Tractor Arrives!

by Ben N on 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 when he said and backed his trailer into my driveway.

The tractor was quickly unchained, but being such a cold morning, it didn’t start right up. I brought over a large 12V battery and jumper cables and then it fired up fine.

We unloaded the tractor and parked it in my driveway at idle while I finished moving a few things around my garage.

I was planning to park the tractor in the right-hand side of my garage. That’s the side with the “Passive Solar Garage Door”. The whole idea of that is to create a giant window which lets in light AND HEAT on a sunny winter day. Unfortunately, today was winter, but NOT sunny. I also designed it so that I could still open the glazed door, similar to a French Door. I also realized that I’ve never actually done that before to bring a vehicle in and out!

Operation of the tractor itself is pretty straight-forward. On the other hand, I’ve never actually operated a tractor. I tried out the hydraulics first, raising and lowering the loader, and tilting the bucket. It was easy to drop the loader fast, and I also learned that I need to give the tractor a little more throttle when I want to lift it at a decent speed.

Driving the tractor is easy too, other than the fact that there was no shift pattern shown! I guessed where first gear was, and learned that’s actually reverse. Flipping the stick the opposite direction put it in first gear. Both the clutch and brakes are heavy-duty. I practically had to stand on them for full pedal travel!

Since my car (a Mitsubishi iMiEV electric car) was handy, I also needed to shoot a quick side-by-side comparison!

Once I was ready to bring the tractor into the garage, I also realized it was too tall! This version of the tractor has the muffler coming straight up. I had already noticed that earlier, but when I was backing into the garage, most of my attention was on not crashing into the sides. Luckily, I remembered the muffler BEFORE getting all the way in. I grabbed my welding gloves and used them as hot-pads to remove the muffler.

Once I had the tractor parked, I was happy to turn it off. Tractors are noisy enough, let alone when the muffler is removed! I have enough space around the tractor to move and work, but I’m not really looking forward to dismounting the front-end-loader. That will be a trick and be a project all by itself.

Since we now HAVE the tractor, we can start taking measurements and figure out which motor, batteries, and other equipment will be appropriate for this conversion.

Don’t worry, there will be many updates on this project as it progresses!

Stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson

Last night, I had to run an errand over to the Fleet Farm store. My daughter was with and headed straight to the toy section. We found there a 1/16th scale model of the tractor! I was temped to buy it, but really don’t need to shell out $40 or so on a toy! Maybe by the end of the project as a keepsake….


Winter Projects

by Ben N on 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!

In the last video update, I mentioned a crashed Mitsubishi iMiEV that was up for auction. This would have been a great car, as it was in “runs and drives” condition, had CHAdeMO fast charge, and was located only 30 miles from my house!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get it. I was all lined up with a broker, had my deposit in, and the auction started. There are some very strange rules of the specifics when it comes to buying at auto auctions. Because the car was located in the same state as I was, I would have needed to do some EXTRA work with the broker, beyond the typical. Of course, I didn’t know that ahead of time, and the broker’s info didn’t make that clear. Oh well, Que sera, sera!

Almost immediately after I missed the iMiEV auction, I was contacted by my friend, Cris. He hit a deer with his Chevy Volt. (Or rather, the deer hit him! The damage was on the SIDE of the car!)
After talking with his insurance company, the decided to total out the car. The main damage is to both driver side doors. There’s also a dent in the rear fender, a small dent to the door frame above the rear door, and a dent in the roof. Total cost to repair all that would have been more than the value of the car. I’ve been told that doors cost $1700 each! The ding in the roof is apparently a pretty expensive place to fix as well.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. The ding in the roof WASN’T from the deer. The owner told me the car already had that ding in it when he got it! It just HAPPENS to be in the same area as where the deer hit!

His mother also drove a Chevy Volt. Last year, she got in an accident, completely crumpling the front of the car. I ended up purchasing the salvage of that car. I figured I could use the battery and other parts for some of my projects. I never actually got to moving that car over to my place, so it’s still sitting in their barn. The car is the same make, model, year, and EVEN COLOR as the one that just took deer damage!

That means I should be able to buy my friend’s car at the insurance buyout value and just swap two door into it which I already own! I wouldn’t even have to repaint them! Of course, there will still be a few dings in this car. It won’t look brand new, but will be a great upgrade over our 2004 Prius!

The day after going to check out Cris’s Volt, I got a message from Brian, who is having me convert a tractor to electric for him. The first step is to actually GET a tractor. Between the two of us, we’ve looked at several, both in person and through on-line ads.
Brian and I met up to look at an International Harvester 300. It’s a mid-50s full-size farm tractor.

One of the big features Brian was looking for was a front end loader. This tractor had a nice one, well integrated into the design. The engine and hydraulics were all in good shape. We got to test out the tractor, driving it around and using the loader. Overall, it ticked all the boxes in what we were looking for.

Another attractive part of the deal is that the seller has a nice large trailer which he can use to deliver the tractor. With it weighing up to 6,000 lbs, it’s nice for us not to have to dig up a truck and trailer rated for that!

