Getting Started

The Donor Car

Removing the ICE

Electric Motor

Adapter Plates
Installing the Motor
Brake Vacuum

12 volt Circuit



On this page I will test, modify and tie up loose ends as I get the car ready for the road.

April 1. I connected the batteries following the steps in Brown's book. I checked the voltage of the front battery pack: about 33 volts, sounds good for 4 8-volt batteries. The rear pack was about 92 volts. OK. I flipped the breaker on and connected the big Anderson connector:

I checked the pack voltage at the contactors: about 126 volts. OK. Time for the "smoke test." I turned the key and the contactor in the picture above snapped on. I pushed the accelerator lever. The second contactor snapped on, the controller began to whine, then the motor spun. I stopped, put the car in first gear (all this time the car was raised on the lift), and tried again. This time, the wheel spun, in the right direction:

Holy cow.

April 2. I hooked up the charger and gave it a try. It put out 140 volts if I turned it all the way up. The batteries appear to be nearly fully charged as the pack voltage indicates. Also, the charger will not put out more than 5 amps of current. I let it run for several minutes, then turned it off. I hooked up the DC-DC converter wires and checked the auxiliary battery voltage with the key on: 13.5 volts. Nice! I jerry-rigged the vacuum pump and vacuum switch, itching to take the car out of the garage:

I lowered the car to the floor, turned the key, put it in reverse and pushed the accelerator. The car gently slid out of the garage. Brakes work but the pump stays on too much. Could have leaks in my quick vacuum set up, but the car works!

April 3. I cleaned up the vacuum system: I shortened some hoses, made a simple bracket for the vacuum switch, mounted the switch on the brass tee with an adapter:

It will fit under a closed hood now, but more important, it doesn't leak. The pump comes on for a few seconds, then shuts off.

I called the insurance company, put the car on my policy.

April 4. I registered the car with the Division of Motor Vehicles this morning. This gives me two weeks to get the car ready for inspection. It also means I can take the car out on the road!

I put the hood and front piece on. All those stickers on the hood are meaningless now: emissions information, spark gap, etc. I still have to install a piece of trim above the bumper:

I made an instrument mount out of a scrap of painted particle board:

I added an oak mounting piece on the back, cut and drilled a metal strip to hold the meters:

I hooked up the ammeter to the shunt on the controller board, set the meters up temporarily next to the instrument console for a test drive.

Here is the car, ready for the first road test:

I drove a quarter mile down the road, not knowing what to expect. I started and kept it in second gear for this short run, turned around using reverse and came back home. It works. No apparent vibration from the coupler. I set up my camera to document a more extensive road test. Click on the picture below to download a 2 minute wmv file of a portion of the road test:

Windy day, window down, camera jammed under the passenger head rest. The vac pump only comes on briefly but the camera picked up through the car. The ride is fairly quiet and it is especially eerie pulling up to a stop when the car makes no sound.

First impressions. Good: smooth ride, no vibration from the coupler, brakes good, easy no-clutch upshifting and downshifting. Bad: creaking, bouncing rear battery box, handles like a very heavy car. And unrelated to the electric conversion, there seems to be some looseness in the front end.

Back in the garage, I hooked up the voltmeter and mounted the meters on the instrument cluster housing:

The meters hide the oil pressure light, the temperature and fuel gauges. I won't be needing those :-)

I took the car out again with the voltmeter working. Though it reads 125 volts with no pedal, the voltage drops to 100 when I accelerate. I am still learning what this means. 11 electric miles!

April 5. I charged the car for 7 hours today. I checked the pack voltage after the batteries had "rested" for a couple hours: 130.3 volts. The charger showed charging current of 7 amps for most of the charge.

April 6. I weighed the car again using the same bathroom scale method I used previously. The updated table:

weight with internal combustion engine (lbs)
weight with electric motor (lbs)
weight with electric motor and batteries (lbs)
front right
front left
rear right
rear left


Heavy but not surprising. I put in 15 batteries weighing 65 pounds each, a 10 pound charger, copper cable, battery frames and box. I should take the car to the local stone and garden center to see if I can weigh the car on their scale, to confirm my perhaps crude measurements.

April 9. I traced the looseness in the front end to the passenger-side tie rod end. I picked one up at the local auto supply for $12. They had one in stock. Nice! Here is the new one, installed.

The front end is low with batteries and charger up front. I can adjust the height on this model Civic by turning the torsion bar adjusting nuts. Here is the passenger side nut:

Five turns brought the height up one inch. The front end is still a little low but I plan to move the two "radiator" batteries to the spare tire well in the back since my crude weighing shows that the front end is heavy and the rear is light. I'll adjust the torsion bars again if needed after I move the batteries.

