August Solar Electric Bill

by Ben N on October 1, 2020

Today, I opened my August electric bill. It was NOT what I expected!

So, I’m a little late. I got my bill nearly a month ago. However, personal and family matters have kept me busy from making videos lately. So, the bill sat until now, when I finally got a chance to open it on camera.

I had to confirm that, YES, this was my HIGHEST ELECTRIC BILL EVER!
And by Highest, I mean the highest amount the power company has owed me!

I had a credit of $64.72! I needed to go through my old bills and confirm that I’ve never earned this much in a single month before. This summer, I had a couple of months of credits in the $50+ range, but never above $60.

It looks like the main reason why I earned such a good credit is because of being on a Time of Use Plan. I found that by being on that plan, not only did my electricity COST more during the day, but I would also be CREDITED at that higher value for power I export during the day!

My bill stated 520 kWh of electricity exported during peak times for a value of a $104 credit.

Not only did I earn a good credit this month, but my total ROLLING CREDIT I’ve earned this summer is looking pretty good too!
Currently, the power company owes me $270.04!

I also did a check-in on the basics of my simply economic Return on Investment. So far, I’ve produced 23.5 MWh of energy. Multiplying that out of the $0.13/kWh typical of my area gets me an economic value of $3055. Seeing as my system cost me $6,500 after incentives, that means my solar system is 47%, or nearly HALF paid off.

The real math is actually a little more complicated than that. The Time of Use plan makes my electricity MORE VALUABLE. That means the system will pay for itself FASTER, but the math behind it is more complicated as well!

Also, most people never seem to forget other factors in the value of solar. For example, paying for electricity often has sales tax on it. (In my state, we pay sales tax in the summer, but not in the winter, as electricity could be considered a heating fuel.)
Likewise, a person has to EARN money, pay INCOME TAX, on it, and then pay for the electric bill and other expenses on the money that’s left over. Accurately calculating the value of taxation gets complicated, but it’s easy to see how making your own electricity actually saves MORE money than you might think.

For now, let’s just say that I’m plenty happy with my solar!
My $270 credit should really help get me into winter WITHOUT paying a bill. It will be interesting this year to see WHEN I have to pay a bill, instead of earn a credit. Think we can make it until January? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson


CHRGET Universal Mobile Charger

by Ben N on June 13, 2020

I was recently contacted by the folks at CHRGET. They said they were coming out with a new EVSE, and asked if they could send me one for review. Of course, I said yes!

*Full Disclosure – Why would they send me one for free? Well, they would want the advertising, as they are doing a Kickstarter for this product. They simply asked that I review the product and share it with my audience. (They never said anything about needing it back!)

The CHRGET Universal Mobile Charger is an EVSE designed for use anywhere on the planet, and features plenty of “Smart” features. Right off the bat, it includes a nice display showing wall voltage, maximum current, and charging current. An analysis screen shows charging power and total energy use.

The CHRGET UMC came in a zippered, padded carrying case. The exterior looks very nice, with a gray cloth finish and company logo. Inside is the more typical artificial fiber over foam that similar cases are made from. The case does a nice job of holding the EVSE, keeping the cord out of the way, and storing spare adapters.

One of the main features of the CHRGET UMC is that it has interchangeable plugs. The demo unit I was sent included NEMA 14-50 and 14-30 connectors. I use a 14-50 receptacle in my garage for my day to day electric car charging. Pressing the pair of release buttons on the unit unlocks the adapter, and it is quickly and easily swapped out for another. This isn’t an entirely new idea. I also have a Tesla EVSE which also has swappable end connectors. Switching the connector automatically signals to the unit to allow the appropriate amount of current to the car. Thirty-plus different power connectors will be available so that you can plug it in anywhere.

The exterior of the EVSE feels high quality. It’s heavy plastic with a rubberized grip finish. The J1772 connector is similar good quality and has a metal hook mechanism to lock into the car. The back end of that is also metal and has a hole for a small lock.

The cable is 20 feet long.

CHRGET is offering several variations on this EVSE. This one was rated as 32A. There’s also a 48A version and a 3 phase variant for Europe.

