Toyota Echo electric vehicle conversion journal


12/11/07: Our goal is to drive to town (2 miles), run errands, and return, using electric propulsion only. Speeds are currently 45 mph for a half mile, then 30 mph and 25 mph. We could probably sneak by with an neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV), which is limited to 35 mph in WA state. We would also like to travel to an adjacent small town, 7 miles, and return. Speeds are 45 mph for the entire distance. And we’d like to travel to our sailboat moorage, 12 miles, and return. Speeds are 45 mph most of the way, with a 3 mile 50 mph section. Being able to travel to the nearest large town, 36 miles, and recharge there before returning, would be ideal. Speeds are 60 mph most of the distance.

To do this year round requires an enclosed vehicle with heat and defrost for winter, and air conditioning for summer.

We considered converting our Ford Escape Hybrid to a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), but have learned the conversion would not allow “electric only” driving for the short distance to town and back. As with the stock hybrid, the PHEV would require the internal combustion engine (ICE) to run until the catalytic converter was warmed up. In winter this often requires the entire trip to town and back. Unlike Toyota Prius PHEV conversions, which can have an “e-only” button that allows electric propulsion for up to 20 miles without starting the ICE, the Escape PHEV would always require some use of fossil fuel.

After considering the available manufactured electric vehicles, none can meet our goals of range and speed. Converting an ICE vehicle to electric drive is the only option at this time. Although there is a lot of movement in the auto industry toward PHEVs and electric vehicles, there are no planned releases of electric vehicles that would meet our needs, for several years or more, that are in our price range.

We have discussed various vehicles that might meet our needs when converted. The objective is to find a lightweight, relatively new, common vehicle to convert. Four doors are desired to be able to carry passengers, to demonstrate the technology, and a standard transmission is best for energy efficiency. After considering several vehicles, we are leaning toward the Toyota Echo as a “donor” car. The Echo was introduced in 2000, and had the same body as the Prius when it was introduced in 2001. The Echo is light and aerodynamic. Although the Prius has evolved considerably, the Echo remained compact and light weight until 2005 when the model name was changed to Yaris.

I attended the Solar Energy International (SEI) Electric Vehicle Conversion Workshop in November 2007 at Guemes Island, WA. This workshop was taught by Mike Brown and Shari Prange of Electro Automotive in CA. They have extensive experience converting and using converted electric vehicles. We converted two Volkswagen Rabbits to electric drive during the week long workshop. I learned a lot to apply toward my own conversion.

The ideal “donor” vehicle should be light weight - 2,000 to 2,500 lbs. The Echo curb weight is listed at 2,055 lbs.

The next step is to look at and drive an Echo to determine if we like the vehicle. If so, we’ll buy one and drive it for awhile to see how it handles in it’s original mode, then begin the conversion.

12/12/07: We test drove a 2002 Echo 4 door sedan, 5 speed manual. It was a comfortable, quiet, peppy car. We bought it from a Toyota dealer, as a certified used car, for $8,000.

12/13/07: I want to use an AC (alternating current) propulsion system because it allows for regenerative braking, which is not easily done with a standard DC (direct current) motor conversion. Regen braking extends range from 15% to 30%, from what I’ve read. The only AC conversion kit I am aware of is from Electro Automotive. Here is the AC conversion kit info from the Electro Automotive web page:

Light Vehicle Manual Transmission Kit
This kit mounts the motor to the car's original manual transmission. The one custom piece that is included is the motor/transmission adaptor. We have a substantial library of adaptor patterns, and often an adaptor for one model of car will cross over to another model that you might not expect. If we do not have a pattern for your transmission, we can make one easily.
Kit includes:
• Motor, Solectria AC24 with NEMA C-Face & 1 1/8" Keyed Shaft
• Adaptor
• Control System, Solectria DMOC445
• Solectria Wiring Interface Kit
• CC Power DC/DC Converter
• 115 - 175 Volt Gauge
• -40 - 0 - 80 Amp Gauge
• Shunt
• Charger, Zivan NG3
• Cable
• Lugs
• Belleville Precision Tension Washers
• Heat Shrink Tube
• Noalox Anti-Corrosion Compound
• Cable Crimper
• Cable Shears

AC24 motor specs:




Solectria DMOC445 motor controller specs:




I ordered the Toyota Echo repair manual and electrical system manual, $223.37 from Toyota.

12/14/07: Brought home the Echo. Finished cleaning out the garage, built a new work bench along the rear of the garage, and put the Echo inside just as the snow began to fall. The conversion will be my winter project.



12/17/07: Called Electro Automotive and got a recording that they were closed for inventory and reorganization until Jan 7th. I’ll have to wait until then to proceed.

Made some basic calculations on battery bank size for twelve US EV145 batteries. Four would fit under the back seat. Eight would fit in/under the truck. Four might fit under the hood (above the electric motor), but it looks tight. I’d like to balance the weight fore and aft as much as possible, but I might need to put all 12 batteries in the rear. It would be nice to have four up front and eight in the rear centered over the rear wheels (four under the back seat, and four under the trunk). We’ll see how easy it is to remove the rear seat for battery maintenance.

US Battery info:


12/18/07: I’ve found two web sites that document Echo electric conversions:
- www.canev.com includes an Echo DC conversion. The performance noted is not very encouraging (max speed 55 mph, range 13 miles). They used a power takeoff from the front of the DC motor shaft for the power steering pump. This vehicle also has an automatic transmission, which consumes a lot of energy.
- www.electric-echo.com documents an Echo DC motor conversion in Australia. Nicely done, but uses a power takeoff from the front of the electric motor for power steering and alternator (to keep the 12v auxiliary battery charged.) Range is 20 miles.

