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Despite the intense heat, we had a pretty good week this week. Brain installed a new carburetor on the VW THING. We don’t do a lot of carburetors here at EVTV. But were driven to in this case in order to get it running well enough to license it and perhaps send it out for paint.

We had purchased the car from KOMPACTKARKORNER on eBay. Here’s their description of the car:

Hello Collectors! This is the most fun for the buck! 1974 Volkswagon Thing and if these cars were not unique enough this one has a custom flair! Brand new alloy wheels and new radials. New convertible top. new seat covers and CoCo mats. Nice solid rust free west coast body! Tow bar included – Perfect for the motorhome tow behind. Dare to stand out of the crowd!

Can be previewed and test driven at Dealership: Kompact Kar Korner – 17510 HWY 99 Lynnwood WA 98037 – Bid with confidence – We have been on the same corner since 1971. Financing available , Trades accepted, We can help with cross country or worldwide shipping – Call for quote – Or fly in and drive it home, We will pick you up at the airport.

The company had 100% positive feedback on eBay. We’ve bought a number of cars on eBay over the years. We did get taken on a MG TC at one point, but by far and away most purchases have not only been good, but some were actually better than we expected.

It took nearly six weeks to GET the car, with one bizarre excuse after another. When we did receive it, we were very pleased we didn’t fly out to drive it home. We wouldn’t have gotten far. The battery in the car was actually installed backwards. We could start it, but it wouldn’t run under any kind of load and could not be driven. The turn signals and the windshield wipers were not only inoperative, but blew fuses.

Since we are going to remove the engine anyway, this doesn’t pose a lot of inconvenience. The body, although suffering from some amateurish restoration efforts, is in pretty fair shape. We’re replacing the transmission to get better gearing for electric drive. And there’s really not much to the car. But it was not as described and quite overpriced for what we received. So I posted negative feedback on the service and took my lumps.

I was astounded to receive a notice from eBay that the negative feedback had been REMOVED. They had convened, at the request of this dealer, some sort of review board, with no knowledge on my part, and decided to remove the feedback. They hoped I understood. I don’t.

The company STILL has 100% positive feedback. And apparently have mastered some sort of feedback appeal process to make sure it stays that way. Meanwhile, we found on Google several feedbacks indicating these guys are among the WORST players online in vehicles with a long chain of apparent frauds and shady dealing.

I’m not too upset about the car. But I AM upset with eBay who have apparently VERY quietly gutted their feedback mechanism to pander to dealers, who obviously pay the lions share of the eBay commissions.

I was surprised that the eBay administrators actually exchanged several e-mails with me that did not seem to be boilerplate. I simply informed them that if their feedback mechanism had been reversed in this case, I can safely assume it has been reversed in other cases as well and so could not be relied on in a purchase decision. No problem. We just won’t buy any cars there any more.

I suppose since I’ve bought about a dozen this way, they did have the grace to seem alarmed at this, but indeed explained they HAD been doing this for some time. I did point out that my feedback as to satisfaction isn’t really subject to review, I’m either satisfied or NOT satisfied and I kind of get to define that, the problem is that eBay now doesn’t share that with other potential buyers. And so a blatant cheat is operating on the service with 100% positive feedback. I think this guts the heart of the eBay gig. And indeed, we would be very hesitant to make any large purchase on the service in the future of any kind, as we don’t know what negative feedback has been REMOVED from the ratings. There is no indication of this at all of course.

I find it enormously surprising that eBay would not risk, but basically forfeit their reputation on this matter just to keep the dealers happy and the ducats flowing in. In the long term, this is very bad policy.

The bottom line, is be VERY careful on eBay purchasing cars. The bad guys have not only gotten on the service, but have figured out precisely how to game it to do repeated fraudulent sales without anyone alerted to it. This kind of makes eBay complicit in the frauds. Again, I’m just surprised they would participate.

But brain has it running now. It smokes and is a weak engine, but it will get us around to get licked and painted and so forth. And the car does indeed suit my sense of whimsey. Should be an easy conversion.

The sale of components has put me MUCH more in touch with our viewership and what they are doing. I’m personally cognizant of a round dozen conversions going on at the moment and I have to say I am just delighted with what I’m seeing. I don’t know if it is our work, or the validation of all the reports of OEM activity, or what, but we’re seeing a lot of GREAT conversions going on using very interesting and delightful vehicles. And largely by people much more qualified than I to do them. The DIY thing is not just alive, but thriving.

Ed Pezant of Louisianna showed up to pick up his Netgain Warp 11, 64 CA180FI cells and a SOliton1. He’s 74 years old. And he shows up in a pickup truck that runs on BOTH diesel and propane. Not EITHER diesel or propane, but BOTH at the same time. And he’s personally engineered a system of pressure sensing that does away with ALL of the electronics and meter an appropriate amount of propane into the mix during all driving regimes. This huge truck does a 14 second quarter mile.

