Sonntag, 19. März 2017

Months of Hell

This post is not in chronological order as I delayed writing it for several months now. As the title suggests, it wasn't the most pleasurable time of my conversion and I "evaded" recapturing the events for a while. But now it's about time to write about these events - and with some distance it's even funny to recap what had occurred (see point 3). Maybe it helps you if you're also stuck in apparently unsolvable problems or if you're not able to track down the source.

As in Voyager's Year of Hell the S80 got some serious problems and just wouldn't want to make its way to the certification agency for 2-3 minor checks. Maybe you remember, in May 2016 I've received a provisional allowance to drive the car. I had to move some weight from the front to the back, correct the wheel angles and get rid of some rust on the brake disks. Nothing serious you might think. Not at all.. everything was taken care of and fixed pretty easily. But in the meantime this has occurred:
  1. The bearing of the motor shaft gave in. While driving the motor started vibrating pretty strong. It was quickly identified because the vibrations were related to the motor speed and not the car's speed. So back on the lift, disassemble the motor from the gearbox and confirm that the motor was vibrating. As I already pointed out to Brusa a strange heat build-up at the bearing before I mounted the motor the first time, they were 100% co-operative and handed me a replacement motor.
  2. Thanks to the replacement of the motor, I also discovered  a couple of other things (see pics on the right):
    • The bolts of the gearbox and adapter plate started to loosen - although I applied Loctite to all of them and torqued them according to specs. When reassembling, I switched to Nordlock washers - I strongly suggest you'd do the same. 
    • Burnt grease and pitting of the metal on the adapter shaft: According to experts this points to very high temperatures occurring locally due to quick torque shifts (which in itself is normal). We try to prevent this now by using very high temperature resistant graphit grease.
    • Wear and tear at the beginning and the end of the part that's inserted into the motor. This points to a slight misalignment - maybe due to the loosened bolts or due to the construction. But two experts told me that it should be fine now and I don't have to expect the situation to worsen.
    • Chipping at the edge of the splines. Probably also due to wear and tear but I had to file it off before reassembly.
  3. Once I got everything running vibration free again, I arranged a date with the certification agency. Of course I visited the car wash just before the appointment to make a good impression. And because the car was to be weighted again and I needed every kg, I wanted to get rid of some excess washing water (which equals to about 5kg when full). So I applied the windshield washer thoroughly while driving to the agency on the high-way. Then things happened quickly: I got a warning bell, several unrelated alerts on the dash (like "brake, urgent maintenance required", "ABS inactive", "low voltage", "power saving mode") and a couple of seconds later: No response on the throttle and the car started to slow down. WHAAAT !?! Not now! I moved to the emergency line and came to a stop. The lights in the dash and radio display flickered when I tried to re-start the car. Lights were dim and the dash didn't even indicate that the emergency lights were operating. After working 30min under the hood with my MacBook (ever seen this ?) and cars rushing by at 100kmh, I came up with two theories: Either some water from the car wash must have made its way where it caused a short or the DC-DC converter stopped working. Also the police paid me a visit which at first made me even more nervous but they were really forthcoming. Long story made short, I needed a tow. But again, to save weight, I left the tow hook at home (it weighs another 2kg) and the tow truck didn't have one for Volvo's with him. Of course after spending 1h on the emergency line, I had to cancel the appointment and my phone's battery was almost empty too. How much worse could it get ?!? Remembering my theories, I gambled on one and asked the guy from the emergency service if he had a 12V emergency starter pack with him. Luckily he had, we attached it to my tiny motorcycle lead acid battery and tadaaah, the car came