Duane Ball’s Porsche Carrera GTS 904 Project

This week, we take a look at one of our viewer’s builds. This is a very interesting one to us.

If you recall, we bought an electric Spyder, done very similarly to our Part Duh Speedster. The similarity was not entirely accidental. Duane Ball was doing the Spyder in Albany New York at the same time I was focused on Part Duh. It was his first conversion and we kibitzed almost daily.

I drove Duh last night. I had been driving the Mini Cooper every day. But we added a brake transducer this week and are trying to get it working with the Rhinehart Motion Systems controller. They have some new firmware incorporating the brake potentiometer concept, and frankly we are having severe difficulties with it. It’s thrown the whole car off.

Fortunately, the weather has turned spring so I’ve driven our just completed Redux the past few days. It’s very nice. It’s quite powerful. And it’s going to the dynomometer today to find out just what we did do with the Soliton 1 and Netgain Warp 9.

So last night I took a cruze in the ivory Duh.

I have to tell you, we will never do a better electric car than this. It is just perfectly balanced and “right”. No issues. No things to be worked off. The gear ratios are perfect. The motor is perfectly matched to the system. We will no doubt update to the new Curtis controller. And we could always use more instrumentation. But this car just drives “right”. I can shift entirely without the clutch. It just feels good.

In any event, when Duane got done with the Spyder, it worked quite well. But he went into decline because he and Scott weren’t meeting every weekend to work on the car. It drove fine. He just missed “the project.”

He started talking about a new Chuck Beck replica – The Porsche 904. This was a 1964 era race car. I knew little of it. They only made 108 of them. Porsche kind of confused the naming of it because this was the period when they wanted to bring out the 901 but for trademark issues with another car maker, they could not. So it became the 901, and the 904 became the Porsche Carrera GTS.

It was quite successful as a racecar. Like the Spyder, there weren’t very many of them.

According to Chuck Beck, the 904 was the greatest car Porsche ever built. Street legal and race ready, and the first fiberglass Porsche.

So Duane wanted to convert one of those. So he wanted to get his money back out of the Spyder and invest in a 904 where just the ROLLER was going to cost $53,000.

So we bought the Spyder.

Actually we are going to do some work on the Spyder. Airkweld has a set of rotors/hubs that are very lightweight aluminum. They’re proud of them, but it would knock 100 lbs off the car. Duane had put Porsche 911 wheels on the Spyder using some adapters that make the wheels stick out a bit. So he had to raise the front end so it would steer. Etc. etc.

Bottom line is it’s not quite right from our perspective. So we’ll put on some of these lightweight rotors – we use regen for braking anyway. And have them done in a different bolt pattern so we can go to a 9 or 10 lb wheel as well with some Michelin Energy savers.

We’re going to dyno the car, and then change the controller to the new 650 Amp Curtis upgrade, and dyno it again.

Should be interesting.

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But in this week’s video, we give a little history of the Carrera GTS and then include a video report from Duane on the 904 conversion. They have received the roller and are back happily at work on a new project to convert it to electric drive. Again, we’re kind of kibbitzing on components and I’ve steered him this time to again kind of what we’re working on with the Escalade – a Netgain 11 inch with Soliton1 controller and 50+ CALB 180Ah cells.

It has the potential to make a fantastic, very aerodynamic and powerful electric sports car. True, he’ll probably have $75G in it when he gets done. But a Tesla Roadster realistically runs twice that. And this one will be every bit as much fun.

We also take a look at a couple of things on the Mini Cooper. We installed a 250 psi 0-5 brake pressure transducer and wired it into the Rhinehart Motion Systems controller. As I said, we struggle with that, but it’s a software issue and I’m sure we’ll get it worked out.

We also dug out the old Mini gas tank and pulled the innards out of it. Surprise surprise. Plain old fashioned floats and potentiometers report fuel level. The Mini Cooper actually has a most excellentious fuel/trip computer onboard. It calculates MPG in real time and displays remaining range and all sorts of interesting info. Of course, we don’t have any fuel or any gallons.

Or do we? Now that we have a simple resistance sensor input, I could use Ian Hooper’s Zeva II fuel gauge driver as an input to this computer. Replace gallons with Ah.

Ian doesn’t like me very much because he sells a BMS system and I am kind of anathema to all who do so at this point. He has to be a little conflicted though because every time we talk about this little device, he sells out of them immediately.