I will try to find a manual steering mechanism, use a DC/DC converter to keep the 12v battery charged, and use an electric air conditioner compressor to reduce mechanical loses from motor driven components.

12/24/07: Received the Toyota repair manual and wiring diagram manual.

Photos of car before any modifications:


Stock engine compartment.


Passenger side front.


Passenger side rear.


Driver’s side front. Note the distinctive instrument cluster in the center of the dash.


Trunk.

12v hydraulic pump for power steering? Found one! “One car that does use an electric power steering pump is the second generation Toyota MR2. These cars utilize a power steering pump that consists of a 12 volt motor and hydraulic pump head in one self-contained unit.” Fully documented at www.driveev.com/jeepev/convpgs/psteer.php.

But wait, the Echo manual indicates there is a manual steering option - even better! I’ll have to check with Toyota to see if the power steering rack can be replaced with the manual steering rack.

1/2/08: Found a neat self contained heater unit that will attach to the existing heater hoses and use the existing heater core. This means I won’t have to dismantle the dash to install a ceramic heater element in place of the water heater core. Fully documented at www.metricmind.com/ac_honda/heating.htm. Can be purchased at www.metricmind.com/. Cost for RM4 (with integrated pump) is $780 USD.



Searched for manual steering and found replacement manual steering rack for $262. I need to confirm with Toyota that the power steering can be changed to manual steering.

1/4/08: Ran across this site on the web (www.evsource.com/articles/heater_compare.php) that strongly recommends ceramic core heaters instead of the fluid heater shown above. Tests showed the fluid heaters took a long time (almost 10 minutes) to warm up and did not produce a lot of heat. Ceramic heater cores, on the other hand, get hot within seconds. The tests were done in a moderate climate (temperature in the 40s), and recommended a dual ceramic heater core for cold climates. Other pages on the same site said it’s no big deal to remove the dash to replace the water heater core with a ceramic heater core - just get a good manual (which I have) and take your time to do a good job. Hmm...

Subscribed to the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association (SEVA) e-mail list today. Sent an e-mail to the list with general plans and asking for comments/suggestions.

1/5/08: Received several responses from SEVA members. Sounds like two 1,500 watt ceramic heaters (from Canada EV) are the way to go for great heat/defrost performance. “Yes we sell the 1500W elements and so you can just use two contactors and switch them individually. Cores are $60 and contactors are $45.”

1/6/08: Removed the rear seat to measure for battery space. Not as easy to remove as the manual says. Looks good to have a box of four or five batteries under the rear seat. Crawled around under the car. Once the gas tank and vapor control are removed there looks like plenty of space for another box of four or five batteries under the forward part of the trunk. This would put the eight batteries in the rear straddling the rear frame member between the rear wheels.

1/22/08: Finally received a reply from Electro Automotive, after six weeks, several phone messages left, several e-mails, and filling out their web page form - all saying I’m ready to order! Would prefer to order from Canada EV because they are closer and more responsive. Waiting for a firm response from them.

1/23/08: Began removal of ICE components. Had freon removed from air conditioning system at a local auto repair shop ($37). Began following checklist in shop manual for engine removal. Removed hood, air intake cowl cover, jacked up and put car on stands, removed lower engine cover, drained radiator, engine oil, and transmission oil. (3 hrs)

1/25/08: Heard from Canada EV, they will provide an AC motor kit! Yeah!

1/26/08: Continued removal of ICE: Air cleaner, generator, air conditioner compressor, radiator, disconnected wiring harness from motor and labeled connections. (3 hrs)

1/27/08: Continued removal of ICE: exhaust center pipe, raised car higher on jack stands for easier access on creeper. (1 hr)



Measured the height from the top of the transmission to a 2x4 across the engine compartment. We’ll need to duplicate this height with the electric motor to avoid binding the drive train.

1/31/08: Worked on exposing gas tank and figuring out how to pump gas out using the gas pump inside the tank. Removed heat shields from center pipe area. Frustrated by not being able to remove the drive shafts without special service tools (SST). Called Toyota to find out if I can buy these tools and how much they cost. (2 hrs)

2/1/08: SSTs are expensive. I’ll try to work around them.

2/6/08: Continued removal of ICE components. Drained gas tank by hooking up 12v power to fuel pump connections under rear seat and pumping the gas out. Worked great. (1 hr)

2/7/08: Removed gas tank and vapor condenser, fuel and vapor lines to front. Also removed muffler and exhaust pipe, and gas filler hoses. Rear of car is now clear of ICE components. Was able to remove wheel axle nuts and steering knuckles without SSTs, but still working on suspension knuckle, to remove drive shafts. (2 hrs)

2/10/08: My brother-in-law helped me get the axles out of the transaxle so I can remove the engine. As a long time backyard mechanic, he knew just how big a hammer to use. :) (1 hr)

3/14/08: After ignoring the project for awhile, my son, Greg, and I got the ICE out today. (2 hrs)


Wahoo! (Greg’s really not that much taller than me! He’s standing on the hoist.)


Lots of space for the electric motor.


I also worked on getting the power steering rack out, but don’t have it out yet. (1 hr)


3/16/08: Got the power steering rack out. (1 hr)

3/18/08: I couldn’t get an answer from Toyota if the manual steering rack could replace the power steering rack. So, I’ve ordered a manual steering rack and will see!

