Getting Attention-- Converting a 90 Geo Prizm

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Getting Attention-- Converting a 90 Geo Prizm

Watch as I stomp into your community without introducing myself-- it'll be fun. Just pretend I was always here.

This summer, while the shop is dark, I'm going to pull together the crew and convert a 1990 Geo Prizm (standard) into an EV. Eventually, I'd like to mount a PV module to the roof to charge the accessory battery when it's parked on the top floor of the garage-- not so much for the practicality of a PV module the size of a Prizm's roof (because there is none), but to get the attention of other drivers in the area and make them wonder why they're burning all that expensive fuel when they could be running a nearly-silent, no-local-emissions car.

Also, some of the paint crew has offered a shiny new paint job, with my Geo's motto airbrushed on the back: "I Don't Drive It 'Cause It's Sexy."

So yeah. I plan on taking lots of photos, asking a lot of questions, and doing the bulk of the work myself. However, it's nearly disturbing how psyched the crew is about helping with the project. Also, the shop is equipped with an industrial-duty hoist that drops from the ceiling (sweet), a spray booth for painting and working with hazardous gases, welding equipment in three kinds (propane, arc, and... I forget), I can bring my solder station up from my workbench, and there's a lot of scrap steel and aluminium floating around. Along with any tool, crimp, or cable we could possibly use. It's Epic.

The supplies guy knows where to get DC motors for equipment automation, and says he knows of a place that might sell us one cheap on reputation alone.

And if this one works out, we'll be working on a 1993 Honda Accord next, perhaps followed by an early 00's Miata.

There's the job so far. I've been reading and researching for about a month (while not working on the getting-paid job), and I'm totally psyched. Even if it's not too much cheaper than running with gas, it being silent will significantly improve the sound of the stereo.

Here are my hopes. We'll see how it turns out.

I'd like to base the entire system off the motor size; the specs on the Geo state that optimally it gets 115 hp. I'd like my electric system to be closer to an equivalent 150 hp... I feel that's not too much to ask. However, it will need to reach 75 mph to survive on the highways in the area, and drive for at least 30 miles at that speed before requiring a recharge (hopefully longer). There's the challenge. The elimination of most of the vehicle's hardware should reduce the weight of the vehicle significantly, but I would like to keep use of at least half of my trunk space for hauling around the recycling. I'd like to mount most of the batteries where the fuel tank is now, and create an under-shell to prevent road obstacles from destroying them. I'd like to sell the engine (but it's got nearly 278K miles on it), the fuel tank, the radiator, and anything else I can pull off. I'd like to keep the AC, stereo, power steering (shocked they made it back then); they will have to either run off a tail shaft or a couple of accessory batteries along with the lights, signals, windshield wipers, defrosters, and so forth.
If I can manage to do all of the above for less than US$6000, I would like to mount a PDA display in the dash to display data about the battery performance, motor temperature and speed, current draw, and any relevant warnings. I'm not particularly attached to the key ignition; if it's cheaper, I'm willing to convert it to a code start-- if it's not, and for some reason I get a good return on the ICE parts, I'd like to experiment with programming the start code into the PDA, or maybe voice-read out. That would be amazing, but I don't suspect it will happen in this first incarnation. Still playing with ideas.

Speaking of ideas... I'd like yours. What are your experiences? What motor did you use, what controller, and so forth? Does anyone have experience with Lithium batteries? How about the Zilla controller? Have any of you mounted your battery bank in the space formerly occupied by the fuel tank? What are your experiences with charging? How about charging away from home? Any advice, admonishments, fun anecdotes, and knock-knock jokes are greatly appreciated.


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