Looking back at building and driving Voltvo
In retrospect, 2021 has been a very intense year. It was the year we wanted to travel through Sweden as a family. While the electric Volvo Amazon wagon was progressing nicely, there was still a lot of work to do by early January.
Therefore, as a family, we decided to do a sprint to make it feasible to depart in June. Saskia took care of everything in and around the house, so I could maximize the time spend on the Volvo. That’s what I did. For weeks, I started around 7:30 and stopped around 00:00. It worked out! A lot of hours to do things perfectly without cutting any corners. My father also helped a lot and Nico did a great job on the EV Peripherals firmware. Furthermore thanks to Joost, Ben, Erik and Ruben for their support.
After facing many challenges, such as no wheel spin due to a malfunctioning thermistor in the inverter, and a lot of logging and analyzing, on May 6th we did a first test drive.
From electric power steering and electric power brakes to regenerative braking, thermal management and detailed information on the displays, it all worked.
Inspection and approval
Thanks to Ruben from 2CVe I could have it inspected on May 11th already and was approved without any remarks.
Fixing CHAdeMO DC fast charging
There was still some remaining work to do. Most important things were wheel alignment and fixing CHAdeMO fast charging. There were some issues with the controller I developed that I could not test earlier. So I’ve spend quite some hours at various fast chargers for logging and debugging. Finally and just in time a few days before the scheduled departure most things worked out.
Sweden here we come!
On June 6th our two month ‘EVeryday Nature’ travels as a family started. The first two days were thrilling. At the very moment we wanted to leave the Vehicle Control Unit (GEVCU) died and needed to be replaced. Our day through Germany was a hot day and we fast charged six times and faced some reduced charging speeds due to elevated battery temperatures.
But in the end we made it to the boat in Kiel 15 minutes before the gates closed. So we arrived in Gotenborg and had the best charging spot ever!
Cruising through Sweden
We found great camp sites and explored nature. We really loved the long days. Below picture was taken around eleven PM.
One of my favorite camp sites was Storängens Campsite in Ransäter. After a warm welcome, we camped next to the river with a fireplace, beavers, plenty of space and a great playground for the kids. I did some GoPro filming with the Voltvo over there.
Overall the car did very well. Wheel alignment remained a challenge. Despite the fact that I took it to the alignment center three times, the steering remained nervous. With or without power steering did not matter. Furthermore the state of charge calculation was not very accurate. But the pack balance was very good.
Only remark was that the range was not as much as I had expected. At 180 Wh/km the actual average consumption was spot on compared to my calculations. As a result with a 42 kWh pack a range of about 200 km should have been possible. In practice the longest trip we did on one charge was only 114 km. Perhaps there was a lot of unused capacity due to the fact that I charged only up to 4,05V per cell to be on the safe side for now.
Your car on fire!
June 30th, the car was parked a bit further on the campsite and around 07:55 someone came to our tent ‘Your car on fire’. Noooooo! But is was true. Having seen pictures of EV’s that had caught fire I anticipated it would burn down completely so we started to grab as much of our stuff as we could. Unfortunately someone tried to help using a powder extinguisher which in the end caused a lot of collateral damage especially in the interior.
The firemen arrived very fast. First thing the rescue chief said was “We are going to do everything we can to save your car!”. Wow! And they did.
It was a smooth collaboration within the team and good communication with me. We worked together on how to operate the main service disconnect and how to open the battery box to get water in once the fire intensity had reduced. They even grabbed my sons diary and the USB stick with the logs from the car before it was taken away. I knew there was a chance it could re-ignite.
It was taken to an open area close to the campsite. Later it was picked up and transported to a storage area.
The good news was, that at that point it was not yet declared a total-loss, and the insurance approved transportation back to The Netherlands.
To be continued…
In the end we continued our trip in Sweden with our Volvo 940 that was brought over and the Volvo Amazon went back. A long process with the insurance started. In the end it was declared a total-loss and I was able to buy it back. Of course I have spend a lot of time thinking what caused the fire. Often these thing happen during (over) charging but here that was not the case, as the car was not plugged in. I will share my thoughts and theories in future blogposts.
The same goes for my plans and ideas for rebuilding the car. The good news is that the structure is still solid. While the insurance did pay out there still is a huge gap. You can support this rebuild and donate.