Archive for the ‘Automotive’ Category

Electric runner

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

I don’t think we’ll be driving full electric cars in the next 2 years (although I really hope so), simply because of the petrol lobby. At least, not with a decent range (500Km or more). So I think the closest we can get is to drive a plug-in hybrid, something we can charge overnight and run full electric on the commute to work (30 to 60 km), but still use on the long trip with the whole familly to your birthland.

Still, my ideal car is a full electric vehicule, with an optional, LPG-powered, combustion engine-based, range-extending module. This module, essentially a small box (containing the engine, gas tank and alternator) could easily be installed and removed from the car, and left in your garage.

The extension module simply charges the batteries, and keeps the car running for longer. Like this, we could have a 1000+ Km range for the long runs (with quick fill-ups on the gas station) but we wouldn’t spend needless energy transporting the extension module on small trips, when we clearly didn’t need it (wich should be most of the time).

If this car does not appear in 2 years time, I’ll build a prototype myself! 🙂 After all, I am an Electronics and Telecommunications Engineer, my father is a Mechanical Engineer, and my father-in-law is a very skilled and experienced metal-worker. All I have to do now is to find the time to do it, lure my father to Portugal again, and persuade my father-in-law.

All it takes is a chassis, an electric motor, an electronic motor driver, a battery bank, some mechanical coupling, control electronics, and an on-board computer. And a lot of work.

This would be an amazing project for next year, but I already have 2 projects underway… that really must be finished first.

Indicator whoes

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Last week my 11-year-old Rover 200 iS just lost it’s indicators. The hazards also didn’t work.

This weekend I found some free time to look at the problem. The indicators did not light up when the stalk was moved. No green arrows on the dashboard. The hazards switch lit up the triangle on the dashboard, but it did not blink (and the indicators also did not light up). I could also not hear the distinct relay “click-click” sound when the indicators worked. I checked all fuses first, but everything was fine.

Then I realized there was an initial “click” sound coming from the relay on the fuses’ board, when the stalk was moved or the hazards’ switch pressed. I suspected the relay might be having problems, and took it out.

It was very easy to open, and inside I found a small copper tab broken. I think I found the culprit!

Unsurprisingly, my local supplier of auto parts did not have the Rover (actually, a Lucas) relay in stock, but could provide me with an electrically equivalent. I brought it home, but alas, it did not fit the slot on the board. Although unable to fit the new relay, I was able to test it (and use it temporarily) by creating a home-made adapter with a few copper tabs and a couple of “crocodile” leads. It worked, proving the relay was the only bad piece of this puzzle.

A few days later I finally got hold of an original Rover/Lucas relay, and now everything is working as it was for the past 11 years.

At first, instead of fiddling with it, I thought of leaving the car for service at a garage near my work place, but I’m a little eery of having people messing with my car. Firstly, I have to leave the car there, and only God knows what happens after I leave. Secondly, the problem might even be simple and cheap, but they decide to charge me 4 hours work and some replacement parts that weren’t. I have nothing to hold on to, and pay.

In fact, once I left the car in for service, but went on shopping with my wife in a nearby shopping center. After I came back to fetch the car, they charged me 5 hours work. This happened less than 4 hours after I left the car there. If I just left the car for a whole day, there was no way I could know, and payed happily.

We have to defend ourselves from this type of “robbery”, so I’m getting a Haynes service book to try and solve the small problems my car will start to develop. After all, it is 11 years old… and I want it to last until I get a brand new PHEV. Wich will hopefully happen in 2 to 3 years time.

I always loved my Rover 200 iS, because I think it is a great, balanced car. It was also very dependable through all these years. I’m glad to see it back on the road again! 🙂