Thursday, October 9, 2008

2002 e825 charger update

I am in the process of making the switch from Trojan flooded batteries to Deka 831 sealed Gel cell in my 2002 e825. After a post on the yahoo nev group I found out that some NG1 Zivan chargers can charge both chemistries and some require an update. Up until recently Gel batteries were an optional upgrade on Gems, flooded Trojans were standard equipment.

An easy way to tell if your charger is capable of charging both chemistries is to remove the gray dash top piece - the part with the cup holders and see if your charger has a selector switch. It comes out via 2 screws in the motor compartment. Below is a picture of the charger in my 2002 e825.

The cleaned black disc in the picture - the area where the dust has been removed is where the switch cover would be. This charger did not have the switch and required an update.

I spoke with Zivan and they said an update would be between $130-$170 And that it would be 4-6 weeks to complete. They also offer an expedite feature for $20 extra to complete it in 2-3 days. I paid the extra $20 and got the charger back in just over a week. It was $128 out the door. My initial contact with Elcon (the Zivan US rep) was via email then a phone call to confirm everything before shipping.

This update also includes a 7/14 day auto on timer for both types of batteries. This makes the charger switch on automatically after 7 or 14 days so the life of the battery is maintained while the Gem is not in use. This was an issue that basically killed the batteries in my GEM before I bought it.

The picture at left shows the same NG1 charger after the update. A switch has been added and a stick on cover has been added covering the switch. Additionally 2 white stickers have been placed on the cover of the charger indicating the update and settings for the charger.

Under the new cover a multi position selector switch is used to choose between a GEL or wet battery. To change between battery types one selects "C" for Gel batteries or "F" for flooded/wet batteries. (see photo below)

That's all there is to it.

The benefits of the update are:
  • Ability to change between battery types and keep the same charger
  • Self start up timer to automatically reengage charger as to prolong battery life when not in use over an extended period of time
  • Better updated charging curve for the specific battery type and brands

Sunday, September 28, 2008

12 volt accessory port

I recently decided that I wanted to add a 12 volt accessory port to my 2002 e825 GEMcar that I recently acquired. The speedomter/odometer isn't accurate due to the past owners mods and I thought with GPS price dropping I could use an inexpensive one for an accurate speedometer and tripometer.

I also wanted a flat one that would fit in the glove box and if stole wouldn't be the biggest lost. Although the GPS has a battery I didn't want to have to worry about charging the battery elsewhere. I asked on the Yahoo NEV Group about finding a 12volt source on my 2002 GEM.

Rick, one of the most knowledgeable GEM guys out there said there may simply be a purple(+) & black(-) cable by the DC to DC converter board. And guess what there was. Different boards handle it different ways and I guess mine is one of the older ones

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Some things to consider before buying a NEV

With gas approaching $5 a gallon I've been getting more serious inquiries about owning a GEM. There are some things that one needs to be told about that may not be obvious initially.

Yes no gasoline but . .
You use batteries. I think I saw somewhere on the net that it is under a dime a mile to run the GEM. Still a great deal but eventually the batteries need to be replaced and they are expensive, about $1000-1200 depending on which battery you purchase (flooded or Gel). Don't buy cheap inappropriate batteries, you will regret it. My GEM has about 1700 miles on it and I bought it with 50miles on it and was a year old. Batteries will go bad whether they are used or not. How you drive will effect their longevity also.

Battery life
I currently have, as of this writing, approx 1700 miles on my in 15 months. I still am not sure about how many miles I will go before the batteries need to be replaced. Some folks on the Yahoo group claim upwards of 9,ooo miles on their batteries. Mine probably will not last that long because they sat for a year before I bought them and with my mods I think the life expectancy is reduced. Batteries are rated in charging cycles and the GEM is rated at approx 1000. That means the battery can be recharged about 1000 before it needs to be replaced or worn out which ever is first.

An accident in a GEM (or any NEV) would be very bad, you have virtually no protection. Pay extra attention while driving to make sure the other drivers see you and do not get caviler in a 25MPH car. One good thing about the GEM is that it is an eye catcher.

Time traveled
Depending on where you drive and how you get there you may need to allow more time for travel. With a stock GEM you will have a maximum speed of 25mph on flat ground, it will be less when going up a hill and it is governored to 25mph coming down a hill, though it will be charging the batteries. In short. your maximum speed is 25mph

Rated with a 30 mile range
This is in a perfect world and will vary with conditions: road surface, is the ground flat or inclined, temperature, how you drive, and number of occupants in the GEM. We have a 4 seater and I notice a significant difference in battery life when all four of us are in it. If you can get to a location (re: work) and charge it for a few hours you are all the better. Personally I would rate my range in the 20 mile range. As the batteries drain the GEM loses speed so it becomes impractical to drive much farther.

