I have a Corbin Motors Sparrow Electric Car, I drive it everywhere,
and I love it.  Here is the story...

Newest Entry - Sat Jan 12 18:46:22 PST 2008 

Mid-summer 1999 
	Corbin Motors Sparrow electric cars are spotted in the Los Gatos
	Town Plaza area, and I am hooked immediately.  I have always wanted
	an electric car, and I even built an electric go-kart for a high
	school chemistry project (the lead-acid batteries were really the
	subject of the project).  After hours of reading on the Corbin Sparrow web site,
	I am convinced that this is the EV for me.
Sun Sep 26 14:38:07 PDT 1999
	Two or three weeks ago we gave Corbin our $1000 deposit to be in
	the queue.  We are number 137, with 300 cars planned in the first
	year of production.  Their site has not changed in two months.
	I hope they are busy building cars....
Months of waiting...
	Corbin Motors has a web cam on the Sparrow assembly line.  I watch
	the cars go by every day.  Finally, our car appears.  We are now
	#95, because some people have given up waiting and dropped out.
	I watch as our Sparrow moves a space every day, inching toward
	the front of the line.
Tue Jul 11 19:09:33 PDT 2000
	The Sparrow arrives.
	I received a page by page lesson in Sparrow ownership from the dealer
	and then I took the car out for a spin.  It was not fully charged
	when it arrived, but it was in the low 90's. First I went to Real
	Goods, and bought mosquito floats for the fountains (3%).
	Then I came back home, and charged it back up to 92%.  Then
	another trip, to Ace HW for a short pigtail converter
	for charging, then to Walgreens for a multitool, then over to Kragen
	to try to find Teflon for the drive belt (no luck).  This took me
	down to 80%, and I noticed that the speedometer was nuts, drifting
	all the way to 60 and back to zero.

	Then the worst possible thing happened.  On Blossom Hill road, just
	before the downhill to the park, the Sparrow lost power.  I pulled
	over and parked it, and it would not start back up.  I had to leave
	it and come home.  I called the dealer at home and he told me to
	leave the car for him to pick up with a trailer.  The Sparrow spent
	the night in a strange neighborhood, and the next morning it was
	gone.

Thu Aug 03 14:31:05 PDT 2000

	The Sparrow is back!  I came home, picked it up, and drove it back
	to work on Bascom.  It rides great, got lots of stares, and it used
	from 90% to 68% on the E-meter.  Not bad at all!

	Drove the Sparrow back home, but this time it was not so good -
	after two short employee test rides in the parking lot, I thought I
	would have plenty of juice for the ride home.  Nope.  Right as I got
	to the park the power began to cut in and out.  I slowed way down
	and just barely made it home.  The E-meter was reading 35%, and the
	voltage was 140-150 under load, but the power was going fast.  I
	think I had run dry in at least one of the cells.  After charging
	it back to 48% I took it for a ride around the neighborhood, and
	the power was back.  It was a little weird - there was a futzing
	sound coming from the back of the car.  It corresponded with loss of
	power.  Brush arcing?  Loose connectors on the controller?  Hard
	to tell?

Fri Aug 04 06:39:25 PDT 2000

	The Sparrow read 99% this morning, so I sprayed OAK PTFE spray on
	the belt and took it out for a spin.  Everything was BACK - plenty
	of power, no futzing, so it looks like I really "ran out of gas"
	last night from the ride to work.  Pretty bad to strain the
	batteries that badly on the first day.  It was only 30 miles, how
	was I to know that they would be that stiff.

	My wife took the Sparrow over to Whole Foods and Lunardi's - 5%,
	and the "gas pedal" was stiff, so I squirted some OAK Teflon spray
	on it too, and now it feels much better.

	At night I took the Sparrow for a ride over to Saratoga - 50 MPH!
	No strain at all.  Zipped up the hills.  At that speed the steering
	is "quick," so gentle movements are called for.

Sun Aug 06 10:49:22 PDT 2000

	Spent the day running errands - drove to Nine Lives twice, then to
	Winchester Hardware, then to Home Depot, then Fry's, then off to
	JDR, then up to Stevens Creek, over to Winchester, back down
	Winchester to home.  Ending charge was 68%!  Recharging the car
	fully from 68% at our price for electricity costs about
	25 cents!!! Excellent!

Mon Aug 07 07:25:57 PDT 2000

	Storage needs improvement - I bought an Axius "Premier" Visor
	Organizer for about $6.  I cut off the lower straps. and trimmed
	the upper straps.  I then punched a hole in each top strap stub,
	and burned it with a match to keep it from unraveling.  This
	setup then went under the driver's legs by attaching it to the
	two seat bolts! Perfect! (Photo)

Sun Aug 13 21:07:13 PDT 2000

	Well, yesterday I took the Sparrow to work and back on I880 - the
	freeway.  60 MPH was rock solid, plenty of "oomph" left.  The
	Sparrow is technically still in the "break in" period, so I did not
	try for any speed records.  Efficiency was great - I arrived in the
	parking lot (15 miles) with 80% charge remaining.  Starting and
	stopping apparently wastes LOTS of energy.

	Tonight, under a beautiful full moon, I drove the Sparrow up and
	down Winchester to see what the power would be near full throttle.
	I waited until the car was up to about 30 MPH before pressing the
	"gas" pedal down.  What a rush!  That little car has lots of power.
	Amps climb quickly, peaking at around 170 with no sign of slowing.
	I was really happy with the acceleration, and this is still a car
	being broken in.  Not only that, the controller has been set to
	limit power to keep the new brushes from arcing, to I am sure there
	is more power available.  I will just have to wait until the car is
	more completely broken in.

	I am charging the car every chance I get, with a 25 foot 12/2
	"commercial" extension cord ($12 at Home Depot).  I have the 110v
	charger, and it puts in about 10%/hour.  When my wife drives to
	work the entire trip only uses about 5%!  She could drive all week
	and charge on the weekend.  Lead-acid batteries last longest when
	kept topped off, though, so the car is plugged in every night.

	The more time I have with the Sparrow, the more impressed I am with
	the quality.  The suspension is a work of art.  Good-looking
	Allen-head hardware and lock nuts are everywhere.  The interior is
	sleek and efficient.  The gauges and indicators are excellent.  And
	of course the seat and interior upholstery are outstanding.  Even
	the tires are premium - Temp A, Traction A, Treadwear 400.

	The Sparrow comes with a CD player standard, and I have a "New Age"
	CD in there with some well-known tracks.  If you see a grinning
	lunatic pass you in a Sparrow, accelerating rapidly to the
	crescendo of "Chariots of Fire", it's probably me ;-)

Tue Aug 15 08:26:40 PDT 2000

	This morning I worked on a minor problem.  At certain speeds
	around 25-35 MPH, the speedometer would "go crazy" and begin to
	give incorrect readings, even going as high as 85MPH+!!  I emailed
	the factory and they suggested cleaning the sensor.  The sensor is
	on the right side of the car, bolted through the backing plate of
	the wheel hub.  The sensor "reads" the holes drilled through the
	brake rotor, converting the magnetic fluctuations caused by the
	holes to a signal that the speedometer can interpret and display.

	I tried two things at the request of the factory.  First, I rotated
	the wheel until one of the drilled holes lined up with the sensor,
	and then I sprayed "Lectra Motive" automotive electronics cleaner
	through the hole.  Whatever you use if you try this, make sure the
	spray leaves NO RESIDUE, as this spray claims.  I then pulled the
	little white connector apart which connects the sensor to the
	interior electronics, and sprayed into the connector as well.

	After everything was dry (15 minutes) I filled the white connector
	with Radio Shack Professional Lube Gel.  This waterproof, heat and
	cold resistant, Teflon based material has the consistency of
	toothpaste and I have used it before successfully to fill interior
	spaces in electronic connectors exposed to weather, such as the
	connectors on my solar panels.  So... did the repair work?

	The speedometer is MUCH better, with only an occasional "twitch" of
	one mile per hour or two.  I will keep my eye on it and try more
	aggressive repairs if it still has problems, including replacing the
	sensor if necessary.

Fri Aug 18 18:30:54 PDT 2000

	Well, the speedometer is still not quite right.  When the car is
	under acceleration the speedo will start to flutter at around 10MPH
	and then go ballistic at about 30MPH.  Time to call for help.

	I mailed the Sparrow factory again, and also the company who built
	the controller.  The speed sensor is routed through the controller
	and then back to the speedometer.  I received immediate replies.
	The factory offered to replace the speedometer, and the controller
	company replied with suggestions of where to add filter capacitors
	to the speedo wiring.  I decided to go for the caps first.

	Adding the capacitors involved taking the speedometer out, which I
	did by reaching back up underneath the dash.  There are two knurled
	nuts to unscrew, then a metal "saddle" comes off the the tach can
	be removed from the front.  I had the speedo out in about ten
	minutes.  Looking through my junk box, I found some ceramic disk
	caps that were in the same ballpark as the recommended caps
	in terms of capacity.  I hooked them up to two alligator clip
	leads, and fished them through the hole so they hung below the
	dash.  Then I popped the speedo back in and went for a drive.

	I chose a long, straight, low traffic part of a road near my
	house, and tried a few test runs, with the caps and without.  It
	was easy to clip and unclip the alligator leads to see what a
	difference there was.  And there was a HUGE difference!  The caps 
	took care of all of the small "twiches" on the test runs.  I
	hooked them up directly to the speedo and dropped it back into the
	dash. 

Sat Aug 19 08:30:54 PDT 2000 - 500 Miles

	The news from my wife, who is now a daily driver of the Sparrow, is
	that the speedo is 95% fixed, but when she accelerates uphill at
	around 20-30 the problem comes back.  Well, the caps were smaller
	by half than the recommended value, so I figured some tuning might
	be necessary.  I am taking the Sparrow to Radio Shack to buy the
	specified caps, plus some EMI/RFI chokes for the wires for good
	measure.  The frequency of the pulses on the speedo wire is not
	very high, so a low-pass filter will probably be just what is
	needed.

	Here is the final solution at the speedo end.

	Before I put the metal "saddle" back on to hold the speedo, I will
	test it and I will also tightly wrap the saddle with electrical
	tape to prevent any shorts while I am trying to reinstall the
	speedo.

Sun Aug 27 20:51:21 PDT 2000 - 543 Miles

	Today I tackled the speedometer problem again.  I loosened the two
	locknuts in the luggage compartment, and the outside door over the
	controller (left side, rear) could then be taken off.  Careful
	here, though, because there is lots of exposed DANGEROUS wiring in
	this area.  With the panel off I could see the connections on the
	controller where the second .1uF capacitor  needed to be installed.
	Working carefully from inside the car, I installed the second .1uF
	metalized polyester cap.

	Unfortunately, the speedometer STILL becomes erratic around 18 MPH
	and does not become steady again until 30 MPH. I have written the
	factory asking for a replacement speedometer to see if that cures
	the problem.

	With no progress on the speedo, I worked on the appearance of the
	Sparrow instead.  I washed it!  When everything was clean, I began
	to dry the car off.  I noticed that water was pooling in the joint
	between the hood and the area under the headlight.  I took a sponge
	and wicked out as much water as I could, but I could not get it
	all.  I figured I would just pop the hood and finish with a towel.

	Bad Idea.

	When I opened the hood, a small amount of water (about a quarter
	cup) splashed directly on the DC/DC converter.  I carefully (the
	lower terminal on the door side of the car is energized with full
	battery voltage, over 160 volts!) dried everything off, and
	finished drying the rest of the car.
	
	Then I got in to drive around a bit to let the car air dry a bit.
	Well, the car was dead.  The dome light did not come on, the
	ignition did not come on, and nothing else worked.  I suddenly
	realized that the water splashing on the DC/DC converter has caused
	a real problem.

	The first thing to do, of course, was wait.  Maybe a little more
	drying time was all that was needed?  After dinner the car was
	still dead.  Time to troubleshoot.  I took off my metal jewelry and
	got my VOM for some tests.  This is DANGEROUS work, because the
	car has enough voltage to deliver a severe shock.  Don't do this
	unless you know what you are doing!

	First I checked the output of the DC/DC converter.  Nothing.  Then
	I checked the input.  160 volts DC.  Then I stopped poking around
	and thought for a minute.  Most sophisticated power supplies (such
	as the DC/DC converter) have many different "fail-safes" built into
	them.  They usually have reverse polarity protection, voltage spike
	protection, and overcurrent protection.  Something was probably
	triggered when the water splashed the converter.  I also know that
	many power supplies will stay off after a fault until they are
	reset.  That means even if the water dried off (which it did) the
	converter was probably still shut down.  So, I tried "resetting"
	it.  There is no obvious reset button or switch, so I simply
	unhooked the 160 VDC minus (-) wire from the unit (which can be
	easily reached, the positive wire is much harder to get to  -
	probably a GOOD thing!), waited 30 seconds or so, then then hooked
	it back up.  Of course, I used gloves, insulated tools, and I had a
	dry towel stuffed in there so I could not drop screws or nuts.  I
	am happy to say that as soon as I hooked the wire back up to the
	terminal, the interior light came on, and as I tested, everything
	else worked perfectly as well.

	I sure learned a lesson about that last little bit of water - let
	it dry naturally!

Sat Sep 02 13:08:29 PDT 2000 - 630 Miles

	This week a replacement speedometer arrived, so it is time to
	replace the speedo to see if that cures the annoying needle
	flutter.  Today is overcast and cool, so the problem will be hard
	to observe.  The flutter appeared to be heat related to some
	degree, getting worse as the Sparrow warmed up.

	The speedometer work begins.

	Well, the new speedometer was did not solve the problem.  The
	speedometer still becomes wildly inaccurate at 25MPH, then steadies
	out at about 35MPH.
	
	I figured I would experiment with the filter capacitors I added, so
	I bought a .22uF and even a 1uF capacitor, and tried them.  Oddly,
	the best of the lot was the original .1uF cap.  I put the old
	speedometer and the .1uF capacitor back in the car.  I will mail
	the factory to see what the next move will be.

	As part of the testing, I had to do some driving, of course ;-)
	I drew crowds at Real Goods, and also got a few curious people at
	Winchester Auto Parts.  I stopped in there to see about a floor
	mat.  The best I could find were sets of two truck mats, in grey,
	for $24.95.  I trimmed one (cut it almost exactly in half) and it
	fit perfectly!!  The other accessory added was an inexpensive
	digital clock - with LARGE numbers.  The radio/CD player has a
	clock, but the numbers are pretty small. The car is becoming
	quite lived in.

	On the technical side, the 20A 120V socket in the garage was
	replaced with a 20A 120V GFI (Ground Fault Interrupter) in
	preparation for the rainy season.  The Sparrow charger is on-board,
	and the Sparrow comes with a nice 10 foot heavy duty cord for
	charging.  The "car" end is actually a 230V plug (twist-lock) and it
	does not touch the conductors until is is deeply inserted, but if
	it rains I know that there is enough danger to make a GFI
	absolutely necessary.  Of course I could (and will!) plug and unplug
	the garage end (inside) first, but a GFI is the only way to go.

	It occurs to me that anyone reading this with a Sparrow might be
	interested in knowing where this 120V charging station is for
	emergency use.  If you have a Sparrow in the South Bay area of San
	Francisco and you would like details, please write to me.

Mon Sep 04 17:20:26 PDT 2000 - 650 Miles

	I spent all day shopping, whizzing around and answering questions.
	The car is getting quieter and quieter as the brushes wear in.

	I bought two 8x32 nylon wing nuts at Ace's Hardware and finished
	re-installing the speedometer.  I had dropped one of the knurled
	brass nuts into the "guts" of the car, and removing the fiberglass
	steering column cover (two allen head screws) did not help locate
	it.  It is now part of the car.

	I also took the latch off of the rear door and added two stainless
	steel washers under the screws to shim the striker plate out a bit.
	The car is so airtight that shutting the door with the windows up
	was "blowing" the luggage door open!  The two washers were all I
	needed to keep the door tightly shut.
	
Thu Sep 07 19:59:29 PDT 2000 - 675 Miles

	Two things:
	
	1.  The Sparrow makes more trips that both of our gasoline
	cars put together.  In other words, we choose it for virtually
	every short trip.  The Sparrow loves the short trips - get in,
	"start" the engine, belt up, switch to "forward", release brake,
	go!  The lights are always on (and off!  Can't forget!), the motor
	is always "warmed up", there is no oil to circulate, and most of
	the time you can pull out of a parking space with NO cutting and
	backing at all!

	2.  A surprise - the Sparrow helps increase gas mileage.
	Apparently the trips my wife was making to work - creeping through
	town with a cold engine - were the WORST miles the gasoline car
	traveled as far as mileage is concerned.  Now that the gas cars
	are only used for longer trips where they go faster, get
	completely warm, and rarely have to "stop and go", I have noticed
	that their gas mileage is much improved - like 15-25% !!!!  Nice
	side effect of the electric car.

Sun Sep 10 14:23:41 PDT 2000 - 724 Miles

	Today I tried the last recommended fix for the speedometer.  One of
	the Sparrow executives had suggested several months ago to reverse
	the polarity of the sensor - that is, to switch the wires.  It is
	not very easy to get to the wires unless the car is slightly
	elevated (by driving up on a 2x6 board, for example), and it is
	also not very easy to get the wires out of the connector to reverse
	them, so I had "saved" this fix for last.  With everything else
	already done, it was time to face this last issue.
	
	The wires from the sensor connect to the wiring harness through a
	white plastic "molex" type connector plug under the right fender,
	so I went to our local electronics store (Fry's) and bought Molex
	pin extractors.  They are used to push the wires out the back of
	the connector.  The Extractors come in two sizes, large and small
	(.093 and .062) so I bought both.  It turns out that the small one
	is for the male part of the plug, and the large one fit the female
	end.  The female end was MUCH easier to remove, so I pushed out
	both wires and reversed them.  This has the added benefit of
	leaving the factory wiring intact.

	And to my delight, the speedometer appears to be fixed.

Sat Sep 23 12:30:27 PDT 2000 - 827 Miles

	No news is good news.  The speedometer needle flutter is gone.  100
	miles of driving have verified that it is fixed.  The car is
	the vehicle of choice for virtually every trip we make, which is
	good, because history will look back at this time as another gas
	crisis.  London is in the grips of energy hysteria, Clinton is
	releasing oil from the strategic petroleum reserve, and every day I
	see a new behemoth or two on the road, recently purchased and
	eagerly awaiting it's first $75 fill-up.  Now, more than ever, the
	Sparrow makes sense.

Mon Sep 25 08:58:29 PDT 2000 - 842 Miles

	Last night I put together a simple interface for collecting battery
	pack statistics from Sparrow owners.  I hope over time to
	collect enough data to be able to model the battery pack and
	enable owners to compare their battery performance to the group
	average.

	The idea of the interface is that an owner may remember a voltage
	reading at a particular percent of charge on the same stretch of
	ground, or that they will note the voltage during a charge at
	specific percentage points.  If they enter the data, I will plot
	their number against the average for that point, giving them an
	idea of the condition of their battery pack.

Fri Oct 06 20:11:47 PDT 2000 - 917 Miles

	This week the Sparrow was taken to the movies.  The show was "Nurse
	Betty" and the money could have been better spent.  Two thumbs
	down, I'm afraid.

	On the way home the Sparrow began to lose power at 73%.  After
	"resting" for 15 minutes, it was drivable again, but the
	batteries were clearly near empty.  This is very unusual.
	It was failing at a discharge level 20% lower than previous
	situations, so something had definitely changed.

