Share →

This week’s show is kind of a hodge podge. Again we are heat limited in Missouri as to actually doing very much.

We completed the rear battery boxes on the eCobra and moved to the belly boxes on each side of the vehicle behind the exhaust pipes. We did do a bit of cable work with the 2/0 shielded cable we’ve adopted to limit noise. I repeatedly call this TWO AWG in the video. Not sure why. It was always 2/0 and in fact that’s mostly what we’ve used for electric cars over the past years.

The underside of a car is a handy place to put cells out of the way and has been a tradition for many years. We have a 1994 van with all cells mounted underneath in a rack that hangs so low as to make the vehicle look impractical, which it probably is. Even the Tesla Model S has all batteries slung underneath.

The question of course comes up – what happens when it rains? I don’t have an answer actually. It’s kind of a moot point in an open cockpit roadster methinks. But a curious question nonetheless.

We actually did inherit a Ford Edge that was such a mess I have not mentioned it. We’ve fixed a few things, but are a long way from having much. The automatic transmission lurches alarmingly at all speeds. It needs 600-700 watt-hours to careen a mile down the road. Weighs 5000 lbs. One of the things we found was a truly curious propensity to build battery racks out of angle iron that lips over the top edge of the cells. This is quite heavy, quite strong, and secures the batteries quite famously. Unfortunately, it brings the frame iron within a tiny fraction of an inch of the terminals and I view all this with abject horror. Please don’t do this. It is a very effective technique for lead acid or AGM 6 or 12v cells, and it is probably suicidal with LiFePo4 cells. In this case, one rack underneath had the cells laying on edge facing forward with the terminals toward the front of the car and entirely open. Kind of like a battery snow plow using the terminals to break up the snow. I’ve never seen such a mess.

We’re gradually working some of the issues off this monster SUV, and my wife has curiously fallen in love with it, so I’m letting her drive it, but every time I see it lurching and careening down the road I wince.

In the case of the eCobra belly pans, they are enclosed. The cell terminals are actually quite distanced from the box walls. And in fact we have a piece of Weyerhauser Colorfast Deck to cover the terminals inside the box. This is a recycled plastic decking used for porches. It has enormous dielectric and of course physical strength. It’s a little heavy for this purpose, but quite effective.

The boxes do have external terminals. We put a boot on them, but they are I guess open to the elements if placed underwater. I suppose we could do a placard DO NOT RACE THIS CAR IN FLOODED AREAS across the trunk. But I really don’t know what would happen.

We do talk a bit about the OEM sales numbers. I’ve already been corrected by viewers who have accepted “spokesperson” numbers from the OEMs as being more accurate than mine. I don’t know quite how to react. I am frankly skeptical of any company that HAS an employee who’s title is “spokesperson”. In many companies, the CEO is the “spokesperson” almost by definition. In those that have dedicated professional “spokespersons” there is actually a reason. They are very good at making barefaced lies look and sound very much like open truthfulness. That’s why they were hired for the position. It’s all a little circular.

EVTV has no “spokesperson.”

So why have I adopted this anti-OEM position? First, I just don’t like blatant dishonesty. It is annoying. And it’s not effective. It puts a company in an adversarial relationship with their customer base. Not good.

But I see damage from this particular set of realities. First, the Nissan Leaf is by all accounts an excellent electric vehicle. The Volt is gasoline powered, but as best I can tell, a technological marvel and a pleasure to drive and own I am sure. I have NOTHING against these vehicles per se and do not denigrate the efforts of some obviously enormously talented engineers who created them.

The price/value proposition is a little vague. And that’s a problem.

First, they are electric drive “conversions” in a sense. The Chevy Volt is essentially identical to the Chevy Cruze, but with the hybrid “range extender” drive train. The Chevy Cruze features a MSRP starting at $16,525 and gets 26 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. The Volt features an MSRP starting at $39,145 and claims 60 mpg. The problem of course being I could buy TWO Cruze models and still have $6075 left over, more than enough to buy gasoline for BOTH of them for about a year and a half. Oh, and I still have to buy gasoline for the Volt.

????? What kind of thing is this? Is there any wonder GM sold 24,648 Cruze’s in July, and 125 Volts?

The spokesperson spin is just bizarre. First, Chevrolet is retooling to expand production to 60,000 units per year. But nearly a year ago they claimed they were expanding production capacity to 110,000 units per year. Like our Congress in reverse, Chevrolet is now professing a CUT of 50,000 units per year is an INCREASE. I need to hold a seminar on comparing numbers to determine which is larger and which is smaller. I think I could make a fortune just in auto executives and politicians.

GM actually sold 214,915 vehicles across the line in July. Volts of course comprising 0.0582 PERCENT of that total.

They also claimed that the Volts that were sold spend an average of 13 days at the dealers. Quite comical, this average does NOT include the Volts NOT sold. And there are plenty of them. A recent poll of Chevrolet dealers was discontinued after the researcher determined that ALL of the first few dozen he called indeed had Volts in stock awaiting drivers.

The “spokesperson” also claims they can sell all the Volts they can make. Of course they can. At some price. Some where. New cars just don’t go “unsold” forever. They are disposed of in some manner or other eventually.

Why am I on about this? We are largely shaped by the perceptions of the public, which is largely shaped by the broader news media. The next shoe to drop is the “What Happened to the Electric Car” story. The same group of reporters touting all of this for years now will turn about face without a BLINK (they are kind of like Spokespersons in this regard) and seize on the story of the “bloodbath” in electric vehicle sales complete with stories on stranded motorists who just didn’t make it home. Stay tuned. We are just weeks away from this.

