Electrogenic August 2020 Newsletter

Morris Minor Electrogenic banner

Dear R-EV enthusiasts

Like many of our readers, at Electrogenic we have spent August dodging storms and quarantines, and confirming once again that the place we like to be best is in the workshop!  We have also been listening to reader feedback, and lots of you want to hear more about some of the cars we convert.  “Snowy” the Morris Minor has been drawing adoration in our social media, so we thought we would tell you a little more about him here.

It has not just been all about the workshop this month, however.  We have been putting together some exciting new initiatives, including an electric drive system for boats, with all the usual Electrogenic bells and whistles.  So soon you can be Powered by Electrogenic on the water, too!  More of this and other developments in the coming months.  And in the mean time, have a great August Bank Holiday.

Snowy

Snowy the Morris Minor (named after Tintin’s irrepressible dog) has seen 51 August bank holidays so far and as you can see, he looks forward to the sunny country lanes of his native Oxfordshire, cruising with his hood down and a gentle summer zephyr in his owner’s hair.  We’re hoping he won’t be disappointed this year..

The Morris Minor was launched at Olympia in 1948, and was assembled at the Cowley works in Oxford from 1948 to 1971.  In its day, it was radical.  It had no separate wings or running boards (unlike its contemporary, the VW Beetle, for example), it had a unitary body, and in an optical tweak, it had small wheels to make its relatively small body look bigger.  Under the bonnet, it was no less radical.  The engine was positioned over the front wheels instead of well behind them: investigation and experimentation having proved that the weight of the engine in this position dramatically improved the stability and controllability of a car. The front wheels themselves were given an advanced torsion-bar independent suspension, which combined with the rigidity of the unitary construction body, gave a standard of ride comfort such as had never been experienced in a small British car before.

And the Morris Minor is still going strong.  It is cute and sturdy, and though it was not an original feature, the cabriolet top creates a lovely car for zooming around in the sunshine.

So what are we doing to Snowy?  Snowy’s owner doesn’t want gears, and those small wheels are a help:  they make it easier for us to match an electric motor for direct drive without needing a reduction gearbox.  The new setup uses the original brass bush that secures the drive shaft at the gearbox end, and Alex has designed a coupler to directly connect this to the motor.  This part is designed in-house but produced out, and when this arrives next week, we will start the build.

Snowy generally does the school run and weekends, but also needs to go to Wales occasionally, so we are fitting 6 x Tesla model S85 batteries, for a total 33kWh.  A car of his size and weight will do about 4-5 miles/kWh, so this should get Snowy comfortably to Wales.  This also means a nominal operating voltage of 135V, which means we will be fitting a high-voltage motor controller to suit.  The batteries are mounted in our standard modular boxes: four in the front, and two singles in the back.  There is room for more batteries in the front, but the front suspension on a Morris Minor is famous for failing if the king-pins are not regularly greased, so four batteries means that Snowy is slightly lighter in the nose than before.  Two single batteries in the back means we can fit them in without cutting the floor – always a no-no.

Transmission connector for Morris Minor

We have checked Snowy out, he is in excellent running condition and the addition of regenerative braking system will help him stop even quicker.  We will re-purpose the fuel-gauge to show charge, but also install our standard wireless display which (among other things) shows battery charge and how heavy the driver’s foot is.  Snowy will also receive our electronic vehicle management system and we will add heating and headrests to the seats, for comfort and safety on the winter school-run.

Keep an eye out on social media in a few weeks for eSnowy!

What’s in the workshop?

This is where we make you do some of the work: figure out what vehicles these photos are from, and earn yourself a pat on the back when we publish the answers in the next newsletter.

Mystery Picture 9
Mystery Picture 10

Answers from July:

Mystery Picture 7 – it’s a universal public charge point!  This is one of Steve the Whizz’s creations:  it impersonates every different sort of public charge point in the UK, so that when you drive up and plug in, our on-board chargers know every funny “handshake” they need to, to ensure you can just plug in and go off for a coffee.

Mystery Picture 8 – they are LTO batteries, but where they’re from, we’re not sure – so perhaps you can tell us!  They came out of a huge battery pack flooded with silicone fluid and capable of providing some 2000A constant at some 600 volts. Their use is shrouded in mystery but maybe a starter for jet engines?

