Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I can SEE!

Wow! I just got back from a 10 mile run on rural winding roads and a short jaunt through town. The new headlight is much better than the old sealed beam. High beam is actually brighter than low beam now and I can light up the whole road if needed. I don't think I'll be getting many near misses with the elk which like to frequent my property. I can stand not having the adrenaline rush of nearly hitting one. With the old headlight It was difficult to see far enough ahead for comfort. Now, that is not a problem. This headlight mod is well worth the work it took. If any one wants to build one send me an email. I'll find out how much the guy who built the fiberglass cup wants to build you one too. I can give you measurements of my mounting plate if you want.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Splash Guards in place

I finally have the splash guards in place. Below is the right side. I split it into two pieces since this side has the new Gizmo Interface and I still need to get to it easily for programming as testing continues. It is a little difficult to get the splash guard out from around the front shock. The material is pushed up under the lip of the tub so no water will be able to get on the wiring from above. I'm hoping not too much enters from the front.
Here is the rear splash guard. The original one was not much wider than the fender. Carl Watkins of NEVCO said that when they had Gizmos come in for service they would widen this splash guard to protect the motor more. This one is bolted to the lip of the tub and zip-tied at the bottom. I also pushed the material up as high as I could since the hinge holes are exposed and water just runs down the back of the Gizmo and through these points.
Here is a close-up of the right hinge hole. You can see the plastic through the chip in the fiberglass.
The right side splash guard is one piece. I don't think I'll have to get access to this wiring as often as the other side. It wraps around the back corner a little ways. I'm trying to keep spray from getting on the terminal block mounted on the gold colored aluminum mount just visible through the plastic.In addition to this I bought some silicon spray from the Napa store and sprayed the controller and wiring. The spray insulates and helps keep water from sitting on things. I hope the controller will stay cleaner than when I had battery terminal spray on it. That stuff was a dirt magnet and the controller looked terrible. I feel much better about driving in the rain now.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gizmo Interface update.

As with any new item there is a testing and tweaking phase, then add a feature and do more testing and tweaking. The Gizmo Interface is coming along nicely. Variable regen is working on demand and the other basic functions work too.

Currently, while driving forward, I can press the activate regen button and vary the regen current with the throttle trigger. Unfortunately the controller only has a regen range of 50% of the max setting to the max setting. I wish it had a high and low setting so I could get a wider range of regen. I ran it with 250A max regen for a while but the low end was a little too agressive. I lowered the max to 200A which makes the low end more useable but I don't get the agressiveness I like at the high end.

I can also get regen if I pull the throttle while pulling on the brake. This is useful when doing a panic stop and you forget to hit the activate regen button.

I found a controller setting where the regen voltage can be changed. At first I thought this was an input voltage that the controller read to adjust the regen amount. In testing I discovered that this is the voltage in the armature (I think it is the difference in voltage but I'm not sure) at which point regen stops. I lowered this from 2.00V to 0.50V and now I get regen down to about 4mph. At these speeds the motor is spinning too slow to charge the batteries and it actually is a drain on the batteries. The batteries supply more current than generated at around 10mph but I'm trying to save the brake pads, not extend range. While I don't have a way to test it, regen probably comes out a wash as far as extending range goes. However, making the brake pads last an extra 500+ miles would be a great thing. As I expected, the motor doesn't get a chance to cool down during the coasting to a stop phase so it tends to warm up a bit. I'll probably add a blower to the motor to compensate for this. My 2 mile 400 foot elevation climb (most of this is in 1 mile) tends to heat things up quite a bit. I regularly see 250+A out of the battery. I'll have to check the armature current some time to see what it is.

The actual setting which controlls the regen amount is the Footbrake setting. I set this to come on at a voltage a little higher than the acceleration voltage and be at max just below the maximum voltage the throttle trigger sends out.

Next up: My new splash pannels. (Thanks goes to Fred in FL with Gizmo #30.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Headlight is in!

I finally have a working adjustable headlight in my Gizmo! I did discover, however, that adjusting a Gizmo headlight is a bit different since the nose drops a fair bit when I sit in it compared to when it is empty. I finally just went out and drove it and then would stop and adjust the headlight and then drive some more. This headlight has a relatively sharp cutoff line so if it is aimed too low you can't see very far down the road.

This particular headlight has a 5W bulb in it too. I wired this small light to come on when the key is turned on and wired an ON-ON switch in the dash to turn on the headlight. The down position has the headlight off with the 5W light on. The up position turns off the 5W light and turns on the headlight. I guess you could say I have a running light mode.