The unit is easy to use. Once I plugged it in, a logo graphic popped up and then a READY TO CHARGE screen appeared. There’s also a row of RGB LEDS which indicate that the unit is ready, charging, or displaying an error.

The EVSE only has two buttons, both of which are weatherproof with a heavy rubber cover. The Enter button acts to go to the menu and enter selections. The other button changes selections, such as setting the maximum available current.

One of the other great features of this unit is how it works with the App. Unfortunately, at time of review, the App was NOT available. Using the app allows for some advanced features, including setting a security PIN and alarm, advanced timer features, or setting up the EVSE for splitting power with another unit.

Power sharing is a feature that allows multiple units to occupy a single circuit or power source which may be limited to less than what two or more vehicles might use while charging. I’ve seen this used at businesses to save on wiring runs to charging spaces. It’s also great for a detached garage which may have less available power. While I’ve seen this feature on other brand EVSEs, this is the first that I know of where it would be done WIRELESSLY. That frees up the unit from having to be permanently mounted to be able to perform power-sharing.

Power Sharing and the App, via the CHRGET Kickstarter page.

The CHRGET UMC features Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Amazon Alexa voice control. But without the app, I was not able to test any of these. Please see CHRGET’s web page or kickstarter for more details.

The EVSE also uses Geo-Location. The feature automates settings based on where you are. Presumably, it will automatically set the correct maximum current, based on whether you are at work or at home.

Overall, the unit looks good. It’s probably best for the person who travels a lot or likes knowing plenty of information about how their car is charging. The swappable power connections would be great for a quick change for charging at work vs home, or visiting a campground or relatives.

I look forward to having the App to test the features only available through that software. I plan to shoot some more video when I do get the App, although that will probably be AFTER the Kickstarter.

As always, keep in mind that there is risk in supporting a Kickstarter Campaign. (I’m looking at YOU, Electric Motor Werks! Where’s my JuicePlug!?) I will say that the item in front of me looks very finished. It was in no way a “prototype”, but rather a pre-production, well produced product.

Until next time, Stay Charged Up!
-Ben Nelson


Liquid Cooling for Nissan Leaf motor

by Ben N on May 24, 2020

I’m getting ready to bench test the Nissan Leaf motor, but both the motor and inverter use LIQUID COOLING! I doubt the motor and inverter will make much heat at all when bench testing. However, since I have to figure this out sometime anyways, I thought I would get it taken care of right now.

Leaf motor with radiator hoses connected.

The first thing to do was to get a pump.
I took a look through a number of 12V electric pumps currently available for the automotive market. One pump I thought might work well is a Prius inverter coolant pump. Surprisingly, they were more expensive than I thought on the used market!

I did find a Bosch brand pump that looked pretty good. The specs of the motor actually list it for use with electric vehicles and electronics cooling. I also posted it on a DIY Electric Car group, and another user said that he used the same pump, with good results, on his Nissan Leaf powered project.

Since I was mail-ordering the pump, I also ordered some 3/4″ radiator hose and stainless steel hose clamps at the same time.

Once I got the pump, the first thing I did was identify the input and output ports of the pump, and the polarity of the power connection. On black plastic, there is often raises lettering, but since it’s black on black, it’s ALWAYS hard to read! I marked them with a silver Sharpie pen.

The pump did NOT come with a wiring pig-tail, so I crimped 1/4″ solderless connections to a pair of wires. I could then run the wires to a small 12V battery through an automotive fuse. Unlike a bench power supply, the battery is very small and portable. Since I’m working with water, the battery also eliminates the AC shock hazard which would be possible with a power supply plugged into the wall.

I connected a short section of radiator hose to the input end of the pump, and filled a bucket with water. Placing the pump into the water, I plugged in the DC power. One thing I had to do was “Prime the Pump.” Many pumps need liquid IN the pump before it can work. I simply pushed the pump end (but not the electric motor) down below the water line to fill it.

Bosch pump moves water faster than my garden hose!

With water IN the pump, it started working, shooting a geyser of water from the outlet. I also wanted to check how much power the motor was using. I clamped on my DC Ammeter to one of the wires from the battery and found that the pump was drawing 0.8A. At 12V, that’s about 10 watts. Seems like a very reasonable amount of power.

