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Electric Sterling???

kuehjo

New member
Has anyone done an electric Sterling? Sort of along the lines of the Tesla??

I got thinking about it the other day when someone sent me a Youtube link for a guy running an electric drivetrain in a Toyota

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrHXdM9f13k]YouTube - Electric Drag racing: White Zombie[/ame]

The torque in these things is unreal - because its at its MAX at the initial moment of acceleration. I don't know what he's been able to get for mileage on a charge though, or how long it takes to charge up a depleted battery. I guess my concern is that the technology just isn't quite mature enough yet to be anything more than a local commuter.

Just thinking....*hmmm*
 

ydeardorff

New member
I havent seen a Sterling Drag car, but I have seen other sites of people trying to go the electric route with sterlings. Electric to gas powered drags are usually very one sided in favor of the the electric.

IMHO , like you said the technology hasnt matured enough yet to be a viable option yet. Perhaps if you live 5 minutes from work, ok... But most ppl live around 20 minutes from their respective jobs minimium.

The range, to recharge time isnt effective enough in Battery only cars for most people. Now when you referr to the Hybrids, there are only a few "worth it" meaning great gas mileage, and very long range. But those are Electric cars with an "on demand" gas powered electric generator, with tons of energy reclamation systems on board.

Although I think it would be too outlandish price/time/engineering wise, but it would be neat to see someone engineer one of these into the sterling.

Perhaps someone will take this project on and surprise all of us. A sterling with a Hybrid setup that is properly working should do very well with its rather extreme aerodynamics.

I would think, the first car on the donor list would be finding some wrecked toyota pruis's to see if the measurements would work or not.*sounds great*
 

letterman7

Honorary Admin
There are a couple people running an electric car. A Sterling showed at Carlisle a couple years ago and a guy in Colorado has been trying to sell his Sebring for the past year. Both can be seen on Dave's site Electric car conversions DIY car kits clubs ( his site needs some attention to detail, though...). The Sterling that showed at Carlisle was the green car; the Sebring that's for sale is red (though I don't think it's the same one on that page), then there was the electric Sterling that showed on eBay last year (he black and silver one) that was attempting to be sold for $45,000. Needless to say, it didn't go anywhere since the stated range was something like 40 miles.
But Yaughn is right. Most of the home-built cars have a very limited range mostly due to the batteries that are needed. Tesla uses a proprietary battery pack that are NiCad (I think) while most mortals have to use the far heavier lead/acid type. Funny this topic should come up, though... I was discussing the other night the possibllity of a hybrid if one of my cars engines should suddenly 'go away' while we were watching a Top Gear repeat where they had built their own electric car using a large diesel generator to keep the batteries topped off. In theory, one could do that with a Sterling, using a handful of 'regular' batteries and a small diesel engine from Northern Tools. It would then be a matter of finding the correct alternator or charging system to keep the batteries replenished.
 

kuehjo

New member
Pretty. This is VERY much what I had in mind.
Not cheap.

And a 150 mile Lithium upgrade for 22k??? OUCH!!!

I love the idea - I just don't think our battery technology is quite there yet for an electric only version.
I equally agree - stripping down a Prius could be quite enlightening - but that's not really the direction I wanted to see either. But we're on the emerging front of some very interesting technology here - so I will keep watching.

Chevy Volt
Nissan Leaf

I wonder what China will bring us?
 

Brett Proctor

Active member
I think the auto industry will drag their feet as long as they can on this. Look at the progress the RC guys have made in the electric car world over the years. Brushless motors, Lithium batteries, new efficient programable speed controlers, Cargers that can recharge a battery in minutes, Solar collectors can be used. I had a jet ski with a total loss ignition system in it and it used a solar collector to charge the battery and that was the only means it had to recharge the battery. Never had a problem with it.