	After a full charge, the Sparrow was taken out for errands.  The
	high point of the trip was stopping at the DMV for the vanity
	plate we had ordered as soon as we got the car.  It finally arrived:

	WATTGAS
	
	Once again, the power disappeared at 73%.  Amp hours used read 13.6
	This time, as soon as I got home, I began testing voltage on the
	batteries.  The batteries are fairly accessible, except for one or
	two buried under each other in the front of the car.   Everything
	looked OK - 12.4v to 12.6v - except for one battery that was under
	12 volts.  It looks like one battery is weak or has failed to
	equalize properly.

	After the testing, I attached the new battery desulfator I had
	constructed for my micro solar system.  My hope is that this
	battery is partially sulfated and is not charging fully.  If
	sulfation is the problem, the battery may return to normal.  The
	desulfator takes a long time to work it's magic, so I may not know
	for a while whether that is the problem.  Meanwhile, the Sparrow
	will continue to be used for what it does best: short, single
	passenger trips around town.
	
Mon Oct 16 21:42:37 PDT 2000 - 950 Miles

	The Sparrow is getting a rest.  At about 940 miles the controller
	started to fail.  It was odd - the Sparrow started from a
	standstill just fine, but then never "took off" into the higher amp
	ranges.  It was limited to about 15 MPH.  It's not the batteries,
	even though they seem to have lower capacity than they should.  The
	charger is running them up to 200 volts on the final tapering
	charge, so I am sure the power is going in.  I have temporarily
	parked the Sparrow to wait its turn for a new controller.

	Meanwhile, I picked up another accessory.  On the advice of the
	dealer, Darwin Motors, I bought an Intermatic FF12H timer for the
	wall outlet.  The concept is that the charger may very rarely fail
	to stop charging, overheating the batteries and shortening their
	life.  With a timer in the circuit that should not happen.

	The "proper" chain of equipment for charging is now:

	20A breaker -> 20A GFI -> Surge Protector -> Timer -> Sparrow

	Under 100$ so far, including the 12 gauge 25 foot extension cord.

	I can't wait to get the Sparrow back on the road.

Wed Dec 20 16:59:30 PST 2000 - 1100 Miles
	
	The Sparrow is Back!  Corbin Motors took my Sparrow under their
	wing (sorry! ;-) and replaced the DCP controller with a new
	controller from a different manufacturer, Kilovac.  The car is
	peppier, smoother, and quieter.  It drives like a new car, and it
	is great to have an electric car again.  It also appears that the
	battery pack has been repaired/reconditioned/replaced.

Mon Dec 25 15:48:57 PST 2000 - 1137 Miles

	I have installed a temperature sensor ($15 from Radio Shack) on the
	new Kilovac controller.  I just drove around 8 miles at 35 MPH,
	ending with a hill climb approximately 100 feet high.  The ambient
	air temperature was 65 degrees F, and the temperature of the
	Kilovac controller was 104F when the trip ended.  That is only
	slightly warm.

Fri Jan 12 07:46:34 PST 2001 - 1328 Miles

	After several weeks of driving with the new Kilovac controller 
	I can say the new controller is a success!  The car is smooth,
	accelerates well, and there is no noise from the controller or
	electronics.  I have driven the car on the freeway several times,
	once for quite a long trip (12 mines each way).  The controller
	heated up to 136F by the end of the trip and then cooled off
	gradually.  I am planning on installing an additional fan in the
	electronics bay when summer comes to directly cool the controller.
	The current fan moves air into the bay but does not blow across the
	controller fins.

	The weather is now cold and wet (as cold and wet as it gets in the
	SF Bay Area of California!!) and the heater is being used
	regularly.  The heat appears instantly, but the airflow is not very
	strong.  There are three vents with louvers to direct the air, and
	closing any one greatly improves what blows out of the other two.
	The windshield defrost vent needs to be swiveled to clear the
	entire windshield.  In future Sparrows I would suggest two defrost
	vents.

	The Sparrow is not bothered by water on the road. It is heavy
	enough not to hydroplane, and the brakes (disc) do not seem to be
	affected by being wet.  There is no apparent problem with the
	motor being down by the rear wheel.

	I had one educational experience during the holidays.  I had the
	opportunity to "draft" behind a semi-truck on the freeway.  I had
	the E-meter set to "amps" and I was able to see the change.
	Driving at 60MPH on that stretch of road was drawing approximately
	55 amps.  Pulling in behind the semi cut that to 20 amps!  If it
	could be done safely, "drafting" behind a large vehicle on the
	freeway looks like it could double range!

Mon Jan 15 20:23:34 PST 2001 - 1354 Miles

	The charging system for the Sparrow got another boost today.  Poor
	California is in the middle of an energy shortage (claimed, not
	proven) and the Sparrow is yet another electric "appliance" which
	needs to have its share of juice.  I have the timer configured and
	it works perfectly, limiting the length of the charge.  The problem
	is that I need to delay the start of the charge as well as
	controlling the duration of the charge, and I need the process to
	be extremely simple.

	I have considered a number of different approaches, but most of
	them have drawbacks.

	1. I could get up an midnight and start the timer.  The electric
	company would love me, but this alternative is not practical.

	2. I could buy a different timer.  I could buy one which
	specifies both start and stop times.  The problem with this is that
	the cycle repeats!  The next evening the same cycle runs, which is
	unlikely to be the correct charge.

	3. I could buy the start/stop timer and manually reset it every
	day.  This just is not my idea of fun, as the timer is in the
	garage.

	After much thought, I came up with a solution.

	We have an electronics superstore named Fry's here in Silicon
	Valley, and this weekend they had a promotion on the X10
	Firecracker.  The kit was on sale for $6.95 - a fantastic deal!
	I bought one, and took it home.  For those of you who are
	technical, this kit includes two modules and a little "dongle"
	which plugs into a 9 pin serial port on a PC (or Mac, I
	suppose....).  The dongle is actually the part X10 calls the
	"Firecracker" - it is a radio transmitter!

	The two modules are designed to control lamps and appliances.  The
	lamp module is a dimmer and can only be used with 120v incandescent
	lights (Not quite as popular as they used to be!  I have lots of
	transformer-based halogens and a dozen or so compact florescents).
	The other module can control a TV or a small appliance, like a
	coffee maker.  The modules turn the lamp/appliance on and off.
	One of the modules has an antenna (I am not making this up) and it
	can be as much as 100 feet from the transmitter (the dongle on your
	PC).  The module with the antenna is module A1 - the first - and it
	serves as a control module and also the "entry point" to the X10
	system for your PC.

	Now there is a catch.  The PC has to be on to use software to
	control the modules.  I am lucky enough to be using my PC as a
	web server (among many other things) so it is not inconvenient to
	have the PC on 24 hours a day.  There is a nice little manual remote
	control included with the kit which can control the modules as well
	and the PC, but that is not "automatic."

	I had two problems to solve.  First, there were no modules in the
	kit large enough to control the Sparrow 110V charger.  Second, I
	needed to get the right software and user interface together to
	make it easy for my PC to control whatever the Sparrow module
	turned out to be.

	I searched for software first.  I run both SCO Unix 3.2v4.2 and SuSE
	Linux 6.3 at home.  The SCO is on a nice 550MHZ K6-III+, and the
	SuSE Linux is on an amazingly reliable 486/160 VLB system with 64MB
	of RAM.  The software I found (""bottlerocket") runs on Linux, so the
	Linux system is the new X10 controller.  Bottlerocket is free software,
	like most Linux software, and it is specifically written for the
	Firecracker interface.

	Now I needed the proper "hardware."   The Linux system had exactly
	one serial port, which the thoughtful X10 folks had anticipated.
	The Firecracker dongle is a "pass though" device, so the serial
	mouse was unplugged from the Linux system, the dongle was plugged
	in, and the serial mouse was plugged back in to the dongle.

	I also needed a module with more capacity.  There are "appliance"
	modules which claim that they can handle 15 amps, but there are
	restrictions on them.  They cannot handle 15 amps of incandescent
	lighting, for example, because the inrush of current through cold
	filaments overloads the module.  The module I chose, model SR227,
	is rated for a full 15 amps unconditionally.  It is actually
	a replacement for a standard wall outlet, so it installs neatly.  A
	nice feature is that only one of the two outlets is controlled, so
	the other outlet can be used normally.  That also means the 
	Sparrow can be temporarily plugged into the unswitched outlet if a
	charge is needed without the involvement of the X10 system or
	computer.

	Now I had to put it all together.  I turned the circuit breaker
	off, installed the X10 outlet module, and set it to "A2" - the
	second module in set A.  I installed the dongle (as I outlined
	above) and downloaded the software.  I compiled the software,
	copied it to /usr/local/bin and made it SGID uucp so it would
	have permission to open the serial port, which happened to be
	owned by group "uucp" on SuSE Linux.  I then plugged the Sparrow
	into the module and turned the power back on.

	I typed my first command:

	br A2 ON

	And the module turned on!  The Sparrow began to charge!  "br" is
	the Bottlerocket command, A2 is the module set (A) and unit (2) and
	ON is "on", of course.  Now the real fun began.

	"br A2 ON" is not too hard to figure out, but I wanted something a
	little more user friendly.  I called on one of my old friends, hal.
	hal is a computer program I wrote in the late 70's after seeing
	2001, A Space Odyssey.  I was working with UNIX at the time, and I
	realized the power of UNIX scripts for creating programs which
	parse arguments and then run commands.  I worked for a few days on
	such a script and "hal" was born.  I have always had a version of
	"hal" running somewhere since then, and I decided to add some
	Sparrow charging commands to the current "hal" to make the charging
	process easier.  It took about half an hour, and the work was done.
	hal was now able to recognize and respond to commands like this:

	hal, please charge the sparrow for 3 hours
	or
	hal, please stop charging the sparrow

	hal parses the command, determines the duration of the charge being
	requested, and then schedules the appropriate "at" job to have the
	charge begin at 1:00 AM (remember the CA power crisis?  1:00 AM is
	totally off-peak) and last for the number of hours requested.  At
	the proper time, the first Bottlerocket command is issued, the charger
	is turned on, the commands "sleep" for the correct amount of time,
	and then another Bottlerocket command is executed to turn the
	charger off.  Piece of cake.

	Now I finally have what I need.  I have a control for the charging
	process that is complete programmable and it understands simple
	English commands.  I don't even have to ask it to keep its room
	clean!

	My wife is now happy to ask hal for keep the Sparrow charged, and I
	don't have to worry about the charge cycle repeating.  "at" jobs are
	one-time events, so every request runs and then finishes.  I am
	going to add in a "cron" job as well which runs if hal has no jobs
	scheduled, and have that charge run for a short period, like half
	an hour, to top off the Sparrow.  The two activities will not
	compete.

	I have plans to teach hal how to pick his own charge interval based
	on the percent showing on the E-meter, which will make the task of
	choosing an charge interval as simple as possible.

	I know this all sounds pretty far out, but it is all true.  I have
	the car of the future, why not the charger of the future as well?

Wed Jan 17 08:22:56 PST 2001
	
	The X10/AI charge controller is working well.  Several people on
	the E-groups Sparrow Newsgroup wrote to tell me that X10 modules
	sometimes turn on spontaneously due to interference (or who knows
	what?) so I wrote a small "keep dead" program to periodically send
	commands to turn the charger off - unless of course there is a
	request to have it on.  Programmability is nice.

Sat Jan 20 10:21:37 PST 2001

	The comments from the group members re: X10 module reliability were
	correct.  The X10 did not shut off last night.  I had the module
	plugged into the outlet controlled by the time, though, so there
	was no problem with charger run-on.

	I tested the X10 thoroughly and it turns out the unit was
	"bouncing" - it would turn off, then within a second it would turn
	on again.  Depressing.  Not being someone who gives up easily, I
	went to google and searched for "X10 won't turn off".  Sure enough,
	in the first page of results the problem (and solution) surfaced.

	It appears that the Sparrow Zivan charger triggers the "local
	control" feature of the modules as soon as it is turned off and
	then it turns right back on again!  The solution is to disable local
	control.  Here is a quote from one of the articles I found:
	"Procedure:
	Inside each module, there is an integrated circuit labeled
	PICO-570 or PICO-536C  Cut the lead that goes from pin 7 of this
	integrated circuit to the hot AC connection."

	I took my X10 module apart, and discovered there was an easily
	accessible jumper on the circuit board which enabled local control.
	I cut the jumper, and now the modules is being tested with a "5
	minute on, 5 minute off" series of commands.  So far it has been
	100% reliable.  Here are some pictures of the modification:
	(close up)
	(entire unit)
	Of course, this is risky, so don't do this if you are not willing
	to accept any negative consequences!

	One other interesting point.  The GFI has stopped tripping!!!
	Somehow the X10 module has "solved" the problem with the Zivan
	tripping the Ground Fault Interrupter.  The GFI would trip
	immediately when beginning a charge, but resetting it and then
	restarting the charge worked every time.  Since the X10 has been
	installed it has not tripped.  Electricity - who really understands
	it?

Wed Feb 07 20:11:15 PST 2001 - 1711 Miles

	For the past two weeks I have been a daily commuter in the
	Sparrow.  The round trip is about 25 miles, and the Sparrow completes
	it with no problem.  It is mixed city streets (10%) and full-on
	freeway (90%).  From a full charge, the E-meter says I have about
	40-45% charge left when I arrive back home.

	The car is working well.  The speedometer problem has returned, and
	sometimes the key has to be turned to "start" more than once to
	have the controller energize.  These are small problems by
	comparison, and I will troubleshoot them when I get around to it.

	I have started building a battery pack
	monitor/equalizer/desulfator/booster/charger
	which my wife named the "VoltScan" - it will allow individual
	battery voltages to be monitored, equalize the entire battery pack,
	desulfate the batteries individually, provide a small capacitor
	"boost" to each battery (which will help a bit with voltage sag on
	acceleration and also smooth out the power draw, increasing both
	battery capacity and lifetime), and it will enable me to charge the
	Sparrow (slowly) with a 12v solar panel.  It looks like something I
	could have commercially manufactured.  Stay tuned....

	The two PhotoWatt 100 Watt solar panels I ordered last week have yet
	to arrive, but I am ready to install them.  I expect they will provide
	about one quarter to one half of all the power the Sparrow uses.
	That power will be fed back into "the grid" during the day, when
	power use is the highest.  In another year I will order two more,
	and I will have a solar powered car.  What are YOU waiting for?

Sun Feb 11 11:35:47 PST 2001
	
	The solar panels are both configured on temporary mounts, and they
	are pushing 110v back into the grid via a Trace MicroSine inverter.
	This little inverter is only rated at 100 watts, so I will not be
	able to completely replace the power the Sparrow uses with this
	configuration.  Here is an example of what can be done, however:

	Sparrow electric storage capacity (theoretical):
	12v X 13 batteries X 65 amp Hours = 10.1 KWH

	Sparrow actual electric storage capacity:
	12v X 13 batteries X 45 amp Hours = 7 KWH

	Short trips around town, post office, market, etc. typically use
	15-25% of the capacity.  This would be 1-1.75 KWH.

	The Trace inverter will put out approximately 750 WH on an average
	sunny day.

	Add it all up - the solar panels are providing a substantial amount
	of the power the car uses, and if there are days when the car is
	not used at all, the solar system catches up even further.  Long
	commutes change the calculations and call for more power, but the
	current system probably breaks even for light use of the Sparrow.

Tue Feb 13 08:49:43 PST 2001

	I finished a set of fuse holders for the VoltScan connections to
	the batteries.  The parts were from Radio Shack and Kragen Auto
	Parts.

Sat Feb 17 19:53:21 PST 2001

	The complete set of fuse holders is ready.  There are 13 plus one
	more (black) connector for the ground.  The VoltScan device will be
	installed when these are in place.

Mon Feb 19 20:28:09 PST 2001 - 1896 Miles

	Today, in spite of the rain, I had "WATTGAS" out on the road for
	errands.  I had to stop in four different locations, and to my
	complete frustration the E-Meter reset TWICE on the trip.

	I can't be certain exactly what caused the problem, but I am
	certain that in the weather we had it was NOT static electricity.
	I was rolling the driver side window up and down frequently to
	let air out when closing the door, and I think that may be what
	pulled the voltage down far enough to reset the E-Meter.

	Well, as Popeye said, "I've had all I can stands, and I can't
	stands no more!"

	Using my meager knowledge of electronics, I went to the workbench
	and constructed a little circuit to keep the E-Meter alive during
	voltage sags and blackouts.  It is very simple.  It is a small
	circuit board, four screw connectors for wires, one Schottky 1A
	diode, and three 5.5v .22F (yes, Farad) "super" capacitors wired
	in series.

	Here is a picture of the parts I used.

	After I assembled the parts, I hooked up an LED lamp I built some
	time ago (three white LED's in series, about 20 MA current) and
	measured current inrush and voltage sustain.  I did not want to pop
	the E-Meter fuse (2 amps) or overload the diode (1 amp).
	Fortunately the capacitors have some effective resistance, and the
	maximum inrush current was around 100 MA.  If it had been higher, I
	would have added a resistor to limit charging current to the
	capacitors.

	If you don't mind the wait, you can watch a short movie
	of the test.  The power stops, and the light stays on!

	After testing the device with the LED light, it was time to take it
	out and install it.  Installation was not easy.  I took the
	steering column cover off (and stuffed a rag around it where it
	went into the floor to catch the nuts I KNEW I would drop there) and
	reached up from the right side to loosen the speedometer nuts.  The
	speedometer came out, and gave me enough clearance to reach the
	 E-Meter.  I rested both meters on a cloth to protect the dash
	and hooked up the power booster.  You can see the two wires (purple
	and brown) which originally went to the E-Meter, and the new wires
	(black and red) which now supply the power.

	After the booster was wired in, I enclosed it in a plastic box
	and dressed the wires out of slots cut with a hacksaw.  After the
	lid of the box was put on, I attached industrial-strength Velcro
	to the back of the box and reached in through the speedometer hole
	to mount it on the firewall.  You can see the bottom
	of the black box in the picture.

	It was quite a struggle to get the gauges out.  The Sparrow has a
	very busy wiring system behind the dash, and it takes a lot of
	patience (and some very odd contortions) to reach up under there.
	Warning: the Big Red Button (BRB) should be OFF while you are
	working under the dash!

	So - was it worth it?  Watch!(231k) The movie is real-time,
	and I pushed the Big Red Button (BRB) right as the movie started.
	As you can see, the meter keeps running for between 5 and 7 seconds
	after the power is cut completely.  It continues to display, then
	begins to blink the "V" symbol for a few seconds to indicate that
	power is dropping, then finally flashes one more time and stops.
	Total elapsed time is about 6-7 seconds, FAR longer than it lasted
	before the booster was added.  It used to die almost instantly if
	power was interrupted or voltage sagged.

	After putting everything back together, I took a short test drive.
	Everything behaved perfectly, and even abusing the power system by
	rolling both windows up simultaneously with the radio on did not
	cause a reset.  I'll keep this diary up to date with the status of
	the project.  So far, so good!

Tue Mar 06 22:48:38 PST 2001 - 1983 Miles

	Good news - the E-Meter has not had a problem since I added the
	capacitors.  The fix appears to be holding.

	It has been raining hard here in California for the past two
	weeks, and I decided to upgrade the taillights on the Sparrow to
	increase visibility.  I have ordered two LED taillights.  The model
	number is MAX60250R, which is a direct replacement for the original
	Signal Stat units.  I found the lights on this website.  I wrote to
	the web site owners with some questions, received immediate replies,
	and the on-line ordering process was easy to use and fast.  Two nice
	side effects of the LED technology are:

	1. They "never" burn out (100,000 hours)

	2. They use 1/10 of the power of the incandescent lights, which may
	be worth a few percent of the battery capacity in stop-and-go driving
	on my morning commute.

