The news this week was sobering. Despite my caterwauling about American battery companies that arrogantly refused to sell us battery cells, and the obvious karmic infractions thereof demanding their recompense and appropriately so, there is simply no joy in Mudville over the incumbent funeral expenses incurred in the current debacle of battery companies.
First to blow was of course Enerdel/Ener1. They put $89 million into Think, proving the wisdom of BUYING a customer instead of selling cells to us. Think tanked. And took Enerdel with it.
Little known is that Ener1 DID survive bankruptcy – thanks to an $81 million cash infusion (less than their investment in THINK poetically, The prince to rescue them was none other than Boris Zingarevich, a Russian businessman with ties to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
And so after $118 million in Federal tax funds, and $80 million in investment from state and local governments, the technology developed with the Argonne National Lab in Illinois at another untold brazillian dollars, is now wholly owned by the Russians for a measly $81 million.
Last week, we discussed the dark cloud over A123 regarding their recall of the same 20 Ah prismatic cells we have been struggling to develop a use for and a package for. Again, this company abusively declined to sell these cells not only to us, but to anyone daring to do a custom or one-off vehicle conversion as they were solely dedicated to selling to OEMs. Again, they invested $30 million in Fisker to BUY a more desirable customer than we represented. Fisker too is in the process of failing most horribly, despite hundreds of millions of dollars of US Depertment of ENergy direct loans and of course A123 received a $249 million GRANT to build their factory in Livonia Michigan.
Fisker did not produce the 15000 cars in 2011 that A123 was so hugely counting on. They suffered a recall of a couple hundred for a coolant leak in the battery pack. And now recall about 600 Fiskers for this battery cell fiasco at a cost estimated by company CEO David Vieau at $55 million.
In case that doesn’t strike you as sufficiently funereal, last week SEVEN major law firms filed shareholder class action lawsuits. This morning that count is now up to EIGHT and the companies shares are trading at $1.05, somewhat down from the $25 peak reached shortly after their Initial Public Offering in 2010.
The company is essentially mortally wounded, but the technology will remain attractive and someone will undoubtedly scarf this up for a bargain at the bankruptcy – which has not been announced but we predict will be momentarily.
Does any pattern suggest itself? Lithium batteries are proving quite expensive to us as taxpayers as well as to builders. That $249 million federal investment now running a total of 600 Fiskers works out to about $415,000 per car just for the cells. That makes $106,000 for the car look like a REAL value proposition. We’ll buy one two years from now on ebay for $30,000, yank that little piston popper, and TRY to get it running again.
And the irony of ourselves being forced to buy these cells and have them imported from China instead of 300 miles up the road?
The cells are no panacea. Our flat pack continues to swell in cost and weight and complexity for what will most likely be a 6000wH little bundle of energy at 120v. That’s 30 miles range in the very best possible scenario. And I’ve probably got 60-80 hours in the pack so far.
The good news is it will have a fuse, a contactor, and a shunt built in. And the cells are proving very efficient in the charging roundtrip and bottom balance very well. We DID lose a cell to a short that was simply unprovoked. Just sitting overnight after bottom balancing did the trick. I’m fearful we may have gotten our own allotment of cells from tab welding machine number four. It could also possibly explain our failures with the earlier 40v resin modules. We did run them up and down a couple of times before pouring, but it is possible.
Motor mounts for the Escalade prove a bit more reluctant than we had planned. One of the issues is access to the bolts that connect our flex plate to the torque converter. We lack the largish starter motor hole of the original engine. Mr. Husted provided us a very tiny hole just large enough for a socket – but oriented to the wrong way. As we had provided him a dummy used transmission, and paid him a stupid amount of money to marry these two motors, I’m a little butt sore over this. We’ll have to hog out a bit of the motor end plate to accommodate this and we’ll probably enlarge the access hole in the bottom of the transmission as a backup.
We have reverted to the stock motor mounts and Brain has devised a clever mounting system I think that will just work by about a 32nd of an inch. I hope….
In this week’s episode, John Allen updates us on his Toyota build with a frightening foray into battery box warming techniques. And Royce Wood shows how to use an automatic transmission and NOT idle the transmission to maintain hydraulic pressure, employing an external hydraulic pump instead. A very thrifty conversion of a Mercury Cougar underway there using a $300 GE forklift motor.
We’ve also heard from Rich Rudman, of Manzanita Micro who will be presenting at the Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention. We did not mention, and have NO knowledge of ANY three phase AC inverter announcement from this company. WE know NOTHING about this. Nor has Otmar been pledged to appear at the convention as yet. And we of course deny any knowledge of a new control board for the PFC series giving it programmability. Though we fervently wish we did.
But Rich does have a 12 cell version of his Rudman Regulator and will be bringing his electric Mustang which is purported to be quite a build. It must have a daughter mode as he is bringing his daughter. Actually I think she runs the company and I suspect she’s the one who forced the visit to EVCCON. Bidness being bidness.
Alsno not unveiled until NEXT week’s show is the decision by George Hamstra to offer a drawing for a Netgain Warp 9 motor at the closing dinner – must be present to win. You’ll be able to sign up for the drawing at the Netgain booth in our about to be unveiled vendor area and the motor will be on display at the dinner. We can probably help you hoist it out to your car afterwards.
Keegan Han of China Aviation Lithim Battery Copmany will also be speaking at the event and participating in the Vendor area. I’m squeezing him for some sort of show discount at the event. But he’s thrifty. You might send him a note of thanks for supporting the event at email@example.com
The Brain is working with the Show Me Center staff this week to work out the layout, but we’re hopeful to have a map soon of a large session area, a very nice vendor display area, and an indoor car display area all in 32,000 sf. They claim to have limitless 240vac and are working on a grant for J1772 charge stations as well.
I don’t think they actually have a concept of what limitless means, or how much electricity 80 or 90 thirsty cars can drink. But of course we’ll also have charging at the shop and at the airport and perhaps at the car show in the park.
Registrations are lagging, while the number of e-mails of people claiming to not only attend, but bring cars are climbing dramatically. I don’t know what this means. Perhaps the June 1 deadline on the discount was too generous. So my mailbox looks like 800 and 100 cars, and our registrations look like a disaster. Please sign up soon so we know we have a show to go to that week.
And know, I have no idea where Brain and I went during three minutes of today’s video. Probably to take a pee.