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We’ve built precisely two of the A123 modules of the third kind. I shouldn’t be excited over something we don’t REALLY know if it will work. And it IS risky. We’ve locked up 48 cells in urethane resin that can never be dug out again. If a single cell fails, we just tossed $1230 worth of cells out the window.

Of course, if a single foil fails in one of our normal prismatics, I suppose things start to go bad there as well.

So I’m thinking of it as a larger prismatic battery of 40volts and 75 Ah – car sized at 75 lbs.

The interesting thing is that it was designed by a landscaper from the North Coast of New South Wales, a battery guy from a small OEM in Lisbon Portugal, and neither of them have ever SEEN it before as the first assembly was in Cape Girardeau Missouri. ; And none of us even know each other beyond a brief introduction.

Michael Murray of New South Wales sent in the BLENDER animation we showed in last weeks episode. It was a direct embodiment of a connection scheme first described to us ny Celso Menaia of Lisbon. And we added a bit of aluminum as a heat sink and some Dascar Plastics RP-40 urethane casting resin. Actually about a gallon for each battery.

I confess my heart was NOT in the module project initially. But something about the A123 cells kept nagging at me. Often, I know something is important by looking at it, but for some time I cannot come up with just WHY I know it is important, or important in what way. In that situation, I just keep fooling with it and at some point it will tell me.

What this does is open the door to smaller, lighter, cheaper battery packs for smaller, lighter, cheaper electric cars. And why is that important to someone building a $160,000 Cadillac Escalade Project? Well, there are a lot of viewers who are not going to build an Escalade. That’s reality.

And we hear from a lot of viewers that are definitely going to build SOMETHING ,but seem stuck in “PARK” awaiting the signal to go.

We have been dismissive of lead acid cars as being “Science Projects” but in reality, that level of expenditure seems doable for most people, while the $17,500 required to do it our way does not.

I’ve been curiously unsympathetic. An aluminum john boat on a trailer with a trolling motor runs over $18,000 new now. So I remain curiously unsympathetic. My heroes, the real pioneers, routinely put down two or three times that for a build and are moving the token forward to change the world.

But it is of course true that all of this happens faster at a lower price.

So let’s change the game. And that requires some different assumptions.

Let’s talk about range. The lead guys swear they get 40 to 50 miles on a charge. This is where I fault them first. It’s a barefaced lie. They do not.

They might get it in theory, but in reality, 30 or 35 miles might be the range of their FIRST test drive. ANd it goes down steadily from there to five or six miles two years later when they park it.

If we defined our battery as 120v and 75 Ah for 9000 wH, and 225 lbs, we could probably do 35-50 miles on a single charge REALLY. We would be a half TON lighter than lead. Instead of a two year life, we have potentially a 10 year life.

I believe you could build these modules for around $1400 each. Three would be $4200, which is very different from $8500 or $10,000.

And do you know what? Not only is range anxiety not an issue for me at 80 miles or 100 miles, but my wife has been driving a car with a 45 mile range for months now and it hasn’t been a problem yet. We charge more often, but she really does NOT drive more than 45 miles per day.

The trick is the power output. The A123 cells we have TESTED to 23C – that is they made 475 amps in front of me while I was watching – from a series of three single cells. Yowsers.

ANd that means that despite it being a weenie 9000 wH pack, it could put out 1850 amps or so. Which is nearly TWICE what a Soliton1 will do and over THREE TIMES what the Curtis 1238-7601 can do. So we get not only FULL performance and FULL acceleration, but with a 225 lb pack, I would say OVER full acceleration.

Better, if you build a car this way, with this modest “test pack” in it and it all works out for you, but you need more range, what level of effort do you imagine you would face in wiring in three more of these? Picture a single Saturday afternoon.

So we think demonstrating this might just open up the EV project concept to a LOT of people that are avidly watching our show, but not actually turning a wrench at the moment.

This egregiously long and boring episode shows you how. We omitted the resin casting at the end, which is no big thing and we can cover it next week. But all the important and hard parts are there. It is a good bit of work. They do not assemble themselves. But we think it is a good design. Testing will tell. Note A123’s own module is in recall as we speak. These things aren’t easy. ANd I’m really NOT a packaging engineer.

We’re also a little giddy with cash flow these days. In the past week, we’ve sold over a dozen sets of the battery strap kits. This is simply a 70mm braided strap for a CALB 100 or 180Ah cell, a Thundersky 160 Ah cell or SOME Thundersky 100 Ah cells. We also throw in two stainless M8 bolts and two zinc coated Nordlock washers – the combination that has worked SO very well for us in the past year or so. We mentioned we’d sell these at $7 each and we’ve moved about 1000 straps in the first week.

This is no big deal. It’s a small thing. But God is in the details. Battery connections are a quick way to a stranded car. And we’ve kind of worked out over time how to simply avoid that entirely. We were getting straps from Australia, and now we have to get them in a relatively huge quantity from China in order to have them. But we think they’re a huge improvement over the copper straps provided with the cells.

This is the longest show we’ve ever done. As Mark Twain said, I would have written a shorter letter, but I hadn’t the time.

The close ups and the green chroma key have strained our editing equipment and software to the very limits of what they can do.


Jack Rickard