The Zeva, (Zero Emissions Vehicles of Australia), is actually kind of annoying. The adjustments are mostly in the blind and I get them horribly confused. The unit features a little 5 pin molex and he sends you a mating connector with precisely FIVE pins. If you drop one and lose it, or mangle it putting a wire on one, your ZEVA won’t work. Come on Ian. These pins have ZERO cost. Put 10 in the bag. I can’t see to do it anyway and if I drop one to the floor there’s no way I can ever find it.

And then you have weeks of charging and fully discharging to get the thing calibrated to your pack. But it IS pretty neat. A fuel gage driver, another driver to turn your tachometer into an Ammeter, and finally an alarm for low pack SOC that you can use for ANYTHING. We like this device. It’s a pain in the ass. But we love it.

But case in point. Matt Hauber is very anxious to please and cleaned my solder station bench. This is a huge no-no. Yes, I know its a mess, but it’s my mess. In doing so, he somehow moved my nice little box with the RC battery, switch, diode, and Zeva kit and spilled it on the bench. Got most of it back together, but now I’m MISSING the little molex connector and the generous allotment of precisely FIVE pins that came with it. So there is no way to use this device at all.

If anyone has the Digikey part number for this connector and pins, I would sure appreciate it. We simply cannot finish this little Mini project without them now.

But the plan is to install the Zeva and use the fuel gage output to drive the input to the fuel computer. I think this will work very well, and we’ll have an estimated range remaining, a MPG figure that updates, even though it is a little meaningless until we get used to it. I would predict that will take aobut 10 miles of driving and we’ll adjust to it.

So the instrumentation thing continues to be a fascinating area with our cars.

We also talk a little bit about the EVCCON. After two weeks, and a good six months out, we have 32 signed up and 10 cars coming. David Kesler is going to come talk about his J1772 home charging stuff, and Bill Ritchie has joined us as speaker for High Performance Electric Vehicle Systems – that’s the powerplant in the Spyder and Speedster Duh. We have Sebastien Bourgois from EVnetics/Rebirth Auto, George Hamstra from Netgain, and Eric Kriss from Kriss motors all speaking.

We also have Dennis Doerffel joining us to do a session on battery chemistry. Dr. Doerffel is one of the pioneers of LIFePo4 prismatic cell testing and the principle behind REAPSystems Battery Management Systems. He also moderates, or even better doesn’t moderate the Thundersky discussion group on Yahoo. This is the only online forum I will still participate in occasionally.

I am actually hopping up and down in my seat. I’m enormously excited. I have two big name speakers that we have invited, and they have kind of provisionally accepted. But we’re still checking schedules and working out the details and so I CANNOT at this time announce either one of them. EITHER one would blow the lid off this convention in my estimation. And we’ve got a good shot at getting both.

Since I can’t talk about it, let’s play guess who? This will be fun and might even be productive. I want you guys to GUESS who I think would be the most important speaker we could get for an Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention. If we could get ANYBODY to come address this meeting of guys who build their own electric cars, who might that be?

The reason this might be interesting, is that who YOU think would be the biggest draw to such a convention might not actually match who I think would be. I may have missed a trick here. We’ll have THREE big evening events, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. If I get both of those I’m working, that still leaves one night open. Of course, I can be the star then. But I’m the star everyday anyway in my own little mind. It would be easy to replace me with somebody good. So if you guess who my “optimum superspeakers” are and guess WRONG, maybe I’ll go try to get them. I may have missed somebody.

WHO then, as featured evening speaker at EVCCON, would cause you to WANT to come to this event, beyond any other. If we could get ANYBODY, who would be the ideal headliner…..

This will be fun.

Jack Rickard


46 thoughts on “Duane Ball’s Porsche Carrera GTS 904 Project”

  1. OK, I’ll bite on the speaker, although I’m already registered and planning to bring my e-Bugeye. I would think either Tom Hanks or George Clooney would be a couple of headliners with EV interests. Of course, if Clooney’s coming, I’ll have to bring the wife …

  2. Hi Jack & Brian,

    thanks for another great and very informative show. For my ZEVA, I just used one of the connectors from my (6) now unused cell logger8. Works fine.

    Mark Urban

  3. What about Jim Husted, master custom motor builder. Early pioneer of EV development that helped get us to where we are today from forklift motors. I really enjoyed talking with him when we took my ADC 9″ down to him for a rebuild.