As I talked about in my previous blog this mount has been a bit of a process. My goal was to build a unit which could be easily added to any Gizmo without having to do body work. Other than the less than careful extraction of the original fiberglass plug mold, I accomplished my goal.

Here are several pictures of the itterations I went through to get to the final product. I didn't take a picture of the original plastic sign material prototype. The next step was to see what it would be like to create a plastic mold of the headlight hole. I lined the hole with plastic wrap and filled it with wax. I supported a stick in the center of the wax to aid in pulling the plug out when it cooled. Here is the final carved result.

Next, I made a 1 inch thick model because I was thinking I would make the mount out of UHMW plastic.

Finally, the fiberglass cup idea was done. Below is an aluminum prototype plate made out of some damaged door kick-plate aluminum. I actually mounted the headlight and assiociated hardware to this plate. This showed that I would either have to carve the final aluminum plate thin around the mount holes and/or carve the plastic stops down on the plastic nuts. I ended up doing both. On this plate the top nut bent out the top of the hole and bent in the bottom.

Here is the fiberglas cup and final aluminum mounting plate. You can see the grinding marks above and below the top hole and to the sides of the side square hole. The eyebolts were mounted to the plate to hold them square and inplace while I used JB weld to glue them to the cup.

Here is the cup with the eyebolts cemented in place. If this doesn't work I will build another cup with the area where the screws go built up. I'll grind notches in the back side and install some blind nuts to bolt the front plate to this cup. You can see two screw holes beside the wire hole in the center of the cup. As it turned out, it was difficult to hold the nuts in place while the screws were tightened from inside the nose of the Gizmo and then install the headlight adjusting cup. If I have to take the unit out I'll be installing blind nuts in these holes.
Here is the finished unit with the aluminum plate painted. I didn't want to see it from the front.Here is the unit with the adjusting cup in place.
In this bottom view you can see that the adjusting cup is offset to the left side. This is to accomodate the adjusting screw on the right.

Here is the unit installed and ready for the headlight. You can see the damaged and partially repaiared portion of the nose.Here it is, ready for use!
If you have a Gizmo and want a similar unit send me an email. I can find out how much the guy who built the cup for me would charge to build you one too. I don't plan on making a kit out of this. I can give you a list of parts and dimensions I used to help you out, however.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Progress on the Adjustable Headlight Mount

The headlight which came in my Gizmo was mounted in a specially shaped hole in the nose of the vehicle. The method was both inexpensive and made for a clean looking finish. There are three problems I had with the setup as it came. One was that water would collect under the headlight so I had to remember to swish it out before opening the hatch. The hole needed a slight down hill slope to it to drain water. The second issue was that the headlight was hard to aim. It was mounted with velcro at the back of the hole. I was able to get it close most of the time. Fortunately the beam was wide enough that when the aim was off it wasn't too bad to drive. The third thing had nothing to do with the design of the vehicle. It was the fact that the headlight was designed for a 4-headlight system. There is nothing wrong with this except that the wattage of the high beam element was lower than that of the low beam element. Turning on high beam meant that the road got harder to see even though the aim was higher. Initially I looked for a replacement sealedbeam headlight which was for a two headlight system and found that my '97 S-10 pickup had the right headlight. I was going to buy one and the plug that matched it (it has one angled pin like this |_\ whereas the existing headligh had a pin pattern like |_|) but I decided to see if I could come up with a way to have the standard aiming mechanism that a car has. I wanted to do as little body work on the Gizmo as possible. I gave up on making a standard size headlight mount and went with a smaller headlight. I found a Hella Headlamp upgrade in the 150mm rectangular size which included the mounting frame. I purchased it from Susquehanna MotorSports at They were most helpful and were willing to go measure the size of the headlight for me to see if it would fit. The only modification I had to make was file off the tip of the upper adjusting screw slot.

Below is a photo of the headlight hole. The velcro is visible in the hole. The dust is because the Gizmo has been sitting waiting for the replacement Gizmo Interface board.