3/20/08: I removed the starter gear ring from the flywheel, since the electric conversion will not need a starter. This will reduce air drag inside the bell housing some. Some people remove the entire flywheel, but I think it’s best to keep it to smooth out motor operation. I heated the outer gear ring with a torch, while cooling the inner part of the flywheel with ice water. The ring expanded and after a few taps with a hammer and chisel, slipped right off. :)



6/26/08: After months of waiting, I received the conversion kit from Canada EV! I’m excited to begin the conversion. I would recommend anyone doing a conversion keep the car in it’s original gas form until the kit is received. You can use it while you wait. It doesn’t take up space in your garage. And, most importantly, you are more likely to remember how to put it back together! The manual helps too, but I think it would be better to wait for the kit before tearing things apart.

I also had quite a time getting a manual steering rack. Twice I ordered one from internet sites, and both times had my credit card charged and no rack arrived. A call revealed they did not have one and had credited my credit card account. Thanks for telling me! I finally got a used one from a wrecking yard. Then I discovered that the shaft to the steering column was a different height and the manual rack would not fit. After weeks of pondering how to overcome that problem, a visiting mechanic suggested I look up inside the firewall at the steering column to see if there was a way to adjust it. Aha! There is an intermediate shaft that, when removed and added to the power steering rack, has an equal height of the manual steering rack. The manual steering rack fits! (4 hrs)


Manual steering rack installed.

I also cleaned the engine bay with degreaser and a hose, then wiped everything I could reach with a rag. Nice and clean to work in.

7/6/08: With the help of others from the Advanced Vehicle Innovations (AVI) Tech Group, we mounted the flywheel adapter to the motor shaft.


Mounted the adapter plate (red) and flywheel to the electric motor.



And mounted the clutch. We didn’t have the SST to align the clutch plate so stood it on end and eyeballed it.



Then mounted the motor to the transmission. Despite not having the SST clutch alignment tool, with a little juggling they mated perfectly. Then we installed them both in the car!



The motor mount adapter supplied by Canada EV, which they used converting a Toyota Scion with an AC motor, fit perfectly to the stock motor mount. Our transmission height was exactly the same as with the ICE. (4 hrs)


Reconnecting the clutch hydraulic cylinder and transmission linkages was quick.

9/12/08: Another long delay as summer activities and work took most of my time. After seeing how nice the engine compartment looks, I’ve decided to not put any batteries up front so all the electric drive components are visible.

With the help of a mechanic friend we got the front end back together: wheels mounted onto lower suspension (pried the suspension down with a long bar); steering rack reconnected to the wheels; axles installed in wheels and axle nuts torqued on. (My brother-in-law said I could just use an impact wrench to take the peened axle nuts off, but that bunged up the threads on the end of one axle. I had to order a 22 mm, 1.5 thread die and clean up the threads before I could put on new axle nuts. Live and learn!); mounted the tires.

Checked the manual steering. Seems OK, but the steering wheel alignment is off. I must have missed aligning the steering shaft perfectly when I installed the manual steering rack. This should be able to be adjusted when the front end is aligned after the conversion is done. I may be able to adjust it under the dash at a connection on the steering column too.

Worked on making a rack for the controller and vacuum pump. The DC/DC converter, which I had also planned to mount in the engine compartment near the 12 auxiliary battery, clearly is not intended to be mounted where it might get wet. I downloaded the manual and confirmed it should be mounted inside, so it will go in the trunk.

Put the hood back on to check clearances with the controller. Started work on the accelerator cable connection to the pot box. (5 hrs)

9/13/08: Put the top cowl, windshield wipers, and air intake grill back together. Put the lower engine covers and radiator cover (blocks part of the grill not filled by AC radiator) back on. Extended the mounting bracket on the vacuum pump so the mounting distance is the same width as the controller base. So I can use the same two, custom made, rails over the motor for both.

My neighbor welded the corners of the motor controller/vacuum pump mounting brackets for me, and I painted them. (4 hrs)

9/14/08: Installed the custom mounting brackets, using three existing captive nuts in the frame side rails and battery tray. Only had to use heavy sheet metal screws for one end. Made it level side to side and front to rear. Cut notches in the front rail angle to provide torque clearance to the motor and transmission so they won’t knock or rattle against the rack.



Mounted the controller and vacuum pump. Then went over the stock wiring harness and taped over any connector I thought I wouldn’t need, and connected the ones I thought I’d need: transmission top (tachometer input?), transmission side (speedometer input), grounds, fusible link at battery positive, main fuse block next to battery. Then, holding my breath, I connected the battery and turned the key on... It works! All the stock electrical stuff works just fine: lights, fan, radio, windows, locks, etc. Yahoo! The “check engine” light stays on and will work as a “motor on” light for the electric motor. The blue “coolant cool” light, which goes out once the ICE warms up and comes on red if the ICE overheats, may be able to be used with the electric motor as a “motor hot” indicator. We’ll see.

I’m excited at the progress!



I made a vacuum reservoir from 3” ABS pipe and two pipe caps, threaded in brass tube fittings and connected it to the vacuum pump and brake vacuum reservoir. But the vacuum pump cycled repeatedly. I took the reservoir out and immersed it in water while blowing in the tubes. Pin hole leaks at the fittings. I resealed the fittings with more ABS cement and let it cure overnight. This seemed to fix the problem.