It can be done. They just don't want you to have it. And thats just the stuff they tell you about

Brett
 

Jagwire

New member
Cheap, Powerful OEM Electric Bling

Hi Guys,

I know the title of this post sounds cheesy but I have been watching EVTV for years now and I believe that you could put an absolutely awesome electric drivetrain in a Sterling that would perform well and have decent range.

They ( EVTV ) are using 100kW motors in some of their recent projects and getting good results. Lithium battery sizes and weights are coming down providing the type of pack that would fit in a car like a Sterling. They are pulling beautiful OEM style motors and inverters from failed OEM EV startups like Azure Dynamics ( Siemens motors and inverters ) and Coda ( UQM motors and inverters ) and reselling them at good prices. They are both spec'd at about 100kW peak or so and are AC so you have no brushes to worry about and are liquid cooled. They also sell brand new HPEVS AC motors that perform at a high level as well.

The guys at EV West have also put EV drivetrains in performance based kit cars as well with HPEVS AC drivetrains.

For those who are using VW pans and trannies for your Sterlings, EVTV and EV West have both done a lot of EV conversions based on VW's and have had good luck with them.

Disclaimer: I don't work for either of these companies or have any affiliation with them other than being a fan and follower of their technologies and sites. I am a fan of EV's and I also love kits cars like the Sterling and the Manta Montage and I am just passing along a little of current information as this thread looked a little dated and out of touch with what is actually going on out there. I dream of these things whereas you guys are actually living your dreams and if any of this info could help a fellow Sterling EV entusiast get off the ground I think that would be great. *ah ha*
I have raced electric R/C cars in the past and I have seen and experienced the vast improvement in electric R/C technology as Brett Proctor mentioned in his last post here. That improvement is now available in full sized cars as well.

I've been watching Brett Proctor's build with amazement for quite a couple of years now and I can't wait to see the final results.

I was always wondering if you could fit a couple of strings of batteries in each side pod of the Sterlings. It would keep the COG low and near the center of the car. Is there much room in those side pods?

To all here, keep up the great work and living the dream!

Cheers,

John in Nova Scotia, Canada
 

letterman7

Honorary Admin
Hi John,
There are a few EV Sterlings floating around. I think EV West even had one on eBay a year or two ago for quite the price ($40K+). It didn't sell, of course, as the claimed range was only a hundred miles or so per charge. That, and although it was a finished, running car, there was nothing outstanding about the build. In any case, there is a builder on the forum here who is going the electric route. See Ron's build here: http://www.sterlingkitcars.com/memb...s-see-our-projects/1233-rons-ev-sterling.html
 

Jagwire

New member
Hi Letterman7,

Thanks for the reply and the link to Ron's EV build. I can't believe I over looked it! Now I have two builds to watch, Ron's and Brett's. I'm looking forward to the progress of both builds.

Cheers,

John
 

ronrule

New member
If you're going to go the EV route, here's what I've learned:

1. No one I came across actually MAKES a complete kit. Other than the controllers, all of the components are for some other application and someone figured out what parts work well together.

2. No one actually STOCKS a "complete kit" either. The various parts manufacturers drop ship on demand. This includes sites like e-volks/wilderness. What that means is that whatever you order will be different than what you receive - adequate (or even better), but different than what the manual says. Throw the manual they give you away and find the manuals online for the parts you actually got.

3. Lithium batteries are not direct replacements for lead-acid batteries. Traditional lead-acid batteries (like car/golf cart batteries) are pretty fault tolerant. You can chain them together, charge them while they're in use, don't need super clean power to charge, etc. You can't do any of that with LiFePO4's or you'll ruin them very quickly. A battery management system is a must to make sure they're all in sync with each other. Charging them requires a special charger, not a regular battery charger, which has to be set up for the exact pack voltage you're charging. These chargers require clean household power, if you try to use a generator without a pure sine wave you'll mess up the batteries.

