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Converting a Family Car to Electric

A big project done by Carl Thelen

Once upon a time ( 1975 ) our family needed another car to supplement the faithful Dodge Dart. A 1976 Honda CVCC was chosen to do the task. Soon, the car was called "LTL-BLOO" :-)) It was a real sweetie :-))

Table of Contents:
- Introduction - 1975
- Remove the gasoline engine - April 14, 2012
- The electric motor and controller
- Painting the Engine Compartment
- Intermittent Electric Honda Newsletter (#1) - July 31, 2013
- Attempt Install Motor Transmission - Aug 17, 2013
- Adjust Clutch Linkage - Nov 17, 2013
- Introducing the Battery Charger - March 9, 2014
- Moving (well - OK, Towing) Day - Oct 11, 2014
- Operational :-)) - Sept 2015
- The Gas/Battery Gauge - Dec 2015
- A MOSFET to replace the Tank Sensor - Jan 2016
- publicity, (local copy)


Introduction

Why choose this car? - 1975
  • The previous used Datsun was a bit of a lemon.
  • And the infamous Dodge K car took itself out of the running. (We had had a succession of wonderful Dodge Dart cars with the slant-six engine.) The Dodge K engine had a reputation for stopping suddenly, and needing to be towed off the road. :-(( Rumor and Consumer Reports came true one day - Carl was at school, learning to drive in a "K" car when it stopped suddenly, leaving the driving instructor and students with an "interesting" problem. (This was before cell phones if you can imagine !! )
  • To be complete we checked with a Chevy dealership, and were shown a car which had some paint bubbles over one door. The sales agent said this was a Monday Morning Car, and as soon as we purchased it the dealership would fix the paint - Yeah, sure -

In 1992, the kids were mostly in college and was it the empty nest syndrome or other, the nuclear family no longer lived together.

The car eventually became Carl's, who nursed it through its decline and old age, replacing head gaskets, shock absorbers, ... Eventually even Carl's patience wore thin and the car sat for several years - then walla - why not replace of the sick gas engine with an electric motor???

After some study, and visits to the San Jose Electric Auto Association (SJEAA), Carl decided to give it a try. The basic plan is to:

  • remove the gas tank and gas engine,
  • use the existing transmission (and clutch) which also provides speedometer and odometer functions
  • couple the transmission with the new electric motor
  • put in lots of batteries and wiring
  • add some kind of controller and charging connections
  • ???

Remove the gasoline engine - April 14, 2012

The following pictures show is just one stage of the conversion to electric -
Carl has already accomplished :
  • He asked for and received an arc welding outfit for Christmas
  • Relocated the "junker" from Carl's house to Edward's house with more room
  • Removal of the gas and gas tank ( no, the fire department was not needed )
  • Disconnection of the myriad connections, hoses, pipes, cables, ... between the engine/transmission and the rest of the car body.
  • Note the radiator has already been removed
  • Randy has borrowed an engine hoist from one of his neighbors, whose hobby is modifying, maintaining, and racing ?stock? cars. This hoist is SUV transportable and present :-))
So, "away we go" - Goals for the day (April 14, 2012) are:
  • Stay out of the "Darwin Awards" web page
  • Remove the engine and closely coupled transmission from LTL-BLOO
  • Separate the engine (to be sold/discarded) from the transmission (to be reused)
  • Get some critical measurements so that an adapter to link the new electric motor can be coupled with the transmission.
  • Reduce the weight of the gas engine for easy handling so the engine hoist can be returned.
  • Don't make a mess of Edward's driveway -
  • Stay out of the "Darwin Awards" web page

OH, and how could I forget the engine hoist from Randy's neighbor, who just happens to race his cars on weekends for a hobby. I think we got this heavy awkward thing from Randy's house to Edward's house in Randy's van. A real struggle, but no crushed fingers :-))