After reconsidering the battery weight, and my desire to keep all the batteries in the rear so the electric drive train is visible up front, I decided to use the Odyssey PC 1500 T sealed AGM battery. These batteries are lighter than the US EV145, but also have less capacity. Using a sealed battery means I won’t have to be concerned about battery box ventilation. On the downside, a battery management system (BMS) may be needed to insure the batteries charge equally. Turns out there is a distributor 36 miles away. I called and was offered a good price and free delivery, so ordered 14 batteries - one for a spare in case there’s a problem with one of the 13 I will be installing. They will all be from the same production run. I’ll be using 13, instead of the 12 originally planned, on the advise of Canada EV to avoid low voltage cut out of the motor controller.

I downloaded a spec sheet on the battery and made a cardboard box battery model to test mounting options. It’s easy to print a scale drawing on my computer, paste it to architectural foam board with spray adhesive, then cut it out with a utility knife and glue it together with straight pin “nails”. (6 hrs today.)


Battery model.

9/18/08: Fabricated a bracket to attach the potbox to the car and use the existing accelerator cable to operate it.



After painting and installation, it looks good.



9/21/08: Worked on wiring. Secured the stock wiring harness so it would not hang down into the steering or axles. Connected the cable from the motor to the controller and wire tied it for strain relief. Coiled and wired tied pre-made cables from the controller to the pot box, regen relay, etc. Just a few wires from the controller left to attach. (3 hrs)

9/29/08: Wired the vacuum pump. Mounted the inertia switch and wired it in series with the controller keyed 12v initialization signal. The inertia switch will disable the motor controller in a collision, and can be manually reset if needed.

9/30/08: The traction batteries were to be delivered today, but won’t be delivered until next Monday. I was hoping to get the car moving on it’s own, but not road worthy, by Friday. We’re exhibiting it at the Alternative Fueled Vehicle display at Wenatchee Valley College. Oh well, we’ll have to push it on and off the car trailer.

10/3/04: Displayed the Echo, our Gorilla electric ATV, our Ford Escape Hybrid, and the 1948 Allis-Chalmers G tractor we converted to electric for Sunshine Farms last year, at the Alternative Fueled Vehicle exhibit. Lots of interest.

10/13/08: The batteries were delivered today. Fourteen Odyssey PC 1500 sealed gel (12v, 62 amp hour, 49 lbs each). Thirteen will be used (156 volt nominal), with one spare. All the batteries are from the same production run, numbered sequentially, to insure consistent performance. Cost: $3,500.

10/16/08: Drew up plans for the battery boxes and a friend helped cut the floor pan out under the rear seat and trunk.


Rear seat battery box cut out.


Trunk battery box cut out.

11/4/08: Received the wiring diagram from Canada EV showing their Toyota Scion conversion. They used a lot of relays. I’ll try to make it as basic as possible.

12/3/08: For the last six weeks I’ve been trying to get battery boxes fabricated locally. Finally I think I’ve found a local fabricator who can make decent boxes to drop into the holes I’ve made.

No real progress during this time, although I was able to mount the main emergency disconnect circuit breaker in the center console between the front seats, where it can break the circuit from the batteries to the controller, if needed.

I also received WA custom license plates E TOY (meaning “electric Toyota”, or “electric toy”) and had a local sign maker produce custom ELECTRIC decals for the sides and rear, in the same font as the original rear ECHO emblem.


Smaller decals on the forward, lower edge of each front door.


Rear of trunk lid.

12/15/08: After almost two months of effort, I picked up battery boxes made locally. The batteries fit into the boxes with some space left for battery expansion. The boxes fit in the holes we made in the floor pan with only a little trimming.


Rear seat battery box.


Trunk battery box.

1/6/09: A friend finished welding the battery boxes into the floor pan. (4 hrs, $30 for supplies) I caulked the welds and painted the boxes inside and out. (2 hrs, $20 supplies) I lined the bottom of the boxes with Battery Mat, an acid neutralizing pad. Even though it’s really not needed with sealed, gel batteries, it provides some minor insulation and cushioning ($50). Then I filled the boxes with batteries after carefully drawing a plan for the most efficient battery interconnections layout.


Both battery boxes visible with the rear seat completely removed.

1/21/09: Worked on wiring the batteries and securing them in the boxes (4 hrs, $50 supplies). I discovered one battery had voltage between the posts, but not between the studs. Since I’m using the studs for connections, I returned it to the supplier for credit and used the spare. I’m glad I ordered 14 batteries to start with.

1/24/09: Finished wiring the battery boxes, and to the motor controller (4 hrs). The rear battery box, under the trunk, has a Plexiglas cover, so I can show it to people by just lifting up the carpet pad. I used short lengths of 2” diameter PVC pipe, on end, as spacers to help hold the batteries down, so they won’t bounce over bumps. Because the Plexiglas is not real strong, I placed hold down bars across the top of the Plexiglas to keep the batteries in place in the event of a rollover accident. The trunk battery box has 400 lbs of batteries in it, and appeared to sag a little when loaded, so I added two straps across the bottom of the box, bolted through the frame to the straps over the top. There is also an inline fuse on the positive lead from the trunk battery box to the rear seat battery box.


Trunk battery box complete.


Straps under the trunk battery box, bolted through the frame to the straps across the top.

I routed the cables through the forward side of the trunk battery box to the underside of the floor pan, and into the rear side of the rear seat battery box. I wired tied the cables to a body hanger to keep them up away from the rear suspension cross member.