The tractor gets delivered to my place tomorrow, which means I really need to get going with cleaning my garage! I’m a little concerned about how much space this is going to take up. Not only the tractor large, but I’ll have to remove the loader as the very first task. I don’t think I want to just leave that outside for the winter, and it will take up an entire parking space all by itself inside!

Oh well, I’ll figure it out.

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson


October Electric Bill and Time of Use

by Ben N on 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, in the summer, I produce more than I use, and in the winter, I use more than I produce.

After opening the bill, it looks like I hit a sweet-spot for October, using only 20 kWh of electricity more than we produced. That’s about a day’s worth of electricity. The actual cost of that electricity was only $2.21. Unfortunately, flat-fees, charges, and taxes brought the total for the month to $17.52!
Since I already had a credit of more than that (from overproducing power in the summer months) I still didn’t actually have to pay anything.

Interestingly enough, on the BACK of my electric bill, all the numbers are listed for the On-Peak/Off-Peak time of use numbers. By using these numbers, I could actually look to see if I would pay a different amount if I was on the Time of Use plan.

The TOU plan with my power company means I would pay 20 cents per kWh during on-peak times and 6 cents per kWh in OFF-peak times. On-Peak is 8AM to 8PM weekdays. Off-peak is nights, weekends, and holidays. Fortunately, solar production lines up pretty nicely with those peak times. Even if electricity costs more during the day, so what, if I can make it myself! Better yet, what if I can EARN that same rate exporting power during the day!?

I crunched the numbers on the back of my power bill and found that this month, being on a Time of Use plan would have saved me $27.18! Instead of owing the power company, they would have given me a credit!

So, I’m all set now to being the Time of Use planning starting this next billing cycle. Will it actually work the way I plan? What if I have to use a bunch of electricity during the day? Will I actually save money!?!

Tune in for next month’s electric bill to find the answer!

Until then, stay charged-up!
-Ben Nelson


Ford 8N Tractor for Electric Conversion?

by Ben N on 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. They are Ford 8Ns. The 8N was probably the most common tractor EVER in America. They were built by Ford Motor Company from 1947 to 1953. (WIKIPEDIA)

Being such an old tractor, they should potentially make a good candidate for electric conversion, but will they?

One shortcoming of quite a few tractors is the fact that they do NOT have a FRAME! It’s very common that a tractor is essentially an engine, transmission, and differential. A seat and steering wheel are bolted on top, and the front end – wheels, steering, and all – are literally bolted to the ENGINE.

If a person wanted to swap out the engine for an electric motor, how would they go about it? The front end still needs to connect somehow! Likely the easiest way to go would be to build some sort of sub-frame – possibly tied in with a battery rack. Still, it’s rather a bit more complicated than pulling an engine in something like a pickup truck.

When I looked at the second tractor, I wasn’t even sure it was an 8N. There’s really not much for identifying markings on it. It took me a moment to realize there was something different about this tractor. The color and shape of the hood was right. But was it longer? The hood was up higher too.
Then I realized it had a 6 cylinder engine instead of a 4! Not only that, but it had FRAME RAILS running under the engine!

This modified 8N has rails added under the upgraded 6 cylinder engine.

Closely examining the machine, it looked as though this was some sort of upgrade! The owner had removed the 4 cylinder, added frame rails and a few other modifications, and installed a 6 cylinder engine! It was hard to tell if this was home-made or some sort of Ford upgrade.

One thing is for sure. If I wanted to swap out the engine for an electric motor, it sure would be easier with those frame rails in place!

After I got back home, I did a little research on the internet and found that there was indeed an aftermarket kit available for these Ford 8N tractors! Designed and built by the “Funk Brothers”, (which sounds like an awesome Nintendo game…) the “Funk Conversion Kit” upgraded the 8N to a 6 cylinder industrial motor, greatly increasing the horsepower of the tractor. The early kits added frame rails, extended the steering, and bumped up the height of the hood. The later kits had a cast oil pan, which allowed the front end to be bolted straight to the engine, just the same as they were with the 4 cylinders. (See article.)

I later talked on the phone with the owner. She confirmed that this was indeed a “Funk Conversion”. Her late husband was a HUGE tractor fan and got this tractor from an original owner who installed this himself. That would explain the “home-made” look of some of the welds. It was done at the farm, rather than on a new tractor at a dealership.

Unfortunately, these tractors have been sitting outdoors for a long time and are neither pretty, nor in good working condition. It seems unlikely that either of these will be converted to electric, but I LOVE learning about the history of technology, including these old tractors.

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson


DIY Teardrop Trailer Tour

by Ben N on 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 II, as there was plenty of aluminum sheeting left over from the war effort. These trailers have made a come-back recently. They are light, simple, and easy to tow.

What’s unique about THIS teardrop is that it was my first real DIY project. This was before the electric bicycle, electric motorcycle, and electric car. I had really never done ANY significant DIY project. So, I needed a helping hand. I ordered a set of “How-To” plans and followed them to build it. (Those original plans are still available for sale online.)

