Monday, October 31, 2011

LRR Tires - Worth It

The Aptima Motors eCobra is coming along. We are in the final days of this project. It rolls and drives well.

One of the concerns with this car has been the amount of power required to move it. For a two seat convertible sports model, it is a bit heavy at 2961 lbs - no interior or paint yet at that. But as we have added pieces such as the hood and trunk, the aerodynamics have improved and the power consumption has fallen to more of the expected levels just over 300 wH per mile - about as expected for it's weight.

One of the eyebrow raisers from receipt of this car was the large wide tires that came on it. Lots of rubber looks good and rides well, but it usually means higher rolling resistance. Very early in the program we ordered a new set of lightweight WELD wheels with a carefully calculated offset so we could run Michelin Energy Saver A/S low rolling resistance tires on this car. The issue was having the offset such that the tires still filled the wheel well and didn't look entirely odd on a Cobra.

Recall from our mystery surrounding the Porsche 550 Spyder and the Porsche 356 Speedster that we got a significantly better range and energy use from the heavier and rounder Speedster. Despite installing expensive aluminum rotors, calipers, low rolling resistance tires, and even ceramic bearings, we never did get the Spyder even close to the Speedster's ability to roll much more freely.

As kind of a joke we ran what we called the Soapbox Derby - simply rolling the two cars down the street in neutral to see which rolled further. True to our range results, the Speedster rolled dramatically further than the Spyder.

We can of course do normal range testing but it is quite time consuming and subject to variabilities out of our control. If a tractor trailer blows past you, cuts in front of you, and then slows to 7 miles per hour below your target speed, there's not a lot you can do about it in a small convertible. And the tests take hours and are much more accurate over a significant number of miles - 15 to 25 typically.

So we liked the quick indication of the Soap Box derby. But it didn't actually provide much data - just a distance on a hill. And you have to use the SAME hill. So YOU can't compare YOUR results to ours.

The way this is actually done in automotive testing is with a coast down test. And so we adopted the pretty standard procedure used in such tests - with perhaps less instrumentation and rigeur than is commonly done at the Chrysler Test Grounds. But we think it renders quite accurate information, and is reproducible by anyone anywhere on any car.

Basically, we go to a flat stretch of road sufficiently long to allow an acceleration to 75 mph and a subsequent unpowered roll to a full stop. Ideally, with very little traffic on it. We then accelerate to 75 miles per hour, and then remove all throttle input and place the transmission in neutral.

As the car speed decreases and passes through 70 mph, you take a time mark. As the point where it hits 60 miles per hour, you note the time from the 70 mph start time mark. As it passes through 50 mph, again take a time. And so forth until the car actually comes to a stop, noting the time each 10 miles per hour.

There is a human element using a stopwatch, and the incline of the road will affect the results, no matter how flat. So we run the test THREE TIMES in each direction, giving us six time sets. Then we average the times. We actually had little variation there.

The chart below shows this coast down test for the Michelin Energy Saver A/S tires/wheels, as well as for the Stinger Radial GTS tires that originally came on the car.

As you can see, the results are pretty similar at the higher speeds, where aerodynamics comprises the predominant effect. But as the speed deteriorates, the two curves diverge pretty strongly. Total time was a difference of nearly 30 seconds. That's quite a bit of time and quite a bit of distance differential for two sets of tires.

We also did some actual range testing. Excluding extraneous factors such as hoods and trunk lids, we really only have directly comparable data for 40 mph and 50 mph.

But the results are startling. At 40 mph our max range calculates to 152 miles with the Michelins and 124 miles with the Stinger tires. LRR tires typically provide a 3-5% increase in gas mileage. But in this case, starting with tires that are so BAD for an electric drive application, this was 28 miles further than the Stinger results - a gain in max range of 22.58%. This is frankly just huge. Not precisely apples to apples as they are entirely differently sized tires, but it's a real gain and we'll take it.

The results at 50 mph are less as there is slightly more of an aerodynamic component at the higher speed - predictably enough. But they are still substantial at over 14%.

A number of people have waned us to keep the eCobra cobra like. We don't know precisely what this means. But we think it has something to do with burning rubber. So we installed a line locker on the front brake line. This allows us to spin the rear wheels while applying brake to the front wheels. It worked well enough as you'll see in the video. As an added bonus, it makes a very handy parking brake.

We also did some very preliminary testing of 0 to 60 times using the pretty basics device provided on the GPS speedometer. It would appear we ran 0 to 60 mph in 6.77 seconds and 360 linear feet. We think we can improve on that with practice, probably down to about six seconds.

We hope to get the car over to Slingblade Racing this week for a full dynamometer test.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Going Down in Flames - It's Just an Expression

Interesting week last week and growing interestingier as we start this one.

Last Monday, we were doing some range testing at 60 mph in the eCobra when the Netgain Warp 11HV let out all its smoke and ceased operation somewhat noisily.

This led to a crusade to swap the motor that I'm more than a bit pleased with as it was pretty much completed in three days. Netgain had a new motor to us in less than 48 hours and our penchant for installing and reinstalling things several times had of course led us to a pretty straight forward replacement from beneath without having to move too many other parts - transmission and drive shaft of course. BUt no batteries or major rewiring.

Unfortunately, we had no video camera operating at the time. So no cool video of the tower of smoke next to the Interstate. Oh well....

The other interesting thing to happen early THIS week is that we put the hood on the car. This is normally a not particularly exciting evolution and always toward the end of the build, when we are doing more driving that building.

In this case, it had a very strong effect. Recall I had been grousing about the rolling resistance, the brakes, and so forth on this car because it was taking between 1.65 and 2.25 Ah of energy at 215 volts to make a mile of distance. This is just horrendous. At the upper end this is like 475 wH per mile or more. And it had shot all my range calculations completely out of the saddle.

Actually, things get better with the hood on. This should be obvious to all, but I didn't think it would account for this much difference. It makes THIS much difference. As soon as the hood was on, we dropped to 1.409 Ah per mile - right in the 300 wH per mile range where this 2961 lb car should be.

I may have mentioned some efforts to develop something more consistent than our soap box derby for a coast down test.

We took the car un to 75 mph on a flat road section and put it into neutral. Time mark 0 was called at 70mph and the time noted at each 10 mph until stopped. We ran this three times in each direction, east and west, and then averaged the results.

The coast down test is conventionally used to determine aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance. But it is difficult to do that with accuracy and requires humidity, temperature, and other factors to be truly accurate. But we think we can do a quick average procedure and have the curve and times as a baseline. This should let us compare to this baseline after changes for example. We'll put on the original tires and rerun it for example to see what the effect is.

