Friday, October 14, 2011

Keeping Dry

As you may know, it rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest. After a nice dry summer, we expect it to be wet from here clear on until summer. In order to avoid any issues we are taking extra precaution keeping water away from some of our components. All of these were designed for EV's and their manufacturers expect them to get a little wet, but there is no reason to take chances.

Today, we wrapped the inner portion of the two piece cowl duct in...duct tape. It looks clean, and does the job for almost no cost at all. we were able to close up the hood scoop the same way. What do you think?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Back Seats Back, Alright!

Tristan and Chester have gotten the battery pack completely moved underneath the car allowing them to reinstall the back seats. The only EV component that remains inside the vehicle is the one you see in the photo, the charger. That charger should eventually be eliminated all together using a new feature of our new Synkro Motive controller. Leaving the interior looking much like it did when the car was stock.

 This is where all the cells have moved to. When you want the car to still drive like a MINI it is important that you don't add a bunch of weight up high above the belt line and raise the center of gravity. So, we sat all the heavy cells down between the wheels. We removed over 80 lbs by eliminating a full gas tank, and another 40 lbs with no exhaust, but we added 300 lbs with the packs. We'll have to get her on the scales to find out for certain, but we think that despite the extra 180 lbs of batteries in back there may have been no net weight gain because of the lighter motor vs engine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The batteries have been working out well. All the cells have been charging and discharging as Tristan and Chester expected during testing over the last few weeks. Now, it is time to move them to a new home. We have battery boxes they designed to take up the space recently vacated by the gas tank, and also the area where the exhaust was. The picture above shows the 31 cells that will reside in the 'Tank Pack'.

Friday, September 9, 2011

New In Box

Some of the components could handle a little moisture, but especially in Portland we want to be ready for the rains of fall and winter and spring (it rains a lot here). Consequently, we needed a good housing for the controller and DC->DC converter. The box will have a clear cover soon, but here is how it is looking today.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


CravenSpeed's Electric MINI Cooper is finally starting to lay down some nice power thanks to our new LiFePO4 battery pack. Since the Dyno trials are not scheduled until next week, the best way we can display the torque right now is by smoking the tires.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vacuum Pump

Today Chester is working on giving us power assist brakes. He made a temporary mount for the vacuum pump so that he can test it.

Before the MINI is finished the look of the engine bay will change in some significant ways. With all the electrical components in there we need to protect them from excess water. So, there will be a housing around them and the mount for the pump will be incorporated into that.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Test Run #2

One of the best things about building the EV is that we have to test it. The more we drive it, the better we'll be able to tune it to perform. So far I think things are looking pretty good. Here is a sample of a test run conducted on a closed course, of course.

Any comments?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Old Cars Can Learn New Tricks

With the new batteries temporarily in the back of the MINI we are able to take some test drives to work on fine tuning the controller. We quickly found out that The Torque is with us.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Temporary Battery Pack

During the road testing phase of the project we are using the set of 44 Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries that will eventually go where the gas tank used to be, only they are sitting in the back seat of the MINI. This way they have access to each cell while we are testing.
We have a styrafoam sheet for the big pack there too. It acts a a little safety insulation, there is plenty of energy stored in the batteries, so just like gasoline you need to treat them with care. We are hoping to get a test run in tonight before taking a break for the weekend....

Friday, July 15, 2011

Electric Vehicle Celebration Day

So, Chester may not be the only slacker in the office this week. We took the MINI (still needs a good name) out to a EV show in downtown PDX this weekend. It took most of the week to get the car ready to show, everything came apart, got cleaned up, and put back together (Video to follow). This is how the engine motor bay looks now.

We got to stand in the sun and show a lot of folks what we have been up to. Chester made a lot of new friends. We even played the episodes of our 'Reality Show' on a TV in the back of the car. It was a great day and as I mentioned before I owe you a video of the prep and the event. For now, one more photo.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Episode 11- Test Day (Part 2)

We did it!

Ok, they did it. At 2 pm today we gathered a small audience and started up the car and took a few drivers around the lot! I will be posting the video this afternoon.

Congratulations to Chester and the CravenSpeed Tech Team! Now get back to work, just because it runs doesn't mean it's done.

Episode 11 - Test Day (Part 1)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A little Insecure

The motor has been mounted or at least mated. The adapter plate is allowing everything to line up well between the transmission and the motor. That is all superficial, we still have to work on the flywheel before they are truly mated together.

