Charging Electric Cars

When I first started building small wood and charcoal gasifiers I ran the gamut of charging 12 volt batteries to feed an inverter, and then a larger generator to be able to run power tools, freezers, refrigerators, water pumps, and eventually a small Chinese diesel generator (not on wood gas) to power an Arc welder, or even an air conditioner. I ended up with all sorts of generators (and “could be” generators-broken) with wood gas carbs, and bags and bags of prepared wood chunks and engine grade charcoal. Then a Farmer about ten miles away bought a new Tesla to use for delivering fruits and vegetables, he convinced me to buy his used Nissan Leaf. Right away, I had visions of charging it with a charcoal gasifier. Then I started reading forums and lots of folks had the same idea, using very expensive Honda Inverter generators that they could use to extend the range of their Electric Vehicles (EV). It turns out that the chargers in these cars is almost like a computer, and checks for frequency and voltage, and can even sense how good of a sine wave is being delivered. There are some who have done it, after modifying the outlet, but warn that any voltage spikes like from a power tool could screw up the expensive built-in EV charger. So, I have stuck to my 220 volt outlet that normally powers my stick welders to charge the car. Here is a copy of a little blurb I posted on Facebook: “Charging an electric car costs about the same as one bottle of beer out of a six pack! Our Leaf has a 24Wwh Battery, so if it need a “half” charge to top it off, that would be 12 Kwh. Our windpower electricity is about ten cents per Kwh, so $1.20. If the battery was nearly empty, two bottles of beer would carry you 70 to 90 (in some cases over 100) miles down the road. No gas tank, no exhaust pipe, no emissions, no engine, and look how far you can go on two beers. The future is arriving!”
Then I started reading the Tesla forum and found that they were installing PV systems tied into the power grid (grid-tie), so they could generate 220 volts all day, send it into the grid, and then set the computer in the EV to charge the car during the wee hours of the morning. (In Calif, paying much less that what they got paid during the peak daytime rates.) There is a fairly new device called a micro-inverter that gets installed behind each solar panel. (Enphase M215 is one example.) There are some DIY kits that are not too expensive. Tesla is in the process of installing a network of Superchargers, that are basically large solar arrays put up by Solar City, that feed into the grid if no EV’s are charging, or into an array of the 85 kwh Lithium ion car batteries. (500 kwh)
However, there is a thing called “Range Anxiety” that electric car drivers get…and if you “brick” your battery, you need a flat-bed tow truck, or a quick charge. If a woodgasser had a 220 volt 50 Amp ac generator in the back of that Dodge…

Hi Ray, Hope all is well on your end … Try driving 500 miles one way on any of those cars and report back. I have built several electric cars. Sure they were not like the current versions with neodyne magnet motors, electronic control, and lithium batteries etc etc etc but ?? You happen to have a lot of solar your way. I just changed the angles on some of my panels today for peak summer but have left the others in the winter mode due to potential hail storms etc etc … We had tornado warnings yesterday. My personal opinion is if you are going to do woodgas then just run your engine directly on it. Forget converting to electric and charging a car with it. The cost to the environment for making the batteries is staggering and I just call priuses piuses … Spell checker is telling me I got both wrong … Around here only folks with inherited wealth can drive those hybrids. The rest of us sorry folks get to drive chevys … Keep Texas under control and say HI to Martin P for me. Let him know the Gerber is still in action all day long. I’ve developed a taste for pickled cactus so that is it’s major function digging strands of cactus out of the jar … Thanks, Mike … PS typed 100% off grid

Once one can drive on wood, it seems sense to only drive on wood. Solar panels and batteries need manufacturing and will need replacing. If you want to drive on solar then grow trees, natures solar energy storage devices!

