Sunday, March 27, 2011

Speedster Redux and the Dynomometer Puzzle

In this week's episode, we take the Speedster Redux, with it's 57 CALB 180AH cells, brand new Netgain Warp9 improved motor, and Soliton1 controller to task. We do this by putting it on a dynomometer and actually measuring both power IN to the system from the batteries and power OUT of the system on the rollers. We found this exercise illuminating and suspect you will as well.

The bottom line is that we can put about 111kw or 145 HP into the system and we seem to get about 125 HP out the other end.

This would appear to compare very well with the 76 HP we had reported on previous dynomometer tests. And we really should compare Apples to Apples. But we didnt'

And here's why. Our earlier tests have been primarily of interest to me to learn how much current, and how much voltage, comprising how much power, was REQUIRED to go a certain speed and RPM on the road. As such, we would load the dynomometer with the approximate weight of the vehicle, and then go to speeds in ten mile increments in each gear.

At that point, we measured RPM, HP out, Torquie out, and voltage and current IN. Of course, we're lookihg for power consumption at these various speeds and RPMs with an eye on our battery capacity and potential range. We all know that you get MORE miles at 35mph in town than you do at 80 mph on the freeway. Those dynomometer tests, lacking a wind/airpressure component, were illuminating.

This time, we're really interested in something else entirely. We face the daunting task of the Winston Battery Elescalade project. This is gonig to require us to move about 8200 lbs of stuff down the road. We have a couple of strategies to do that.

First, we're going to go to a larger diameter motor AND we are going to use TWO of them. Why does motor diameter matter? It is not precisely that it is capable of more current or voltage. It's not capable of more voltage and the differences in current capacity are nominal.

The power of an electric motor is applied at the air gap. This is a very small gap between the armature, or rotor, and the stator - the field windings. At that point, two magnetic fields collide and being of opposite polarity, they exhibit an irrestably repulsive force.

But we take the output of the motor at the shaft, which is in the dead center of the motor. The amount of "torque" we get is then to a very persuasive degree a function of how much leverage we have between the point of most intense magnetic flux interaction, ie the air gap, and the center of the shaft. The SAME force caused by the SAME voltage and current, will appear as a much higher torque value if it has a longer arm. And for this reason, the 11 inch motor is more powerful than the 9 inch motor, and similiarly a 13 inch motor would be more powerful yet.

At the same time, the longer the arm, the faster the surface of the rotor must travel for any given RPM. And so the higher the centrifugal forces that seek to tear the motor asunder and turn your drive train into a claymore mine. Primarily, with DC series motors this is a function of the ability to hold the commutator together. We observer a nominal limit of 6500 rpm, while AC motors, which do not have this commutator, are often rated to 9000 or even 11000 rpm. They don't really make any power at those lofty RPMs at all, but they don't explode either.

So while the 13 inch motor is impressive in torque, we start to get into some RPM limitations that are not to our advantage.

In the case of the Elescalade, we went to a PAIR of 11 inch motors, instead of a single 13 inch motor.

THIS allowed us to do a couple of things. For one, by using TWO controllers, one for each motor, we can DOUBLE the amount of power our controllers can handle. In this case, we selected the Soliton1 for a couple of reasons. It has an "idle" feature that is quite well thought out and let's us use an automatic transmission. And it purports to handle 300kw - 1000 amps at 300v.

The 11 inch motor is pretty much limited to 192v. Traditionally, Netgain motors have been limited to 170v to prevent arcing of the commutator. Helwig insists that their new Redtop brushes are arcless at up to 192v. And so that is what Redux, really a dress rehearsal in many ways for Elescalade, is powered with.

The Soliton 1 won't of course do 300 kw at 192v. But with two of them delivering 1000 amps and assuming we sag to 150v applied while producing 2000 amps out of our 400Ah cells, we would have a 300kw drive train. 150 x 1000 x 2 = 300,000.

We are also plowing some new (for us of course) ground with the automatic transmission. We then become interested in the concept of efficiency. Efficiency is for these purposes a comparison of the amount of power IN to the drive train compared to the amount that shows up at the wheels. If we put 100 HP of electrical power IN to our drive train and get 85HP to show up on the dynomometer, we would be 85% efficient. There are GOING to be some loses in an automatic transmission. If we could chart our efficiencies using the Soliton, a 9 inch Netgain and a manual transmission, we could expect the efficiencies of the 11 inch and Soliton to be quite similar on an automatic transmission. And so the difference in efficiency between the Elescalade and the Redux would be MOSTLY isolated to the use of hte automatic transmission. That difference would be intensely interesting to me.

The best laid plans of mice and men go aft aglay....

So on THIS series of dynomometer tests, we are interested in something quite different. First we load the dynomometer to 5500 lbs. Then instead of going to specific speeds, we simply tromp the pedal to the metal. Between the increased rate, and the constant acceleration, limited in rate only by what the drive train will do, we can get maximum power at various speeds and rpms. Not how much is REQUIRED to maintain that speed and rpm, because we are not maintaining it, in fact we are accelerating THROUGH it.

This poses some problems in capturing current and voltage. That we attacked with a video camera. We can go to any point on this acceleration curve on the dynomometer data and retrieve torque, horsepower, and RPM for any given mph speed. We pick the usual 10/20/30/40/50/60/70/80/90/100.

Then with a video of the meters on the car, we can go back and get voltage and current off the meters for the resulting RPM values.

THAT gives us our voltage, current, kw power, and indeed HP IN to the drive train. By comparing HP in to HP out, we get efficiency.

Here was the problem. We did this FULL RPM range acceleration in ALL FOUR gears. The most current we ever measured was 755 amperes at 3900 rpm in fourth gear.

IF this holds true on the Elescalade, we're looking at a total power input of not 300kw, but more like 225kw. And I'm trying to move 8200 lbs with a drive train slightly more powerful than the Tesla Roadster.

Oh, it will drive fine. But it won't do any 7 second 0-60 or impress anyone. Nothing to apologize for, but 12 seconds more like.

I did confer with EVnetics about the shortfall and we haven't come up with much yet. Mr. Jenkins insists that they MOTOR CURRENT 1000AMPS inside the controller is what they are talking about when they claim 1000 amps and that this is an industry standard widely observed with ALL DC controllers and some magic magic explanation about the difference between motor amps and current amps that I'm not smart enough to make out. With the pedal floored and the car accelerating uphill, they should all be the same.

I posed this question to Otmar of Cafe Electric regarding the Zilla 1K. His replay was no, at full power it does 1200 amps motor current for the 1000 amps battery current but that this difference disappears when the ripple goes away at 100%. So no industry "standard" that I can tell.

We also have measured in all cases MORE current than spec on our AC controllers, the Curtis, the TIMS600 and the Rhinehart Motion Systems.

There remains Seb's argument that we are not really loading the motor. I don't know how much more we can load the motor. It is doing all it can under constant acceleration and at 5500 lbs. If it could do more, we should accelerate faster - that's all. His contention is that if we bring the motor to a stall we'll see the 1000 amps.

