Four Year Anniversary

Wow, here we are approaching the four year anniversary of El Ohmbre.  The batteries have lasted much longer than I ever would have imagined.  I’ve been working at home still for the past year so I don’t have any regular commute any more.  In addition, my brother in law has returned from his last tour of duty in Afghanistan and is staying with us.  He’s been parking his car in the driveway behind el ohmbre so on some days when I’d normally drive it, it’s blocked in.  Therefore I’ve been driving my gas car much more than I’d like.  Just as a good reminder of how nice it is to have the electric car, my gas car is leaking coolant and burning oil.  Naturally the coolant leak can’t be in some nice accessible place.  It’s on the back side of heads up against the firewall.  I have no idea how to get to it without pulling the engine.

It’s hard to tell what range the batteries will support these days because I’m not driving the car to the limit of the batteries every day.  I can park it for a week at a time and still squeeze out enough mileage to do my basic errands.  I haven’t checked the specific gravity of the batteries for a long time.  The water level seems to stay up fine and the batteries are holding a charge even when it doesn’t get driven every day.

I’m still thinking about replacing the lead/acid batteries with lithium ion but I haven’t done much research recently.  My son is turning 16 soon and he would like to drive the electric vehicle but he would like something a bit “cooler” like a 914 Porsche.  I’d be willing to do another conversion but I’d really like to test lithium batteries first.  I told him that if he helped with the battery conversion, I’d help him build a cooler ev.

The first test drive in el ohmbre was May 9, 2009.  In less that two weeks, we’ll celebrate the four year anniversary.  If you are thinking about doing an electric conversion, I highly recommend it.

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Three Year Anniversary

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been driving el ohmbre for three years now as my daily commuter.  The batteries were only supposed to last for two years but they’re still going strong.  It probably has to do with the fact that I tried to never run them below 70% capacity and did the battery maintenance regularly.

I think the anniversary date was May 10.  My daily commute for two years was six miles each way plus a few after work errands for a total of about 20 miles per day on a normal day.  After a few months the range started to drop to right are 20 miles.  I found that when I drove more the range increased.  So even though the lead/acid batteries don’t have a “memory” the pack did seem to normalize depending on my regular usage.

I have no complaints at all about driving an electric vehicle.  I’ve never been stranded and never had a problem.  The battery weight is a little tough on the tires and I had to replace the two rear tires that came with the original donor car but they were probably old any way.

Sometimes, I get a little tired of no power steering, especially when I have to park in tight spots but I like to walk anyway, so I usually try to park in open areas and just walk a little farther.

As I think about replacing the batteries, I’m really tempted to check out pricing on lithium ion batteries again.  They were out of my price range three years ago but hopefully the prices have come down.  I’ll post if I find out anything interesting.  In the meantime, I just keep driving el ohmbre every day and enjoy never buying gasoline.

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Liftbed Question

I received a question on the website from someone doing a liftbed conversion on a 2000 S10 pickup. The question was whether or not you need to move the pickup bed back a half inch or so in order to clear the cab when lifting the bed.

My feeling is that if the hinges are mounted low it is not necessary to mount the bed back from its original position.

I explained that I didn’t intentionally mount the bed farther back but it took me three tries to get the hinges to work properly. The first time I mounted the bed in its original position and the first time I tilted it, it moved back more than an inch. The hinges I used just weren’t strong enough and the weight of the bed in the up position made everything settle.

The second time I used stronger hinges with 1/4 metal “caps” to prevent them from bending. It worked better but later when I mounted the gas lifts, the lifts added so much stress to the hinges and pickup bed, I had to do it a third time and add some extra braces under the pickup bed.

EV Liftbed Gap

Gap between the pickup bed and cab.

The finished project looks like there is more room between the bed and cab as you can see in the first image.

Once it was finished the original mounting holes still align on the passenger side but the drivers side is about a half inch off. So the bed is not perfectly aligned but this doesn’t seem to cause any problems.

EV Liftbed Alignment Right

Closeup of pickup bed alignment on passenger's side.

Here, in the second image you can see the bolt holes still line up perfectly on the passenger side.

EV Liftbed Alignment Left

Closeup of pickup bed alignment on driver's side.