Driving Habits
Your driving habits will effect range too. Drive like a lead foot and the batteries will drain much sooner. It's just like a gas car, mpg are related to how you drive.

An unmodified GEM has a maximum speed of 25mph so you want to be courteous to other drivers by think about using alternative routes. Unless it's rush hour and I'm not the slowest vehicle on the road I tend to take a side road to get where I'm going. Yielding or pulling over when cars can not pass is a good idea too. I also will scan ahead, by that I mean if I see a traffic light up ahead and there is no way I'm gonna make it I will coast or drive slowly to try and time the light change. With gas prices as high as they are now I've noticed that a lot of people are driving slower.

Where to find & price
If you want new they are handled by certain Chrysler and Dodger dealers. Visit to locate a dealer. Used GEM can be found on ebay or A used GEM should go for about 3-$4000 for a 2-seater & 5-$6000 for the 4 seater depending on year, options, and condition of batteries. The good news if your buying used they do not seem to hold their resale value

Cost to operate
As mentioned above battery replacement can be a big hidden cost of owning a GEM. Electricity isn't free so one must calculate the cost to charge the NEV. has a cost calculator if you know your electricity rate per kilowatt hour. According to the Yahoo group it is around .08 cents per mile to run a GEM

Yes GEMs can be moded. Some more easily than others, depending on the year. Arguably the easiest mode is to increase the tire/wheel diameter. This would increase your speed anywhere from 3 to 5MPH. The downside is your speedometer will no longer be accurate. Another favorite option is to replace the motor with a more powerful one. GEM come with a 5HP (I think starting in the 2008 model year a 7HP was optional, the earliest GEMs may have had 3.5HP motors). Replacing the 5HP motor with a 7.5 or 8.5 HP motor will increase speed but if used aggressively it will significantly deplete the batteries range.

Creature Comforts
A GEM has many options available. Any kind of door on a GEM is optional. Hard doors need to be installed at the factory. Soft and semi-hard doors can be purchased aftermarket. I bring this up because one's hair is a mess in a GEM without doors after traveling. Stereo, CD player, heat, heated seats, it's all available but remember . . . . it's a golf cart

The GEM is not totally green because chances are your powerplant uses fossil fuels of some type to power your home which intern charge your GEM. But you are not idling at a stop light either. The other thing is your should look at it, for most commuters, as a secondary car. by that I mean not your primary car - unless you regularly stay close to home.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

8 miles to work on only 2 bars

I recently took my GEM to work which is 8 miles away. I have the 7.5HP motor and 23" wheels. If I drive my GEM right I can drain the batteries in less than 10 miles.

I made a decision to drive rather conservatively and take it easy on the batteries. I live straight up a hill and coasted down, as it's a first mile or so. I still had to stop a few times on the downhill because of stop signs. After the hill it is up and over the 5 freeway and it is flat for the next 6-7 miles.

Since this is my regular route that I drive to work everyday (a small portion is normally freeway) I was aware of the traffic light durations. My approach was to not gun the GEM off the start but try to maintain 25MPH. When I had a unimpeded run I would eventually get up to 30MPH or so. My GEM can easily maintain 30 - 32MPH on the flats but the idea was if I knew I would never make a light off in the distance I would coast to the light and conserve power. More often then not the light would change as I got there. It was about noon so traffic was light so I wasn't in anyones way. Had I not played the lights the way I did I would have expelled much more energy and probably not arrived at my destination any quicker.

I was able to charge at work so I had a full charge coming home. This was at night (ie; lights on) and because of the mile or so uphill near home it took 3 bars to get home. I did the same coasting thing to lights as much as was reasonable practical. Again I maintained a 25-30 mph.

I'm hoping that with this kind of driving I can get close to 20 miles per charge and still have the benfit of the 7.5hp motor when needed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Some user notes on the 7.5HP motor

There are some very steep winding hills nearby that provide a good view on a clear
day. They are like the ones you see in a car commercial from the aerial view of the car
tracking these long curvy steep hills. I decided to take a spin up to see how the new motor would
handle it.

