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!