72 Volt Test Drive

This was a great day! We got to the shop at roughly 9am and got right to work. With the CV shaft fixed and the motor mount completed, it was ready for a test drive. There was plenty that needed to be done first.

Before we could take it out for a spin we had to do a whole mess of small projects. First on the list was replacing the parking brake cable. I won’t go into a bunch of detail on the cable itself, as there’s plenty of information out there on doing this. However, once we got the wheel off we had a golden opportunity to do some clean up work.

The drums on the rear wheels were badly rusted. So much so that you couldn’t turn the wheel by hand, you’d have to use a pry bar to get it to turn. This is bad. If the car has to work that much harder to turn those rear wheels, that’s wasted energy and a reduced range. So we took both rear wheels apart and attacked ’em with a wire brush and power sander. It took maybe an hour to get them the way I wanted, but I was impressed at how well they spun when we got them back on the car. Now they move just like they should – give ’em a little push, and they spin around on their own. No more grinding sounds or abrupt stops because the wheels were full of rust. This was a pretty simple procedure, however very important. As I said, if this had gone untreated it would have caused some very real performance hits.

Once the wheels were back together and on the car, we moved again to some smaller projects. We filled the hole that we drilled in the trunk for the battery cables with some expanding foam sealant. It’s the same stuff that you would use to plug up holes in your house for winter. Again, small and quick project, but now nothing can crawl up into my trunk (mice) and it makes it look a bit nicer also.

Next we got the rear batteries secured in the trunk. We just took a small piece of angle iron (it had holes pre drilled) and set it up next to the batteries. We drilled a couple holes in the bottom of the trunk, and secured it with a couple of bolts. This will not be the final mount, it will only be about half of it, but this is a good start.

The next bit of fun was working on the contacter. The contacter connects the entire circuit when the ignition key is turned to “on”. The positive wire from the contacter must connect to the positive wire from the ignition. I chose to do this at the fuse box in the car. This was by far the easiest ignition wire to get to. The negative wire from the contacter is connected directly to the negative terminal of the 12 volt accessory battery. When you turn the key, the circuit is connected and the contacter in turn connects the high voltage circuit.

The next big project for the day was finding a way to protect the front 4 batteries. They are sitting right where the radiator used to be (see video #16). This means they are exposed to all the outside elements – this is not good. I am not very good with electricity, but I don’t believe batteries should be rained on. My solution to this was to cover the front grill (on the inside of the grill) with vinyl. I stopped at the fabric store (which was pretty funny, I walked in the door and almost immediately yelled for help) and got some vinyl – the same stuff that used to cover snowmobile and motorcycle seats. We measured it out at the shop and laid it in the engine bay. We secured it to the bolts under the car that also hold the bumper on. Then on top we secured it with the same bolts that hold the grill on. It doesn’t look too bad and it seemed to keep everything nice and dry in there.

After that was all put together, we decided it was getting late and needed to take a test drive. So we put all the batteries in the car and put the electronics back in. A quick safety check (lights, blinkers, brake lights…) and we were pulling out of the shop. I should mention, that it was raining off and on all day on Saturday, this test drive happened to make it during a brief period of “non-rain”. We took it out of the shop and took a quick drive up to where I work. It’s only a couple of miles but seemed to be a pretty good route to try things on. It went great! It has a bit more power than I thought it would have with all 6 batteries hooked up. It’s really eerie, I’m so used to hearing a bunch of noise when driving, it’s odd to have it nearly silent.

Everything seemed to work as it should. The brakes are going to take some getting used to though, you really have to push down on them hard – but I still feel safe using them, they perform as they should. The gears shifted rather well and you can actually shift through them pretty fast once you get used to not having a clutch. When we were returning back to the shop the check engine light came on which gave us both a good laugh. You can hear me in the video at one point talking about taunting the Prius. I was only kidding, I don’t really have any issues with the Prius.

Once we got back to the shop, we opened the hood and took a look to see if anything was out of order. Everything was as it should be. It had now started raining pretty heavily, so with a bit of reluctance, I decided it was time to test our vinyl and see if it really kept the rain out. I was very nervous, but it needed to be tested so we took it out. I was careful not to drive through any big puddles but the rain was so heavy I don’t suppose it would’ve made any difference if I had. I have to say though, our vinyl rain guard performed perfectly! We drove it down through town and back to the shop. Once we got back we again opened the hood and everything was completely dry. The one problem however, is the motor and controller had gotten quite hot. I didn’t think they would generate much heat but they had. That makes perfect sense since the front of the car was completely blocked off so NO air got into the engine compartment. I think I’ll remedy this by popping some holes in the lower portion of the vinyl to let some air in. It shouldn’t take much to keep things cool.

I’m slacking on the pictures again, but there are some new videos. I’ll get more pictures, I promise.