I have no video for you this week.
I’ve been working on my recently moved battery test bench and some new battery tests. Not without some glitches in equipment and process.
But more to the point, it was the Holiday Weekend and it was important that we show up in Nashville Tennessee on the occasion of the marriage of Brain’s stepson Kyle Anderson. As a result, we simply have no show for you this week. I could jam together a late entry today I suppose, but Friday looms before us.
I did think it might be of interest to blog a bit in any event. I recently talked about early adopters and where we are in the adoption curve and from the responses I can see a number of our viewers are a little out in the weeds on adoption curve theory. There is an almost quaint disconnect between where I think we are in the world and where the mainstream media and apparently many of our viewers think we are in the world.
In 1962 Everett Rogers, a professor of rural sociology published Diffusion of Innovations. In the book, Rogers synthesized research from over 508 diffusion studies and produced a theory for the adoption of innovations among individuals and organizations.
The heart of the research really was about the adoption of new seed corn developments and their diffusion through agricultural communities. The concept had been posited as early as 1860 but Rogers et al kind of brought it all to a point.
More recent work is most notable in Geoffrey Moore’s 1991 Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers. Usually referred to simply as “Chasm” this is the Marketing Bible in high-tech land. It actually describes a little problem in Rogers model – a gap between early adopters and early majority that must be crossed for successful marketing of high technology products and the book describes techniques for bridging this “gap.”
Now let’s talk about electric cars. First, what IS an electric car. Believe it or not, everyone gets to do this on their own as homework, and everyone’s definition is automatically valid – for them. I suppose you could say that since Bill Lear fitted a radio to an early Chevrolet, and subsequently founded MOTOROLA to put AM radio in automobiles, the car has BEEN electric. It’s main powerplant was gasoline but it DID have a battery and a radio and had electricity in it.
I personally view it as a car who’s main function is transportation and whose movement is driven by electrical power – not thermal or Otto cycle engines but by magnetic electric motors.
I have somewhat further refined my definition to include the concept that with an electric car, you do not need to fuel it with gasoline. If you find yourself at a gasoline pumping station inserting a nozzle and filling it with gasoline, ipso facto no electric car.
We eschew hybrids almost entirely for this reason. They use gasoline. Actually our aversion for them is much more deeply seated. In a world where automobiles are already increasingly specialized devices, the hybrid is an attempt to marry a cow and a horse to produce ……what? They inherit the DISADVANTAGES of both electric and ICE drive trains while simultaneously NEGATING the advantages of each drive train, while at the same time becoming extraordinarily complex.
If William of Ockham was correct about the razor and lex parsimoniae still has merit, the hybrid doesn’t cut it as a solution to our transportation problems. It’s interim popularity notwithstanding.
We actually have had electric powered cars for well over a Century. Indeed the first car introduced at a Paris exposition in 1861 was electrically powered. They failed in competing with the gasoline engine car for a number of reasons, most having to do with the low energy storage capacity of the batteries. It is amusing to read the accounts of much improved battery performance expectedly quite soon and within months described in books on electric cars from as early as 1913.
Broadly, I would say it didn’t happen. Apologies to all fan boyz of the Nickel Cadmium and Nickel Metal Hydride cells, they did not offer sufficient improvement to be attractive.
‘Dr. John Goodenough invented lithium cobalt oxide cathode materials while at Oxford University. His technology was used in the first commercial Li-ion battery, launched by SONY in 1991. More recently, at the University of Texas, Austin, Dr. Goodenough patented a new class of iron phosphate materials with potential to replace the more costly cobalt materials. In 2000, he received the prestigious Japan Prize for his discoveries of the materials critical to the development of lightweight rechargeable batteries.
Mr. Winston Chung studied these U.S. patents on LiFePo4 cells and developed a very practical large prismatic cell marketed under various names but eventually as THUNDERSKY batteries.
We first encountered these cells in late 2007 and early 2008. We experimented with LiFePo4 cells using a Global Electric Motorcar (GEM) neightborhood electric vehicle and compared them to the very best available Trojan lead acid flooded cells of the time in that vehicle. The results were so impressive, that we decided to try a car conversion which first rolled on Christmas Day, 2008. Our EV grin knew no bounds.
I experimented with a lead acid car in 1979/1980 as soon as I left the U.S. Navy. It had a range of about 20 miles that quickly deteriorated to 11. A used Pinto was the donor car and it had no provisions for heat and PWM controllers were unheard of at the time.
