Corbin's Treehouse - Corbin Dunn, Santa Cruz, CA
Plug Bug

The 'Electric Bug' Category

Plug Bug: New front brake pads

I wear out brake pads faster than normal since I don’t have regenerative breaking or a normal “ICE” engine to slow me down. I replaced my first set of pads really quickly, but the second set seemed to be lasting a lot longer. I would keep an eye on them and see how they were doing every now and again, and a month or so ago they looked good. But today, the bug’s brakes were screaming (a crunchy metal on metal sound), and I knew something was up. The bug has also been pulling slightly to the right when braking,... [read more]

“No Dino” stickers

Got em! On my J1772 inlet “gas tank” cover. corbin

No Fossil Fuels Sticker

I finally cleaned up my “no fossil fuels” sticker for EVs! I just ordered a few stickers (8) from StickerYou — — the place has a decent website, but they have a terrible security flaw of emailing you your signup password back in plain text! That is just a huge security “no no” and I can’t believe companies do this. The order page also failed for me like 5 times; I had to finally use paypal to get it to work (which also took three tries!). We’ll see what the quality of the stickers looks like; unfortunately, they only... [read more]

Bug Down again.. and don’t use Fortes Brothers Towing in Cupertino!

First off, don’t use Fortes Brothers Towing in Cupertino! They are terrible, and don’t know what they are doing. AAA called them to tow my bug home from work (in Cupertino), and the guy had it almost setup and just said my car was too low and they don’t do lowered cars! I’ve had the car towed 3 or 4 times before; never have I had any trouble at all. Worst off, the idiot driver drove away with my laptop and at first they refused to acknowledge they had it! AAA said all I could do was file a police... [read more]

Good Times!

A local weekly newspaper in Santa Cruz, The Good Times, did an awesome article on my VW bug and myself. Check it out here: The Plug Bug and Corbin Dunn.

Broken EVSE (charging station)

I was charging my car last week at home and started to smell some burning plastic. It was coming from my EVSE (the “charging station” which is a gloried relay with a few electronic smarts). Popping it open revealed that my plug attachment was shorting out a bit: I now realize what happened; I had did the stupidest thing last summer and drove away with my car plugged in at home. I had shut the front trunk, and failed to unplug the car in some bit of absent mindedness. The cord got really taught as I was backing up and... [read more]

EV Page of Shame: Post 1

Welcome to the EV Page of Shame! The first victim. This little lovely neighborhood EV was parked in the decided EV spots in the downtown Santa Cruz parking garage. But it was not charging! Shame on you. All the other spots were taken, and people could not charge because you took this spot! Please be courteous. (I would have left a note but I had no paper).

Plug Bug: Bad cell

Well…lost a good post on my bad cell. Long story short: one cell has been sagging really badly, so I replaced it. About 20,500 miles. The bad cell had high resistance, and was swelling at the top slightly. The cells were never really abused. Never overcharged (although, at first I was charging them to 4.0v, per the spec that came with them. I now charge to 3.7 or so).

Plug Bug: Transmission replaced

Some updates on the electric bug. Back on Thanksgiving I was on a slight hill pointed downwards (at Nathan’s house). I put the car in reverse, but missed the gear and stepped no throttle. The car didn’t move, but the motor sped up quite a bit, however, I couldn’t hear it. I slammed it hard into reverse, without using the clutch, and the car made a big “thunk” noise as it went into gear really hard. Ever since that happened, the car would not stay in second gear, and kept popping out quite frequently. It appears I damaged the tranny.... [read more]

BMS Display part 4 – graph

I updated my BMS display software to actually respond to the buttons I have. Now I have another screen of data, graphing each cell. The graph goes from 2.0v at the bottom to 4.0v at the top and shows the min and max cell numbers (and the voltage). My cell #38 is dying. It is starting to trip my BMS when my pack is only 50% charged. Actually, it shouldn’t be tripping the BMS because it does sag to a pretty low voltage, but it always comes back up to > 3.00v when resting (i.e.: under no load). The updated... [read more]

How to make an Elithion BMS Display

Here is directions to make your own Elithion BMS Display. Use at your own risk! Parts required: Arduino UNO – (the Leonardo will NOT work) – ~$30 Sparkfun CAN Bus shield– $45 Adafruit proto shield – $12.50 Adafruit 2.2″ TFT LCD Display – $30 Extra long male/female header pins for the Arduino 8 wire shielded cord – $3 (Frys Electronics) Serial port + wire to tap into your can bus (or plug directly into the Elithion CAN bus output) NOTE: this project could be made *much* more cheaply by using a different display, and making your own CAN Bus setup... [read more]