The battery box under the rear seat also has battery mat under the batteries and PVC spacers on top. There is 250 lbs of batteries in this box, which it should hold well without further support. The metal lid will hold them in place if there is a rollover. I wanted to install the Link 10 meter shunt in this box, but it was too tall. After looking around, I found space under the center console, between the front seats, to install the shunt. The high voltage wiring from the rear seat battery box goes forward through the front of the battery box and through the body brace to under the carpet in front of the rear seat, and then to the center console, where the emergency circuit breaker is located. There was no space for cable strain relief connectors, so I used heat shrink tubing to protect the cables from the metal hole edges.


Rear seat battery box, with metal lid to the right.

The emergency circuit breaker fit perfectly in an existing slot in the center console, and the Link 10 meter shunt fit in space just in front of the breaker on the floor pan. The high voltage cables, and Link 10 meter cable, then go forward under the carpet. The Link 10 cable continues under the dash to the meter, which will be installed in a dash storage cubby space.


Emergency circuit breaker in center console (on it’s side) between the seats (photo taken from passenger side.)


High voltage and shunt meter wiring to emergency circuit breaker under center console.


Link 10 meter shunt positioned under center console. Note clear plastic tubing split and used to electrically insulate the shunt.

The high voltage cables go through a rubber gasket, where the shifter linkage exits the body pan, then up along the outside of the firewall to the motor controller.


Shifter linkage and high voltage cables exiting the body and going forward to the engine compartment.

I made final connections and tested the voltages from the trunk battery box through the rear seat battery box and center console emergency circuit breaker to the controller high voltage connections. 166 volts at the controller. I then turned the ignition key on and advanced the accelerator cable at the pot box. No motor action. I checked everything that I could think of, reread the Azure manuals, and rechecked all connections. Still no motor action. So I e-mailed Canada EV for suggestions.

In the meantime I wired the AC battery charger circuit from the trunk to connections in the console with the circuit breaker and shunt, and wired the Charger Disable circuit from the charger location in the trunk to the engine compartment to connect to the motor controller harness.

1/26 - 28/2009: Confession time. While wiring the DC/DC converter high voltage input circuit to the battery pack terminals on the motor controller, I goofed big time and forgot to turn the main circuit breaker off. I was pulling 10 AWG wires through the wire strain relief with small pliers and accidentally shorted the positive and negative terminals together. Big bang and flash! Fortunately the main circuit breaker tripped immediately. The pliers were welded to the negative terminal and connector bolt nut. The connector bolt head on the positive terminal was half gone. Whew! 166 vDC makes a big bang! I was really upset with myself for making such a stupid mistake. I confirmed the main breaker was tripped and wiggled the pliers until they came loose. Had to file a few rough edges off to make them useable again. I checked the trunk battery box. The fuse there was blown too, so now I’m waiting for a replacement and a spare to be shipped. I checked every battery and they seemed OK. I hope I didn’t fry something inside the motor controller. Agh! With the main breaker off, I finished fishing the wires through, crimped connectors on, and connected them to the high voltage DC terminals of the controller. Then I finished mounting the DC/DC converter in the passenger side radiator space. Earlier I had planned to mount it in the trunk, but it works better from a wiring standpoint to mount it in the engine bay. The car has a plastic “radiator block” panel here that will help protect the DC/DC converter from water. I mounted it as high as possible to avoid as much road splash as possible. (2 hrs)

I then made a bracket and mounted the AC battery charger in the drivers side of the trunk. After making sure everything fit, and painting the bracket, I reinstalled the driver’s side trunk carpet panel, mounted the bracket and charger in front of it, snaked the charging cable behind and to the gas cap cover. I then wired the AC input plug and mounted it behind the gas cap cover. The charger cord wire colors were green/white, blue, and brown, not standard for an AC cord (black, white, green). I e-mailed Canada EV and confirmed green/white should go to ground, blue to positive, and brown to neutral on the AC plug.


AC battery charger in place.


AC input plug in place behind the gas cap cover door. I used part of the original gasket to insure the cover closes flush with the body. I also put several layers of tape on the inside of the door so there is no risk of shorting the AC plug prongs if someone leans against the door. I don’t know if that would cause a short or not, but no use taking a chance.

I then put the rear seat battery box top on and reinstalled the rear floor carpet, seat belts, seat backs, and seat cushion. I had to trim the floor carpet a little to fit around the front of the battery box. I had expected to have to trim some foam from the underside of the seat cushion so it would fit down far enough onto the battery box to snap in place, but it fit fine.


Rear seat battery box with lid on, and floor mat, seat belts, and seat backs reinstalled.


Rear seat completely reinstalled.

I had planned to make a bracket on the passenger side of the trunk to hold the compact spare tire in a vertical position, but it would interfere with the trunk lid hinge. After mulling it over for awhile, I decided to just lay it on the trunk floor.

There is now a small storage space in the remainder of the original spare tire well, to the rear of the trunk battery box. I cut the rear off the original plastic spare tire cover and it fit nicely over this storage space. I’ll store the charging cord here. I put the spare tire tools, wrapped in cloth to avoid rattles, in the tire jack space on the passenger side of the trunk behind the carpet liner. The trunk looks pretty good.


Finished trunk.

I had removed the trunk lid spoiler. All it does is “spoil” the aerodynamic flow over the car. Not what I want for maximum range. This left holes in the trunk lid, so I had them filled and the trunk lid repainted at a local body shop. This required removing the previous “Electric” sign, so I had the local “Sign Girl” make a new one. Looks really good.


Rear of the trunk. Nice!