This is a bit more trouble than rolling it down the street in front of the shop. But accounts for aerodynamics in addition to rolling resistance and drive train efficiencies.

Jack Rickard

Monday, October 17, 2011

Moore from the Land of Harsh 12v busses and Itty Bitty Batteries

In this week's underdog adventure, we retrace our steps on the Aux battery and the 12volt subsystem.

We have a number of loads that need to be on all the time - parked or running. In fact, the number of these is reaching kind of alarming proportions.

The latest that slipped under the radar was David Kerzels' SAE J1772:2010 Compatible Active Vehicle Side Control Board Module This little device is $37 on eBay and is all you need, besides the inlet itself, to respond appropriately to any commercial J1772 EVSE and charge therefrom.

I love it. Not only does it do the necessary response to the EVSE to both trigger the copilot signal to start the charge process, but it also monitors the proximity switch (the little button on the charge plug) to stop charging if it is pressed. AND it provides a little single pole double throw relay you can use to detect it's state to do such things as interlock your onboard charger, disable the controller while charging, whatever.

The unit draws 20 ma, although we use the SPDT relay to also apply 12v to a string of blue LED lights ringing the billet aluminum fuel port on the Cobra. Good visual at the car that it is charging when the blue LED is on.

But the trick is, it has to have 12v ALL THE TIME, or you can't charge. No 12v to the board, no charging.

We are powering our Xantrex AH meter also with 12vdc. We've tried a number of near disastrous ways of powering this little device and the best seems to be to use an inexpensive (usually $10-$12) DC-DC converter module to take 12vdc from the car, isolate it through the 12v/12v converter, and power the Xantrex with it. Of course, if we are to account for IN amp hours while charging, we have to have it on all the time. Since I can't read it without the backlight, that's on all the time as well. It's a bit of a 24x7 load on the 12v system.

Then there's the ZevaII Fuel Gage Driver. I spend a lot of time exasperated with this device as it is tricky to install and calibrate. But I do love it. It does two things I like. First, it runs an ordinary fuel gage by counting ampere hours. You can use this device to fairly accurately monitor your LiFePo4 pack's state of charge using a familiar and already standard face - an ordinary fuel gage. We have a set of Speedhut Cobra gages for the Cobra and it comes with a fuel gage of course. Might as well use it. Probably NOT as accurate as the Xantrex, but easy to use and everybody knows what it means.

This device also outputs a pulse string representing instantaneous current. We can display this in hundreds of amps on our tachometer from Speedhut. Actually, we installed a small selector switch in the dash that let's us connect this output or the output of a RechargeCar magnetic shaft pickup to our tachometer. In this way, we can read RPM or battery amperes on the tachometer.

This is kind of cool A dancing set of digital numbers for instantaneous current is not really VERY informative. We're changing the current faster than the digital device can sample. But if we put the same information on a large analog needle, it is all different. We get a rougher indication of value, but a kind of more integrated "trend" visual that shows us the current going up and going down in response to our throttle inputs.

Finally, the ZivaII let's us set an alarm level and provides a switched ground output when we reach some low level of charge. We can hook that up to a warning light or power a relay with it.

But to do all that, it is ON for 24x7. In fact, if you remove power from the device, it resets your AH counter and your fuel gage will show full when it's actually had a number of amp hours used This is a worse situation than having no fuel gage at all.

So we tried using an aux battery to the ignition switch, and that voltage to in turn run a contactor that turned on our main DC-DC converter. This quelled the complaints from the Netgain Controls Warp Drive Industrial, but caused endless other problems. Most notably, we kept running down the battery when we charged overnight.

We added a manual bypass switch to bring up the DC-DC converter and recharge our dead battery. But the whole thing was a nightmare and we were going to have a totally destroyed battery within days.

We have tried an aux battery in the past - always to some bad end or other. We've had numerous people point out that if we lose our DC-DC converter, our car won't operate. Duh. What we've found is if we lose our DC to DC converter, we don't know it at first because we have an aux battery. But within a few minutes, the battery runs down anyway and our car won't operate. Plenty of weight, an inherent maintenance item, and same effect.

We're also warned of dire safety issues as a sudden shut down will cause us to lose power brakes and power steering and all manner of ills suddenly while hurtling down the freeway. Same answer really. But most of our cars don't have power steering, power brakes and so forth anyway. For the ones that do, for example the 2009 Mini Cooper Clubman Electric, we have a different solution - redundant DC-DC converters. Indeed the design of the Mini's startup sequence requires 12v of course, and we use one converter to bring it up, and when up it engages a second converter as well. When we shut down, we disconnect the big one, but leave the small one running.

The original problem on the eCobra had to do with the Warp Drive Industrial controller. It threw a series of errors when we shut OFF the controller at the end of the drive. This was very peculiar. But the controller stored the errors and so wouldn't operate the next time we fired it up. We learned to clear the errors with the Interface Module, but once we have all this working, we don't see really using this Interface Module day to day. A great troubleshooting device, it can't count Amp hours and doesn't really add much operationally. Certainly having to clear these errors prior to driving wasn't happening.

Ryan Bohm insisted this was caused by noise on the 12v system and wanted us to scope it. I have a problem with all that. What noise are we looking for? There is noise. And there is noise. And in fact, we find the 12v system in a car a very noisy place, and one of the primary culprits is in rather circular fashion - the controller. So I'm vaguely disinterested in noise in general. Assume we are going to have it in an automotive environment.

In this case, I had another problem with the concept. The controller worked fine - ONCE we had cleared the errors. Indeed, the errors only occurred when we were shutting DOWN the system. If the controller has an issue with "noise' in general on the 12v system, why didn't it throw errors while I'm driving down the street?

Our 12v system does have an unusual number of inductive loads on it. We have a prius pump, for the controller cooling system, a Derale heat exchanger fan of actually some size, again for controller cooling, and an XSTurbos turbocharger we are using as a cooling blower for the 11HV motor. At 435 cubic feet per minute, this fan draws 4.6 amps at 12v.

The windings of a motor are an inductor. An inductor resists changes in current. Current through the windings causes the expansion of a magnetic field around the windings. This field stores energy. When you cut off the current, the field collapses. This collapse induces a current in the same direction. And this can cause relatively huge voltage spikes. The spikes are hard to see on an oscilloscope because while they can be surprisingly high in amplitude, they are very transient. They only appear for a handful of milliseconds. I happened to have a very cool very fast 600v 100 amp diode laying around - about 10,000 X overkill for this test. But we hooked it up between our 12v bus and ground.