Going up was no problem but coming down was another issue. As most know,with
the 7.5hp motor on the '05 and later the odometer reads half speed and half miles
traveled. Since the governor is disabled one most rely on the brakes only. This issue I believe is unique to 2005 GEMS & later

I did make it down OK but was concerned for the condition of the brakes. I
thought about putting it into low gear but thought 30mph was still too fast (15=30mph).
Perhaps I will do a shorter test run to see if 30mph is better then riding the brake 2 miles

I was hoping that the controller could be reprogramed but according to a reply to this posting on the Yahoo NEV group it can't be regrogramed to regen at anything other then 15MPH 0r 25mph. This leads me to believe that '05's and later GEM's do not regen with the 7.5HP installed. I was told it would by Ride-4-Fun thta it did regen. If I'm right I don't think they misled me on purpose but simply got confused with the model year or assumed it did. So for now I have to be aware of hills and it's a shame not to regen when dealing witht them


Sunday, May 27, 2007

New Motor Installed

I installed the ride-4-fun's 7.5 HP motor in my '05 GEM. It installed pretty straight forward. Earlier models may require moving a shock absorber or at least removing the tire to install - confrm with your vendor before buying!

Simply turn off the main power, remove the electrical wires, remove the motor, remove a rubber gromet in the old motor and place in the new motor shaft. Slip the new motor on apply some blue locktite to the 3 screws that hold the motor in place

The motor can be purchased from other vendor's for pre-'04 models but in the '05 and later models GEM made some changes that make it more difficult to increase the speed. Basically the controller needs to be fooled into thinking that the car is traveling below 25MPH. They achieve this by shipping a motor with 4 magnets instead of 8. This makes the speedometer read half the actual speed and the odometer half the actual distance. By doing this the speed govenor never kicks in. So when the speedometer says 15, one is actually traveling at 30, and so on.

R4F told me they can reprogram the controller (this is included in their price) but only to a certain amount. Not as much as the pre '05 models. The reprograming, as explained to me, is increaseing the amount of power (electricity) that can be delivered to the motor. The downside of this is that it depletes your batteries that much quicker. I have yet to send my contoller in for reprogramming.

UPDATE: (5/27/07)
My motor fried about a week and a half ago. It only had a bout 70 miles on it and Jim at Ride-4-fun was baffled. I sent it back to D & M Motors in Syracuse for evaluation. Jim said he is only aware of 2 failed motors and they were a result of customer abuse. I can say without any doubt that this motor was not abused.

more later .. .Oh yeah, the motor kills the batteries. You really have to be careful and only use the extra power when you know you driving plans. more details later

UPDATE: (7/2/07)
I've had the motor installed for about 2 weeks now, other than some residual electrical burn smell - I hope - it seems to running fine. I have started a blog with some notes on the reality of a 7.5HP motor, see "Some user notes on the 7.5HP motor "

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What is a GEM

A Gem is basically a street legal golfcart.

Having said that, the GEM (Global Electric Motorcars) car is classified as a NEV. In 1995 the Federal Government created the NEV vehicle classification to encourage enviormentally friendly forms of transportation. The idea coming from the statistic that something like 60-70% of the mileage traveled with a household's second car is 10-15 miles. The NEV classification creates a vehicle to serve this statistic. It is for people who travel & stay locally - taking the kids to school, daily errands around town, the short commute to work, etc.

An NEV must meet these requirements:
  • Headlights
  • brakelights
  • seatbelts
  • back up beeper
  • turn signals
  • windshield & wipers
  • horn
It has a maximum speed of 25mph and may be driven on streets with a maximum limit of 35mph.

GEM is a specific make of NEV. It is made in South Dakota by Glogal Electric Motorcars, which is a division of Chyrsler. It is the most popular NEV. There are many other manufacturers of NEV's as listed on the parent website of this blog - Zenn, Big Man, etc. Some look more like conventional cars.

GEM car pros/cons

  • From a safety perspective it is an eye catcher - other drivers see you
  • Obvious savings on gas and greenhouse emissions
  • Safety issues
  • hair gets attcked by wind (can add doors)
  • If it's cold outside, it's colder in a moving GEM, although a heater is a factory option as are hard doors
  • range - "up to 30 miles" this is in a perfect enviorment. If you live in a relatively flat area you are probably looking at 25, with hills about 20
  • Battery life and charger updates. The batteries need to be maintained if they are the classic "flooded" batteries - maintain the water level. Earlier GEMs have an incorrect charging curve for the batteries and needs it to be updated. Sealed maintence free batteries are available but cost more. If you change battery types then the charger needs to be updated

Another thing to think about is that you must modify your driving habits. Even though the NEV is legal on streets up to 35MPH it is best to avoid these roads when possible, for safety reasons and as a curtisy to you fellow drivers. Let's face it most people don't want to get caught behind a car travel 25mph (at best).

Your travel time time frame must change too. Other then driving in rush hour traffic when everyone doesn't get very far you must allow more time for driving greater distances, that is if you plan on using the NEV much.

Several states (Montana come to mind) have recently introduced a new classification of MSV (Medium Spped Vehicle) that have a maximum speed of 35mph. This is a more practical speed