Here are just some of the connections, hoses, ... Carl has already removed. Carl pauses, is he thinking -
- I've done so much work already
- and there is so much yet to do
Carl discussing a motor mount with Randy
- Edward says he is at work this Sunday - he probably is :-((
- Note the blue tarp to protect the driveway from draining fluids !!
Look at that elephant chain, and that big bolt Randy is holding !!
Some more disconnected stuff, and tied and labeled wires One of the motor mounts, supporting the engine/transmission.
Carl has cut the exhaust pipe from the rusty exhaust manifold
Lets reposition this end of the chain - again - Ready to hoist, at last - lets see if we can move something :-))
Note plywood protecting windshield from hazard :-))
Hey - it moved - but seems stuck :-((
What is it hung up on ????
It moved up another inch - but seems stuck, again !! :-((
Now what is the trouble ????
Things are not going well
- lets spread some kitty litter to catch any spills
Harvey from next door comes to take a look.
Harvey builds model airplanes with 5 foot wing spans.
I think you need to tip it more -
Move the hook in the chain several links.
Clearing - Barely
Hey Look Ma, we still got all our fingers !!!! Don't show this to Edward - Safety issues !! ;-))
Removing transmission bolts - getting to be a long day :-( OK - it wiggles - see the reflections from the 1/2 separation?
This is the end of the transmission, to be reused in electric car. This is the clutch assembly, to be reused
This measurement will help make the adapter between the
old transmission and the new motor :-))
Messy ending - couldn't get the old engine head off,
Engine was also frozen - pistons wouldn't move, sad ...

So - the results for the days activities
Yes Stay out of the "Darwin Awards" web page
Didn't even smash a finger or loose an eye :-))
Yes Remove the engine and closely coupled transmission from LTL-BLOO
Yes Separate the engine (to be sold/discarded) from the transmission (to be reused)
Yes Get some critical measurements so that an adapter to link the new electric motor can be coupled with the transmission.
? Reduce the weight of the gas engine for easy handling so the engine hoist can be returned.
- - Hoist returned, Engine still heavy :-|
Yes Don't make a mess of Edward's driveway -
Yes Have a happy day ;-))

The electric motor and controller

So, August 11, 2012, Edward and Dad (me) found ourselves at Carl's house after a wild movie called "The Avengers" :-| Of course we needed to see Carl's latest toys - like the electric motor and the motor controller for the recycled Honda CVCC.

You recognize the flywheel from before.
Introducing the adapter plate to hold the motor.
and the motor :-)) about 8 x 18 inches, but heavy !!
An overview of the motor.
The motor name plate. A picture of a picture of the motor poles
A picture of a picture of the armature And details of what appears to be damage.
The Motor Controller, the fined thing is the heat sink, with added cooling fan. Controller Instruction Sheet.
The Wiring Guide Controller Instruction Manual, to be ignored ;-))
Movie - Carl Discussing Motor Controller, 24 MBytes Carl running motor on 12 volts w/o controller 23 MBytes

Painting the Engine Compartment

It is March 30, 2013 - time to paint the engine compartment - Carl wants to apply primer to avoid having to steam clean the area.

We have removed many wires and hoses, and wrapped the rest with paper to protect them from primer, and later paint. (Lacquer paints tend to soften and mess with rubber and electrical connections. Neighbor Bea gets a charge watching our efforts. Why the two tone primer job?? Life is never fair !! Carl brought along two old cans of red primer - each can sprayed some paint then suddenly quit, as though plugged. Fortunately neighbor Bea's husband (whose green parrot frequently rides on his shoulder) had a can of white primer. The next day, Carl painted over the primer with a "lovely blue".


Intermittent Electric Honda Newsletter (#1)

- July 31, 2013
Carl Thelen to ...
At long last, the trickiest part of the whole operation is complete! Itís the mating of the motor and transmission through the adapter plate. I can put them together and take them apart with little effort, and it seems as if the clutch works properly. The company in Santa Cruz that did most of the work did OK, but didnít test it. As an engineer, I think itís important to do component testing, especially of important and complicated parts. So testing took a while, and it tested good, and I learned a thing or two about transmissions and clutches.

I have decided to paint the interior metal work in the engine compartment the same color as the existing interior, which is the carís original color, ďHighland Blue.Ē After clearing out the engine compartment, I cleaned the grease and gunk out of it, prepped for painting, and started to put on a primer coat. The first spray can of primer stopped working for some reason -- there was still stuff in the can, but I couldnít get it out. It was red primer. Fortunately, I had another can of primer - white - and I used that until _it_ ran out. Fortunately, a neighbor had some - gray this time - and I finished the job with that. So the primer inside the engine compartment is about 50% red, 40% gray, and 10% white. Wow!

I learned something about automotive spray paint. See, back in the days you painted the car, with a few coats so it would last. These days you paint it with a thin coat of paint, called base coat, and cover that with ďclear coat,Ē which makes it glossy. This process is cheaper, since the expensive part of paint is the pigment, and clear coat hasnít got any pigment -- it just protects whatís there. This base / clear process is called double stage. If you want the color and clear coat in one can - called single stage - you still can, but you have to use it within 24 hours of opening the can.

