Category Archives: General Posts

Woodlands Caravan Park

This weekend for Mandy and myself happens to be a long one with us both having the Friday off work. As our month long trip to Croatia looms ever closer the pressures to organise the locations / campsites increases. For months we have been consistent in our promise to organise the trip as each weekend passes, we have also been equally consistent at not doing so, due to the distractions of home life.

So our main aim of this micro stop over at a local campsite was to do as little as possible other than get us into camping mode, and plan our holiday.

We have broke the camels back in as much as we have booked our ferry crossings and two nights in Bruges to start the vacation. We also have our eyes on two very nice campsites on the shore of the aptly named Wolfgangsee Lake, and have earmarked some really nice campsites but on the coast of Croatia.

So this single nights stay has been a success. We are a little more relaxed (which is always the case after staying in idyllic surroundings in the van), and looking forward to our main 2019 holiday with enthusiasm, instead of trepidation.

The campsite we chose for this single night stop over was just about as local as it gets. Ashbourne is about 30 minutes from our home which was ideal to maximise our stay and limit fuel. I have stayed here in the past for a couple of nights on my own when recovering from a shoulder injury. It’s surrounded by pine tree and has a cosey feel to each pitch. It’s well maintained with excellent toilet & shower facilities.

Twizy epic fail

I had noticed that the power reel supplying my Twizy with electricity had begun to trip on an ever increasing basis. Along with this the plug was getting pretty warm as it charged the car. I thought that this must have been normal as I had no previous benchmark to draw an alternative conclusion against. Little did I know that things were only ever going to get worse.

I attempted to charge the Twizy one evening, but came out later that night to find that the reel had tripped again. So I reset it and got up the following morning to find it had only put a small amount of juice into the battery until it tripped again. So I reset yet again, had my breakfast and popped out to the garage just before I went to work. Fortunately I did as the plug had started to melt which had also damaged the power reel.

I counted myself very lucky especially as the reel was resting on a carpet in the garage. For whatever reason the fuse didn’t blow, but on inspection there was a lot of carbonised deposits showing that there must have been a lot of arcing inside. I showed the plug to an electrician who said straight away that the damage was caused by a loose connection inside plug.

I decided to take no chances in the future. No more plugging the car into a multi socket extension. It was going to have its own dedicated lead so I set to ordering all of the components to make up a charge lead . I changed the plug on the car for a new one and ran the new lead from one of the two double sockets in the garage. This was left hanging from the garage roof for easy connection to the car to limit stretch on the Trizy coiled cable.

I posted the photo above on the Twizy facebook page and a chap said he had done a similar thing, but also could monitor the power consumption and activate / deactivate the plug remotely via something called a Fritzbox router.

This looked really interesting but I found that it was only compatible in Europe. However, It didn’t take long to realise that there was a solution for me that would work the same at a fraction of the price. The smart home was always something that I never really wanted to get into, but my research has made me realise that home automation is getting cheaper and cheaper. I’ll cut to the chase as I could start going off on a tangent..

What I ended up buying was a ‘Smart Plug’. This can be controlled via a smart phone via a wifi connection. Very simple setup and the particular model I brought could also monitor power usage

So after watching some youtube footage I thought this looked like it ticked the box. I wasn’t confident at first as this plug would be required to be connected to my wifi network, but this was unfounded. The only issue is that the plug does catch on a regular plugs on / off switch which I thought was a bit of a negative from Teckin. For my case it was fine as it would be sandwiched between the new extension outlet, and the Twizy plug.

Once the smart plug was connected to my wifi network following the guide, I could make the socket live whenever I wanted, monitor the power consumption, set a timer so that it would turn off after a period of time or just turn it off all via my smart phone. Pretty good eh? 🙂

Twizy wheel mod

The wheels make a difference on any vehicle and is usually one of the easiest (if not always the cheapest) modification to make. Go on any online portal such as eBay, Demon Tweeks, Google, etc, etc to find a whole raft of possible wheels that will fit the stud pattern of the particular car manufacturer you own. Well you may not be surprised that the Renault Twizy is different. There is quite probably a very good reason for having only 3 studs holding the wheel on, but i can’t really think of one other than it saves the weight of one nut, thus reducing the kinetic energy required for the low powered EV to move and stop along with the cost of one whole stud!

Anyways, I totally get the physics of narrower wheels mean less contact thus reducing friction / drag and as a result increase the range the battery can propel the car. However the Twizy wheels are ridiculously narrow, and this I feel is the one reason that it gets a bad perception from people that can’t handle concepts that fall beyond the norm. For sure there are people that look, stare and point because they think it looks cool in its standard guise, but for all those that stand on the side of the fence that are not quite sure about the Twizy, the wide wheels will be the deciding factor.

So my decision was made that by hook or by crook I was going to put the Burrows touch on the EV. The F1 twizy was inspiration in part, but I had seen other people in the very limited Twizy circle had done some modifications with the wheels. However, the only real route I could go down due to the unique stud pattern was to take the standard steel wheel and have it banded. It’s a process where one side of the rim is cut from the other, they are moved apart the required distance, and a band of metal is welded back in to increase the width. This all sounds very dodgy, but its legal and surprisingly safe.

So i found a chap on a forum that was willing to sell me his old wheels due to the fact he had replaced them with the Twizy stock alloy (equally as narrow as the steel). I sent him the funds and asked him to send the wheels to the banding fabrication company. I liaised with the fabricators (ALONZE CUSTOM FABRICATION – ) about the width of the band i wanted inserting, and within two weeks I had a re-worked set of wheels

The decision was that the rears were going to be different widths. 8 inches at the rear, and 7 front and I was really happy with them when they were returned from the fabricators. The next stage was to have them powder coated. As can be seen by the photo above, there was plenty of bare metal that would would start to oxidise and rust if it got damp, so I made every effort to keep them in a dry environment until they were painted. I decided on a mid grey for the colour. The reason being I didn’t want silver as it was pretty common, I didn’t want black or the similar anthracite as I felt the wheel rim needed to be a different colour to the tyre to separate them.

As you can imagine making a bespoke set of wheels leads you into the territory where you need to get a set of tyres that compliments the wheels and the vehicle they are going to go on. The wrong tyre will have a negative effect on the motors power to get vehicle up to speed, and also an incorrect reading on the speedometer. All of this taken into account I could only source one tyre that would fit both pairs of rims with a rolling radius that would keep the Twizy operating as it should. These were the

Rear: Nankang Ultra Sport NS-2 195/60 R13

Front: Nankang Ultra Sport NS-2 175/60 R13

The cheapest website i could find for the above was 123Tyres at ÂŁ168 for the full set

After a trip to the local tyre garage the rubber was fitted to the rims. I got the impression it was a little more protracted than usual due to the slightly stretched profile of the tyre on the wheel, but the overall package turned out to be really pleasing .

Rear wheel placed along side the original for reference

I was a little concerned that the rim would protrude the rubber with the width I had chosen, but its not. Which is good as far as dinging the rim. I have seen many VW golfs etc with massively over sized wheels and tyres that are stretch ludicrously.

So the next thing was to fit the wheels. I was going to hold off this process due to the fact the mudguards / fenders would need to be removed to accommodate the wheels, which would effectively render the car undrivable during wet weather. However, the temptation got the better of me and I decided to make the change despite this. I’m sure I will regret this in the not too distant future, but at least it will encourage me to get a solution sorted sooner rather than later for a mudguard.

Before I fitted the wheels I couldn’t help but spend a little time cleaning up the running gear and brakes. The front calipers were removed and painted. After a good wire brush down I painted them red. I always find that two coats of hammerite is enough to eat into any corrosion and provide lasting protection for every vehicle i have renovated in the past. This would be no different.

The same was done for the rear, although i decided against painting the calipers as they were in remarkably good condition. I still greased up the handbrake cable and added a small amount of hammerite silver to any rust visible.