It had NO effect.

Ryan Bohm was able to duplicate the problem as he had a Derale heat exchanger as well. What he found was something very different. The fans have a bit of inertia in them. When you shut them off, they keep spinning for a second or two. And when they do, they act as generators. They were maintaining 4-5 volts, quickly decaying of course, on the 12 volt line.

The problem is that the ON digital input to the controller uses this 12v to signal the controller that we are indeed on. So we have shut DOWN our 12v supply to the controller, but the fan is producing sufficient voltage that the ON input is high - for a second or two. This causes the errors to be noted and stored.

We tested this by putting a diode in series with the fan. When it is shut off, the fan does generate, but the diode blocks the feedback into the line.

That pretty much fixes the problem, but as the Derale uses six or seven amps of current, I did not want a semiconductor in that line heating up and inevitably becoming a failure item.

As a workaround, we connected the fans with a relay and used the ignition voltage to energize the relay. In this way, when we turn the ignition off, the fans are simply disconnected physically fro the system. The 3-5v cannot reach the ON input, and the errors do not occur.

This was an interesting problem. But it had us running in circles for days. And it is probably beyond our concept that ANYONE can convert a car to electric drive. in this case, anyone can't, and indeed Jack could not for some period of time. So the "fix" is for the controller to be fixed where this is not an issue.

It does bring up the concept that all such loads ought to be on separate relays with separate fuses. Not a bad practice actually, and you will see this in most modern automotive fuse blocks. Lots of fuses, and lots of relays. There's a reason. But the controller should not depend on that to operate. Put a relay inside the controller if you like.

We also devoted a bit of time to a discussion of the Tesla/Panasonic connection. Tesla makes all this needlessly secretive and confusing with their constant claims of proprietary madness. But that's mostly illusion and press puffery. Panasonic did invest $30 million in Tesla and owns 2% of the stock in the company. And they are working together. But the original concept was for Tesla to use off the shelf cells that are produced in the millions for laptops, cell phones, and flashlights. With the acquisition of Sanyo, Panasonic is the largest manufacturer of those in the world, BYD perhaps excepted. on raw numbers.

In March of 2012, Panasonic begins the production run of a brazillion of their new NNP 3.4Ah cell. This is there New Nickel Platform. It's actually a Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide cathode material with a carbon anode. And the thing carries 12.24 wH of energy in a 46 gram package. This is something like 266 wH per kilogram. By contrast, the CALB or Winston type cells are more like 109 wH/kg in their optimum size.

This is very nearly two and a half times the energy by weight. And if our 444 lbs of CALB cells were these new Panasonic's instead, we'd be seeing 266 miles instead of 109 in Speedster Duh. As I've actually driven Duh pretty flat at 110 miles, I'm onboard.

Ergo the 300 mile Tesla Model S.

We also learned a bit about cycle life in these cells which is very encouraging.

Cycle life to the industry "traditional" 80% of original capacity is somewhere in the 500-800 cycle range. Not good. But if you look to 70% as the mark, it gets much better as the deterioration curve flattens out in a very unusual fashion. You're looking at well over 2000 cycles to that level. And 70% of 300 is still 210 miles.

These are not here yet. But I do not classify them as unobtanium per se. They have good prospects for being available subsequent to March 2012. Tesla has contracted for enough of these cells to do 80,000 cars over four years. That's 640 million cells. As it will also be the highest energy density of any 18650 form factor cell, it will undoubtedly be popular in a number of other applications - flashlights if no where else. And so we have a truly MASS market battery cell here. That brings in economies of scale. That's the game we need.

I don't relish making modules of all these little cells. But 2.5x energy at potentially a LOWER price within a few years from what we're now paying for CALB/Winsston cells could be a play.

In a much larger sense, there is a perception, espoused by Elon Musk himself, that the Moore's law of PC speed and bandwidth only applies to batteries in a rather sedate form of 8% per year or so. I've never completely bought into this. The creeping advance were in a product that had zero market and no cash flow. As soon as you add oxygen in the form of ducats coming in the door in substantial numbers, innovation in batteries is not that hard. There is tons of cool science laying around with the usual problems of engineering to a product level, but there simply has been no oxygen (money) to drive the productization. Panasonic has already announced plans for 2013 to bump this very 3.4Ah cell to 4.0Ah by using a silicon alloy anode in place of the carbon anode in this cell, for example. But if a fire ensued in the battery market, there are plenty of players and plenty of advances to come. I think Moore's law is alive an dwell in Batteryville. And a car with a 1000 mile range is not inherently a preposterous notion.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stone Soup

Several hundred years ago, in a war weary and torn rural England, there was a great famine. The war and the weather had conspired to fail the crop entirely and hunger was rampant across the land. So scarce was food that violence was a daily occurrence with the strong taking what they needed from the weak, and the weak imploring God to deliver them from this evil season.

Families hid what food they did have, even from their closest friends and neighbors. Children were warned to say nothing of an onion if there was one on hand for fear someone in need would beg share it. And a bitter, cold wind blew without cease.

A road weary and battle worn knight was trudging horseless across the land toward his home, many days travel by foot away. And as the day grew late, he was relieved to see the smoke from a small village ahead on the rural pathway he trod.

He stopped at the village well to drink and ask food and shelter for the night. He found there an ancient crone who eyed him with suspicion from head to foot. “There’s no need to stop here, Squire” she grumbled. “We’ve been had to the quick and the village is starving. We’ve no food for ourselves, less for strangers.”

The knight knelt drinking deeply from the bucket. “Then thank you mother for this drink from the well. It’s a relief and blessing enough. Tell me true, you’ve really no food in the village?”

“We starve.” snarled the crone. “And if able to grub a single root from the very frozen ground, one of you soldiers offers to trade our own lives in exchange for it. We live under a curse I tell you.”

“Dire!” said the weary soldier. “How you suffer. I can scarcely imagine. It sounds a tribulation beyond belief.”

“Believe it or don’t believe it. We’ve nothing to eat here. So best you move along.”

“That would be a cold and heartless act. With you all starving in front of me, to just move on without doing what I might. I’ll not. I’m a bit short myself, but what I do have I will to share.”

“Share, sire.” The womans chill warmed but slightly. “You have food to share with us?”

“I’ll do what I can, “ replied the weary night. “You’re right enough, it’s a hard season. Fetch me a pot old woman. As large as you can find. I’ll make you soup, meager it is. But nourishing. And you and I shall dine as best we can.”

“I have a pot. It’s fairly large. What soup will you make?”

