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Introducing the SYSTEM 2000 from STABER INDUSTRIES, INC.
Things that Work!
Tested by Home Power
• Top-loading convenience
• Horizontal axis tumble performance
• Patented design
• No transmission
• Electronic drive universal motor
Compared to typical agitator washers, the System 2000...
• Requires up to 50% less energy
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• Spins faster to help cut drying time
• Excellent payback period
To learn more about the System 2000 or to request dealer information please write or call:
1-800-848-6200 or 614-836-5995 STABER INDUSTRIES, INC.
4411 Marketing Place Groveport, Ohio 43125
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Things that Work!
tested by Home Power
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Things that Work!
Tested by Home Power
Electric Conversion Safety Nets
©1995 Shari Prange
One of the hottest electric vehicle topics today is safety. The major manufacturers contend that home-built conversions are inherently unsafe. The truth is that home-built conversions—and even commercial conversions—can range over a broad spectrum, from very safe to potential disaster.
Of course, it is in our own personal interests to make the vehicles we drive as safe as possible. Nevertheless, some people routinely risk their own skins by reckless behavior. We cannot rely on a sense of self-preservation to insure safety in conversions.
It is also in our best interests as an industry to promote safety. One spectacular accident would do irreparable harm to our cause. Therefore, those of us in the industry have an obligation to ourselves and to the public to build multiple layers of safety nets into the conversion process, so that a user error will result only in an inconvenience, not a catastrophe.
Above: A universal kit gives you a solid foundation of compatible quality components for the drive system.
I would like to walk through the spectrum of conversion options, from pre-fabricated to home-built, and look at ways to maximize your safety nets at each level.
The ideal situation for a home mechanic is building a conversion from a professionally designed kit. The more complete the kit is, the better. This means that someone with more experience has already made design decisions to enhance safety and minimize risk. The home mechanic has the benefit of expertise outside his (or her) own area.
The kit will also have been installed by many other home mechanics previously. Each installation provides one more safety and reliability test, one more opportunity for the kit supplier to discover ways to improve the kit.
A complete custom bolt-in kit gives the opportunity to experience the pleasure of building the conversion, without having to spend all the time designing and fabricating parts, and without worrying about whether the wiring is exactly right. Someone else has already done the design worrying for you. All you have to do is follow the instructions carefully. Because a custom bolt-in kit is pre-designed and fabricated, it is quicker and easier to install. On the other hand, it is also more expensive, since you are paying for that design and fabrication work. Such a kit will cost between $7,000 -$9,000 dollars, and can be installed in about a month of weekends.
A universal kit allows the more adventurous builder to express creativity in the overall design and fabrication of mounts. However, there is still a substantial safety net in the collection of quality components that were factory built and tested, and are known to be compatible with each other.
This kind of kit trades a lower cost in dollars for a higher cost in time. It will cost between $4,000-$5,000, and will require at least 200 hours to install. Of course, ideal situations don't always exist. Not everyone can afford a kit. There are ways to economize and still maintain some of those safety nets.
First, choose a good quality kit and use its list of components as a template. If the kit has a main contactor, you should have a main contactor, etc. It's in the kit for a reason. If you leave it out, you have cut loose one of your safety nets.
A small thing like a fusible link can make a big difference. Mike Brown, of Electro Automotive, has had
Top left: It's poor economy to leave out safety interconnects, like a main contactor (left), circuit breaker (right), or fusible link (center)
Top center: An aircraft starter or generator like this is not an acceptable subsitute for a real motor.
Top right: An older model controller can still be a quality component with relatively modern technology inside.
Above: An older model charger is heavy and bulky, but it will do the job.
Above: A custom kit will save you the trouble of designing and building key components like battery racks.
the opportunity to test this. While working on a car, he disconnected a cable. It slipped from his hands, contacted a terminal on the controller, and proceeded to try to weld itself into place. As he reached for the shears to cut the cable, the fusible link in the battery pack did its job and blew.
If that can happen to a conversion expert with 16 years of experience, it can certainly happen to you.
Next, look for less expensive quality substitutes for the big ticket items. The key concept here is "quality". An aircraft generator is not a quality substitute for an Advanced D.C. motor, but a used Prestolite or G.E. motor would be acceptable. Series/parallel switching is not a quality substitute for a MOSFET controller, but an older PMC transistorized controller, or even a good SCR might be acceptable. An older Lester charger is bulky, but it will work for you.
By careful shopping, you may be able to pick up used parts from other EV owners who have upgraded their vehicles. These parts will be a generation or two behind the state of the art, and they won't give you optimum performance, but they can still give you satisfactory service for your needs. The price savings may make the difference between being able to have an EV and not being able to have one. Once you have the conversion, you can always upgrade these parts one at a time, if finances allow.
Some of the smaller items, like circuit breakers, are not as likely to be available used, but you might save enough on big ticket items to be able to buy these new.
The trick to making this technique work is doing your homework thoroughly, in advance. You need to know enough about the history of various types of components to separate the wheat from the chaff and shop smart.
Penny Wise,Pound Foolish
The risks increase when you start cutting corners on the component list, or on quality. Saving a hundred dollars by leaving out the main contactor is a poor bargain if your house burns down while you're charging your car. Saving bucks by using a lower quality component (as opposed to a quality component that is simply an older model) is not a savings if your car burns to the ground. These things have happened.
The risks multiply exponentially when you start building major components yourself, such as motors, controllers, adaptors, and chargers. Commercially built units must meet strict tolerances, and have multiple safety features built-in. These include things like internal circuit breakers and fuses, and internal protections against overheating, overamperage, overvoltage, undervoltage, and unexpected acceleration.
You may build these components, and have them function just fine. You may be lucky enough that you never encounter the exact combination of circumstances that will cause a catastrophic failure.
Then again, your luck may run out. With safety nets in place, you'll be calling your supplier to find out why your car doesn't work. Without them, you'll be calling 911.
These remarks are all intended for the home mechanic building his or her own conversion. There is a big difference between a home mechanic and an independent inventor. Many of the advances in EVs have come from independent inventors. These are people with the skills and resources to develop an idea into a component that can be manufactured, marketed, and used reliably in large numbers.
An inventor has to build his own safety nets. He must use safe established procedures and design techniques. He must also be wise enough to know how much he doesn't know. If his expertise is in electronics, he should consult with someone who has professional automotive expertise. An electric car is electric, and it's a car. To take either aspect lightly is to invite disaster.
Don't Worry, I'll Catch You
If the inventor supplies his creations to other people to install in their cars, he assumes the awesome responsibility of providing the safety nets for the end user. It is not enough for the component to work in one car, under one set of circumstances. The inventor must try to anticipate any way the component may possibly fail from misinstallation, misuse, heat, vibration, dust, water, or other causes. Then he must build in safeguards to make sure it will fail in a safe mode.
As EV builders, we are all pioneers, but that doesn't mean we have to be daredevils. Our goal is to build a durable bridge across a canyon into new territory—not to leap across the canyon on a motorcycle. The first provides practical transportation for a great many people. The other is an individual performing a flashy— but useless and dangerous—stunt. When you build your electric car, be sure you build a bridge. And until the bridge is finished, leave the safety nets in place.
Shari Prange, ElectroAutomotive, PO Box 113, Felton, CA 95018 • 408-429-1989
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