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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