutting it thin with the 10 kw unit I have. To reduce rolling resistance and minimize cruise current needed, we’re going through the entire truck’s rolling gear and have already found thick, sticky grease caked in the rear axle instead of slippery thin gear oil…yikes! The rear axle is getting a thorough cleaning, all new bearings, and thin but effective gear oil. The front hubs and bearings are also getting the work-over with new bearings and all. The front end will be aligned. Finally, thinner high pressure (lower rolling resistance) truck radials similar to the kind Dick Finley and I used on Red Beastie, will replace the low profile, fat street rod tires that don’t roll so well right now. When done, I expect the 276V truck will use about 35 amps (with the 250 lb. generator in back) to cruise at 60 mph or so.

To plan for the worse, Rudman is allowing us to bring his T-Rex as a drop-in backup controller, and I’ll have my spank’n new PFC50X, my experimental 75+ amp charger the Madman and Smalley have been tweaking for me, as a backup to the PFC50 we’ll be using. It should be quite an eventful trek for Marko and his tough Datsun pickup. It will be fun to see how well the truck can pull the steep mountain grades we’ll encounter.

Once we’re at our destination, the exciting electric races in Joliet, Il, while Tim Brehm handles driving White Zombie, I’ll have fun running Marko’s Baby Blue down the track. No, we don’t expect it to set any new records, but having yet another EV to actually race on the track will add to the excitement of the races.

I’ll be posting pictures of the reconversion process to the Plasma Boy website soon.

See Ya……John Wayland

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4-15-06 Re: Hybridize-yourself?

Hello to All,

Peter VanDerWal wrote:

Doesn’t the CVT version get lower gas mileage than the standard?

If so, why would you want to use something that lowers your fuel efficiency?

Peter, I’m disappointed, as it appears you must have hit the ‘delete’ key and not read my many posts about this topic over the past couple of years :-(   The CVT has nothing to do with the drop in mileage of the Insight equipped with it.

To recap….At the time Honda and Toyota were introducing the hybrids to the US market, they were in very stiff competition with each other over the new idea of mass marketed hybrids:

(1) Honda caught Toyota with their pants down, big time (even Toyota admits this) when they brought the Insight to the US market a full year ahead of the Prius (even though Prius was marketed elsewhere at the time). Only available as a 5 speed manual at first, the Insight achieved a ULEV status while also getting a staggering 70 mpg EPA rating! The 5 speed Insight uses lots of tricks to achieve super high, previously un-heard of mpg levels including its all aluminum body, super aero shape, its lowered stance, and of course, the whole hybrid-electric assist thing, but it also employs a special lean burn ultra light weight (124 lbs.) 3 banger engine that helps it achieve this mpg (my personal 5 speed Insight logs 90+ mpg easily at 62 mph constant speed and gets in the 80 mpg range without any special effort). Using lean burn though, makes it hard to control NOx emissions, thus the ULEV instead of SULEV rating.

(2) To trump Honda, when Toyota finally got around to introducing the US to the Prius, though its mileage was nowhere close to the two seater all aluminum Insight, it did seat four and was still able to get in the 55-60 mpg range while boasting a cleaner SULEV rating. Though actually transmission-less, the Prius’ automatic nature of its drive train (no shifting required) made it unpopular to those who prefer to shift, but very popular for those who prefer automatic trannys.

(3) To fight back, Honda introduced the CVT option for the Insight (and the Hybrid Civic). To match the Prius’ automatic nature, Honda also had it now with the CVT, and to match the SULEV rating, Honda dropped the lean burn capability on only the CVT model Insight. They ended up with the SULEV rating they wanted, but the car’s stellar 70 mpg EPA rating fell to 56 mpg. Many who don’t know this stuff, explain away the drop in mileage as being the fault of the CVT. In reality, the CVT Honda uses is as efficient (perhaps even more efficient) as the 5 speed…it’s the lack of lean burn mode that made the mileage plummet to the level of the Prius.