Elithion BMS Display – part 3 pictures

Elithion BMS Display in my car, showing the basic features (State of Charge, amps out or in, pack voltage, min/avg/max cell voltage): Notice there are 5 buttons below; those will be wired up to the arduino to control more functions, but for now, the 1.0 release seems to be working well enough. The display shows errors/warnings at the top when they occur (and given that I have a dying cell, I see them). For example, here it is showing what happens when it can’t find the BMS (ignore the lower red line…that was testing): The display housing is 1/8″ aluminum.... [read more]

Elithion BMS Display – part 2

I did a lot of work on my display and now it is working! If anyone else is interested in the code, it is all at Good information to learn more about CAN bus and the Elithion spec: PIDs for the Elithion can be found here: The Can bus shield:

Plug Bug: Charger Control Updates

I made some updates to my charger control project. I discovered my EVSE didn’t like the way I was testing for the proximity switch on the plug latch to be closed. Whenever the Arduino was on, I had the 5v line running through a 2.yk resistor to ground in order to detect it not plugged in. There was another line going into the Vehicle J1772 inlet. That goes into a circuit inside the plug that looks like this: What happens here is the resistance to ground changes once the J1772 plug is plugged in, and changes again once the latch... [read more]

Elithion BMS Display – part 1

I want a better BMS display for my car. I have the Elithion BMS “Pro“, which has worked pretty well in my conversion. Sometimes it gives faults earlier than I would want, and sometimes I’ve had bank communication errors that really shouldn’t happen (all connections are tight, and I don’t have excessive noise in my environment). There are a few displays out there listed on the Elithion website. I have the round small one made by elithion; it is lacking in features and doesn’t have the ability to show fine grained state of charge. There are simply 10 bars, and... [read more]

EV Converstions and white Clean Air Stickers

In California, EVs can get a clean air sticker and the right to use the carpool lane while solo (also called the High Occupancy Vehicle lane, or HOV). I love the fact that California is promoting clean energy. Apparently the DMV has stopped giving out the white stickers to DIY conversions (based on this post from! I think I got really lucky in getting mine. One thing to note from this page on the DMV Website: 12. Q: I want to convert my gasoline powered vehicle to a qualifying fuel type so I can qualify for CAV decals. What... [read more]

Electric Bug: Charger Control – Design

Based on my requirements, I made some hardware the will more intelligently control my Manzanita charger. It is powered by an Arduino, and has a little LCD to tell me what is going on and accept input settings: First off, everything is on It solves the problems I previously listed, by implementing J1772 (minus respecting the amperage that the charging station provides — since I can’t control that in the Manzanita charger) and implements a timer. I bought an Arduino last winter and learned how to do basic hardware programming. I then used EAGLE PCB software (free) to design... [read more]

Electric Bug: Charger Control – What I want

I’m using the Manzanita Micro PFC-30 charger to charge my car. It basically has technology from 10 years ago, and drastically needs some updates. Now, they are slowly updating the charger, but it still doesn’t have the features I really want. Things I want in a charger: * J1772 support. This is the ability to turn on and off an Electric Vehicle charging station, and provide some safety measures when charging. I already have this J1772 adapter box that I’m using. The adapter box works great, but it has no safety measure to respect the proximity setting. Normally, when someone... [read more]

More old car work!

I had to do some work on the Electric Bug lately. I replaced the right rear wheel bearing (I did the left a while ago). It was starting to get sloppy. My steering box was leaking oil, and it had vertical slop where the arm attached to the box. I think this can somewhat be adjusted out…but the leaking would have been hard to fix. Turning in corners was starting to shake quite a bit, so I needed to do something. So, I bought a new EMPI one (unfortunately, the quality is kind of crap, it seems to have more... [read more]

Plug Bug: PFC-30 Charger Failed Again

Back in May 2011 my Manzanita Micro PFC-30 Charger stopped charging for no apparent reason. It recently just happened again! And darn it, it was out of warranty *again* and I had to pay to get it fixed for a second time. This involves taking it out of my car, boxing it up and mailing it to Washington to get it fixed. The process to get it fixed has always been fast (thanks Manzanita Micro!), however, I haven’t ever received a reason why it has failed twice for me. Well, I did talk to someone on the phone last year,... [read more]