I was contemplating whether to paint the motor and transmission, and it dawned on me to wonder why they didn't always paint the engine and tranny. They don't because a) the heat will degrade the paint, and b) the whole lot of it will get covered with grease and oil and dust and more grease and oil and dust. However, with an electric powertrain, there's a lot less heat, and no grease or oil to attract dust. So, I decided to paint the motor and tranny "Because I can!". It's another difference between gas and electric.

So, the next step is to mount the motor and transmission into the engine compartment. This is going to be an interesting process, as Iíll probably have to fabricate new motor mounts. But it will work eventually.

I have to install the motor and transmission before making the battery boxes, because how they end up will affect how many batteries I can put inside the engine compartment. Itíll almost certainly be either 3 or 4 -- 3 is a bit less weight than was removed, 4 is a bit more. But I kinda need to know that before I finalize the battery arrangement in the rest of the car. Attached is a picture of the painted motor and transmission. Motor is in foreground, but you already knew that, right?

Cheers!

Carl Thelen
Old enough to know better, young enough to do it anyway, studly enough to survive.
My favorite controlled substance is - gunpowder!

Attempt to Install Motor & Transmission - Aug 17, 2013

Carl & Dad tried to install the
- electric motor w attached clutch
- transmission-transaxle
- "engine mounts"
into the "engine compartment" without the use of an engine hoist. You notice ropes stretched across the the engine compartment to support the heavy electric motor w attached clutch. The supporting ropes could be adjusted in length to raise/lower/tip the heavy load. (Carl & Dad can barely lower the thing into the compartment without medical damage.

Attempts to mate the transmission-transaxle with the clutch while in the engine compartment were unsuccessful, frustrated in part by the protruding power brake assembly which we did not wish to disturb.

At noon, Randy, Mason & Art brought pizza and good cheer - and went with us to the store to get correct length bolts - our attempts to cut the proposed bolts with a saber-saw being unsuccessful.

Next time, mate the motor with transmission on "work bench" and install using an engine hoist !!

Adjust Clutch Linkage - Nov 17, 2013

Its been a while since I visited the exercise. Carl's week ends and mine seemed to clash -
You may note that the motor and transmission are installed. Carl assures me that he used an engine hoist ;-))

Carl said that he wanted to adjust the clutch linkage, and that it was a two idiot job. So here I am. Game plan - I rotate a front (driven) tire and watch the flywheel/clutch - he raises and lowers the clutch peddle and performs desired adjustments. That went a planned !!

Then Carl tried to re-install the final the driver's side wheel linkage - removed to install the motor - that did not go as planned !! It was time for me to leave to escort some IBM-1401 VIPs - former project manager and engineering manager, even older that I !!

Introducing the Battery Charger - March 9, 2014

So - we went back today to test the fit of a battery box that Carl has tack welded from 1"x1" angle iron. (We had previously cut and taped and stapled a cardboard box of the same identical dimensions to assure the fit and the ability to get the box into a rectangular hole cut in the floor of the trunk - basically occupying the volume previously occupied by the gas tank. The angle iron box fit just fine, after as slight adjustment with the "kinetic persuader" ( a carpenter's hammer ;-))

Carl also brought along a second hand battery charger he had purchased to see if it could be installed in the rear adjacent to the rear battery box. (One must specify which battery box - they will be all over the car.)

http://www.elconchargers.com
Electric Conversions, 515 N. 10th St., Sacramento, CA 95811, Ph: 916-441-4161,
This is the "heat sink" of the battery charger. Converting AC to regulated DC with over voltage and over current protection involves converting some of the AC power into heat - which must be removed from the circuit elements. AC input here, with the usual warning signs
This is the side opposite the heat sink and fan. Lots of capacitors and inductors. I imagine the big rectifiers and regulator circuits are under this and in good contact with the heat sink. This is an auxiliary card with lots of integrated circuits. Not sure why the hard black glop has been applied.
This is the cover of the electronics, above. OK - so its boring. More interesting !! Note the charge indicator area, back lit by an LED on the inside.
OOOHH - Algorithms?? Charging curves?? Carl hopes that since this box was used in an electric car that it is set to the correct curve :-)) OOOHH - 144 volts ?? High Current ?? Some one could get REALLY bit !!
Mounting instructions, mount fins vertical!! Lots of cooling air for fins. Serial Number, and what is this seven pin connector ??
The business end. With the output pins, and third pin is an interlock control.