  4. Chelsea Sexton the redhead from “Who Killed the Electric Car”. I would love her to come. Elon Musk because he is smart and might have some insight as to how to attack the BMS problem that is looming. Winston Chung would be interesting if he speaks American. Although Jack you have already told us everything about the batteries and that is all pretty clear.
    Obama, Don’t tell me that he is going to come and give us all a motivational speech about how America can change one car at a time. That would be fun to see you get his ear for a bit Jack.

  5. My suggestions/guesses would include some of those already mentioned and others.

    Bill Clinton; Al Gore

    Elon Musk; Winston Chung; T. Boone Pickens

    Neil Young; Jay Leno; Leonardo DiCaprio; Ed Begley, Jr.; “Who Killed The Electric Car” director

    ‘Reverend’ Gadget

  6. Apparently Solarj hasn’t been watching closely and isn’t aware of the animosity between Jim and Jack. Unless things have changed I don’t see him showing up any more than Victor from Metric Mind.

  7. Simon Wilknison

    can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!can’t wait!!!

  8. John – “American” is NOT a language – I think you meant to say “English” πŸ™‚

    “American” does however require a different dictionary!

  9. JP:

    What animosity between Jim and Jack? He wanted a markup on freight and I called him out on it. End of story. I’m unaware of any animosity.

    THis goes back to some very strange comments you made about Jeffery Jenkins and some forum posts from over a year ago you insisted constituted bad blood between he and I.

    I’m detecting some sort of “drama queen” thing here where you are scanning around online trying to find some way to get two people to have a cat fight for your personal entertainment. As there are plenty of these little feuds available across the network, I’m a little at a loss as to what you are looking for here.

    We’re a technical comedy show. We don’t DO drama here. You’ll have to get your soap opera fix somewhere else.

    Jack Rickard

  10. Hey Jack!

    As much as people like to think in terms of saving planets, energy independence, etc., etc., the reality is that the popularity of EV conversion is tightly coupled to the price of gas. There are a lot of us who are not rich early adopters as much as electromechanical tinkerers trying to “stick it” to the oil man. Though we can admire a guy who lays out 75 grand (or more) on an EV project, our heroes are more likely to be guys like Paul Holmes or Ben Nelson, who can get a fuel cost payback on an EV project within the lifetimes of their grandchildren.

    Paul’s ideas are at odds with your model of sponsorship by businesses selling expensive components, and your model of what makes a great conversion ($30k donor vehicle, $35k components, …). Having Paul Holmes as a speaker might cause a sideways glance from one or more of your sponsors, but in some EV conversion circles, he’s a rock star.


  11. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Obama, I think would probably detract from our event but in any event we don’t want to NOT do stuff to cater to their little personal fear fantasy’s and all the secret service that goes with it.

    But I like the Elon Musk and Jay Leno suggestions. That might be fun.

    We have about 10 cars already. Today Brian and I discussed getting a mobile dynomometer trailer to come in and do testing for anybody that wanted to see their car on it.

    And since it is increasingly looking like we’re going to be at the hangar, seeing about getting some one to setup a slalom on the ramp and maybe do quarters on the taxi way.

    Jack Rickard

  12. If I were to venture a guess as to who you consider to be the biggest names, I would guess one to be Jay Whitacre. The other would be, as mentioned, Elon Musk. As far as who I would consider to be the top 2, you already have one which is Wayne Alexander, and the other would be John Wayland.

  13. I’ll bet Mr. Chung likes the green agenda. I thought of some other big draws from the ANYBODY universe: Fabio; Shai Agassi; Richard the youtube VOLTSwagen guy. Look what Reverend Gadget is quoted as saying, “In October of 2008, there was a fire in the shop, apparently an arson, and I lost my conversions (7 total), all my tools, the equipment, and the office. It took a while to recover from that.” Not to step on any toes, but I think the 904 is a beast compared to the beautiful bathtub Speedster.

  14. I will definitely invite Mr. Chung. He does travel to the United States occasionally and so I view it as possible. That said, he does not speak Engish at all I’m told. So it would all be through an interpreter, and unlikely to be a fascinating presentation I fear.

    I’ll add Tom Hanks to the list.


  15. Jack,
    I’m not looking for drama. I don’t like it when people in the industry are at odds. From your show I got the impression that you and Jim were unhappy with each other and would be unlikely do have dealings in the future. I’m sure I’m not the only one with that impression.

