Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No Charge

I just finished repairing the on-board charging system in the GEM this week. Maybe I should back up just a bit - we knew when we received the GEM that there was very likely a problem with the charging system. With all 6 batteries in poor condition, we couldn't be sure about anything until we replaced them. Once that was done, we drove the vehicle around a little bit and tried to charge it. The extension cord was plugged in and - nothing. Drat. I won't explain what was wrong here because my plan is to re-create the problem when the new class starts and set them loose to diagnose and repair it as a training exercise. I will tell you that I removed the charging unit, disassembled it and traced down and repaired the problem.

Insides of the Zivan charger

It's hard to see, but the gauge shows 100% charge.

Once everything was reassembled, the system was plugged in again and voila! The cooling fan within the unit started running and charging of the batteries commenced. 

Final exams for the fall semester are being held this week, but when things calm down and the weather permits, we will put some miles on the GEM and charge the batteries again. It may take a few discharge/recharge cycles to bring the batteries up to full strength. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A New Opportunity

An exciting new opportunity presented itself to us yesterday in the form of a new partnership with Square One Education Network. Karl Klimek visited our facility to invite us to join him at next year's Innovative Vehicle Design event at Michigan International Speedway. Fellow instructor Jerry Beatty, myself and students of the 2012 NMC Hybrid Electric Vehicle class will be traveling to Brooklyn, Michigan with our hybrid trainer vehicle (AKA The AntiPrius) to attend the event. Square One provides grant funding for schools in an effort to provide science, technology, engineering and mathematics opportunities for students, encouraging them to pursue careers in technology oriented fields. You can find more information and video of previous IVD events at squareonenetwork.org. The highlight of our visit will be driving the hybrid trainer project around the MIS track. Can't wait!

From left: Jerry Beatty, myself and Karl Klimek

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Real GEM

We just picked up a GEM electric vehicle from a generous donor. It runs on 6 deep cycle flooded lead acid batteries (72 volts), and they have run through their expected life cycle (read: dead). We are currently looking at the possibility of replacing them with a new type of battery from a company in Santa Fe Springs, California. The batteries are designed specifically to work with renewable energy sources. The bigger idea is to set this vehicle up with a solar charging system. With the last two weeks of the semester staring us in the eye, it may be necessary to wait until the middle of December to start the design process. I've always had a problem leaving "well enough" alone, and most of our students share that same sentiment. We will bring them into the design and implementation process in January when the spring HEV class starts. If you are interested in joining our class, it runs from January 16th through May 5th, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Check out NMC's website at http://www.nmc.edu/ or email me at dbajema@nmc.edu. 


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Power Up!

The upcoming spring semester marks the start of our second Hybrid Electric Vehicle class. The class will not only be learning to rebuild HEV batteries, but also learning about installing plug-in HEV (PHEV) conversions. This is the process of installing additional batteries with their own 110 volt charging system. The extra energy storage is capable of boosting mileage to almost 100 MPG and lowers emissions even further. Hopefully, we will be installing such a system in our trainer vehicle. More information may be found at http://www.enginer.us/.

On another note, a local resident has donated a GEM electric vehicle to our program. I will post pictures when the vehicle arrives. This generous donation will provide yet another facet to our training program. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

On Display

The Hybrid Electric Vehicle Trainer is on display at NMC's Parsons Stulens building on Aero Park Drive. The full-electric Stealth Mode is now operational!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We did the Barbeque!

The forecast was for on and off thunderstorms, but we had sunshine and 86 degrees with light breezes through the NMC campus. A perfect day for the annual fundraiser known as the NMC Barbeque. Wayne & I were there to answer questions about the Automotive Service Technology program. We also answered a lot of questions about the hybrid trainer vehicle. What surprised me somewhat was how much some of the attendees already knew about hybrid electric vehicles! Great food and great company on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Bliss.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Let's all do the Barbeque!

