Charging the eLIMO

by Ben N on May 8, 2013

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I recently got to have a bit of fun charging somebody else’s EV. Nope, not a Leaf or a Volt…. A Ford E350!

It’s not very often I have a 13-passenger van roll into my driveway WITHOUT any internal combustion engine noise!

A little while back, Dr. George Corliss of Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) called me up, asking if he could charge up the van at my house. The plan was to show off the vehicle at a clean transportation event in Madison, Wisconsin. The van, known as the eLIMO, was designed for use around an urban campus, not for road-trips. So the idea is that the van could make the trip as long as there was somewhere to charge on the way.

And I just happen to live between Milwaukee and Madison.

When the eLIMO pulled up, the first thing that caught my attention is just how BIG it is. I’m used to working on Geo Metros and electric motorcycles. Heck, a Nissan Leaf isn’t a huge car either. It felt rather odd to have such a LARGE vehicle driving around without an engine. Dr. Corliss and one of the engineering students were now both in my driveway, ready to charge up the van.

While I was told that the eLIMO features a 240V twist-lock power connection, it was NOT the one I was expecting. I have a 240V 30A outlet in my garage for my welder, but the van has the 20A version of the twist lock. The 20 and the 30 look identical….. until you plug them in. Er, TRY to plug them in. The size between the two is exactly enough to make them NOT interchageble, but you wouldn’t know just by glancing at it.

At least I had my Box o’ Miscellaneous Electrical Parts handy! In just a few minutes and only using a screw-driver, we made up a new dedicated power adapter pig-tail, plugged the van into my garage, and had it charging.

The next day, Dr. Corliss left my house very early in the morning to make the trip to Madison. Leaving so early was both required because he was planning on driving REALLY SLOW to stretch the pack, and there would be less traffic as well.

By the time I woke up, the van was already gone, and I headed off to the Wisconsin Clean Cities event. When I got there, I was glad to see the eLIMO set up among other electric, propane, CNG, hybrid, and alt-fueled vehicles. He made it there with 30% charge remaining, and was now plugged into power at the exhibit hall (using that same pig-tail!)

There were many presentations, some done as panels on particular fuels, including the one about the Marquette Van. I pulled out my video camera to film that. (I apologize for the first minute of video – I didn’t have a tripod, and the pen propping the camera up on the table kept sliding around! Wish I would have had some way to plug into the sound-system as well!) This was the first time I had seen a formal presentation on the eLIMO, and found it fascinating.

After the event, I got to speak with George on camera for a brief interview about about the project.

For the trip back from Madison to my house, he drove a little faster and arrived with a 22% charge remaining. Again, it was an overnight recharge, and then the van gone in the morning.

If you want to watch the 14 minute presentation from the event, here it is!

My two-year old is actually starting to become quite the EV’er herself. Her first ride after coming home from the hospital was in my electric car, and she loves the Hymotion Prius and anything else she can get her hands on. She just HAD to hop in the driver’s seat of the van and test it out for herself. She said something like “I wish the van can stay here forever!” to my wife.

It was a fun day and pretty cool to get to help out the University by powering their road-trip!

If you want to learn more about this project, the students involved maintain a blog about it at: http://muelimo.com/

Take care, and stay charged up!

-Ben

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