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This week we continue our head spinning trek through the land of world wide magnetic drive for personal transportation. We’re not just THERE yet but getting closer.

And that causes us to reassess and reinvent, with every passing day, our mission and role in it. And are we having fun.

Novembers are kind of cool around here (so to speak) as we get a sudden influx of component sales. I’ve thought this odd with Christmas coming that sudden ducats become available for components????? But it actually appears to be more of a weather thing. Days are shorter. Temperatures cooler. At least here in the northern hemisphere. And so the interest in outdoor activities wanes while the idea of an evening in the garage with Thursday night football on and a couple of sudsy cold ones in hand while playing with some high voltage starts to take on an allure. As Brian’s latest T-shirt says, STAG BEER – NOT JUST FOR BREAKFAST ANYMORE.

We’ve kind of reached a preliminary agreement with Rinehart Motion Systems to market their inverters to what they term the DIY crowd. This considerably extends our ability to provide Siemens motors usefully and they have quite successfully characterized this motor on their test bench with their PM series of inverters. They’ve also expressed some interest in our Generalized Electric Vehicle Control Unit, now often referred to as Collin Kidder’s idea of course, as some of their existing customer base has need of such.

Despite being electric car enthusiasts themselves for MANY years, their experience in the EVerDuLl and DIYelectrijunk forums rather shaped their image of what we kind of picture as morphing into the Custom Electric Vehicle market. And the direction we are going with it might provide entre to selling into that market in a way they were hesitant to endure at the hands of the bottom feeders and electric junk miners.

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Custom Electric Vehicle designs. That’s what I see this as in a future where store-bought ready made electric cars are readily available. There was actually NOTHING to buy in 2008 when we started beyond a GEM. Today, things are better. And we see the market changing. But in some actually very positive ways.

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, the modern OEM electric car is quite complex and VERY proprietary. I was recently in a discussion on LinkedIn where they were holding forth on Tesla’s battery chemistry, when it became obvious to me that they didn’t know what it WAS. After looking into it a bit, I guess I’m not so sure myself. I know they started With LiCoO2 cells but I think Panasonic has mostly moved to a hybrid cell of Lithium Nickle Manganese Cobalt Oxide that many even have some aluminum in it last I heard. The point is, Tesla ain’t saying. Their chargers are proprietary. THeir drive train. Ditto VOlt. Ditto Leaf.

We’ll ultimately figure parts of it out along the way. But nobody is going to make that easy And to maintain your warranty or lease, you kind of have to drive it their way, maintain it their way, and it’s pretty much THEIR car in a way quite beyond what it had become over the years anyway. Suddenly much more so. You just really have little in the way of property rights to your car, even if it was $107,000, which my case is about six times the cost of the house I grew up in.

But its ok. You can go build a show car in the garage that will knock people’s eyes out, KEEP some of the romance of vintage vehicles restored AND have an ultramodern, ultraclean drive train in it AND have complete and total control of it, its operation and its destiny. And you can park it RIGHT NEXT to your MOdel S or BMW i3. It will look right at home there.

We’re starting to get a little excited about the Karmann Ghia for example. Yes, it had a lot more work under the spats than we expected, but that’s kind of ok. We’ll just make it like new and use all new parts there.
No one has ever done one with an HPEVS AC-75 and I think it’s going to be a powerhouse. The CA series cells which we have sold a lot of, in reality this is our SECOND conversion to actually use them. Speedster Nippon was our last CALB SE build if you recall. And the CA series is just a huge leap forward as to battery performance. The CA100FI’s going into this build in a single centrally located box won’t even reach heavy breathing to do the max 500 amps our Curtis 1238 inverter will manage. And Brain, left without the prying and usually RUSHING fingers of the wide one, is just a master of fitment. The extra wide pedal assembly Pete suggested being a prime example. Croc-optimized VW pedals. Gotta love it.

And we’re going after something no Ghia has ever had, GOOD air conitioning and heat and an excellent smart phone/bluetooth stereo system. Creature comforts. Things the THING can never have. An “all season” electric car. I haven’t really hit him with my electric window idea yet. And the pop out door handles like the TEsla has I’m afraid to bring up.

But all that sort of thing is in the future of what we are going to call Custom Electric Vehicles. Now that we really have mostly shed the electric junk car image, and of course the bottom feeder lead acid batteries that hamstrung them, I may be alone privy to the knowledge of just how very many very pretty new builds are out there and underway.

When we started this adventure in 2009, I looked hard at what was before me and realized that to be global, we really had to be web based. The print publishing world I so loved was just a little dated. Mailing costs to Europe are preposterous. Printing costs are too. And the ad sale in a print publication is at abeyance. I think it will return in an odd fashion at some point but not yet. Given to long winded missives such as the one you are currently reading, I also realized that reading itself was kind of out. People had plenty to read. But video was the preferred medium if they had a choice. So we did video.