4. If you use a battery management system like MiniBMS that puts a circuit board on every individual battery, buy some extra boards. They are only $12 per board, each battery needs one, and they have to be connected in the direction the power flows. When you're wiring them together for the first time, don't accidentally let the edge of the ratchet touch the wrong side of the battery next to it - you'll zap the crap out of yourself and blow the circuit board on the battery management system. And of course since your charger will only charge the exact pack voltage it's configured for, you're stuck until you replace the board you blew out.

5. Sounds like a PITA, but when it's all wired correctly you'll end up with more than twice the power per charge (benefits speed, range, and acceleration) over car batteries. They'll also last for up to 15 years, vs. 3-5 years with lead-acid batteries. The LiFePO4 batteries are about 1/8th the weight, and since they're smaller than car batteries you can position them where you need them to be to distribute weight where you want it.

6. You should have a good working knowledge of electrical systems & motors to understand how to hook everything up and how it works. It's not like you can tow it to the nearest shop if there's a problem, you're on your own for figuring it out. When you do, you can't just run up to AutoZone and order the parts... it's back to the Internet to find what you need.

7. Hook everything up in your garage before you attempt to install it in the vehicle - you should be able to make the motor spin (go easy since there is no load). The last thing you need is to figure out something isn't right AFTER you've installed it.

8. Heat and Water will ruin the whole setup. You'll need some kind of blower to keep the air moving so the motor doesn't overheat. You also don't want the motor or batteries to ever get wet so keep that in mind. I still haven't 100% figured out what I'm going to do about that yet on my end, but I'll update the thread when I do.

9. You can't power any of your 12V stuff - like headlights, the top, etc. - off of a 120-144V battery pack, so you need to do one of two things: either leave the legacy 12V system intact and add a DC to DC Converter that converts the 144V to 12V so you can power your 12V stuff, or you need a dual shaft motor so you could run a belt driven alternator. A dual shaft motor basically means there is a shaft in the front AND in the back - one goes to the VW transaxle, the other sticks out the rear and you could use that for belt-driven stuff. You'll have to make your own brackets if you go that route, and the shaft only spins while the car is in motion - when you're sitting at a traffic light you have nothing. I went with the first option, the converter, which adds about $500 to the build.

Anyway, that's as far as I am with it now. As soon as the rest of the body work is done, installing this drivetrain will be next.
 
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Jagwire

New member
Hiya Ronrule,

I'd like to make some comments on your last post and I'm not trying to be argumentative, I'm just trying to pass along some tried and true information from people who have a lot more experience and knowledge than I have. I'd also like to mention that I'm not completely inexperienced either. I am a graduate from a 2 year electronics program at a local community college and I have had a business in the past dealing with a small electric vehicle called the Electric Ox, a multi-purpose electric tractor. All that being said, I am far from an EV expert but I have been paying attention to the industry for about 15 years now. My focus lately has been with an online TV show called EVTV. They have been converting cars to EV's since 2008 and have been documenting their successes and failures online in a weekly webcast. I also stay in touch somewhat with what is going on at EV West of whom I consider one of the leadig edge EV conversion shops ( one of the partners in EV West worked at EVTV for a while ). You have some excellent advice here but I would like to add some food for thought to those who are thinking of EV conversions.

Ok, here we go:

1) About kits. There are a number of companies who have put together "kits" and I agree they are base on components that they have figured out what works together well out of the countless number of products that are on the market today. The reason they call the kits is that they have been through the ringer trying different component packages and have done the "homework" of trial and error for us. They are a good place to start if you are totally new to the business of EV conversion. If you are knowledgeable and experienced you can pick and choose from the array of components out there and put together your own kit. It's like hot rodding and ICE vehicle. Those with experience with parts and products knowledge probably pick and choose the components that they like for their own reasons for their own car. Look at track records of these companies to see how legit they are and use your own judgement.