I also worked on installing the Link 10 meter in the dash. I had seen it installed in one of the dash vents on another Echo conversion, but I wanted to keep the dash vents for air circulation. I planned to get a dash top mount for the Link 10 and mount it on the top of the steering wheel column, where it would be visible through the steering wheel, but realized it would fit well in the cubby to the right of the steering wheel, and still be visible through the steering wheel. I worked on making a pattern for a metal face plate that would fit in the cubby. (8 hours for the last several days)

Canada EV advises I’ll have to program the motor controller with a PC. I’m a Mac person so am borrowing a PC laptop.

1/29/09: I installed the air shocks ($90) in about 1 hour. I inflated the air shocks to the maximum 35 psi and checked the hoses and fittings for leaks by spraying them with water. We’ll see if they maintain the stock body height once the vehicle is down off the jack stands. If not I’ll have to get custom coil springs made.


Air shock in stock coil spring, tubing to air valve through trunk floor. The air bag has been inflated to 35 psi.


Air valve through an existing hole in trunk floor on the passenger side of the trunk.

1/30 - 31/09: I worked on mounting the Link 10 meter in the cubby hole to the right of the steering wheel. I bent a piece of sheet meter to form a box that fit the cubby hole, painted it, and mounted the meter in it. Looks good and you can even store things on top of it, if desired.


Link 10 meter mounted in the dash cubby hole.

I received a replacement 300 amp fuse for the trunk battery box, and a spare just in case. I installed the fuse and turned the main breaker on between the front seats. I heard a crackling sound toward the rear and immediately turned the breaker back off. A quick visual inspection did not show anything of concern. With the AC battery charger and DC/DC converter now connected after the main circuit breaker, I thought one of them might be a problem so I disconnected each of their Anderson connectors. When I turned the circuit breaker back on there was no crackling sound. So I went to the trunk and plugged in the AC battery charger Anderson connector. There was a small spark at the connector as the circuit was made, and crackling in the trunk battery box. I immediately unplugged the charger and shut off the main breaker and started checking each battery in the trunk battery box. Battery number 11 had scorch marks by the negative post.


Scorch marks by the negative battery post of battery number 11. The post-to-stud adapter is already installed.

I tested the voltage between the threaded studs and found a loose connection, just like the battery I had returned. Voltage appeared fine between the posts. Perhaps I over torqued the stud when I connected the cables. I installed post-to-stud adapters on this battery to use the posts instead of the studs. After rewiring it, the voltage checked out good when I tried wiggling the cables. I turned on the main breaker and connected the AC battery charger Anderson connector. There was a small spark at contact, but then everything was fine.

The Link 10 meter showed zero amps, so there is no phantom load from the AC battery charger. The initial spark was probably transformers powering up. I then tested the features of the Link 10 and set it for my battery amp hour capacity. It’s easily visible to the driver through the steering wheel.

I also tested the AC battery charger. I had made a 30’ long 10 AWG “extension cord” and put an F5-30 female plug on the end to fit the car AC inlet male plug. The charger worked fine. With the batteries currently at above 80% state of charge (SOC), the charger draws 3 to 9 amps AC. We’ll see what the max amps are when the batteries are discharged fully, to 20% SOC. I’m hoping a standard outlet will handle the load without tripping a breaker.

I connected the DC/DC converter Anderson connector and everything looked fine. The converter draws .3 to .4 amps from the high voltage battery pack, while charging the auxiliary 12v battery to 13.4 volts.

Using a borrowed PC laptop, I downloaded the Azure motor controller (DMOC) software and programming instructions. Canada EV advised there was only one parameter to change. But several connectors on the DMOC wiring harness that I had not connected also needed to be addressed.
- I wired the Charger Disable connector to the Aux1, normally open, pins on the AC battery charger. When AC is present this circuit closes and disables the DMOC so you can’t drive off with the cord plugged in.
- The Forward Reverse connector, which I did not need because I can shift to reverse with the transmission, still needed to be connected. And, I learned it has to be in “neutral” when the DMOC starts up, or the DMOC goes into error mode and will not function. So this means I need a “on-off-on” rocker switch, that is moved to “off” before the ignition is turned on and then moved to “forward”, or install a delay timer like Canada EV did, so the DMOC can power up before it gets the “forward” signal. I was able to get a rocker switch that fit in an existing, unused, knockout in the dash. It looks good and would foil any car thief that does not know the sequence needed to get the car moving. I’m also waiting for the delay timer from Canada EV and plan to install that too.


The Forward Reverse rocker switch installed in the dash.

- The Power Saver connector, which allows the operator to select “power”, “normal”, or “economy” operating modes, also required a jumper with a 4.7 kOhm resistor to put it in “normal” mode.
- The Regen Disable connector was left open and taped over.
- The Speedo cable was left unconnected. The Azure manual says it is currently not supported.

I was not successful in connecting the PC laptop to the DMOC and have e-mailed Canada EV for guidance.


The PC laptop, with Azure ccShell program running, and my Mac laptop with e-mail instructions from Canada EV displayed. High tech!

I installed two 12v relays to allow the ignition to control the DMOC “key on” circuit, vacuum pump, and DC/DC converter. There should be no phantom loads on the main battery bank with the ignition key off.

While I was under the dash tapping into the ignition power source, I looked at the steering column. There are two connection points accessible that should allow me to adjust the steering wheel alignment. Alright!

About 4 hours and $50 in materials for the last couple days.

