SuperTruck: This is getting fun!

by Ben N on December 8, 2012

A while back, I was getting down on myself. I really wanted to make this hybrid truck project work, but had been getting bogged down in the typical stuff in life ya just gotta do, instead of making my truck happen. So, I started working on a flat foam cover for the truck, just to be doing SOMETHING, and start learning fiberglass.

Ever see somebody out jogging, and they come to a stop at the corner because the traffic light is against them, but they just keep jogging in place? It’s not because they are going anywhere, but it keeps up the heart-rate. I think that’s what I’m doing right now. I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere, but at least I’m getting amped up about the project again!

Last night, I glue-coated the entire top-side of the foam tonneau cover. Before that, I put some t-nuts into the corners of the bottom-side. I just drilled holes and popped them in. I’ll add fiberglass over the top of them to hold them in place as I add more fiberglass to the project. The t-nuts are 3/8ths-inch. That’s big enough for a fiberglass rod to poke into as a prop-stick to hold the lid up. In the same hole, I could also screw in a 3/8ths” eye bolt and use it as a safety tie-down. Before gluing, I also used some wood filler on the foam, due to the number of holes. This foam was originally used as building insulation, so there are some holes in it from where the long nails held it on the building. I filled in those holes with the wood filler, and also patched an area that I mangled with the belt sander. Additionally, there was a hole where something melted into the foam once upon a time. I used some drywall patching screen to cover that, and than spackled over it.¬†The filler looks suspiciously like peanut butter in the photograph.

Today, I fiberglassed the top of the cover. I didn’t have quite enough of the woven fabric to do the whole top, so I finished it up with some chopped fiberglass matt. What a mess! Ick! That stuff is furry and hard to work with and sucks up the resin like no tomorrow! I also managed to run out of disposable gloves right in the middle of the last pour of resin. (I had to take off my gloves to answer the phone.) Fortunately, there was a box of plastic sandwich bags handy. I finished the fiberglass with one hand inside a Ziplock bag, and got covered with sticky fibers!

I was also excited to get a phone call from Hot Rod Jim, one of my key mentors on the Electro-Metro project. I had been wanting to talk with him about my truck project, specifically the motor and driveshaft. Jim does all sorts of custom work on rear-wheel-drive vehicles.

I headed on over to his “Tubs ‘R’ Us” garage to talk shop.

Once there, I told him about my entire concept, and asked for his suggestions. He showed me a number of driveshafts in the back of his shop, how they are built, and what he does when he shortens shafts. Looks like if you use a lathe, it’s not that tough to shorten a shaft, re-use both ends, and balance the shaft.

Jim also mentioned a few other things, such as where the motor will go, I might have to change my seat and cut an access panel. That’s something that I had already thought about. He showed on his car where he cut away “the hump” and welded in new floor there. It didn’t look that hard, and it’s no worse than when I “Sawzalled-away” the back of the Metro to add in the battery box. He also mentioned that I could do bucket seats (in place of my ¬†bench seat.) While a pair of bucket seats apparently usually weigh MORE than a bench seat, Jim had an aluminum RACING seat right there, which weighs next to nothing. He got those used, and pointed out that some of the plastic ones are actually rather affordable. Maybe I should have him keep an eye out for me on some used racing seats. The aluminum ones would work well because of their THERMAL characteristics for building from-scratch heated seats. I’ve been thinking about electric heat a lot lately. In a parallel hybrid, if the engine isn’t running, you need electric to keep warm. (Or at least a DIY HEATED COAT.)

Other things we discussed were the location of the fuel tank and exhaust system. From my eyeballing the underside of the truck, it’s possible that there’s going to be some clearance issues between the forklift motor and the gas tank and exhaust. I’ve also thought that a 16 gallon fuel tank is going to be WAY too big for the finished project. A small racing fuel tank would take up little space in bed of the truck. That would also free up that space under the bed for batteries. Since I would need to swap out the filler port anyways (diesel hoses are bigger than gas hoses) and a fuel cell would have its own gas cap, that would also let me reuse the truck gas cap cover as the location to put the electric charging port, just like I did on the Metro.

The best thing I really got from visiting Jim is a sense that I’m on the right track. Nope, this isn’t a completely crazy project. You want to chop a drive-shaft? Sure I do that all the time!

I like to sometimes say how electric cars and similar projects AREN’T rocket-science. I mentioned this to Jim, and he related a short story to me of one time that he was at the track. Another car was there – literally a car with a jet engine. The mechanic was snipping and spicing wires in an extremely complicated harness in the car. Jim said “Wow, you’d have to be a rocket-scientist to keep all those wires straight! The guy just smiled and pointed at the rocket engine. He really WAS a rocket-scientist!

Even rockets are only complicated until you learn about them. I’m learning fiberglass and driveshafts and more.

But it’s right about now that I feel like I really got the ball rolling, and I’m having fun.

Do you have something to add to this project? I’m still going to need lots more advice, a motor controller and charger, heck, a few donations wouldn’t hurt either!

‘Til next time!

-Ben

Note to self: buy more rubber gloves.

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