2) I have never converted a car or have had to buy parts from an EV conversion company but I do know that some of them do stock components ( I have actually bought some electrical parts for my tractor, but not many). I also know of one business that rewrites manuals from the original manufacturers so you can actually use their products when you buy them from them. They have gone through the process of "figuring out" how the products work for themselves and have put their knowledge down on paper for the rest of us ( and they were in the publishing business for years so they are good at it) . Getting what you order is a nightmare according to some stories that I have heard in the EV conversion e-business. It's a shame and very discouraging for anybody starting out. This is where you have to do your due diligence and scope out your dealer. Buyer beware!

3 & 4) BMS's...A very hot topic amongst EVers indeed. What if I told you that there are numerous cars out there driving around without BMS's on LiFePO4 batteries? Would you believe it? Do not use lithium based batteries until you learn about them! But who do you trust for info about them? Why not ones who use them daily and document their challenges with them and study them like they have to pass a university exam about them? Those are the people who I would trust. A BMS system adds a lot of complexity and cost to a system and they have been known to cause fires in battery packs. If you want to avoid problems with LiFePO4's, learn their limits and avoid them. It's that simple. Don't overcharge, don't under discharge and don't try to charge them below freezing. Also bottom balance your cells individually to the same level before making them into a pack. I could go into more detail about batteries, but once again, I am far from an expert on the matter. It may sound like I am typing myself smart here...no...I am just a student observer in this matter and this is what I see is working in real life situations.

You even mention in #4 a good reason not to use a BMS when you talk about expense and connection problems yourself. Think about it, your are putting an inexpensive little device ( the BMS circuit ) between two very expensive and powerful devices ( your battery cells ) plus all the spaghetti wiring that is associated with allowing them to all talk to the main BMS board. Sounds like a great place for failure to me.

5) Yes, LiFePO4 batteries are the enabler for the DIY EV converter. They are of the safest of the litium chemistry batteries out there and give you way better range and performance than lead acid batteries. They are expensive, that is a given, but the expense is worth it. The battery pack in my electric tractor was great at first and I was very careful with charging, checking their specific gravity and watering them. But even with this care they predictably lost their runtime and performance in a matter of a few years. If you give the same care, not watering of course, to a LiFePO4 pack and it will reward you with many years of service.

6) When you're done with your own successful EV conversion you will have a pretty good working knowledge of motors and electrical systems. You will be your own mechanic and will be able to fix most of your own problems, ( perhaps with a little help from your parts dealer or the internet, but hey, you wouldn't have gotten yourself into an EV conversion if your weren't a DIYer, right? ). I agree, I wouldn't go into this blindly unless you have a lot of patience and/or money to spend on blown parts. It's a rewarding challenge if you're up for it.

7) Doing bench tests is a good idea. You're right it's a lot easier to solve a problem before you bury your motor under the hood and run wires all through the car.

8) True, heat and water are the enemy of electronics. Water ( or liquid cooling of some sort ) can be a friend to take care of the heat though. More modern motors have liquid cooling for the motor and controller in the case of AC or PMAC ( Permanent Magnet AC ) motors. Look for those if you think you are going to tax your motors heavily and put a good heat exchanger/radiator cooling system in to keep things cool.

9) Yeah, pack voltage conversion to run 12V accessories is a needed PITA in EV conversions. The auto industry unfortunately has been built around 12V products and that is what we have to deal with. Whether you use a DC-DC conveter, a separate 12V battery or a alternator connected to the motor, you're gonna need 12V. Hey, there's a market for some up and coming electronic entrepreneur...design car components that run on various pack voltages instead of 12V so you don't have to use a converter! ( Yeah, I know, sounds outrageous...just me thinking out loud, lol )

So...there's my 2¢ for what its worth.

Ronrule, seriously though, you should examine the BMS thing. Either confirm or prove me wrong. You could save yourself a lot of money, time and confusion if you don't use a BMS. I'm not saying, don't monitor your cells, just look into how to do it without a BMS. It has and is being done safely in many cars and boats every day for years now.

Good luck with your build Ronrule and keep us informed of your progress!