	I also took some time tonight to write to my state representatives
	and to the CARB (California Air resources Board).  Here is the
	letter I wrote:

To all:

In one more day I will have traveled 2,000 miles in Zero Emission Vehicle.
On the roof of my home are the first two solar panels of the set of ten
which will one day provide all the electricity the vehicle uses.  During my
30 mile daily commute I pass by homes and businesses quietly, cleanly,
rolling lightly on the pavement.  The vehicle does not produce gallons of
used oil every 3,000 miles, and gallons of used antifreeze to deal with
every year as winter approaches.  In my driveway there are no oil spots,
being washed by the rain into our precious wetland environment.

It is not a bicycle, or a skateboard, but a practical alternative to the
conventional automobile.  Fast, safe, and freeway legal, this vehicle is
used for more trips by my family than both our fossil-fueled vehicles
combined.

Let me say that again:  This Zero Emission Vehicle, partially powered by
solar electricity, is our preferred method of transportation.  When the
automobile manufacturers lobby you with claims that ZEV's are too
expensive, to impractical, too unconventional, etc. I want you to remember
this letter.

They do not speak for me.

Please recognize the Corbin Motors Sparrow ZEV for what it is - the future,
available today.  The Sparrow delivers on the promise of the ZEV, has a
better chance of being powered by renewables than its larger competitors
due to its small size and amazing efficiency, and it does what every ZEV
MUST do to make a difference - it keeps fossil-fueled vehicles off the
road.

I urge you to evaluate the Corbin Sparrow based on what it accomplishes,
not on what it is.  It is the four fossil-fueled wheels being kept off the
road that matter, not the three ZEV wheels that power the Sparrow.  Re-
write the rules to fairly reward Sparrow owners for their contribution to
clean, sustainable, renewable energy powered transportation.  They do no
less for the environment than the owners of the four wheeled ZEV's, but
they are excluded from all incentives other ZEV owners are entitled to.

As the automobile makers hype fossil-fueled "hybrids" which cannot be powered
by renewable energy sources, do not eliminate used oil, used antifreeze,
continue to emit pollution, and do NOTHING to eliminate the monstrous
pollution problems caused by transporting, storing, and dispensing
fossil fuels, I will just say "No."

For my sake, and the sake of others who have made this commitment as well,
please treat our choice of ZEV fairly with regard to incentives.  We have
done our part.  Please help us by doing yours.

Sincerely,

David Butcher
Corbin Sparrow #95 - 2000 pollution-free miles

Fri Mar 09 08:25:05 PST 2001 - 2024 Miles

	A bit of bad news.  The E-Meter reset today for the first time
	since the addition of the capacitors to hold the voltage up.  It
	was probably static this time, and not related to voltage sags.  I
	say this because the reset happened the instant I put the key in
	the ignition.  This has been discussed before - the best answer I
	have heard is to touch the cigarette lighter ring before putting
	the key in the ignition.  I will also explore additional filtering
	on the input leads for the E-Meter.
	
Mon Mar 19 20:58:08 PST 2001 - 2204 Miles

	Today the LED taillights arrived.  The light assemblies are almost
	exact replacements for the existing Signal-Stat 4070 6 inch oval
	units.  As far as I know, all Sparrows up to number 99 used the six
	inch oval light assemblies for stop and turn in the rear.  From
	100 on I believe the assemblies are round.
	
	The wiring for the new lamps is identical to the plug-in wiring on
	the originals.  The manufacturer is MAX, the model numbers is
	MAX-M60250R, the price was $29.95 each, and the web site where I
	ordered the lamps is http://www.florawrecker.com/store/ledlights.html

	I unscrewed the two screws holding the fiberglass bezels in place,
	and removed the old assemblies.  I could tell that there was
	potential for leakage around the screw holes, so I "gooped" them up
	a bit with Radio Shack Teflon Lube Gel.  This heavy bodied, water
	resistant gel may help keep the water out.  I will work some more
	on leaks next rainy season, but this will do for now.  I also
	applied the same lube gel to the power plugs to ensure that there
	was no way for air and moisture to enter the plugs.

	The new lamps are designed to fit where the old assemblies did, but
	I discovered that the new lamps are not as deep as the old lamps,
	and they can "fall into the hole" behind the bezel.  I used premium
	black vinyl electrical tape to "build up" the edges of the "hole"
	the lamps fit into, and I also built up the lamps themselves by
	wrapping the tape around the base twice.  After this treatment the
	lamps fit fairly tightly in the fiberglass bezels, and no longer
	"fell in the hole."  They are still a bit fragile, though, so next
	time I take them out I will put four tiny screws through the lamp's
	lower edge into the fiberglass bezel.  That will be permanent.  I
	will probably also fill the holes around the screws with silicone
	rubber, because there will be no need to ever service the lamps
	again.  The LED's are rated for 100,000 hours of use, which is
	something like 11 years of continuous use.  No more burned-out tail
	light bulbs for me!

	The lights are very sharp, quite bright (much brighter than the
	incandescent originals) and they light instantly.  They are very
	eye-catching.  They also draw almost no power.  The incandescent
	lamps would register half an amp (at 165 volts) when the brake
	lights were on, and these lamps do not appear to be measurable
	with the E-meter.

	All in all, a good upgrade over the standard brake/turn lights.

Sun Apr 01 08:14:49 PDT 2001 - 2405 Miles

	Interesting! (In a
	tounge-in-cheek kind of way)

Sat Apr 07 08:14:49 PDT 2001 - 2574 Miles

	Wet day in California.  PG&E (one of our two large utility
	companies) declared bankruptcy yesterday.  Our last month's power
	bill showed LOWER use than a year ago (before the Sparrow started
	being charged for the daily commute) reflecting the power
	conservation steps my wife and I have taken around the house.

	The Sparrow is behaving beautifully.  Some small glitches remain,
	such as the speedometer fluctuations when stopped (it reads
	perfectly while driving) and minor leaks.  I have a compact car
	cover on it right now, so the leaks are not a problem during this
	storm.

	I have been driving the Sparrow to work for the past three weeks.
	Round trip is about 27 miles.  The Sparrow is quite happy with this
	distance and I finish the trip with a reasonable amount of power.

	The E-meter has reset exactly twice since I added the capacitors to
	the power wire.  Both times it was just as the key touched the
	ignition.  Static, I am sure.

	I was kind of glad the meter reset, because it has the wrong
	"Peukert's Constant" programmed in.  This factor artificially
	lowers battery capacity estimates if you draw the power out of the
	batteries quickly.  It is a characteristic of lead-acid batteries
	that capacity depends on rate of discharge, and faster discharges
	results in lower effective capacity.

	The incorrect constant was causing my battery pack to appear to be
	charging below capacity and discharging too deeply.  Every trip (on
	the highway, where the factor applies the most) the pack would
	slide a little lower.

	Of course, this was a false reading, because the charger was doing
	its job.  I monitored many charges, and they were perfect, and the
	resting voltage in the morning was 171 or 172 volts.  Perfect.  It
	just proves that no SINGLE measurement or reading can reliably tell
	you the state of your batteries.  Over time you will develop a
	sense of what it really going on.

Wed Apr 25 08:13:47 PDT 2001 - 2750 Miles

	The Sparrow has been performing beautifully.  I have been commuting
	to work every day and the trip appears to be quite comfortable for
	the car.  The distance is around 27 miles, and I have not been
	charging at work because the charging plug is not very convenient.

	The Sparrow starts the day at around 170 volts (having been charged
	by my X10/AI + timer system the night before) and arrives back home
	still reading 150 volts on the freeway at 60 MPH.  That is a sign
	that there is still significant range left.  This trip requires
	about a 4 hour charge with my 110 volt charger.

	I have one of two 100 watt solar panels mounted on the roof
	"permanently" and I will be mounting the second this weekend.  Those
	two panels will "reimburse" the grid for about 1/4 to 1/3 of the
	power I use to commute.  I'll add some more next year.  The peak
	power graph at the California ISO site (where state-wide power use
	is monitored) peaks at 1:00 PM - exactly the time those two panels
	will be at full output.  There was an interesting discussion about
	pollution and efficiency on the the E-groups Sparrow Newsgroup this week.
	A belief was expressed that "Hybrids" were nearly as clean as EV's
	(Electric Vehicles).  It turns out that it can be a close race -
	if the EV is "fueled" with electricity generated from a ten year
	old coal burning power plant in a state with looser pollution
	requirements than California, and if the "Hybrid" is allowed to
	drive long enough for the catalytic converter to fully warm up (In
	short trips catalyst-equipped cars start off as gross polluters,
	then gradually achieve their rated levels of pollution as the catalyst
	reaches operating temperature.  EPA tests hide this fact through
	averaging, and using relatively long test cycles.  For 1-5 mile
	trips an EV, even a "coal powered electricity" EV, is vastly less
	polluting than almost every Gasoline or Diesel vehicle available
	today!).

	Of course, the price difference between the Sparrow and most
	"Hybrids," though small, is sufficient to buy enough photovoltaic
	panels to provide most or all of the electricity the Sparrow uses.
	At that point the "Hybrid" no longer compares.  Adding 100-800
	watts of grid-tied Solar along with a Sparrow is a no-brainer,
	if you are interested in EV's to cut pollution.
	
	I also received the Teflon spray for the belt today.  I will give
	the belt and cogs a complete treatment and see how long it lasts.
	I expect I will have to treat the parts several times before
	enough Teflon sinks into the pores of the metal sprockets and the
	drive belt.  It stopped the "chirp" or "munch" noise immediately.
	I will see if I can drive for a week or two before I need to treat
	it again.

Wed May 02 09:02:57 PDT 2001 - 2814 Miles
	
	The Teflon spray works for about 20 miles, and then some of the
	noise returns.  I will keep treating the belt and sprockets for
	a while to see if a heavier coating last longer.  When the Teflon
	is working the Sparrow is so quiet I can hear the odometer clicking
	as it counts off the tenths.  No, it is not as quiet as a Mercedes,
	but it is everything I expected in an electric car.  It is quieter
	than I remember the GM EV1 being during my test drive.

	I am commuting every day in the Sparrow, and my wife and I share it
	on the weekends.  The two 100 watt solar panels are working well,
	and I only charge the Sparrow at night when the electricity grid is
	far below peak usage levels.   I am quite happy with the whole
	situation.

Mon May 14 21:26:09 PDT 2001 - 3012 Miles

	A magic day.  I watched the speedometer turn over 3000 miles on the
	offramp to the San Jose Airport from Highway 880.  It is a
	wonderful feeling to drive a partially solar-powered vehicle.  I
	hope Corbin Motors continues to produce this unique vehicle, and
	that more people can experience the same feeling.

Sat Jun 09 11:19:14 PDT 2001 - 3337 Miles

	The Sparrow is running well, and I have been commuting regularly in
	it.  Unfortunately, earlier this week I got in the car and found
	the E-meter was dark.  I was disappointed because I had installed
	the capacitor voltage dropout solutions mentioned earlier in this
	diary, and I was worried that one of the components I had installed
	had failed.  I pulled the speedometer out so I could reach the
	capacitor circuit I had built, and tested it.  Everything seemed
	fine, but there was no voltage coming in to the circuit.

	I decided to trace the power back to the source to see why there
	was no power to the E-meter.  The electrical diagram created by
	Davide Andrea in the the E-groups Sparrow Newsgroup
	was invaluable - the E-meter is powered by the EVCL, a "black box"
	under the hood of my car.  The EVCL is about the size of a deck of
	playing cards and it is attached to the right wheel well with
	velcro.  I removed it and smelled it (a very scientific
	troubleshooting approach for electronics).  It smelled burned.  I
	opened the box (only two screws) and examined it closely.  Sure
	enough, one of the two IC's had failed.  The case was cracked and
	there was evidence of "spray" coming out of the crack.  This
	particular IC was a NTE1212M, which is a 12v to 12v
	converter/isolator.  I looked it up with
	Google, and discovered it
	has a capacity of around 70-80 milliamps (MA).  Hmm.  My E-meter
	capacitor modification can draw as much as 100 MA, so could
	my modification be the cause?  I don't think so, because the
	capacitors only draw 100 MA when they are dead empty, and the EVCL
	had failed while the capacitors were in service, drawing
	essentially nothing.  No, I think the NTE1212M simply failed.
	Nonetheless, I am going to add a current limiting resistor to the 
	the capacitors to limit the charge current to them to 50MA or so.
	That should provide insurance against overloads.

	Fortunately, the EVCL is easy to remove (all cables attach to it
	with a single plug).  I was able to contact Claire at Corbin
	Motors (using the phone number on the Corbin Sparrow website,
	and request a replacement EVCL.  It should arrive any day now.
	Meanwhile, I have been carefully driving the Sparrow anyway, and
	being conservative with charging it.  I have also been monitoring
	the batteries using a voltmeter, so I know pretty well how they are
	doing.

	Other news - the Sparrow is SO quiet!  The Teflon spray works
	wonders on the belt, even though it only lasts for 25 miles or so.
	There are two belt sounds, a "munch" and a "squeal."  The "munch" is
	gone, and does not seem to come back between treatments.  The
	squeal seems to occur only under acceleration, and it builds up
	very gradually starting at around 20 miles.  I think it is from the
	edge of the belt, not the "teeth."  The repeated Teflon treatments
	seem to be lasting longer and longer, though, so I may have a
	reasonable solution.  It looks like one can of $6 Teflon treatment
	will last for 1000 miles or more, so it is not a problem to
	continue.  And it is sooooooo quiet when the belt is quiet - I
	worry about "sneaking up" on pedestrians.  When the windows are
	down, I can hear engine sounds from every car around me.  Even
	the "quiet" luxury cars make a loud racket, especially when
	accelerating.  And the SUV's - plug your ears!  What a different
	world it would be if all cars were as quiet as the Sparrow!!

Wed Jun 20 14:00:11 PDT 2001 - 3492 Miles

	I took the Sparrow shopping today - to Costco!  Now what would a
	little car like the Sparrow be doing at Costco, land of the bulk
	buy?  Well, even though Sparrow #95 (VIN #98) is one of the older
	"Jellybean" models, it can still hold a surprising payload:
	2.5 Gal. Tide, 1 Gal, Clorox 2, 2 Gal. Cranberry Juice, 5 Lbs.
	Carrots, 500 ct. Jumbo Trash Bags, Extra Large Cascade DW Gel,
	2 Lbs Granola. And oh yes, of course, me.  That payload is almost
	70 pounds.  The Sparrow handled it easily.

Thu Jun 21 15:49:39 PDT 2001 - 3524 Miles

	Upgrades and fixes.  During the past two weeks I have been working
	on two projects.  The hot weather is here (93 degrees F today!) and
	a week ago the Sparrow shut down while I was driving because the
	controller overheated.  Every safety feature worked perfectly,
	preventing any damage.  I pulled over, waited for the fan to cool
	off the controller, and then drove on home.

	The fan in the controller compartment is rated at 100 CFM, but the
	intake is restricted and the exhaust air has to move through a vent
	tube.  I suspect the airflow is nowhere near 100 CFM.  I decided to
	replace the fan with a more powerful version.

	The factory fan:

	PAPST Multifan 4312
        12v DC 5W
        ball bearing

MODEL CFM   V  LV-HV  DB       W   RPM   TEMP RNG LIFE AT TEMP  MODEL
170   100.1 12 6...15 45 5.8 l 5.0 2800 -20...+75 62500 / 27500 4312

        the replacement I chose:

        NMB 4715KL-04W-B40
        12v DC .9 amps (10.8 Watts)
        ball bearing

MODEL 4715KL
MODEL        NOISE NPEL (BELS) PRESSURE (IN H2O) AIRFLOW (CFM)
04W-B40-P00  6.03              .33               118

	I visited Halted Electronics for the replacement fan, which they
	had for $7.95.  It was very easy to remove the old fan and replace
	it with the new, more powerful fan.  WARNING:  Turn the power off
	(the BRB - Big Red Button) before working in the controller
	compartment, wear gloves, and cover all exposed wire ends with
	clean, dry rags.

	The upgrade was successful - I drove the Sparrow 25 miles on the
	freeway today with no overheating problems.

	The other project has to do with the EVCL - one of the two "black
	boxes" in the car.  I started this story in the June 9th entry.
	Well, today the replacement part from Mouser Electronics arrived.
	The part cost $8.78.  I retrieved the EVCL and got to work.  I
	took a picture of the failed chip.  It is cracked on
	the upper left corner and it spewed molten material out to the left.
	The "12V in" leg was also fried - this is the second leg in from the
	left on the bottom.

	I cut the legs off the old chip, removed it, cleaned off the board
	with flux remover, and soldered in the new chip.  Since it looked
	like this failure was the result of overvoltage, I added a 20 volt
	MOV (Metal Oxide Resistor) to the power connector on the EVCL - just
	to try to clamp any higher than normal voltages.  I put the EVCL back
	together.
	
	The E-meter fired right up and once again all is right with the world.

Wed Jul  4 18:27:36 PDT 2001 - 3646 Miles

	Happy Fourth of July!  Today the Sparrow lead the neighborhood
	parade.  The organizers collected virtually every family on the
	street and marched around the block twice, with dogs, wagons,
	electric kiddie-cars, bicycles, and of course, curious parents.
	The Sparrow was my own little "independence" statement.  A fun time
	was had by all.

Sun Jul 15 20:49:21 PDT 2001 - 3815 Miles

	Like many Sparrow owners, I have been experimenting with different
	treatments on the drive belt to stop noise.  I finally settled on
	a pure PTFE (Teflon) aerosol spray from Kano Laboratories.  It was
	inexpensive (about $6/can) and it worked - the belt became silent
	after a treatment with this material.  HOWEVER, the noise would
	gradually come back, and after another 30-50 miles, the belt would
	be "squeaking" and "munching" again.

	The pure PTFE spray had a lot going for it - no residue or build-up,
	no tendency to attract dirt or dust, no friction, and of course I
	got to use it on everything else the needed light lubrication, from
	other areas of the Sparrow to anything needing lubrication around
	the house. 

	Good stuff.  But not a solution.

	I racked by brain for a similar technology, PTFE, safe for plastics,
	waterproof, non-sticky, with extreme temperature range.  And yes,
	Dear Reader, the perfect belt dressing MAY exist.

	One week ago I treated my belt with a 1/2 inch squeeze of Radio Shack
	Teflon Lube Gel, and I have not heard the belt since.  This
	inexpensive, convenient material has all the characteristics of the
	PTFE spray, but it has a much heavier body and it appears to last
	much longer.  It is easy to apply, easy to transport, and so far
	(50 miles) it WORKS.  The one problem is that is "squeezes" out
	sideways from the space between the belt and the "teeth" on the
	cogs if it is put on too thickly, so it must be applied very
	sparingly along the length of the belt, not as a blob all in one
	spot.

	Other than that, it seems like the perfect lube.  I will track the
	performance of this lube here and comment on it as I gain more
	experience with it.

Tue Jul 17 21:37:55 PDT 2001

	I wrote my congressman today.  It seems a bill has been introduced
	to allow "hybrids" to use the carpool lanes with single drivers.
	This upsets me, because the poor Sparrow is not allowed to use
	those lanes in some states.  Granting special privileges to
	"hybrids" is irresponsible and based on ignorance.  A "hybrid" is
	simply a complex gasoline vehicle.  Read my letter to my congressman
	here.
	