As you can see we still need the crane in the shot to keep the motor level, but not for long. Tristan and Chester have devised some motor mounts that will make sure that the Warp nine is a secure in that engine bay as a baby in the womb.

Cambridge Machine will be cutting one out for us soon, and I will get you an update when that happens.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


We started the research for this project months ago, based on an idea we first pitched year's ago. Since then we’ve managed to secure some funding, which is totally an unexpected surprise. Awesome. Here’s a big shout out to Dynasport, LLC -- THE shop in downtown Portland to take your MINI to, Cambridge Precision Machining -- high precision CNC machine shop in Portland, OR, and duh duh duh, the US Government. Nice! It's The Department of Labor Federal Grant which is titled "State Energy Sector Partnership: Greening of Oregon’s Workforce." The whole project is still costing quite a bit between; part design and prototyping, tools and components and Chester's burrito addiction (the only fossil fuel involved in the project, btw)....well, we will continue looking for further sponsorship to make sure that this thing gets done right. I mean, we haven't even gotten the batteries yet.

Friday, May 27, 2011

All Work and No Play

Since we have so much free time between designing and building this EV MINI. We have been doing some 'experimenting' with other electric MINI's, on a much smaller scale. For instance, Tristan wanted to see first hand how applying additional voltage to a small electric motor would increase the power. So we found a toy RC truck that was pretty weak and turned it into a MINI. Then he wired a larger higher voltage pack to it and secured it with a very high-tech rubber band. You'll see in the video that there was some nice improvement, and the truck made it over the pizza box ramp!

We also had an opportunity to play with electricity before MOTD too. When I heard about the new Modified class in the Dragon Pinewood derby, I thought it was too late to enter. We did get a car just before we needed to leave for the show and I handed the slab of wood to Chester and told him that we needed an electric Pinewood car before our flight the next day. Here is what he came up with...

It is quick. The two 9 volts connected in series give the motor an 18V cappuccino double shot. We can only run it in shots because there is no reason to believe that the motor he used was intended to take that kind of power. Unfortunately, we did not make it to the Pinewood derby at all. After arriving at Fontana and setting up, I lost track of time and missed the race altogether. It did get to make one solo run though and it was fast, and powerful enough to run the course back uphill.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Making the First Cut

I was glad to get some video from the first operation on the adapter plate the team designed to mate the new motor to the transmission. After it was designed in our CAD program, then Chris over at Cambridge Machine programed one of the CNC mills to cut the part out of Aluminum.

I didn't get a total amount of time on the cut, but it was certainly longer than this minute and a half video montage. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am enjoying my exploration of the library royalty free music available on the web for me to use in these clips. This catchy tune is titled 'Ropocalypse'.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


So, we needed a way to mate the new Warp 9 motor to the Getrag on Natasha. I guess that most common way of handling electric conversions is to use an adapter plate specifically designed to mate that motor with the specific transmission. That didn't exist yet, so Tristan and Chester went to work designing one. The transmission is a little larger than most of our parts and presented challenges. We tried a few different methods for measuring the Getrag 6 speed tranny from the MINI and ultimately ended up using all of them.
Tristan and his new Bigass calipers
3D Laser scanner

 Used in conjunction with cardboard cutouts and some ninja origami, the methods worked  the design is done. Now I have been presented with an jpeg of it. The image below shows the new adapter plate overlapping the photo of the transmission.

There are lots of dudes in garages chopping these things out with a hammer and chisel, which is cool--I'm not judging. However, to get the thing dead-nuts, we're relying on a CMM and CNC milling machine to get the two centers exactly lined up. Cambridge Machine is donating some of their machine time to support the project, and I should be able to get over there an get some video of the machining process.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Checking Up On The Team

Now that the power plant has been removed and I have lost my ride, I have to keep making sure that the guys in the other office are actually working on getting her running again. This presents an opportunity to introduce the Project Manager: Tristan. He showed up this morning with a new facial haircut we are referring to as a 'C. Nor' after the Walker Texas Ranger star. I noticed that he may actually look more like Ben Stiller's character in Happy Gilmore.
Chester does seem to be getting some stuff done besides shaving, which he clearly isn't into. He's finishing up the design for a custom flywheel which he insists has to be made from unobtainium. The first design plan calls for a new flywheel to allow the Warp 9 motor to be mated to the Getrag transmission from the MINI. As I understand it, they plan to mate the motor directly to differential in another revision of the conversion, but using the transmission will make installation much easier to replicate.
So, I trust things are moving a long and that Tasha will be back on her feet again soon.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

ICE Removal

ICE, is part of my new electric vehicle jargon, it refers to the Internal Combustion Engine. Clever, I know, but it did make for a nice title. I do think there was some other direction I could have gone and I don't mind hearing about it in the comments if I missed a good opportunity for a pun.

