The Specifications of my Tropica/Zebra

[PRICE SHEET] The Specifications of the Tropica/Zebra

The Things that I've changed in my Tropica/Zebra

or at least the problems & fixes I've gone through.

925 miles (3/29/1996) :
I finally got the car. (See the story on that!)
1,421 miles (4/24/1996) :
I added two taps to check the voltage of the battery pack. Both connections have inline fuses, and are connected as follows. The negative lead is attached to the negative side of the Large buss fuse on the back of the motor compartment. The positive lead is connected to the positive side of the first controller. So, essentially this is the first places to check the total pack voltage...

I really did not trust the bar gauge, and now I have real numbers...

1,705 miles (7/17/1996) :
I have just gotten my car back from Ron Larrea of San Diego Electric Auto, and he replaced the driver's side motor that burned itself out. It appears that the problem may have been caused by the parking brake, and so we added a spring to pull the brake completely off when it's dis-engaged, otherwise it may get stuck.

In addition, to fixing the car, Ron also adjusted the suspension more to my liking. (The Tropica/Zebra does have adjustable shocks...) and he also replaced the cord reel that had been causing me problems, since I don't think the cord reel manufacturer even intended this cord reel to be used to pull a 15 Amp load in salty water conditions with constant road grime interferring with the internal contacts so what he did is make a 110 volt socket and cup so that the door still has the charging function, but the cord is stored in the trunk.

Oh, about the cord... We also went to a 12 gauge hospital grade cord and re-used the fancy GFI plug that the cord reel used.

And lastly, Ron also firmly attached the lower edge of the rear bumper to the car, so the reverse light did not aim too high and wiggle...

1,846 miles (7/27/96) :
The battery pack was not acting well, so I decided to take a look at the batteries, and so it was time for a roadtrip!!! (If you've looked at my home page you'll realize I like road trips...), so I talked to the people at Zebra Motors, and they offered to work on the car for free, but I had to get it up to them. So, I borrowed a friend's truck and a u-haul car carrier (Thanks Albert!) and drove the 600+ miles to San Francisco.

When I got there, I stayed at Don Bright's House, and then went to the headquarters of Zebra Motors and saw a sight to make my heart sing...

Then Nathan and Jeff went to work on my poor car. First they took the nose panel off, to access the bolts to remove the nose. They do this, so they can then jack the car up, rest it onto a special rolling rack(thing-a-ma-bob) and "roll out the batteries!".

Jeff is the one in the Yellow shirt, and Nathan is the one not wearing cowboy boots. :)

After pulling out the batteries, they fixed the watering system and filled the batteries with 3.5 gallons of water, with their fancy watering system which I don't have (but will soon) and then put the batteries back in. After that, we plugged in the car and... (Quiet Noise here) it looks like the charger is not working, so we play with that for a while, and then finally they take a working charger off one of their cars, and swap it out with me! (I love these guys!) We then lined up the 5 working cars and took some photos... Then I loaded the car up and drove back to San Diego.

1,984 miles (9/1/96) :
Well, the batteries once again needed water, so Jeff at Zebra Motors shipped down their fancy watering system and I hooked that up and watered my batteries. I can't wait to put some Gel Cells into this car.

Anyway, since I had the hood open, it was time to take care of some of my dislikes about the car. So, out came the schematics and out came the multi-meter, and in when Scott.

I re-wired the trunk release, so that the trunk can only be opened when the car is on. And since the car can only be on when the key is turned to the "on" position that means the trunk is now "secure." Well, as secure as it can be. But, I did find out that with the trunk set up this way, that when the car is charging, I cannot open the trunk, I have to un-plug the car to stop the charger, so I can then turn on the car, to open the trunk. A hassle but worth the security.

Since, I was wiring things into the accesory (or on when the key is turned) output, I also connect the radio, to it as well (on it's own circuit and fuse mind you). So, I can now listen to the radio, and when I arrive at my destination, just turn off the car, and the radio goes off!.