back to life. Another quick look at GEVCU's (the EV control unit) log confirmed it: The DC-DC converter reported an high-voltage under-voltage error and was inoperative. As this couldn't be fixed quickly, we agreed to get off the high-way first, closed the hood as much as possible and drove to the next exit. There we located the next DIY store where I wanted to buy a 12V battery or emergency starter pack. As the motorcycle batteries were much more expensive and probably not fully charged, I decided to buy a starter pack. Hooked up, the car was driving again. To save power, I disconnected the electric power steering pump, switched off all possible consumers and dared to drive back on the high-way. Several km's later, the car started reporting low voltage and various system problem again. I skipped one more exit and took the next one to get as close to home as possible. I used the emergency foot brake to brake to prevent the vacuum pump come to live and rob another couple of mAh on the 12V rail. In a city about 10km from home I had to enter a round-about. Calculated the speed and trajectory of all cars to make it in without braking. But one of the "suckers" didn't leave it as I expected and I had to brake sharp. Hearing the vacuum pump come to life weakly churned at my heart. A quick push on the throttle confirmed: I needed to push differently to get out of the round-about. So I got out of the car and pushed it to the next exit. There was a construction site and they were removing the scaffolding. Luckily I wasn't getting in their way and there was also mains power so I was able to re-charge the starter pack. After an hour, I thought the charge should suffice for the remaining 10min drive and got on the way again. But guess what, not even half way through, the bells came on again and I knew, I was about to become an obstacle to traffic a third time in a row. Another round-about in a small town. A pedestrian on the way to the zebra crossing. You have to know that in Switzerland pedestrians have way right at zebra crossings - cars and trucks have to stop if there's the slightest chance that people want to cross or risk a several hundred CHF fine. So I was under quite some pressure and realising the bad timing, I was going "no no no!", frantically waving at the pedestrian to stay put on the sidewalk and in the end passed by her in a still save but let's say "probably not entirely legal" fashion as she returned the waving arms gesture when I looked in the mirror. I felt sorry as normally I'd never do that. But thanks to this manoeuvre, the car was working until the last incline. There it gave out but I had enough momentum to make it to the "down-hill" part where I made it home without motor support. Another visit to the lift and I found out that the 10A HV fuse for the DC-DC converter was blown. I replaced it with a 8A I had lying around but it blew up again immediately. There was a short on the HV side of the converter and it had to be repaired.
  4. To be able to drive without DC-DC converter, I used the car's old 100Ah lead acid battery. Fully charged, it gave me about a 2h drive. These drives were not relaxed ones as the voltage sagged to 11.5V quickly too and the alerts popped up again. But I was able to drive much longer with them in place. But while driving I felt another vibration getting worse and worse around 3300rpm and I thought I'd have to replace the motor another time and maybe something with my construction was completely wrong and destroying bearings. As it turned out much later, the vibrations subsided again once I disabled "oscillation dampening". In low speed situations this mode resulted in heavy fluctuations in torque and maybe wasn't good for the drive-train. But this part caused me a whole lot of head-ache and frustration. So much that together with the DC-DC converter problem, I decided to stow the car away for a couple of weeks. Mentally this was the absolute low point of my conversion. Ev1en the thought of re-inserting the gas engine had crossed my mind. In these situations it's good to have a family to rely on and put things into perspective again. My 9-year old son realised that I was feeling really sad and made me the drawing which says "Dear dad, I'm so proud of you. Kind regards, Philipp" and on the right he adapted the Volvo sign with "1.P" for first place. How much sweeter can you be? No need to tell you that it did wet up more than one eye :)