Here is the back of the headlight. The piece of velcro on the bottom of the headlight came off because it was in water so much.
Once I had the replacement headlight I had to figure out how to mount it. I tried a wax mold of the hole as a pattern but that was a little difficult. I also carved a 1 inch thick piece of wax to try since I could get some UHMW plastic in that thickness but I was concerned about the heat generated by the headlight. At least the wax setup gave me a proof of concept item so I knew the headlight would fit. Finally, one of the members of our EV club, said that he did fiberglass work and could make a mold for a cup which would fit the hole. I could then mount the headlight mount to that and slip the whole unit into the hole. So, that is what we are doing. Below is the first step, building a plug the shape of the original hole.
Unfortunately there was a weak spot at the top of the hole in the Gizmo which cracked when removing the plug so I still will have to do some repair work on it. After the plug was made, a mold was made and then the cup which is going into the Gizmo. Below is the inside of the nearly finished cup and the aluminum plate I had available for the headlight mount.
Here is the back side of the cup and the aluminum plate. I'm planning on epoxying the four eyebolts into the cup. I mounted them to the aluminum plate to keep them square with the plate. I don't have any room to bolt from the outside of the cup so I hope the epoxy will hold the stainless steel eyebolts. I'm trying to decide between using some Plastic Steel Epoly and some Permatex Epoxy Metal Filler. I may go with the metal filler since it is supposed to handle a 2 inch gap without support. Only the tips of the eyebolts will be close to the fiberglass cup.

The two pieces as they will go together.Here are the two pieces as they will look when assembled.The two square holes hold the nylon "nuts" for the adjusting screws and the two holes in the lower left corner are for the tension spring. I went to a recking yard and got the screws and spring out of about a 1990 GM pickup. There is a whole list of vehicles from 1986 through 2002 which used the 150mm rectangular headlamp.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Finally on the road! (Day light only.)

I finally got the Gizmo going enough to test drive it on the road beside my house. The programming of the new Gizmo interface is still being worked on. I tested things with the rear wheel jacked up and the front wheels blocked. Naturally, when the programmer is on the east side of the country and I'm on the other, I have the be the eyes, ears, and hands of the programmer. The strange thing was that the only way I could get the rear wheel to turn was to have regen on and enabled then pull the throttle trigger. A quick phone call and an email later and things started working like expected. We needed to get things to the point that it would be safe to drive while the other things, like regen settings and such, were figured out. I have to program the settings in the controller and give feedback to Ron on the tweaks needed in the interface.

I drove the Gizmo to the April 7, 2009 LCEVA meeting and then trailered it home since I don't have a working headlight yet. I'm still working on the new mount. Hopefully it will be a drop-in retrofit for other Gizmos.

We decided that it would be best and cheaper if I bought the programming interface to hook to my laptop and the Gizmo interface so that we wouldn't be sending boards back and forth across the country just for programming. The programming interface has now paid for itself in savings of shipping costs.

Here is a picture of the board:
This was the dryest location it would fit in. The old one was in the splash of the front right tire. The contactor is on the left and the DC-DC is on the right. I still need to bundle the wiring a little differently but this was good enough for some road testing.

In the next photo you see the cover over the Gizmo interface and that I have mounted the fuse block on the top cover. The fuse block used to be under the rear tail piece and would get water on and through it any time it rained, which is quite often here. This location should be much better since I'll install some splash guard plastic over the entire side when I'm done.

In addition to replacing the old Norm interface with the new Gizmo Interface, I replaced the old two wire speedometer pickup with a three wire version. The old one picked up too much interference when regen was activated and it also frequently gave spurious readings when it got wet. With this new one I actually can get a reading of 1mph. I rarely saw that with the old sensor. The sensor and mount can be purchased from Black Sheep Technology in the Gizmo Parts section.
The wiper relay used to be mounted under the tail peice beside the fuse block. Since I needed to add another relay I decided to move the wiper relay to the same location. The photo below is of the left side of the Gizmo. The spring and rod are for the mechanical emergency brake. I also wanted to get rid of the stack of ground wires going to the negative post of the battery so I installed a terminal block and connected the ground to each post. The gold sheet metal is actually an aluminum kick plate from the front door of one of my rental houses. The tenant's dog literally chewed one edge of it so they had to replace it. I kept it in case I needed some aluminum sheet. Well, here it is, at least part of it. I used two C-clamps and some pieces of wood to make a metal bender. A block of cedar and a hammer were used to make the bends clean. The lower right corner is bolted to the frame using an existing threaded hole. I zip-tied the other side and will probably just silicon the top edge so I don't have to drill more holes in the fiberglas tub. Even without anything holding the top edge, it doesn't rattle.

The relay on the right has a diode across the coil. It is inside the black heat-shrink tubing. I need to add a diode to the wiper relay and the high-beam relay. When the coil in the relay is de-energized the decay of the magnetic field causes a spike in the voltage. The diode shorts this out. I discovered that the headlight relay was wired wrong so that the headlight low-beam was on when the coil was energized and off when it wasn't. I'm wondering if the spike produced every time the headlight was turne on and any time the wiper was run along with any other transients may have been part of the cause for the old Norm circuit failing. It had no "surge protection" in it.