The flow rate looked great, but I would need to do something to quantify that flow.

I brought out a bucket with measurements marked on it. I set my stopwatch and started pumping from the one bucket to the other. In 30 seconds, I had pumped 3 gallons of water. That translates to 6 gallons (about 23 liters) per minute.

After that, I wanted to actually hook the pump up to the electric motor. This was a pretty simple matter of cutting another section of hose and connecting it from the pump outlet to one of the ports on the motor. The other port of the motor used whatever was left from my roll of hose back to the bucket.

After priming the pump (I had to break the air-lock at the motor,) water easily flowed from the bucket, through the motor, and back to the bucket.

The flow looked just a little slower than it did when it was free-flowing in my first test. I was expecting that, as the water would meet more resistance going through a longer section of hose and the water jacket of the motor.
What I wasn’t expecting was that the current draw from the electric motor was slightly LESS than my first test. As best I can tell, it is probably from a siphon effect. On my first test, I did NOT have a hose on the outlet port. With the hose going from the Leaf motor back to the bucket, it’s likely that the water “pulls” and makes it easier for the pump to send water to the motor because of that.

I wasn’t expecting it to be difficult to add liquid-cooling to the motor. This is pretty straight-forward – standard size hoses, clamps, and basic 12V power. In the final installation, the system will include a radiator and fan, likely controlled by a thermal switch.

Next up? Wiring the Thunderstruck Vehicle Control Unit to bench test the motor!

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson


April 2020 Electric Bill

by Ben N on May 15, 2020

At this time of year, it’s always fun to open my electric bill, to see how much money the power company OWES ME!

Last month, I had a credit of over eleven dollars. This month, we have had more sunny days, and the sun is getting higher in the sky. So, I expect even better numbers.

This month’s bill was a credit of $33.56. Combine that will my existing credit from last month, and the power company now owes me $45.07.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean the solar saved me $33.56 this month. Oh no, it saved me much more than that! By going to my micro inverter software, I can run a custom production report that matches the dates covered by this bill. When I do that I can add up the numbers and multiply them by the rate I would be credited at for that time. When I do this (manually, on a scrap of paper and pocket calculator) I get a total value of $108.07.

Something else that’s interesting is how TAXES also figure in to the calculation. In the state of Wisconsin, we have to pay sales tax on electric bills, but only during “Non-Heating Season” months. (The reasoning is that some people heat with electricity, and that heat for a home is not taxed.) That includes this month. I’d normally have to pay 5% on TOP of whatever my bill is. For whatever reason, when I see somebody do calculations on a simple return on investment, they never seem to include this.
(On this month’s bill, I had to pay $0.01 in sales tax. I believe that’s the minimum they could charge, as they couldn’t CREDIT me the sales tax!)

On top of that, a person doesn’t have to pay INCOME tax when they don’t have to earn money to pay for an electric bill. Assuming a person is an American who is in one of the standard Federal tax brackets, you might have to pay, for example, 22% or 24% on your earnings before you even have the money to pay the electric bill.

To pay a $100 electric bill, at a 24% income tax, a worker has to earn $131.57, to pay $31.57 in taxes and then pay the left-over $100 for the power bill.
I didn’t have to pay the $31.57 OR the $100.

If a person becomes unemployed, having a reduced utility bill is almost as good as money in the bank.

At this point, my system has paid for over one-third of the initial cost (and that’s NOT including tax savings!)

Learn more about this solar system at:

You can always see live solar data at:

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson


Converting this International Harvester 300 Utility tractor to electric has had a few challenges. One of them is that the engine is structural and connects the front axle (and everything connected to it) to the transmission.

I found a relatively quick and easy answer when I discovered that some other tractors have frame rails that bolt to the same transmission bell housing. I’d simply have to do some fabrication for the front end.

After cutting the rails, getting everything lined up, and making sure the sheet-metal (the “hood”) would go back on correctly, I ran into another issue; there’s barely any space between the rails and the front bolster. That bolster needs to swivel as the tractor goes over uneven ground.

Basically, I have a clearance issue between these two parts! But I also need to be able to keep working on the project. So, I decided I would finish the frame rails, by welding in place the mounts to the front axle.

