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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