I ran a 6 fuse fuseblock and have used 2 of them, so if I need to have more things powered by the accessory voltage I can. No I did not take any pictures of this work, but it really wasn't very interesting.

2,132 miles (9/10/96):
The batteries are just dying. I get less than 15 miles range on a charge, and so I'm having trouble getting to work, unless I "trick' the charger into over-charging, and I rush to work before the voltage drops. Not fun.

2,176 miles (12/7/96):
Well, the kind and generous folks at Zebra Motors have decided in their infinite wisdom, to change out my batteries that are almost kaput for a better maitained set of batteries. So, I take the car up to them and my range goes from <15 miles per charge to over 23!

2,540 miles (5/3/97) :
Well, this time the batteries gave up. I lost all voltage over a weekend. It started at 73 volts on Friday night, by Sunday morning my batteries were down to 18 volts. I was not a happy camper. But I contacted the Zebra Motors guys and we arranged to have me bring the car up there and I would buy a new set of Trojan T-125s!

2,541 miles (6/7/97) :
It's new batteries day! I took the car up to Alameda, to see Zebra Motors, and we pulled out the old set, and found out that we only had two batterries that were even close to the normal voltage, everything else was either 1v or less. :( But, Jeff, Nathan, & I all pulled together and put the new set in. (Plus I got to see some of the drawings and designs of the new Zebra!) I can't wait until their in production.

2,722 miles (6/17/97) :
Well, I blew the main fuse for the car! I called Zebra Motors and they Fed-Ex'ed me two fuses. Replaced them over the weekend, and was back on the road on 6/21!

3,172 miles (7/8/97) :
I decided that since I just bought a new set of batteries, I better invest in a promising technology to keep them in good condition. From my visit to Alameda/Zebra Motors I met with Clare Bell and she showed me a device called PowerPulse, now this thing is suppossed to de-sulfate your batteries. So, I looked into the company PulseTech and read their information. Then after seeing Clare's test results, I decided to spend the $195 and get one. Which I did. So far, no problems.

3,224 miles (7/10/97) :
I took part in a ride & drive program sponsored by SDG&E called Charging Around San Diego which involved a caravan of EVs driving around the county. I could only afford to go to the first few stops, since I had to get to work, but I did get interviewed twice! There also was a followup interview on 110v charging which I was interviewed for.

3,311 miles (7/15/97) :
Well, this time I got stuck on a highway on the way to my Future Father In-Laws birthday dinner, and the car was totally dead. No 12 volts, No 72 volts, No nothing. I checked the fuses and the Battery pack, but the batteries were reading 0 volts. (not a good thing!)

3,311 miles (7/26/97) :
Well, this time I went to Alameda/Zebra Motors, I got to see what a melted terminal post looked like. The battery had had a impedance problem and when I drew alot of current through the battery, it melted the post clear down to the acid! There was nothing to the negative terminal. So, Nathan & I replaced the bad battery, got all new copper bus interconnects, cleaned them, installed them, and then re-installed the batteries. We're getting quite good at doing this. It only took two of us a few hours of work. So, I put the car back on the trailer and went on home.

4,812 miles (10/1/97) :
Nothing to report. I just updated the web pages, and realized that it sounds like I've had nothing but problems. But in reality I've had nothing but fun. Even when I break down! I know, I'm odd.

But I've just driven 1,501 miles in 2 months, without any problems!!!!

4,989 miles ( aka 5,004) (10/8/97) :
Darn. Wouldn't you know it....I opened my big mouth. I lost my odometer on the way home. The speedometer still works, but the odometer stopped. Drove the car home, and looked into the dash panel. Tested the connection, seemed okay. Took the car for a spin and it's working again... Onto 5,000!

4,999 miles ( aka 5,019) (10/9/97) :
Well, the odometer stopped again. I haven't taken the odometer out to check it, again. This weekend I think I'll drive around this my fiancee looking at the voltmeter to see whether I get a pulse on the 12v line or not. Is my car afraid of the number 0? :)

Actually, with the lost miles from the odometer I should be reading aroung 5,019 miles. If I have to replace the odometer I'll reset the new one to the right number.