2/1/09: Today I worked on tidying up. I cushioned the rear brake line with split wire insulation and secured it in place to prevent rattles and keep it clear of the rear suspension. We had moved this brake line slightly to make way for the rear seat battery box.

I adjusted the steering wheel alignment by disconnecting the steering column under the dash and lining up the steering wheel spokes with the front tires pointing straight ahead. We’ll see when we drive the car if further adjustments are needed.

I carefully checked the undercarriage and secured a few wires that hadn’t been tied up yet so nothing hangs down or is near the drive shafts or suspension.

With no gas tank sending unit, the gas gauge shows empty, which is no problem, but the low fuel light by the odometer flashes, which is annoying. Checking the electrical shop manual, I found that a 50 ohm resistor wired to the gas gauge sending unit would “spoof” the gauge to show half full, with no low fuel light flashing. It worked great. I then taped up the connector and stashed it under the rear seat carpet, along the front of the rear seat base where it won’t get stepped on.

I realized the ICE temperature gauge could not be adapted easily for an electric motor over temp gauge, and I didn’t want the blue “low temp” light on all the time. The electrical shop manual showed that a 170 ohm resistor would “spoof” the temperature sending unit so the blue low temp light would go out. Worked great.

I removed the ABS vacuum reservoir and again found it had pin hole leaks around the fittings. The brass fittings are not sealing to the ABS cap. I’m looking for plastic fittings that will “weld” to the ABS when cemented.

4 hours and $5 in materials today.

2/2/09: Yahoo! It works!! After exchanging a few e-mails with Canada EV to get a DMOC parameter file, I was finally able to connect to the DMOC with my borrowed PC laptop. But it wasn’t simple. The list of parameters was included as text in an e-mail from Canada EV. I copied the list, pasted them into a word processor document on my Mac laptop, saved them in text format with a .ccs file extension (which the ccShell program for the DMOC looks for). Then I saved the .ccs file on a thumb drive and plugged the thumb drive into the PC laptop. After turning on the main battery circuit breaker, and the ignition key (which supplies the DMOC with a 12v “start” signal), I started the ccShell program on the PC. Then I tried opening the .ccs file on the thumb drive. It loaded the file! I had never gotten this far before! I edited the parameter, saved it to eprom on the DMOC, and saved the parameter file on the thumb drive.

Then I switched the Forward Reverse switch to forward, made sure the transmission was in nuetral, and advanced the accelerator cable. The motor turned! The car is still on jack stands, so I put the car in first gear and slowly advanced the throttle. The drive wheels turn in the right direction! Wohoo!

I reinstalled the ABS vacuum reservoir, after replacing the brass fittings with plastic ones and sealing them in place with ABS cement and letting it cure for several hours. When I turned on the ignition the vacuum pump ran for about 10 seconds and stopped. But when I applied the brakes, it immediately ran again for about 5 seconds. I was expecting that I could apply the brakes up to a dozen times before the vacuum pump cycled again. I will follow up on this, but am excited to get the car moving.

My son, Greg, and I took the car off the jack stands and checked the fender well height at the rear wheels. It was 1” lower than the stock height before the conversion. I added 12 psi to the rear tires (AirLift recommends adding 2 psi per 100 lbs of added weight, and we have 650 lbs of batteries) which reached the maximum 44 psi recommended on the tire sidewall. I also added 15 psi to the air shocks and could feel and see the rear of the car rise. Although we’re now over the recommended psi for the air shocks, the wheel well height came up to within 1/2” of the stock height. I bounced on the rear end and there is plenty of spring travel, and no explosions from the air shocks. :)

Then the moment of truth - we drove the car out of the garage, for the first time in over a year!


We’re not too excited!


Note the license plate and “Electric” sign on the driver’s door.

I drove the car slowly forward, down the slight slope of our driveway, with the transmission in 2nd gear, and checked the steering wheel alignment. It looks good.

But when I tried to back up, by switching the Forward Reverse switch to reverse, and applying the accelerator, the car rolled forward. I applied more throttle and the car began to move in reverse, but then the controller cut out. The controller reset immediately when I released the throttle. I then switched to Forward, and shifted the transmission to reverse, and the same thing happened. I had to accelerate very slowly to get moving back up the slight slope. Hmm... A high throttle cut out maybe, or set for Economy and a high amps cut out? The Link 10 was set to amps and was showing no more than 20 to 40 amps.

We checked all the lights and other electrical features. Everything works!

We then drove up to the end of our 1/4 mile access road. Starting out in 2nd gear I also had the controller cut out going up slope. I had to start in 1st gear and accelerate slowly to get moving. Once we were traveling 15 mph or so, the controller did not cut out when I accelerated fully, drawing about 40 amps. Acceleration was very sluggish though, so maybe I’m set on Economy.

When we are notified that our insurance is in effect, we’ll drive the car to a nearby scale and weigh the front and rear axles to compare it to the stock vehicle weight. We’ll also have the local tire shop check the front end alignment.

E-mailed Canada EV and discussed the controller cut out problem. Battery voltage may be dipping below the low voltage cut out, but I set the Link 10 to volts and watched it while backing and driving forward on our sloped driveway. The controller still cut out with voltage never going below 150.

I then tried changing the Power Saver settings with no change in controller cut out. Could possibly be a max motor torque cutout, since it’s occuring only when starting to move. Using the clutch may avoid this problem. Still checking...