And welcome to… Oli!

Oli is a fantastic motor mechanic who has joined us to pursue his passion for innovation and doing new things, and who liked us, because apparently we “know how to put a car together”.  Oli has a long experience of doing cool things to classic motors.  He adds another production “line” to our workshop, to help us convert more cars, and also brings a keen eye for detail.

Here, he is building a jig to create Mark 2 of our classic mini front subframe.

PS. Oli hates having his photo taken, but it’s one of those rites of passage things at Electrogenic..  Sorry Oli!

And finally…

The video link in this month’s newsletter is the BBC’s programme for the 100th anniversary of the Cowley Motor Works, where the Morris Minor was assembled and the marvellous mini was created… of which more next month.

Our Covid-appropriate test-drives are going well – lots of happy smiles all round.  So if you fancy driving a Retro-EV, give us a call.  And we will be at Bicester Heritage from 18-20 September for the Classic Car Drive-in Weekend.  So see you there!

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Electrogenic July 2020 Newsletter

Dear R-EV enthusiasts

At Electrogenic we are always saying things like “we are in another golden age of motoring” and (being Oxford-based) “it’s like it must have been 100 years ago for William Morris”.  But what was it like before William Morris switched production from bicycles to cars in 1912?  It turns out it was electrifying.  In fact electric cars beat the competition hands-down at the dawn of motoring and ruled the roost for a quarter of a century until improved reliability of petrol engines, petrol stations and Henry Ford eased them into the background.  Who knew Ferdinand Porsche built the world’s first hybrid before the beginning of the last century?!

Back at the garage, our pioneering continues.  We have designed and are now installing a unique direct-drive system.  We will unveil all when we take it for a drive.  In the mean time, happy summer motoring!

Back to the Future

The first EV was built in France in 1881 by Gustav Trouve, who re-engineered a Siemens motor.  In the UK, Thomas Parker developed high-capacity rechargeable batteries in 1882, but development of meaningful electric cars had to wait for the abolition of the Red Flag Acts in 1896.  Thomas went on to produce EVs with hydraulic brakes and four-wheel steering.

Inventors in the USA had no such restrictions.  The first successful electric car in the United States was built by William Morrison (no relation!) in 1891.  The four-horsepower vehicle had a top speed of 20 mph and could carry up to 12 passengers.  It was powered by 24 battery cells that were stored under the seats and had a range of 50 miles.

Over in Europe, in 1898 a certain Dr. Ferdinand Porsche built his first car: the Lohner Electric Chaise. With a hub-motor at each driving wheel it was the world’s first front-wheel-drive. Porsche’s second car was a hybrid, using an internal combustion engine to spin a generator that provided power to electric motors located in the wheel hubs. On battery alone, the car could travel nearly 40 miles.

The same year saw the first speed record.  On December 18, 1898 Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat of Paris, France, became the fastest man alive. The Count had driven his speed demon electric vehicle Jeantaud to speeds never known before or experienced by any human. This speed was a phenomenal 39 miles for per hour.  His record lasted only four weeks and led to a spat with Belgian Camille Jenatzy.  Over the next four months the record was batted to and fro between them until Jenatzy finally trumped the “Electric Count” with a record a record 65.79 mph in the “Jamais Contente”.  (The last official electric speed record was in 1902 in the USA, at 104 mph, which lasted two years before being beaten by a steam car at 127mph.)

Electric cars were attractive for city use, and were more reliable and easier to keep than their petrol cousins.  The wonderful Jay Leno has a 1909 Baker Electric in his collection and you can see the attraction here.

Eventually the electric car lost out to the internal combustion engine as roads started to connect cities (creating more need for range), the discovery of oil in Texas (cheaper petrol) and Henry Ford inventing mass-production (cheaper petrol cars).  The last Detroit Electric car was shipped in 1932, but along the way, the EV pioneered the steering wheel, rack and pinion steering, safety belts, hub motors, regenerative braking (1894!), shaft drive, use of alloy steel, “full floating” ball bearing rear axle and the land speed record.  And then came Tesla…

PS        While we’re on the “back to the future theme, does anyone have a DeLorean they want converting….)

What’s in the workshop?