	Sorry if I offend any of you who bought a "hybrid."  It is a GOOD
	THING to buy a vehicle which gets more miles per gallon, and emits
	cleaner exhaust.  However, There are other gasoline vehicles which
	are NOT hybrids with high mileage and clean exhaust.  There is no
	justification for allowing the "hybrid" to use the carpool lanes
	with single drivers and not the other vehicles with similar mileage
	and emissions ratings.  If the bill were worded to allow single
	driver vehicles based on mileage and emissions instead of HOW
	the mileage and emissions are achieved, that would be different.

	At the gas pump, and at the smog test station, and at Jiffy Lube, a
	"hybrid" is just another gasoline vehicle.  If part or all of the
	energy taking it down the road were renewable, I would change my
	tune.  "Hybrids" are a tremendously successful marketing concept
	distracting everyone from the real problem while not addressing it:
	we must reduce our near-total dependence on fossil fuels.

	Sorry for preaching.  Back to the diary now.

Wed Jul 25 07:44:10 PDT 2001 - 3946 Miles

	Yesterday I performed a minor upgrade.  In February I installed a
	small circuit with "ultra capacitors" to maintain power to the
	E-meter.  The circuit has been performing about 95% as well as I had
	hoped, but there were a few incidents in bright sunlight (the
	E-meter automatically brightens and dims depending on ambient light
	levels, so it draws more power in bright sunlight) where the meter
	lost power and reset when windows were rolled down, etc.  It was SO
	close to working, I figured my idea was sound, but my components
	were not.  Visiting my favorite surplus store again, I found 1
	Farad capacitors for $1.95 each, and bought three.  These
	capacitors are five times larger than the caps I had in the
	circuit, so they should be able to maintain the E-meter longer.
	I installed them, and it looks like they are working as I planned.
	
	This past weekend I also attended the first shareholder's meeting
	at Corbin Motors, in Hollister CA.  The meeting was in the factory,
	surrounded by Sparrow cars.  The company is in transition in many
	ways.  There is new management, new focus, and the current design
	of the vehicle is winding down in production.  The NEXT design
	looks hot!  Their web site has more facts.  I was impressed that
	they had made it through the very difficult period when the cars
	were failing in the field due to unreliable components.  They
	appear to have addressed this through manufacturing partnerships
	with much larger and more mature companies.  I am optimistic that 
	they will survive and that the next car they produce will be a
	winner!

Thu Jul 26 17:15:54 PDT 2001 - 3980 Miles

	Today I had a small adventure.  After attending a seminar on
	Technology Drive (13 miles from home), charging in the parking
	structure nearby (there is an outlet at every floor on the
	elevator shaft wall - perfect!), visiting Halted Electronics
	(another 5 miles) and starting for home (16 miles from Halted),
	I suddenly heard an ominous tap-tap-tap coming from the back
	of the car.  "A nail?"  I thought.

	Electric cars are very quiet, you see, so you can hear these
	things.  I have driven my gasoline vehicle who knows how many miles
	with nails and screws embedded the tires - but never could hear the
	sound they made over the engine noise.

	I pulled in to the E-Wanted parking lot and checked things out.  Yes,
	there it was, straight into the middle of the tread.  I had picked
	up a nasty one inch long screw in the back tire! Being a seasoned
	Sparrownaut, I was prepared!  I took out my Brookstone miniature
	tool kit and used the pliers to extract the screw.  I also had my
	mandatory can of fix-a-flat, and it filled the slowly leaking tire
	right up and sealed the hole, just as it was supposed to do.

	I drove back carefully, but there was no noticeable difference.  I
	went straight to Wheel Works on Los Gatos Boulevard.  They signed
	me up for the repair without a blink.  When it came time to fetch
	the vehicle, however, they encouraged me to drive it into position.
	I volunteered to take the right side (passenger side ? ;-) fender
	skirt off to get them started.  Using a floor jack with a 2x6 wood
	block, they jacked up the car and had only minor difficulty getting
	the wheel off.  It comes off by "folding" under the car, not by
	pulling the bottom of the tire out and slipping the wheel down.
	After everything was reassembled and the usual questions about the
	car asked and answered, I was on my way.  As odd is it is, the
	Sparrow is just another car to the professionals at Wheel Works.

	After replacing the fix-a-flat, visiting the grocery store, and
	finally arriving at home, I had a 60% charge left, thanks to the
	recharge in the parking structure during the seminar.  34 miles
	today!  Having just ONE hour of additional charge somewhere along
	the itinerary makes a BIG difference, thanks to the great
	efficiency of the Sparrow.  I am a believer in "opportunity
	charging," standard electrical connections (it doesn't get any more
	standard than a 120v outlet) and an electric car that can go 8-10
	miles after a one hour charge from a standard outlet.  It is a
	"sweet spot" for the Sparrow that no other electric vehicle occupies.

Thu Aug  2 12:41:53 PDT 2001 - 3988 Miles

	I am installing the monitoring wires for the VoltScan today.  I
	have to attach a connector to each of the positive terminals of the
	batteries, and one final lead to the negative terminal of the
	"first" battery in the string.  This will enable each battery to be
	monitored/charged/equalized/desulfated separately.  It is slow work
	because it is so important to be SAFE.

	After several hours of work, the VoltScan connectors are installed.
	Measuring voltage between any pair of wires gives the voltage of
	that section of the pack, whether it is one or more batteries. 
	The VoltScan logic board will sort it all out and provide information
	separately on each of the 13 batteries.

Fri Aug  3 13:35:25 PDT 2001 - 3998 Miles

	While installing the VoltScan wires yesterday, I came across a
	problem.  I had opened the seat compartment (where 7 of the 13
	batteries live) right after a full charge and one of the batteries
	was "hissing!!!"  Optima VRSLA (Valve Regulated Sealed Lead Acid)
	batteries operate under pressure with an oxygen recombination cycle
	taking care of the gasses produced by charging.  If the battery is
	charged too fast, it builds up pressure and vents.  That is what
	my battery was doing.

	This is not good.

	Optimas should never vent unless abused.  I finished wiring the
	VoltScan and now I am going to begin monitoring the pack very
	carefully.  I installed the VoltScan just in time!  I will use what
	I learn through monitoring to determine just what is causing that
	battery to vent.

Sun Aug  5 19:44:07 PDT 2001 - 4002 Miles

	I have been making use of the VoltScan wiring.  I attached my
	desulfator to the weak battery last night, and left it on for 24
	hours.  I also attached an old "automatic" battery charger which
	charges up to about 14.3 volts and then regulates.  The battery
	charged fully and "floated" all night and day at 14.3 volts.
	
	At 5:30 PM today I took both the desulfator and the charger off.
	The battery voltage slowly decayed to around 13.35 volts.  At this
	point, every other battery under the seat read 13.20-13.22 volts.
	Time for a test drive.

	I drove two miles, stopped the car and tested voltages.  Every
	battery under the seat read 12.97-12.99 volts, except the battery I
	am worried about.  It read 12.88 volts.  I put the desulfator back
	on and parked the car for the night.  Desulfating a battery can
	take a long time - weeks - so I am not worried.  Tomorrow I will
	attach the desulfator "permanently" to that battery and check
	everything in another week.

Mon Aug  6 17:40:12 PDT 2001 - 4013 Miles

	Today I put the VoltScan wires to the test.  I was showing about
	-13 amp Hours on the E-meter, and I decided to monitor the charge
	voltages on the batteries under the seat.  I fired up the charger
	and did a complete charge.  Here are the stats.

	I was surprised by the amount of variation I found as the charge
	progressed.  While the car drives beautifully and has good range,
	the batteries I measured showed dramatically different voltages
	(over a volt) during parts of the charge cycle.  I intend to
	find out why.

Wed Aug  8 09:36:04 PDT 2001 - 4046 Miles

	Yesterday I visited the Santa Clara Convention Center, then Halted
	Electronics for more VoltScan parts, then Lunardi's for food.  By
	charging for an hour at the convention center I was able to drive
	33 miles and arrive home with 60% showing on the E-meter.

	I charged for three hours at night, then stopped the charge.  It
	was hot out (80 degrees F.), and I did not want to equalize.

	This morning the batteries had no detectable warmth, so
	I restarted the charger.  I checked the pack 15 minutes later.
	The Zivan had entered equalization mode, the voltage was 215v,
	and the battery which had been venting in the past few charges
	was venting again!

	I do not believe this could be caused by heat, as the batteries
	were "cold" when the charge started, and the total energy put into
	each battery after 15 minutes of equalization is 7.5 watt hours (2
	amps*.25 hours*15 volts).  30 watts going in.  That is not a lot.

	If not heat, what could cause the venting?  The most probable
	causes I can think of are a leaky valve (only one of the two
	black disk vents was making noise), sulfation, (which should make
	the entire battery vent), or a short in one of the cells causing
	localized heating and vaporization of the electrolyte.

	If it is a short vaporizing electrolyte, it should stop as the area
	around the short dries out.  It does not appear to stop.

	I am going to run a few more tests, but the only way I know of to
	test the valve is to measure the pressure in the battery, which I
	am not prepared to do.
	
	In my "spare time" I have started to make a chart of everything I
	have learned about the batteries in the Sparrow.  My goal is to
	make it useful as a guide and troubleshooting tool.  Check it out!

Sun Aug 12 10:48:43 PDT 2001 - 4088 Miles

	Yesterday I added a "high-tech" thermal monitoring device to the
	battery pack under the seat.  It will help keep track of ambient
	temperatures.  It is an $8.95 chef's thermometer dropped into the
	crack between the batteries, where it sits quite happily.

	I drove around town a bit today, using up 10 amp Hours (that is
	about 30% of a "tank").  The thermometer under the seat started
	at 72 degrees F and ended at 78 degrees F, while the outside
	temperature started at 70 degrees F and was 80 degrees at the
	end of the trip.  Apparently the batteries release very little
	heat during town driving.

	The VoltScan wires are installed under the seat for 6 of 7
	batteries.  While no circuitry has been installed yet, the wires
	make it MUCH easier to monitor voltage and even charge individual
	batteries.  The large black "dominoes" on each wire are fuse
	holders.

	This morning I added another bit of "Mr. Wizard" instrumentation to
	the Sparrow.  I added a gas collection dome and tube to the venting
	Optima.  I am trying a full charge tonight (18 amp hours) with the
	hose in an inverted measuring class.  I will see when gassing
	starts and how much (or how vigorous) it is.

	Pics: 1 2 3 4 (Sorry about the blur)

	-10.0 amp Hours - batteries 80 F - no gassing
	 -2.0 amp Hours - batteries 84 F - no gassing
	 -1.7 amp Hours - batteries 84 F - gassing begins
	 -1.1 amp Hours - batteries 84 F - gassing rapidly
	 -0.1 amp Hours - batteries 84 F - gassing slowly
	  0.0 amp Hours - batteries 84 F - gassing slowly, I stopped the
	  charge.

	Time to call it a night.

	0 amp hours - "full" but not equalized
	Battery voltage: 15.85 - still the highest under the seat
	Charger 1.5 amps - just about to enter equalization mode
	Battery (side, middle) temperature: 85 F
	Temperature of brass collector fitting: ambient
	Gassing very slow

	Wrap-up:

	The gas collection device is not finished, so the total volume of
	gas emitted was not measured, but it was roughly 100ml

	At no time was any heat detected on any of the gas collection
	apparatus

	The batteries do not feel warm (the thermometer proves that they
	have indeed heated up a few degrees, though)

	The rate of gas emission appeared to be directly tied to amperage
	after it began.  Gas emission began right after the battery attained
	it's highest voltage.

	Trace amounts of water vapor (under a drop total) are visible on
	the walls of the first foot of the 1/8 inch vinyl tube.  The tube
	is 10 feet long, and there is no trace of water vapor after the
	first foot (this is consistent with the idea that venting releases
	electrolysis gases or oxygen plus water vapor, since the partial
	pressure of water within the cell causes the gases in the cell
	to become saturated).

	All-in-all, it looks like a very minor but classic overcharge with
	accompanying venting of electrolysis products or oxygen, mixed with
	water vapor, caused by pack imbalance (causes of THAT not discussed
	here) with no evidence of any significant heat or heat-related
	problems.

	There are other possible explanations for the venting as well -
	which analyzing the composition of the vented gas would help with!

	I'll do it all again soon and measure gas volume and composition if
	I can.  PowerCheqs or the equivalent are looking REAL good right now
	for a Stage 2 pack!

	PS: when the equalization phase started, the amperage and rate of
	venting increased immediately.  A second battery (with the second
	highest voltage) also began to vent.  I stopped the charge at that
	point, and the venting slowed, and stopped.

Mon Aug 13 20:05:17 PDT 2001 - 4104 Miles

	Today was a normal day, errands, bank. grocery store, etc.  The
	Sparrow ended up at -18 AH.  Time for another experiment!  I
	started the charge.

	As the charge progressed, I got the equipment together.  I had
	plenty of time, because the problems start at the end of the
	charge, not the beginning.

	I hooked two pairs of wires up to the highest and lowest voltage
	batteries, ran the wires outside the car to a terminal block, and
	attached a voltmeter to the "high" pair.

	I then assembled a hybrid capacitor bank of 2 F (yes, FARAD) of
	supercapacitors plus 100,000 uF of fast electrolytics.  I hooked
	the capacitor bank to a second voltmeter, attached two test probes
	to be used as contactors, and started experimenting.

	Amazingly, I was able to equalize the pack.  I kid you not.  When
	the charger switched to the 2 amp constant current charge, every
	battery under the seat rose up to 16.20 volts plus or minus .1 volt
	at the same time.  I stopped the charge at that point because those
	batteries already were "equal."

	Obviously, there is more research to do!

Tue Aug 14 18:08:03 PDT 2001 - 4115 Miles

	The voltage read 168 this morning - a full charge.  I attached the
	gas sampling apparatus and took off for the weekly run to Trader
	Joe's.  This is a flat, 11 mile round-trip with speed limits of 35
	and 40 miles most of the way.  The entire trip took 45 minutes.
	Amp hours used: 11.4
	
	The "perfect trip" for a Sparrow.

	The gas measurement apparatus showed no gassing at all during or
	after the trip.  Battery temperatures (side of battery, under seat)
	before trip: 81 F - after trip: 84 F

	I charged this evening until the E-meter read -2 amp hours (still
	doing the bulk charge) and unplugged the charger.

Wed Aug 15 13:33:08 PDT 2001 - 4122 Miles

	I restarted the charge this morning, and it took the pack right up
	to 190v, proceeded through the tapering phase, and entered
	equalization.  Equalization proceeded normally, and one hour later
	the charger shut off.  No change in battery temperature.  Absolutely
	no gassing.  Hmm.  It appears that giving the batteries a "rest"
	right in the middle of the taper charge gives them a chance to
	"digest" the charge they have received, and prevents them from
	venting.  It makes sense, because there is a limit to how fast
	gases can be recombined inside the batteries, and spreading the
	charge out over more time may keep the rate of gas production below
	that limit.  I will test this theory on the next few charges and
	report back here.

Fri Aug 17 14:39:21 PDT 2001 - 4128 Miles

	I stopped by the neighborhood Pool Supply store and bought some PH
	test strips.  I tested the water in the gas collection device, and
	tap water, which it was filled with.  I was hoping to see little
	difference.  There is a miniscule chance that some acid was vented
	in vapor form, and the gas collection device would have caught it.
	Since the vapor is bubbled through water, it would be likely that
	some of the acid would transfer to the water, lowering the pH of
	the water.  According to the test strips, the water had not
	changed pH.  It appears that acid is not in the gasses being vented.

	By the way, there has been no additional venting since the very
	minor amount on Aug 13.  Driving does not ever appear to cause
	venting.

	Venting of the batteries appears to take place only during (and
	sometimes continues after) the constant voltage portion of the
	bulk charge, when the voltage is approximately 190v and the
	amperage is tapering down, but is still over 2 amps.  This the the
	only "critical" period of the charge, where it is possible for
	individual batteries to be subjected to out-of-spec conditions.
	That condition occurs when a battery reaches full charge, but is
	still receiving a charge current of over 2 amps.  In an equalized
	pack, this period is short, just a matter of five minutes or so,
	and every battery ends this phase very near 14.7 volts.
	
	If the pack is not equal, and some batteries are low and still
	accepting charge, the "full" batteries go up to 16+ volts and may
	begin to vent gas.  I think that is the cause of venting of
	otherwise healthy packs during charge - different timing between
	batteries for achieving 100% charge leads to overcharging the ones
	which reach full charge the fastest.

	The charger design, which holds the taper charge at a theoretically
	perfect 14.7 volts per battery (191.5v/13 batteries), is optimistic.
	If all batteries arrive at full charge at the same time, the charge
	is within spec for each battery.  If they arrive at full charge at
	different times, some batteries undercharge and some overcharge.
	The equalization phase of the charger accounts for the differences
	in state-of-charge in this case, but some damage has been done if
	any of the overcharged batteries vented.

	So there you have it.  A possible explanation for venting during
	charging.  The solution is easy: don't let batteries overcharge.
	
Tue Aug 21 18:53:28 PDT 2001 - 4134 Miles

	I finished the VoltScan wires under the hood today.  I can now
	quickly and safely check the voltage of every battery in the
	vehicle.  The next step is to finish the "sequencer" circuit which
	connects to each battery for one second (long enough to get a
	reading) and then moves to the next.  I started this circuit months
	ago, but stopped when I realized the sensor wiring would be a
	bigger job than I thought.

	I tested each battery under the hood - 6 of them - and they were
	all within a few hundredths of a volt of each other.
	Interestingly, the first battery under the seat was a little more
	than a tenth of a volt higher.  I can't wait to finish the
	sequencer to enable automatic collection of the data.

	OK, enough of the propellerhead stuff.

	I love this car!  The Teflon Lube Gel keeps the drive belt quiet,
	the brakes are worn in and have become almost completely silent,
	and the motor brushes are worn in.  The silence is wonderful.

	Power is excellent - I never have to "floor" the accelerator (NOT
	the "gas" ;-) pedal to get the speed I want, and for a normal day
	of driving I do not even worry about range any more.
	
	Yesterday I bought a week's worth of groceries for two people, and
	I managed to fit them behind the seat with no problem (I have the
	older "jellybean" Sparrow body style).

	At this point the car is totally reliable.  I get in it, it starts,
	it runs, everything works, the range is good, the power is good,
	and it carries enough to get the job done.  I don't worry about
	range, or parking, or where the cheapest gas is.  It is not clear
	from this diary, but there are periods of weeks where I do not
	drive or ride in the other gasoline cars we own.  Just the Sparrow.
	It's a dream come true.

Wed Aug 22 10:20:18 PDT 2001 - 4152 Miles

	I put together a Sparrow Owner's Battery Guide.  It is intended to
	provide guidance for extending the life of the battery pack by
	reducing stress on the pack as the state of charge declines.

	It is totally subjective at this point, but there are enough
	reports of battery problems to justify "getting it out there" with
	the hope that it will be beneficial.

	Tonight I started a charge, then stopped it because the battery
	with the desulfator was almost half a volt lower than the others.
	Of course!  The desulfator has been on for a week, and it draws
	about 50ma all the time, which adds up to 5 more more amp hours per
	week!

	I hooked up my 12v battery charger to that battery alone and
	charged it for an hour.  The battery charger is an "automatic"
	model which will taper the rate of the charge down to zero as the
	battery reaches full charge.  I did not want to fully charge the
	battery, because I believed it would be the first to start venting.
	I guessed that I should stop the charge when the current read 5 amps.

	Well, I guessed wrong.

