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.
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