“Enough of your whining. Fetch me the pot old woman. And hurry. We’re both going to catch our death of cold while standing here starving at each other. Where’s wood for the fire. I’ll get it on.”

“There’s wood aplenty if we could but eat wood. It’s over there by the stalls. I’ll fetch your pot.” Grumbling she shuffled off.

The knight sorted through the wood and found pieces enough not rotted to make a small fire. He knelt and carefully flinted it to life. The old woman returned with a fairly large pot of obvious heritage, but serviceable.

“Let’s fill it perhaps half.” He knelt to ladle the well water into the pot, and carefully positioned it over the fire just beginning to blaze.

“And what’s to go in it?” queried the old woman.

Just then, a thin lad of about fourteen joined them. “What’s doing here Auntie?”

“This stranger is set to make soup. Said he’ll share with us.” replied the old woman.

The knight carefully drew his bag to him and oh so gently withdrew a small bag made of purple velvet from the sack. Carefully, he opened the drawstring and extracted a small smooth stone somewhat lesser in size than a closed child’s fist. He very ceremoniously lowered it over the simmering water and dropped it in.

Carefully, he withdrew a second stone from the sack, and again carefully lowered it over the pot dropping it carefully to the bottom through the simmering water.

“Have you a stir?” the knight inquired.

The lad volunteered “We’ve a ladling spoon in our kitchen. Shall I fetch it?”

“Capitol idea my lad. A large spoon would be ideal. This soup requires a bit of a stir to extract the savor.”

The lad trotted off to his house to fetch the spoon.

“What’s this? Are you daft? You intend to have us eat of a soup made of two stones?”

Casting his eyes down, the soldier sighed. “ I said it was meager enough. But it’s filling and we learned to eat this poor soup at the battles. Hardly a king’s feast, but it will have to do for this day. And I’ll gladly share it with you.”

“Harrumph” growled the old woman. “Stone soup indeed. That IS mighty poor fare. I’m thinking you’ll have little off your hunger with that. And thin. With what flavor at that? And what to gnaw? You’re a poor cook Sire.”
“Perhaps. But I’ve done it enough and I’ll note it does for what it does.”

The lad returned with the spoon. “I’ve found it. A spoon to stir a pot for a king!”

“Aye and a handsome spoon it is lad.” The knight knelt and very carefully stirred the pot with a practiced circular motion.

The boy peered down into the now bubbling water at the two stones in the bottom of the pot. “What nature of stone is this that makes soup?”

“They are quite rare really. Mind you it’s not a mutton stew. But enough to live and quell the pangs. Given me by a ranking knight just before he was slain.”

“For heaven’s sake” cried the old crone. You canna make soup from two rocks I tell you.”

“I fear I have, and perhaps too many times dear mother. I didn’t claim you a royal feast.”

The knight again knelt and drew the now steaming liquid into the spoon and carefully raised it to his lips. “Not as bad as some. I’ve had better. But this will do.” he noted analytically.

“Give me that spoon you idiot. What flavor can a soup made of stones have.” The old woman slurped the hot liquid loudly. “Bah, it has no flavor at all. You know nothing of cooking. This thing hasn’t even the flavor of salt.”

Looking dejected the knight noted. “True enough old woman. It IS much better with salt. But I’ve none.”

“You’re a moron spluttered the old woman. Here, for Christ’s sake. I’ll fetch some salt. How do you think I’m to eat such a thin poor soup without even salt.” Stalking off toward her hut, the woman muttered the whole way. Encountering the town mayor. “He thinks to make us soup! The man hasn’t even salt.”

“Soup?” cried the mayor. “Whose making soup?”

“The stranger in the square there. A poor soldier at that.”

The mayor immediately trotted over to join the lad and the knight at the fire. “What say, you? There is to be a soup? And in these hard times?”

“Stone soup!” piped up the lad. “A BIG pot of stone soup. Needs a pinch of salt but coming along.”

“My word” considered the mayor. “A soup, made of stones?

“Alas, your excellency. It’s what we have. Good enough, I’ll warrant. But for my own tastes, better when a bit of cabbage is in season. It seems cabbage grants it that certain dear flavor of my mother’s soup when I was a lad like this one. Reminds me of home.”

One by one the other villagers trickled over to see what was about.

“Cabbage. I myself like cabbage in my soup. “

“It needn’t be much. And it needn’t be good. In a soup, even a bit of rotting cabbage can take on quite a life of its own.” offered the knight.

“Well I haven’t much. But perhaps there’s a bit of cabbage in my larder. Let me check it.” Off went the mayor.

Just then the old woman returned with a small paper of salt. “Here soldier. If you’re to make soup out of common stones, it should HAVE salt.” she proclaimed emphatically as she dumped the small portion of salt into the water. “Give me that spoon.”

She knelt and swirled the water expertly drawing forth a bit and slurping it loudly. “At least it now tastes salt, as a soup should.”

A thin elderly man stepped forward and peered into the pot. “You say, you’ll share?”

“It’s poor enough. But yes old father. You can join us to dine this night.” Responded the knight.

“He says he’ll share.” Trembled the old man to the woman next. “Me, I’m not so fond of cabbage myself. I like carrots in my stew. I might have A carrot to pitch. I’ll get it”

The suspiciously portly woman noted. “You really cannot bring the flavor of a proper soup out without an onion. I don’t have a whole one. But some shreds to fling. It’ll brighten it quite a bit I think.”

“Aye. And you have to pitch to eat I’ll warrant” noted the stablemaster cynically.

“Not at all mate. We have little in this thin soup. But I know times are hard and you’re welcome to what we have here.” replied the knight. “If you have naught, then naught it is.”

“I didn’t say I had naught. What you must think of me. You twist my own words. Did I say I had naught? It’s a cold time sure enough. But I’m not without entirely. Criminy a few mealy potatoes can be spared. That will offer some body to this thin soup.”

And so the cabbage and the carrot and the onion shreds were added to the pot. And in a short while, potatoes too. The roiling water swirled and scent began to rise from the pot and waft throughout the village.

One by one the villagers crept out into the street with lit pitch torches and the area around the well brightened. “What’s that smell?” exclaimed one.

“It’s stone soup. They’ve made a soup of stones.” Answered another.

“ A soup. Of stones?”

“It is. Smells wonderful. I’m starving here.”

“When will it be done?” yet another.

And again a reply “It’s soup. It’ll be done when it’s done don’t you know.”

The knight bent over the bubbling pot and inhaled deeply. “Ahh. How I long for the days when there was meat aplenty for a fine soup as this.”