  16. As the ev conversion Prospero, I think you should consider that Mr. Chung could add very positive non-verbal energies to the mix [888]. An appearance by Fabio and others with star power might also help electric vehicles sooner reach the tipping point.

  17. As ever, greatly enjoyed this weeks show.

    Even though it’s unlikely I’ll make it over for the conference, I am very glad that Mr Chung is on the radar. It’s good to expose an important supplier to the energy and enthusiam of his customers. And for anyone learning Mandarin a good opportunity to practice.

    And I’m glad Mr Gore isn’t coming. The EV community needs tying to environmental dogma like it needs a law banning Lithium Ion cells

  18. Steven Chu – (energy secretary)

    David Sandalow – (Obama’s guy on electric cars. Pushing the policy.)

    Yi Cui – (silicon battery breakthrough nanowire guy. his name often seems to be mentioned around interesting research.)

    Ann Marie Sastry – (She is working on solid state batteries and has her own company. i think she was heavily consulted over Volt batteries and may still be working with them.)

    Yet Ming Chiang – (A123 main boffin. Now working on some interesting type of flow batteries.)

    Vinod Khosla – (investor. he has a piece of a lot of companies so most know something interesting.)

    Elon Musk – (never heard of him. peepal or something and toy rockets?)

    Martin Eberhard – (Tesla, later VW…and now not sure.)

    Carlos Ghosn – (seems to have avoided losing his job.)

    Chelsea Sexton – (she is more focussed on commercially available cars, but I like her chutzpah and no nonsense approach.)

    Tom Hanks – (I like people’s suggestion that he come. wow that would be good if he came. He would undoubtedly be very entertaining too which is good since scientists and engineers don’t always make the best speakers. You should probably bear that in mind Jack.)

    …and the Tooth Fairy. πŸ™‚

    there are loads more I’m sure, but I’m bored of typing now.

    – Nick F πŸ™‚

  19. Jack,

    I was just wondering if you have ever considered overcharging a battery on camera…maybe with a BMS system attached to it?

    I appreciate that it would be a counter productive (if it was picked up by the media) and probably stupid thing to do, and also that you can’t do it now because your being sponsored by the Winston battery company.

    Just wondering. It would make good TV.

    -Nick F

  20. JB. Straubel

    Also, don’t think we didn’t notice that murdered (as in, crow-black, no chrome) Lamborghini-looking vehicle parked behind the Mini ClubMan.

  21. That professor in the lithium video for sure… Lee Hart for awesome practical knowledge… Bill Dube for great technical knowledge that he has proven at the track, plus he was a lithium pioneer… 2 thumbs up on Wayne Alexander, he was both very informative and funny in the video… My two cents is the celebrities or politicians would be a waste of time.

    If I come it’ll be with a car trailer with living quarters — please advise on a good place to park it. Hookups would not be needed.

  22. I should have also mentioned John Wayland since he has a little bit of electric vehicle expertise. And the world’s quickest electric street-legal car.

    He’s also, from what I gather, an entertaining speaker. At least in print.

  23. I’d say Jack Rickard for “Sec. of Transportation”,
    but I selfishly want to keep you in the garage.
    Keep up the great work!

    I agree with vpoppv: John Wayland and Wayne Alexander.

  24. Hello Jack, some modern vehicles use the PWM signal to fuel injectors and the discharged amount of fuel of each pulse to determine real-time consumption. Doesn’t the Mini? Or are you planing to bypass the computer and take over the gauge to put your own signal to that?

    Looking forward to the Duh report and dyno test as I much prefer AC systems.


    PS: The show index is superb! A fulltext search feature would be great too. A Google site search link would fix that.

  25. Per Eklund’s suggestion of Cedric Lynch would be a top choice of mine too. But hey, there’s always next year?
    All those people re-inventing BMS systems but how many ever consider fulfilling the electronics needs of the home EV constructor much better? There are so many things to do like interfacing into carputer controller/displays;
    Stop downhill runaway with regen to maintain legal speeds;
    PLL frequency controlled output to make the motor appear to tick over at standstill but copy any rpm higher than 600rpm to make Jacks mini happy;
    Sensible temperature monitoring to restrict power input/output to preserve batteries in high temperatures.

    The wish list goes on.

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