In the third picture you can see on the drivers side, the pickup bed is about a half inch farther back. So it’s not perfectly aligned. This was not done on purpose but it works.

EV Liftbed Support

Details of liftbed support

The final picture is taken from underneath the car with the pickup bed in the down position from the rear bumper looking forward. In this image, the arrow on the right shows the hinge with the metal “cap.” To the left is an arrow pointing to the support I had to add under the pickup bed. The bottom arrow shows the gas lift up by the rear wheel.

When I installed the gas lifts to help raise the bed and keep it up, the gas lifts were so powerful that when I tried to pull the bed back down, the bed wanted to flex. It was very old and beat up before I got it and some of the sheet metal was already cracked. Therefore, I added these metal support under the bed. The gas lifts are connected between the truck frame and the metal support rather than mounted to the pickup bed sheetmetal. This resolved the flexing problem.

There are some other images on the website which will give a better perspective of the gas lifts and mounting brackets.

I didn’t include pictures here of the locking mechanism. I got a hood latch and release cable from another S10 at the junk yard. I mounted it on the side of the frame on the driver side. I mounted the “pin” on the underside of the bed and mounted the lock on the frame. I ran the release mechanism under the floor. It comes out between the drivers door and the drivers seat. It’s easy to reach and works much better than I could have hoped. The safety release is reached between the bed and the cab.

I hope that helps a little bit and doesn’t create more questions than it answers.


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California Clean Air Stickers First Attempts

I was hoping to get Clean Air stickers for El Ohmbre, my electric car.  I checked the California DMV website and the rules seemed pretty straightforward: “100% electric drive with onboard batteries supplying the power.”  There was a list of productions cars that qualified and it didn’t exclude do-it-yourself conversions.

My application was rejected by DMV with no reason, so I wrote to the Director of the DMV and a very helpful man contacted me and pointed me to the California Air Resources Board (ARB).  The woman who answered the phone at ARB told me was not helpful at all but she did put John Swanton, the ARB Public Information Officer on the phone who did his best to explain to me that “cars are not certified, manufacturers are certified.”  He explained that the goal was not to remove polluting vehicles from the road but to “further technology” by making incentives for manufacturers to produce cleaner vehicles.

He was nice enough to send me a link referencing SB535 and something called Title 13 of the California Code of Regulations but all this information is deeply confusing and filled with technical legal language.  Hopefully this is some sort of mistake that can be easily rectified.

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A Little Rain Doesn’t Stop My Electric Car

We had a little rain in Los Angeles today, but I decided to drive the electric car to work anyway.  The rain doesn’t bother the car at all it’s just that some drivers in LA think traffic laws are suspended when there’s a little rain.  El Ohmbre is carrying 1,500 pounds of batteries with no anti-lock brakes so I’m always a little concerned that someone will pull out in front of me on a slick street.  I really wish I could afford to replace the lead/acid batteries with Lithium batteries.  I would save about a 1,000 pounds and probably double my range and improve acceleration.  I guess I should have asked for Lithium batteries for Father’s Day!

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Home Depot EV Encounter

Running errands on Saturday in my electric car.  I stopped at Home Depot for some sink faucet parts and was stopped in the parking lot by a fellow shopper who asked if my car was really electric.  (It says Electric Vehicle on the tailgate.)

I explained the conversion process briefly and gave him a tour under the hood.  Then he asked “where does the gas go?”  I explained that I don’t use gas at all, I just plug it in at night.  He was still skeptical and then he spotted the little door covering the gas cap and his eyes lit up.  He flipped it open triumphantly to find the charging connector mounted inside.  He just couldn’t get it and just kept shaking his head.  Oh well, not everyone understands you can run a car solely on battery power.

EV Charging Connector

Charging Port for El Ohmbre


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El Ohmbre Electric Car Blog

After more than two years of adding posts directly to the El Ohmbre Journal page, I decided to install some blogging software so I can make updates about my experiece driving and maintaining an electric car in Los Angeles without having to modify the web pages every time.

I have been driving my EV for over two years now on my daily commute and most errands with no problems.  I’ve replaced one battery that went bad and replaced two old tires.  That’s about it except the original “donor” car was 25 years old and I occasionally try to fix it up a bit.

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