Monday, October 1, 2007

Battery Box!

The battery box construction, though it would seem to be a simple and unremarkable thing, was actually a super exciting and challenging endeavor. Erin designed an immensely solid box that involved salvaged angle iron, plywood, extra long and sturdy bolts and lock-nuts. We finally got a chance to test our true construction skills by sawing up metal and drilling fatty holes in the bus frame :)

We started by measuring out how much room the four batteries took up and the space we had to work with between the two L-shaped beams underneath the bus. We put it on the right side (facing the bus) directly in front of the wheel-well. We arranged it so it would be in a direct line from the solar panels and charge controller to minimize wire runs. Next we cut two strips of angle iron to be the two side supports that would hold the bottom of the long threaded rod that we would suspend the whole box from.

Meanwhile, I drilled a bunch of holes in the angle iron using our nice cobalt bit and my dad's old drill press. We cut up the 1/2" plywood sides to the box - two thicknesses for the bottom plus two strips of steel for extra security. Erin drilled a bunch of holes in the back piece for a vent. Then we mounted four pieces of angle iron to the inside bottom of the box that would hold the batteries exactly in place so they wouldn't slide around, and planned two pieces that would also run along the top sides of the batteries and be bolted down as well

Once we got the whole box screwed together, we cinched up three of the lock nuts - one underneath the box, one on top, and one that would go under the L-shaped bus beam. Then Erin sawed a square out of the side of the bus and we put a couple of hinges on it to make an outside door! We had also put a couple of hinges on the front of the box itself and a locking piece so that we can throw a pad-lock on there just in case.

Next came the tricky part - trying to hoist the massively heavy box underneath the bus and shove the long bolts perfectly into the pre-drilled holes we had made, with just two people. To say the least it was a challenge, but we got it in there and cinched down the last of the lock-nuts, the ones that will actually keep the whole box from falling out beneath us. We were quite proud once we have finally got it up there!