No thanks. No stalled motor with maximum current. I am starting to understand their absolutely mystifying score of 7:0 vs the Netgain Motors. They've melted 7 motors without killing a Soliton. Impressive, but I don't want to blow up my motor. I want it to make 1000 amps at 150v while driving the car.

We do cover the Soliton settings in this video. We publish the data. Make me smart. Make me go. Make me more power. I'll be your buddy. I don't know how to make it go harder than this. If it would do more, it should accelerate faster - not demand to be stalled.

Ergo our 9.00 second mile. We're really putting about 125 HP down on the road. If we could do 1000 amps, that figure would be more like 165HP and we probably would be down around 7 seconds, if not 6.

I view it as an open question and a mystery at this point. I still love the Soliton1, but can't make it do those power levels we were hoping for. If you can, chime in.

BTW, as several of our viewers have noted, apparently Otmar and Cafe Electric have come to terms with a production facility and the Zilla will be back in production - of all people, Manzanita Micro. I'm not very popular with them either. Rumor has it ANOTHER fire with the Rudman Regulator - all very secret of course so I can't mention it.

Jack Rickard

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chris Paine to Keynote EVCCON - Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention

Writer/Director Chris Paine's documentary feature film Who Killed the Electric Car? premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006 before its release by Sony Pictures to critical acclaim in 100 U.S. markets. The film was the third highest-grossing theatrical documentary of 2006 and screened with An Inconvenient Truth in many markets.

The film was written and directed by Chris Paine, and produced by Jessie Deeter, and executive produced by Tavin Marin Titus, Richard D. Titus of Plinyminor and Dean Devlin, Kearie Peak, Mark Roskin, and Rachel Olshan of Electric Entertainment. The film grossed over $1.75 million - a large number for independent documentaries of this type.

Currently in wide DVD release, Paine's film investigates the events leading to the quiet destruction of thousands of new, radically efficient electric vehicles. Through interviews and narrative, the film paints a picture of an industrial culture whose aversion to change and reliance on oil may be deeper then its ability to embrace ready solutions.
Who Killed the Electric Car? and Chris Paine were nominated by the Writer's Guild for Best Documentary of 2006. The film also received nominations from The Broadcast Critics Awards and The Environmental Media Awards for Best Documentary of 2006. The film won the audience award at the Canberra International Film Festival and won a special jury prize at the Mountain Film Festival.

Festivals and Awards

1) Nominated: Best Documentary - Environmental Media Awards (2006)
2) Won - Special Jury Prize Mountain Film (Telluride) (2006)
3) Nominated Writers Guild: Best Documentary
4) Nominated Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, 2007 Best Doc. Feature
5) Won - Audience Award at the Canberra International Film Festival.

The film screened at the following Film Festivals:

San Francisco Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival
Deauville Film Festival
Seattle Film Festival
Los Angeles Film Festival
Canberra Film Festival Tribeca Film Festival
Berlin International Film Festival
Atlanta Film Festival
Newport Film Festival
Mountain Film Festival

Sony marketed Who Killed The Electric Car? in over 100 theatrical markets to become the third highest grossing documentary in 2007. Netflix now lists nearly 150,000 ratings of the DVD release from renting customers. Over 400 reviews have been written on Neflix and it is in their Top Ten List of "important movies you should see."
Thanks to the massive push behind An Inconvenient Truth (we were a trailer for that film in theaters) and internet word of mouth, this West LA-produced documentary reached people around the world and helped inspire change.

The success of Who Killed the Electric Car? rather goes beyond electric cars. It has been an inspiration to independent producers of documentaries and with the advent of video on the Internet, has led to an entire movement of video production marketed around the large distributors, such as Sony, with numerous other documentaries gaining an audience directly.

Pain has been working on a sequel - Revenge of the Electric Car. This is scheduled for release April 22nd at the Tribeca film festival in New York.

I found the original documentary a bit far from unbiased, and strangely naive. Having worked in large corporations, I almost view conspiracy theories as almost an anthropomorphism of corporations. After you see a large corporation go through five CEO's in seven years, and with "reorganization" become a ritualized annual event, it dawns on you that there is really no one home in these entities. No one is in charge. Chaos largely reigns. And assigning any particular point of view or mission would be viewed almost as a joke within the organization. Cubicle city doesn't really have a leader, a mission, or a point of view. It just is. And it lives to continue to live, turning on any perceived threat with the same reptilian focus and process. It is what it is, but an intelligent "conspiracy" it is not. And a secret is an absurdity in organizations that thrive on rumor at the water cooler.

So I personally found Paine's view in Who Killed the Electric Car almost painfully naive - a child mind's view of the world.

That's a little bit in conflict with the fact that the mission and intent of the film is definitely one I share. I think the adoption of electric drive in transportation is a heroic imperative with a very deadly clock running against it, the only hope to avoid a worldwide financial meltdown of unprecedented proportions - a 20 year depression with the collapse of banks and financial institutions world wide. This dark picture is so completely detailed in my mind, that I normally don't even speak of it as it almost doesn't matter and most of our viewers would dismiss it as total madness and irrationality on my part.

But I'm also very intrigued by how techno-social change actually occurs. I was in a privvy position to watch this first hand over the course of a couple of decades with the development of the Internet, and I'm profoundly moved by the difference between how most people THINK change is achieved and how it is actually achieved. The latter being by large scale rather slowly developing grass roots movements led by key individuals.

And I almost view it as all part of God's plan. We really can't have a society where we completely retool our communications infrastructure, at an expense of hundreds of billions of dollars, because somebody has a good idea or because some fad concept becomes the object of desire at the moment.

Similarly, we cannot spend a trillion dollars on retooling our transportation infrastructure based on such notions.

And so we wind up with a governments, existing businesses, automobile manufacturers and oil companies all fighting with all the tools they command to MAINTAIN THE STATUS QUO. And we have a small, but growing army of "fringe" people, all working on the concept of electric vehicles. It is THEIR job to maintain the status quo. It is OUR job to wrest change in that status quo. And all is right with the world.

Picture a hive of ants where 95% of the ants work to maintain the anthill against all comers and against all change. But they always maintain 5% of their population as scouts and foragers always looking for new ways to find food or improve the anthill. If they stumble on an idea for change so persuasive, members of the 95% start to defect. At some critical mass, the anthill suddenly adopts. Where that tipping point occurs is very interesting. But we have seen all of this play out in just this way with the INternet. And I think we will with electric transportation as well.

But we might have to revise what electric transportation IS and what it means several thousand times along the way until it becomes irresistable to the anthill.

In the meantime, our government, our automotive manufacturers, and the oil companies are doing EXACTLY WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING. And we're doing exactly what we're supposed to be doing. There is no evil. THere is no conspiracy. It just is what it is and it works this way for good and varied reasons emerging over tens of thousands of years of human development.

The way I think of this is that there are 166,000 gasoline stations with a vested interest in selling gasoline. All 50 states tax gasoline and cummulatively derive $25 billion in annual revenues from it. The United States government also taxes gasoline and derives another $25 billion from it. The five largest and most profitable corporations on the planet are all oil companies and EACH of them generate more annual revenues than 90% of the COUNTRIES in the world. The entire middle east is economically ENTIRELY based on oil production.

On OUR team we have a few hundred guys with a mad on willing to part with the ducats to put LiFePo4 cells in a car and thus gain a vehicle for themselves, some independence from the problem, and the ability to show others how to do the same. They do all this in sheds and garages with hand tools. Virtually none of them have sufficient capital to start a hot dog stand. It's all gesture. And a single car.

So how come I feel like we have the larger team surrounded?

Because we do. Everytime they show their car, we add another couple of hundred. At some point it will be 10,000, then 100,000, then a million. At that point, it will start to grow. Addictive and contagious.

But in doing EVTV, I get a chance to talk to a LOT of people who are intensely passionate about electric cars. They are so passionate, that they devote multiple tens of thousands of hard earned ducats to build their own, none really being otherwise available for sale. This is like an ARMY of those scout ants and they are IMPASSIONED about it. They REALLY want it. I have seen that fire in the eye before - the early Internauts. And I have seen it play out.

If you do not fear it, you are simply unaware - a non sentient. Be afraid. Be very afraid. When tens of thousands of people worldwide all begin swirling around one dream, with that LEVEL of intense of passion, you have already loosed the hounds of hell. It is a force that cannot be resisted and its growth feeds on itself. The religion spreads. It is both addictive and contagious. And ultimately large corporations and governments, NEVER a source of innovation and change, are totally helpless to stop it. AFTER adoption, they can only scramble around to rewrite history to show that indeed THEY INVENTED IT. Which is why the misunderstanding of how change happens.

In order to transition from defending the status quo, to defending a NEW status quo, you HAVE to have invented the new status quo. And so our work is not done, until they wrest history away from us, and indeed present it as an accomplishment of corporations and governments. Only when we are conveniently marginalized and forgotten do we win completely. Nature of the beast.

Of course, by then, most of us, being natural scout ants, are on to the next big change thing.

And that's pretty much where I've lived my life - with nearly unerring accuracy. You can pretty much bet electric vehicles are the next big thing because Jack Rickard showed up to pray over it. I didn't event it. And I'm not going to do it. I'm just here to pray over it and tell everybody about it. I claim no authorship of any of it nor the Internet. I'm just really good at showing up at the right time at the next big thing. Once it's not NEXT, I move on.

In a strange way, so is Chris Paine. Among ALL The people I talk to about electric cars, I always ask what interested them first in this. Of course, the very few old hands all have interesting stories about that. But among the vast majority, and I would say 80% of everyone I talk to, they ALL mention the 2006 film Who Killed the Electric Car. It is almost bizarre. I would rate this film, as THE most influential documentary ever made and THE major influence among our viewers to initiate their interest in electric vehicles.

Since announcing EVCONN (was it three weeks ago????) we've already received 37 paid registrations and 12 people bringing cars. I know that doesn't seem like many. But I've done a lot of trade show conventions actually. We ran BBSCON/ISPCON from 1992 through 1998 twice a year. It went from 100 guys to 6000 all paying $695 and in the end featured 225 educational sessions in three days. (No, that's not a typo). But I've never really seen a takeoff on a new show like this. I know it seems like few at the moment, but as I say, I've done this before. We have more registered NOW than I planned to have at the event at all. And it is scheduled for SIX full months away. If I had to guess, at the moment I would say 750 attendees and 40 cars. And I may have underestimated THAT. It appears the desire for a show of THEIR OWN about CONVERTING cars was kind of a pregnant idea - thank you Eric Kriss. I'm embarassed it wasn't my idea.

So we're not going to have an electric car show or convention. We're going to have one very specifically about CONVERTING YOUR OWN CAR to electric drive. That's to be the focus and entire subject. It is not going to be an OEM show or a feel good show. Hard info on how to and why to - by the people who do and know how to do. Not the sheeples who want to buy one or think they are cool. The guys who will go to their own garage and build their own goddamn car, - lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

But it is incumbent on me to make it the best convention I can. ANd in considering the topic of headline speakers, I keep coming back to Chris Paine and "Who Killed the Electric Car".

This morning i signed a contract engaging Mr. Paine to come address the attendees of the first Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention EVCONN. On Thursday evening, September 22nd, we intend to hold a catered barbecue and beer event at 7:00 PM in my backyard overlooking the Mississippi river, with perhaps a tasting for a few from the illicit distillery in the garage (medicinal purposes) and a bonfire. I will introduce Mr. Paine as the Keynote speaker for EVCONN and he will stand and deliver an emotionally charged speech of such inspirational nature you will never have heretofor witnessed.

Kewl, eh?

And besides - I think you'll actually like Stag beer. More to come.

Jack Rickard

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Duane Ball's Porsche Carrera GTS 904 Project

This week, we take a look at one of our viewer's builds. This is a very interesting one to us.

If you recall, we bought an electric Spyder, done very similarly to our Part Duh Speedster. The similarity was not entirely accidental. Duane Ball was doing the Spyder in Albany New York at the same time I was focused on Part Duh. It was his first conversion and we kibitzed almost daily.

I drove Duh last night. I had been driving the Mini Cooper every day. But we added a brake transducer this week and are trying to get it working with the Rhinehart Motion Systems controller. They have some new firmware incorporating the brake potentiometer concept, and frankly we are having severe difficulties with it. It's thrown the whole car off.

Fortunately, the weather has turned spring so I've driven our just completed Redux the past few days. It's very nice. It's quite powerful. And it's going to the dynomometer today to find out just what we did do with the Soliton 1 and Netgain Warp 9.

So last night I took a cruze in the ivory Duh.

I have to tell you, we will never do a better electric car than this. It is just perfectly balanced and "right". No issues. No things to be worked off. The gear ratios are perfect. The motor is perfectly matched to the system. We will no doubt update to the new Curtis controller. And we could always use more instrumentation. But this car just drives "right". I can shift entirely without the clutch. It just feels good.

In any event, when Duane got done with the Spyder, it worked quite well. But he went into decline because he and Scott weren't meeting every weekend to work on the car. It drove fine. He just missed "the project."

He started talking about a new Chuck Beck replica - The Porsche 904. This was a 1964 era race car. I knew little of it. They only made 108 of them. Porsche kind of confused the naming of it because this was the period when they wanted to bring out the 901 but for trademark issues with another car maker, they could not. So it became the 901, and the 904 became the Porsche Carrera GTS.

It was quite successful as a racecar. Like the Spyder, there weren't very many of them.

According to Chuck Beck, the 904 was the greatest car Porsche ever built. Street legal and race ready, and the first fiberglass Porsche.

So Duane wanted to convert one of those. So he wanted to get his money back out of the Spyder and invest in a 904 where just the ROLLER was going to cost $53,000.

So we bought the Spyder.

Actually we are going to do some work on the Spyder. Airkweld has a set of rotors/hubs that are very lightweight aluminum. They're proud of them, but it would knock 100 lbs off the car. Duane had put Porsche 911 wheels on the Spyder using some adapters that make the wheels stick out a bit. So he had to raise the front end so it would steer. Etc. etc.

Bottom line is it's not quite right from our perspective. So we'll put on some of these lightweight rotors - we use regen for braking anyway. And have them done in a different bolt pattern so we can go to a 9 or 10 lb wheel as well with some Michelin Energy savers.

We're going to dyno the car, and then change the controller to the new 650 Amp Curtis upgrade, and dyno it again.

Should be interesting.

But in this week's video, we give a little history of the Carrera GTS and then include a video report from Duane on the 904 conversion. They have received the roller and are back happily at work on a new project to convert it to electric drive. Again, we're kind of kibbitzing on components and I've steered him this time to again kind of what we're working on with the Escalade - a Netgain 11 inch with Soliton1 controller and 50+ CALB 180Ah cells.

It has the potential to make a fantastic, very aerodynamic and powerful electric sports car. True, he'll probably have $75G in it when he gets done. But a Tesla Roadster realistically runs twice that. And this one will be every bit as much fun.

We also take a look at a couple of things on the Mini Cooper. We installed a 250 psi 0-5 brake pressure transducer and wired it into the Rhinehart Motion Systems controller. As I said, we struggle with that, but it's a software issue and I'm sure we'll get it worked out.

We also dug out the old Mini gas tank and pulled the innards out of it. Surprise surprise. PLain old fashioned floats and potentiometers report fuel level. The Mini Cooper actually has a most excellentious fuel/trip computer onboard. It calculates MPG in real time and displays remaining range and all sorts of interesting info. Of course, we dont' have any fuel or any gallons.

Or do we? Now that we have a simple resistance sensor input, I could use Ian Hooper's Zeva II fuel gage driver as an input to this computer. Replace gallons with Ah.

Ian doesn't like me very much because he sells a BMS system and I am kind of anathema to all who do so at this point. He has to be a little conflicted though because every time we talk about this little device, he sells out of them immediately.

The Zeva, (Zero Emissions Vehicles of Australia), is actually kind of annoying. The adjustments are mostly in the blind and I get them horribly confused. The unit features a little 5 pin molex and he sends you a mating connector with precisely FIVE pins. If you drop one and lose it, or mangle it putting a wire on one, your ZEVA won't work. Come on Ian. These pins have ZERO cost. Put 10 in the bag. I can't see to do it anyway and if I drop one to the floor there's no way I can ever find it.

And then you have weeks of charging and fully discharging to get the thing calibrated to your pack. But it IS pretty neat. A fuel gage driver, another driver to turn your tachometer into an Ammeter, and finally an alarm for low pack SOC that you can use for ANYTHING. We like this device. It's a pain in the ass. But we love it.

But case in point. Matt Hauber is very anxious to please and cleaned my solder station bench. This is a huge no-no. Yes, I know its a mess, but it's my mess. In doing so, he somehow moved my nice little box with the RC battery, switch, diode, and Zeva kit and spilled it on the bench. Got most of it back together, but now I'm MISSING the little molex connector and the generous allotment of precisely FIVE pins that came with it. So there is no way to use this device at all.

If anyone has the Digikey part number for this connector and pins, I would sure appreciate it. We simply cannot finish this little Mini project without them now.

But the plan is to install the Zeva and use the fuel gage output to drive the input to the fuel computer. I think this will work very well, and we'll have an estimated range remaining, a MPG figure that updates, even though it is a little meaningless until we get used to it. I would predict that will take aobut 10 miles of driving and we'll adjust to it.

So the instrumentation thing continues to be a fascinating area with our cars.

We also talk a little bit about the EVCCON. After two weeks, and a good six months out, we have 32 signed up and 10 cars coming. David Kesler is going to come talk about his J1772 home charging stuff, and Bill Ritchie has joined us as speaker for High Performance Electric Vehicle Systems - that's the powerplant in the Spyder and Speedster Duh. We have Sebastien Bourgois from EVnetics/Rebirth Auto, George Hamstra from Netgain, and Eric Kriss from Kriss motors all speaking.

We also have Dennis Doerffel joining us to do a session on battery chemistry. Dr. Doerffel is one of the pioneers of LIFePo4 prismatic cell testing and the principle behind REAPSystems Battery Management Systems. He also moderates, or even better doesn't moderate the Thundersky discussion group on Yahoo. This is the only online forum I will still participate in occasionally.

I am actually hopping up and down in my seat. I'm enormously excited. I have two big name speakers that we have invited, and they have kind of provisionally accepted. But we're still checking schedules and working out the details and so I CANNOT at this time announce either one of them. EITHER one would blow the lid off this convention in my estimation. And we've got a good shot at getting both.

Since I can't talk about it, let's play guess who? This will be fun and might even be productive. I want you guys to GUESS who I think would be the most important speaker we could get for an Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention. If we could get ANYBODY to come address this meeting of guys who build their own electric cars, who might that be?

The reason this might be interesting, is that who YOU think would be the biggest draw to such a convention might not actually match who I think would be. I may have missed a trick here. We'll have THREE big evening events, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. If I get both of those I'm working, that still leaves one night open. Of course, I can be the star then. But I'm the star everyday anyway in my own little mind. It would be easy to replace me with somebody good. So if you guess who my "optimum superspeakers" are and guess WRONG, maybe I'll go try to get them. I may have missed somebody.

WHO then, as featured evening speaker at EVCCON, would cause you to WANT to come to this event, beyond any other. If we could get ANYBODY, who would be the ideal headliner.....

This will be fun.

Jack Rickard

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Latest in a TOO LONG STRING

I cannot express my discouragement at this moment and my rage at my own failures here. I cannot find the words or the logic to persuade nor to convince and Im at the point of giving up.

1. Total destruction - intense heat.
2. Unattended charging
3. 11:00 PM

Number 15 to my count.

There is nothing more to say. It doesn't matter which BMS. It isn't about a "debate". It no longer matters what your opinion is. You don't get an opinion.

These are no longer a series of "freak" accidents. There is no "lack of installation expertise". Nothing is "set up wrong." It is a FULLY FORMED pattern that any moron can see. And if they cannot see it, I"m betting they have a United States Dollar opinion on it. And that IS evil. When does someone have to die?

This project was sponsored by AAA. AAA happens to be an automobile insurance company.

We are MOMENTS AWAY from having all Lithium based cells declared hazardous material and hazmat licensing required to even HANDLE them. NO ONE will be able to get automobile insurance for ANY electric vehicle using ANY lithium battery EVER.

We have ALREADY lost the air freight battle on these cells. They haven't released the final ruling yet, but its already a done deal.

And here I sit. I can hit them with a MAPP torch and I can't GET them to go off. It is NOT hte batteries. But it's ALWAYS the batteries. This is an argument that CANNOT be won. They will take away our cells. And there is nothing to be said. They are a violent hazard, while at the same time being perfectly safe and totally inert.

All because of this BMS idiocy and an absolute panic among the BMS heralds to make Jack Rickard sit down and shut up or otherwise be widely KNOWN to be irrelevant on the subject. And not a ONE of them makes enough money out of it to BUY PIZZA ANYWAY!!!! They're ALL starving to DEATH. Still they chant nonsense and point out that it cannot be "proven" (to their satisfaction).

The inability of this community to identify and agree on the cause, will result in your forfeiture, most likely, of the batteries AND the cars. TYPE YOURSELF SMART WITH THAT!

The oil companies and OEM's need do nothing but smirk while you all gather in a circle, pour gasoline over your heads and immoliate yourselves. All from a handful of smart ass geniuses that wanted to make a buck in the EV business and didn't mind staying up day and night typing themselves smart and dragging anyone that would listen down into the hole with them.

I give up.....

Jack Rickard

Bench Recovery and EVCONN 2011

Running a little late this week. I'm just now putting up the blog with the March 11 show - while the March 18 show is rendering.

First, the test bench failure was not what it seemed. We thought we had blown up the new TCI 4L80E transmission. Turns out, it was a much simpler and MUCH less expensive cause - the generator rectifier.

This was a very inexpensive Chinese version of a 3-phase rectifier that sits on top of the generator. It converts the 3-phase AC output of the generator to DC so the output can be sent back to the battery pack.

A couple of interesting things about this. With this working properly, unfortunately it doesn't put much of a load on our motor and transmission at low rpms. You have to be up to nearly 2000 rpm before it starts putting much in the way of power in the batteries.

If you short the output, it puts a LOT of load on the system right now and starting at 1 rpm. If you blow up a cheap Chinese rectifier, that appears to be what happens.

This is the first show with our decals and commercial spot for our new sponsor, Winston Battery Company Ltd. So I'm pretty excited about all that. The concept of an internet distributed weekly show is still pretty bleeding edge at this point, and we knew it would take some doing to present it as a viable advertising medium. As the viewership builds and the focus sharpens, the value proposition improves - pretty much as we knew it would. Still, it's nice to be turning the corner.

After a few off the cuff remarks about a convention "sometime" and having 20 or 30 viewers in for a bit of a school, we finally did announce it. So two weeks in play, we have about 25 registered and several speakers already signed up. Speakers include:

George Hamstra - Netgain Motors
Sebastien Bourgois - EVnetics
Dennis Doerffel - REAP systems
Bill Ritchie - High Performance Electric Vehicle Systems
Wayne Alexander - EVBlue Conversions

And we have about 8 cars coming already. So it is kind of morphing from a shop tour with some barbecue and classes into a full blown ISPCON style convention. I don't really feel like we're driving this. It must have been a pregnant idea with a growing community of custom electric car guys wanting a collective annual campfire. We'll all hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

I used to do this, and it's kind of a dynamic progression on these show things. If I had to guess "where we are at the moment" I'd be renting chairs for about 140-160. But that's all subject to change. It's kind of put me in show mode, as I say, I did these for nine years in a past life. That kind of gets the head whirling as to what can be piled on the campfire that will burn.

The result has been a couple of celebrity invitations we have out at the moment. Until I receive confirmations, it's kind of secret sauce stuff. But the targets of opportunity to expand this concept are coming up twice a day now. It's got the juices flowing.

I had thought facilities might be a problem. Brian reminded me I have an 18,000 foot hangar about six miles away. I've been so focused on electric cars and the show, I hardly fly any more. But yeah, we can probably handle just about any number without having to do too much in the way of facilities. We did actually host a Republican gathering of some sort several years ago with Dick Cheney and a couple of senators and congressmen here. It decorates up very nicely actually.

We also received a couple of Garrett Turbochargers from XSTURBOS this past week. XSTURBOS actually modifies these by pulling the exhaust drive turbine and replacing it with a small electric motor to provide an electric supercharger for almost any automobile. As it turns out, we don't need a supercharger for our engine. But we do have two electric motors that lack internal fans. And as it turns out further, these Garrett's fit PERFECTLY over the 2-inch intake ducts Mr. Husted provided us.

Amazingly the two intake ducts turned out to be so poorly made and of such thin material, one came apart in my hands before ever installing the superchargers now cooling fans. Mr Hauber is busy now fabricating replacements of somewhat stouter aluminum construction.

We also got the TCI transmission programmable controller up and running and are able to controll the transmission on the test bench quite nicely. Mr. Hauber also crafted a bit of a brace for the transmission drive end. With the replaced rectifier, the bench is running very smoothly now. We do up to 2000 rpm with nary a wobble or whimper now. And a couple of buttons on the panel allow us to upshift or downshift the transmission at ease.

EVnetics addressed a couple of our complaints. On the RPM discrepency, they had us remove two of the set screws on the RechargeCar magnetic pickup, dropping from four pulses to two. Of course, we had to change settings in the controllers, the tachometer, and the transmission, but it worked.

The other complaint was that you had to blip the throttle to get idle to engage. As it turns out, there is an undocumented feature of the Soliton1 that allows you to use the start signal from the vehicle starter motor to initiate idle. Very tres cool. Again, this Soliton1 appears to have the richest, and indeed the ONLY controller feature set I'm aware of to really deal with an automatic transmission.


Jack Rickard

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Christopher Fischer has been a busy fella. He offered a little help with the web site here at EVTV and I'm guessing wonders what he got himself into.

The index is coming along famously. If you go to our archive of past shows page there is a link to this index. This is the most often requested feature on the service - how to find where they talked about x in the past 100 episodes.

But we're also getting startling response to our planned fall convention - EVCCON. Chris has produced us a signup page and database that he spend nearly 24 hours continously on to get it up quickly.

We've added a PayPal function to allow payments by PayPal or by any of the popular credit cards.

I've also been canvasing speakers. The latest to agree is Dr. Dennis Doerffel of Southampton University and most particularly the principle in REAPSystems - a BMS manufacturer. I was particularly avid to get this man as a speaker. I'm a bit of a fan of his 2007 Doctoral thesis Testing and Characterisation of Large High-Energy Lithium-Ion Batteries for Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicles

He was publishing papers on these cells going back to 2003. He knows quite a bit about lithium ion cells and most particularly the Prismatic cells from China that we use.

We're getting to a pretty great group of speakers already.

Jack Rickard

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Announcing the Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention EVCCON

We mentioned the possibility of a fall event for viewers/electric vehicle builders here in Cape Girardeau during our last show.

Things have picked up on this front a bit. We got several e-mails from people wanting to cast it in stone NOW and expressed their intention to come. I've e-mailed a couple of potential speakers and have had NO declines surprisingly. I'm guessing the concept of a gathering is a little bit pregnant at this point.

We're going to have it here in Cape Girardeau Missouri September 21 - 25th. This is my favorite time of year in Cape as the summer heat has left and the fall weather is generally gorgeous at this time. Cape Girardeau is located on Interstate Highway 55, 110 miles south of St. Louis Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River. It is a very central lcoation to the U.S.

Wednesday, 21 September will be arrival day. We'll have a welcoming reception at our shop at 601 Morgan Oak Street, Cape Girardeau MO 63703 if you want to Google Map it. We'll have drinks and appetizers, maybe some music, and let everybody take a look at the facility.

Thursday 22 September we'll have breakfast at Patty Lou's diner across the street.

At 8:30 we'll start classes till 12:30.

12:30 to 1:30 We'll have a catered lunch in the shop.
1:30 to 4:30 we'll have classes again.
4:30 we'll take a drive in electric cars through some of our backcountry winding roads just north of town where I test drive a lot. This is winding hilly blacktop through some beautiful country - particularly in late September.
7:00 PM I'll probably have a barbecue bonfire in my backyard overlooking the river - 14 Morgan Oak Street. Probably have some sort of music going. Beer. Soda. WHiskey tastings from the distillery.