	In clear proof of the theory that the first batteries to reach full
	charge may begin to vent, that battery, which has not vented for
	days, began to vent vigorously right when the overall pack charge
	reached 191.5 volts.  Voltage on that battery was 16.12, which is
	OK at 2 amps and under.  Unfortunately, the Zivan charger was
	still belting out 6.4 amps at that point, and it was all turning
	to electrolysis energy in the battery I had "overcharged."  Of
	course, I stopped the charge.

	There was absolutely no evidence of excessive heat on the battery
	which vented.  The brass gas collection fitting was stone cold.
	The gases had to have come from electrolysis.

	Tomorrow I will very gently start and stop the charger until the
	pack is equalized again.  I am now completely convinced that charging
	unequalized packs is a primary (if not the only) cause of venting.

	I now have two battery theories going.  One addresses sudden range
	reduction and the other addresses venting/gradual capacity loss.

	1. Pulling high amps from a battery with a low state of charge
	(SOC) probably causes physical damage inside the cells.  It
	may be grid melting or active material "islanding" caused
	by fissures and/or active material migration.  The result is
	sudden, irreversible loss of capacity.  A number of Sparrows
	batteries currently have this problem.

	2. Charging an unequal pack will probably cause venting.  Venting
	will gradually reduce capacity, possibly without the owner knowing
	it.  This sets up a situation in which the owner exceeds the
	reduced range (which is now abnormally short) and inadvertently
	triggers problem #1 above.  If the owner avoids #1, the result is
	simply a gradual reduction in range, and premature exhaustion of
	the pack.

	Summary:  Thorough, accurate equalization is required.  It must
	be substantially better than the "Zivan 1 hour for the entire pack"
	approach.  In addition to keeping the pack as equalized as
	possible at all times, drivers must develop the ability to sense
	capacity loss and refrain from any activity which pulls high
	amperage from the pack when SOC is low.  These two issues appear to
	explain common reasons for battery problems and replacement.

	Solutions: Do whatever is necessary to maintain equalization, and 
	drive in a manner that reduces peak amps in proportion to SOC.

Thu Aug 23 18:41:00 PDT 2001

	I have received some GREAT feedback on my chart, and I have decided
	it needs to be recast.  The feedback seems to refute the theory
	that high amp draws at low States of Charge SOC BY THEMSELVES cause
	damage.  However - and this is a big however - there is a
	consensus building that low SOC is a dangerous area to pull high
	amps because of the danger of reaching the limit on one or more
	batteries, and THAT causes immediate, severe physical damage.

	The chart provides harmless guidance at this point, but it is not
	presenting reasons for the recommendations that everyone agrees
	with.  I am going to update the page tomorrow, and either relabel
	the chart or remove it and replace it with bullet points.

	The project of the day is to charge each "half" of the battery pack
	with a small trickle charge until all the batteries are equal
	again.  I created a simple charger with a 150 Watt 120v light bulb,
	and a 20 amp 400 Volt diode bridge to rectify the AC.  I hooked it
	to the VoltScan terminals under the seat, and I now have half an
	amp going into that string.  When it reaches 14.7 volts I will
	disconnect it and connect it to the string under the hood.  Is it
	slow, but I don't have to worry about it.  At that charge rate it
	could be left on indefinitely.

Fri Aug 24 07:42:49 PDT 2001

	I checked the batteries under the seat this morning.  They have
	gone from around 13 volts to 14.3 overnight - a nice, gentle
	trickle charge.  Later today I will start the process on the
	batteries under the hood.  If I had equalizers this probably would
	not be necessary, but that is a different story....

Mon Aug 27 17:40:10 PDT 2001 - 4179 Miles

	Busy day - off to Costco again, lots of errands.  I kept track of
	my "Red Light Voltage" - the voltage of the pack when I was stopped
	at read lights.  Here are the figures:

	100%  - 165v
	 90   - 163
	 80   - 161
	 75   - 160
	 70   - 159
	 60   - 157
	 50   - 154.5

	26.5 amp Hours used.  My E-meter is probably still set for 52 amp
	Hours.  Newer Sparrows come from the factory set at 45 AH.

	My pack - (with almost 3100 miles on it!) looks OK down to 50%.  I
	read the voltage on every battery at the end of the trip
	and they were all around 12.05 volts +/-.1 volt which is pretty
	well balanced.

	If that was the deepest discharge I ever put on the pack I would
	expect at least 800-1000 cycles!

	I think my pack is in great shape, all things considered.  I still
	want to improve the voltage monitoring and regulation, but so far
	it has lasted almost three times as long as my first pack.  With
	the battery pack being essentially the only major cost of
	ownership, I have a lot of motivation to develop systems and habits
	which will make it last as long as possible.  I believe it is
	possible to make it MUCH more worry-free with the addition of the
	right technology.

Tue Aug 28 18:51:21 PDT 2001 - 4188 Miles

	Last night I put in two hours of charge.  This morning I restarted
	the charger to finish the charge.  I monitored voltage on the
	batteries, and to my surprise, the first battery in the pack (which
	happens to be under the hood) reached 15.3 volts with -4.5 amp
	Hours and 7.5 amps pumping in from the charger.  Finally, I have an
	idea how out-of-balance my pack is.  It looks like the pack is at
	least 4.5 amp Hours out of balance, and may be more.

	The VoltScan relayboard for the batteries under the hood is almost
	ready.  A second relayboard will be constructed for the batteries
	under the seat.  A "master" control board will then cycle the
	"flying capacitor" through the entire pack.  It looks like it is
	just in time.

Wed Aug 29 17:09:52 PDT 2001 - 4203 Miles

	All's well!  The belt started to squeak just a bit, so I put
	another squeeze (the size you put on a toothbrush) of Teflon
	gel on it and it became silent once more.

	Last night's charge stopped at -2.4 AH, and there is no evidence
	of venting.  A good charge.

	Tomorrow the VoltScan will receive its first test.  I believe I can
	partially install it and test it with 3 of the 6 batteries under
	the hood, including the one which appears to be the most
	out-of-balance.  We will see!

Sat Sep  1 12:01:57 PDT 2001 - 4233 Miles

	Thursday I drove to Pedro's Restaurant out by Great America.  That
	is a long trip, a bit over the range of the Sparrow.  I dealt
	with the range issue by stopping at one of my "emergency" charging
	stations on the way there and also on the way back.  I brought a
	book along, and read while the charger did it's work.  The
	charging station is the top deck of the public parking structure in
	Campbell.  There are three 110v outlets available in the bases of
	the lights.  (There is also a Magna Charger for inductive charging
	in the corner of the first floor of the parking garage.)

	When I arrived at Pedro's I found a parking place within 5 feet of
	an outlet!  The outlet was part of the grounds lighting system.  I
	asked the Manager if I could charge, and he said "sure!", but,
	alas, the outlet was dead.  That would have solved the problem with
	range as well.

	When I arrived home, I had used 23 AH, so I am pretty sure I would
	not have enjoyed the trip without the "booster" charges in
	Campbell.  The two booster charges totaled about 10 AH.  33 AH is
	more than I would ever take my pack in it's current condition.

	That night I set the timer for 3 hours and charged.

	The next morning (Friday) the E-meter still showed -3 AH (normal,
	since the charge rate tapers off as the pack approaches capacity.)
	There was no sign of gas in the collection apparatus.  I plugged
	back in and took the dog for the morning walk.  When I got back,
	the battery being monitored for venting had vented.

	SO - once again, the proof is that venting is caused by
	overcharging, not heat.  I was only gone for 15 minutes, and there
	is no way the little 110v charger would heat the battery pack
	significantly in 15 minutes, especially after it sat outside all
	night cooling off.  The venting was the result of electrolysis
	caused by overcharging.

	VoltScan has some circuit design flaws (what can I say, I am an
	amateur!) so it is still not ready.  I believe it will be another
	week or so before I can monitor and control the charge voltage
	with it.  Meanwhile, I will just live with the venting.

Thu Sep  6 08:40:47 PDT 2001 - 4308 Miles

	I am continuing to work on VoltScan, but in the meantime I put
	together two very simple voltage regulators and hooked them up to
	the two batteries that reach full voltage the fastest.  The
	regulators are simply a 12 volt Zener diode, a resistor, and an LED
	(light emitting diode) all wired up in series.  Hooked across a
	battery, no current flows until the voltage reaches the Zener
	voltage plus the minimum voltage the LED requires, which is about
	1.7 volts for the LED's I used.  At that point, current begins to
	flow through the resistor.  I have limited the current to about 20
	ma, but it is very sensitive to voltage.  That is exactly what is
	called for.  The current changes from 0 to 20 ma as the voltage
	goes from 13.7 to 15 or so.  This provides a very small "throttle"
	on the batteries that finish charging first.  I will watch a charge
	later today, after I build three more.  There are only 5 batteries
	which seem to reach full charge "early," but I will build enough
	for all 13.  If nothing else, they will make it easy to see which
	batteries reach full charge first.

	A few days ago I wrote a story - fictional - about a "hybrid" owner
	and a Sparrow owner discussing "gas mileage" and efficiency.  The
	story helps explain how to use solar energy to power a vehicle, and
	what the positive results can be.  If you like the story, please
	forward the URL to anyone you think is interested.

	I drove the Sparrow 31 miles today.  I would have ended up below
	30%, which is not good for long battery life.  I was saved by the
	Manager at Costco in Santa Clara.  I circled the building looking
	for an outlet, and found one next to the pay phone booths right in
	front of the store.  The Manager had no problem with me charging
	while I shopped.  That 45 minute charge was enough to put in 6 amp
	Hours of energy.  That was all I needed to stay above 50% for the
	day.

	The Sparrow is now charging with 4 of the simple voltage regulators
	on the 4 batteries which consistently reach full charge before the
	rest of the pack.  It may take some time (more than a single
	charge) to have a significant effect, but this will enable the rest
	of the pack to slowly "catch up" with the "early" batteries and
	hopefully regain its balance.
	
Fri Sep  7 18:06:36 PDT 2001 - 4323 Miles

	Last night I left the "half-pack equalizer" on the batteries under
	the hood.  That set was low.  I found out by running the charger
	until the first battery reached 15 volts.  Unfortunately, that was
	almost every battery under the seat and none under the hood.  The
	"half-pack equalizer" ran for two hours last night and another two
	hours this morning, until the front set of batteries was just
	starting to get up to 14 (that is a full charge, at trickle rates).

	The I switched back to the real charger.  Wow!  Amperage started at
	7.8 but plummeted to 1.4 within 3 minutes (that is what is supposed
	to happen) and then the Zivan switched to the 2 amp rate with no
	voltage limit.  The batteries under the seat now had to catch up to
	the ones under the hood!  Within 15 minutes, the overall pack was
	charged, and probably more "equal" than it had been in months!
	
	The voltage regulators I had built were working.  I had made one with
	1/2 watt resistors and a 1 watt Zener diode, but I decided to
	increase the specifications of the components.  I am using 5 watt
	Zener diodes, 2 watt resistors, and two LED's for each regulator.
	Everything appears to be within spec now, except the current
	through the LED's is still a little high.  I may add a third LED.
	We will see.  The regulators are not permanently installed yet.  I
	will add them into the VoltScan circuit.

	I drove the Sparrow on errands today.  The voltage was stupendous!
	Performance was excellent.  A balanced pack is wonderful!
	I let the batteries cool off, and I am charging them.  This is the
	first time I have charged them "automatically" since the regulators
	went in, and the pack is starting from a balanced condition, so I
	am expecting a good charge.

Sat Sep  8 09:41:53 PDT 2001

	During the charge The batteries behaved very unusually.  The
	front pack reached full voltage (16+ volts) before the under
	seat pack, but then at the end of the charge the front pack
	dropped back down to 14.5 volts or so while the under seat pack
	rose to 16+ volts!

	The battery being monitored for venting did not vent until the 2
	amp "equalization" charge started.

	I was very surprised to see that all batteries did not end up near
	16.2 volts, which gives the 210 volts or so for the overall pack.
	This charge ended at 206 volts, with some batteries at 16.5+ and
	some at 14.5.  I think the pack may still need some more
	balancing.

Sat Sep 15 19:11:02 PDT 2001 - 4295 Miles

	Fun day today.  I attended the EV rally at Stanford University.
	There was an incredible diversity of EV's there, with everything
	from scooter to mini-vans.  There were also 4 Sparrows!!

	Many questions were asked and answered.  Test rides were taken, and
	much information was exchanged.  It was an informative and
	educational afternoon.

	A funny thing happened on the way back from the event.  My wife had
	driven to the event later in the afternoon in our gasoline car,
	after a day of shopping and errands.  We drove home together.  I
	was in the lead, keeping my eye on the battery voltage, and after
	pulling onto the freeway (85), I looked in the rear view mirrors to
	see if she was still following me.
	
	She was not.

	I drove on for a few minutes and my cell phone rang (ALWAYS have
	a cell phone in an electric car!) and guess what?  She had run out
	of gas and was pulled over on the shoulder of the onramp!

	I turned around the first chance I had, and started looking for a
	gas station.  I was driving down Fremont road towards Sunnyvale,
	and spotted a Shell station.  I pulled in and asked the managers if
	I could charge while I was there - and they said yes!  After
	plugging in,  I bought an emergency gas "can," filled it up, paid,
	unplugged, and proceeded to rescue my wife.  I had forgotten one
	thing, which the cheap, leaky gas "can" reminded me.

	GASOLINE STINKS!

	Even with the gas "can" in the back of the Sparrow I had to drive
	with the windows down.  My wife did not want to put the container
	in her car!  We stuffed it in a garbage bag to keep the smell out
	of the car.  How can we run our civilization on that horrible stuff?

	It was a great day, made even greater by the electric car rescuing
	the gas car on the way home.

Sun Sep 30 15:07:51 PDT 2001 - 4491 Miles

	I have great news.  Due to an ISP changeover, I have not been
	making as many entries in the diary, but the work has not stopped.
	It looks like it payed off!

	I have built some simple circuits to "clamp" the voltage of each
	individual battery during the charging process, and the Sparrow
	battery pack is back in balance, and the car is running like new!

	I will take pictures and provide details in the next posting.
	
Fri Oct 19 07:57:00 PDT 2001 - 4686 Miles

	As you can see, I drive the Sparrow constantly.  I average 50-10
	miles a week, which means I charge several times a week as well.

	The Sparrow is running beautifully.  I have driven several times
	since the last posting to around 50%, which is a trip of around 25
	miles.  The voltage stays above 150v when cruising, and above 145v
	when accelerating, even at the extreme end of the trip.  For a
	battery pack with almost 4000 miles on it, that is good.

	I promised pictures of the voltage clamping circuits in the last
	posting.  I have been working on them and I think they are "done."
	Here is a picture of the circuit under the hood.  There is a
	similar circuit under the seat.  The soldering on the Zener diodes
	looks a little rough because I replaced them all several times.

	I experimented quit a bit with components to find exactly the right
	combination of parts to get the behavior I wanted.  I tried 12v
	Zener diodes, 12v Zener plus Schottky diode (about 12.3v) and
	finally 13v Zener diodes.  The 13v Zeners were the best.

	A typical charging cycle starts with the batteries under 12.5
	volts, and none of the LED's are lit.  As the charger gradually
	charges the batteries and raises the voltage, the voltage clamps
	begin to work.  The Zivan charger charges at full power until the
	voltage reaches approximately 191 volts (it varies a bit based on
	temperature) and then begins to lower the amperage of the charge to
	hold the voltage constant.  It is during this time (called Phase 2
	of the charge cycle) that the voltage clampers do their job.

	As the batteries reach full charge (at around 14.7 volts, again
	depending slightly on temperature) the continuing charge current
	causes them to jump suddenly in voltage.  That is because the
	chemical reactions in the batteries change from "charging" to
	"Oxygen recombination" and "electrolysis."  In other words, the
	chemical reaction which reforms the cells stops (the battery is now
	charged) and two new chemical reactions take over.  Neither of the
	two new reactions does anything productive - they simply waste
	energy )and in the case of electrolysis, gradually cause damage to
	the battery).
	
	It is the difference in the chemical reactions that causes the
	voltage to rise suddenly.  A battery that is not fully charged
	will change voltage only slightly with moderate changes in
	charge current.  The charging chemical reaction simply speeds up or
	slows down, and the voltage changes only a little.  The Oxygen
	recombination and electrolysis reactions do not have the same
	characteristics.  The voltage of the battery changes dramatically
	when current changes if these chemical reactions are taking place,
	which is what happens when the battery is fully charged.

	The voltage clampers begin to dissipate current (convert it to
	light and heat) right when the battery becomes fully charged.  In
	effect, there are now three activities taking place on the fully
	charged batteries, Oxygen recombination (harmless), electrolysis
	(less is better) and the generation of heat and light by the
	clampers.  The clampers take a share of energy away from the other
	two reactions, which lowers the voltage on the battery, and slows
	down the rate of the other two reactions as well.  They don't do
	anything, however, until the battery reaches full charge.
	Perfect.

	By reducing the voltage on the fully charged batteries, the Zivan
	"sees" a lower overall pack voltage, and it does exactly the right
	thing:  it continues to charge the pack until every battery is
	full.  The old behavior, before the voltage clampers were
	installed, was to "give up early" because the voltage of the fully
	charged batteries rocketed up and convinced the Zivan that the
	overall pack voltage was high enough to stop the charge.   The
	result was a pack with some batteries fully charged and some
	undercharged, a bad situation.

	I have carefully monitored about a dozen charge cycles now with the
	voltage clampers.  I watch the voltage on each battery as the
	charge increases, and I also watch to see when the LED's begin to
	glow.  Everything seems to be working perfectly.

	The parts were not expensive.  I spent less than $20 for all 13
	batteries.  I got the 13v 5 watt Zener diodes, 1N5350B,  from
	All Electronics (http://www.allectronics.com/), the 2 watt 20 Ohm
	resistors from Halted Specialties (http://www.halted.com/), and
	the LED's, Linrose model B4304H7, from Fry's electronics.  The
	screw terminals and perfboard came from Radio Shack.  As you can
	see from the picture, it was not too difficult to assemble the
	parts.  Running a wire to each battery terminal is a challenge!

	Of course, I am not done! ;-)  As I have been monitoring the
	charge, I have also been cycling the desulfator from one battery to
	the next.  I always attach the unit to the battery with the highest
	voltage, because I believe that battery has the lowest capacity,
	and that is why it reached full charge first.  I suspect some of
	the gradual diminishment in capacity of batteries is caused by
	sulfation, which cannot be effectively measured.  However, if I
	keep desulfating the batteries according to which battery exhibits
	the smallest capacity, I will hopefully be selecting the correct
	ones for the treatment.

	I will keep track of this activity as well, and write up the
	results.  So far, it appears that desulfating a battery for 24
	hours changes it from the first battery to charge to being the last
	battery to charge. That is what I would expect!  If it has
	increased in capacity, it SHOULD take longer to charge!

	Meanwhile, I am driving that Sparrow everywhere!

	This afternoon I plugged the Sparrow in for an hour "top off"
	charge from the short trips I was taking yesterday.  Then I ran
	a few errands.  The power was great.  The batteries started at
	171v and the E-meter still read 168v at my third destination.
	Coming up the hill on the way home, the voltage was 162v, going up
	hill!  That is excellent.