Cheers,

John
 
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ronrule

New member
Hiya Ronrule,

I'd like to make some comments on your last post and I'm not trying to be argumentative, I'm just trying to pass along some tried and true information from people who have a lot more experience and knowledge than I have. I'd also like to mention that I'm not completely inexperienced either. I am a graduate from a 2 year electronics program at a local community college and I have had a business in the past dealing with a small electric vehicle called the Electric Ox, a multi-purpose electric tractor. All that being said, I am far from an EV expert but I have been paying attention to the industry for about 15 years now. My focus lately has been with an online TV show called EVTV. They have been converting cars to EV's since 2008 and have been documenting their successes and failures online in a weekly webcast. I also stay in touch somewhat with what is going on at EV West of whom I consider one of the leadig edge EV conversion shops ( one of the partners in EV West worked at EVTV for a while ). You have some excellent advice here but I would like to add some food for thought to those who are thinking of EV conversions.

Ok, here we go:

1) About kits. There are a number of companies who have put together "kits" and I agree they are base on components that they have figured out what works together well out of the countless number of products that are on the market today. The reason they call the kits is that they have been through the ringer trying different component packages and have done the "homework" of trial and error for us. They are a good place to start if you are totally new to the business of EV conversion. If you are knowledgeable and experienced you can pick and choose from the array of components out there and put together your own kit. It's like hot rodding and ICE vehicle. Those with experience with parts and products knowledge probably pick and choose the components that they like for their own reasons for their own car. Look at track records of these companies to see how legit they are and use your own judgement.

2) I have never converted a car or have had to buy parts from an EV conversion company but I do know that some of them do stock components ( I have actually bought some electrical parts for my tractor, but not many). I also know of one business that rewrites manuals from the original manufacturers so you can actually use their products when you buy them from them. They have gone through the process of "figuring out" how the products work for themselves and have put their knowledge down on paper for the rest of us ( and they were in the publishing business for years so they are good at it) . Getting what you order is a nightmare according to some stories that I have heard in the EV conversion e-business. It's a shame and very discouraging for anybody starting out. This is where you have to do your due diligence and scope out your dealer. Buyer beware!

3 & 4) BMS's...A very hot topic amongst EVers indeed. What if I told you that there are numerous cars out there driving around without BMS's on LiFePO4 batteries? Would you believe it? Do not use lithium based batteries until you learn about them! But who do you trust for info about them? Why not ones who use them daily and document their challenges with them and study them like they have to pass a university exam about them? Those are the people who I would trust. A BMS system adds a lot of complexity and cost to a system and they have been known to cause fires in battery packs. If you want to avoid problems with LiFePO4's, learn their limits and avoid them. It's that simple. Don't overcharge, don't under discharge and don't try to charge them below freezing. Also bottom balance your cells individually to the same level before making them into a pack. I could go into more detail about batteries, but once again, I am far from an expert on the matter. It may sound like I am typing myself smart here...no...I am just a student observer in this matter and this is what I see is working in real life situations.

You even mention in #4 a good reason not to use a BMS when you talk about expense and connection problems yourself. Think about it, your are putting an inexpensive little device ( the BMS circuit ) between two very expensive and powerful devices ( your battery cells ) plus all the spaghetti wiring that is associated with allowing them to all talk to the main BMS board. Sounds like a great place for failure to me.

5) Yes, LiFePO4 batteries are the enabler for the DIY EV converter. They are of the safest of the litium chemistry batteries out there and give you way better range and performance than lead acid batteries. They are expensive, that is a given, but the expense is worth it. The battery pack in my electric tractor was great at first and I was very careful with charging, checking their specific gravity and watering them. But even with this care they predictably lost their runtime and performance in a matter of a few years. If you give the same care, not watering of course, to a LiFePO4 pack and it will reward you with many years of service.