And so at age 54, I faced a huge new learning curve. How to publish in HD VIDEO instead of print, and to distribute and monetize that effectively on a global scale. I guess I still think I’m in a fist fight, but it seems I can stop and take a sip of whiskey between rounds and the opponent is visibly flagging. In 2009 most people on the Internet had neither the bandwidth or the computing power to show HD video on the screen. Today you can do it with your pocket phone. And we don’t even hear much about bandwidth and PC performance anymore. An hour of HD video in 2009 was considered comically unusable. Today it is a half show for us. And 45% of our viewers are outside the U.S. and Canada entirely.

We host on Amazon.com. ANd the editing process and upload are such that I’m usually mostly done by early Saturday afternoon, rather than late Sunday in the past after a marathon weekend in a chair. I’m much more comfortable with the format these days. I don’t even see the camera when I’m in full rant. And so I can project what I used to do in print on screen. The tools have become more transparent and less awkward for me. Kind of like learning to type all over again. I no longer have to look at the keyboard would be the analogy.

But something is missing. The web is like a keyhole. Looking at our products online, which I have busily been adding a couple per week for a couple of years, you can’t really get an overall view of all of it. Most of our categories run two or three screen pages now and most of our visitors are blissfully unaware we HAVE pages. So they haven’t seen 2/3 of the products we have in stock.

More important, and on a wider front, I get e-mail and telephone calls each and every day with people at various stages of building very interesting cars. And we can show some of that. But again through a keyhole. Here’s an electric boat. Here’s a Samba bus, or a Vanagon. Or a Porsche 914.

One of the startling things at EVCCON is just to see 40 beautiful electric cars all parked together. Forty isn’t very many. But it seems like a LOT when you’ve never seen more than 3 together before at a local club meeting.

And so I’m kind of cognizant of the size and scope of this thing, but I can’t show it to you. I have to have video of it. I have to edit it into the show. And two hours, which I understand many of you find too long, goes pretty quickly for me editing it. There’s just so much room in that length of time. It’s a world through a keyhole, that anyone viewing any one episode is going to assume that all of this is EXCEPTIONAL. It’s cool. But it’s not really exceptional. I can’t put all the cars we have parked here on the LOT in a single episode. Or on a single web page. Much less the very rich environment I deal with every day, with people from 14 to 74 actively working on the next most gorgeous, electrically powered thing. And understand MY visibility into this is but a tiny fraction of what is going on worldwide. I responded to an e-mail from a guy in Serbia who just couldn’t get his car registered, even though he had been on local TV with the minister for vehicles promising on camera to help him.

It’s truly a global hobby of passion. It has everything that hot rods and custom cars had PLUS room to innovate and improve PLUS a kind of holy war mission jihad to convert the world to a better place by advocating electric drive. It’s actually intensely powerful and engaging for literally thousands of people all over the world. But I don’t have a way to show that….

Unless I revert to form.

I’ve long been fascinated by EVAlbum because you can slice it and dice it different ways and get a bit of a cut on what percentage of the motor market HPEVS has, as opposed to Netgain. Or how dominant has EVnetics become in regards to the venerable Curtis 1231 everyone used to use. And so whatever the manufacturers claimed, you could kind of get a sense of market share and of what people were doing now.

What I didn’t like was the trashy lead acid crap junk cars, the total domination of the numbers by electric bicycles and an unusual fascination with electric lawn mowers. It kind of trashed up the neighborhood.

So what we’ve been working on is an online database of builds. We are going to refer to this as the EVTV Registry of Custom Electric Vehicles. It will be an online database, heavily oriented toward high resolution photographs as well as vehicle component choice particulars. We hope to make it even more usefully searchable with regards to statistics and so forth. And hopefully a lot PRETTIER than EValbum. A real showcase for gorgeous cars.

We will actually include boats, which I think will be fascinating, aircraft, which might get to be a thing, and probably high class custom motorcycles. What it will NOT include is lawn mowers, bicycles, neighborhood electric vehicles, and generally not OEM electric vehicles at all – unless they are rather heroically CUSTOMIZED. In other words, show cars. Original builds will of course be welcomed and kit cars done electric would be very additive as well. But that you have a new Nissan Leaf is just not of interest in this Registry of CUSTOM electric vehicles. If we ever let in a lead acid vehicle, it will have to have some sort of NEW lead acid chemistry offering a signficant improvement over ionic batteries. Could happen. Probably won’t. But anything is possible.

So that leaves out a LOT of electric activity. Which is just fine with me. What it leaves IN is gorgeous custom cars. Innovation. Show cars. Ok, daily drivers but show me something cool.