  The annual NMC Barbeque will be held on Sunday, May 22nd this year. It's an old fashioned picnic and fundraiser that has been a Traverse City tradition for many years. The public is invited to come and visit the campus while dining on barbeque and other goodies donated by Oleson's Food Stores and prepared by countless volunteers. The Automotive Service Technology Department will be there to display the Hybrid Trainer and answer questions about alternative energy vehicles. If you are a follower of this blog and are in the area, please stop in to say Hello and see our project up close.
  Our new trailer just had a jazzy checkerboard floor installed, and although the cabinets will not be installed in time for the barbeque we will be loading the trainer up and headed over there early on the 22nd. For more information about the barbeque, visit the NMC website here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Modern Classroom

At last! We now have the ability to project data directly from vehicles onto the screen at the front of the classroom. No more crowding around the 7 inch screen of a scan tool. Of course, that requires bring the car into the classroom, but that's how we designed it. 


Monday, April 11, 2011

It's Alive!

Our hybrid training vehicle, AKA The AntiPrius, is finally running. The wiring consumed an incredible amount of time. Not all of the systems on a stock Prius were needed or retained on our vehicle. Getting the communications systems talking to each other was the key to getting it started. And we're happy to say that it not only started, but that the performance is outstanding. The totally linear feel of acceleration without gear changes has to be experienced to be believed. The Prius is not known for it's performance, but with the drastic weight loss diet that this on has experienced, I can only describe the acceleration by saying that it's like being launched from a slingshot. With a lighter right foot on the pedal, it will tool around in electric mode silently and effortlessly. With the inverter/converter just behind your head, you can hear a faint squeal as the IGBTs do their job converting DC current to AC.

Soon it will be time to take the entire vehicle apart, finish all of the welds and take care of many final details. The frame will go out for powder coating ("chrome" powder coat!)  while the wiring harnesses get wrapped. Lots of parts will get primer and paint. Then comes reassembly and trips to as many car shows as possible. Hopefully we will be answering questions from potential students as well as letting hybrid vehicle owners get a look at what's under the skin of their own cars. And that's what this one of a kind creation is all about - making it easy to learn how hybrid electric vehicles work!

 The 2011 NMC Hybrid Electric Vehicle Class

 It rides and drives as good as it looks.

The battery is located in the front. 
Just the opposite from it's stock location.

                 Battery contactors with LED indicators.                      

The display unit, showing the energy transfer.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Half Way There

The spring semester is half over already. Our inaugural Hybrid Electric Vehicle class has been a great success so far. The Hybrid Trainer Vehicle isn't finished yet, but the wiring should be finished and the first test drive completed before the end of the semester. Then we will tear it down completely and send the frame and most of the parts out for powder coating. The finish will closely resemble chrome. Various bits and pieces will be painted black or red. Then we will reassemble it and hopefully show it at some car shows this summer. Although it is still incomplete, our department head will be bringing it to a local high school next week for a career day presentation. 

Notes for a lecture on  inverters & converters

A three phase, 12 volt motor for the Prius parking pawl

Jungle of wires

Friday, February 25, 2011

Honda Power

Here is the battery from our 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid. It's rated at 144 volts, so let's take a look at how we come up with that number. As you can see, there are 20 tubes of D-cell sized nickel metal hydride batteries. Each cell is rated at 1.2 volts, so 6 cells per sleeve equals 7.2 volts. Twenty sleeves times 7.2 volts equals 144 volts. Pretty simple. Unlike Toyota hybrid cars, the Civic is a parallel hybrid, meaning that the power from the internal combustion engine (ICE) must travel through the electric motor to power the car. Since the rotor of the electric motor is bolted directly to the ICE crankshaft, it cannot power the car unless the ICE is running. Series hybrids are configures to allow the ICE and electric motors to run independent from each other. Honda employs idle stop strategy on this car, which means that whenever the car stops rolling the engine shuts off. It feels just like the engine has stalled, but when you release the brake and step on the accelerator the engine starts back up.  The transition is almost seamless, as the electric drive motor is used to restart the engine. If you have the radio turned up loud you won't even notice the transition. In the lower part of the picture you can see a pair of linesman's gloves. They are rated for exposure to 1,000 volts. Don't get anywhere near any orange colored parts or cables on your hybrid vehicle without them. And don't lick the end of the battery to test it. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Work Goes On - And On - And On.......

