This article won’t focus on one conversion or a specific car, Steve Clunn isn’t the kind of guy who’s only got just the one to talk about :) Owner of GrassRootsEV.com Steve has a long and interesting history when it comes to EV’s.
Name, Age, Location ?
56 Yrs Old
Fort Pierce, FL 34981
What was the first instance that got you interested in EV’s Steve ?
What got me interested was our involvement with the first Gulf War. It seemed pretty obvious what our dependence on Foreign Oil was doing to our country. I had not expected the vehicle to work out nearly as well as it did.
You’ve completed many conversions and assisted a lot of people in converting their own cars roughly how many is that ?
40 conversions to date and I have assisted more than I can remember.
Do you have a favorite you could describe for us ?
I have liked every project because each one has been a unique experience. Some easier than others. I like working with new products. The cars I have done with Lithium batteries have been favorites. But I also enjoy doing the “old standards” like an S-10. It just seems so easy to do.
What are your clients looking for mostly, clean driving or partial independence from oil, which is more important to them ?
I would say independence from oil in the beginning. Once they start driving the car they usually become enamored with their ability to control how far they go on a charge by improving their driving technique.
What are you driving at the moment ?
F150 Ford with an 9″ WarP, a Zilla 1K Controller and 26 Golf Cart Batteries and a Rav4 with and 8″ Motor, a Logisystem 156V Controller and 13 Hawker Odyssey’s.
What is your current project ?
Lamborghini Diablo ( a kit car, not a real Diablo) so far I have the 11″ Warp in it and a Solution1 Controller.
Why did you choose this donor or platform ?
I did some trading for some other EV’s to end up with this car.
How large is the pack and what would the projected range be ?
As the Electric car business is not as profitable as one may think, I am using many old parts. Old batteries and it probably won’t have a 20 mile range. But it will show what the car can do, and hopefully someone will buy it and put a good pack of batteries in it. Performance wise, it should perform about the same as an average EV conversion as the donor body weighs about the same.
What motor and controller are you using and what are their specific advantages for your goals ?
I choose the 11″ motor as it was simple to bolt in and I am beta testing the controller.
Have you built any EV race cars, or would you like to ?
Yes. When I was in the lawn business and had spare money, I was working on a 1969 Porsche 912 with two (2) 9″ motors and a 2K Zilla Controller. At the time, I had been going through the same process people go through when building race cars… break the weakest link in the chain, go back and put a beefier link in and break it again.
I have gone through the Porsche Transmission, I had gone to an independent rear end and the last thing to break was the 2 axles at the BBB drag race at County Line Drag in Miami, FL. The car is patiently waiting for me to get back to it.
How are you charging your EVs, could you describe your charger(s) ?
I have few ways of charging them. They all have chargers that ride in the car for opportunity charging. But I also have a set up at the shop where I can charge at about 100Amps, which charges most cars to 90% in 20 minutes. Building battery chargers has been an on going hobby/learning experience. It has given me an opportunity to explore electronics in more than an academic way.
Does any of your power come from renewables, either directly, through purchased offsets or from home generation ?
Yes, we have 8 PV panels charging a variety of batteries. I am hoping to expand this.
What factors for a conversion do you think directly impact its efficiency ?
A rough rule of thumb, is the gas mileage the car got when it was gas. One of my favorites is the Toyota Tercel and the VW Rabbit. I would love to do one of the old Honda’s that got better than 50 miles to a gallon.
What do you think the advantages of your car being electric are ?
All my vehicles are electric at this point. And there are many things I enjoy about them. The quiet ride, no pollution, the interest that other people have in them, the ability to inflate the range with creative driving ( I enjoy long distance electric car competitions), the fact that every day I hear someone on the radio talking about our energy dependence, air pollution, global warming or other oil related problems and I am happy that I am not part of the problem, but driving part of the solution.
And, what are the disadvantages ?
One of the disadvantages comes from the other people who either believe that me plugging into their outlet is going to run their electric bill up or people that seem to think that driving the speed limit or maybe 5 miles an hour under is high treason. To charge my electric car all the way up takes $1.00 worth of electricity. But many people feel if it costs $30 – $40 to fill their gas tanks I should give them $30 or $40 to plug my electric car in to get 25 cents worth of electricity. By driving slow, we can greatly extend the range, but this is socially unacceptable by today’s road rage standards.
What was is the average conversion cost for an EV ?
Anywhere from $15,000.00 to $32,000.00 depending on your choice of Batteries and Controller. Of course you can spend more or less and get more or less in your performance.
What are the associated running costs for an EV ?
Charging cost is about $1.50 for a 10Kw Pack. Which equals about 2 gallons of gas. It will cost you this much again in battery wear. The new Lithium batteries, even though they are expensive, in the long run, actually cost less if taken care of properly and used regularly. ( one would need to drive at least 100 miles every day and the pay back would come over 20 years).
