Monday, July 8, 2013

Dusting off the Porsche

Hello there, I'm John and I'm a rising senior in course 2A with a focus in Energy Conversion. I'm one of the senior EVT members at the moment, and I'm spearheading the effort to get our 1976 Porsche 914-e back on the road.

The Porsche was mothballed about a year and a half ago, and put into covered storage in one of the graduate dorms here at MIT. That shielded it from the elements, but certainly not from dust and the effects of humidity.

Nick and I had worked with another alum, Radu, to run the vehicle during January, but we were unable to find the time to get the vehicle back to the shop and to start the process of getting it legal again. The downside was that in the process of running the vehicle around storage, we broke the transmission linkage and the car was stuck in second gear.

This past weekend, Erick (a former EVT who is returning for grad school) and I went to storage and spent some time getting the car back into the shop. We knew the electronics worked, but we still weren't able to get it to roll. As it turned out, the brakes had bound to the rotors since the handbrake was on, and we had to break the pads free. This effectively meant we put one foot against the wall and pushed really hard, after that it rolled with relative ease. Fortunately, Erick and I rowed together and we put all those hours of pushing on a foot board into pushing on a concrete wall.

The next challenge was getting the car up the ramp that leads out of the garage. That's easier said than done when there isn't much room to get a running start, or a method to get the electric motor into a sufficient torque range. Stuck in second gear, we were barely able to get up the ramp with 500 rpm, when the motor is most efficient around 5,000 or so. In the end, we got the car up the ramp and drove it back to the shop. With the signals and brake lights not responding, it was back to arm signals. Unfortunately though, Cambridge drivers are not accustomed to driving with arm signals, and honking ensued while I was waiting to turn left at a light.

At the end of the day though, the car is now in the shop and we can start going through the systems to learn from it, teach with it, and have some fun with it.

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