“Meat? You must be joking. We’ve had no meat for a moon.” offered a young monk.

“I say. True enough. But a poor old piece of salt pork I’ve kept by and by.” Offered another. “It’s a rind really. And it won’t make a meal for a mouse anyway. I just keep it to look at.”

“I’ve a scrap as well. It’s true not anything to brag on. But it’ll chew.” Offered yet again.

And so into the pot it went. And soon everyone was scrabbling about the village, scouring a pepper here and a mushroom there.

As the torches gathered the night village square took on a lighted cheerful countenance. And someone brought out a fiddle and began to play. Soon there was music and a bit of dancing started.

“Is it soup yet?” and again, “When shall we eat of the soup. The smell is driving me faint.”

Finally the knight ceremoniously tasted the soup with a hundred pairs of eyes watching his every move. Nodding he offered the spoon to the old crone, who nodded with sage approval, having a good claim on very nearly inventing the soup. “It’s fair enough soup, if I do say so. It’ll do right enough on this chill evening.” noted the crone with all due modesty.

The knight carefully fished out the two stones and slowly wiped them dry, carefully placing them back in their velvet bag. “Not to break anyone’s teeth.” to howls of laughter. “Bring your bowls then.” Instructed the knight. “There’s aplenty for all.

And indeed, everyone in the village ate their fill that good winter night.

After everyone was safely asleep and sated, a small group of villagers crept into the loft where the knight lay, and quietly slit his throat and removed the velvet bag.

In the morning, the Mayor thanked everyone for participating in their long developed plan for the first annual stone soup celebration and assured everyone of regular stone soup days in the future.

The grocer ran a special on “stone soup fixins and garnish,” in full compliance with their original “stone soup recipe.”

The butcher too announced that they had special packages of “stone soup” meat cuttings designed to the original specification and traceable back to the exact first stone soup.

The village pharmacist sold salt at two prices henceforth, regular common salt and premium stone soup savory salt.

The blacksmith, under license of the city, would make a sterling silver “stone soup pot and ladle” for anyone wealthy enough to afford it, and of course having the stone soup license.

And the village passed an ordinance severely restricting the ownership of stones of all sizes, and of course requiring that soup be made only of official village approved stones, to prevent any contamination or ill health effects, for the safety and welfare of the villagers. Thus serving as a barrier to random illegal stone soup operations.

A special sherriff’s detail was established to ensure compliance with the stone soup regulations and a standing stone soup court was established to hear cases of stone soup malfeasance. Plaintiff’s and defendants were required to be represented by a qualified stone soup barrister.

And they all lived happily ever after… in the area that came to be know as the land of the stoned. Unlicensed import or export of stones into our out of this area was severely punished.

And travelling soldiers were outlawed entirely.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

This week we try to catch up a bit on the eCobra project, which I would like to finish sometime in THIS life. This car has been a struggle.

The bad news is it has just featured some really difficult geometry to fit in a 41 kWh battery pack in a small two-seat sports car. I'm very pleased with the power plant. The Netgain Warp 11HV and the Netgain Controls Industrial controller are very strong in this 3000 lb monster. We haven't done any performance testing yet, but I can already tell you the performance will be very strong.

This week we tie up some cooling system issues and some instrumentation. And most of all wire in our Elcon 5000w charger.

The Elcon has emerged as the default charger by virtue of its power and price. It is NOT fully configurable and that poses some problems and the guys selling them have just enough information to be dangerous about the charger and are actually doing some damage out there to cars. Their cocommittant desire to sell battery management systems with them being part of the problem.

We need the Elcon's 5000 watts because we have a 41 kWh battery pack. At full power from 240 vac, this would still take about 8 1/2 hours for a full charge. So we can't really use a smaller charger. And this unit is physically BIG. By lifting the body almost off the car, we managed to squeeze it into the rear trunk area right behind the roll bar.

We also wired it into our J1772 connector and the little AC31 board David Kerzel of ModularEVPower provided. Given the mirroring of the proximity switch pin and the copilot signal pin between the plug and the socket, I can NEVER get them right. Sure enough, I had them swapped in our install and it would not charge. Swapping the wires on the little circuit board solved the problem. The car now charges quite well on the Clipper Creek EVSE we had installed for such testing. Our eCobra should charge smartly from any available SAEJ1772-2010 EVSE.

I prefer fully configurable chargers such as the Brusa, which you can easily change everything about the charge process including the stages, currents, voltages, rest times, etc. But a Brusa is close to $4000 now and this project would have required TWO of them. Eight grand for a charging system seems a little bit much since my first car I drove at age 16 cost me $60 cash money hard come by.

The Elcon at $1695 from Evolve Electrics just seems a better buy. But you have to specify voltage and charge curve algorithm. We've had a lot of questions about these charge curves. In this episode, I talk a bit about why we use curve 502 and how you can add a little bit of "configurability" by having 10 charge curve voltages stored in memory.

Here's an image of the 500 series algorithms they ask you to choose from. We picked 502.

The document basically describes a very simple charge curve, which works well for these cells. Basically, you pump all the current you can into the pack, until it reaches a certain voltage. You then HOLD that voltage by ADJUSTING the current, until the amount of current needed to maintain that voltage diminishes to some set value.

The spec on most of the Thundersky and CALB and Sinopoly cells actually does call out this value - 0.05C. This is 5% of the rated capacity in amps. So a 180 AH pack would cutoff at 9 amperes.

This is not one of the choices. But AH/30 seems to be. Since we are at 180 AH, that would be 180/30 or 6 amperes.

With 69 two-cell pairs, we are looking at a charge VOLTAGE of 251.85 volts. AGAIN and I repeat for the 40th time, this charge voltage has almost nothing to do with the fully charged voltage of the cell, which in all cases will be something less than 3.4 volts if you are indeed using LiFePo4 cells. It is part of a PROCEDURE to get you to that fully charged state. We use 3.65v rather arbitrarily. The original spec on these cells was 4.2v. Then it was lowered to 4.0v. I think it is now 3.8v. It doesn't matter, we developed our OWN procedure that seems to work better. I feel ever more validated as the MANUFACTURERs' procedure is clearly dropping a couple of tenths of volts per quarter as we go along.

In any event, the terminating CURRENT is an important part of this procedure. You do not WANT to keep putting energy into the cell past this point. With 502, we actually ARE overcharging the cell. But since we used 3.65v to UNDERCHARGE the cell, it all works out.