Work on the Hybrid Trainer Vehicle is pretty much on schedule. The "drive by wire" accelerator pedal has been mounted. Four of the eight computers have been installed; only the hybrid battery computer has been wired up so far. The wire mesh floor has been fitted and the hybrid battery cooling system is finished. The coolant pump for the inverter/converter is up and running; after the system was filled, we ran the pump for a few minutes to purge any air from the system. The brake system will be finished next week, as will the console. Then the real work starts: wiring everything together. All of the computers communicate through a network, so everything must be perfect. 
  I've been working anywhere from 12 to 14 hours per day at school lately in an effort to keep the work on the trainer on schedule while teaching my classes. It's starting to take it's toll. This weekend I'm driving down to Grand Rapids for a day of seminars at the Auto Value Tech Expo. It will be a welcome diversion for me. The morning class will be covering oscilloscope waveforms, followed by an afternoon class on Green Technologies as they apply to automotive applications. 

Accelerator pedal (no cable - just wires!)

Transmission controller
Console - lots of instruments to install here...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In the Lab

Our guys at work. The wiring is a huge undertaking, but they're up to it.

Doug & Nate fabricate some brackets for the battery ECU.

Tom & Brian tackle the wiring for the HV & engine ECU's

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Hybrid Lab

Before and after shots of the new lab, formally the home of NMC's shipping and receiving department.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

At The NMC Energy Expo

The Hybrid Trainer Vehicle made it's first public debut this weekend at the NMC Energy Expo. The event was also the grand opening of the Aero Park Labs building right across the street from our facility. Because the car is only about 70% complete, we pushed it over there. It rolls very easily, so it was a very easy task. Turnout for the Expo was great, despite the snowy and windy weather. The first thing that attendees noticed was the light hum of the wind generator located in the front yard of the lab. I couldn't help staring at it, marveling at the concept of harnessing the energy of the wind and using it to replace the energy that would otherwise be generated by burning coal or wood. For a (short) glimpse of the trainer on the local news, check here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hybrid Training Vehicle Update

Thanks to our grant from the NMC Foundation, we've made a great deal of progress on the construction of the hybrid training vehicle. With the help of our students, the fabrication of the engine mounts and rear suspension is nearly complete. A great deal of work lies ahead, but our students and  I are looking forward to it! We're almost at the stage where the project can be considered to be a "Roller", which means that the unit can be moved around, but not under it's own power. That may not seem to be a big deal to most people, but as anyone who has been involved in a project of this magnitude knows, it's a major accomplishment. A list of the tasks yet to be performed would include: mounting the rack and pinion steering, fabricate the steering column, mounting the battery package, fabricate the radiator mounts and install the radiator cooling fans, mounting the service battery, fabricate some kind of instrument panel in which to mount the multi-function display unit, starting and main power controls and mounting the seats (just to name a few). The biggest hurdle to face will be configuring the vehicle's wiring harness. We will start that phase of the project with the wiring harnesses that we removed form the 2004 Toyota Prius donor car. Not all of the wires will be needed to complete our project; obviously we will not be needing power windows, door locks or mirrors. No deck lid release, glove box light or reverse lights are in our plans. Therefore, every single wire, every circuit and every system will be examined, deemed necessary or not, and removed, relocated or modified.  This phase of the project will be part of the curriculum of the AT210 Hybrid Technology class. We can't wait to get started. Here are some photos of the progress so far: