Share →

This week I seem to be coming down with the influenza that is not rampant across the land. Joy. I love influenza. Particularly the joy of breathing after it is over.

We are struggling with Speedster Nippon. The car has been ready for weeks. We do have some licensing issues to get through as there is apparently some adantage in Japan to having a car licensed in Missouri. How di I get involved in this stuff? The rest has been instrumentation issues. Largely because I believed the RechargeCar guys when they told me the AutoblockAmp was finally ready for primetime and indeed kind of suckered in on a new feature from HPEVS about their Curtis 1238 software that it would output the rpm data that it undoubtedly does have to a tachometer. I so believed this that I bought 10 of the optoisolators they make for the store.

Both have been hugely problematical. The RechargeCar guys are actually coming this week to see for themselees. Maybe something simple I’m overlooking. I called HPEVG for help after updating the firmware to their latest and checking every wire in the system. They basically told me to hook up an oscilloscope and good luck. As we’ve sold about a dozen of their motors and controllers, and used three or four ourselves on projects, I was a little shocked. They had been all for the EVCCON last fall and suddenly cancelled at the last minute. I’m not sure what’s going on there.

But I am beginning to NOT like the components business – intensely and very much as I thought all along. My background is technology and technical communication – publishing. NOT retail. I couldn’t sell a grape to a starving starling. But that’s not why I don’t like it.

Case in point is our BlowMe blowers for the Netgain motors. We sell a few of these. I was getting them from a guy on eBay. In the last shipment, he sent air filters that simply did not fit the blowers and one blower arrived entirely without screws. I had ordered and paid for a dozen. We called this to his attention and he agreed completely that he would send all of that immediately. In two months we’ve never received it. I found another guy who made the things, they basically just take worn out Garrett Superchargers and put a new turbine in them with a small DC motor and bead blast it. We ordered one and examined it. I told the guy what we used them for. He’s been after me for the last two months to let HIM build the things for us. He DID use a nice air filter.

I actually have plenty on hand. But he kept after me so I finally told him to go ahead and send me ten of them. He billed me by Paypal and I paid it within minutes. The very next day, he tells me his component costs have gone up and he’ll have to charge more than we agreed. Would it be ok if he sent eight of them in lpace of the ten he’s already sold me? Where do these guys get this theory of business? He said well prices DO go up you know. Not normally between when you pay for something and when they deliver it. particularly when they named the price in the first place….

And the pressure is just continuous. Everyone understandably wants more for less. Me too. I understand that. But most of the bottom feeders are so heroically ARTLESS at it that I just get a kind of a nausea going by early afternoon that doesn’t leave until I go home.
As you know, I have the attention span of a four-year-old. If this ceases to be fun, it will cease entirely.

I had one gentelman quiz me on batteries mercilessly – 18 e-mail messages. Finally he seemed to understand it. I then got a request from him for battery straps, noting that he had found the batteries themselves much cheaper elsewhere and was ordering the batteries there, but wanted the straps from me. I checked into it, and they WERE much cheaper. In fact, about my cost. So I jumped my CALB contact pretty hard. He assured me we were moving more of these cells than anybody in the country and there was no way these guys could sell them at that price. Turns out, they don’t quite. They DO sell a BMS system. And they are selling the batteries inexpensively IF you buy the $2000 BMS. In the end, this guy would up with NO batteries and NO straps and I’m seriously put out at him. So his FRIEND returns a Voltmeter HE had bought demanding a refund. I gave it to him. His response was to post a blog that I’m somehow against the United States Marine Corp. As I was in the Navy, I am of course. But that’s not the point. My wife was a Marine.

So from my perspective, rather than enabling others to do quality builds, what we seem to be engaged in is some form of shit war with the least artful negotiators on the planet, in a desperate fight for the last quarter in the grass. Pass. Further, we’re getting six calls per day now from University Build Teams and Religious Organizations pretty much demanding that we sponsor them with gifts of components in the $30,000 range.

So I’m going to turn all that over to Richard, and instead of bird dogging cool stuff for the store, I’m going back to publishing. He can sell of the rest of what we’ve got as he can.