Mon Oct 22 19:26:09 PDT 2001 - 4710 Miles

	Who stole my juice!  If you live in California, you 
	know that yesterday was COLD!  (Well, C-O-L-D in California
	means 50 degrees, so I am not suggesting freezing temperatures)
	Today the Sparrow and I did the usual round of shopping, stopping
	at two stores for food, one for coffee, back to the first store
	for the seasoning I forgot, and finally off on the Freeway to
	the local electronics store (Fry's) to check on some "Low,
	Low Prices."  The Sparrow did fine on the 20 amp Hour trip
	(ending with 60% showing on the E-meter) but voltage was not
	what I expected during the trip.

	Then again, it was 20 degrees colder than it had been the day
	before.  It is easy to forget that Lead Acid batteries are
	noticeably affected by cold.  The colder it is, the more
	"sluggish" they get, and the lower their capacity becomes.
	Interesting measurements can be found here. Note
	that at high discharge rates (1 hour rates) the battery loses
	almost 25% of its capacity when cooled to 50 degrees F.

	It is just part of the "personality" of the Sparrow that
	its "mood" changes with the weather.  The driver has to "chill
	out" on long trips just like the car.
	
Tue Oct 23 14:50:44 PDT 2001 - 4713 Miles

	Today I only drove a short distance.  I don't want to do a full
	charge, but I don't want to leave the Sparrow sitting partially
	charged, either.  Partially charged batteries develop sulfation.

	What to do?

	Simple.  I built a trickle charger.  I doubt there is a trickle
	charger designed for 13 lead-acid batteries, so I was forced to
	"invent" one.  I started with a nice voltage converter designed for
	Japan, which can do either up or down conversion of voltage to
	create 117v or 100v.  The clever thing is, if you "lie" and tell it
	you are in Japan (at 100v) when you are really at 117v, it will
	"step up" the 117v to around 145v or so, which then rectifies out
	to a maximum of around 180v - sound familiar?  That is just about
	perfect for trickle charging 13 Optima Yellow Top batteries.

	The main unit is the voltage converter, which is a 500 VA unit,
	grounded and fused, which cost me $49.95 at Fry's, the local
	electronics gold mine.  There is a smaller unit as well, but I went
	for the large unit because I was not sure how hard I was going to
	push it.  WARNING: This unit is not isolated - it uses an
	"autotransformer" to control the voltage.  That means that while
	this unit is trickle charging the batteries, the neutral wire from
	the 117v circuit is connected (through a diode) to the ground (Zero
	volt) side of the battery pack.  In an unlikely scenario, you could
	become the connection between some OTHER malfunctioning, 117v
	appliance (like a vacuum cleaner, for instance) and the grounded
	parts of the Sparrow.  I believe the GFI covers this situation,
	and it would trip (If any of you readers know better, please mail
	me!  My address is above).

	In the test (seen in the photograph) I ran on the partially
	completed project, the voltage was climbing slowly from 167.5v, the
	current was between 100-200 MA (showing up as .1 - .2 amps on the
	E-meter) and everything was running cool except the power resistors,
	which were just getting warm.  It looks like the finished unit will
	be reasonably efficient.

	The circuit connects the output of the converter to a 6 AMP 400
	Volt diode bridge, then the positive DC output goes through the
	fuse, into the two parallel 100 Ohm 10 Watt power resistors, and
	then into the Sparrow.  The two 1 MFD 250 volt polyester capacitors
	help smooth the ripple in the output (I hope!).  It is claimed
	that batteries do not like ripple.  There is also a small resistor
	to "bleed" the capacitors down.  They hold enough energy for
	quite a shock!

	I will be making the unit as safe as possible, and running it from
	GFI-protected outlet, and that fuse in the picture is only a 1/4
	Amp fuse, so I think I will finally have a solution for "topping
	up" the pack, or "floating" the pack over long weekends, etc.

Mon Oct 29 19:22:02 PST 2001 - 4735 Miles

	I did my errands quickly this morning, because the weather forecast
	is for heavy rain.  Rain is a problem for the Sparrow.  It handles
	well, and has no problem (at least the way I drive) with traction,
	but it does have two well-known weaknesses.

	1. The windshield wiper does not cover much of the windshield, and
	what it does cover it does poorly.

	2. The Sparrow leaks.  Somehow, water gets inside the vehicle.

	Last winter I just lived with both problems, but this winter I am
	going to take action.  I have some thoughts on both issues, and the
	experiments will begin soon.  I want a dry car this winter!

	After the errands, I had used 16 amp hours.  I set the charger
	for three hours (2 hours at roughly 8 amps and 1 hour of
	taper/equalization) and I was surprised to see that the voltage at
	100% charge was still only 180 volts, and the charge amps were
	still 8.0!!  Obviously, the batteries needed more energy.  The
	charge ended at +3.5 AH - meaning they accepted 3.5 amp hours more
	energy this time than they had during the last charge.

	Batteries are funny like that.

	Lead-acid batteries like to be charged when cold and discharged
	when warm.  That gives the best "ROEI" - Return On Energy
	Investment.  If you reverse that treatment, due to battery warming
	or cooling and the choice of time for the charge, you can have
	quite different behavior from one charge to the next.  I used to
	charge ONLY at 1:00 AM (usually the coldest part of the day) during
	the California "Energy Crisis," so I was approaching the "ideal
	charge."  Things are more random now, so the batteries show
	variable behavior.  That is part of living with an electric car.

Mon Nov  5 19:16:48 PST 2001 - 4763 Miles

	Fall is coming!  Last night's low was 51 degrees.  I had not driven
	the Sparrow for two days, so the batteries were stone cold.  It was
	noticeable when I headed out to Home Depot to buy two sheets of 4x8
	foot pegboard.  What?  Impossible in a Sparrow, you say?

	You are right!

	I rented the Home Depot Load'n'Go truck, leaving the Sparrow there,
	and drove the building material home.  The I drove back to Home
	Depot, and picked up the Sparrow.  I used a total of 14 amp Hours
	on the Sparrow, and the voltage under load was in the high 140's.
	That is pretty low.  I made it home with no problems, though, and
	the Sparrow is happily charging for the next trip.

	The $19.95 Home Depot truck rental is great.  I could not have
	carried those pegboard sheets with my REAL car, so renting the
	truck was inevitable.

Tue Nov  6 20:58:54 PST 2001 - 4763 Miles

	No driving today.  I finished the trickle charger and hooked it
	up this afternoon.  It puts about 100-200 milliamps into the pack,
	and it is very efficient.  The pack voltage has been climbing about
	a volt an hour since it was attached, and is reading 175 volts at
	9:00 PM.  I am going to leave the device attached tonight. I will
	report where the voltage stabilizes tomorrow morning.

	I am curious if this device can equalize the pack.  I hope it can
	raise the pack up to 180 volts (around 13.8 volts per battery),
	which is exactly the "float" voltage suggested on the Optima
	website (www.optimabatteries.com).  As the voltage rises, the rate
	of charge tapers off, so I am not worried about overcharging
	tonight.

Wed Nov  7 14:51:56 PST 2001

	This morning I checked the voltage.  The timer had stopped the
	charge about an hour before I read the number.  174 volts!!  That
	is very good.  I know from the charge rate that there was not more
	than 1 additional amp hour in the pack, but the voltage was much
	better than yesterday.

	I restarted the timer and waited.  By the middle of the afternoon
	the voltage was 182 volts.  That is also excellent!  I was able to
	measure individual battery voltages with just a small charging
	current.  I was surprised to find that one of the desulfated
	batteries was still very low - around 13.2v.  I believe it
	increased so much in capacity when it was desulfated that now
	it is only partially charged.  I plan to hook up the manual 12v
	charger to just that one battery and fully charge it.

	The other interesting fact was that the batteries under the hood
	were once again measuring higher voltages than the batteries under
	the seat.  It looks like temperature may play a part in the gradual
	loss of equalization in the pack.  In other words, somehow the
	under-seat batteries are not being charged as well as the ones
	under the hood.  It could be that the temperature differences
	between the two packs are affecting the rate of charge, discharge,
	or sulfation.  My next purchase will be a thermometer for the front
	pack, so I can quickly compare the differences in temperature
	between the two packs.

Thu Nov  8 08:35:58 PST 2001 - 4776 Miles
	
	Yesterday I drove around a bit to do some errands.  I used
	approximately 15% of the charge, which started at the absolute top
	thanks to the trickle charger.  After I came home I plugged the
	Sparrow in for a real charge, which is about 1.5 hours for that
	level of discharge.  When the charge was almost completely finished
	I realized I had one more very short trip to make.  Off I went.

	When I came back, the E-meter read 98%  I do not like to charge the
	Sparrow with the main charger when the pack is that full, but I do
	not like to leave the Sparrow sitting at less than a full charge.
	This is the perfect situation for the trickle charger to do its
	magic.  I plugged it in, and left it on overnight.

	This morning the voltage was 180.5v, which is perfect!  I left the
	charger on because some of the batteries were not yet at 14v.  I
	expect the trickle charger will bring almost every battery to just
	about 14v, and will have tapered to under 100 milliamps at that
	time.  According to everything I have read at the Optima battery
	site, that charge can be maintained indefinitely.

	The trickle charger is silent, and appears to be very efficient.
	Almost no heat is generated by the unit when it is working, and it
	has no fans.  I think it is probably close in efficiency to the
	native efficiency of the transformer in the voltage converter,
	which may be as high as 90% or more.

	I also checked the one battery I have the gas collection device on.
	No gas is escaping while the trickle charger is running.  Gas may
	be generated, but the internal combination rate is high enough to
	turn it back into water before the pressure builds high enough to
	vent.

	I will monitor the system closely of course, but it looks like the
	trickle charger is a success!

	While I was measuring battery voltages, I found one battery that
	was low.  It was reading 13.27 volts, and it remained at that
	voltage throughout the day.  This battery has been reading low
	for weeks, even though it had not been connected to the desulfator
	for more than a month.  I thought it was undercharged, but it should
	have been slowly charging with the trickle charger on it.  It is a
	mystery.  I will be watching it closely from now on.

	I have learned not to jump to conclusions about the Sparrow.  I
	can't help hoping that the trickle charger will prove useful for
	diagnosing battery condition.  Time will tell.

Fri Nov  9 22:17:38 PST 2001 - 4776 Miles

	No driving today.  I hooked up the old 12v battery charger to the
	battery with the low float voltage and left it on all day.  The
	voltage rose to 14.3 and then the charger began to pulse to limit
	voltage.

	At the end of the day I hooked the trickle charger back up.
	Tomorrow I will see if the low battery was helped by the individual
	attention of the 12v charger.

	I also mailed the factory to alert them that I may need a
	reconditioned battery.  I suspect that the low float voltage is
	caused by dry-out or some other "permanent" problem with the
	battery.  More news tomorrow.

Sat Nov 10 16:34:49 PST 2001 - 4776 Miles

	A grey, rainy day.  No driving.

	The trickle charger pulled the pack up to 181 volts, and the
	battery that had been "stuck" at 13.27 volts had risen to 13.58
	volts.  A quarter of a volt is significant.  It may be possible to
	patiently charge that battery back to equal performance with its
	peers.  There is a "conditioning charge" procedure discussed in the
	Sparrow newsgroup.  I may apply it to that battery and see if it
	recovers.
	
Mon Nov 12 18:32:31 PST 2001 - 4779 Miles

	It rained HARD this morning.  The Sparrow is under a car cover.
	The trickle charger has not been attached for a day or so because
	of the danger of running it in the rain. 

	I took the Sparrow out for a few errands after the rain stopped.
	The voltage was not so good.  Of course, the batteries were at
	57 degrees F.  I can tell the charge level is OK because the
	standing voltage is 165+, but the acceleration voltage pulls down
	to the low 150's.  I'll charge up tonight and see how things look
	tomorrow.

Thu Nov 15 16:06:45 PST 2001 - 4808 Miles

	The Sparrow charged up with no problem.  Wednesday I ran some
	errands, drawing the pack down to 97 percent, and then I attached
	the trickle charger.  This morning the voltage was at 181.5 volts.
	I drove out to Halted Specialties to pick up some surplus computer
	gear.

	I arrived in the Halted parking lot with 14 amp hours used.  That
	make me a little bit uneasy, because the batteries were cold.
	Cold batteries have less capacity.  I pulled in to the Costco
	across the street, plugged in and went shopping.  There is a 110v
	outlet in front of the store by the pay phones.  I have asked the
	Manager for permission to use it, and now I use it when ever I am
	in the store.

	After that charge, I headed for home.  I had gained about 4 amp
	hours while shopping, but I was still unhappy with the voltage.  I
	pulled in to my favorite field charging station, the public parking
	garage in Campbell, and hooked up for an additional charge.  I
	walked into Campbell (one block) and surfed the web for an hour or
	so in the coffee house in the center of town.  When I finished, the
	Sparrow was ready for the final 5 miles of the trip.  When I pulled
	in to my driveway the E-meter showed almost 21 amp hours used, even
	with the two stops for "opportunity charging."  I was glad I took
	the time to "juice up" on the road.  It would have been closer to
	30 amp hours without the intermediate charges, which is more than
	I like to draw the pack down.  I am not sure the Sparrow could go
	that far when cold.

	The Sparrow is charging now.

	Two technical things....

	1.  The battery under the hood which had been low (in previous diary
	entries) read high by a few hundredths of a volt in Campbell!
	That is great news!  That battery was "pulling its weight" in the
	pack on this trip.

	2.  Both the front and rear battery pack sections were at the
	identical temperature, 70 degreed Fahrenheit, at the end of the trip.
	I was glad to see that they were balanced.

	One other thing - the Sparrow is SO quiet that I have started to
	hear squeaks coming from the front suspension.  I am going to apply
	a little Teflon lube gell to the sway bar bushings and see if I can
	quiet it down.

	I love this car!
	
Sun Nov 18 18:34:51 PST 2001 - 4813 Miles

	I ran a few short errands yesterday (Sat).  I used approximately 5%
	of the charge.  When I got home, I decided to use the trickle
	charger to put the energy back.  It took 24 hours, and today the
	pack is floating at around 182 volts.

	It is interesting that this technique "fools" the E-meter into
	believing that the pack has not been recharged.  The E-meter is
	still reading around 90% (it was already low from a previous
	charge.  Sometimes the "real" charger stops before 100% - I believe
	this has to do with pack temperature during charge and discharge).
	The E-meter uses various algorithms to compute the percent, and I
	suspect charging at 300 milliamps or less is outside the parameters
	of them.  No harm done.  I can reset the E-meter with the BRB (Big
	Red Button, the emergency cutoff) if I wish.

	I am very happy with the trickle charger at this point.  I am still
	cycling the desulfator through the pack, and I am now confident
	that the desulfator will not draw the power down too far on the
	battery it is attached to.  The trickler puts back more than the
	desulfator takes out.

	Driving the Sparrow is STILL a blast!  It never fails to create an
	impression.  My wife and I never drive alone in the "big" car
	unless the trip is impossible for the Sparrow.  The Sparrow has
	been trouble-free for months.  It is amazing how well it has worked
	for us.  I also believe that the next generation Sparrow will be
	MUCH better in many areas based on the feedback and experience
	generated by the Sparrow I.  I keep in touch with the factory and I
	hope some of my suggestions will be implemented in the next model.

	I am continually amazed by how much Corbin Motors got right on this
	innovative, unique vehicle.

	Here is an interesting statistic for people interested in the
	impact of the Sparrow on their electric bill.  Since California
	enacted the 20-20 program (a 20% reduction on your electric bill
	for a 20% reduction in power use from a year earlier) we have
	qualified for the discount every month.  We use about 11 Kilowatt
	Hours each day.  The Sparrow averages out to be roughly 10 percent
	of our electric use.  In other words, about 1 KWH/day.  At our
	electric rate, that is about 12 cents a day.  I think that is
	extraordinary!

Thu Nov 29 18:21:37 PST 2001 - 4861 Miles

	I have been sick, and it has been raining.  I have only taken the
	Sparrow out for a few trips.  Meanwhile, the Sparrow has been cozy
	under a car cover, and kept topped up by the trickle charger.  Ten
	days is a long time to leave the Sparrow idle.  If not for the
	trickle charger, I would have had to manually run the charger a
	time or two to make up for the gradual loss of energy from the
	batteries.  The trickle charger has worked well, keeping the
	voltage at approximately 184-185 volts.  The amperage is very low,
	only around 100 milliamps.  It is a nice, gentle float.

	I expect to be fully recovered next week and back on the road.  I
	still intend to focus on the wet weather qualities of the car, so I
	will be looking for leaks, drain holes, heater hose problems, and
	of course windshield wiper tweaks.

Wed Dec  5 08:15:29 PST 2001 - 4889 Miles

	Yesterday I went to Home Depot for some project supplies.  One of
	the items was an 8 foot long piece of plastic trim.  I have the
	original "jellybean" Sparrow, so I have no hatchback for such
	things.  I tried two different solutions.  First, the 8 foot strip
	fit in through the left "passenger ;-)" side window with about 3
	feet outside the car.  It was >almost< OK!  Just to be safe,
	however, I cut the trim strip in half.  At 4 feet, it fit nicely
	inside the car near my left leg.  Creative packing at its best.

	It was quite cold yesterday morning.  I checked the battery
	temperatures, and both sets were at around 50 degrees.  I suspect
	in areas of the country with overnight lows below Los Gatos (about
	45 that night) that the batteries get considerably colder.  Cold
	batteries give short range.  How short?  Here is a little chart:

	Temp (F) Capacity
	80       100%    
	50        80%    
	40        75%
	00        50%    

	During my trip, I discharged the pack by approximately 20 AH, which
	resulted in voltages dropping into the high 140's when accelerating
	from a stop sign.  That is the level I consider to be "fully
	discharged," so I headed for home.  Some Sparrow owners drive quite
	a bit further with voltage at that level, but I tend to be
	conservative.

	By the way, there is a nice write-up (in PDF, sorry if that is a
	problem) of a laboratory experiment using 24 Optima Yellow Top
	batteries to simulate an EV, and the charging algorithm which more
	than doubled their lifetime.  I will be thinking about the results
	as I plan the next enhancement to my Sparrow, even if it is simply
	to replace the Sparrow charger with the one Kilovac is designing.
	See the writeup here.

Mon Dec 10 18:21:03 PST 2001 - 4924 Miles

	Today I drove the Sparrow about 25 miles to do Christmas shopping.
	It is cold today, and the batteries were at 45 degrees F before I
	left on the trip.  I knew I would have limited range.

	But I also knew I could take advantage of "opportunity charging" -
	and I did!

	On the way home, as the E-meter crept past 20 amp hours used, and
	voltage began to approach 151-152 while cruising, I began to look
	for a place for a quick charge.  Gas stations usually have outlets,
	as do many parking lots.  Five miles from home, I hit the jackpot
	at the Campbell Center, at the corner of Latimer and Winchester.
	(this is halfway between Los Gatos and Hamilton Avenue on
	Winchester, if you are interested.  And yes, that is the same
	Winchester made famous by the rifles.  The "Winchester Mystery
	House" is on this same street.)

	I pulled into the parking lot and looked around.  Almost every
	light pole had at least a double outlet, and some had more.  I
	tested them with my meter and they were all energized.  After a 30
	minute charge I was ready for the rest of the trip, with no
	worries.

	While I was waiting (I could have been having dinner, there are a
	number of restaurants in that location), I noticed that even though
	it was around 55 degrees F outside, the Sparrow remained
	comfortably warm from my body heat, without using the heater.  Nice
	to know that the car is "warm" while parked, unlike some metal cars
	I have owned in the past.

	And oh yes, I came home with Christmas presents!