I took the car on its first errand, to the bank, about 20 miles round trip. It's sluggish with all its weight, but it goes. I felt the controller at the bank. Only warm, not hot. I still have to put heat transfer paste between the controller and aluminum heat sink, and I plan to attach heat sink fins to the aluminum to aid in cooling.

April 10. The heavy front end results in stiff steering. I don't mind the exercise, but it will be hard on steering components so I will move the front batteries as mentioned above. They will fit nicely in the hatch behind the big battery box:

Here are pieces of angle iron cut on the monster power hacksaw:

Welded together, nice fit!

I will use pieces from the front rack to complete this frame. I'll need two posts and a longer hold down.

April 11 and 12. I removed the front rack:

This is one of the first frames I made. It's cobbled together with scraps and different sizes of angle iron. It's heavier than necessary and the batteries would have been hard to service down in front, so I'm happy to remove it. I cut off two of the posts and welded them to the new rear frame. Here is the new frame, primed and painted:

With the front rack removed, I had to reinforce the charger bracket since it got some support from one of the front rack posts. I added a diagonal piece to support the right side, and I welded screws to the back rail because it was very difficult to bolt the charger on in the back:

I tested it but it needed another bolt point so I added a strap that will bolt under the DC DC converter bolt.

Since the rear sits low, I will replace the rear springs with the Integra springs from ebay. I jacked up this rear beam to compress the springs:

I removed the top strut/shock bolts, accessible in the hatch. The allen wrench prevents the strut from rotating while removing the bolt:

I lowered the jack to release the spring tension. Then I tried to remove the old rusty lower strut bolt with the air wrench. I first shot the weld nut on the other side with PB Blaster but that didn't help. When I tried to loosen the bolt with my big torque wrench, the bolt head twisted off: Very sad:

Here is the weld nut on the other side:

First I tried to break the welds with the air cutter and wrench the nut off with the air wrench. No:

Then I cut the nut off:

I started with the 3" air cutter, then went to the 4" angle cutter. After cutting off the bolt, I used the angle grinder to "smooth" the surface.

I hit the bolt shaft with a punch and hammer, but the shaft was rusted in the strut end. I was able to knock the strut out, though, since both ends of the bolt were removed. Strut removed, on the floor in the background:

I am likely to have the same problem on the other side...

April 13. I had similar problems with the other side. I was more patient and sprayed lots of PB Blaster on the weld nut over a whole day, trying the bolt each time with the air wrench. Finally I tried the big torque wrench and the bolt came loose, but the sleeve from the old strut would not break free of the bolt! So I had to cut the bolt through before I could remove the old strut. At least the old weld nut is still there. Both struts were in bad shape so I replaced them. I got new bolts, too. Here are the Integra springs and new struts/shocks installed. I labeled the battery box vent since it's in the picture:

I started working on the rear brakes since I already had the wheels off. It's a mess in there, so I will replace the wheel cylinders and shoes. I need good back brakes to have good parking brakes. Passenger side shoes off:

The left shoe has got plenty of lining but the right shoe is very thin in the middle. Same with the driver's side. Everything is soaked with brake fluid. New brakes needed. Now if I can only get the old brake lines off the old wheel cylinders..

April 14. I struggled with the passenger side brakes for hours. Rear shoes are always a struggle because I don't do them often enough to remember all the tricks. (I need an Auto Land web page to document all tricky maintenance and repairs...) I finally succeeded, though. Here is the new wheel cylinder:

New shoes and springs:

I still have to do the other side!

April 15 and 16. I finished the rear brakes only to find that the master cylinder was gurgling and leaking. I found a rebuilt unit at a local Auto Zone. I bench bled it according to the supplied instructions. Hook up the supplied hoses, fill it up, push the piston, wait 10 seconds, repeat until all the air bubbles are gone:

Installed with no hassle:

I bled the entire brake system to pump new brake fluid throughout.

I finished mounting the rear battery frame and hooked up the two batteries that were originally in front. I added a screw to the side post to better secure the vent tube:

I made a new cable to link the left front battery to the right contactor and tested the voltage. OK. Here is the new front, batteries gone from the radiator location. The car is charging in this picture:

I put pinch clamps on all the vacuum lines. I put on the front trim and took the car out for a road test. The battery box didn't bounce as much, maybe because of the new shocks in the rear. I still need to add another strap to secure it better.