We’re two hours again this week. I don’t know why we’re two hours. That’s about what we are every week. Yes, I I would learn to talk faster and not repeat myself I guess it would be more entertaining. Also if I had a pair of twin 36ers in front of me that would work too. I’m an old man working in the now defunct Kaiser/Fraser Nash dealership in a small town on the Mississippi River. And far from an electrical genius, I can’t get known and available advertised products to work at all on a car. Just shoot me. You should all be watching serial episodes of LOST on Amazon’s new video service. Free for Prime members.

There have been some developments of note. Yi Cui and a team at Stansford University Materials Science Lab in conjunction with the SLAC Accelerator Laboratory have come up with some very interesting anode and cathode materials. Last April they published a paper on encapsulating silicon in Silicon Dioxide with a carbon wrapper that I find fascinating. They then dissolve the SiO2 with toluene leaving space for the silicon to expand.

On January 8, they published a new paper on a similar technique for sulphur cathodes. This time, they coated with my favorite material, TiO2 and dissolved most of the sulphur with hydrofluoric acid. This leaves a small sulphur nugget inside a TiO2 shell solving the problem of polysulfides in the electrolytes. Putting the two of them together, and assuming some loss from the use of these other materials and processes, we’re looking at a 1000 mAh/gram cell – over five times the capacity of current Lithium Ion cells. It will be at a lesser potential of 2.1 volts, so more cells. But the capacity gains would be huge – a 450 mile range car at 80% discharge. More likely for me, the same 80 mile safe range 100 mile max using 1/5 of the cell size and hopefully 1/5 the cost.

TiO2, Sulphur, Silicon, Carbon, and Silicon Dioxide are all heroically non toxic safe elements of extremely low cost. The processes they’ve devised are kind of room temperature washes and rinses. Nothing heroic and probably quite scalable. None of this actually happens very quickly. But I can see these cells emerging in five to seven years. They’ll probably be the same cost as today’s cells, but you wont’ need as many. And they will have accomplished about HALF the potential of those materials. Lots of room for optimization.

I never do get over this. Picture a book of alternate aluminum and copper sheets, simply coated on each side with a particular mixture of sand, carbon, and sulphur, with no moving parts at all, that can store enough energy to drive a car 450 miles. It is alchemy. Magic. Sorcery. You have to know the precise steps to cook the charcoal, sand, and sulphur into a witche’s slurry, and carefully dip your sheets into it, and then dry them and put them together in a book. You have to put a thin plastic sheet between the pages, and add a few tablespoons full of basically whiskey and antifreeze. And you have a battery. 40 of these books will store 150 kWh of energy. Enough to drive 9-10 hours in a day. I just never get over it.

I have started a little CAN bus program on the Arduino/Macchina to talk to a TCCH charger. It’s a lot of fun. Made a CHARGER class that inherits from the MCP2515 class and I just love C++. It is so much more fun than arguing with a Marine for 18 e-mails about every aspect of every battery pack he MIGHT want to build, when he’s sure that everyone is telling him different, and almost entirely nonsense. All to have him actually DELIGHT in telling me he’s found them somewhere else for less. And as you know, money is terribly important!

This week, weather permitting, we will roll that Speedster Nippon. And I’m pretty sure it will roll well. Not so sure the instruments will all work. But it will roll. And I never quite get over THAT as well.

If you haven’t built an electric car and driven it away, I just actually can’t picture WHY??? It is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and I just keep on doing it. It is no longer whether it will work of course. It is how nicely balanced can I make it FEEL. And each one gets a little better. If you have yet to do this. I don’t know what else I can say to persuade you to start a build.

Finally, we did make a little progress with our test bench. By now it is apparent. I intend finally to build an electric car, ENTIRELY WITHOUT THE CAR. A fixed, immobile, automobile. Yes, we have evolved this entirely past transportation and cars. We are now going to build them SOLELY from drive components on a bench. So I can play and just drive all I want without ever leaving the shop at all. But these yokes and splined shafts and things are just MYSTICAL to me. Why do none of them fit together already? How come everyone uses something different?

Finally, we view Anne Kloopenburg’s New Electric Glastron. He is certainly having a hoot with electric boats. He is apparently more patient with the online sales thing than I as he wants to start an EVTV EU site to sell parts more easily and directly to our friends across the pond. We actually do sell a surprising amount in Europe from here, surprising because the shipping is just a horror. But Anne has some of that worked out to a much less costly operation through some sort of logistics outfit and can move stuff around at a fraction. So we hope this goes well. http://wh.newelectric.nl

Jack Rickard