What are the LED error messages on a Elcon PFC charger?
from http://www.elconchargers.com/frequentlyasked_questions.html#161970

If there is an error condition and the charger is not charging, it will repeatedly display one of the following error messages on the Red-Green LED. The dash stands for one second.
RG - - - - - - Wrong battery or battery voltage too high.
RGR - - - - - Time out. There is a time limit for each charging stage. Your batteries may be too big or too old, or the Amp Hour selection is wrong.
RGRG - - - - Battery temperature too high. Put a cooling fan on the batteries while charging or improve ventilation and spacing.
RGRGR - - - AC voltage too high or too low. Should be between 100 and 240VAC.
RGRGRG - - Battery temperature probe is required but is missing or defective.
RGRGRGR - Communication error (CAN Bus only).
RGRGRGRG Battery not connected or out of specification or DC output fuse blown (or waiting for CAN command).
GR - - - - - - Charger overheated. Unplug it and let it cool down. Put a fan on it while charging.

Moving (well - OK, Towing) Day - Oct 11, 2014

Since the last report,
- battery boxes have been painted, checked for size, installed,
- stiffer rear springs with internal shock absorbers installed,
- parking brake cable re-routed, had gone over gas tank
- hood re-installed, various dangling wires and cables secured for towing -
Edward lowering back end, Carl checking wheel nut tightness. Carl lowering the front - the drive wheel splines now fit into the transmission properly :-))
Bea from next door took this photo :-))
Dad is going to drive up onto the towing dolly, while Edward and Carl push - hard. What are the chances ???
Got it on the first try :-)) Oh, of course, what else ??
Carl strapping a wheel down, Edward supervising. Carl and Edward attaching the chains in case all else fails. And shortly off for a test tow to see if it all holds together.
After the test tow, Carl and Edward noticed the left rear brake was sizzling hot. So back to Edward's place to see what is going on :-(( Life Ain't Fair -
This break drum got hot during test tow.
Some trustful neighbor asked advice about rewiring her home. She wanted to extend the wiring from a 220 volt former drier outlet into the garage for 110 service. The 220 volt wiring was clearly illegal in any jurisdiction and I judged immoral also - what a hack job with no ground and a very thin neutral ...
Not wishing to be responsible for man-slaughter, Edward and I suggested she spend the money for a licensed electrician!

In any case, I have no idea what another neighbor (Bob) and Carl did to the left rear bearing nut (which I claimed was too tight) and the dragging brake assembly. By the time I got back from the home brew (or stew) electrical question the car was ready to tow.

The next test tow was "cool" ;-) so Carl drove the truck towing the car, and I played tail gunner to make sure no smoke or other debris left the towed car. We arrived at Carl's house and Mary Ellin was the driver as Carl and I rocked the car out of the towing dolly and into Carl's driveway :-))

Happiness - no fingers have been lost/smashed in this exercise so far :-)))

Carl needs to install a 12 volt system for car wiring such as horn, lights, radio, ... Then install the 170 volts of propulsion batteries, assure parking brake works reliably, likely remove the "differential" in the hydraulic brake system as the weight distribution will be very different - a heavier rear - and somehow get street legal.

Good Luck to us all :-)))

Operational :-)) - Sept 2015

We have been hearing reports that the car is functional. On a visit to Carl's house in August 2015, Carl gave each person a ride around the neighborhood in his electric car. The rides were moderate - no attempt to go 0 to 60 mph in a second ;-)) Instead of some engine noise, we heard transmission gear and road noise. (Since the car is now a "2 Seater", there were a number of trips.) (I forgot to take pictures and also to inquire about street legality.)

September 2015 - Coming back from "Wings Over Wine Country" I took these pictures
Here is the energy storage volume. Lead acid batteries ain't Tesla, but the price and availiability of a charge controller is better. The series voltage is 131 volts full charge, 124 volts half charge, and 110 volts near exhaustion. Instead of standing at the gas pump for a few minutes gulping power at nearly a megawatt rate, charging is more sedate. Carl's charging controller is programmed at 14 amps at 115 volts - 1600 watts - about two horse power.

The Gas/Battery Gauge - Dec 2015

Carl would like to show his voltage based state of battery charge on the little Honda's fuel gauge.
But life gets complex. Carl reports that the propulsion battery is not at all grounded to the car chassis. This may be safer :-)) but removes a nice ground reference. Carl reports that the
fuel tank sensing unit has
      3 ohms - FULL, 25 ohms HALF, 105 ohms EMPTY.
Match that up with propulsion battery
     131 volts FULL, 124 volts HALF, 110 volts EMPTY .
Help - the voltages in the propulsion battery/motor/control system are not referenced to car chassis/ground. This is an important safety factor. A finger or tool could touch one of those wires and ground - with no shock or arc :-))
      But it does make measuring the propulsion voltages "interesting" with a gas gauge with an apparent hard wired voltage regulator with a chassis ground reference.