And since it will then be proven irrefutably that American drivers do NOT want electric cars, we can move on to other tasks. The plans of automakers who didn’t get to market so fast can be “extended” and eventually back benched so far as to be effectively removed from play. And producing no electric cars, we’ll all sit back to await the fall in battery prices that will never occur because they won’t be producing any.

A dark scenario. All over a car that was never truly electric.

By establishing the value of the Cruze in the market, and offering the Volt at over twice the price, what is the value proposition to a buyer? Very poor. So how is this a good example of an electric car? Not to speak of it’s propensity to burn gasoline?

Won’t matter. It is what it is. Complete with plausible deniability. “We tried.”

This makes the ground harder to plow for any would-be participants including Tesla. But startups? The funding will dry up as if it were never there. Battery technology? Ditto.

This is REALLY most damaging. The higher the expectations, the more dashed the reality.

And in truth, these cars simply do not fit the business model of the automobile manufacturers. Nissan a year ago was braying like a donkey that they had the cost of the battery down to $9000. Last week they were quoted on a single module replacement in the UK at $682. As there are 48 modules in the pack, you are north of $31,000 replacement cost in a car priced at $32,768 – again roughly TWICE the cost of the identical car coming off the same production line that is NOT electric. This is an apparent 350% markup on the batteries. Guys, that is NOT an unusual markup by Mr. Goodwrench on an automobile part. And that IS part of their business model. Every fan belt, every filter, every spark plug, every gasket. It mounts up to a PILE of parts in the life of a car. And done at the dealership, it amounts to a HUGE amount of consumables and a lot of the profit in making the car.

Where is Tesla in all this. They’re kind of a clean sheet of paper. But you will recall that at one point in their development, they were purportedly selling a two seat sports car for $109,000. The problem was it was costing them $146,000 to make each car NOT counting R&D. And there’s no “consumable” downline except the battery pack. Most of the repair parts on the car would come from Lotus – whether or not you bought them through Tesla.

So they started over with the Model S. I believe that the people in this company truly believe in the electric car, and I have a deposit down on a Model S without even knowing what the pricing on the car is. Remarkably, 5600 other people have made the same leap of faith. But I have to wonder about the battery technology and what we do when they fail. A brand new $77,000 car with ZERO resale value? A $75,000 battery replacement cost? What?

In any event, the “early adopter” phase of electric cars would be marked in theory by a 2.5% market share. On our normal 15 million per year production, that’s 375,000 cars per year. That’s an achievable number. But it HAS to be made from cars that are appealing to early adopters. And $16,000 economy cars, complete with lipstick and high heels, just aren’t.

It might be counterintuitive, and even ironic, but I CAN afford $77,000 for an advanced technology all aluminum frame electric car with a 19 inch display and seating for 7 in a European sedan. I CANNOT afford $42,000 for a Chevrolet Cruze. This is the heart of the “value proposition” of which I speak.

David Hrivnak drove his EMIS Avalanche from Kingsport Tennessee to our facility to show what he’s done with this and make his case for his position as one of 10 finalists in the EVTV Build Your Dream EV contest. Unfortunately, while we did a complete walk around on this very interesting experiment, El BRAINO left the audio off on five walk around segments that are subsequently OMITTED from this week’s show. My most sincere apologies to Mr. Hrivnak, who nonetheless did a great job describing the project.

The blizzard of surreal is not limited to the cars. There are announcements daily, a blizzard of press releases, and the most GORGEOUS images on the World Wide Web, of componentry and technology for electric cars that extend belief. Tragically, they either do not EXIST, are a heroically stupid idea, a solution in search of a problem or all the above in some combination. Unobtanium punctuated by unnecessary in many cases.

I LOVE the idea of inductive charging. Have since Nicolas first proposed it. I would love to have a highway system replete with it. I can see it in my mind. What I cannot see is it in my garage. A 10% efficiency penalty works out to 15 cents for the eight seconds it takes to plug in a cord. That’s $67.50 per hour wage. If I offered a position for a qualified technician to go from garage to garage across the land plugging in cars, how many applicants would I get at $67.50 per hour? Answer: ALL of them.

Meanwhile, the very small scale tinkerers and innovators plug away in their garage, trying to get a 14 year old BMW to whisper into life and turn into a magic carpet. He thinks he’s alone. And he’s pretty sure it won’t work. He’s terrified of the batteries – their cost, their safety, and how to use them. He saved $2400 by not buying that hydraulic lift – already a serious mistake. The running gear and body is NOT quite in the shape he thought when he bought it. And he really doesn’t have much of a plan about that air conditioner.

And most discouraging of all, there are all these REAL engineers out there with REALLY COOL stuff like $35,000 AC drivetrains, inductive charging, wheel motors, highly engineered battery modules, and THEY really know what they are doing and can make cars that would be REALLY cool. You want proof? You can see it on the web…

How am I supposed to respond to this? You see, in my world, this guy is a hero, Netgain actually sells motors, batteries are GOOD things, and a Federal budget CUT is a SMALLER number….

That’s how VERY out of it I am.

We’re going to put our head down, make cars that drive like magic carpets, and videos that have some SERIOUS audio problems. And we’re going to keep doing all of that until we win. If it takes five years, I was hoping to live five years anyway. If it takes ten, I’ll have to quit smoking and lose a few pounds..