In late summer, a good friend of mine sent me a link to a CraigsList ad for a Zenn electric car
about 30 miles from my house.
Wikipedia has this to say about the car:
ZENN (Zero Emission, No Noise) is a two-seat battery electric vehicle that was built by ZENN Motor Company of Canada from 2006 to 2010, designed to qualify as a neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV). It has a range of up to 40 mi (64 km) and is speed-limited to 25 mph (40 km/h).
The vehicle is based on the Microcar MC2,in production in France since the early 2000s, and produced under license from Microcar's parent company Bénéteau. The Microcar MC2, and the short wheelbase MC1, are sold in Europe with 500cc diesel engines, and are considered "Quadricycles" there.
Electric power is stored in six 12V lead-acid gel batteries, which has a recharge cycle of 8 hours. Valve regulated (low maintenance) lead-acid AGM cells were available at extra cost initially, then included as standard equipment in later models.
Also optional were a retractable fabric sunroof, air conditioning, floor mats, and audio entertainment center. The vehicle originally was built with a DC motor and GE controller, and in 2008 was modified with an AC motor and Curtis controller. The AC motor was stated to be better for hill climbing, initial acceleration, and overall performance.
The Craigslist ad was for a 2008 model Zenn that
was in fairly rough shape. It needed new batteries, needed a new
tail-light, had some body damage, and hadn't been powered on since 2011.
It was untested and in unknown operating condition, mostly because we didn't have a pile of batteries
laying around to test drive it.
I was told that it had been used by a local
public-works department for meter reading and had a little over 3000
miles on the clock. The best part? It was cheap. And I mean crazy
cheap. Go look up what these things typically sell for today. Take a
zero (or two) off the end of that price and you can see how cheap it
was. The lady that owned it (second-hand from the utility) simply
wanted it gone. (Also, if you happen to see the bonkers original selling price, you'll see why it failed as a product.)
Well, I gave the lady a call and we agreed on a
time to go over and take a look. I pretty much fell
in love with it. I knew I wanted it, and I was willing to pay the
price. A few bills exchanged hands and I was the proud owner of my
newest money pit^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h project.
Getting it home was entertaining. I couldn't exactly drive it home, and I couldn't leave it there. I talked to my buddy and he agreed to help me transport it.
Because of its small size, light weight, and the fact that you can roll it around in 'neutral' without electrics, we just put it on the back of a trailer! This picture is a great example of just how small it actually is.
You can also see some of the damage on the driver's side
by the door handle. Apparently at some point in its history, someone
backed into it, breaking the plastic on that side.
Once I had it back to my house, I got to digging into it. This is the new(er) model that has the AC motor and Curtis controller, rather than the older DC motor and GE controller. It has a Delta-Q QuiQ charger on-board. Has six 12v batteries ( two under the hood, four in the trunk) making up the 72v battery pack. It is about 10 feet long, 5 feet wide, weighs about 1800lbs, and has a 'space-age' frame made up mostly of aluminum, plastic, and glue. It seats two, and has a rear hatch with a surprising amount of storage space. It has heat, air-conditioning, a radio, seat belts, wipers, rear defogger, power windows, power locks, and central locking. It really does look like a real car. About the only 'modern' thing it is lacking is airbags. It has a top speed (governed) of 25 miles per hour, and with its original battery pack, should get 30 miles on a single charge.
I farted around with it
for a month or two while I investigated batteries. What to get?
Lead-Acid? Lithium? Something more...
Read more »