So - Call in the experts,
- Ron Crane (consultant),
- Stan Paddock (had an electric car and is an electronics/Arduino hacker).

Stan Paddock suggested using a "linear opto isolator" on the propulsion side to indicate the voltage to the grounded side.
http://www.ti.com/general/docs/lit/getliterature.tsp?genericPartNumber=til300&fileType=pdf
shows an op-amp to linearize and drive the light emitting side.
Stan pointed out that without the linearizing op-amp, this could just be another non-linearity for the Arduino to correct for. The average opto isolater uses about 10 ma - well within the estimated lead-acid internal leakage. The coupled transistor could be input to the Arduino similar to the diagram below, and not need a time base coupling and software.

At about the same time, I (Ed Thelen) was back to my obsession, a blinking neon oscillator, with the blink rate mostly voltage dependent (with a big offset due to the firing voltage of the neon in the NE-2 (about 90 volts).

What irritates me no end is that I like Stan's idea better :-((
Lets hear it for Not-Invented-Here !!


I forgot to mention that Ron Crane suggested alternatives to estimate the energy remaining in the battery - some comments added ;-))

  1. Count ( integrate ;-)) the coulombs
    ( one coulomb = 6.24x10e+18 electrons)
    in and out of the battery, allowing for errors and losses
    ( can a Hall Effect device estimate current? )
         http://home.earthlink.net/~evtkw/currentmainpage.html
         http://home.earthlink.net/~evtkw/currentdetails.html
    or is a better choice to monitor voltage across a (low resistance ) resistor in series with the battery? )
    http://www.batterypoweronline.com/main/articles/battery-management-with-an-intelligent-battery-sensor-is-vital-to-the-success-of-future-automotive-designs/
    "The earthís magnetic field alone can cause a 0.4 A error, not to mention the fields generated by other coils, conductors, and electric motors / generators internal to the vehicle [1] "
    also, " On the real-world test, the 35-inch, 4- AWG positive battery cable has a resistance of 788 ĶOhm.[2]."
    This resistance gives an IR drop of about 79 millivolts passing 100 amp, about 10 horsepower -
    This shunt resistance, with a 1 uv offset op-amp (say an AN8571 - prototyping board $20), gives an offset error of a little more than 1 ma - should be good enough for a g-job ;-)) - But we have to get this bi-directional across 150 volts.
    I imagine the various thermally induced voltage will be will above 1 uv ;-)) even with care -

  2. Use an Effective Series Resistance measure to estimate ? remaining energy ?? (examine the voltage drop when say a 10 amp current pulse is taken from the battery)
These might not be so simple, but maybe more effective -
like in the ?good old days? people used hydrometers to estimate specific gravity of the battery acid and ??remaining energy??


Trying to get a handle on the characteristics of the voltage regulator and meter in the Honda schematic (above) I asked Carl to measure the electrical connections of the wire at P121 or wire 4 at P40 - the one that goes to the gas tank sensor. - Both tests with normal dash voltage present - about 12 volts

  1. measure the voltage on the wire to the tank sensor, usual volt meter, to metal chassis of car the gauge should indicate "empty" or "emptier"
  2. measure the amps/milliamps of the same wire to ground (meal chassis of car) the gauge should read "full" or "superfull"
That should provide some useful design info.

Carl replied that

  1. "However, my digital voltmeter gets totally confused. Sometimes it reports 9.7 volts , but mostly 0. It flickers back and forth. The 12 Volt battery seems to have about 10 volts ( this seems to be another issue to be dealt with. :-( )
  2. "Okay, forget that, let's try amps. The same flickering, and it seems to show 7.3 - 7.5 miliamps when its not spinning in circles."

Maybe there is a lot more in that "Voltage Regulator" than I imagined -
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_gauge
"Potentiometer applications for alcohol fuel use a pulse-and-hold methodology, with a periodic signal being sent to determine fuel level decreasing the corrosion potential."