The cut-offs from shortening the frame rails were sturdy pieces of metal that already had holes and slots in them. Two holes were close enough to lining up with those in the axle casting that I only needed to just ream them out with a drill.

With everything lined up – the tractor and frame rails, the front end (up on a pair of jacks for leveling) and the cut-offs bolted in place, I was ready to weld.

I made some rather ugly welds before having the welder adjusted. In the end, all the welds were solid – just not pretty. This should only be temporary, so I’m really not worried about it.

I raised the jacks a bit, removed the blocking under the tractor, and lowered the jacks. To my amazement, everything worked right. The tractor sat with its own weight on all four wheels.

After some clean-up, I wanted to see if I could actually ROLL the tractor. There’s a couple of reasons for that. One is just so that I could get it out of my garage if needed (such as for washing the thing off!) I also wanted to have a look at the transmission input shaft as the tractor rolls. That would tell me which direction the shaft spins, as well as give me a better sense of the gear ratios.

I put air in the tires. The second time I tried pushing the tractor, I also remembered to take off the parking brake!

Other than being heavy, the tractor rolled just fine!
Looking at the transmission input shaft, I could see that it spins clockwise. In first, it spun very fast. In fifth gear, it spin much slower. I also tried reverse. As expected, it spun even faster than in first gear.

One thing that I learned was that you CAN’T push the tractor in the opposite direction from what gear it’s in! It simply locks up. This must have something to do with the physical design of the gear system itself. But in a serious note, that means that I will want to make sure that I can NOT spin the electric motor backwards! Doing so would probably break the transmission! I’ll need to make sure to a software lockup to prevent accidental backwards spin.

Thunderstruck Motors VCU

I also got the Thunderstruck Vehicle Control Unit in the mail. This device should allow me to control the Nissan Leaf Inverter and Motor. I look forward to figuring out how it works and test-spinning the motor with it!

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson


Nissan Leaf Transmission Tear Down

March 17, 2020

I recently disassembled a Nissan Leaf driveline. That was essentially just taking apart the main components of the charger, inverter, motor and gearbox. After doing that, several viewers requested seeing inside the gearbox. I was also interested in seeing inside and was curious if I could use part of it to mate with the motor […]

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Nissan Leaf Electric Motor from Junk Yard

February 19, 2020

Pretty excited that I just picked up a Nissan Leaf Motor! Yesterday, I drove to Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin to Diamond Auto parts to pick up not just a motor, but also the gearbox and inverter for a Nissan Leaf. The Leaf motor packs quite a bit of power into a small package, and they […]

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Suzuki SV650 Electric Motorcycle

February 9, 2020

One of the joys of going to FULLY CHARGED LIVE (Feb 1 & 2, 2020 in Austin, Texas, USA) was meeting people in the real world who I otherwise only knew via the internet. Robert Powell is one such person. We met up with him before the event opened and got a chance to see […]

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Chevy Volt Dent Repair

January 3, 2020

After installing the new doors on the Volt, it was road-worthy, but I still didn’t like the dent in the back fender. There were a few dings above the rear door as well. So, I set to work to figure out how to pull out the dents. I had already played around a bit with […]

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Fixing a Crashed Chevy Volt

December 28, 2019

I just purchased a Chevy Volt!While I’m excited about that, the only reason I got it was because it was cheap. And it was cheap because it needed a bunch of work… Not long ago, an acquaintance of mine was driving his 2012 Chevy Volt when a deer hit him. (No, he didn’t hit the […]

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Prepping to remove the Loader

November 20, 2019

I removed the sheet metal “Hood” of the tractor to get a quick look at the engine. Pretty simple under there, but both the loader arm AND the loader frame really block working on it. Clearly the loader has to come off right away. In the front, the loader is bolted to the tractor with […]

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Tractor Arrives!