Tue Dec 18 19:42:49 PST 2001 - 4936 Miles

	Tomorrow I will begin a new commute.  I am working as a consultant
	for a company in Santa Cruz, CA.  Between their building and my
	home is a 20 mile drive with a 1,800+ foot mountain summit.
	Unfortunately, this is too much for the Sparrow (though I would
	love to try it some time when traffic was light - and with a sag
	wagon!).

	The Sparrow will now assume another of the roles it is ideal for
	- commuting to and from the local public transportation depot.  I
	will drive the Sparrow right through the middle of town, and park
	it in the free parking lot where the Greyhound bus stops.  The
	bus route is non-stop to within three blocks of the business.  I
	will return home to a Sparrow that is almost 100% charged, and I
	will be free to shop or run errands with the Sparrow on the way
	home.  Perfect.

Sat Dec 22 20:46:41 PST 2001 - 4945 Miles

	Happy Holidays!

	Short trips in the Sparrow all week, just to the bus depot and
	back.  No problem at all, except a few leaks!  I still have to find
	time to track them down.

	The Sparrow is on the trickle charger tonight.  That's probably all
	the news until after Christmas.

Mon Dec 31 17:02:22 PST 2001 - 4967 Miles

	You learn something every day.  Today I took the Sparrow out for a
	15 mile trip.  When I got back, I charged.  I left the Sparrow on
	the timer, and went inside.  When I came out, the voltage read 201
	volts, and it was falling.  Falling!  The charger was putting in
	1.9 amps, but the pack voltage was gradually dropping.  Very
	interesting!

	I think the pack was lower than I thought, in spite of having the
	trickle charger on it.  This morning, on trickle, the voltage was
	184.5 That is excellent as a trickle charge, but I suspect is was
	not high enough to fully charge the batteries.

	The pack is charging evenly, with every battery LED evenly lit, so
	the balance is good.  The front and back pack temperatures are
	both 70 degress F.  The problem is that the batteries have enough
	resistance to "kick" the charger into the equalization mode
	prematurely.  I am going to let the full equalization run, then see
	if it will run again.  The charger may simply not be pushing these
	old, cold batteries hard enough to accept a full charge.

	Progress report - fascinating - the charge is still at 1.9 amps,
	voltage is down to 193.  Usually the 1.9-2 amp charge brings the
	batteries up to 213-215 volts.  I am still watching.

	I think I am seeing the elusive "warming battery, increasing
	capacity" phenomenon.  As the drive and the charge have been
	warming the batteries (which started the day at around 55
	degrees F) they are gradually increasing in capacity.  Right
	now they are increasing in capacity as they warm up a little
	bit faster than the charger is charging them, so the voltage
	is dropping instead of rising.

	I will just keep charging them until the voltage rises again,
	indicating a full charge.  I just started the second charge, and
	the equalization phase was almost reached after about 5 minutes.
	So far so good.  The voltage right now, with the 2 amp equalization
	current flowing, is 191 volts.

	Final report - the second charge is even stranger.  The amperage
	never got to 1.5 volts, and equalization never started.  The
	voltage stayed at around 193 volts, and the AMPS started climbing -
	thermal runaway!

	I stopped the charge at around 2.2 amps, and one of the batteries
	under the seat was venting steadily.  If I had left the charge on
	without a timer, the pack could have been ruined.  I believe I
	stopped the charge before any damage could be done.

	I have not cycled the desulfator through the pack for over a month.
	I will hook it up tomorrow and begin another pass through the pack.
	Perhaps sulfation is interfering with the batteries accepting a
	charge by increasing the resistance of the plates in the batteries.
	Time will tell.

Sun Jan  6 18:18:34 PST 2002 - 4996 Miles

	I am excited to be reaching the 5000 mile milestone.  The
	desulfator has been cycled through the batteries under the seat and
	is starting to make a pass through the batteries under the hood.
	It appears to be making a difference.  As I drive up the main
	street of Los Gatos (a slight uphill grade, 20 MPH speed limit)
	the voltage has been climbing a volt or so every day.

	Yesterday someone stopped me by the car as I was getting in.  They
	asked me if I would buy it a second time - in other words, would I
	do it all over again.  I told them "Absolutely."

Mon Jan  7 17:57:09 PST 2002 - 5011 Miles

	Hooray!!  Today's trip to Costco put me over 5,000 miles!  I believe
	there are only a handful of Sparrows with over 5,000 miles.  I think
	there is only one over 10,000.

	I have been rotating the desulfator through the pack, and it seems
	to be having a slight beneficial effect.  Today I drove 13 miles,
	up hill and down, stop and go, loaded with Costco "stuff," and I
	used 16.5 Amp Hours.  The batteries were at 60 degrees F (front and
	rear) in the Costco parking lot, which is pretty cold.  I was
	cruising at 35 MPH on the way home at around 154 volts, and I was
	dropping to 150 when pulling away from red lights.  That is a
	little lower than I would have liked, but the desulfator has not
	made it all the way through the pack yet.  This is the first time
	(don't ask me why!) I have cycled the desulfator through the pack
	in absolute consecutive order.  By Wednesday, the entire pack
	will have had the desulfator applied to each battery for at least
	eight hours.  If I see an improvement, I will get back to work on
	the VoltScan system mentioned elsewhere in this diary (partially
	complete).

Thu Jan 10 20:50:39 PST 2002 - 5018 Miles

	The desulfator has made a round trip through the pack.  I am going
	to start switching the device from one battery to the next every
	morning.  The pack seems "happy."  Resting voltage at the bus stop
	(about 3 amp-hours down the road) is 168 volts.  That is excellent.
	
	My round-trip to the bus stop every workday is about 6 miles.
	The speed limit is only 20-25 MPH, so the Sparrow is very
	lightly stressed.  After I return home, I charge the Sparrow
	for 30-45 minutes, and that is usually enough to almost start
	the equalization phase.  I switch over to the trickle charger
	at that point, and by morning the Sparrow is trickling at 185+
	volts, and around 100 milliamps.  I wish the built-in charger
	behaved that way.  Perhaps the next model will.

	Optima claims "thousands" of cycles lifetime when their
	batteries are lightly discharged, as mine are with this trip.
	Theoretically my battery pack could last for many more years
	with this kind of use.  We will see!

Thu Jan 17 16:12:13 PST 2002 - 5062 Miles

	Today I drove to Costco.  The poor batteries started the trip at
	about 95% charge, and they measured 45 degrees F.  Cold!  On the
	way back (about 15 miles, up hill and down), the voltage was down
	to 148v on the hill climb.  I think that is about the best I can
	expect with such cold batteries.

	At the end of the trip the batteries had only heated up to 50
	degrees F, so they were not heating up much as I drove.  I am not
	too worried, though, because the voltage was solid.  In other
	words, it was not dropping fast.

	The desulfator seems to be making progress.  This morning I checked
	the batteries under the seat, and found that the two batteries
	which had most recently been desulfated were accepting more charge
	than the others.  That is a good sign!  They probably are
	recovering capacity.  The cycling of the desulfator through the
	pack continues.  I am encouraged enough to consider building a
	second one.  They are not too expensive ($25 for parts) but it
	takes time and care to assemble the parts.  It's a good weekend
	project.

Sat Feb 23 19:29:05 PST 2002 - 5172 Miles

	I have been driving the Sparrow to and from the Los Gatos
	Greyhound bus stop every day.  The batteries are stable,
	holding around 160 volts on the the way there and 164 or
	so on the way back.  The drive is slightly "uphill" to the
	bus stop, which is why the voltage is lower going there and
	higher coming back.

	I have an interesting experiment going.  I believe I can
	create a relatively inexpensive "booster" for the batteries
	in the Sparrow by modifying a power inverter.  I have been
	testing a small prototype and so far it looks like there
	is a chance it will work.  More news later tonight.

	(several test drives and experiments take place)

	Ok, here is the description of what I did, and the test results.
	
	I have been thinking about using ultracapacitors or batteries to
	supplement the battery pack in the Sparrow.  I know there is no way
	to double the range of the Sparrow with the current battery pack,
	and replacing the entire pack with different technology (Nickel
	Metal Hydride - NiMH, for example) would be very expensive.  Any
	changes would require replacing the charger as well, as the Zivan
	is "tuned" to 13 Yellow Top Optimas.  The Zivan alone is almost
	$1000.

	I decided to focus on three thing:

	1. A slight improvement in range
	2. A moderate improvement in lifetime of the Yellow Tops
	3. An improvement in safety

	I came up with the idea of a "booster" system.  If a new source of
	energy, for example a secondary battery pack, could be added to the
	existing battery pack, benefit number one would appear
	immediately (increased range).  If the new energy source could be
	configured to "kick in" only in the lower 50% of the Yellow Top's
	capacity, benefit number two would be realized.  Finally, if the
	source could be switched on only when needed, such as when the
	Sparrow was running dangerously low on power, benefit number three
	would be available.

	I have created the new source of power.  Here is how I did it:

	I knew creating a secondary battery pack with 78 cells would be a
	problem (that is how many cells are in the 13 Yellow Tops).  I also
	wanted the new battery to have a longer cycle life than lead-acid
	batteries, and to be resistant to deep discharge.  NiCD and NiMH
	batteries are the answer, but not 78 (or more, as it would require
	almost twice as many of them to reach the desired voltage).  I
	decided to use a secondary battery pack with 10-12 1.2 volt cells.
	That is a common number, and it is small enough to manage.

	With a small secondary battery pack in mind, I faced the next
	problem.  How would 12 volts help drive the car?  The answer was to
	step-up the voltage with an inverter.  It seems that small 12 volt
	to 110 volt inverters are available everywhere.  That is great, but
	110 volts is not enough to help drive the Sparrow.  That is where
	my meager knowledge of electronics came into play.  You see, it
	takes more than 110 volts to make 110 volts.  In other words, to
	make a 110 volt sine wave (or even a modified square wave, as many
	inexpensive inverters put out) you have to drive the AC portion of
	the inverter with more than 110 volts.  How much more?  That is
	where the experimenting began.

	First, I needed an inverter.  I decided to buy an inverter with
	enough power to make a difference, but not so much that I would
	feel bad if I burned it out during the experiments.  The model I
	finally chose is the Vector Manufacturing MAXX SST 400 Watt
	inverter, model number VEC024.  I chose this inverter because it
	was within my budget ($49.95), had high surge capability (800
	watts), was well designed (MOSFET transistors, numerous
	safety/overload features), was small, and best of all, it is
	available at Walgreens drug stores all across America.  It would be
	a nice inverter even if I were not planning to boost the Sparrow
	with it!

	I bought the inverter, took it home, and started reading the manual.
	Yes, this was just the inverter for me.  The manual explained that
	the 12 volt input voltage was converted to AC, boosted to 145 volts,
	then rectified to DC, then converted to AC at 60 cycles.  All small
	inverters do something similar.  The only part I needed was the
	part of the inverter that created 145 volts DC.  I had the
	inverter taken apart in a flash.

	The circuits in this little inverter are beautiful.  It is very
	well designed, and I was even amazed to see a hole in the circuit
	board, marked with a plus sign, right were the high voltage DC was
	available.  I kid you not.  It was as if the inverter manufacturer
	had planned for the use I had in mind.

	I carefully plugged the inverter into a 12 volt power source and
	began to measure voltage.  To my delight, the voltage with no load
	on the inverter at the high voltage DC point was 160 volts!  If you
	have dutifully examined this diary, you know that the Sparrow
	battery pack is partially discharged at that voltage.  In fact, it
	is around 50% discharged in my Sparrow with the pack in its current
	condition.

	It was almost too good to be true.  Now I had serious experiments
	to do.  First, I hooked up wires to ground and the high voltage DC
	trace on the circuit board.  I added a large diode (6 amps at 200
	volts) and a 6 amp Slow-Blow fuse.  I am not sure where the
	overload protection is in the inverter, so I wanted to be sure the
	fuse would blow if the inverter was asked to pump out too much
	power.  The diode is there to prevent high voltage from the Sparrow
	battery from flowing "backwards" into the inverter.

	It was time for a test.  I needed a safe load for the inverter, so
	I tried  hooking the new output wires through a 60 watt 120v light
	bulb into a 200 volt 2500 microfarad capacitor.  My belief was that
	the light bulb would provide resistance, and the capacitor would
	simulate the battery pack in the Sparrow.

	By gosh, it worked.

	The light bulb lit brightly, then dimmed quickly as the voltage in
	the capacitor climbed.  Finally it went out, as the inverter had
	charged the capacitor to 160 volts, and current stopped flowing.  I
	tried unhooking the inverter a few times, allowing the capacitor
	to "leak down," and then hooking it back up.  Everything worked.

	Now it was time to test the device on the Sparrow.  First I needed
	to drive the Sparrow enough to reduce the battery pack voltage.  I
	drove 17 miles, some with the heater on (the heater draws around 5
	amps), and the voltage finally began to drop below 160 volts when I
	was stopped at red lights.  I headed home, and set up the test.

	I used a 12 volt battery charger to power the inverter, because the
	charger has a meter on it, and I would be able to see how much power
	was being drawn by the inverter.  I hooked the inverter output
	to the same plug I installed on the Sparrow for the trickle
	charger.  This plug is wired for straight battery voltage.  I put
	on my safety goggles (I am not kidding) and turned everything on.
	The Sparrow was reading about 161 volts, and the battery charger
	read zero amps.  I turned the Sparrow on, and the voltage dropped
	to 159 volts.  The meter on the battery charger began to twitch.
	Then I turned the Sparrow heater on, and the voltage dropped to
	157 volts.

	I watched with delight as the reading on the meter of the battery
	charger began to climb, then stabilized at 4 amps.  The inverter
	was providing about 50 watts of power to the Sparrow at 157 volts.
	I carefully put the Sparrow "in gear" and pressed lightly on the
	accelerator.  As the voltage of the Sparrow dropped slightly to 156
	volts because of the additional load, the battery charger amps
	climbed slightly to 5 amps.  So far so good.

	That was all I could do in one day, so I called it a night.
	Everything looks good so far.  My theory is that the inverter will
	"fatten" the middle part of the energy curve for the Sparrow.  The
	Optimas can handle hundreds or thousands of light discharges, but
	only a few hundred heavy discharges, and only a dozen or so
	"killer" discharges.  I plan on adding a small 12 volt battery pack
	to the Sparrow, perhaps 15-25 Amp Hours, along with the inverter.
	This secondary battery pack will not be used until the Sparrow pack
	voltage drops below 160 volts, indicating the beginning of a heavy
	discharge.  The secondary pack will begin to share the load at this
	point, keeping the Optimas from discharging as heavily.  When the
	secondary pack is exhausted, the inverter will sound the low
	voltage alarm, and I know it is time to charge!

	I can also run with the inverter off, and if I ever become
	"stranded," I can turn it on for another mile or so of travel.
	This is more than enough to pull over, park, search a bit for an
	outlet, or just to make the last mile to my house after a long
	trip.

	I have more tests to run.  I need to choose what I will use for the
	secondary battery pack.  I also have to test the system at even
	lower voltages, simulating starting the Sparrow from a dead stop
	with a discharged pack, or climbing a steep hill.  I want to be
	sure the inverter provides enough boost without becoming
	overloaded.  I also have to set up a charger for the secondary
	battery.  I am considering using the DC-DC converter in the
	Sparrow!  It may be able to charge a battery pack consisting of 10
	NiMH batteries, expecially if the output voltage is boosted a bit.
	The secondary pack would only be charged when the Sparrow was being
	charged, of course.  No "over unity" power here ;-).  I will
	update the diary after more tests are run.

Sat Mar  2 19:51:11 PST 2002 - 5241 Miles

	Ahh, life with an electric car.  Today I decided to "finish" the
	booster system.  I had a lot of work to do, including a long drive
	to Halted Specialties for the parts.  They had everything I wanted,
	but on the way (12 miles or so each way) I noticed that the voltage
	in the Sparrow was dropping faster than I would have liked.  I
	started wishing for the booster right then and there!  I finished
	shopping, and headed home.  As I sped down San Thomas expressway at
	45 MPH, the voltage kept falling.  Finally, it reached 140 volts,
	and I decided it was time to charge.  I had only used 18 amp hours.
	I was not happy.  Last summer the voltage would hold up over 150v
	even with 26 amp hours gone from the pack.  Hmm.

	I pulled off San Thomas, and headed for one of my "lifeboat"
	charging stations.  I was so worried that I stopped at Lancaster
	Square and charged for 30 minutes, then continued to Campbell where
	I plugged in to the public parking light-post mounted outlet and
	charged some more.  I went to the local Internet Cafe for coffee
	and some surfing while I waited.  Clever Sparrow owners always have
	something to read with them, or think of something to do while
	their vehicle charges.  I was VERY glad to have the 110v charger!

	About an hour later, I came back, and drove the Sparrow home.  I
	arrived home with 21 amp hours used.  Strangely, the voltage was
	much better on the way home.  Could it be that charging had warmed
	the batteries enough to increase their capacity?  Hmm again.

	With my parts in hand, I stopped worrying about the Sparrow and got
	to work on the booster.  I had to remove one 110v socket, install a
	"pigtail" to bring the 160v DC out of the unit, and I had to
	install a diode in the unit to keep the battery pack voltage out of
	the booster.  I had a little drilling, a little soldering, and
	little of fiddling to do.  Eventually, I got the unit finished and
	put it all back together.  It still ran (always a good thing ;-)
	so I was ready for some REAL tests.  I know this is hard to
	visualize so I took a picture.

	The Booster

	The power source I used for testing is a 12v NiCd battery pack from
	a Makita electric drill.  It is rated at 12v 1.7 AH, as seen on the
	label on the side.  Open circuit voltage on this pack is about 13v,
	and under load it drops to around 12v.  Almost perfect.

	The Fluke meter can read up to 10 amps, and it is wired in series
	with the battery pack so I can see how much power the booster is
	pulling from the pack.

	The >beautiful< booster unit can be seen on the right.  The black
	cord exiting the unit to the right is the 160v "power out" source
	which I connected to the Sparrow.

	With all the soldering done, it was time to begin testing.  I
	installed the unit in the Sparrow, which meant placing it carefully
	on the floor to the left by my feet and holding the Fluke meter in
	my lap.  I took the Sparrow out into our very quiet neighborhood
	and began to drive.  Here are the results:

	Driving 10 MPH
	Emeter: 150v, -23 AH
	Draw from 12v drill battery: .8 amps (not much!)

	Driving 20 MPH
	Emeter: 147v, -23 AH
	Draw from 12v drill battery: 1.8 amps (better, but not many watts)

	Accelerating from 10-20 MPH
	Emeter: 137v, -24 AH
	Draw from 12v drill battery: 2.7 amps (better, still not many watts)

	I call those results "success."  The booster was asked to deliver
	at most around 32 watts, which is well within it's rated power of
	400 watts.  It was very happy.  The voltage on the Sparrow battery
	pack seemed to recover more quickly when I was coasting, and it was
	good to know that some power was being injected into the system
	when the batteries were low (just when it is needed!).

	I still had one test to do.  I knew the voltage in the booster was
	unregulated.  That means running the booster on slightly higher
	voltage should make a signficant difference in the amount of power
	it puts out.  To test this, I added an additional 1.2v NiMH C cell
	in series with the 12v NiCd battery pack, resulting in
	approximately 13.2 volts.  The resting amperage climbed to 2.2 amps
	when the Sparrow was stopped with the battery pack at 157 volts!
	Now I had the results I was looking for.  I could not test the
	booster with the 11th cell in the circuit because I was holding
	the wires onto it with my fingers.  I believe. however, that the
	amperage would have been much higher when the Sparrow was being
	driven and the Sparrow battery pack was low.  I also believe that
	the booster would not be overloaded even if the Sparrow reached the
	low-voltage safety limit of 135 volts.