  5. And once I thought things were running again, one morning the car would move. This time the motor controller gave me an error: "Temperature Sensor" - although the reported motor temperature was perfectly fine. Checking with Brusa it became evident that there are several sensors and if the ones used to report the temp over CAN appear to be fine, there must be something wrong with the others whose purpose is to shut-down the system in case the motor overheats. As they are redundant for safety and the system also shuts-down if the others report high temperatures, we decided to disable the second safety feature. Luckily previous versions of the motor didn't have this set of sensors and the software is flexible enough so we were able to disable the check through parametrisation. But the whole process also stretched over several weeks.
  6. As it took much longer than expected, the re-check at the certification agency was more than over-due. This also put a lot of pressure. I can count myself really lucky that they were so lenient and showed a lot of understanding for my situation.
In December we finally made it to the agency and the car passed final inspection. Since then the only troubles I had were related to heating. Otherwise the car is driving well now (as long as I don't screw up the software by adding new features). So I'm happy again in this area.. and also in others as I find much more time and energy to spend with my family again.

Freitag, 6. Januar 2017

GEVCU Dashboard redesign

The old version of the web based GEVCU dashboard is a bit overloaded with gauges and its look&feel is not of the most modern types. So after seeing some nice gauges in a mobile app presented on evtv, I decided ours needs an overhaul. These were the requirements:

  • support dual dials on one gauge (or more)
  • support arcs from a start point to the tip of the dial
  • improved performance
The original gauge library was created by Mykhailo Stadnyk and it served us well. But we had to switch off animations (interpolations from one value to the next) in order to run it on tablets. This made the dials jump around a bit. One of the main reasons for this was that for every refresh the entire gauge was re-drawn from scratch. So a first change was to introduce layers. The gauge background (circle, numbers, ticks) are now only drawn once and the dials are each drawn on their own layer (canvas stacked above each other). Also the LCD like value displays are drawn onto a separate layer.
But still performance was pretty bad.. on a Macbook Pro, Firefox put the CPU load to 80-90% in a test set-up where all values were redrawn every 10ms. Increasing the interval to 35ms still gives decent animations and dropped to CPU load to about 60%. Better but still not good enough for my Samsung Note 10.1" 2014 tablet. The problem was that JavaScript runs single-threaded. So although the tablet uses a multi-core processor, it only used one to do everything. The solution was to introduce web-workers. They allow to perform background tasks in separate threads. By moving the web-socket communication and calculations to a separate worker and let the main thread do the drawing, we got a huge performance jump. The CPU load dropped to about 45% and the animations started to look better on the tablet. But I wasn't happy yet. Since the specs of web-workers say that a worker can spawn sub-workers, I wanted to go further and not just distribute the work between 2 threads (2 cores). So I decided to spawn a "handler" worker which acts as a coordinator. This handler then spawns a web-socket worker which processes the incoming data into a JSON object. And it also spawns a worker for each dial to be displayed in all the gauges. Each key/value pair received from the web-socket is then forwarded via the handler to the corresponding dial-worker. The result of the dial-worker is forwarded through the handler back to the main thread where the canvas is drawn with the pre-calculated values. This approach would take away the maximum amount of load from the main thread which is responsible for the DOM and drawing the canvas.
But it didn't work out that well. Well, it worked - but only in Firefox. As it turns out, Firefox and MS Edge are the only browsers at that time to implement the full specification of workers. The others (like Opera, Chrome, Android Browser) do only support workers to be created by the main thread. So  in order not to loose the work, I decided to put the handler into a PseudoWorker wrapper. It will still run in the main thread but can be accessed almost like a worker. So in case the other browser implementations catch-up, it's easy to switch.
The arcs was another thing.. to find out how to place the start points correctly was not so easy. Especially as I wanted to be able to have the gauges display one, two, three or more dials. And also be able to "turn around" a dial and not display the values clock-wise but counter-clock-wise with a switch. And of course the arcs also needed to support freely definable gradients. 
All in all, it worked out and now the performance on the tables is good. The dashboard even runs sufficiently well on a raspberry Pi3 with all values changing with every update (which is not realistic). But you'll have to use Android as OS and either Chrome or Opera. Firefox is too slow as are all browsers available on Raspbian. 
Here's a demo video (with faked values) of the new dashboard in action. You might notice the instpirations from Tesla and Volvo gauges but still, they're something different. Oh yes and the charging screen also received an overhaul. So although future versions of GEVU (6.x) will no longer support the ConnectOne ichip wifi, there are still a lot of us out there who got older versions.
Also notice the switches at the top. With them you can temporarely switch on/off regen, creep, EHPS and the heater. Especially on snowy roads it's nice to switch off regen without having to change the configuration of the throttle.

And here's a demo which displays all the possibilities of the new gauges (4 dials in one gauge and also display the highlights as in the old version):

Samstag, 17. Dezember 2016

The Heat is on!

