The Electric Vehicle team started the year early, with the first meeting of the new school year on Sunday, August 14. We’re proud to welcome new members Ryan Marx, Nolan Vess, Ethan Choate, Eric McKenzie, Parker Turnage, and Josh Bryant. Since the first meeting of the year we’ve installed a new auxiliary battery pack in the Datsun, done body work such as fixing the side view mirrors, worked on reparing the Datsun’s bumper, and ambitious new members have even fixed the outside door handles. A cataloguing system for all the team’s batteries has also been constructed, with cloud updating capabilities.
The EV team put on a good showing at the SVGS STEM open house, showing new SVGS parents and students both the Porsche and Datsun. We were happy to tell new students all about the benefits and experience gained being part of the EV team.
An exciting new addition to the Datsun is the Raspberry Pi tablet PC installed in the Datsun’s dashboard, which will allow for easier and on the go data collection from the Orion BMS system. The Pi was installed at the end of last year by team member Ben Lawn as his senior project, however our first field run with the Pi will be at our first event at the end of September.
With our very first event of the year being on September 30th down at the North Carolina Automotive Research Institute, the team is working quickly in order to prepare the Datsun for some racing! David Waterman has generously donated his electric lawnmower to the EV Team, which we’ve extracted the BMS from and placed in the Datsun. Weighing in at about 200 lbs, the team had to do a little engineering in order to safely transport the BMS pack into the Datsun correctly, utilizing some metal pipes and rope. The team aims to wire the BMS into the Datsun and construct a 172 volt battery grid in time for our first event.
Here’s to a successful and fun year for the Shenandoah Valley Electric Vehicle Team!
Early on in the month, the team designed and installed a buzzer system in the Datsun connected to the BMS that warns the driver when a cell drops below a specified voltage. This was part of the solution to the problem we faced in March at the Spring Thaw Event where the batteries overheated and reached almost unrecoverable low voltages. Since we lost a few batteries at the Spring Thaw Event, the team put 12 more batteries in the front of the Datsun, bringing the car’s voltage up to around 176 V, the highest it is allowed to be for competitions and the highest it’s ever been in any of our cars. During this time we also reshaped one of the bottom side panels on the Datsun that had gotten a little beat up in one of the autocross runs from last month. We also continued to charge the car in preparation for the Herald Miller Invitational.
In the middle of April, the team traveled to North Carolina to participate in the Herald Miller Invitational, a substitute event created in place of the EV Challenge. To read more about that, click this link: https://svgsev.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/the-herald-miller-invitational/.
Towards the end of April, the team charged the Datsun and worked on minor things while also planning events and meetings for the future. We plan on taking the Datsun to the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School’s Award Picnic in May to show off our work to other students, parents, and members of the community.
The EV team headed to Garysburg, North Carolina this past weekend to participate in NCCAR’s Spring Thaw Event. The event was designed to be an opportunity for teams to get practice in events such as autocross and acceleration. Half the team left for the event around 6:30 PM Thursday night with the Datsun so that they could get to the track early the next morning. The rest of the team joined up at NCCAR around 4:30 on Friday. The Porsche did not join the team on this trip as it is still in the process of being converted from lead acid to lithium ion batteries.
On Friday, the team designed and set up an autocross course for all of the teams to practice on. The Datsun ran well, averaging times around a minute and twenty-five seconds on a relatively long course that included a slalom, chicago box, and 360. In the evening, the batteries started to weaken and when the team checked them they were reaching dangerous temperatures of around 130 degrees Fahrenheit and voltages on about 7 of them had dropped to 0, making them useless.
To handle this tense and upsetting situation, members of the team pulled an all-nighter, working on cooling the batteries, taking out the worn down packs, salvaging batteries, and wiring new packs in. The team also charged the main pack of batteries overnight so that the car could hopefully race again in the morning.
On Saturday, the team spent the morning finishing up the Datsun and getting it to run again. Overall, the voltage dropped from 144V to about 130V with the removal of 4 cells. The team continued to practice on the autocross course throughout the morning, stopping every couple of run throughs to check on how the batteries were holding up both in relation to charge and temperature. The team ended the event with a debriefing of how it went and what needs to be done in the future to prepare for the EV Challenge in April.
Overall, the weekend was a great experience for everyone on the team. Every body got a chance to drive, giving some new members the opportunity to drive the car for the first time. We also had a passenger seat which gave people the opportunity to ride along as the car dodged (and sometimes hit) cones. The team did a great job of keeping positive attitudes in times of stress and hardship when the discovery was made that the batteries had been damaged and was able to put all the things they’ve learned this year to work under a large amount of pressure. The team made connections with members of other teams, talked with people connected to NCCAR, and even got to see a solar powered car brought to the event by a college team.
The team will eagerly continue working on bettering their cars for the EV Challenge in Raleigh, North Carolina in April with hopes of bringing a powerful Datsun and a lithium ion-powered Porsche.
Looking back on the goals the team set in January (finish charging the Datsun, participate in more outreach opportunities, get tires donated, get another pair of racing seats donated, and finish converting the Porsche from lead acid to lithium ion batteries), February has been a very productive and successful month. The team has started and accomplished quite a few of the set goals and we have plans for the ones that we haven’t gotten around to yet.