The proof is of course in the pudding. Twelve hours after charging, we are seeing a pack voltage of 230.4v. This works out to a cell average of 3.34 volts - exactly where I like to see it. 3.35 would be good too. But with this many cells, I actually feel better at 3.34.

One thing stressed in the video is to actually observe and measure the end of charge activity before entrusting your pack to ANY charger. This is kind of important - under the rubric that in any product shit happens. You don't want it to happen TO your expensive batteries. So its worth the time to go through the process with the charger a couple of times to make sure it is doing as you THOUGHT you had it configured to do.

In this case, instead of charging to 251.85 volts we actually hit a peak briefly at 253.4 volts. But it settled down quickly to right at 253 volts and maintained that very nicely. The current tapered quickly since we are charging at a low percentage of capacity. We were seeing about 22 amps IN to the pack from this charger and it appeared to be a very nice 95% efficient comparing the current into the cells with the current from the wall AC. I was quite surprised by that.

The current tapered nicely and the voltage was pretty steady, minor wandering in the 0.2-0.4 v range. As the current decreased from 22 amps down to six amps, the charger terminated abruptly at an indicated 6.2 amps. This is actually very good.

Bottom line is that bang for buck, this is an excellent charger operationally. It is a bit of a pain to order and configure. But once installed it works well and is quite powerful for the price.

We also discuss in this week's video the announcement pending from EVnetics of a monster controller they are calling SHIVA. This controller will crank 3000 amps peak and 2500 amps continuous using EIGHT 600 ampere IGBTS. It is pricey at $7500 and they are only going to make 25 of them initially. But it promises to become the immediate darling of the drag race community. It probably has little application in a general electric vehicle UNLESS you happen to be doing a Cadillac Elescalade with twin 11 inch motors. In that event, if you paralleled the connection to the motors and backed it up with some 400 Ah cells, you could probably do 1500 amps into each motor briefly and tear up transmissions all the way between here and Florida.

I think this going to be huge for EVnetics. That the vast majority of their sales will be Soliton Jrs is not the point. Everyone will know the upgrade path to the BIGGEST dc PWM chopper on the block. And I actually think they'll sell out of the 25 run quicker than they think. The Tim Allen/Tooltime riff on MORE POWER worked for that show and that comedian because he hit the nail on the head. Just because I don't USE all the power under the hood, doesn't mean I don't want it there. At $7500 it's just beyond the reach of most builds. But I would goess the drag racing community will waste no time neatening up their wiring with this little controller. As always, the package SEB does is just gorgeous.

The IGBT's have an interesting feature. They have internal temperature sensing. What this means is that the coder guy, Martin, can actually throttle this thing back very quickly and very accurately based on temperature. ANd what THAT means is the better you are at getting cooling glycol to this beast, the more power you can get out of it. The spec limitations are 4800 amps actually but they've got it cut back to 3000 amps. I don't know the voltage drop, but if it's a volt at 3000 amps you also have a 3000 watt heater. NoGiven the forward voltage drop on six IGBTs, that's still a lot of heat. But there's room there if you beg.... and don't mind blowing a $7500 controller every other race. it's all software...

We did talk a little bit about the Tesla party. What I didn't mention, but am looking into is the Tesla/Panasonic battery. March 2012 will be the first run of a new 18650 cell by Panasonic that is really quite a thing. It uses a couple of innovations. They call it their Nickel New Platform or NNP cell. It is actually a Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide (LiNiCoAlO2) cathode with a 3.6v voltage and 3.4Ah in a single 18650 cell. This works out to 46 grams and 12.2 watt hours or 265 wH per kilogram. By contrast, our cells are about 106-109 wH per kilogram. That's how you get a 300 mile range.

Interestingly, they have even bigger plans for March 2013. At that point they will do a production run of the same cell, but they intend to replace the carbon anode with a silicon alloy anode. This will boost the Ah rating to a full 4.0 Ah in this cell.

As to cycle life, there's some bad news but then some good news. To the standard quoted 80% of the initial capacity, this little cell will only do 500-600 cycles. But if you can deal with 70% capacity, it will go to 2000 cycles. And so given the 265 wH per kilogram, build in a little extra capacity. It will be a MUCH improved package over the Tesla Roadster battery module. And it explains the Tesla 300 mile range claim.

I found it interesting to note that since acquiring Sanyo, Panasonic may be the world's largest Lithium battery supplier. But it is also interesting to note that they are building factories to produce all this in CHINA. In fact, due to the strength of the Yen, they've dramatically cut back plans on a new factory in Japan.

Bottom line, the cell march goes on. Our 80 mile cars will soon be in the 250 mile range (really). But it will cost you. And of course, all roads lead to China.


Jack Rickard

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Excellent Days in the Land of EV's.

First drives are always an excellent event. Weeks, and for us, usually months of effort in the shop eventually lead to a vehicle, still in some disassembly, but running out of excuses NOT to go drive. And then it rolls. The magic never lessens for me. It is always an exhilarating moment to see the car GO after months of being shackled to the lift.

In the days just prior to the EVCCON, the eCobra was reaching that point. It was my FIRST build where she I decided it was time to roll, it refused to roll. The thrill of victory. And in this case the agony of defeat as they used to say on ABC's wide world of sports.

After a roll, there are always new issues come to light that have to be worked off - kind of like the tick list on a new house. But I have never just had one refuse to roll at all. The eCobra crept off the ramp ok, but when we hit the pedal, it appeared to have a severe case of clutch slip and really just wouldn't go.

As I say, that's a first for me and I take these things poorly.

As it turns out, it WAS a slipping clutch, but not the clutch we were engaging. Rather, it turned out to be the clutch in the limited slip differential third member we had added to eCobra in an errant attempt to save weight, which turned out to be a thoroughly discouraging 7.5 lbs anyway.

This was discovered by one of our EVCCON attendees after two days of furious work by probably 50 people who looked at it at one time or another, including the builder of the original car.

In any event, Paul Lin had flown from Taiwan, DURING a typhoon, to be with us and to drive his car on its first drive. It was not to be.

In the few days since the event, we did get a new drive shaft made to accommodate the original third member, which had been reinstalled. And the vehicle was thereby made capable of movement.

We also had some controller issues traced to a very demanding controller who insisted that 12v be about 12v and noise free. We had to add an aux battery and rewire the way 12v comes up when using the ignition key to do that. I have a mini-white board session on this simple circuitry change in the video.

Once accomplished, we not only had a new drive to take on a sunny autumn day in Cape Girardeau, but we had a new camera to play with as well. We've been playing with a Contour Plus mini camera that provides excellent HD quality images but more importantly, an astounding 170 degree field of view - very close to the human field of view. Its a bit distorted, but hugely wide. And for shooting in vehicles, this is a huge plus.