	I believe the system is ready for a more complete test.  I have 4
	2.2 AH NiMH C cells, and I will buy 7 more to make a complete 11
	cell pack.  There is not much power in such a small pack, only
	about 25 watt-hours, but that is better than nothing when you
	are 50 feet from the next place to pull over and traffic is backed
	up behind you.  I will also be able to test charging the booster
	pack from the Sparrow electrical system. I think I will have to
	add a charger just for the booster batteries, however, because
	the Sparrow 12v system voltage is not that much higher than the
	booster pack.

	If the tests go well with the small booster pack, I will go
	shopping for bigger batteries.  NiMH F cells are available with a
	capacity of 13 AH.  Combined with the smaller C cells, the pack
	would hold approximately 230 watt-hours!  Assuming 100% efficiency,
	that is enough to drive about two miles!  That may not sound like a
	lot, until you have to walk it ;-)  With such a pack, my goal of
	extending the range by 10%, increasing battery life, and increasing
	safety might be met.  I have more experiments to do, but it looks
	good for now.

	Oh, and one last thing.  If you are sharp, you may have noticed
	that one additional benefit is potentially delivered by this setup.
	There is a diode stopping it from working now, but a simple switch
	would introduce the ENTIRE Sparrow battery pack into the "middle"
	of the inverter.  How does a 400 Watt inverter powered by 13 Optima
	Yellow Tops sound during a blackout?  It sounds very good!

Thu May  2 20:18:14 PDT 2002 - 5458 Miles

	Well, it has been a busy three months.  I have been working more
	hours every week, and my wife and I moved.  We bought a house,
	packed everything we own into approximately 300 boxes, and off we
	went.  My morning commute to the Greyhound Bus depot changed from 5
	miles round trip to 15 miles round trip.  The Sparrow can barely
	make it.

	While I had the shorter commute, the Sparrow would make the trip
	easily, using less than 10% by the E-meter.  I stopped using the
	Zivan altogether, and just recharged with the trickle charger!  The
	slow charge was enough to completely replace the short commute's
	worth of electricity used every day.

	It is a different story now.  Every charge is a full charge, and
	the battery pack is working near the limit.  When I pull into the
	driveway on the way home, the voltage is around 150 volts.
	Accelerating from the last few stoplights pulls the voltage down to
	145 volts or so, and the car feels sluggish at that voltage.  Last
	summer I tested the car with a 25 mile drive, but now 15 miles is
	about as far as I can go.  I never finished the booster because the
	previous commute was so short, but I will be working on it again
	this weekend.

	I also plan to build a second desulfator, as the one I have seems
	to make a difference, but 12 days between each battery with no
	desulfator seems to allow the sulfation to return.  I hope two or
	three of them will stay ahead of it.  I am adding switches to the
	voltage clamp circuits I built as well.  When the desulfator is on
	a battery, the corresponding LED's glow just a bit.  I suspect some
	of the desulfator pulse voltage is being clamped by the clamper
	circuits.  The switches will enable me to turn the voltage clamper
	off for the battery being desulfated.

	Finally, I am hoping the warm weather will increase capacity enough
	to get me through the rest of the year on this pack.  The pack is
	very well balanced, has stopped venting as far as I can tell, and
	all the batteries look good (no bulges, etc).  I think they are
	simply getting old.  I hope to use them for 1-3 thousand more miles
	and then replace the pack.  If I take very good care of them, I
	might make it!

Sat May 18 20:31:19 PDT 2002 - 5670 Miles

	I should have knocked on wood.  I just fried the battery pack.  My
	wife and I recently moved, and all my systems for Sparrow charging
	were dismantled.  The timer, the computer control, everything.  I
	have been charging manually since the move, with good success, even
	though the pack capacity has been hovering around 14 amp hours.

	Today I made a fatal mistake.  I drove the Sparrow to Home Depot
	and back (7.8 Amp Hours) and then I plugged it in.  I then left to
	go to a birthday party, and when I got back:

	The charger was still putting in 7.4 Amps.
	The seat pack was at 170 degrees F
	The hood pack was at 140 degrees F
	The pack voltage was 184 volts.
	The E-meter read +17 Amp Hours.
	Some of the batteries were venting.

	It is now three hours later.
	The seat pack reads 140 degrees F
	The hood pack reads 100 degrees F
	The pack voltage reads 168 volts.

	The pack is still too hot to use, so I cannot test the car tonight.
	I will try a test drive tomorrow and see how severely the pack has
	been damaged.  I think this is the time for a new pack.

	Obviously, I should have used the timer.  What an expensive
	mistake.  By the way, my Zivan _does_ have the thermal probe, which
	is supposed to stop the charge if the batteries become too warm.
	For an unknown reason, this failsafe failed.

	!!!! Obviously, I should have used the timer. !!!!

Sun Nov  3 20:46:43 PST 2002 - 6067 Miles

	Time flies when you are busy.  I have been extremely busy at work.
	I have been driving the Sparrow back and forth to the train
	station, and commuting to Santa Cruz and other destinations
	by train and bus.  I have added almost 400 miles of travel
	in short trips since the last log entry.

	Unfortunately, the battery pack is now only able to handle about 10
	miles of travel.  It is interesting to watch the voltage.  The
	trickle charger I built "floats" the batteries happily at 184 volts
	with almost zero amps.  It is easy to determine that the batteries
	are fully charged at this point.  All I have to do is plug in the
	Zivan charger, and the voltage slams to the limit (215 volts)
	within seconds, and then amperage drops dramatically, usually to
	less than 1 amp.  That tells me that the batteries are fully
	charged.

	Nevertheless, the voltage drops rapidly while driving to around
	158-160 volts, and slowly descends as the miles count up.  At 10
	miles, pulling away from a stop sign or red light drives the
	voltage below 150 volts, even when I am gentle.  I never drive the
	car with the voltage below that, so there may be quite a bit more
	"desperation range" in there, but I choose not to use it in normal
	driving.  The controller will not limit current until the voltage
	reaches 135 volts, so I have plenty of reserve left.

	I am not severely limited by the range, as the train station is only
	a 6 mile round trip, and almost every other use I have for the car
	(hardware store, drug store, post office) is within current range. 
	However, I long for the ability to drive on multiple trips
	without having to charge in between, and occasionally I would
	make a longer trip if the car were able.  It is for these
	reasons I have started thinking about replacing the battery pack.
	I have a good use for the old pack - I have a 12 volt solar
	system, and the 13 Yellow Tops will make an excellent battery
	upgrade, even though they have lower than new capacity.  As
	long as they will rise to full voltage and float when full,
	they will serve well.  They just act like normal batteries,
	with 1/4 of the name plate capacity.  It is very attractive
	economically to re-use the batteries for the solar system.
	I will avoid about $200 of costs for an equivalent battery.
	I think it is a great use of battery pack with normal behavior
	but reduced capacity.  I will write about the success of
	this idea when I make the switch.

	Everything else on the Sparrow is running well.  The original belt
	still looks good, and everything is functioning normally.  I will
	continue to drive the car for a while and monitor the battery
	voltage.  If I detect that the range has dropped close to 6 miles,
	I will order the new pack.

	I have been researching batteries (what else is new) and the
	current favorite is the Exide XCD - a deep cycle battery based on
	the same spiral design as the Yellow Top.  Some of the last
	Sparrows produced have this battery, and one has more than 6500
	miles on the pack with no detectable loss of range.  I am watching
	the performance of those Sparrows closely, and I may switch to
	Exides when the time comes.

	Interestingly, one of the battery packs that has gone over 6000
	miles has an "industrial strength" version of the voltage clampers
	I built on it!  One of the owners is an engineer, and he built a
	set of voltage regulators just as I did, but he designed them to
	have much greater capacity.  While my devices can control 40-80
	milliamps, the ones he built can control 2 amps!  His name is
	Edward Ang, and I was so impressed with the devices he built, I
	bought a set.  I am saving them for the new battery pack, because
	it is very difficult to install devices on every battery unless the
	battery pack is entirely removed.  I believe that the smaller
	devices I built helped extend the life of my batteries.  With
	the heavier-duty versions, I expect to have a much longer life
	from the next pack.

Tue Apr  1 11:24:21 PST 2003

	Sad but true - and NOT an April Fool's Joke - Corbin Motors filed
	for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy March 31, 2003.  I am very disappointed,
	but it has been obvious that the management was not performing
	well.  One of the founder/owner's relatives owns a motorcycle
	accessory company - www.corbin.com - that seems to be continuing to
	do business. After everything the Corbim Motors employees,
	customers and stockholders went through, I would personally be
	suspicious of dealing with the "parent" copmpany as well.

	On a more positive note, our remodel is almost done, and my 
	Sparrow will be back on the road in a few more weeks....

Sun May  4 20:46:43 PDT 2003 - 6109 Miles

	The Sparrow rides again!  After being parked since November due to
	our remodeling project, I finally got the bird back into the air.
	I took the car out for a spin and logged 9 move miles before
	battery voltage began to drop.  My trickle charger has successfully
	preserved the battey capacity for 6 months!  The car was ready to
	roll.  The one safety step I made sure I did was to check the front
	brake lines and make sure they were not anywhere near the lower
	battery posts.  Unfortunately, they were much closer than I would
	have liked.  I used some carefully placed nylon wire ties to pull
	them back out of danger, and took to the streets.  It is wonderful
	to be back on the road again!

	The car is now also %100 Solar Powered.  I have a brand new 2.7KW
	Solar array on the roof of my house, and the Sparrow can be charged
	several times a day from the output.  The rest goes back into the
	grid to offset my energy usage.  Believe it, everyone, your house
	and vehicle can be powered by the sun!

Thu May 22 08:07:19 PDT 2003 - 6148 Miles

	Yesterday I took the Sparrow to Costco. I am sure I was the
	smallest vehicle in the parking lot.  The Sparrow had been "trickle
	charging" on the Japanese voltage converter I built, and it
	performed perfectly.  My top speed on Almaden Expressway (posted
	limit is 45 MPH) was about 48 MPH, with voltage holding steady at
	around 159 volts.  When the car is at rest the voltage shoots up
	to 168 or so, indicating that there is higher than normal
	resistance in the battery pack.  This pack has over 5000 miles
	on it now, so I would certainly expect some signs of age. The
	most disappointing statistic is the capacity, which limits
	trips to about 10 miles.  That is plenty for running errands and
	such, but not for any kind of serious travel.  There is a cure, of
	course, but I am not ready to buy a new pack quite yet...

	Speaking of range, there is always an opportunity for me to charge
	"en route" with the onboard 110v charger.  I just came across this
	link which should be interesting to folks in the Bay Area of
	California: http://evchargernews.home.attbi.com/

	Finally, I am researching the plug required to charge a 220v
	Sparrow (or other similar EV).  I will have a 20 Amp 120v and a ???
	220v plug on the side of the house in my driveway, and I intend to
	register my address as an emergency charging station.  I want to
	make sure all that beautiful solar power from the 2.5 KW array goes
	to good use!

Sat May 24 16:54:24 PDT 2003 - 6154 Miles

	Today I drove 6 miles to Fry's and back.  What a happy little car
	it is.  I went to Fry's to purchase a device for measuring energy
	consumption.  It's called a "Watts Up" and the first thing I did
	with it was measure how much power my Sparrow trickle charger uses.
	I expected to see at least 100 watts, as the trickle charger can
	charge the Sparrow in a few days after a trip, as it did with the
	interval between this trip and the last trip (48 hours).  I was
	surprised to see that the trickle charger started off drawing only
	65 watts!  This after a 6 mile trip!  After 45 minmutes, it was
	down to 55 watts, and gradually going down.

	Here is the math, for those that are interested.  Most Sparrows use
	somewhere between 100Wh and 125Wh per mile (Wh = watthours).  A 6
	mile trip would use between 600Wh and 750Wh.  If the trickle
	charger were 100% efficient, and charging were also 100% efficient,
	the worst case charge at 60 watts would be around 12-13 hours.
	Since the efficiencies are not that high, doubling that time seems
	a safe approximation of the charge speed.  And sure enough, that
	explains how the trickle charger could have charged the Sparrow
	after the previous trip in 48 hours.  You may be wondering if I
	knew the Sparrow was fully charged.  I tested it by plugging in
	the Zivan for about 60 seconds before I left today.  The voltage
	immediately rose to 216 volts - the sure sign that the pack was
	fully charged.

	I am very happy with the trickle charger.  The Zivan is very
	expensive - over $1,200 if I remember correctly.  It's fun to see
	my little $50 charger accomplish the same thing the Zivan does,
	albeit more slowly.  I am also considering increasing the output of
	the trickle charger a bit.  The transformer is rated for 500 watts,
	so I am nowhere near the limit of the power it can produce.  No
	matter what, though, I will keep the output amperage low enough
	that there can be no chance of a thermal runaway.  I may go to
	100-150 watts, but no more.  That is roughly an amp into the pack,
	and a nice overnight charge for shorter trips.

	I would like to plug the Zivan to the Watts Up, but the Zivan is a
	monster by 120v standards, drawing over 1800 wats at full power,
	and the Watts Up can't measure power that high.  

Wed Jun  4 13:36:23 PDT 2003 - 6195 Miles

	The only news I have is that I have configured the X10 module
	to control the trickle charger, so the trickle is off during
	the Time Of Use (TOU) peak period from 12:00 - 6:00 PM.  Since we
	have already had the first power shortage scare of the summer, I
	figure it is time to do all I can to reduce loads during that
	period.

	I drove the Sparrow to the Dentist today with great performance all
	the way until the last mile or so, when acceleration dropped the
	voltage to 152 volts.  The trip was about 8.5 miles. Warm
	batteries have increased capacity, so it was an easy trip. 

Thu Jul 24 19:05:08 PDT 2003 - 6270 Miles

	I have been wanting to try this for some time.

	Tonight I used the Watts-Up to measure the Power Factor (PF) for my
	120v Zivan It was .70-.71 when charging the pack at 7.8 amps, and
	drawing 1400 watts from the outlet.

	Power Factor problems can be caused by one of two things - too much 
	inductance, or too much capacitance. I'll guess 99.999% of the 
	world's PF problems are caused by too much inductance, as is the
	case in almost every induction motor in the world. The cure is
	to add capacitance (yes, simply add capacitors) until the phase
	of the current and voltage gets back to normal, and voila, PF of 1.0
	(ideal).

	Rarely explained is the converse. If a device has too much 
	capacitance (common in switching power supplies, and battery
	chargers based on similar designs like our Zivans), the PF
	drops for the opposite reason as the induction motor example.
	And you guessed it, the answer it is add inductance.

	Before you read any further, I have to insert a disclaimer:

	I am not suggesting that anyone do what I am about to describe, and
	I would certainly not risk my $1500 Zivan doing this stunt if I were 
	you. You have been warned.

	So, with that out of the way, where can one get inductance? Well,
	in the induction motor example, it comes from the coils of wire in the 
	motor. Hmm. Where would I get a coil of wire to add inductance to 
	the Zivan? Of course, an extension cord.

	WARNING: You should never coil extension cords and then pass
	current through them. They will get warm, or hot, or melt, because 
	of "induction heating."

	Well, I did it anyway. I have a nice 80 foot, 10 gauge extension 
	cord that I have used before, and I just plugged it in. I have
	never measured the PF while doing this, and I was pleased at
	what I found.

	With the Zivan charging the same pack, with the extension cord
	coiled in approximately 16 inch coils, with 20 "turns" in the coil,
	the Zivan increased draw to 1780 watts, and the power factor went to
	.78 on the meter. A small but substantial improvement.

	I immmediately posted my findings on the Sparrow group bulletin
	board to see what the more technical members thought.  By the
	way, the cord did not get hot (at least in the 2-3 minutes of
	the test).

	Shortly, an answer came back from the Sparrow group.  With the two
	conductors in the extension cord both being side-by-side, the
	magnetic field created by the current (and the associated
	inductance) cancels out.  It was a "Homer Simpson" moment - "Doh!"
	I do not know why the power factor was positively affected, but it
	was probably not what I thought it was.  You learn something every
	day, they say.

Wed Aug 14 15:00:10 PDT 2003 - 6298 Miles

	Well, the day has finally come that I am considering replacing the
	battery pack.  The Sparrow has been quietly waiting for me for the
	past week, and during that time I am certain the DC-DC converter
	drew off a substantial amount of energy.  Today I had to run to the
	Post Office and back, which is only 6 miles round trip, and I saw
	voltages in the high 140's when pulling away from stoplights. When
	I got home, I checked the voltage of every battery (the Sparrow was
	showing 160 volts at reast).  Almost every battery was at
	12.25-12.35 volts, except for two.  One read 11.7, which is
	dreadful, and one read 10.5, which is 100% discharged.  It is time
	to officially declare the pack "exhausted."

	And so, a new chapter begins!

Tue Aug 26 18:22:05 PDT 2003 - 6312 Miles

	Last weekend I took the plunge and bought a used battery pack from
	a fellow Sparroww owner.  The other Sparrow was just starting to have
	trobuble with a 20 mile commute, so I knew there was at least twice
	the capacity in that pack compared to the one I have.  I also had
	the benefit of knowing the capacity of each battery, thanks to
	testing done by the owner and one of the technical "gurus" in the
	Bay Area.  It was clear to me that the new pack and my old pack
	would be "merged," keeping the best of both packs for a new
	version.  If all of my batteries were of lower capacity than the
	new pack, I would simply install the new pack.

	I have a plan for the old pack.  If any battery has significant
	capacity, I will use it in my 12 volt solar system.  I am sure I
	can get a few more years out of it in that service.

	I have started testing the batteries using a Portawattz 600 Watt
	inverter and a small fan.  The setup places a nearly constant load
	on the battery, and I am timing how long it takes for the voltage
	on each battery in my pack to drop down to 12 volts.  At the
	current temperature, that represents roughly 80% of the battery's
	capacity.  Here are the numbers so far:

	1: 21.7 AH
	2: 14.6 AH
	3: 14.8 AH

	I am just finished testing #3 now.  More news tomorrow!


Thu Sep 11 20:38:50 PDT 2003 - 6320 Miles

	Well, it was a long "tomorrow."  I finished testing all 13
	batteries.  I used the inverter to draw them all down to roughly
	12.05 volts.  Here are the capacities in Amp-Hours:

	1: 21.7
	2: 14.6
	3: 14.8
	4: 15.8
	5: 14.8
	6: 13.8
	7: 15.8
	8: 19.1
	9: 17.8
	10: 17.4
	11: 12.8
	12: 10.0
	13: 17.0

	WOW!  What a variation!  From 10.0 to 21.7 - more than 2:1.  No
	wonder Sparrow owners never seem to know what their maximum range
	is.

	Tonight I swapped out the worst battery, 10.0 AH, for the second
	best battery in the used pack I bought.  It is rated at 35.5 AH -
	more than three times the capacity.  I just wanted to get back to
	ten miles of range, and that ought to do it.  I am planning on
	relacing the ENTIRE pack soon, as the lowest capacity battery in
	the used pack is 25.0 AH, which is still much better than my best
	battery.  I just need a clear day to do the work.  Imagine
	replacing the battery in your car 13 times.....

	All the batteries that are out of the car are attached to my 12
	volt solar system and desulfator, so they are being well taken
	care of while they wait their turn.  My current pack will live out
	it's remaining life in that service, ultimately being recycled when
	the next new (or used) pack is purchased for the Sparrow.

	That concludes the story through the end of 2003.  2004 and beyond
	deserves its own page.

	David Butcher