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We managed to do a show in LESS than two hours this week which was a considered accomplishment in which we take no small pride.

I tend to through everything I have on hand into each weekly missive. But we’ve had too much. A three hour show is too long and it’s too hard to deal with with regards to file size as well. So I’ve hired three 24 year-old blond coeds to replace Richard and I and the missing Noto.

We’ll add some rapper music and a lot of sliding video cuts and be kind of like trick television.

Or maybe not.

I am kind of excited about something on the video front. November 1 marks the release of Popcorn and Popcorn maker. EVTV operates on two fronts. It IS all about electric vehicles. But not entirely. It’s also an experiment in video production, editing, and monetization. I kind of predicted a merge of video and the web back in 1994. I’ve been carefully watching the perfect storm of video cameras, video editing on the PC, and bandwidth strategies and the web for 18 years since. EVTV is an experiment in that. ANd it is coming along famously.

But so far, video is a picture pane in the space of the web. You have web text and links surrounding a window onto video that is remarkably as video always was. Popcorn is the earliest of a predicted series of innovations that actually COMBINE video with the Internet in ways you might only
imagine. Far beyond clickable links in video but just imagine THAT. Popcorn is a Mozilla project to do a javascript version of HTML5 that is truly interactive video. Popcorn maker is of course the editor. It is very early and very ugly. But it will come. Kind of if you show up they will build it. November 1 is supposed to be their 1.0 release. Another learning curve. But it should take us to entirely new frontiers.

The extant video of Cable TV and discovery channel I have marked down as the walking dead for several years. We don’t do oxyclean and I can’t fire 45% of our viewers who are outside the U.S. and Canada. But the Internet Nerd part of Jack Rickard is still very much involved in the network and in aspects of future video. In fact, I how have TWO daughters in mass communications programs at two different universities learning about what I think of as OLD style video editing and broadcast. But they are both way out ahead of their class with cameras and video projects all about the net. It’s ok for them to pick up a little history in a formal classroom. But futurevid is going to be VERY disruptive to “TV” as we know it. But the past few years, with the wars between Flash and Apple and what HTML5 would look like and the browsers has been a mess. Something like POPCORN will build a fire under that and cause it all to gel.

The big news this week is probably the Society of Automotive Engineers SAE J1772-2012-10 Electric Vehicle and Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Conductive Charge Coupler of course. We finally have a standard for fast charging. It is replete with sly efforts to shut out non-OEM participants but we are confident we can find a wormhole to slither through to get there and I would hope by Spring to be fast charging at will. I think using PLC as the digital communications path is a huge mistake. But it’s all doable. Protocols are in the end just protocols.

As to our PulsaR, five of our initial 10 are already bespoke. Non-trivial at $3499 I think. The bad news is the November 15 date appears to be slipping. We’ve never hit a date or a 50/50 shot in all my years. Not once. But we’ll not take money until I’ve had one in my hands and made it charge in front of me several different ways and then have 9 more in the shop.

That Tesla is talking about a national grid of supercharging stations NOT of the SAE variety is madness. I suppose they COULD force a secondary standard. They kind of did with the Roadsters. But this is not good medicine.

I am very encouraged to be hearing from a LOT of new blood with NEW builds getting into the game. I think we are going to get to a place where these components are more plug and play like stereo components where just about anybody can wire them up easily. That’s very much how it needs to go. And I think you’ll have a couple of DC and a couple of AC options to pick from depending on vehicle size and desired performance.

I referred to a gentleman in this video innovating an ammo box bottom balancer and noted that we would probably carry it in the store. He has this morning taken great joy in informing me in very gloating fashion that he found a source for our voltmeter that is less expensive and “sorry – have to do it on a budget.”

Knowing the history, I’m trying to picture his car if we had sought to do EVTV “on a budget”.

I’m sympathetic. Who wants to “pay more”. But that ragpicker mentality is precisely what has driven EV DIY conversions to 30 years of electric junk cars and a very very bad reputation. EVTV is hell bent on moving toward the custom car SEMA model featuring gorgeous builds and high craft builders. And to do that we need better components more slickly packaged where everyone doesn’t have to go on an easteregg hunt for every cable, wire, and nut to piece it together AFTER they’ve bought the thing and waited for two months to receive it. That’s not the program. If you want to dig through the junk pile and take delight in every quarter saved, be my guest. I’m kind of picturing that in the end, you’ll wind up with a car about like the ones you were gleaning parts off of. But like Bridge, Chess, and Hand Grenades, it can all be played on a lot of different levels.

And we’re going to have to leave a few behind. It’s true, you can download our instructions and bird dogging and selection, and then go find the piece for less money elsewhere. If that’s your game, you move off my radar screen. It’s like painting an L on your forehead with lipstick. And I don’t want my mommy to find out I’ve been playing with those kids again. Everything we offer here we get somewhere else. The mission is to make it easier for our builders and give them a place to get it where they don’t put their funds at risk of predators. Which is precisely the way predators think too.