Unfortunately the camera controls are pretty meager, there is no viewfinder, you don't really know what you're shooting, and the build quality is actually surprisingly poor given the $499 price. But we have persevered and learned pretty much how to work with it.

The result is first drive with a bit different video view. We think its engaging and another step toward putting you IN the car with us on these drives.

And indeed, first drive was exhilarating. Given his actually masterfully precise execution of an incredible array of details surrounding the EVCCON, Mr. Noto was privileged the honors on first drive.

Let me digress here just a bit to pass on some lessons hard won over time that have little to do with electricity.

I like people with good intentions. Your intentions should be good. Evil intentions are fortunately rare, but of course unpleasant.

It's nice to be among men of vision. A grand vision is a grand thing. Out of the box thinking is always a joy to observe and participate in. A meager approach to life from a position of want and need is not who we are meant to be. A grand vision assuming a universe of unlimited resource is much more productive.

Pleasant manners are of course most characterized by being "pleasant". Who doesn't like minimal confrontation and maximum pleasant.

And I like smart people. The bandwidth of conversation and ideas simply is more enjoyable at a faster pace. Having to stop and explain the obvious and the given or worse actually get into a debate over things that no longer need debate is frustrating and annoying.

But I can convene ROOMS full of very smart, pleasant people of grand vision with good intentions. Unfortunately, as a general rule none of them have ever actually done anything of note or had any impact on anything. Too often, they spend too much time thinking pretty thoughts of a grand future where everyone is pleasant and has good intentions.

Great effort too is admirable. One of my favorite films is Rudy. Maximum effort with limited tools - the underdog story. I cry like a baby.

But in the end, the thing I prize most of all is execution. Some very small percentage of our population is simply capable of making things HAPPEN. They can execute. If you aim them at a target, you can pretty much then walk away and begin the next process because you KNOW the target either no longer exists, or will not exist very much longer. They will assemble whatever resources are necessary, employ whatever tools are necessary, identify any further needs necessary, but when the smoke clears - target gone and ready for the next mission. To execute with precision is an art form.

I was privileged to work with both Brian Noto and Christopher Fisher on this EVCCON 2011. I really did very little toward the mission of success with this conference. And both simply had this process of "execution" down to an implicit act. And they were both so calm about it. It is a thing to admire. Minimum fuss. Minimum noise. Lots of smoldering holes where at times difficult targets used to be. And a pathological, at times even obsessive, attention to detail.

I would have those skills for myself but I am not, unfortunately, graced in that way. Having the attention span of a four-year-old is of course its own reward. But in the unlikely event that I DID miraculously grow up, I would that I were as these two guys.

In any event, the drive was fun. Despite the false starts, the first real DRIVE was a hoot. This car is growing on me. First, it's LARGER than the cars we've been doing. It is of course 3000 lbs - at least. We'll probably weigh it this week once the charger is onboard. I can kind of stretch out and it lets me sit up kind of high rather than "down" in a hole. Second, the weight causes the adjustable springs to be tweaked up pretty tight to hold the car up. And it glides along with authority - no jouncing around really. Like a heavier car - which it is.

The Netgain 11HV and Warp Drive Industrial are starting to look like a fortuitous design selection. Under the rubric that even a blind hog gets an acorn now and again, I think I had a lucky pick here. Better to be lucky than good. It moves that 3000 lbs out smartly. No real testing yet of course. But I think we may have something a little special here. Not a drag strip dominator. But it will feel good to drive this car and I think we will accomplish our mission of making things in that rear view mirror get small quickly and in keeping with the Cobra culture and concept.

We really didn't shoot much video of the convention. A lot less than I would have liked actually. But by stealing some photos from George Hamstra, and using some footage my daughter shot from her helicopter, we've cobbled together a recap of the convention that is hopefully both artful and representative. It is simply not possible to duplicate the conference on video anyway.

A number of attendees have requested access to the powerpoint presentations from various speakers. I've given this some thought. I may inherently have the right to do this but I'm going to pass on this. You have the attendee book listing the speakers and their contact info. This is their material they have developed and may quite likely use for a variety of purposes and conferences. It's not really mine to give. Contact those speakers directly with requests for powerpoint presentations and notes. This is a "convention" of adults and viewpoints and information sources and it is little enough to contact the owner directly with your requests. If they want to deal with that en masse, they can of course post a link here for general download. This is not something I should try to arbitrage.

EVCCON 2012 will be presented in the 32,000 sf ShowMe Center here in Cape Girardeau. We hope for a larger assemblage of enthusiasts and cars for this event. Registration opens today at $400 until June 1. For those bringing cars, we will discount this to $99 this year. We had 23 attendees and two vendors sign up on site at the dinner where we made the final decision and announced the second annual Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention. I would that we would have more speakers, more attendee delegates, and more cars at next years event. I would like to thank those who DID go through the rigors of bringing their cars this year - they were some absolutely inspiring builds.

We're going to work toward incentivizing this further. The builds were SO good I want more of them. Greed is a great motivator. So we're working on some more thought through "classes" of builds, some more considered judging, and some SUBSTANTIAL componentry prizes for winners not so much on the race side but on the car show side. It was clear attendees who DID go through the logistical nightmare of bringing their vehicle, took no small pride in displaying to the public, but I think to even a greater degree presenting to their qualified peers in the EV community itself. And so I'm working toward more formal classes of builds, more considered and qualified judging, and as I say, some substantial componentry as awards, along with of course the usual cheesy trophy. Rather than our promotional contest for the pile of components, I thinks we can do more by rewarding the GREAT builds I'm seeing out there with components and providing recognition for the incredible amount of work that goes into some of these cars which are not just functional, but in some cases border on works of art.

We will probably issue ballots to all paid conference attendees and allow them to vote on the "Best of Show" build. I haven't' quite worked out how to tally all that in time for the awards dinner. But I would like for EVCCON to grow into a place where you can bring and display your work to the approbation of your peers.

Enjoy the video. If you have any ideas on how to make EVCCON 2012 bigger and better, I'm all ears.


Jack Rickard

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Still catching up with all that happened at the Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention EVCCON 2011.

One of the "featured" speakers of the event was Chris Paine. I often ask people how they got started in electric vehicles as kind of a warm up question. The most common answer is "I saw this documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car, and it made me really angry."

This answer comes up SO often, it is kind of a mantra among the people converting cars to electric drive. The documentary, and the first real availability of LiFePo4 cells from China, occurred almost on the same day. So the two are kind of inextricably linked. The enabling technology and the motivating force. I find this fascinating.