Which EV enthusiast sites do you visit ?
Do you have a favorite story about building or driving your EV ?
When I first got started there was a EV event called the “Sunday Challenge”. Many electric cars were at the event and I had gone to 3 Annual events. At the 3rd event I took my Ford Ranger Pickup and drove it there which was 90 miles with a small 5HP gas generator that I had borrowed from someone who said “sure you can borrow it, it will just need a little fixing”. (effectively making the EV a part time series-hybrid)
I made it to the event with the gas generator running in the back of the Pickup. At the event we had a long distance driving competition, which was 76 miles from Cocoa Beach to Disney World. At the end of the event, we were told that we would have a place to charge, and I had pictured unlimited charging time along with a 240V outlet.
I would have still needed 3 hours of charge time, after which my plan was to drive back home, half on the generator and half on my freshly charged battery pack. When we got to Disney, at their new race track, the outlet was in the center of the track and the voltage drop from such a long run was so bad that the car only trickle charged.
I re-wired my DC to DC converter to get another 12V boost on the output, but this didn’t help much. I was now 140 miles away from home with an empty truck and no way to charge. I left the truck trickle charge while we concluded the event at which time I was informed it was “time to go”. I had about a 10% charge as I had used almost all the power in the truck to drive the 76 miles. I cranked up the generator and figured I would “inch” home running on just the power from the generator. The traffic was very bad at Disney World and in the hour it took to leave the grounds, I got another 10%. But for such a long trip this was going to be an adventure. The trip back from Disney World to Fort Pierce back then was old Coral Covered single lane roads with miles of nothing.
I chugged along at 25mph thinking to myself, “who cares if it takes all night?” At least I am moving. My arrogance about being fearless of distance because I could just slow down and drive however far I needed to go was not going to get me through this time. I couldn’t drive slow enough to make the empty EV go 140 miles. I realized on that point how dependent I was on this generator who could have used more fixing than I had given her.
Half way the recoil starter started making noise and then locked up, killing the engine and pulling the end off the starter cord. Luckily I had plenty of tools and I took the recoil off and ended up wrapping the rope around the shaft and getting it started. Once the engine started I had to replace the cooling shroud while the engine was running.
I continued to inch my way home and finally made it back to Fort Pierce early that morning. Many of the people at the event had traveled from out of state. Some had driven more hours than me, I am sure. Looking back, it was all good times.
What has all this experience building EVs taught you ?
I have two major changes in my perception of reality. The first happened when I finished the first electric car. And instead of a 30 mile an hour, 10 mile distance vehicle. I had something I could tow my lawn trailer with my lawn equipment, all day long. I had never expected it to do so well. And I couldn’t believe that there weren’t more EV’s out there because they seemed to work so well. As well as it worked, I was sure, that it would NOT work for the lawn mower, as I cut up to 10 yards a day using 3 -4 gallons of gas a day.
But, 10 years later, when the gas engine blew on the lawn mower, ( I was used to replacing the gas motors every 2 years, along with half an hour of maintenance cleaning air filters and grass from the cooling fins of the engine every day) I had some electric car parts and when the gas motor blew, I thought I would put them on the lawn mower…. just to see… what it would be like. Both the Mower engine and the lawn mower had the same size shaft, and the electric motor fit right in where the gas engine had been.
By 2:00 in the morning I was cutting my own lawn and was in love with the new electric mower. I didn’t use it right away on the job, but would cut yards in my neighborhood before going off to work, as I could only cut 2 yards on a charge. I was in love with it and really wanted it to work and started making plans to see how I could possibly charge it from the truck.
I had told my customers my plans about switching to the all electric mower and told them if I did I would need to be able to plug in and would this be a problem. I had already had quite a few customers who let me plug in the truck, but I was thinking I would need more power if I was going to use the electric lawn mower. My back up gas mower was starting to show signs that it’s life wasn’t long and I was going to have to decide on either make the electric work or buying a new $1,300.00 gas engine. I invested in a PFC-50 charger. One that would put out 50 amps. That gave me a 30 minute recharge time. But this slowed things down quite a bit. Still the electric lawn mower was so much nicer than the gas.
Video of the electric lawn mower. (in the rain no less!)
The next major revelation came when I plugged the lawn mower directly into the battery pack of the truck. My 120V pickup charged the 96V mower in about 10 minutes. Just long enough for me to weed whack and blow the driveway off. Most times I would unplug the lawn mower before blowing the driveway off and collecting the money as it charged so fast it would over charge. I was now cutting lawns in less time with the electric than with the gas. The electric was much more powerful and there wasn’t any yard I couldn’t cut. It was fun taking on tough jobs. And the next 3 years were the most enjoyable of my landscaping career.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Steve.