Plug Bug: Home J1772 EVSE Charging Station

I now have a J1772 EVSE Charging Station at home. My friend Ken Adelman gave me an old Avcon charger that he had saved from the dumpster. I bought a J1772 plug from and wired it up. Here’s the inside of it. The board was a little loose, so I glued it down. I unplugged the 3 inlet wires; red and black are 120v each, and the green is ground. I then screwed in plug’s wires to the terminal screws and attached the low voltage signal wire to the spot where it said to do it. It all works... [read more]

Plug Bug: It breaks, I fix it.

Last weekend my car suddenly shut off all power while driving home. It happened again this morning right as I was going to drive away. I could jiggle the key and it would come back on…but this seemed hokey, and unsafe (especially after my last stall on highway 17 due to a huge pothole and my inertia switch flipping). I realized the short was in the wires heading into the ignition switch, as I could jiggle them and it would turn the car on and off. I took the steering column apart and realized it was this little thing that... [read more]

Plug Bug: The Inertia Switch works

The electric bug has an inertia switch in the case of an accident. It looks like this: It is designed to cut the 12v system to the rear of my car, which turns off the controller and high power contactors, thus cutting power to the motor controller in the event of an accident. It turns out I discovered it works. They are doing a lot of work on “highway 17” to Santa Cruz and I hit a really big pothole a few weeks ago. It jerked the car enough to make it stop, which was bad, as highway 17 is... [read more]

Plug Bug: Blower install on the motor

The bug’s motor runs pretty hot on hot days. You can’t keep your hand on it for more than a brief instant. I have measured the temperature with an infrared thermometer, but of course, right now I forget the values. I know that it was well below the values for the motor’s casing temperature, but more than one person has told me that running the motor cooler will prolong its life. So, I finally decided to install a blower. evsource has this electric motor blower kit for $448, which is quite pricey. I figured out they use a rather weak... [read more]

Plug Bug: Broken brake…

…well, problems come in pairs. I changed my front brake pads about about 8600 miles; they wore away quickly! I didn’t change the rear, as they weren’t as bad as the front. I checked the new front ones at 15,000 miles and they are doing great. I had looked at the rear but only on one side and without taking the wheel off. They looked okay, so I wasn’t going to do them yet. However, the rear brakes started making a horrible noise last Friday. So today I decided to take the brakes apart and drop in the new pads... [read more]

Plug Bug: Running again!

An update to the last post: The bug is running again! George, from Netgain motors, suggested seeing if the motor had excessive vibration. When I ran it at 12volts it seemed to hum pretty fine, so I put the car back together. It took a while, but I was running again by last Wednesday. I can’t really tell if the motor has any excessive vibration; it sounds a little different when I put in the clutch, but it doesn’t sound out of balance. So, I’m going to go with it! Oh, and the little pieces that came out of the... [read more]

Plug Bug: 15,000 miles then a breakdown

The Bug has over 15,000 pure electric miles on it! The past ~14,000 have been relatively painless. I’ve had to do a few tweaks along the way, but nothing major. Unfortunately, that changed last friday. I was getting into the carpool lane on Highway 85 southbound and accelerating hard. Then all of a sudden the motor was free spinning and not moving the car and making a bit of noise. I put in the clutch, as it seemed to make less noise that way, and pulled over to the side. I had to get towed home. I figured the transmission... [read more]

Plug Bug: Burnt plugs

I have nearly 15,000 miles on my little electric car. I haven’t had to do much maintenance lately; the car has been running pretty well. I did a check on the front brake pads; the original set wore out really fast (like 7 or 8k miles), and I’m happy to see that the new ceramic pads are wearing away a lot slower than the original ones. I did have some trouble recently at about 14,600 miles. The inlet plug seems to have had some extra resistance and was melting! The LS-30 inlet isn’t all that secure, and I think the... [read more]


Nice license plate!

EAA Article on the Plug Bug

I worked with some of the fine folks over at the Electric Auto Association (EAA) to do an article on my bug for their newsletter. It came out awesome! I gave the editor a lot of information from my blog, and did some writeup. He took it and combined it all into an awesome first-person story. Download it here. (PDF)

(c) 2008-2017 Corbin Dunn

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