The Heater

Finally, I got the Eberspächer 6kW electric heater installed and up and running! It sure is a beast that needs to be tamed :) With my current water flow rate it starts boiling the water with anything higher than 2.5kW. When the blower of the car is off, bubbles even start circulating the system with 1.5kW. I equipped my GEVCU-Extension with a SW-CAN transceiver. It communicates via single wire CAN bus with the heater and controls its power output from 0 to 6000 Watts. The module of course can be configured to a desired maximum power output. It also measures the temperature of the water via a NTC resistor built-in the heater (via A0 of GEVCU transmitted via CAN to GEVCU Extension).
With the current settings, it heats with 1.5kW until the water reaches 40°C. Then it de-rates the power to 0 Watt at 70°C. This reduces the bubbling to a minimum.

I'll need to hook-up the already installed flow meter to get an idea of how many liters per minute travel through the system.

If you're interested in the code, you'll find it at GitHub. (Note that not all Eberspächer heater use SW-CAN. Many operate PWM controlled).

After 4 weeks driving at freezing temperatures (inside the car), windshields that fog up and even start to freeze over while driving, feet that won't warm up again and catching one cold after another, I'm almost looking forward to the Monday morning commute where I can hop in a pre-heated and de-iced car.

PS: Of course I didn't drive with iced/fogged windows.. I stopped and used a 12V 120 Watt heater and wasted a lot of time pointing the cheesy air flow at the windshield to get clear vision.

Unwanted Heat

Before getting the heater running I had to fight some other heat - caused by a still missing radiator for the coolant loop of the motor and controllers. I had to get to Arosa this week. It's a mountain village in the canton Graubünden, Switzerland at 1775 meter over sea level. The town at the base of the mountain (Chur) lies at 593 meters. So the task was to climb 1182 meters (3877 feet) over a distance of 35km (21 miles) with most of the height gain concentrated in the first 4km. After 120km on the high-way I had about an hour to charge with 3.7kW at Chur until I had 30Ahrs in my batteries. Then I had to take off to get to Arosa in time - or not at all. The car climbed like a champ at first. Until I hit a temperature of 133°C in the motor and the de-rating set in. Fortunately the terrain leveled off and it cooled down quickly. Just when I finished contemplating about finally installing that radiator for the coolant, I got another blow when I looked at the Amp-hours meter: 15Ah left.. for about 32km remaining. That's gonna be extremely tight - especially if we have to climb even higher. I used my "super-energy-saving" driving style and got really nervous when the Ah meter went from positive numbers to negative ones and the street just went on upwards - pretty steep. But the voltage didn't sag as I expected and it finally dawned on me that I aligned the meter to 20% SOC. So theoretically there should be another 20% reserve in the batteries to complete the trip to Arosa and not turn around with a tucked tail. Constantly checking the voltage I drove the remaining 5km and ended up with minus 3.5 Ah but still a sufficiently high voltage in the cells. Phew.. that was "interesting". But I was proud we made it - barely but we made it :)

Dienstag, 6. Dezember 2016

Freezing over


It's getting cold and although the car is running and I finally passed the re-examination of the car, the heating from the coolant of the motor and inverter is not only insufficient - it's inexistent. The coolant temperature rises to about 21°C after a 40min drive which doesn't heat the cabin at all. (So folks, it really doesn't work to heat the car with the heat of an electric drive system!) And with an outside and inside temperature of -3° to 2°C - which is not the lowest yet - my feet are cold and won't recover for 2-3 hours after these drives.
So a heating strategy must be implemented urgently. Although the approaches depicted on the right might work, I think I'll try a different approach. (note the funny coincidence: a BP logo on a battery)
I wasn't able to activate the already installed PTC heating element of the Volvo until now. The signal specs and wiring diagram pointed to a wire which regulates the power of the PTC element. I thought it was an analog or PWM signal which I tried to fake. But it didn't work. Most likely the PTC controller communicates via LIN bus messages. So it's not easy to fake it without a reference.
So maybe the best idea would be to get the already mounted but not connected Eberspächer 6kW heater working. I only have to connect hoses, a pump and an expansion tank (which I don't have yet) and find a way to read the temperature from the heater's sensor (analog signal) with GEVCU or GEVCU-Extension.