........... and voltage controlled resistors seem to be in the 10k ohm resistance range rather than the 0-100 ohm range :-((

MOSFET to replace the Tank Sensor - Jan 2016

That pulsing of the current to the Tank Sensor (above) seems to need low ohmage voltage controlled resistor.
However, a power MOSFET can have very low (about 1) ohm up to higher than we need, depending on the gate voltage. It is quite non-linear ("linear" are available but harder to get). Fortunately, an Arduino with ADC input and pulse width modulation DAC output can straighten out the various non-linearites.

Publicity (local copy)

from http://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue0914/A-Real-DIY-Project-Saint-Marys-employee-designs-his-own-electric-car.html
Published September 9th, 2015
By Diane Claytor

A Real DIY Project

Saint Mary's employee designs his own electric car
Carl Thelen points out the wiring under the hood Photos Diane Claytor

When Carl Thelen graduated from UC Berkeley almost 30 years ago, his family gave him a graduation gift: their 10-year-old manual transmission Honda Civic. He was thrilled. For the next 20 years, it was his daily mode of transportation. "It was such a fun car to drive," said Thelen, who is the director of instructional technology at Saint Mary's College. But then it developed "the bad - and very expensive - habit of blowing head gaskets," he noted. The car sat, unused, for several years. He couldn't find a replacement engine. His auto mechanic tried rebuilding the engine, but the head gaskets kept blowing. So Thelen, who said he was "fortunate enough to go to school at a time when they still taught metal shop, wood shop and electronics," came up with the bright idea to try converting his 1976 car, which had 276,000 miles on it, to an electric vehicle. "I figured I had learned all this stuff years earlier so I could do it," he said.

     A self-described tinkerer, Thelen admits he had no idea where to begin. He went to a local electric car club and learned that the Civic is an excellent car to convert because it's small, lightweight and strong. He talked to people, read books and slowly moved forward. Of course, like most projects, this one took far longer and was considerably more involved than expected. The "very part-time" conversion started in 2010; with the help of his 10-year-old daughter, it is now mostly completed. "At least it's finished enough to be considered legal, with all the proper stickers," he proclaimed.

     The car uses 15 eight volt lead acid golf cart batteries (a 120 volt system): 11 in the back, four more in the front engine compartment; 120 volt cables; and a 12 volt auxiliary battery that basically does the same thing as the starter in a regular car. The engine and miscellaneous items were removed and approximately 1,200 pounds of batteries and other items were added. So this electric vehicle now weighs about 600 pounds more than its pre-converted model. A can of "fix a flat" has replaced the spare tire "to keep the weight down," he said. "The books I read said to have a fire extinguisher on hand. I'm not sure why, but I have one." There is also a circuit breaker that will shut everything down if something goes wrong.

     While not thoroughly tested, when fully charged, the car has a range of about 43 miles, depending on the number of stops, hills, speed, and temperature, Thelen said. "I've calculated that I can go from home in San Pablo, take my daughter to school, get to work and then, if my daughter got sick, get back to her school and home again," he said. Of course, by then, the battery would be "completely exhausted." There is a charging port - a 120-volt, grounded plug - where the gas tank opening used to be. And Thelen knows - and has used - just about every parking spot on campus that's near an outlet.

     He fully charges the car at home every night; it takes about 15 hours. "So I'm really not limited to 43 miles during the day," Thelen noted. "I just have to be near an outlet and have the time to charge it. It's typically fully charged again by the time I leave work. It really is the perfect commuter car." Thelen also has a gas-driven car. "I drove it last week and by the time I got home, it was pretty much 'sucking fumes.' I'm no longer accustomed to looking at the gauge on a regular basis."

     As for speed, Thelen said he's gotten up to 75 miles per hour. "But it's not very happy going that fast. That speed really drains the battery. It's very happy at 60 miles per hour. In first gear, it cruises along at 25 miles per hour; in second gear, it's a happy camper at 40 miles per hour."

     Before going for a quick ride, Thelen, a very animated speaker, described all the sounds his passenger may hear. "There are going to be some strange noises," he explained. "The doors creak, there will be a funny noise from the vacuum pump, a clicking from the contactor (main switch), whirring from the motor and squeaks and groans from the back." Every noise mentioned was, indeed, heard.

     The conversion likely cost between $5,000 to 7,000, Thelen said, "vastly more than the car is worth." And he's really not sure how much time he's spent on it over the past five years. But it doesn't matter. Thelen explained that he did this because he wanted to challenge himself, practice some of the skills he learned a long time ago and "just prove that I could. Also, it's still a really fun car to drive."


The view of the back of Thelen's 1976 Honda Civic with 11 of its 15 batteries


Thelen sits in his converted-to-electric 1976 Honda Civic