We've made it (almost) !
On May 20th at 14:30 the 2 hour long road worthiness test was conducted at the "Strassenverkehrsamt Zürich" (road traffic licensing department). Oh boy, I dreaded this moment. That's where all my efforts could have gone to waste. I feared that they'd find so many problems that I'd have to start over or give up. That's also why I involved the experts from the beginning, discussed my design and finally got a remark that if I'd follow the design, would not increase the power of the motor, not change anything in the chassis and keep all the security relevant systems running, I could get along with my conversion. But still I had so much doubt because the standards of road worthiness are extremely high in Switzerland (you folks in the US or AUS probably can't imagine). It was the sword of Damocles hanging over me during the last 3 years. But apparently all the worries were for nothing. I got a pass on all points except these three:
- With nobody in the car, the front weight is already at the current limit of 1180kg. With two persons in the car, it's 70kg over-weight. Darn, the conversion got 100kg heavier than I calculated.
- The brake disks - especially the rear ones - were rusty after 3 years not using them.
- The wheel alignment of the front wheels is off by 20mm on 1m - too much.
Nr. 2 and 3 are a piece of cake: Switch of regen for a while and have the alignment adjusted in a shop once the weight distribution is clear. But Nr. 1 is a bit a challenge. Either I have to move 50kg of batteries from front to back ("why only 50kg, you said 70kg ?"- yes, but mind the law of the lever) or I have to get a warranty from Volvo or a testing center that it's ok to go with a bit a higher load on the front axle.
Well, moving the batteries would be my last option because it'd mean a couple of days work again and giving up space in the trunk (which I was able to prevent until now). But there are other S80 models out there with higher load limits. One is the one with a V8 engine. It's got 120kg more on the front axle than my modell.. but except from maybe stronger springs, all the same parts are used. A confirmation from one of our two testing centers in Switzerland is just crazy costly: one charges fees starting at CHF 650.- and the other 3000.- for looking up their files and talking to the licensing department. Not an option! My hope now lies with Volvo. The homology provider of Volvo Switzerland contacted Volvo for a warranty confirmation that it'd be ok to go with 70-120kg more on the front axle. So please, please Volvo Europe/Worldwide/Sweden/Switzerland, provide me this 1-pager and your stamp on it !!!
I have to mention that the experts at the licensing department were really very friendly and supportive. I even got high praise that this was the most beautiful conversion of an electric car they've seen until now. I was dumbstruck by such a huge compliment from those who take the most detailed and professional look at the car. But albeit these issues exist, I was allowed to drive the car. I just have to fix them within a certain timeframe.
My family accompanied me. My son (8 years) even got the afternoon off from school to be part of it. When we we were through with the test I was churning the fact of the overweight. But then suddenly it dawned on me:
I'm allowed to drive the car now!! I finally can drive the car (legally) !! I can use it for my daily commute - as of NOW !!
YEEEEEHA !! :)
Oh, we had a big family party on the way home - with monster ice-cream servings until everybody was full.. even the 4 year old gal :) When we passed a gas station I told them "Look folks, we don't have to stop there anymore." and after the next turn there was a barn with a huge photo-voltaic installation on the roof and I said "From now on, that's our gas station !".
The most touching thing about this whole story is how proud my son is of me. He keeps telling everybody, explains at school what I've done - and you see it in his eyes when he looks at me. I most likely don't get the full grasp of the impact it has on him. I'm not the type who's terribly proud of what I achieved with the conversion but what I'm really, really proud of is that I was able to show him that it's worth to stick to something. Even if it takes 3 years, you can reach a goal and change the world a bit. I have a feeling that this might be one of the biggest lessons I was able to teach him.