Samstag, 26. November 2016

In the Media

We caught some fame... another fellow EV enthusiast organised an interview with our local newspaper. Inspired by it, I thought "Why not try others?". So I informed all major Swiss newspapers and TV stations about the completion of the conversion. Zurich's local TV station (Tele Züri) reacted extremely quick - after 5min I got a call. The reporter showed a lot of interest at first but then the redaction was not convinced that 5 to 10min of interesting material could be cut together. Well.. although I could have talked for hours, it's not a major problem because after that, the biggest newspaper in Switzerland jumped in for a half-page interview and they even posted a video on Facebook (in swiss-german though).
For those interested, here's a translation:
Intro: "This Volvo in not only driven electrically but also home made. Michael Neuweiler fulfilled his dream with this car."
Michael: "Driving for the first time out of the garage and only hearing the crunching gravel under the tires and nothing else, this was fantastic - a really good feeling. Especially because I invested a lot of time and it worked in the end."
Reporter: "Why did you want such an electric car? Why didn't you just buy a Tesla?"
Michael: "When I started, the Tesla S was all but a rumor and it looked like it takes longer. Other electric cars were only small cars which I didn't like that much. So I thought, let's try it ourselves with the car I like."
Reporter: "When did this start and what was the catalyst for you to start the construction?"
Michael: "In 2013 I saw the film 'Who killed the electric car' and there it was explained how GM had a good car, the EV1, which was very well accepted be the customers but as soon as they were able to kill the law in California that 1% of the imported cars had to be emission free, they stopped everything, fired the employees, recalled the leased cars and scrapped them. So they scrapped 1-2 year old cars. At that time this stirred up a lot in me and in the end led to the point where I wanted to build such an electric car."
Outro: "The Volvo accelerates in approx 7 seconds from 0-100kmh. Not as quick as a Tesla Model S but sure not a lame duck."
(small correction: it's more about 10 seconds but I didn't know better at that time..)

All in all an interesting experience. Some folks address you after that. Recently my wife rented a music instrument for our son and the salesman asked her: "We do tune your piano, right?" - "Yes." - "And your husband did this electric car conversion?".
But now the thing is mostly over.. except for my father who's extremely proud of my achievement and shows the news articles to all his visitors :) But my biggest fan is still my son. In a more troubled episode with the car (more on that in another post) he surprised me with so much heartwarming compassion, it brought more than a tear to my eye :)

Article in "Affoltener Anzeiger" on 3rd of June 2016:
Half-Page article in "Blick" on 11th of June 2016:

Mittwoch, 31. August 2016

Enjoying the first 4000km

The car is really nice to drive. It delights all kind of drivers: from family members, friends, our local pastor and media folks. Usually guests enjoy to ride along but when taking over the drive, that's when they really get hooked up and show their teeth in a nice EV grin.
The funniest incident was when I was driving with 30kmh through a town. Two guys sitting on their Subaru Impreza were looking at me with no particular interest while I was driving towards them. When I passed them, I could see in the rear view mirror how both bent over, eyes almost falling out and a "WTF?!?" expression on their face. Yeah, that was a silent electric car :)

But you know, there's a real downside when you convert your own car: you get hyper-sensitive to vibrations, rattles and squeaks. I always go "Whaah! What's wrong with the car?!? Is something coming apart?" until I find out that it was only irregularities in the pavement or something else rather trivial. One day I burst out in laughing about myself: I was driving in the rain and with my feet I could feel a strange rattle through the accelerator pedal - mind you, the pedal, not the floor! It stopped each time I was driving through tunnels and it resumed once I was outside. Of course again, I went "What the heck is wrong now?".. It took a while until I found out what it really was: it was the wipers blades!! I could feel the vibration of the freaking wiper rubber when it reversed - with my feet. And due to the rain sensor it was intermittent in tunnels. You'd never imagine that when you start a conversion...