5,038 miles (10/11/97) :
Well, my fiancee was buzy, so my housemate, Rob subbed for the looking at the voltmeter. Hmm, I'm getting a signal to the odometer, and though I can't see how strong it is, it shows up. So, I guess I'll look at the odometer itself. Well, I used a spare 12 volt battery to pulse the odometer, and then cleaned the contacts on the connectors and plugged it back in. And....

It works!

5,381 miles (10/21/97) :
The main fuse blew again, and I swapped it out with the spare that I've had in the trunk. Used a jumper cable to provide power so I could open the trunk! I was stopped for about 8 mins.

5,999 miles ( aka 6,032) (11/18/97) :
Well, it looks like the odometer is shot. It's been stuck for a while now, and I'm not sure that it's caught every mile that I've driven. So, I've called the Zebra folks and they're sending me down a care package of fuses, odometer, DC/DC converter, and drive belts. The DC/DC converter that i have may not be putting out enough amps to power everything, since sometimes when I switch on the high beams, the clock resets. (Not a big deal, but annoying) And the drive belts are scheduled type maintainance at 6,000 miles. And the belts are squeaking and the right belt may be slipping infrequently. (I don't think it was tightened to spec when the motor was replaced back in July of 1996.
8,107 miles (5/4/98) :
Okay, brief update, since I've been lax on updating the page....

I've now got over 5,000 miles on my new batteries, had a few minor problems, and one major issue. So I'll re-cap.

  • When the car gets rained on (heavily) the flashers come on, and stay on for about 24 hours until they dry out.
  • I showed the car at the San Diego Auto Show, across from Mercedes Benz, and Jaguar!
  • My charger has started to trip GFI outlets since it is returning minor (<4 volts AC) voltage on the ground pin, while it should not return any, but the car still charges.
    In the meantime, I've made a "adaptor" that drops the ground pin. I'll likely replace the charger when/if it dies.
  • I destroyed my right drive motor, it seems that electric motor cleaner is not good for the advanced DC motors. I was working on the car, and the motors was covered in road grime, so I use motor cleaner to clean it, and then 4 miles later, pzat! I did get a replacement parts from Zebra Motors, and changed it, the reversing contactor, and drive belt myself. So things went back to normal.
  • I showed the car at Earth Fair 98 in Balboa Park.
  • I showed the car at an Earth Day event at Torrey Pines High School.
  • But, apart from those times, I've been driving the car and having fun (when it doesn't rain...)

    8,231 miles (5/30/98) :
    The guys at Zebra Motors pulled a charger off one of their cars and sent it to me, and I've replaced my charger, so now, I can charge at the full 12 Amp draw, but the last remaining float charge doesn't work, c'est la vie. I'd rather have the 85% charge than the 15 % charge. And the GFI problem has disappeared when I swapped chargers.

    8,542 miles (7/23/98) :
    Another short update. I've had the brake pads replaced, and now the brakes squeal, my first thought was the place that did the work mis-turned the rotors, but after looking I think the new pads I have are not the right consistancy. I'll be going up to Zebra Motors next week, and will see if they have any ideas or parts to try out. (Note: I'm going to San Francisco for work, and since I'm there I'll visit with Zebra, not a special trip.)

    8,562 miles (8/09/98) :
    Had the old pads and new rotors installed, and things are quiet again.

    PS> Note to self: When replacing motors, always make sure to tighten the nuts on the motors. If (hypothetically) A2 gets a little loose, you can do a great spark show!

    8,963 miles (9/04/98) :
    Nothing to report on the car, but I did get interviewed for a local radio program, and am going to be interviewed for the company TV show.

    9,134 miles (10/14/98) :
    Well, I had to say it.... My charger stopped charging, and since it is not a "production" charger it's hard to get it fixed. I'm trying to have a local charger guy, fix it or I'll end up buying a new K&W charger for the car.

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