A LOT of reaction to the bottom balancing segment already before I even had a chance to blog this. To me it sounds repetitive. But I guess we add a few new viewers each week. With several years of successfully running these batteries, and several years as well of successfully ruining batteries, battery care boils down to a couple of things that are pretty simple.

1. All cells in a string need to be at more or less the same state of charge.

2. Don’t overcharge them.

3. Don’t over discharge them.

Can a cell simply fail and cause problems? I guess so. But we really have only had this happen on brand new packs within the first cycle or two. Once they are cooking, we just haven’t had cell “failures” in the expected sense.

You DO have to guard against accidentally introducing small parasitic loads. Lke you wouldn’t want to jump start an ICE car off of four of your cells because it would unbalance them. And instrumentation famously causes small parasitic loads.

There is even a school of thought out there that swelling is normal and you should constrain your cells to mechanically limit the swelling. Swelling is NOT normal. It comes from overcharge or overdischarge and in all cases represents cell damage. It is caused by gassing of the electrolyte solvents.

To prevent overdischarge, we bottom balance the cells. You can still overdischarge. But the cells cummulatively can’t make enough current to drive the car and damage a weak cell because they are all weak to about the same degree. Then we undercharge them slightly so none of them are unhappy or overcharged. And with today’s cells, the differences in capacity tend to limit that to a couple of amp hours of undercharge. Maybe a mile of range. Small price to pay for long cell life.

In practice, after just a few days I know what my pack voltmeter should read after charging. It is just very consistent. The charger is kind of hardwired and so are the cells. So a 36 cell pack is going read about 119-120 volts and actually mostly 120. If it reads something different on any particular morning, I’m going to wind up wanting to find out why. My 57 cells in the Escalade just always wind up at 188. Same thing. We had one cell fail in the first couple of cycles. I kind of had it marked as a possible bad just from bottom balancing it. It didn’t “feel” right. The first morning it wasn’t 188 I went and checked it. Sure enough, it was about 0.8v. I didn’t even bother. Just swapped it out. Some you gotta throw back. Fortunately, we have had this with two or three cells in four years.

As I explain in the video, a thing can be technically true without being technically relevant. It’s all a matter of context. The example I uses was heat. Perhaps heat shortens the life of the cell. But what does that mean. If extreme and constant heat – 120F all the time, cuts 1% off your cell life, why would you worry about heat? If it’s 24% cut in cell life, you cool em. Can it be in between? Sure. Nissan reports they think they see a 4% decrease in cell life for 300 cars in Arizona. At that rate, I don’t care.

They think a BMS is absolutely necessary. So far, it has got them a lot of angry Leaf owners in Arizona and a class action lawsuit in California. And when they say the batteries are good I tend to believe them. Their BMS hasn’t burned down any of the cars. But it has the potential to burn down the car company. Before it’s all over, I would predict they will be taking a closer look at bottom balancing as well.

We have added the Revolextrix PowerLab8 Battery Workstation to our online store and are now a dealer for them. Yes, you can probably find them for less. But we’ve packaged the items you need to do largish cells for EVs rather than radio controlled helicopters. The more I work with this device the better I like it. It can charge, discharge, and cycle cells. It makes pretty graphs and you can easily export the data to tab delimited format for import into Excel. You can set the period you measure at. And it is just endlessly configurable allowing you to easily setup configurations for each type of batery you use. It is reasonably hardy. I don’t know that I would do 40 amps with it but at 30 it seems to work well off a 12 volt battery. Discharge is limited to 10A internally but if you are dumping it in a battery you can do up to 40 amps in theory. Beautiful graphs and unattended operation. It’s basically a PulsaR in miniature. As Peter McWade points out, you can even do a constant current constant voltage discharge to take them down almost exactly where you want them.

We had another major discovery with Speedster Nippon. Ok. We didn’t discover anything, we just stole it from Fred Behning. I would have bought it from him but he doesn’t sell it. ROCK-IT. Spray on bed liner. I love it. Black textured finish that hardens to an unbelievably durable finish that is non-conducting and best of all BLACK. As we say at EVTV: paint it black and it will disappear. Fred’s MG TD replica was just gorgeous and while the exterior paint was nice, his engine compartment was what wowed me with this black, sound deadening finish.

Parts selection is what it is all about. I have done these Speedsters before but somehow ordered a 1/4 NPT version of the MEAS pressure transducer. Ordered a 1/8 NPT and our problem with it extending below the level of the lower front shield just went away. The controller won’t be able to tell the difference of course. No idea why the 1/8th NPT is also a LOT shorter than the 1.4, We now offer both in the store. And undoubtedly you can get them less expensively somewhere else.

Hoping for a good week with Speedster Nippon. Keep building. Keep driving. Keep grinning.

Jack Rickard