But there's something that really went wrong with the car and lead to a grounding - but more about that in a later post.

Let them know

Another thing I realized: In normal traffic nobody really notices that it's an electric car. So another sticker has to go to the rear end (although I don't like stickers on cars). A friend who works at a labelling company and already made the Brusa stickers, quickly cut out various sizes of the emblem I thought would represent the idea best. I like it.

Oh yes, I owe you some technical facts:
The estimated range is around 250km (20% SOC).
Top-speed: Don't know exactly yet.. but my (not too wild) guess would be around 190-200kmh
I was planning the car to reach Kreuzlingen (100km) on one charge. When I did it the first time, I was surprised that when I arrived from the initial 90Ah still 48Ah were in the batteries. So I could drive back and even have a couple of Ah reserve. What a pleasant surprise :)

Thermal Imaging

A friend of mine got a FLIR camera and of course we took some pictures of the engine bay after an extended drive. The batteries to which we had access to, all showed a uniform heat pattern (no heat  at all).

Another round of CAN bus hacking

I still want to get seat heating/cooling, the additional heater element and de-mist operative. At last, I found another S80 owner who was willing to let me record high-speed and mid-speed bus messages at ignition, idle and revving at 1500rpm. With Collin Kidder's fantastic tool Savvycan. I was able to replay a group or single selected messages into my car's bus. Within 60min I got lucky and identified the message and bits which tell the Climate Control Module (CCM) to turn on high-power equipment. I got all the features working but unfortunately only intermittent. The Central Electronic Module (CEM) sends the "turned off" message every 100ms. So the systems switch on and off a couple of times per second. What to do? Well, I could cut the CAN wires right after the CEM and insert a filter. But as the SRS is also connected to the same bus, it might not be the best idea.  If the rare event occurs that I make an error, the airbags might not deploy when needed - or they might go off at the wrong time. Better try to locate the connection points 73/4001 and 73/4002 and only cut the line before the CCM, DIM (dash) and OBDII connector. Then I could also inject rpm information for the dash.

Maybe an even better idea is to try my luck on the high speed can bus. Right after the Engine Control Module (ECM), I could inject the rpm and operation state of the alternator. The ECU communicates over LIN bus with the alternator. Once it's ready to deliver power, the ECM tells the CEM that everything's running and which again tells the CCM that it's ok to activate high-power equipment (still with me ? :) ). Another advantage of this approach might be that the Brake Control Module thinks the motor is running and enables the supplementary power braking pump when performing an emergency brakes Although the power assisted braking works fine, rolling on asphalt you still have to push down the pedal pretty hard to get the tires skidding and ABS jumping in. I'd like this Volvo feature to be operative in my car even though it sometimes causes you and especially your passengers to be suddenly restrained by the safety belts - just because you pushed the brake pedal down a bit quicker then normal.

Media Center

Yep, Volvo no longer supports the Road Traffic Information system (RTI) I have in my 2008 car. The
latest maps are from 2013 and there won't be any newer ones.  Wow, only 5 years of support.. Because of that and because there's now an almost useless 7-inch screen now in the dashboard and because I don't particularly like the approach of using a tablet just to see the car's main parameters, I bought myself a 7-inch 1024x600 touchscreen with HDMI, VGA/RGB and even composite inputs together with a Raspberry PI. My plan is to replace the built-in screen with one of higher resolution and touch capabilities to use it
as modern navi, mediacenter and display for a selection of GEVCU gauges. Raspberry is the ideal choice as in the edition 3B it offers bluetooth, wifi, ehternet and 4 USB connectors. You connect it to a display via internal connector or HDMI. The screen is a bit too wide though.. the RTI screen casing might need some "adjustments".
At first I installed Android Marshmallow to get my favourite navigation app "Waze" running. It worked pretty much right away (without GPS signal yet). But after hours and hours I could not get the touchscreen running. I think I'd have to build a custom Android kernel with some special parameters so the eGalax Touchscreen driver can be loaded. Maybe at another time. I think the next thing to try is Raspbian and Navit. It doesn't look as cool as Waze but it might do its job as well. Another cool app might be Genius Maps.
The display I chose might be a tad too dark for car environments. Maybe the backlight can be tweaked somehow. So two things to do on this front: get touchscreen running on Android or find a decent Navi for Raspian and increase the brightness of the screen... oh and also squeeze it into the old display frame.