At the moment we are still lacking a lift (we waited on back order for the one we wanted for about 2 months and it is here but we need some time to get it wired up.) Luckily, Ryan and Ben at DynaSport in Portland offered to help get the engine and transmission out of the way for us in their well equipped shop downtown. Ryan is a MINI owner himself and is very knowledgeable so we are lucky to have their support for this project as one of our first sponsors.

I put together a little video montage of the event. It won't serve for instructions on how to get these components out, and I don't recommend watching it too many times in a row unless you have a trick for getting 80's Video game theme music out of your head. So consult your Bentley manual if you are going to be trying this step out at home. (I do plan on using this blog to post step by step installation instructions for anyone who wants to convert their own MINI. We will also be fabbing up a few extra of each piece that we have to machine in order to make this MINI run sans ICE.) 

You can tell Ryan and Ben made quick work of it, and we had a good time. The camera battery died before the climactic lifting of the engine with the crane, hence the still shots to close the video. Yes, I do see the irony there that the battery died, but the MINI will have a monitoring system to avoid such failures so...there!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Our Present To Earth

Here's a little update. Goodbye engine, hello motor.

There are basically two options when it comes to the motor--AC or DC  (Not talking about the Australian pile of kick-ass).   The former allows regen (regenerative braking) while the latter is much more readily available and doesn’t take as much expertise to get it off the ground.  We’re going with the latter. We will probably burn this one up at some point anyway because we learn to swim by just jumping into the deep end of the pool. (The pool being AC motors, and jumping meaning someone is going to get electrocuted)
    The team says that a 9 inch motor ought to do the trick for what we’re after here, as outlined by the following specs:

The 9 inch motor shouldn’t actually be able to handle 1000A in the real world.  If it could, the MINI transmission (not to mention the tires and front wheel drive) couldn’t.  If you thought torque steer was bad on the R56, I think this might break your arms.

Donor MINI

In a crazy move to harness the torque monster that lives within an electric motor, CravenSpeed has decided to build performance machine out of a 2002 MINI Cooper S.  If she were still stock, Natasha (my MINI), would make about 160hp @ 4500 rpm, 0 to 60 in about 7 seconds, and handle like a dream.  It’s hard to compare gas-powered vehicles to their electric counterparts for various reasons, and I am learning this stuff from the build team as I go, but here is how they sold me on donating her to science;

    Since this is our first shot at an electric conversion, we’re going to try and stay within a reasonable set of boundaries.  Looking at the comparison chart, it hardly seems worth it for a gain of 1 second on the 0 to 60 time and a sacrifice of 190 miles of range.  But, since it is starting to cost $60 to fill her tiny tank with premium already, I am willing to bet that it might make some economical sense, eventually. For now, what I know for certain is that it is a crazy move that will give us a very unique MINI. (Before you remind me that BMW already made an electric MINI, I will point out that I do not live in LA or New York and I would like to keep this one instead of paying $900 a month to borrow it from them.)

Anyway, Goodbye Tasha. See you in The Future.


Welcome Intern

Say hello to Chester.

We call him Chester, Chet or just Intern! No matter what moniker you use I am excited to wecome newest member of the team. We met him during Futsol match and found out that he had some pretty useful skills. Besides working with us, he is also a full-time student at OIT; studying renewable energy engineering. Chester comes from a motorcycle racing pedigree and brings some track experience on top of his real world EV building and engineering skills.

As you can see from the picture, he's a huge geek, so if you see him at one of the upcoming shows, be nice and don't make any sudden movements. Be sure to ask him all the questions you want about building our electric car, too, 'cause this is the go-to guy. He'll be here for at least the duration of the Electric MINI project, which we may be calling the 'Sleeper Cell' (get it?), but we may need more input on the name.