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Publication Title | EV Conversion: Once Is not enough

Organic Rankine Cycle

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Shari Prange ©2000 Shari Prange

Bill’s electric Bradley kit car.

Bill Nalbandian just can’t help himself. He started building one electric conversion, then another, and then another. He’s now working on his fourth. But he isn’t looking for a chapter of Electric Cars Anonymous to cure him—he’s very happy with his addiction.

How It Began

Bill got his first taste of electric mobility at an early age. When he was five years old, he lived in Ethiopia, and his father was a mechanic who had his own auto repair business. World War II came, and gasoline became scarce. Bill’s father attacked the problem from an auto mechanic’s perspective, and created a solution.

He took the starter motor from a heavy-duty Renault truck, and installed it in a British “Baby Ford,” along with a set of batteries. At that time, gas cars used 6 volt batteries as starting batteries, so these were what Bill’s father used to power the drive motor. Bill was too little to remember how many batteries there were, or any details of the engineering. But he does remember that his family could drive during the war, when no one else except the military had gasoline.

He never forgot that car. Almost fifty years later and a hemisphere away, he renewed his interest in EVs when he saw a beautiful electric conversion of a VW Karmann Ghia at the county fairgrounds. The owner, Scott Cornell, told him how he converted the car himself, and about the reliable performance he got from it. Bill was hooked. Scott told him to call Mike Brown at Electro Automotive for parts, and his journey into the EV world began.

Honda Civic

His first conversion was a Honda Civic. He bought the donor car in 1991, from a neighbor just a few blocks away. The engine was dead, but the body was in good condition. Bill stripped out the internal combustion components, and started the conversion process.

He installed a Prestolite motor with an adaptor to mate it to the original Honda transmission. This Prestolite is a brushed series DC motor that was used by Jet Industries when they were building production electric conversions. By the time Bill built his car, the motor was no longer in production, but there were still many new ones available from various sources, and they were the most popular motors among hobbyist converters.

His speed controller was a solid-state Curtis/PMC 1221, which could handle up to a 400 amp draw. The controller limits current to 400 amps, to protect itself and the rest of the system. The Curtis/PMC controllers

76 Home Power #78 • August / September 2000

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