There are things one can do to keep their 5 speed Insight to keep it from shifting into its lean burn mode while driving, and when you do so, the 5 speed Insight gets pretty much identical mileage to its brother the CVT Insight. In terms of acceleration power, the CVT Insight is a dead match to the 5 speed Insight, so kudos to the efficiency thing for the CVT….it doesn’t rob the car of acceleration power at all.

For a time, I owned two Insights at the same time, my silver 2000 5 speed and a red 2001 CVT:

(1)  In my 5 speed, as you get up to cruising speed and slightly let off the gas to level your speed off, there’s a cool feeling you get as you watch the informative dash display and see the instantaneous mpg readout flutter at around 65-70 mpg, then suddenly it pops up to 90-110 mpg as you also feel a bit of a floating-like push of the car as its high tech 3 banger makes the hyper mileage jump into lean burn…very cool, very entertaining, and something all of us talk about that are fortunate enough to own one of these amazing machines. Then as road terrain goes up and down slightly, instead of the mpg going up and down, you see the dash indicator for the electric motor assist coming and going as it fills in the voids where, because of the lean burn’s lack of torque, the engine needs a little help…again, very cool and fun.

(2) In my CVT Insight, as you got up to cruising speed and slightly let off the gas to level your speed off, that cool feeling I get with my lean burn car is gone, and the instantaneous mpg readout just continues to flutter at around 65-70 mpg, never popping up to 90-110 mpg level, and that cool floating-like push of the car at the hyper mileage jump into lean burn never happens :-(   As road terrain goes up and down slightly, you still see the dash indicator for the electric motor assist coming and going to help out, but not nearly as often because the 3 banger is in a more normal fuel-air ratio so torque is improved slightly, and, the CVT does an excellent job of keeping the ICE in its sweet spot. As a side bar, I was never, ever able to even get close to the same gas mileage as my 5 speed Insight, but I was able to hit 72 mpg on one 200 mile trip. On that same trip where my wife was following me in the 5 speed car, she got 86 mpg.

See Ya……John Wayland

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4-10-06 Re: Hybridize-yourself?

Hello to Damon and All,

damon henry wrote:

Well, I have to admit I did not know that (I quit following the Honda Hybrid list a few years ago)

You don’t have to follow the Honda Hybrid list, all you have to do is stay current with regular car magazines. Pretty much all of them have featured the latest improvements and changes of the new hybrids. The big news is that Honda’s latest version of the Civic Hybrid can run a few miles on electric power only, just like the Prius does. Compared to Toyota’s complex trio of an electric motor-generator, a generator, and an ICE all coupled together via sun-planetary gears, Honda gets it done in a far simpler, more elegant way with their IMA system (integrated motor assist) with just the one motor-generator (less than 3 inches thick) sandwiched between the tranny and the flywheel and sharing the ICE crankshaft…no extra gears, no convoluted electrical-mechanical swapping of power and loads.

>…but in my defense the particular engine being sold appears to be from an 05 Civic :-)

That’s why I qualified that my comments were for the new 2006 model.

See Ya…John Wayland

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4-10-06 Re: Hybridize-yourself?

Hello to All,

damon henry wrote:

Yes, the only time the Honda system moves with the gas motor turned off is if gravity and/or momentum are on your side.  The electric drive will not work without the ICE running.


I know the Toyota setup uses a separate motor, but doesn’t the Honda “IMA”
system have to have the engine running to use electric drive?

Damon, you disappoint me :-(   You need to get up to speed, dude! The 2006 Honda hybrids will in fact, run on battery power alone. They do it, just the way I predicted they would 5 years ago. They close the valves in the engine, cut off the injectors, and let the stuff all spin along with the electric motor. Having all the valves closed amounts to the same thing as having them all open, in that there is very little drag against the electric motor, probably not any more drag than the Prius’ drag caused by the planetary arrangement they use.

See Ya….John Wayland

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