Alan Kristman joins us this week from Cedar Rapids. This 42 year old engineer I fear will not find his Audi TT much of a challenge frankly with a Netgain Warp 9 and 50 CA180FI cells with a SOliton. It’s basically a new beetle, and I think he’ll have it done before he hardly has it started. But it should be a very cool car. The rear seats are totally useless and fold down into an obvious battery box. The Audi body is much sportier than the new VW Beetle it is based on and this should just be a gem.

But underlying all of this is kind of a cross validation I detect between the OEM electric car efforts and the DIY conversions. Several of our viewers report directly CAUSING Leaf and Volt sales using their converted vehicles as demonstrators. And we’re seeing a large number of new conversions being tackled by first timers who have been thinning on it for years in many cases. This is the classic situation in the “formative stage of a new industry” as outlined in any Business 101 level course – anything anybody does is a good thing in getting the industry off the ground. But I had clearly underestimated the commingling of body fluids between the conversion crowd and the new electric car buyers.

And the components and things are just getting better all the time. Vendors such as Netgain, HPEVS, and EVnetics are just getting us better components. As should be obvious by now, I’m enormously excited by the new CA series cells. In gleaning the wheat from the chaff for our online store we’re finding better bits and piece parts. And so it is getting easier to gain a good result in the conversion process.

In this episode, Damien Maguire of Ireland places life and limb in jeopardy with some serious home brew testing of a CA180FI. The results are remarkable. We will try to validate them but I want’ to do it in somewhat more controlled fashion using the much smaller 40Ah cells which should be here next week. It will be very interesting to put three of those in a string and putting it at a solid 10C for 30 seconds and recording the voltage. I also intend to do the experiment at 5.55C to match what we did with the SE180’s in Speedster Redux at 1000 amps. We should then have some ironclad data on how much more powerful these cells really are under load. But Damien’s work was impressive enough – he’s looking to the CA series for his next build i”m told.

Tesla released their earnings after the close of business on July 25 and followed up with a conference call for about an hour. I found two things quite informative of this.

First is delays in production. Despite delivering 10 cars and claiming victory on shipping ahead of the announced date, they are actually in arrears of schedule in the reality of the factory floor. And so they have released the information that not only are they not going to report monthly vehicle sales any time soon, but their deliveries will be heavily skewed to the FOURTH QUARTER with a scant 500 cars planned for the third quarter – July/August/September. This kind of explains why our heretofore enthusiastic contact at Tesla whom we were talking about delivering my car at EVCCON, an obviously promotional opportunity for Tesla, suddenly can’t return a phone call. I find that a little unprofessional and would much prefer they just honestly tell us they can’t support the event.

The Elon Musk explanation for the delays is actually quite believable and does not appear to be the usual corporate problem with truth and honesty. They’re having supplier problems with just a few of the bit parts on the car. They’re showing up and not up to spec, or not showing up at all. He claims that 90% of the parts on the car are unique to Tesla. I hadn’t thought about this, but it makes sense. Other than some knobs and turn signals and upholstery items, what parts WOULD it share with a GM or a Ford. AC/Delco just doesn’t do these guys much good.

Example put forth were the door handles. I love this kind of detail. The door handles are very aero being essentially flush with the body. But when you approach, they pop out so you can open the door. I kind of have a problem with this as it is an obvious failure item that would be very frustrating to deal with and hard to have repaired or replaced. But essentially the chrome on the handles they were receiving was obviously pitted and he didn’t want to deliver a $90K sedan with something this obvious reflecting the sunlight onto the buyers eye. Makes sense actually. So they have to find another company to do the plating. Chrome plating actually is under fire by the EPA and it is just a very small group of platers that will even fool with it anymore with some many onerous restrictions on their handling of the chemicals involved.

But Elon’s attention to detail is impressive and laudable. Can he then stamp out 4500 cars in the last three months of the year? Remains to be seen. But I don’t think it’s really a show stopper. The explanation rings pretty true.

The second thing was his allusion to the Supercharge. The questioners were clearly familiar with the concept of fast charging and battery swapping and 90kw home charging units. But Elon brushed all that aside and very specifically noted that it was NOT what they were thinking and that it would in fact change the way people thought about electric cars. He couldn’t talk about it until September but was REALLY excited by it.

All that tells me that our guess on the Solar CIty charging stops using photovoltaics and batteries, spotted at about 100 points across the West Coast, was actually quite on target. The reason he can’t talk about it is it is illegal to do so. I’m sure they are in the quiet period mandated by the SEC prior to an Initial Public Offering and that an IPO of Solar City is in the offing. Since he thinks he CAN talk about it in September, I would look for it in August or September.

The “changing the way people think” thing I believe is a reference to two things. Once, is if you are within 50 miles of a fast charge station at all times in a car with 300 mile range, you just have to give up the range anxiety excuse. It no longer makes sense. But more importantly, the oil fortress paid critics kind of have to give up the long tailpipe idiocy in the conversation. If you charge at a Solar City station powered by photovoltaics, there is no long tail pipe. What about your home charging? Solar City already has a program for that. The cross pollination or “synergies” between the two then become obvious. Tesla becomes a driver for Solar City rooftop installations and Solar City becomes an enabler for Tesla cars, and the long tailpipe argument trails off into the nonsense it truly always was. EV’s have always been green. Now they are incontrovertibly green. You just can’t make the argument.

And those synergies also become obvious in a SOlar City IPO. There are 160,000 gas stations in the country and they are IMMENSELY profitable. Shortcut to millionaire status is pretty much all about building gas station chains. Gasoline itself is actually not only not that profitable, but in many cases not profitable AT ALL. But the markup on 128 oz Pepsi’s is astounding. You can sell them for 90 cents and keep about 80 cents of it. HoHo’s, DingDongs, and Cheetohs are also quite profitable. Ice. Beer. Cigarettes. IN California, Latte. Frappia. Veggie burgers. You get the picture. With even a fast charge taking 30 minutes, it can be a very profitable 30 minutes and that will not be lost on SOlar City investors.

And all that could be upscaled in California. Wine instead of beer. Medical Marijuana in place of cigarettes. Latte in place of coffee. Fresh fruit in place of HoHo’s. NO. HoHo’s included even in California. It could even be expanded after the fashion of Cracker Barrel with a full restaurant, a knick knack store offering gadgetry instead of “Kuntry” goods. An Apple iPhone store?

And so a place to stop and play and eat and drink and charge – from the sun. And batteries. Lots of batteries.

We finally got our HP Tuners program up and running and talking to the ECU in the Elescalade. We kind of knew this was going to be required back last November when we purchased it. We didn’t know the authentication and protection would be as thoroughly dicked up as it is. But the guys at HP Tuners product support did finally get us up and running with the software, and we can now read and write the EEPROM in the ECU and transmission control unit (TCU). These are referred to as the Vehicle Control Module (VCM) and Transmission Control Module (TCM) in the software, which also works with Fords and some other cars with differing nomenclature.

The software comes with a USB cable that connects to the Onboard Diagnostics Level II (OBDII) connector beneath the steering while.

The existence of all of this has nothing to do with electric cars. The OBDII is for diagnostics and repair of course. HPTuners exists to “tune” the fuel/air mix, transmission shifts, etc. for the LS engines and this 6L80E transmission for performance. There is a cottage industry of people dropping these engines, conventional in Corvettes and Cadillacs, into Camaro’s and Firebirds. ANd they can get another 20 horsepower out of those vehicles by “tuning” the ignition, spark advance, fuel flow, air flow, etc. that is set by the factory software in the ECU. They can also get firmer faster shifts and torque converter lockups for racing applications. And so it exists.

About 90% of all of that is useless for electric cars. But 10% is kind of key.

Heretofore, most conversions of such cars with modern transmissions and engines have to do with gutting all that and replacing it with something else. Indeed we bought a TCI transmission as a backup because you COULD tune it. ANd of course we could run the Soliton’s off the throttle pedal output. We didn’t want to. We wanted to actually run an electric car THROUGH the ECU and TCU of the transmission in the car. EVENTUALLY, this working THROUGH the ECU will allow us full control of everything. BUt it’s mostly little things. We will be able to use the gas gage with an amp hour counter. We already get a tach signal to the instruments and TEMPERATURE indication of our motor using existing gages. But it goes to a lot of little surprising things like A/C operation, backup camera operation, even the little PRNDL indicator of what gear you are in. On the Escalade, this is not a mechanical pin but a little LIGHT that is controlled by the 6L80E. Remote start. Theft deterrence. Why would we need that? For the air conditioning of course. Cruise control. The list is endless although everything on it is a small item.

This ends ultimately with a total rewrite of the EEPROM for an electric vehicle. But I don’t think we have to do all that in one swallow. We are basically trying to prove that parts of it can be done. It would properly be left to others to actually DO an EV version of the ECU. But it clearly COULD BE DONE at this point. And we’ll tackle pieces of it as we go.

In THIS episode we get the vehicle moving. ANd it moves in very satisfactory manner right now. That causes the EV grin. I’m not a real granny kind of guy. BUt I have to tell you that this week I’m grinning on the inside. It is quite a relief to get the thing rolling at all. IT always is.

Jack Rickard