Freitag, 3. Juni 2016


We've made it (almost)

On May 20th at 14:30 the 2 hour long road worthiness test was conducted at the "Strassenverkehrsamt Zürich" (road traffic licensing department). Oh boy, I dreaded this moment. That's where all my efforts could have gone to waste. I feared that they'd find so many problems that I'd have to start over or give up. That's also why I involved the experts from the beginning, discussed my design and finally got a remark that if I'd follow the design, would not increase the power of the motor, not change anything in the chassis and keep all the security relevant systems running, I could get along with my conversion. But still I had so much doubt because the standards of road worthiness are extremely high in Switzerland (you folks in the US or AUS probably can't imagine). It was the sword of Damocles hanging over me during the last 3 years. But apparently all the worries were for nothing. I got a pass on all points except these three:
  1. With nobody in the car, the front weight is already at the current limit of 1180kg. With two persons in the car, it's 70kg over-weight. Darn, the conversion got 100kg heavier than I calculated.
  2. The brake disks - especially the rear ones - were rusty after 3 years not using them.
  3. The wheel alignment of the front wheels is off by 20mm on 1m - too much.
Nr. 2 and 3 are a piece of cake: Switch of regen for a while and have the alignment adjusted in a shop once the weight distribution is clear. But Nr. 1 is a bit a challenge. Either I have to move 50kg of batteries from front to back ("why only 50kg, you said 70kg ?"- yes, but mind the law of the lever) or I have to get a warranty from Volvo or a testing center that it's ok to go with a bit a higher load on the front axle.
Well, moving the batteries would be my last option because it'd mean a couple of days work again and giving up space in the trunk (which I was able to prevent until now). But there are other S80 models out there with higher load limits. One is the one with a V8 engine. It's got 120kg more on the front axle than my modell.. but except from maybe stronger springs, all the same parts are used. A confirmation from one of our two testing centers in Switzerland is just crazy costly: one charges fees starting at CHF 650.- and the other 3000.- for looking up their files and talking to the licensing department. Not an option! My hope now lies with Volvo. The homology provider of Volvo Switzerland contacted Volvo for a warranty confirmation that it'd be ok to go with 70-120kg more on the front axle. So please, please Volvo Europe/Worldwide/Sweden/Switzerland, provide me this 1-pager and your stamp on it !!!

I have to mention that the experts at the licensing department were really very friendly and supportive. I even got high praise that this was the most beautiful conversion of an electric car they've seen until now. I was dumbstruck by such a huge compliment from those who take the most detailed and professional look at the car. But albeit these issues exist, I was allowed to drive the car. I just have to fix them within a certain timeframe. 
My family accompanied me. My son (8 years) even got the afternoon off from school to be part of it. When we we were through with the test I was churning the fact of the overweight. But then suddenly it dawned on me:

I'm allowed to drive the car now!! I finally can drive the car (legally) !! I can use it for my daily commute - as of NOW !!


Oh, we had a big family party on the way home - with monster ice-cream servings until everybody was full..  even the 4 year old gal :) When we passed a gas station I told them "Look folks, we don't have to stop there anymore." and after the next turn there was a barn with a huge photo-voltaic installation on the roof and I said "From now on, that's our gas station !".

The most touching thing about this whole story is how proud my son is of me. He keeps telling everybody, explains at school what I've done - and you see it in his eyes when he looks at me. I most likely don't get the full grasp of the impact it has on him. I'm not the type who's terribly proud of what I achieved with the conversion but what I'm really, really proud of is that I was able to show him that it's worth to stick to something. Even if it takes 3 years, you can reach a goal and change the world a bit. I have a feeling that this might be one of the biggest lessons I was able to teach him.