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Bulgarian Forklift Motors and High Tech Batteries
By Dan Wright

As part of my volunteer work for the USFRA I help answer E-mail technical questions. I am often confronted with novice Bonneville enthusiasts who misunderstand the intent of the 130 MPH Club. The purpose of the 130 MPH club is to allow people to use their street vehicles to get a feel for driving at speed on the salt, or to simply test the performance capacity of their daily driver. Unfortunately, each year, there are folks who try to use the 130 MPH club for “Racing”. Specifically for racing vehicles that cannot run (or simply aren’t competitive) in any of the real racing classes at the salt. This abuse results in bogus claims we see on the internet, like Worlds Fastest Motorhome, or Worlds Fastest Go Kart. The USFRA folks deal with someone who wants to “Set a World Record” with some unlikely, unsafe, or “unusual” vehicle on a weekly basis (Air Boats, Motorhomes, Unicycles, Powered Street Luge, Hovercraft, Snowmobile, and on and on) .

So it was pleasantly refreshing to talk to David Dymaxion about his project of converting a Porsche 911 to all electric power. He has his priorities just right. He is building the car as a Street Legal Daily Driver. He plans to test its speed capabilities in the 130 MPH club at World of Speed, September 2008.

Fork Lift Motor Adapter Plate in process on the machining center.

As a hands on builder type myself, I was immediately impressed with the metal sculpture in progress on his combination Mill/Drill/Lathe machining center.
David was building a combination Bell housing, Scatter shield, and Engine –Transmission mating adapter. A really slick bit of design engineering being built in the true spirit of hot rodding using just enough equipment to get the job done. This simple piece will attach and align the Electric Motor with the stock Porsche manual transmission.

A homegrown Scatter Shield - Bell Housing – Engine adapter

As an old fashioned hotrodder, I was very impressed by David’s innovation and do it yourself ethic. The work going on in his home shop is hotrodding in the very best sense of the term. But, as an old fashioned hotrodder, I have a hard time getting my mind wrapped around the concept of installing a Bulgarian Fork Lift Motor in place of a Classic Porsche six cylinder engine.

Kostov Fork Lift Motor fitted with Porsche Flywheel

At first glance converting a Porsche to run on batteries just seems so wrong.
But it isn’t wrong. It makes perfect sense. On the way to the interview, I stopped to fill up my car. Regular grade gasoline was going for $3.29 per gallon. When David’s Porsche conversion is done, It won’t need gasoline. Ever. And it will still perform like a Porsche. David plans to run this car in the USFRA’s 130 MPH Club Class at the Bonneville Salt Flats. He also has plans to race it in the SCCA Solo racing series. On Batteries. No Gasoline. Drive right past the Gas Station and plug it in when you get home.
The electric motor will have twice the torque and more horsepower than the original gasoline motor. The limits on electric motor horsepower include overheating from too much current, arcing from too much voltage, or flying apart from too much rpm. A similar Kostov motor has run 300+ hp on the drag strip, but this one will be run at lower power as a land speed run is much longer than a drag race run.
The Kostov motor was modified by Randy Holmquist of Canadian EV. It has upgraded bearings, higher temperature wiring, and the commutator is kevlar wrapped to hold it together at higher rpm.

David’s young son Michael showed lots of knowledge and boundless enthusiasm for this project. He recognizes that proper battery choice is key. His language was peppered with technical battery terms and names, and he had strong opinions and preferences about the available battery choices. I came away impressed with the practical design and fabrication education this young man is getting by working alongside his father on this project. Michael runs a Go Kart and flies remote control electric powered airplanes. The electric airplane experience has Michael looking for more powerful, cheaper, lighter battery technology on his own. He asked many questions about running his Kart at Bonneville. I’m sure he has his eye on the drivers seat in the electric Porsche.

Electric Porsche Pit Crew -- Michael with his racing trainer vehicle.

Where “normal hotrodders" (that’s gotta be an oxymoron) talk endlessly about porting, camshafts, and compression ratios, These electric hotrodders talk a different language. They talk about battery technology and motor windings and interpoles. The challenge for both Gasoline hotrodders and Electric hotrodders is pretty much the same. How to extract as much useful energy as quickly as possible from their chosen energy source. How to burn as much gasoline rapidly and efficiently is much the same as the challenge of extracting as much electrical energy rapidly and efficiently from a given set of batteries.

Given that paradigm, it is no surprise that Batteries are the focus. Add to that concept the fact that battery technology is changing and evolving-rapidly. There are difficult choices to be made between price, power output, and life expectancy of the different battery technologies available. Lead Acid batteries like the ones we use to start our gasoline fueled cars are relatively cheap, readily available and both heavy and messy. The next step up the performance and price ladder is Lithium Ion (Li) Batteries. Among the latest and best examples of this technology is the DeWalt A123 cells. These batteries offer excellent power density allowing less weight for the same power supply, high discharge rates making them an excellent choice for racing applications, good battery life, quick recharge times and top dollar pricing.
It seems the timeless golden rule of hotrodding also applies to electric hotrodding. Speed Costs!!--- How fast do you want to go??

The technology of plug in electrics and of production Hybrid cars is evolving and changing rapidly. There are some really interesting emerging battery technologies on the horizon. An example of one to watch might be Firefly Energy . This Peoria, Illinois company has received a US patent for a new carbon-foam lead-acid battery technology that it believes has the potential to revolutionize the existing global lead-acid battery market as well as serve applications such as hybrid electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Firefly contends it can deliver lead-acid battery performance comparable to NiMh, but at about one-fifth the cost, and with greatly reduced weight compared to traditional lead-acid batteries. Yep, they are hotrodding batteries at Firefly Energy.

Electric Porsche conversion being built for the street. Will be tested at Bonneville.

This electric conversion isn’t only a race car, it’s a very practical Street Vehicle conversion. David plans to take advantage of the USFRA’s 130 MPH club to test his Porsche. This is a perfect use of the USFRA’s 130 MPH Club. Testing for top speed on this electric conversion should be a ball. We look forward to seeing this innovative, home built, electric hotrod at Bonneville.

You can learn more about David Dymaxion’s Electric Hot Rod Conversion at his web sites.

Better yet, visit World of Speed in September and see for yourself.

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