And there is the first rubrick on which we operate. Lithium ion driven cars are cars. Pb cells of all forms are toys. You can demonstrate movement with Pb. You cannnot act as a car with them. It is simply not a practical car with regards to initial range and you are in a constant state of needing a new battery pack at huge expense.
Having built both types, there is my mind no room for debate or discussion. And if you have not built and driven both types, while you may think you are entitled to your own opinion, it is an opinion of no interest to me personally. I don’t care what you THINK about what you obviously don’t know. If you are not intimately familiar with the operational characteristics of both battery chemistries, your opinion on the topic has crucially limited merit.
There were some comical explorations of these batteries by the every self aggrandizing group of lead acid electric vehicle advocates. They organized a group buy of Thundesky batteries and immediately applied their vast knowledge of Pb chemistry to them, overcharging the shit out of them to “equalize” them and of course totally destroying the cells. They demanded that THundersky replace the cells and when Thundersky refused, they announced to anyone who would listen that they had been defrauded by the Chinese.
As it has become apparent what happened, they have generally retreated into a vague discussion that the “early” Thundersky cells were defective and they are much better now. They, as pioneers, took the arrow in the back for the betterment of us all. Nothing of the kind transpired. They applied Pb thinking to a new cell that simply does not exhibit the same behaviors.
We found the cells remarkable, and the resulting Porsche Speedster conversion remarkable as well. We found we could drive the car with exhilerating acceleration, easily to 95 mph, and could drive it 100 miles on a single charge. Better, it was not ungainly or heavy feeling. It had just over 400 pounds of batteries in it.
And so I thought others should know about this, and we produced our first video, A Convenient Response to an Inconvenient Truth positing electric vehicle adoption as the solution to Al Gore’s climate change disaster scenario.
This video was published May 15, 2009, barely over two years ago.
Many are focused on the late 1990’s introduction of the RAV-4, the EV-1, the S10, and the Ford Ranger as electric car offerings from OEM’s as the renaissance of the electric car. Although modestly capable vehicles, they simply are not LiFePo4 driven automobiles and those impressed with them again are of the camp generally that don’t have experience with both. Until you do, we dont’ have common ground for conversation. But indeed they were engaging cars. While you may point out that many are still in use today, it is also true that many are driving Pb chemistry cars today. I am bringing you a message. THEY DON”T MATTER ANYMORE.
Goodenough’s LiFePo4 cell chemistry IS the game changer, because it is about good enough. And all chemistries prior were just not good enough.
Winston Chung is a bit of a hero to me. Because he glommed onto these early American patents and began producing the cells, there was no good choke point for the oil companies to “purchase” and gain control of the distribution of the technology – as they very much had with the Nickle Metal Hydride cells. Enforcement of U.S. patents with the Japanese Nimmie manufactures was simple, though long, drawn out and costly. It just isn’t practical with the Chinese in the case of LiFePo4No. Ergo, you can have these cells, and Exxon can’t take them away from you by writing a check. In an International feat of legerdemain, the Genie escaped the bottle and it would be very difficult and very expensive to stuff him back into it.
So in my mind, personal mobililty by electric drive is the answer to a host of problems spanning almost everything, our economy, jobs, the cost of food, serfdom on the OEM/Oil Company leasehold, balance of trade, transfer of wealth, climate change, and very possibly a host of health related problems as well. Whatever your position on climate change you DO know that you can off yourself in a closed garage with a car in just a few painless minutes. With 900 million on them at the close of 2010 each pumping about 50 lbs of atmosphere through with each gallon, we can pretty much agree they are not doing anything BENEFICIAL to the air we breathe. In reality, we DO NOT know what modern health problems could easily be caused by this. Everyone is so focused on smoking cigarettes as a problem, while ignoring the fact that they are all smoking a Buick whether they choose to or not.
I know I’m preaching to the choir here on the electric car as a solution. But the disconnect is back to Rogers Diffusion of Innovation.
If we take ALL the electric cars manufactured in the past twenty years, including the 37,000 GEM’s and EVERYTHING ELSE, we don’t have 75,000 cars on the planet. And I don’t count 99% of those as even being an electric car capable of being a solution to anything.
If we count only LiFePo4 cars, the numbers get to be pretty miniscule. IF Leaf sells 12,000 cars in 2011, AND GM sells that many Volts, which it won’t and which isn’t even an electric car, and we count the 2400 Tesla’s, all the iMiev’s every prototype built by all manufacturers, we are at less than 30,000 cars.