I bought a 4’x8′ bolt-together trailer from Harbor Freight, of course, using my 20% off coupon. I assembled the trailer and went from there. The walls are built from 1/2″ plywood, 1.5″ foam, and a 1/8″ interior panel. The exterior had a thin oak veneer, coated with spar varnish. The curved roof was covered with aluminum. I bought the aluminum from a business that repairs semi-truck trailers. The aluminum is literally what those trailers are made from. It’s beefy stuff and thicker than other aluminum more commonly available.

Hatch open.

One of the trickiest parts of the trailer is designing and building the hatch. It needs to be waterproof. DIYers typically use a “Hurricane Hinge” – a special pair of aluminum extrusions which act as a hinge, while still being waterproof. Even then, it’s a bit of a trick to make sure the hatch is completely weatherproof. I just used typical weather-stripping. Were I to do this project again, I think I’d try the style of weather-proofing used by hatchback cars.

The interior of the teardrop is warm and comfortable. For the mattress, I found a sale on a memory foam. All sizes were the same price, so I bought a King and then cut it down to fit the trailer. The cut-offs were used to make pillows and other projects. I also found that blue gymnastics mats work well in a teardrop. They are usually designed as 4’x8′, and fold into four 2′ sections. For a 4×6 sleeping area, the mat fits perfect with just one section folded up the wall. Gym mats are durable and damp-proof. Perfect for camping.

I wired the trailer for 12V electricity. It’s a simple system, with a 12V battery on the tongue and dome lights in the cabin, the exterior, and under the galley hatch. Each light has it’s own switch built in. We didn’t usually camp where we would have electricity. I did put a hole through the side of the camper, into the galley, and covered it with an outdoor-rated electrical cover. If we were at an electric site, we could bring an extension cord and simple pass it through the hole.

Simple galley in the rear.

The galley also has a simple layout. The plans called for building cabinets and even a sink and icebox! We already had plenty of camping gear and a removable cooler seemed like a more convenient idea than a built-in ice-box. So, I just designed the galley with an upper and a lower shelf. The upper shelf has the camp stove, food, and utensils. The lower shelf holds the cooler, water container, and a compact LP tank. I bought an adapter hose which allows me to use a standard LP tank instead of those wasteful (and expensive!) disposable 1lb. tanks.

The trailer tows extremely well. Weighing in at only 800 lbs, you can barely tell it’s there. Since it’s only 4 feet wide, you barely see it in the side-view mirrors either! It’s a perfect camping trailer for a hybrid or electric car.

I love this trailer. It was my first real project and I learned so much from working on it. It was perfect for my wife and I, but we are starting to outgrow it as our daughter is getting bigger. (We used to be able to have her sleep on the shelf in the cabin!) It’s probably time to sell the trailer and build something else.

There’s not that many things I would have done differently, knowing what I know now. One thing I would have was to use a different exterior finish on the walls. The Oak veneer has NOT held up. It did look FABULOUS when I first built it, but to do it right really requires a lot of maintenance with the spar varnish.

On a new trailer, I would build 5 feet wide. That extra space is really noticeable. But at the time, I didn’t know a thing about trailers, the plans called for the 4×8, and they were affordable and easily available. Had I NOT gone with the 4×8, I probably never would have built the project at all.

FanTastic Vent. Multi-speed plus reverse. Well worth it!

The one thing I would absolutely NOT skimp on is the roof vent! The Fan-Tastic Vent brand fan is great! It has three speeds and it very quiet. The reverse feature is nice to exhaust air from the cabin on a hot night and draw in cool air through the window screens. The “smoke” colored cover keeps the heat out during the day, while the clear blades means that the vent doubles as a skylight!

Teardrops are great trailers. They give you a nice place to sleep off the ground and a good level kitchen. They are small enough that they can be towed with a 4-cylinder, hybrid, or electric car. What a great blend of everything you need and nothing more.

If you want to build your own teardrop, I suggest checking out the Teardrops and Tiny Travel Trailer forums. (
If you want to simply BUY a trailer, some of the best out there are built by Camp-Inn. (

Our teardrop was a great project that lead to so many others! If you love camping and are a DIY’er, I highly suggest you build your own!

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson

Solar-powered electric car is the current tow vehicle.

PS: Here are some links to parts I used in the project. In some cases, the old part is no longer available. In others, such as LED lighting, I posted what I WOULD use now that wasn’t as easily available or affordable when I built the teardrop.

Interior LED Dome Lights:

Exterior LED Dome Lights:

Coleman camp stove:

Camp Stove to big LP Tank Adapter Hose:

7 Gallon Water Jug:

Queen Size Memory Foam Mattress Topper:

FanTastic Vent – 3 speed & Reverse, Model 1250:

Spar Varnish – Looks beautiful, but be prepared for multiple coats and regular maintenance!:

Stainless Magnetic Door Catch:

Stainless Steel Piano Hinge:

Small Sliding Window for the door:

Hurricane Hinge:

Door and Hatch Handles:

Marine Fuse Panel with Switches:

Adorable small refillable Propane Tank (5 lb.)

Teardrop Trailer Plans:

Teardrop Trailer Design book:


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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