Influence, Wallets, and Beer.

by Ben N on September 17, 2018

A few years back, I traveled out to Washington State for a Mother Earth News Fair. I gave several presentations about how I built my own electric car and motorcycle, as well as other various DIY Projects.

While I was there, I was approached by a young man named Mark King.

While still in High School, Mark built a three-wheeled electric vehicle, because it got around the rules at his school about overpriced parking permits. He sheepishly presented himself to me, saying that he was an inventor, and asked for input on something he designed – a metal wallet.
It really was a great design.
I’ve always been a fan of Swiss Army Knives and Multi-tools. The more something can do, the better.
I said, “It’s great, add a bottle-opener”. Mark wasn’t even 21 yet, and probably wasn’t thinking about opening beers.
 
A few months later, his product came out on Kickstarter, where it raised over $40,000… and had a bottle-opener.
 
Mark sent me a couple of these utility wallets as a thank you, and I’ve been using one ever since. I shot a video review on it which included opening a beer and proving the durability of it by running it over with my truck. (Here’s that video from 2013.)

 
The only way to stop a Trayvax utility wallet is by losing it, which happened recently after I got hit by a lumber truck. Somewhere in the drug-hazed trips to all the doctors, clinics, and hospitals, my health insurance card and wallet disappeared. Fortunately, I still had two more of the wallets stashed away. (Besides what Mark sent me, I was also a supporter on the Kickstarter.) After cancelling and reissuing my debit card, library card, and renewing my driver’s license, I was back in business.
 
That brings us to today. Because I’m approaching 50,000 subscribers on YouTube, I thought I’d try thanking my audience with some sort of a giveaway. I still have one more brand-new Trayvax, and because I DO love mine and use it every day, I thought it would make a good give-away for the 50,000th subscriber.
 
I took a look at Mark’s web page to check the specs and retail price on the wallet, but was blown away by the new products. Mark is now running a small company of over 25 employees, designing and making heirloom quality wallets and accessories here in the U.S.A.
 
I also double-checked Kickstarter and saw a new campaign is underway and already FULLY-FUNDED.
 
I never know how much influence I have in the world. I’d go to places like the Mother Earth News Fairs, get up on a stage and talk about electric vehicles, DIY, and just plain learning how to do things. I’d earn just enough from selling instructional DVDs to cover my travel expenses, and then return home, never knowing how much I’d touch peoples lives… or not.
 
I’d like to think that me being on that stage at least in some small way encouraged a young entrepreneur to follow his dreams, but Mark was already an amazingly bright person who could probably do anything he set his mind to.
 
We all have influences. From famous designers and inventors, down to our 6th-Grade Science teacher. When we stand up and speak our mind, write a letter, or post a video, we become influencers too.
 Let’s make sure that’s a positive thing.
 
If nothing else, at least I now live in a world where I can open my beer with my wallet!

Until next time, stay charged-up!

-Ben Nelson

PS: Please do support small/local/artisan businesses and independent artists and designers. If you are in the market for a wallet take a look at: https://www.trayvax.com

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Towing with Tesla

by Ben N on September 15, 2018

Today, I finally got to see Bruce’s Tesla Model X all set up in towing mode with his custom camping trailer, “Campy McCampface”.

The Tesla Model X is the only current BEV ready for towing straight out of the box. Other vehicles, such as the Tesla Model S certainly COULD tow, but without an already installed wiring harness, even connecting  the wiring for the trailer lights brings up potential warranty issues.

At today’s National Drive Electric Week event in Madison, Wisconsin (right at the State Capitol) we caught up with Bruce and he gave us a quick showing of his car and custom camping trailer.

Bruce’s trailer is a custom aluminum frame, torsion axle, and canvas and foam construction. This style trailer is sometimes called a “Foamie” and is prized for being light-weight and simple construction. There’s plenty of information about them at the Teardrops and Tiny Travel Trailer Forum.

Our camping trailer is a teardrop and is towed with a 2012 Mitsubishi iMiEV. With easily accessible lighting wiring in the back, and just being a cheap car to boot, there’s no worries about modifying the car. It’s mounted up with a Torklift Central 2″ hitch. Read more about electric car camping at The Joy of Towing!

Even without actually towing, a 2″ receiver on the back of a car can be super-handy for accessories such as a bike rack. One of the Tesla Model 3’s at the event was set up for doing exactly that.

Electric cars are already a blast, but towing a camping trailer is just one more great thing they can do!

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben

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Elec-Trak Rat Rod?

by Ben N on August 16, 2018

Well, it looks like I’m converting a 1970’s electric lawn tractor into a Rat Rod wheelie-popping monster tractor.

Or at least that’s how I’d like to think of it…

I’ve been mowing my lawn for years with a General Electric Elec-Trak lawn and garden tractor. Not too long ago, I got a deal on a couple more tractors from a barn close-out. My master plan is to fix and sell those tractors. I also got some great accessories like a snow thrower and rototiller.

I also got a COMPLETE PIECE OF JUNK frame. It looked like it must have been stripped for parts to fix up other tractors. One tire was flat. The front wheels were completely gone. The entire back end was rust. This tractor was NOT worth restoring. However, it might get made into something better….