6) When you're done with your own successful EV conversion you will have a pretty good working knowledge of motors and electrical systems. You will be your own mechanic and will be able to fix most of your own problems, ( perhaps with a little help from your parts dealer or the internet, but hey, you wouldn't have gotten yourself into an EV conversion if your weren't a DIYer, right? ). I agree, I wouldn't go into this blindly unless you have a lot of patience and/or money to spend on blown parts. It's a rewarding challenge if you're up for it.

7) Doing bench tests is a good idea. You're right it's a lot easier to solve a problem before you bury your motor under the hood and run wires all through the car.

8) True, heat and water are the enemy of electronics. Water ( or liquid cooling of some sort ) can be a friend to take care of the heat though. More modern motors have liquid cooling for the motor and controller in the case of AC or PMAC ( Permanent Magnet AC ) motors. Look for those if you think you are going to tax your motors heavily and put a good heat exchanger/radiator cooling system in to keep things cool.

9) Yeah, pack voltage conversion to run 12V accessories is a needed PITA in EV conversions. The auto industry unfortunately has been built around 12V products and that is what we have to deal with. Whether you use a DC-DC conveter, a separate 12V battery or a alternator connected to the motor, you're gonna need 12V. Hey, there's a market for some up and coming electronic entrepreneur...design car components that run on various pack voltages instead of 12V so you don't have to use a converter! ( Yeah, I know, sounds outrageous...just me thinking out loud, lol )

So...there's my 2¢ for what its worth.

Ronrule, seriously though, you should examine the BMS thing. Either confirm or prove me wrong. You could save yourself a lot of money, time and confusion if you don't use a BMS. I'm not saying, don't monitor your cells, just look into how to do it without a BMS. It has and is being done safely in many cars and boats every day for years now.

Good luck with your build Ronrule and keep us informed of your progress!

Cheers,

John

Good points throughout, the BMS stuff is probably what I spent the most time researching. There are tons of opinions on the subject, but I decided to go with it.

In an ideal scenario - all batteries purchased at the same time and maintaining consistent pack voltage, never reaching the point where the CONTROLLER's low voltage shut-off kicks in, you're right, you'll never need a BMS. You could test each individual battery every 30 charges or so to make sure one isn't out of sync with the others and remove the problem battery if it is.

I would imagine guys who don't use their EV's daily would have no problem running without a BMS, but since I'm going for a daily driver I'll be charging every other day, running at high speeds, occasional travel between offices during the day, etc. The same way I would use any other vehicle, long trips excluded. Frequent charging and discharging means more frequent testing is required, and even though all of my batteries were purchased at the same time and will be functioning under the same load, all it takes is one bad cell to start the chain reaction. The price of the entire BMS system is about the same as the price for ONE replacement battery anyway.

If the BMS fails, I'll know it. If an individual board within the BMS fails, I'll know it. If a battery falls out of sync with the pack while running the BMS, I'll know it. Running without a BMS means I won't know it unless I test each battery by hand. That makes the trade-off worth it - couple that with the price of the entire BMS system isn't much more than the price of ONE replacement LiFePO4 battery and it's worth it for the peace of mind.

As for the parts availability, it's an issue that continues to plague the EV community and I think the biggest problem is that there is so much OLD information out there it's hard to really research. Some companies that had nothing but complaints in 2008-2010 are on the top of their game now, and more recent reviews are favorable, others had glowing over the top reviews in 2011 and don't seem to uphold it today. It's such a niche area that the only "research" you can do is on forums, which leads to opinions and often a 'know-it-all' mentality, plus plants from the various distributors, plus the fact that nobody seems to know anything other than what worked for THEM.

Case in point, I ordered a kit that contained a Curtis controller, but it was a Kelly in the box when everything arrived. After looking it up, the Kelly was actually a "better unit" (feature for feature/capability/power), but it wasn't what I ordered. Talking to some folks on the EV scene wasn't much help - controller brand loyalists are just as bad as the Ford vs. Chevy guys in the muscle car scene, and they all say the same thing - the brand they picked is "the best", the other one "sucks". "Do some research", they say.
 
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