This is where we make you do some of the work: figure out what vehicles these photos are from, and earn yourself a pat on the back when we publish the answers in the next newsletter.

Mystery picture 7
Mystery Picture 7
Mystery Picture 8

Answers from June:

Mystery Picture 5 – it’s a Quaife limited-slip diff about to go into a new gearbox for the Marmite bus… so Paul Swift could drift it!  If you missed that, click here for the action
Mystery Picture 6 – fancy wheels for the mini

And welcome to… Alex!

Alex has joined us to organise and bring in-house all of our component design.  Our library of bespoke parts is ever-increasing and it makes sense to have continuity in the design process, so we can reduce machine costs and continually improve.

Alex has a Masters in Automotive Engineering from Oxford Brookes University and as you can see, we have promised him at least two days a week in the workshop, away from Solidworks!

And finally…

This month we also spent a happy hour with Ian Cook at @popbangcolour doing a live Instagram feed.  Ian painted our very own Hudson Commodore, while chatting to us and asking questions while we walked around the garage showing the viewers what was going on.  A new experience for us, and we ended up with a painting of our Hudson!

The delve into EV history was first prompted by Jay Leno.  It’s fascinating, and there’s lots more than we touched on above.  His YouTube video of the Baker Electric Car really is great viewing, so don’t pass it by.  And of course there are lots of other interesting EVs on our YouTube playlist.

Lot’s of what happens day to day, and the new cars coming in and out of the workshop, appear on our social media.  So if you want to keep in touch between newsletters, please check out the links below.  And we are doing Covid-appropriate test-drives again.  So if you fancy driving a Retro-EV, give us a call…

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Electrogenic June 2020 Newsletter

Dear R-EV enthusiasts

 

It’s summer, lockdown is progressively lifting, the garage is picking up more pace and it’s time to ask “what has Covid 19 done for us?”.  It has given our R&D time to flower, as discussed in the May Newsletter and it has prompted us to invest more in our premises, but there must be something at the bigger picture?  And the answer is “yes” – for the last few months we have been driving around on completely coal-free electricity.  And long may it continue.

It’s also time to look to the future and to Build Back Better. At Electrogenic, our environmental mission is key to what we do, but we are also firmly rooted in our community.   We not just part of Oxfordshire, we are part of the national community of independent garages.  And that community is starting to wither.  The switch to EVs is a fantastic environmental revolution, but it is also a threat to independent garages, because all new EVs are only serviced at main dealers.  So let’s not choose between jobs and environment, let’s do both.  Electrogenic has proposed a solution to Government, and if you are interested, you can read further here.

 

Electric cars powered by coal-free electricity since 9 April

What has Covid 19 done for us?  Well, it has accelerated the switch away from coal – the dirtiest fuel used for electricity generation.  You have been driving around in your Electrogenic R-EV coal-free since 11:35pm, 9 April 2020 (assuming you were safely tucked up in bed when Drax Power Station tested one of its coal-fired units last Tuesday night).  So since demand fell at the beginning of the lockdown, your electricity has been supplied (in descending order) by gas, British nuclear, imported nuclear from France and renewables, renewables, renewables.  On one day last month, renewables delivered 60.5% of all UK electricity supply.  Drax did their tests at night because there was no space for their power during the day: too much solar power – even in Yorkshire!  As more grid-scale energy storage is built, that solar energy will be supplying power to the grid during the nighttime too.  50MW of high-voltage storage is being built just down the road from us outside the Cowley motor works, birthplace of the Mini, and Oxfordshire is the home of Project LEO (Local Energy Oxfordshire): one of the most ambitious, wide-ranging, innovative, and holistic smart grid trials ever conducted in the UK.

This is great news, and places even more emphasis on transport emissions: 33% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, compared with 27% from energy supply.  Electric cars still only account for 0.5% of the 40 million cars on the road.  Electrogenic is doing its bit to help change this.

Where does this leave us in the even bigger picture?  The global pandemic has precipitated the largest drop in carbon emissions since the second world war, taking total emissions back to 2006 levels.  Assuming everything is back to “normal” by the end of the year, however, the drop will be the equivalent to 0.001 degrees less warming and the world is still on course for three degrees of warming – the highest in 2 million years.