Friday September 23rd
Breakfast at Patty Louis's diner.
8:30 - 12:30 classes
12:30 - 1:30 catered lunch in shop.
1:30 - 4:30 classes. Maybe play with the test bench. Answer some questions about our cars.
4:30. Repeat the drive for those without a ride the previous day. Probably screen a movie for the rest at the shop. Revenge of the Electric Car should be out by then.
7:00 Dinner at Port of Cape - local barbecue and bar. Very inexpensive and Fried Catfish on Friday nights. All you can eat as I recall.

Saturday is kind of up in the air at this point. During the day I had planned classes and so forth just like Firday. But we've had so many already talking about bringing a car, I'm thinking rather to open it to hte public and actually have a car show. Where is kind of a function of how many cars we wind up with. But if there are a few, I thought we'd spend most of the day with each person taking 30 minutes to show his car and tell us about the build process. If there are a LOT, we'll take AC Braise Arena and just have an indoor electric car show.

As it is shaping up that a number of people are talking of bringing their cars, I was thinking Saturday afternoon late/early evening we'd do a parade about town - down Broadway and Main Street. I should know in time to make arrangements with the local constabulary and permits and so forth.

Saturday night, I'm picturing formal wine dinner and some comments for the event at Celebrations Restuarant. Great food and quite upscale. I'll open the cellar and provide the wine. I've got pretty good wine actually.

Sunday is departure day. For those with early flights, fly. For those with later, I thought we'd take another about 17 mile drive through the winding back country blacktop roads south of Cape to the River Ridge winery. Jerry is a hoot there. He makes really bad wine but really thinks its great and he loves doing it. It's very picturesque and he does have a great lunch. Probably some closing comments there. And then off to your respective aircraft.

Speakers who have accepted so far:

George Hamstra - Netgain
Ryon Bohm - Netgain Drives
Wayne - Alexander - EVBlue Conversions - bringing a car.
Sebastien Bourgious - EVNetics Soliton. - bringing a Jaguar or Porsche.
MOI but of course. My cars are here and hopefully the Elescalade will be nearly completed.

We've had some already agree to come and bring cars. Most notably:

Duane Ball anbd Scott Smith. Did the Spyder we now own. Currently working on a gorgeous and very unusual Chuck Beck Porsche 904 Replica with Warp 11, Soliton1 and CALB cells.

Tim Catellier - BMW Z3 featured on EVTV.

Eric Kriss, Kriss Motors. - an Electric Porsche Speedster Replica and producer of of CARBON FOOTPRINT - SUPERHERO - THE MOVIE. This convention was Eric's suggestion originally.

Nathan Knappenburger Illuminati Motor Works Bringing SEVEN, the Xprize contest vehicle.

Simon Wilkinson has indicated he's coming from New Zealand - not bringing a car though I suspect.

We have decided to call it the EVTV Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention. EVCCON.

Registration for the event is $595 per person.

We will probably discount that to $400 for early registrants prior to 1 July as this helps us with our planning purposes.

I've decided to do something very odd, at least with the first EVCCON. We've already had several agree to bring very nice cars. Shipping or trailering them is doable, but a signficant expense. So we're going to WAIVE registration for those bringing cars. It has to be a CAR, not a bicycle or skateboard, and it has to be Lithium technology powered - no lead sleds, to qualify for waived registration. If you have something unusual, I'll listen to exceptions on the technicals here. But I really don't do lead. And we'll waive two people on a car. Speakers are my guest obviously.

At this point, I can't tell what it will result in. I had kind of had this going for 20 people in my mind, but we're at 20 now as best I can count. We have a number of other speaker invitations out, but I'll not mention them until I get at least a preliminary ok that they will come. If you have ideas for speakers you'd like to hear, they won't shoot me for asking. ANd I'll ask. All they can do is tell us we are little and ugly and our mother dresses us funny and that they don't want to come. First time I've heard THAT I'll assure you.

The topic of the convention is going to center around electric vehicle design obviously. We will welcome engineers and workers from OEMs and Universities, but this is not going to be a Volt/Leaf show or really about how cool electric cars are. They are cool. But that's not a reason for a convention. This is going to be about building them and the design choices made in doing that. For Builders/converters basically.

If we get enough cars involved, we'll probably open to the public for a few hours on Saturday and maybe have a parade. if that looks like where it is going, I'll saturate the local media and we'll get a crowd for both. But it's not really for the public or what this is about. It will give our attendees a little work presenting and explaining their cars, part of our mission.

So that's the thinking at the moment. Right now it's all graven in Jello and I can change lots of things, so if you have suggestions I'm all ears. Yes, we'll try to be safe but I really don't want to hear safety suggestions on this one.

We'll throw it out and see what the reaction is. I plan on beating up the contest winner and making them come anyway to tell everyone about their plans for the pile of components.

Jack Rickard

Monday, March 7, 2011

Not Everything Works the First Time

Interesting show this week. Mostly a rundown on our additions to the EVTV test bench, which is coming along quite nicely.

We've added a control panel for the generator, with a contactor, current shunt, control switch and voltage/current displays. This allows us to turn on the generator or leave it off, depending on what kind of load we want to put on it. And we can measure the current back into the battery pack.

I'm once again disappointed to report that we get less power OUT of our perpetual motion machine than we put in. But it gives us a bit of a load we can cut in. I'd kind of like to add a PWM circuit or controller to this eventually so we can dial in just how much of a load. But the 150 v battery pack doesn't present much of one actually. We have to turn the generator up to a couple of thousand RPM to really get 80 amps or so out of it.

We also added a control panel to the input side, quite a bit more extensive. It has a Speedhut tachometer with the RECHARGECAR magnetic pickup to display RPM. We used a handheld laser RPM counter to check it and it probably reads about 50 rpm low - very acceptable. We're using this at 4 pulses per turn and it is working well with the tach.

We've also added a vernier 5K potentiometer to act as our throttle control. And we use a precharge resistor/contactor/shunt box originally used on our first Speedster. The control panel has a switch and a light to turn this power on. And a 1000 Amp 50mv meter that displays the current through the matching 1000 amp 50mv shunt in the box.

This gives us a little extra safety. We can of course turn the ignition voltage off to the controllers from the panel, but we can also cut off the power through the contactor. Turns out to be a handy feature as you'll see in the video.

We wired up the two Soliton1 Controllers to the two Netgain Warp 11 motors. Therein lies a tale but also one of the reasons for the test bench during the Escalade conversion.

The EVnetics Soliton1 is a relatively new controller and has some very interesting features. Most importantly to this application an IDLE function that maintains a low level RPM control on the motor with the throttle off. We know of no other controller with this feature.

Normally, with Siamese motors, a series/parallel two speed electronic shifting system is used. This requires a lot of contactors, and at the powers we are applying, that is a bit of a problem.

The advantage is of course that you can apply the full current from the controller through both motors at low speeds. This allows you to get maximum torque from both motors since in series they both get ALL the current put out by the controllers through their series armature/field windings.

The disadvantage is that it drops the voltage applied across each motor in two. So a 192v pack putting out 1000 amps would put a little over 95 volts to each motor at 1000 amps or 95kw each for 190kw. But as the motors turned up in speed, they generate back EMF (electro-motive force). Think of them as also acting as generators in the reverse direction. These motors normally would start to drop in torque at 3600-3900 rpm at 192 volts but with half the voltage, the torque dropoff from BEMF would also decrease - maybe 2500 rpm or so.

And so once your vehicle is up to speed, you would shift into parallel mode. In parallel mode, the current output of the controller is applied to each motor separately, or in parallel. The advantage here is that each motor receives full voltage and so can move the torque drop off back up to 3600 rpm. The disadvantage, of course, is that each motor only sees 500 amperes maximum. This really is NOT a terrible disadvantage, because by the time you are going down the road at 2500 rpm, your need for power is quickly diminishing in normal driving, and 500 amps is generally a lot, particularly from two motors on the same shaft. It's still 192kw.

I don't like the system. THe problem is:

Failure items
Shift points
Operational complexity

The wiring is simply more complex with several contactors required. The system is of course switched with the car underway and so the contactors have to break some current. The contactors can do that - up to a point. Generally we use contactors ( a misnomer really for a high current capacity relay) to apply power or remove it but in normal operation they are not carrying ANY current at the time. You close it when you start the car. You generally open it when you shut it off. And you are parked both times and drawing near zero current.

In a pinch, you can use the contactor relay to break current in an emergency and shut down the system. The Kilovacs we use, can break up to a couple of thousand amps - about once. And they DO fail. Ergo the mechanical disconnect switch backup. There have been real incidents of contactor relay FAILURE to break current in a high current situation.

It certainly decreases their life expectancy when they are opened with significant current and this is spelled out quite graphically on the data sheet of the contactor. The mechanical life is a million cycles. At 200 amp current you get 12 cycles. At 2000 amps you get 1 cycle, maybe.....

So they become failure items.

Then too, you have to have some means of initiating all this shifting. And indeed, THEN you have to actually do the shifting. This of course COULD be automated. But now we have a controller and series of relays to control our contactor relays and so complexity builds again.

How about we just use two controllers.

We put one controller on one motor and the other controller on the other motor. Now each motor can have the full 192v AND the full 1000 amps all the time.

Of course, we have the cost of the controllers. And then they have to have pretty similar outputs. You would think they would have to have exactly matching outputs or the two motors would fight. I didn't think this was the case. Both are applying torque in the same direction on the same shaft. Even if one was applying half torque while the other was applying full torque, you should get the sum of the two torques. There is no war going on here unless one is commanding it backwards.

But I had never heard of anyone doing it.

Basically, it ought to work. The outputs of the controllers really can't feed each other, they are on entirely separate sets of windings. The only common point would be the batteries and the control inputs. But having never tested it, it was kind of a theory, not a knowledge. As I stress over and over, your EV does not care IN THE SLIGHTEST what you THINK about it's operation. Your theories might entertain you, but the car just does not give a shit. It will follow the actual lawas of physics as it interprets them, which is generally a might differently than how YOU interpret them.

Ergo the test bench.

And we did learn quite a bit rather quickly. One is that the output of the magnetic pickup is probably two light for two Solitons's and a tachometer. Our Soliton's were giving some erratic and very erroneous RPM readings - generally 100-150 rpm high, but also not very stable. I might be able to dress this up with some resistance value across the output. We'll have to play with that.

We did cal the two controllers to fairly precisely measured voltage outputs from the 5K pot. We tied the 5v and signal grounds together, and then the 5v signal as well. And calibrated each controller separately for 1.00v min and 4.00v max. That gets us off on the right foot. The motors turned very smoothly and had no apparent problem working out the torque sharing at any rpm. Even noise potentially fed back to the input just wasn't a problem. The controllers obviously have some capacitors on the input to smooth things a bit and we might be able to augment that (future Top Secret video). But it doesn't seem to be a problem at all.

The other target of opportunity was the idle. Obviously idling we don't NEED two motors and two controllers. To turn the transmission pump, the steering/brake pump, and an air conditioning compressor should only require 2 or 3 horsepower. So EITHER motor could be used. So we set up ONE controller with idle and the other without.

The idle function in the Soliton1 is pretty cunning. It uses a PID algorithm to seek the target RPM and provides whatever current is necessary to get there - up to a limit you can actually set separately. I like the design.

This simple concept, maintaining RPM through the controller, is actually a black art and heinously problematical. It looks easy, but any correction tends to overshoot, and cause another error input, which causes another correction, which of course overshoots again. The cycling can hit all sorts of resonances and self enhancing oscillations. Generally lumped under the term hysterisis.

This from Wikipedia:

"A proportional–integral–derivative controller (PID controller) is a generic control loop feedback mechanism (controller) widely used in industrial control systems – a PID is the most commonly used feedback controller. A PID controller calculates an "error" value as the difference between a measured process variable and a desired setpoint. The controller attempts to minimize the error by adjusting the process control inputs.
The PID controller calculation (algorithm) involves three separate constant parameters, and is accordingly sometimes called three-term control: the proportional, the integral and derivative values, denoted P, I, and D. Heuristically, these values can be interpreted in terms of time: P depends on the present error, I on the accumulation of past errors, and D is a prediction of future errors, based on current rate of change. The weighted sum of these three actions is used to adjust the process via a control element such as the position of a control valve or the power supply of a heating element.
In the absence of knowledge of the underlying process, a PID controller is the best controller. By tuning the three parameters in the PID controller algorithm, the controller can provide control action designed for specific process requirements. The response of the controller can be described in terms of the responsiveness of the controller to an error, the degree to which the controller overshoots the setpoint and the degree of system oscillation. Note that the use of the PID algorithm for control does not guarantee optimal control of the system or system stability.
Some applications may require using only one or two actions to provide the appropriate system control. This is achieved by setting the other parameters to zero. A PID controller will be called a PI, PD, P or I controller in the absence of the respective control actions. PI controllers are fairly common, since derivative action is sensitive to measurement noise, whereas the absence of an integral term may prevent the system from reaching its target value due to the control action. "

The Soliton1 allows you to individually specify the proportional, integral, and derivative values. I wouldn't have a clue if you e-mailed them to me. I took the defaults. It works pretty well. By cutting in and out the transmission and the generator, we could vary the load. And while the Soliton can't accurately measure RPM, it did a good job of maintaining it.

All of this scratches my ongoing itch for subtle ironies, which I mostly use to entertain myself. In this one case, I'll share. A Soliton is a standing wave, first observed in a canal of water. The soliton phenomenon was first described by John Scott Russell (1808–1882) who observed a solitary wave in the Union Canal in Scotland. He reproduced the phenomenon in a wave tank and named it the "Wave of Translation".

I rather associate this with the wavy pattern in the Soliton heat sink. I would have named Soliton Jr. the Compacton instead, but there I go.