November 15, 2019

Today’s excitement is that the tractor arrived!When we went to look at the International Harvester 300 Utility tractor, one of the appealing things about it was that the seller offered to be able to deliver it.So, today, I’m waiting for the tractor to show up on a gooseneck trailer. The seller, Wayne, showed up right […]

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Winter Projects

November 13, 2019

Winter hit hard and fast here in south-eastern Wisconsin, with 6 inches of snow in October and it’s 6℉ as I write this in early November. So, that means it’s time to button down our winter projects! CRASHED MITSUBISHI IMIEV AUCTIONIn the last video update, I mentioned a crashed Mitsubishi iMiEV that was up for […]

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October Electric Bill and Time of Use

November 12, 2019

I just got my October electric bill! Let’s look inside and see what it comes to. Since I have solar on my garage, my electric bill is far less than it used to be. I typically look forward to getting my bill and taking my best guess as to what it will come to. Overall, […]

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Ford 8N Tractor for Electric Conversion?

October 29, 2019

Today, I stopped over at a friend’s farm property to check out a couple of tractors. I’ve recently been researching which tractors might make good candidates for an electric conversion, but what I really needed to do is just go out and see some. A family friend, Linda, had two old tractors on her property. […]

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DIY Teardrop Trailer Tour

October 9, 2019

About 15 years ago, I built a teardrop trailer. At the time, I never dreamed I would tow it with an electric car! But here we are, living in the future! A teardrop is a retro style of camping trailer with a shape, you guessed it, like a teardrop. These were popular after World War […]

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Tesla Implant!

October 1, 2019

I recently met up with John Olson. He implanted himself with an RFID chip which would allow him to unlock and drive his Tesla Model 3 just by holding his hand up to his car! I met him at the Milwaukee Makerspace for a video interview. One of the reasons we met there was that […]

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Solar Savings – August 2019

September 9, 2019

I just got my electric bill for this past month. Let’s open it up and see what it comes to! August was relatively cool, so we didn’t use the air-conditioning much. That’s important, as what I PAY for electricity is simply the difference between how much I make with the solar and how much I […]

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Wheelie Poppin’ Tractor for Junk Parade!

September 2, 2019

This year, I made it. I got my overpowered piece of junk electric tractor into The World’s Greatest Junk Parade! Last year, I took this old GE Elec-Trak frame and added a forklift motor and 6 Nissan Leaf Cell Modules. The driveline was a little complicated, and I didn’t get it working in time for […]

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Lithium Battery Communications

August 26, 2019

I just got my laptop to communicate with the Valence lithium batteries in the Ford Ranger EV pickup truck! The truck’s instrumentation is pretty basic – just a “Miles to Go” and “Percent Charged” meter, which were designed to work with lead-acid batteries. I wanted to be able to communicate directly with the lithium batteries […]

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Electric ATV Repair and Upgrade

August 11, 2019

Not long ago, a neighbor was cleaning out his garage. Among the things he was getting rid of was an old kids electric ATV. It was in poor condition, but looked like a fun “fixer-upper”! My daughter is also now eight-years old and has outgrown her Solar-Powered PowerWheels. So, a Razor brand ATV looked like […]

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Electric Truck Lithium Battery Upgrade

August 10, 2019

I upgraded the Electric Ford Ranger to Lithium Batteries!The truck had Group 24 Lead-Acid batteries in the bed. The batteries pulled from the Smith electric truck are Valence brand Group 27 batteries designed as 12V replacements. So, the logical thing to do was simply pull out the lead and put in the lithium in it’s […]

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July 2019 Electric Bill

August 8, 2019

I just got my July electric bill. Time to open it on camera so that you and I get to see what it is at the same time! In July, we finally started getting some nice summer days! (June was surprisingly rainy and cloudy!) But along with the sun was HEAT. We used our central […]

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Battery Pack Disassembly

April 18, 2019

Once we finally made it back from North Carolina, we needed to unload the batteries. While we had a forklift to LOAD the batteries, we didn’t have one at my place and had to resort to an engine hoist, furniture dollies, and finally, steel pipes. Getting 2,000 pounds of batteries off the trailer was no […]

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Removing the Batteries from the Smith Electric Truck

April 15, 2019

Well, it’s been an adventure so far…I was originally asked by my friend, Seth, to accompany him on a road trip to buy a commercial electric truck. The Copart auction had already taken place. He just had to drive 900 miles to get the truck and drag it back home. In the highlight of the […]

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