EVALBUM lists 378 vehicles currently as Lithium Ion driven vehicles. Two thirds of those are actually bicycles and lawn mowers. But if we say half, we have 185 Lithium ion powered cars. If we assume that EVALBUM is one out of 10 in existance, that is still less than 2000 home built Lithium cars.
32,000 cars TOPS.
Now let’s look at Rodgers curve. He indicates that the first 2.5% of the market is the tinkerers and innovators. Let’s assume the United States is the only market that matters, a dubious concept as gasoline is $8 a gallon over all of Eaurope. We have $255 million active automobiles currently registered.
To be 2.5% of that would require 6.3 million Lithium Ion powered vehicles. That’s the point at which tinkerer innovator development is mature enough to appeal to EARLY ADOPTERS. Do we HAVE 6.3 million such vehicles? Are we close?
This is a world changing, game changing, totally disruptive techology – the Lithium ion electric car. It is TRULY different from previous electric cars in that it actually can be used as practical personal mobility – transportation. Not that it can be used heroically. It can be used easily. I do it every day.
But we aren’t at the real START of the innovator level. And we won’t be for another 6.27 million vehicles.
Discouraged? Don’t be. Yes, of course we have now exactly ONE BRAZILLION viewers. You do understand that 99% of the people viewing come and view, and go away. Two hours of technical detritus delivered by a 57 year old guy in yellow shows with a speech impediment and Alzheimers is only attractive to a certain typ eof person – someone INTENTILY interested in the development of this infant technology.
And so in my mind, the future of an entire planet, our standard of living, our way of life, is hinged on a few thousand viewers who come back week after week and share the dream of devoting their lives to the cause.
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHERE WE ARE AND WHO YOU ARE?????
By that, I suppose I mean to ask you, do you have the faintest idea of how very important what you are doing right now in your garage is to the future. There are so precious few, and such a heartbreaking amount of work to yet do. If you listen to the evening news, you will be convinced it has ALREADY BEEN ACCOMPLISHED. It hasn’t even started. We are in the very early days of tinkerers and innovators and garage entrepreurs. Having lived and breathed the technology and the advantages of it lo these many (three) years, I am utterly convinced I know how it comes out. But we are not where you have been told we are. And so you are not who you thought you were.
Incidentally, Eric Kriss has assembled a very interesting paper on Chinese Battery Manufacture that has some truly startling information in it. Most startling is just how much of the TOTAL market for the Chinese Lithium cells that YOU comprise. I have alluded to this in the past. He’s put some real numbers to it. http://krissmotors.com/ebooks.php
I do NOT think this plays out with esisting OEM manufacturers and the Leaf, although they could be quite helpful along the way. It would be an astounding and historic first if it turns out to be so. I think this ultimately is an unholy alliance between Chinese prismatic batteries and a new breed of entrepreneur. I think the ultimate numbers will be provided by companies such as but not limited to Tesla Motors. And I can no more predict who they will be than I could have predicted eBay, Google, Facebook, or Cisco Systems twenty-five years ago. Two guys about to flunk out of some university somewhere probably, who can’t be bothered to attend their classes because they are working on an electric car…. eBay at the time was a Bulletin Board System (BBS) specializing in the online trading of Pez Dispensers if you must know…. We did a story on them I believe and I said they’d never amount to much but offered an interesting example of a very specialized online service.
There will literally be hundreds, and then thousands of startups coming out of this. Many will fail. Some will succeed. Some will succeed hugely. As I’ve said before, the Chairman of Toyota can FEEL the Winds of the Future. What he can’t do is BE the Winds of the Future. He’s got a full time job being Toyota.
YOU can be the Winds of the Future. The allure of this technology is so automatic and goes so viscerally to human desire, that it is destined to be a hugely disruptive world changing revolution in personal mobility. If you’ve read this much, you’re probably already part of it. Which part?
We have precisely 100 signed up for EVCCON 2011 scheduled for September 21-25 here in Cape Girardeau. And apparently 29 are bringing cars. I think I have a leak in my numbers because TWO people are claiming the SAME car in a couple of cases. So probably 25 cars. All LiFePo4 powered. And all gorgeous beyond belief.
If you are at all interested in WHERE WE ARE and WHO YOU ARE, it will be my distinct and notable privilege to greet you personally at this event. And I’ll be quite convinced I’m in the presence of the next Google or Tesla founder when I do so. Forgive me if I may be a little confused as to which of you is which.