The charger is the base model with no auto shut off. I bought a $6 timer from Harbor Freight that will shut off the charger after any interval I choose. It will reportedly take 10 hours for a full charge:

I was happy to see these boxes arrive today. What's in them?

April 17. I made a 1/2" OSB cover for the rear batteries and painted it.

Then I ran two errands. First, I went to the stone and garden center to see if I could weigh the car. Sure, they said. Drive around so you can see the scale reading:

2900 pounds with me in the car! I'm OK with that. I'm about 160 pounds now, so the empty weight is 2740 pounds, much less than my bathroom scale calculations. Sweet! I only need to lose 70 pounds to be at GVWR.

Then I drove to the MV inspection station to get an extension until my special inspection scheduled for April 27. I thought I could make it there and back easily but why did I think that? The maximum range I have driven so far is 25 miles. I ended up going 37 miles on my two errands. The last few miles I took it very slow to keep the voltmeter above 100 volts. I put the car on the charger as soon as I got home, kept it on all night.

April 18. I didn't like my rear battery cover. I will simply cover the batteries with a piece of painted OSB so the terminals are not exposed.

I made a spare tire strap from one of the back seat belts:

I added a metal strap to the front of the battery box to see if I can reduce the bouncing of the box. Less bouncing and much quieter now:

I tested the range of the car by going on a few errands. I was able to go 35 miles, doing 50 to 55 most of the way. The last mile signaled the end of the range where I could only go about 45 mph. My commute is 25 miles one way, so I should easily make it to work. I plugged the charger in, set the timer for 8 hours. This approximates my charging time at work. Now I need to see if I can go 30 miles on this 8 hour charge. This will tell me if I will be able to get home from work!

April 20 - 22. I am getting close to the end of the conversion but there still plenty of cosmetics to do.

Seats were in those boxes. Blue racing seats from JC Whitney, from where I used to order parts for my first car, an early 60's VW Bug:

These are generic seats so I will have to figure out how to install them in my car. There are four bolts underneath. They are separated 13.5" apart across the width of the seat, and 11.0" apart along the length. I want to use the original sliders since they fit exactly on the brackets on the floor of the car. The slider holes are 17.5" apart across the width and 10.75" apart along the length. My solution: use two pieces of 1/8" by 1" angle iron to connect the seat to the sliders. Here is the underside of the new seat with old sliders shown. One piece of angle iron is in place, bolted to the seat:

I cut the end of the angle iron to accept the slider. I left a 3/16" lip to maintain rigidity on the end:

Measure twice drill once? Mostly. Sliders in place:

Everything is assembled with grade 5 hardware and lock washers. New seats installed, very comfy:

These are no lighter than the original seats, unfortunately. If I had done more research, I may have found lighter seats.

One word in mylar on the rear hatch until I figure out something else:

I test drove the car with the new seats and new battery box strap: very quiet and smooth ride!

April 24. I finished wiring the electric instruments for lights. I borrowed a dash light to make the connection so that the voltmeter and ammeter light up when the other dash lights come on:

April 25. I want to maximize controller cooling. I got some heat transfer paste this week so I am ready to pull out the controller to apply it between the aluminum plate and controller. I also got some big heat sinks from my brother. Here are the heat sinks. I cut one in two so I could fit them all with the fins running front to back. I have smeared a thin layer of heat transfer compound on one of them in this view:

All mounted:

I put a thin layer of heat transfer paste on the bottom of the controller and mounted it on the new, improved aluminum plate. I had to raise the controller up about a half inch to make clearance for the fins. I made supports from copper pipe, barely seen on the right in this view of the reinstalled controller:

April 27. Inspection day. Here is the motor compartment out in the sun. I covered contactor terminals with plastic guards, covered controller bus bars with modified battery terminal caps, covered the battery terminals. No danger of accidental shock:

I took the car to the inspection station. They did a very basic inspection: lights, horn, wipers, brakes... done!

May 2. I cut a plastic basin and bolted it to the brush side of the motor, as recommended by EV America. It will keep water from splashing on the brushes:

You can also see the thermal switch wires (green). One wire is grounded to the chassis. The other goes to a tab in the wiring harness that used to go to the oil pressure switch.

I drove the car about 48 miles today, as a precommute test. I drove about 24 miles, some of it in the rain with the windshield wipers on. Then I charged the car for 6.5 hours. Then I drove another 24 miles, some of it with the lights on. This means I'm ready to drive to work. On to the last page, Driving an Electric Car.