Not too far from me, there’s a town which hosts “The World’s Greatest Junk Parade”. It’s exactly what it sounds like. People in a small town embrace the redneck philosophy of bolting and welding together all sorts of crazy contraptions and parading them down main street.

So, I started wondering if I could fix up this tractor, not to original specs, but to any kind of running condition, mostly using parts I already have – the left-overs and rejects from other projects. My Electric Geo Metro was retired a few years ago, and I still have the motor from that. It’s way too big to fit under the tractor where the original motor would have been mounted. Perhaps I can fit it under the seat?

Well, after some work with a grinder and cut-off disc, I was able to fit the motor into the tractor. Next, I tested it just by hooking it with jumper cables to an old 12V battery. The motor spun up. It was even rotating the right direction!

Some of the parts I’ve used so far on this project are:
Several 15 tooth sprockets for 3/4″ shaft – https://amzn.to/2x3jevj
32 Tooth sprocket for 3/4″ shaft – https://amzn.to/2oUBKlO
#40 Chain and link – https://amzn.to/2O40h2F
3/4″ Keyed Shaft – https://amzn.to/2N5EKKR
Hydraulic Cable Crimper – https://amzn.to/2oWZLZG

Frankly, I’m not sure I can get the tractor ready in time. I still need to design a jackshaft, build a battery pack, and figure out motor speed control. The very last thing will be to build a wheelie bar…. because you know… Safety first.

Until next time, stay charged up!

-Ben

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Bugatti Kit Car for EV Conversion

by Ben N on August 13, 2018

Yesterday, I got to meet up with “Austin” who recently acquired a VW kit car in the style of a 1930s Bugatti roadster.

We were throwing around ideas of how to best convert it to electric, what components it would take, and had a long discussion about design, electric vehicles, invention, and the entire process of a project like this.

Besides the kit car, Austin also has a motorcycle frame he wants to convert to electric. He decided on only a 48V system, as it would be a first EV project, and a 48V system keeps costs down. He has lots of nice local roads that are perfect for pleasure cruises on a lower-power electric motorcycle and really looks forward to the process of the conversion.

When it comes to electric conversions nowadays, I often recommend to people NOT to! The reason why is that there’s plenty of commercially-built, used, electric vehicles already out there. It’s hard the beat the price of a used Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt, especially considering what you are getting. Basically, you can’t build a vehicle yourself that good for what you could simply BUY one for.

On the other hand, there’s still a number of vehicles which would be hard to get at any price. How many electric convertibles can you think of? How many hybrid pickup trucks are out there? Specialty projects like that can be great fun, and you can build a vehicle you otherwise couldn’t get! Even with an electric motorcycle, it’s possible to build one on a budget and get then get the full satisfaction of building it yourself AND knowing exactly how it works and can be repaired and improved.

I snapped a few photos of the kit car, but then completely forgot to get any of the motorcycle project! Oh well, I’m sure I’ll be back again sometime soon to help out on these projects!

The kit car is essentially all Volkswagen Bug parts with a custom fiberglass body. Part of the appeal of this is how easily accessible the engine bay is. On an old VW Bug, the air-cooled engine just hangs right off the back. On this kit car, there’s not even the sheet-metal body in the way. I have a 13″ diameter forklift motor which would be amazing to push this car around! For many examples of EV conversions done on Volkswagens, check out that search on the EV Album.

I didn’t get it in the video, but the car also has a “boat-tail” rear cover.
This car would look great with a nice paint job, leather straps, a button-quilted upholstered seat, and wood dashboard!

The fully completed car could look something like one seen at this web page.

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben

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EV Parts Photos

by Ben N on August 12, 2018

These are some of the various parts I have available. This is simply to post a bunch of photos to show a few people for informational purposes and getting some ideas for EV conversions. Enjoy looking!

 

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Interview with Ben Rich Electric Biker

August 8, 2018

We interview long-distance Electric Biker, Ben Rich about his epic summer road trip, fast charging, the best and worst trips he’s ever been on, and the future of electric motorcycling.

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Solar Savings – Am I getting jaded?

August 4, 2018

I gotta say, I was a little disappointed in my electric bill this month. The electric utility ONLY owed me a small amount. Which is why this is so crazy! Any normal person would be ecstatic to GET money from the power company instead of owing it! I think I finally hit the point that […]

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Solar Ammo Can Disconnect Switch

July 26, 2018

On the original Solar Ammo Can project, I got a few questions about a battery Disconnect Switch. “Don’t we need one?” Well, the answer is NO, but let’s discuss this deeper. Many battery chargers can become a slow drain on a battery if they are left permanently connected, but are NOT powered up. That’s not […]

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DIY Home Automation Controller for Electric Car Charging

July 22, 2018

Although most electric vehicles have some sort of a timer feature available, they are often simple or have poor user interfaces. Since I was already using a Samsung SmartThings home automation system, I was wondering why not control my electric car charging with my automation system? I set to work on the project. At it’s […]

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Remote Control Electric Car Charging! (Proof of Concept)

July 14, 2018

The other day, a friend of mine posted his “latest gadget” – It was a box containing a basic mechanical timer and a hacked ON/OFF remote. The idea was to have some control over the basic EVSE (electric car charging station) for his car. Mostly, he wanted it to turn off automatically after a certain […]

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