In any event, this PID idle control was why we selected the Soliton1 for the contest and the Escalade, NOT the purported 1000 amp output. And it appears to work very well. I think it's a unique feature they almost added as an afterthought, but promises to differentiate their product from most others. Simply holding a throttle input with the A/C kicking in and out, and the transmission cycling and who knows what else would not really make this work in any satisfactory fashion. It would have required an entirely additional circuit just to control the controller had we wanted to do an automatic transmission without it.

The one fly in all of this is that to START the idle, you first have to blip the throttle past your target RPM. I don't like this and I do not think it is necessary. It might be salutory to have a separate input to start it. In this way, we could use the START signal, separately from the ignition signal, to start the idle. But if the Soliton powered up on an ignition 12v input and established idle after a brief delay, there really isn't an issue here. Automatic transmission vehicles really only let you start them in Park or Idle anyway. They did not need to take this "safety issue" on themselves.

THe problem is that it makes operation of our car nonstandard. In an ICE engine vehicle with automatic transmission, you turn the key and the engine starts and idles. Period. In our Escalade, we'll have to turn the ignition key and then give it some throttle to "start it." How do I explain this useless feature to my daughter. She'll turn the key. Nothing will happen. And she'll get out of the car and ask me why it is broken.

I think we should build our cars where they operate as expected. These standard operational issues were worked out over the past 100 years without any input from me, and I don't think they need to be reworked by the crew at EVnetics.

The controllers and motors worked quite well on our test bench. Unfortunately, the transmission somewhat less so. We had it completely full of very good transmission fluid. We had no external heat exchanger but no intention of operating under any serious load, for any appreciable length of time, or at anything over about 2500 rpm. But Matt noticed early on some heating of the shell, which I measured at a peak of 140F. This is hardly warm by transmission temperature standards, but we were on the other hand hardly turning it. At one point, I pulled 80 amps out of the generator - maybe 14 horsepower - through a transmission purportedly capable of handling 800 horsepower.

But it appears to have failed anyway. At about 2000 rpm while filming, it suddenly threw on its own load and started a rather noisy vibration from within. We quickly shut off the system. Restarted it at VERY low RPM's and was immediately able to isolate the problem to the TCI transmission. We'lll be contacting them to see if they have any thoughts on the topic this morning.

You'll no doubt enjoy the onscreen panic that ensues. Kind of a KeyStone Cops meets the transmission shop.

Jack Rickard

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

This week we talk a bit more about our EVTV test bench. This is going to come slowly but I think is a necessary part of our Cadillac EXT project and will be quite useful in the future as well. It's kind of like building a really slow electric car, with extra instrumentation and controls.

The rest of the show is mostly about our battery pack. We talk a little bit about the various and generally confused Lithium Ion battery chemistries, why it matters, and what really causes the decrease in capacity over time when using these cells, which have a MUCH longer life cycle than the cells we routinely see them confused with online.

The confusion between these chemistries puzzles me no end and I guess I think a lot of those online and even some of our viewers have kind of missed the point. BECAUSE the U.S. battery developers don't really have a production line, they are generally just trying to sell Intellectual Property upstream, we have all kind of stumbled onto the Chinese suppliers of "lithium" cells. This has been most fortuitous and I don't want any of you to miss the point.

In my estimation, the LiFePo4 type chemistry is THE most ideally appropriate for vehicle use at this time. We kind of lucked into it by availability. And I actually see a segment of our community lusting after Lithium Cobalt Oxide and Lithium Manganese Oxide chemistries for their greater energy density and because larger entities such as Nissan, Chevy, and Tesla are using them.

It is my unqualified, but nonetheless strongly held opinion that generally THEY are going in the WRONG direction and WE by accident of availability have landed on the much superior solution. Our cells will last 10X longer, endure much more in the way of misuse and vehicle vibration, temperature extremes, and general bashing about, with an order of MAGNITUDE greater safety, at only a slight penalty in energy density. We did not brilliantly deduce this, but rather lucked into it. I have always been clear on this - it is BETTER to be LUCKY than SMART.

These cells are leggo blocks of amazing capacity. And they will last for tens of years - making the paltry 200,000 mile demonstrated endurance of the truly finicky NiMHd cells look like disposables.

ANd so we also announce our selection of the Winston Battery Company WB-LYP400AHA cell as the official battery of the 2008 Cadillac Elescalade EXT conversion.

We would also like to thank the Winston Battery Company Ltd for sponsoring EVTV over the next year and additionally for the contribution of the 70 400 AH cells specifically for the Elescalade. This marks kind of a leap in a number of ways. Ultimately, EVTV must be advertiser supported and the addition of such a major sponsor alters the landscape somewhat dramatically in favor of our continued operation.

But it's also a kind of sea change in the marketing of Chinese products in the United States. We were privileged to correspond directly with Mr. Chung on this topic and found him remarkably progressive and insightful on this topic. It is not precisely the Chinese way, but Mr. Chung is making a number of moves in the U.S. He is a true believer in the necessity of altering transportation for clean energy and battery power and has been in the battery game since 1982 with his invention then of a maintenance free lead acid cell. He actually holds his own patent on the LYP cell which essentially removes him from the patent wars over the Goodenough patent.

More recently, he has acquired a 48% stake in U.S. company Balqon who now serves as their exclusive distributor in the United States. And he's provided a $10 million endowment to the Bourns College of Engineering at University of California Riverside.

We would present Winston Battery as sponsor as a direct acknowledgement that Winston Battery is aware of what you, our viewers, are doing in Universities, entreprenurial developers, and individual garages and shops all over the country and that they wholeheartedly approve of and encourage such activities where and how they can. They are completley aware of you as a market for their cells, the difficulties you've had purchasing them in the past, and they are working to address that in every way possible. It's all about you.

Another area of constant interest is selection of a car for conversion. My theory has been that you need to select a good car to start with if you intend to wind up with a good electric car in the end. This has been emotionally tested in the past. We winced hard in starting a conversion with a brand new 2009 Mini Cooper Clubman. It was just that good with an internal combustion engine in it that we discussed the crime we were about to commit before we ever first drained the tank. And I have to tell you the first steps were tremulous.

Worse, we encountered no end of difficulties and missteps in selecting suppliers and components for the car, and indeed had to redo our own design of the mounting structure and adapter for the drive train. We've lost cells to parasitic loads from instrumentation. And we've even found it difficult to learn all the buried features in this car. Further, we've never quite finished it. I still think I can get the fuel gage on this car to work - somehow. We still need to build an OBDII spoofer to turn off the check engine light, the tire pressure light, etc. I still want to integrate brake pressure with our controller, and tie the air conditioning compressor and water heater more closely and automatically to the environmental system.

ALl that said, I have used this car as my daily driver through this winter, and it may be the most delightful car I've ever owned in essentially ALL respects. It has all the modern conveniences, and is as smooth and quiet as I've ever experienced. Smooth acceleration is very pleasing. And I've got all the creature comforts. Our heating system actually works very well, and seems to keep the controller and motor cool at the same time. My point is, by selecting a GOOD car to start with, we wind up with an EXCELLENT car in electric drive.

And this takes us to the Elescalade. I already REALLY like this car. And I'm hesitant to crack it open and convert it. But knowing what we've learned from the Mini, that's a GOOD sign of good things to come.

Stay with us on the journey....

Jack Rickard