There is a lot to do, but Steve says that his thirty years in clean energy have convinced him that the only way to turn climate change around is by the concerted  action by all of us, not just governments.  So that’s what we are doing at Electrogenic: saving the world, one car at a time…

What’s in the workshop?

This is where we make you do some of the work: figure out what vehicles these photos are from, and earn yourself a pat on the back when we publish the answers in the next newsletter.

Mystery Picture 5
Mystery Picture 6

Answers from May:

Mystery Picture 3 – it’s a Rover V8 engine – in a box!  Aha, we hear you say, that’s how you fool the ECU into thinking the engine is still there…
Mystery Picture 4 – it’s a Mini front sub-frame all ready to fit a Hyper9 motor and a “secret sauce” gearbox…

Welcome to our new pet project!

At Electrogenic we have a weakness for stray cats, and this little Mini van looked up at us with its big, kitten eyes, and just begged for a new home.  So it’s our new pet project – we always like to have even more to juggle around client work!  As you can see, it has been de-seamed and needs a little TLC.  So lots of scope for Julio’s welding prowess and plenty of room for batteries.  Then with a lick of paint and our new Hyper-9 Mini front-end, which will simply bolt right in, we expect her to do 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds – creating one more timeless classic that hasn’t yet seen the end of the road.

And finally…

We have added to our YouTube playlist of dream cars for conversion.  Check it out and make some more suggestions – we love receiving them.  

And with the progressive relaxation in social-distancing, we are making plans to start giving test-drives again – certainly by the end of July.  So please give us a call to make an appointment and see you soon!

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Electrogenic May 2020 Newsletter

Dear R-EV enthusiasts

We’re back!  We are happy to tell you that following the new government guidelines, the newly socially-distanced workshop has re-opened and things feel a little more normal.  So what have we been doing other than home-stay Easter holidays?  A little Spring-cleaning and a LOT of R&D…

Prof Steve’s workbench

During the lockdown, Steve H has been faking it…

More specifically, Steve built a fake EVSE charge point and a series of fake Tesla batteries, to test our new integrated charging/battery management/motor controller and cell monitoring system.  The system has passed with flying colours and will be installed in all our vehicles from next month.

The basic idea of the system is twofold:

    1. so we have a common system architecture that will suit a range of motor controllers and battery systems, and
    2. to make sure that all the electric drive systems operate in their “sweet spot” at all times (charging and driving).

It also enables everything to connect with our remote diagnostic system, which helps us to help you.

Each element of the system cross-checks with all the other elements about 50 times a second.  If anything gets out of balance then it takes corrective action, notifies the driver if necessary, and if absolutely necessary pulls the emergency cord.  So for example we can reduce currents if battery voltages are going up, or if the batteries are getting low, tell the driver and switch into “get me home” mode.

Why did we develop it?  Because off-the-shelf systems don’t have the subtlety, and it gives us a platform to be able to better respond to customer requests.  Want to switch the kettle on when you’re 5 minutes from home…?

What’s in the workshop?

This is where we make you do some of the work: figure out what vehicles these photos are from, and earn yourself a pat on the back when we publish the answers in the next newsletter.

Mystery Picture 3
Mystery Picture 4

Answers from April:    Mystery Picture 1 – “Angel Eye” Mini headlight
Mystery Picture 2 – Land Rover Defender gearbox flange

Welcome to Laura!

Some of you have spotted that while we are capable of building fabulous vehicles, our back-office has been a little haphazard at times.  So welcome to Laura, who has a degree in car design and is reaching parts that the rest of us can’t reach.  She has already revolutionised our component sourcing and is starting to make the rest of the business hum like one of our Hyper 9s.  Here is Laura with one of her minis…

And finally…

We now have a YouTube channel.  There is not much there at the moment, but we are developing a playlist called “Dream cars for electric conversion”.  Check it out and add some suggestions. 

We are also in the press.  WhichEV just published a nice piece about Retro-EVs, featuring us.  You can check it out here.

You have heard what Steve H has been doing during lockdown.  But what of the other Steve, I hear you ask?  For those of you on Facebook, you can check it out here.  For the rest of you, check out YouTube.

And last but absolutely most importantly, we have sorted the social distancing, so you CAN come and see us now.  So please give us a call to make an appointment and see you soon! 

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