By and large, automakers have spent much of the last century trying to make cars quieter and more comfortable. Noise from vehicles can be disruptive and just generally annoying, so it makes sense to minimise it where possible.
However, the noise from the average motor vehicle can serve a useful purpose. A running engine acts as an auditory warning to those nearby. This is particularly useful to help people avoid walking in front of moving vehicles, and is especially important for the visually impaired.
Electric vehicles, with their near-silent powertrains, have put this in jeopardy. Thus, from July 1st, 2019, the European Union will enforce regulations on the installation of noise-making devices on new electric and hybrid vehicles. They are referred to as the “Acoustic Vehicle Alert System”, and it’s been a hot area of development for some time now. Continue reading “Electric Cars Sound Off, Starting July 1st”→
A vintage British sportscar is a wonderful thing. Inimitable style and luxury, beautiful curves, and a soundtrack that could make even Vinnie Jones shed a tear. However, even under the most diligent maintenance schedule, they are known, above all, for their unreliability. As the value of such cars is tied heavily to their condition as unmodified examples, owners are typically reluctant to make modifications to remedy these issues.
However, things are starting to change. Cities across the world are enacting measures to ban fossil fuel vehicles from their streets, and sales of such vehicles are similarly going to be banned entirely. The automotive industry is preparing for a major pivot towards electric drivetrains, and no carmaker will be left untouched. In this landscape, it’s not just Tesla and Nissan who are selling electric cars anymore. Luxury brands are beginning to deliver electric vehicles, too.
We tend to think of electric vehicles as a recent innovation, however many successful products are not the first ones to appear on the market. We have a habit of forgetting the progenitors such as mechanical scanned TVs or the $10,000 Honeywell kitchen computer. A case in point is [Clive Sinclair]’s C5 electric vehicle from 1985. If you’ve heard of it at all, you probably recall it was considered a stellar disaster when it was released. But it is a part of electric vehicle history and you can see [RetroManCave] talk to [Dave] about how he restored and operates a C5 of his own in the video below. If you want to dig into the actual restoration, [Dave] has three videos about the teardown and rebuild on his channel.
Sinclair saw this as the first shot across the bow with a series of electric vehicles, but it was doomed from the start. It isn’t a car. In fact, it is more like a bicycle with a battery. It seats one occupant who is exposed to the elements. It had a very tiny trunk. It can go — optimistically — 15 miles per hour and runs out of juice after about 20 miles — if you helped out by pedaling. If you weren’t up for the exercise, you’d get less out of the lead-acid battery.
If you ever doubt the potential for catastrophe that mucking about with electric vehicles can present, check out the video below. It shows what can happen to a couple of Tesla battery modules when due regard to safety precautions isn’t paid.
The video comes to us by way of [Rich], a gearhead with a thing for Teslas. He clearly knows his way around the EV world, having rebuilt a flood-soaked Tesla, and aspires to open an EV repair shop. The disaster stems from a novelty vehicle he and friend [Lee] bought as a side project. The car was apparently once a Disney prop car, used in parades with the “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” theme. It was powered by six 6-volt golf cart batteries, which let it maintain a stately, safe pace on a crowded parade route. [Rich] et al would have none of that, and decided to plop a pair of 444-cell Tesla modules into it. The reduced weight and increased voltage made it a real neck-snapper, but the team unwisely left any semblance of battery management out of the build.
You can guess what happened next, or spin up to the 3:00 mark in the video to watch the security camera mayhem. It’s not clear what started the fire, but the modules started cooking off batteries like roman candles. Quick action got it pushed outside to await the fire department, but the car was a total loss long before they showed up. Luckily no other cars in the garage were damaged, nor were there any injuries – not that the car didn’t try to take someone out, including putting a flaming round into [Lee]’s chest and one into the firetruck’s windshield.
[Rich] clearly knew he was literally playing with fire, and paid the price. The lesson here is to respect the power of these beefy batteries, even when you’re just fooling around.
When referring to classic cars, there’s a good reason that “they don’t make ’em like that anymore.” Old cars represented the limits of what could be done in terms of materials and manufacturing methods coupled with the styles of the time and cheap fuel. The result was big, heavy cars that would cost a fortune in gas to keep on the road today.
Some people just don’t want to let those styles go, however, and send their beast off for some special modifications. This 1949 Mercury coupe with an electric drivetrain conversion is one way of keeping that retro look alive. Granted, the body of the car is not exactly showroom quality anymore, from the light patina of rust on its heavy steel body panels to the pimples cropping up under its abundant chrome. But that’s all part of the charm; this comes from conversion company Icon’s “Derelict” line, which takes old vehicles and guts them while leaving the outside largely untouched. This Mercury was given a fully electric, 298 kW drivetrain. The engine bay and trunk, together roomier than some Silicon Valley studio apartments, provided ample room for the 85 kWh Tesla battery pack and the dual electric motors, with room left over to craft enclosures for the battery controllers that look like a V8 engine. Custom electronic gauges and controls that look like originals adorn the chrome-bedazzled dash. The beast tops out at 120 mph (193 km/h) and has a 200 mile (322 km) range before it has to find a Tesla supercharger. Or a lemonade stand.
Say what you want about the old cars, but they had plenty of style. We appreciate the work that went into this conversion, which no doubt cost more than all the gas this thing has ever guzzled.
A couple of weekends ago on a farm in rural England with a cider orchard and a very good line in free-range pork sausages, there was the first get-together of the nascent British Hacky Racers series of competitions for comedic small electric vehicles. At the event, [Mark Mellors] shot a set of video interviews with each of the attendees asking them to describe their vehicles in detail, and we’d like to present the first of them here.
The Selby is unique among all the Hacky Racers in being a six-wheeler. It’s the creation of [Michael West] of MK Makerspace, and it bears a curious resemblance to a pair of PowaKaddy golf buggies grafted together. The resulting vehicle has four driven wheels and two steering wheels, and though it is hardly a speedy machine this extra drive gives it what is probably the most hefty pulling power of all the contestants. In the video below it appears without bodywork, but we are told that something impressive will sit upon it when it appears at Electromagnetic Field.
I should own up, that the Selby is a familiar to Hackaday, as I’m also an MK Makerspace member. I’ve seen it progress from two worn-out golf trolleys to its current state, and seen first hand some of the engineering challenges that has presented. The PowaKaddy buggies of that vintage are extremely well-engineered, with a Curtis controller that is still comfortably within spec even when driving four motors instead of two. Unusually for a Hacky Racer the power comes from a pair of huge lead-acid batteries, as these were the power source supplied with the PowaKaddy from new and it made little sense to change them. Gearing is fixed at golf-course speeds, and braking comes from a pair of brakes fitted on the motors. The motors themselves are simple DC affairs, with significant weatherproofing.
Cutting and shutting the two PowaKaddys was straightforward enough, but introduced a warp to the chassis that was solved by your Hackaday scribe hanging on the end of a lever formed from a long piece of 4-by-2 while [Mike] and friends stood on the other end of the Selby.
As a driving experience it’s exciting enough but lacks the speed of some of its competitors. Where it really comes into its own though is off-road, as the multi-wheel drive and broad treaded tyres power it across mud and offer powersliding opportunities on wet grass.