So we actually paid to have Chris Paine come address our first "convention" of electric car conversion enthusiasts.

The setting was supposed to be at my house. We were going to have kind of a private "car show" hood popper on the front lawn of the adjoining Southeast Missouri University River Campus School of Visual and Performing Arts. This is a very scenic setting literally right ON the banks of the Mississippi River, almost under the new suspension bridge which is very nicely lit at night. Jerrry Ford's band, a kind of 40's Big Band group of about 13 musicians, was to play and the local Port of Cape Girardeau was to cater the event.

It was thoroughly rained out.

So we moved the band and the food to the hangar where we were having sessions, and served dinner while Jerry Ford did his best to play Basil Poulidoris, along with the usual 1940's hits. The music was FANTASTIC and the food very good.

Mr. Paine tried desperately to devine the party line and get some guidance on how to tune to the audience. Instead, I kind of described who was here, why they were here, and what they hoped to do hear and left it to hime what to talk about and what to show by way of documentaries. He did ask which I thought they would rather see, "Charged" or "Revenge of the Electric Car" and I mentioned that "Revenge" would undoubtedly be the overwhelming choice.

Revenge actually has gone into distribution, meaning the control of the rights and so forth has passed to another entity and the film is scheduled to open in theaters in late NOvember, actually in St. Louis it will open on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving - a curious time to debut a film in theaters.

In any event, if a crowd shows up in theaters, this will cause some press attention, DVD sales etc and it is important that people turn out for the theatre release.

In any event, after dinner Paine addressed the group with a kind of alphabet presentation of various curious elements of the electric car universe and I would describe the audience as rapt. Kind of a special sermon to the choir in this case, he was very well received.

After some texting back and forth with his distribution manager, he decided to go ahead and screen "Revenge of the Electric Car." This is where rain plays a role. We were able to completely darken the hangar and had a nine foot rear projection system on hand for the sessions. The result was a sparkling clear presentation of the documentary.

The documentary was NOT what I expected. The first documentary was a little simplistic for my tastes with very bad guys and very good guys and presented in an almost fairy tale like simplicity built around that. But it WAS motivating and I WAS angry at the end so it was enormously effective.

Somehow I expected Revenge to reverse this into a big hooray for GM and Nissan who now of course have products.

Instead, what we saw was a much more mature and developed view of four players in the EV space, with four different visions of an electric car future. It was a parallel comparison in many ways bizarrely presented with a Gregorian chant background and MUCH higher production values and camera work than Who Killed the Electric Car.

The four players were Bob Lutz with General Motors and the Volt, Carlos Ghosn with Nissan Motor Company, Elon Musk with Tesla Motors, and Greg "Gadget" Abbott of Left Coast Electric Conversions - a small conversion shop in California, ironically specializing in 1957 Porsche Speedster Replicas.

The documentary cycled between profiles of these players quite artfully, bringing out a number of interesting and indeed crucial points in the development of an electric car that could be adopted by the market. Bob Lutz came across as a big booming guy with a vision and a very corporate way of presenting his product. Carlos Ghosn was an almost steely autocratic leader betting his company's fortune on electric cars surrounded by people who had only one answer for his every question - YES.

Elon Musk actually didn't fair too well in the documentary I thought, but I rather lionize this guy as he is very much out of the Internet school and Silicon Valley. He came across as very devoted to the cause, but somehow struggling to master the exigencies of automobile production and with an uncertain future.

OF course, the surprise was the essentially equal treatment of Greg Abbott - identified only as Gadget in the film. Gadget operated a small conversion business out of a warehouse in Los Angeles. He specializes in reproduction Porsche's, most notably 1957 Porsche Speedsers, converted of course to electric drive. I had two we had done on hand at the show, and Carey Hines of Special Editions Inc. had a roller on display in the vendor area, so this hit home pretty well.

Unbeknownst to Paine, there was a critical part of the documentary where they actually showed footage of Gadget's warehouse - TOTALLY destroyed by fire. His workshop, all the cars, tools, and equipment just totally wiped out. The documentary vaguely asserted that the cause had been traced to ARSON.

Our group let out a totally collective SIGH at the sight right on cue. On the screen we could clearly see that most of the cars were burned, but largely intact with warehouse debris kind of toppled all over them. But a single car was burnt TO THE GROUND. The blackened debris you usually see at a natural fire, was not only not present, but the entire scene was in the by now familiar whitewash white/grey of an INTENSE battery fire. And incredibly, they showed Gadget pawing through the debris and holding the remnants of his BATTERY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM AND CHARGER up for all to see.

I quickly surveyed the room and the dawning realization was so total, I do not believe ANYONE in the room missed any part of this. To the point that I never mentioned it at all during the remainder of the EVCCON. There is a saying "when in a hole, stop digging." The corollary is "when you've clearly won the battle, put down your sword." There's no point really in slaughtering the survivors. This film made this point, entirely accidentally, probably better than I have done in the past year. And I don't think any single one of our attendees missed it at all.

All that aside from begging the question "Who would bother to burn down a small electric car conversion shop?" For what?

After the screening, Paine noted that he had brought a few copies of CHARGED his other documentary about electric motor cycle racing that he would make available for $20 each. They were "Gone in Sixty Seconds" to borrow another film title and he seemed genuinely surprised at the $400 per minute. He'd only brought 20 copies.

He then asked that we turn out as a "buzz" audience and encourage others to attend the theatre release as this is most important to its' success. Everyone pretty much agreed to do that. Anne Knoppenberg asked if he would be interested in coming to speak and screen in Amsterdam. It was a comic moment when Chris repeated "Amsterdam?? Ahh..YES to that."

He also held up his cell phone and announced he had a text from Gadget who regretted his lack of attendance and promised to join us at EVCCON next year.

After the showing, despite the late hour, Paine and a few of the attendees retired to our downtown area to visit The Library, a local bar frequented most notably by young female college students from the University and featuring an able selection of potable spirits.

And a good time was had by all.

I am not a film critic precisely, but I would rate REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR a must see. It presents a more mature and developed view of the difficulties faced by the men of vision who are striving to bring this technology to the masses. It rather left the question open, and so does not provide the satisfying anger of the first documentary. But for my tastes, it was a better film and in many ways more useful, and thought provoking. That a small conversion shop was profiled right along with Tesla was the surprise element we simply did not expect.

I would urge everyone to see this film. I found Chris Paine very intelligent, and most gracious in all respects.

Jack RIckard