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!

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!


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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!

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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!



Interview with Ben Rich Electric Biker

by Ben N on August 8, 2018


This Monday, I was extremely pleased to get a chance to talk to Ben “Benswing” Rich! Ben has been a long-time long-distance electric motorcyclist and was just back from a ride from New Jersey to Florida to Ohio.

I gave Ben a call and asked if he would be up for an interview talking about his riding adventure so far this summer. He agreed, and later the same afternoon, we had our web cams set up for an over-the-air interview and video recording. This is the first time I’ve tried a web interview recording for a YouTube video. I think it turned out fairly well, although I have some ideas for improving for next time.

The entire video runs an hour and twenty-one minutes. Essentially, I didn’t edit anything out. If the viewer wants to speed through a section or skip around, at least all the content is there. I’m also making this interview available as a free MP3 audio download. Great for anybody who would like to listen to this on their ride to work or on an MP3 player while otherwise occupied.

Ben and I chatted about this summer’s trip so far, his participation in the Ride The Future Tour, planning cross-country road trips, and even the worst thing that’s ever happened to him on an electric motorcycle.
You can see KICK GAS: THE MOVIE on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/169002549/9337fca22c

This conversation really got me reminiscing about my 2015 ride around Lake Michigan. We talked about it a little bit in our interview. People like Ben Rich and Terry Hershner are amazing folks who help inspire. I never would have done that trip if it wasn’t for the likes of them. My Loop the Lake tour really was a memorable trip. I still have video footage from it that I keep fantasizing about making into a YouTube Feature.

Ben Rich documents all of his travels at his web page – https://www.benswing.com and makes videos as he rides. You can watch his summer 2018 video playlist at: https://tinyurl.com/y7pqpx4k

Ben shoots his videos with his smart phone and Sena 10C Helmet Cam:

This is the first time we’ve tried a long-form remote interview. If you like this format and want to see similar in the future, please let us know!

Until next time, stay charged up!

-Ben Nelson


Solar Savings – Am I getting jaded?

by Ben N on 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 I’m really starting to take solar for granted. If I had to OWE the power company, say, $100, I’d be outraged! Yet the average American easily pays that much and more EVERY MONTH!

Beyond that, I can’t think of the last time I’ve had to pay for gasoline. I’ve never had to do any maintenance work on my car beyond adding windshield washer fluid. It’s just so darn cheap to operate, and I don’t even think about it.

In fact, I’m saving THOUSANDS of dollars per year by making my own electricity AND not purchasing gasoline OR common automotive maintenance. Unfortunately, it’s not as glamorous as somebody writing me a check at the end of the year. I simply DON’T spend the money I used to on these things.

Where does the money go instead? Wherever I want it to. My seven year-old daughter has a retirement fund. Can’t say that for too many little girls. The money can go to retirement, college savings, paying off the mortgage faster or whatever. (I’d say paying off debt faster, but the only debt I have is the construction loan for the garage.)

This spring, I got hurt pretty bad in a traffic collision, which caused not only medical bills, but a serious drop in my income. Fortunately, we had savings.
I chatted one night on the phone with a friend who was filling in for me at work. He’s kind of what I think of as a typical successful guy; married, house, a couple kids, two cars, a full time job. But he also has a mortgage, two car payments, and college loans. In the conversation, he admitted to me that “If it had happened to me, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Seems that I’m the odd man out for not being up the my eyeballs in debt the way so many people are. I don’t live high on the hog, but if the Solar Death Ray videos are any indication, I can have plenty of fun on a low budget.

Perhaps I am getting a little jaded, but the solar is no longer that exciting. It simply cranks away, saving me money. Even if it’s not much that the power company owes me, it’s still a lot that I don’t owe them.

And frankly, that feels pretty good.

Until next time, stay charged up!


PS: How much did I actually save? I’m credited at full retail rate for power produced, which was  756 kWh. That comes to a value of $98.28. Plus the $1.39 the power company owes me makes a grand total of $99.67. For even more value, consider the fact that I didn’t have to earn money, pay taxes on it, and then spend my post-tax dollars to pay the electric bill!


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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Solar Monitoring

July 9, 2018

I LOVE my garage solar array! The only thing I don’t like is the fact that I can’t see how much power it’s making RIGHT NOW! Sure, I have software which gives me TONS of info about the system, but it requires a computer or smart phone, internet access, and username and password. Can’t I […]

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June 2018 Solar Savings

July 6, 2018

I’m weird. I know it. I look FORWARD to getting my electric bill. On the other hand, it’s gotten much easier to take knowing that it’s most likely that the power company OWES ME! In this month’s electric bill, not only did I NOT have to pay, but the electric utility owes me $18.07. That’s […]

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