As you can see from the image below, its transformed the stature of the vehicle and its stance is much more aggressive. The one thing that lets the Twizy down and turns peoples inquisitivity to err on the side of dislike rather than like, is the puny wheels giving it more of a mobility scooter look than fully fledged road going vehicle.

I will say at this point that I am under no illusion that this modification will have a big impact on performance and range. From a performance point of view I have a solution. I will be fitting a device called a PowerBox (More on this in a future post). This will plug into the ODBC port and will override the Renault restrictions in terms of the power output and speed, effectively doubling the performance. There will be a range reduction but that’s something I am going to have to accept.

This vehicle for me is for primarily for excitement, as has been all of my previous vehicle. It’s a bit odd, but I hope that this will prove there is a new generation of vehicles that can put a smile on peoples faces, much like the Vespa, Lambretta and bubble cars did all those years ago.

Me on my Vespa T5 touring the Pyrenees (September 2000)
Year 2000 prior to setting off for the Pyrenees

matlock -tax farm

Weblink: Tax Farm

The weather has been pretty bonkers for a February. It’s at the same time last year we were exposed to the Beast From the East, and now were hitting 21 degrees which is a record. It’s still officially winter, at least for the next month! The low sun casts long shadows, but it’s surprisingly easy to find the rays of sunshine, and when you do its positively warm. Mandy had some holidays to use up as we approach the end of the financial year, so dotted a day here and there to make sure she didn’t lose them and I found myself with a flexible day off also.

The forecast was good for the foreseeable meteorological week, so we agreed to get the van out and book into a local campsite we had stayed at back in 2015. We knew the views were nice, and we could only commit to one nights stay so we couldn’t consider going too far afield. So i collected the van on Saturday and gave it a good wash. Preparation was pretty minimal and we just had to consider a days worth of food.

So sunday morning we set off for Matlock Bath and managed to get a parking spot on the main road before the bikes engulfed them.

We were just killing time as we couldn’t get on the campsite until post 12pm. So we found a cozy little coffee shop to chill in until we had reach the 1 hour parking limit imposed on the main road. It was always nice to spend time in Matlock Bath, but even in the midst of summer there is always shade, and the winter’s must seem really long in the valley to anybody that lived there.

So coffee drunk we got in the van and drove through Matlock and up the steep hill towards Tax Farm. We were still far to early to check in to the campsite so found a secluded spot to pull into and read for a while. The odd car passed and a few cyclists, but other than that it was really peaceful. As it approached 1pm we headed towards the campsite and drove down the steep incline onto the lower teer.

The afternoon was spent enjoying the views, reading and listening to the radio and eventually settled down in bed to an hour or two of Netflix.

The clear night meant we awoke to a frost, but as a result there was an amazing sunrise with mist filled valley towards the Two Dales / Darley Dale. This was enjoyed over coffee and breakfast with the night heater whirring away to keep us warm. The morning followed a similar pattern to the previous afternoon, but we had to vacate the pitch before 12pm. So as late morning approached we dropped the roof and prepared the van for the road. Matlock was only a mile down the road and as the sun was still very much in play, we decided to spend a couple of hours in the town before heading home.

View from the bridge towards Riber Castle

DC / AC Inverter

Since upgrading my solar installation in the summer of 2017 the inverter had been omitted due to time constraints \ other priorities. It was always going to go back in as this is the missing component to a fully off grid solution, providing a means of converting the leisure battery’s DC power to AC via a three pin (UK) socket. Obvious uses are for laptop charging or Mandy’s hair drier, so brownie points are gained for making the effort to fit.

Neatly tucked away behind the small cupboard door.

After deciding on a position for my batteries during the solar install, it pretty much meant that the inverter had to go in the same location. Its all very snug, and will be even more so when I get the second leisure battery in place. I’m pretty pleased that I have managed to get so much equipment in such a confined space. We have lost a cupboard, but it’s much neater in this configuration.

View from above with the upper cupboard base removed
Upper cupboard with base back in place.