What a day! (2 hrs)

2/4/09: We confirmed last night that the car is insured. Our insurance company initially said they would not insure a conversion, but our track record with them over the last 40 years (!) is excellent. After some discussion and calls back and forth, they agreed to insure “our” conversion, but only because of our history with them. They are not ready to open this option to everyone, so I won’t list their name here. They will insure the car’s book value, plus the value of the conversion!

Today I took the car to town (2 miles one way). I suspect the controller cut out is a max torque setting issue, which goes into error mode when the motor is starting to turn under load. I avoided the problem by driving the car as a stick shift - using the clutch and first gear to start moving and shifting up and down as needed. Worked like a champ. And, with the regenerative braking, drove just like an ICE car, with compression braking when down shifting, etc. Really nice to see the Link 10 meter voltage climb when decelerating.

I weighed the car at a local truck scale.

Before the conversion: front axle 1,400 lbs, rear axle 980 lbs, total 2,360 lbs
After conversion: front axle 1,200 lbs, rear axle 1,520 lbs, total 2,728 lbs

We’re still reasonably below the gross vehicle weight listed on the door post of 2,915 lbs. Not bad. :)

The Link 10 meter shows 50% state of charge (SOC), so I plugged in the car. I used a Kill-A-Watt meter to measure the current draw from a standard 120v wall outlet with a 20 amp breaker. It’s drawing 15.14 amps.

Had the front wheel alignment checked, $60. Alignment was off a bit. Steering effort improved afterward. It’s not bad, even with manual steering.

Canada EV e-mailed instructions for capturing DMOC data for Azure to review. I set up the laptop in the car and recorded data while starting out. The controller cut out and I saved the data and e-mailed it to Canada EV. Received instructions back in just a few hours to change a variable. Wow, that’s service! :) I updated the DMOC variable. Will check with a test drive tomorrow.

Serial cable from DMOC into passenger seat.


PC laptop in passenger seat, ready to capture date while driving.

2/5/09: Test drove to see if the DMOC variable change had an effect. It cured the controller cut out problem while starting to move! Lots of power in first gear with no clutch!

I drove to town and could drive in 2nd with no use of the clutch. However, on the way home, at about 40 mph coming up a hill at full throttle, the controller cut out.

Anne drove the car for the first time today. I borrowed my sister’s PC laptop again and tried to log data while coming up the hill, to capture the controller cut out, but it never cut out! I suppose that’s good, but the problem is still lurking. Will keep trying to capture it.

2/8/09: A friend came by and we took the Echo out for it’s first highway test drive, with a PC laptop to record any controller cutouts. We were able to capture data on two controller cut outs! So I sent the data to Canada EV for suggestions. I tried going easier on the throttle and we did not have any more controller cutouts.

I think I’ve been shifting up too soon. Based on power curves I’ve seen in Azure product info, the optimum motor rpm is around 4,000. With my friend reading out motor rpm and amps from the PC display, I stayed in 2nd gear until 45 mph (4,000 rpms), and stayed in 3rd until 60 mph (4,000 rpms). The car cruised easily on a flat highway at 70 mph with no problem! There was throttle left, but I didn’t try to go faster than that!

The return route home from the highway involves coming up a long (2 mi), steep hill. I kept the car in 2nd and came up the hill with no problem at 40 to 45 mph (the speed limit)!

I’m very happy with this test drive!

My friend also suggested that I leave the serial connection to the controller installed and run it into the passenger compartment through the firewall, so it’s easy to monitor system operation as needed. He also suggested an inexpensive PC compact laptop. Seems the way to go if more monitoring and changes are needed.

2/10/09: Received more advise from Azure to change another variable. After making the change, I drove to town, ran errands, and came home without any controller cutouts!

I’m starting to monitor mileage and kilowatt hours (kWh) used for charging to get an idea of energy use and cost. Looks like it takes about $0.25 of electricity to charge the car at our electrical rate of $0.028/kWh. This works out to about 1 cent per mile. Pretty good, even compared to the effecient stock gas engine that got 40 mpg. At the current $2/gallon cost for gas, that’s 5 cents per mile. Last summer’s $4/gallon would cost 10 cents per mile.

In another week or so, after 15 to 20 battery discharge/charge cycles, we’ll start to test maximum range.

2/10/09 - 2/16/09: Based on my experience in the last week and a half, I'm using .27 kWh per mile from the battery pack (.3 kWh/mi from the outlet, due to charger inefficiency).  My pack has about 9.7kW capacity (156v nominal x 62 amp hours per battery).  If I discharge to 20% state of charge (SOC), I'd use 7.7kWh (9.7 * .8).  At .27 kWh/mi, I should be able to go 28 miles (7.7/.27).  Not as good as I hoped, but acceptable.  If I "hammer" the batteries to 0% state of charge, I should be able to go 35 miles. If I get a lithium ion pack, with 120 amp hour capacity, in a few years, I should be able to go 56 miles.

So far our longest drives have been 21 and 22 miles with 40% SOC left. This meets our needs very well.

Today, after charging the battery pack and then letting it rest for a couple hours, I checked each of the 13 batteries individually to see if there was any imbalance developing. All were within 0.1 volt. So far, so good. It took about an hour to take the lids off each battery box, test the batteries, and put the lids back on. I also glued the PVC spacers for the truck battery box to the underside of the plexiglass cover. They were vibrating around and I want them to stay centered on each battery to hold the battery down over bumps or in a rollover.

2/15/09: We put 31 miles (stop-and-go and highway driving) on the car today, and had to creep up the last hill to get home. So I’d say 30 miles is the maximum range. We use the E Toy for all our every day driving and are very happy with it.