We are also going to require registration for people to VIEW the database. Actually, the only ones who can view the database will be the JUDGES. And actually anyone, including the builders, can be judges but htey have to give up their precious identity and register on the service. If they don’t know what their freakin name is I can’t help them, I don’t either. That’s because they will be limited to three votes. They can vote for three different builds, in the order of 1, 2, and 3. They can logon anytime and browse the database and they can even CHANGE their vote, at any time and on whim. There is no charge either to the builder or the judges.

In the end, I hope to have several thousand very very nice builds fully described and complete with photographs – high resolution gorgeous BEAUTIFUL photographs. We are also going to allow the builders to provide a link to their Youtube channel or other video site, their blog, their website, etc. So it will kind of act as a gateway and rainmaker for that whole world. Damien Maguire has 141 build videos now. That’s almost as many as I have. He also has several cars in work. And I’m VERY pleased to report he has taken the vow and pledged the pledge. He will be appearing at EVCCON 2014 next August. But the point is, the Registry of Custom Electric Cars will be a portal to his Youtube channel as well as photos and details of his build. You wind up sucked into his whole world.

Doesnt’ this just make a bigger keyhole to look through? Well yes. Of course. But a couple of kickers are going to change the world for me, and I think change a lot of minds worldwide. We are going to take the 100 most beautiful custom electric vehicles, along with their high resolution photographs, as determined by our distinguished but self selected/appointed panel of hopefully several thousand judges, and we are going to compile this into a four color printed BOOK of the EVTV Registry of the TOP 100 Electric Vehicles which will be printed and published eventually QUARTERLY if I get my way and can afford it. A coffee table sized book with full color photographs of each build along with detailed data.

That’s probably 200 pages. And then we’ll add say 100 pages of photos and descriptions of shiny billet aluminum components you can use to BUILD a Custom Electric Vehicle.

It is my belief, that if I could put THAT book into the hands of a person standing in front of me, that I can watch the cranial detonation actually GO OFF real time as it suddenly comes home the breadth and scope and reality of all of this, holding hundreds of pages of gorgeous show cars in his hand. Not one car. Not a couple of cars. But a couple of INCHES of cars in print. From all over the world.

Keyhole slammed wide open. And hopefully, it will terminate my daily irritation at dealing with people who sneeringly dismiss this phenomenon as something they know and deride, when they don’t know squat about piss in reality, and are blissfully unaware how deeply, viscerally, and completely they don’t know it. I want to personally WATCH them go into meltdown realization in real time. Ignorance is NOT bliss and arrogant ignorance is particularly irritating. I look it in the mouth EVERY SINGLE DAY. And I’m tired of it.

Second, it will make our best friends and customers into celebrities in their own right. They can point to it in the book. Number 37 on the EVTV TOP 100 Registry of Custom Electric Cars. If you are a conversion shop and don’t have at least a couple of builds in that list, then just how good a conversion shop are you anyway?

Finally, you have no idea who calls into this place these days. There are a LOT of prototype Tesla wannabees with some funding from somewhere hitting us. And the phenomenon TOTALLY unexpected out of left field, three calls per day from Universities. And they call, they don’t e-mail. And they won’t even look at the web store, they want us to chant it into the phone FOR them. It would be mildly annoying but they tend to follow up with $20-30,000 purchase orders. We’re not too sure what to do with those, but we think they might be good things. Kind of takes the sting out of their elite liberal self-importance.

What’s that about? The University world has for some time had some build teams at select schools, some of which do astonishing things. But suddenly, the largely liberal elite of our entire wider University system has detected a “greener than thou” pecking order and if you DON’T have an EV program in place, you are disabling your student body AND lacking in enviro-creds in one smoothly awkward move, that MIGHT lead people to believe you were some kind of closet Tea Party Patriot or something equally as red state icky as that. Particularly uncomfortable for those Universities IN red states.

But you’ve heard these guys at EVTV can help.

Why yes, we can actually. But I think we could do that more easily, and give institutions a little easier entre than watching 200 two-hour videos, by placing this book in their hand, with 100 examples of excellent custom cars, and a hundred pages of shiny components enabling them to do it too.

Chris Fisher of Sweden is currently coding furiously to make all this happen and we have a guy here in the shop named Jeff Crain who is designing print pages as we speak. As always, both of them seem curiously unable to translate my whims and vanities into instant product reality within moments. I find that annoying and fault them for that. But it’s coming along. Slowly but surely.

And so I want a combination very upscale version of EVAlbum online and a gorgeous six color medical press style book to publish at astonishing expense RIGHT NOW. I think it can signficantly upgrade the world’s image of who you are, what you do, and why you do that. But we have to print it to make that happen.

In any event, it becomes much easier for us to deal with large institutions AFTER we put the book on their desk and THEN have the telephone conversation. Kind of an eight-pound business card.

Stay with us. Whatever you thought it was, we’re going to change it.

Jack Rickard