The Datsun is charged up to the best of our abilities and ready to race in the Spring Thaw competition at NCCAR in March. Also, a passenger seat is in the process of being installed in the Datsun (hopefully in time for the competition). Once the seat is in place, we hope to have an outreach event that will allow people to ride in our electric car and get to learn a little bit more about EV. The Porsche is well on its way to being on lithium ion batteries. After a little bit of brainstorming, a layout has been configured for the newer, smaller batteries as well as a wiring diagram. All that’s left is putting the batteries into the newly made racks, wiring them up, and getting the controller put back in place. That being said, it does not look like the Porsche will be ready in time to participate in the Spring Thaw event. Rather, the new and improved Porsche will be unveiled at the EV Challenge in April.
Throughout the course of this month, a team member and an instructor have been in contact with Dish Network and have worked out a grant for the team. This money will be going towards the costs of competitions and will help the team out a lot. Thanks Dish Network!
Next month, the team will be traveling to North Carolina to participate in the Spring Thaw Event. Goals for March include: finish the Porsche conversion, give rides in the Datsun, get one more seat for the Porsche, and get new tires donated for the Porsche. Also in March, the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School will be having it’s annual STEM Open House and the team will have the cars on display with students to talk about the program and bring awareness to the community.
The past few weeks have not gotten summaries because they have all been pretty similar. We spent a lot of time charging batteries to prepare for the conversion of our Porsche and working on wiring and figuring out the Orion battery management system. However, this week was a rather exciting one as we finished charging all of the batteries and got the Datsun’s battery management system to work while charging the battery pack.
On Sunday, the team prepared to participate in the Staunton Christmas Parade by creating posters, a music playlist, and doing some final touches on the cars.
On Monday, the weather was gloomy (rainy and cold) so the team decided it would be best for the cars if we did not participate. There was not a very big crowd at the parade in the rain so we believe this was a good decision.
On Wednesday, the team met from 6-9 and worked on charging the Datsun while observing the battery management system’s data as it balanced the pack of batteries for even charging. This was a very exciting accomplishment as it was what we had been working towards for so long. We were able to charge up our batteries to about 3.3 V each and the overall pack voltage to around 150 V. We recorded the data from the BMS and hope to graph it soon to look for trends and patterns that could be helpful to us in the future.
On Thursday, the team met during part of governors school to plan out the upcoming month and set goals for what needs to get done in order to stay on track for the upcoming Spring competition in North Carolina.
On Saturday, the EV team participated in the Waynesboro Christmas Parade where we spread community awareness about us and the Shenandoah Valley Governors School. We were able to drive the Porsche all the way through the parade without any problems.
Another thing that happened recently was that the team was mentioned on the Shenandoah Valley Governor School’s website for attending the NEAT Ralley in North Carolina in October. To read more about that, check out this link: https://svgsstudentnews.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/svgs-month-in-review-october-november-2015-experiences-and-community/
On Sunday, the team met from 6:00 to 8:30. We continued charging batteries and connected the peripheral cells in the Datsun to the Orion BMS. We tested the new cell configuration and designed a new mount for the BMS. On Wednesday, the team met from 6:00 to 7:30. We began installing the new mount and rewired the BMS wiring harness to accommodate the new mount. On Thursday, the team met during the school day to write up goals for the upcoming month.
The team did not meet on Sunday due to the excitement and exhaustion of the EV Neat Rally. On Wednesday, the team met from 6-9. One of the team members brought along her Romanian exchange student and we were able to show her the cars and allow her to participate in our evening’s work. We had a large turnout of students as well as a visitation from a member of the team a few years back who worked on the display system in our Datsun. The battery management system in the Datsun was the main focus of the night. New members were taught how to strip wires and make connections using crimping tools and heat shrink. We got all of the wires of the battery management system prepared with ring terminals to be hooked up at a later date.
The meeting on Sunday was rescheduled to Monday due to possible inclement weather. On Monday, the team met from 6-9. While charging the Porsche, the teachers passed out permission forms and legal waivers to the members going on the trip and went over what to pack, the schedule, and general expectations. We replaced the low auxiliary cell with a fully charged one and decided on what hardware we would use to mount the BMS in the Datsun. On Wednesday, the team met from 6-9 and broke into three groups to work on various tasks. One group worked on fixing the connections on the batteries to ensure that the wires would be under any stress when the batteries were held down for racing, the second team worked on charging batteries, and the third team worked on getting timing equipment to work for the races at the competition. Friend of the team, Mark Bartosik, joined us for most of the evening to see that everything was running smoothly and if we needed any help. The team added an extra meeting on Thursday to load the vehicle, supplies, and tools needed for the competition. The team decided to only bring the Porsche because of the high number of students with prior commitments and because the Datsun was not entirely ready to race. On Friday, the team met at 4:30 am and headed to North Carolina for the EV Neat Rally. Click here to read more about the competition at it’s dedicated post.
On Sunday and Wednesday, the team met from 6 to 9. We rethought the Datsun battery wiring to allow for easier connection of additional cells to the BMS and drew a diagram to reflect these revisions. We made new 1 gauge wiring to fit into the new wiring scheme. We continued charging cells and installing charged cells into the car.
On Sunday, the team met from 6-9. We had a big turnout with new members and we were able to show them around the shop, give them safety lessons, and teach them about the cars. The team traveled to David Waterman’s (one of our sponsors) house to pick the battery pack that he loans to us every year for our Datsun 240Z. We got to look over his electric lawnmower, one of the fastest in the world, and pick up some scrap metal for various projects. When we returned to our shop we placed the 200 lbs pack in the back of the Datsun and worked on coming up with a wiring design to implement at the next meeting.
On Wednesday, the team met from 6-9. We worked on charging batteries for the Porsche, charging batteries for the Datsun, and filing through documentation on the Porsche. The senior members drew up new wiring diagrams and schematics for the Datsun so that new members could understand the wiring of the cars.