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Almost every week, there seems to be a news story from an auto manufacturer declaring their intent to go fully electric. With this in mind, and given that most of my customers are aware of my Puma EV conversion project, electrification in general has become a hot topic within the walls of my shop. Specifically, when and how this market will come to be a reality.

Obviously, I am not an expert in this field. But in my humble opinion, the North American pickup-truck market is the gateway to change. Until the typical truck owner has an option that can haul their boat or RV to the cottage on a single charge, I can’t see the sales shift to electric being anything but lethargic. North Americans love their pickup trucks – in particular, the Ford F-150. It’s why I, among many others, will be paying particular attention to the new electric F-150 that is expected to be released relatively soon.

Many of you have also been asking for updates on my Puma EV conversion. It has been moving along steadily as we first refurbish the chassis to the point where it is rolling. The decision has also been made to purchase a collision-damaged Nissan Leaf that can provide the bulk of components. Given the abundance of Leafs, I am optimistic that when a suitable donor has been found, it can be bought for a reasonable price. I just missed one a few weeks ago that would have been perfect; I’ll need to be quicker on the draw next time.

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Why a Leaf? The answer is strictly abundance. If another suitable donor vehicle enters my radar, I will certainly consider it, but no, it probably won’t be Tesla-powered given their scarcity and cost. We plan on using as much from the donor car as possible, with the exception of the transmission. A Leaf drivetrain is mounted in a transverse orientation, whereas our Puma setup is designed as longitudinal. Using the Puma transmission means less structural modifications, and simply, we don’t want to get bogged down with unnecessary chassis modifications.

The mating of the donor electric motor to our Puma transmission will require an adapter plate to be designed and manufactured, which has commenced with the aid of a CNC machine operator. I expect shop staff will have the chassis rolling by the end of 2020, and the pressure will then be placed back onto my shoulders to supply a donor car.


Your automotive questions, answered

Hi,

I have a 1970 Cadillac (500CI/8.2-litre V8). It will only be run once or twice a week, mainly short runs to the shops, or 10 or 15 miles to a friend’s place. I’ve got a jump starter, so it won’t be much of a problem if it happens to go flat. My question is, however, will the battery and maybe alternator last longer if I keep the battery constantly on a trickle charger like a CTEK MXS 5.0. I’ve also got spare cheap 6/12V charger that I bought, but I’ve heard they can be a fire risk.

Any advice you can give would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Frank B

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The CTEK you refer to is one of many smart chargers readily available to anyone in need of such a device. Battery-maintenance for classic cars such as yours has essentially been no big deal since smart chargers became all the rage in the battery-maintenance world. The key to longevity for any car, marine or other recreational-vehicle battery that operates on a 12-volt system is to store it fully charged. All batteries slowly degrade and sulfate over time, but keeping them above 12.4 volts will result in sulfation occurring at its minimal rate. The alternator will not be affected by the CTEK as it is a low-output device. The only way it could be damaged is if you hooked up any of these devices with the terminals accidently reversed. So, don’t do that; otherwise I think you are adequately in charge of your situation.

My daughter has moved to another state. Her description [of this problem] is over the phone, so it’s hard to figure out. She says that when she makes a turn onto another street, [the car] feels like it wants to go in the other direction, like sliding in the rain. (It doesn’t happen at low speeds, just medium speeds.) She also says there is mild squeak, intermittently. Steering fluid good, tire pressure good. Suspension? It’s a 2003 Honda CR-V all-wheel-drive.

Thank you, Bryan

Bryan, your daughter’s description is likely something suspension- and/or alignment-related. The mild squeak is a clue, suggesting to me that a lower ball joint may be about to fail in a dramatic, unsafe fashion. We’ve all seen it – a vehicle stranded at the side of the road with one of the front wheels angled in a way that even a non-car person recognizes as very wrong. The result of a failed ball joint or steering-tie rod.

Honda’s lower ball joints can be something of mystery to the untrained eye, as they reside in an upside-down position relative to a lot of other car manufacturers. This odd ball-joint orientation can fool DIYers into believing it is good, simply because they don’t know how to inspect properly. Have her take the car in to a repair shop, preferably a Honda or import specialist, for inspection and repair immediately.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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