The shame is, I have solar panels and I like them. But, I do not wear my rose tinted glasses about them. They are great as background power but should always be part of a bigger system. I’ve had more interest in thermoelectric modules. If only I could afford some proper ones instead of home made modules…

A sobering article on electric cars: Lowtechmagazine has many intriguing articles. Enough to fill an evening or two with reading…


Hi Lana, I think American Freedom is defined by the automobile. Everything else pales by comparison. Take away a man or a woman’s car and they are SOOL. I remember in 1972/73 when the gasoline stations had NO gasoline to pump. Then there was rationing as it began to come back. I had a pile of ration stamps that I pulled from the old lady up the street’s garbage when she died for gasoline, butter, and other items during WW2. I thought I was rich. I asked my mother about it and she explained about the ration stamps. Somebody threw them away on me. How soon we forget stuff. I sit in my chair each night here and watch the folks drive by. I live on a state highway. I have built 2 electric cars over the years and have converted around 10 vehicles to wood as well. I’ve lost count. The reason I went back to woodgas was because we had invaded 2 countries after oil and opium and then we had Katrina and had 3000 bodies floating around there. Our national Guard folks were over seas instead of dealing with the crisis at home which is what they signed up for. Sure most of those folks were people of color so it was easy for the majority to ignore it. Good luck in LA if the SHTF. I grew up in view of the empire state building in NYC and watched them build the WTC. My nephew was working there the day they blasted them.
I have around 2600 watts of PV here and 1000 watts of wind. Wind is a winter thing here. I use lead acid batteries but my property is an old lead mine so I don’t worry about lead. I just put it back where it came from. I had to replace all my batteries this last year as the old ones were from the 1980’s and actually need to add water this weekend … I suppose if I want to go for a joy ride this weekend I might hook the trailer up to my truck and fill the hopper. I drive as little as possible. I had a new rupture a month or so ago and have trouble walking and can’t lift anything heavy right now. Have to wait 6 years till I’m 65 to get medicaid. Regards, Mike LaRosa

Just FYI guys, Lana was a spammer, and has been removed.

Hi Chris, Now I have no idea what I replied to but it must have seemed reasonable at the time. I recall it was some interesting battery information from the LA perspective. Are you building up another truck ?? Send me your picture link if you have one (off list is fine). Thanks, Mike

DJ, thanks for that really good link. I never imagined there were so many electric cars a century ago. My wife and I bought a used Leaf and the experience of owning one, plus information from forums gave us the background to really understand and appreciate what the author was saying. I had been telling her that the absolute best speed to get the most distance from a full charge was the same speed as a person pedalling a bicycle, but the author seems to think it might be around 60 mph. (She “liked” that idea.)

Hi Ray and Donna, I chopped up one of your chunks and some of my 55 YO birthday Arizona pieces this afternoon into chips. I plan to make a tea in a few and add soggy chips and tea on that friggin metal plate on the current BBQ. I couldn’t find a replacement with the lava rocks anywhere around here. My truck is ready to roll on wood though … Wish we had hooked up. We were only 3 miles apart … The job I / we was working on totaled to $2500 or there abouts … Mike

Mike, I just put a couple of the small pieces of that Mesquite around the burner in our propane BBQ while I am pre-heating. They start to smoke and it smells really good, and when I add the meat, it gets even better. Any fat on the meat drips down and starts to smoke, and when the steak is done, I pick out the Mesquite and throw it in a pan of water so I can use the wood the next time. If you just leave it in the BBQ, it burns down to ash and is wasted.

Ray, My BBQ is a newer one and I was unable to find one with the lower grid and lava rock in it. It just has the plate which has already rusted out and I had to braze it back together. Burner is in good shape after 3 years. I usually had to replace them each year. I soaked a blend of texas and arizona chips in about a 1/2 inch of water and lightly boiled them for about a half an hour or so. I then put the wet chips on that plate and let them heat up in the initial warm up. They started smoking a bit. Then I put the steaks on and would occasionally pour a little bit of the water between the steaks to steam on the plate. Color of water is like beet juice … Steak was good … M