Ok, it was pretty small. We had four people here for Batcon2014. Mark Weisheimer, Brian Couchene, Phil Becker and his son Adam Becker. But we had a ball. Mark and Brian arrived on Friday while we were dismantling our first pack with Phil and Adam joining us early Saturday. We had dinner at Ray’s of Kelso. We started out feeding EVCONN’s with about half a dozen different restuarants catering the event. We are pretty much down to Ray. He simply had better food, better team, better price at every meal he did.
At the heart of every successful entrepreneurial activity is an overcontrolling, micromanaging, detail obsessive asshole driving it. Ray does it better than most. And he wears crocs. His team is terrified of him, and love him at the same time. Funny thing. Everybody loves to win. There’s nothing worse than working for a loser company constantly struggling to stay alive working for a really great boss. You feel bad about your job, bad about your company, bad about the economy, bad about the country, and sorry for your really nice boss. While losing every day. Waiting for the final paycheck when they go out of business.
If you work for a prick that wins every day, you feel great about your job, great about your company, great about your customers, great about the economy, and kind of pissed at your boss most of the time. Until you have been there about three years, winning every day, and a glimmer of a clue starts to leak in. Yes, he’s still yelling. ANd yes, he’s still purple in the face. But now you can clearly see him fighting back the smile and that its mostly for show. Pretty soon you’re in the conspiracy yourself, telling the new kid “Oh yeah, he fired the last three in your position. One of them tried to kill himself….” You start practicing your own sarcastic sneer, and thinking maybe someday….
Anyway I just like to be in the room with excellence. And a really excellent smoked prime rib with au jus and horseradish is kind of a mood brightener for me too. That’s how you get to be 304 lbs.
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Anyway, not everything goes right most days. We moved a lot of those cargo packs out of there last week. One hapless yuck has already received his – a complete pack with NO battery modules in it at all. Yes, it was a grab bag and yes, no promises, no guarantees, and as-is where-is, but in that event I kind of had to cough up one of mine and we sent it to him. UPS confirmed the shipment was only 222 lbs and so we started weighing all of them that went out to ensure that if they WERE junk, they at least got the full 720 lbs of junk they had paid for.
I kind of pooh-poohed the gross overengineering of the packs in the show. And it is absurd to have a 640 lb battery pack, 236 lbs of which isn’t batteries at all. But keep in mind that these were supposed to go IN and OUT of a car many times and one of the problems I had with the whole battery swap concept is how you keep from just wearing the hardware out handling it. Apparently build it like an Abrams tank is the approach favored by the Automotive Energy Company. And on closer examination, I have to say, in some ways this is kind of a work of engineering art you will not often see anywhere. Fit, finish, detail, access, simplicity, it may be one of a kind. I’m a little in awe. I still can’t put all that in a car. But I can stand and look at it a good long while. With a kind of vicarious pleasure.
It’s also odd that by pulling one out of the fray at complete random, the one we opened was obviously brand new, had never been used, and was just gorgeous in all respects while it appears that some have had some use.
One recipient reports a very beat up package – hasn’t tested the cells yet. But we’ve heard from one guy in Europe who has bought a Renault Fluenze without the battery lease and is desperate to buy a renegade pack. I can do nothing. We reserved 10 for Europe and Anne already has 20 on the list for them. I can do nothing.
One guy from a very interesting program called MINDDRIVE in Kansas City did indeed call early and often regarding the packs. He wanted 10. We promised him nothing, indeed noting we were dubious that we would ever receive them at all. Last week he read me the riot act of 1934 with particular attention to the subparagraphs outlining my less than stellar business ethics because he really had a RIGHT to those 10 packs because he telephoned us a really really lot and had notified us that he wanted 10. He designed his Karmann Ghia builds around them and at the final hour, right before their deadline I had thrown him under the bus. I think I did mention that whatever he was on I’d like to try some just for a day or two. Not make a habit of it. Just try a few. I can handle it (right).
Another, who had berated me cruelly for being a bait and switch used car dealer for daring to increase the price we had never set, and indeed as it turned out never lasted long enough to sell any for, wrote a brief apology on Thursday and then contacted Brain four minutes later to try to get in an order. I think Brain took it, but alas there were none left and he had to refund the money.
It was an eye opener all around and I suppose we learned a lot, I’m just a little vague on what. First, price matters. We have worked a deal with CALB to help liquidate some obsolete SE series cells at $1 per AH. They are in the store right now and we have booked quite a lot of them. They are NOT as good as the CA series by a good bit, and of course these Nissan cells are not as good as the CALB cells by a good bit. But they are less expensive by a good amount. We think it’s worth carrying a second line, although we only have these in the 100Ah size. Still, it adds up. You could do a little 100Ah pack of 48 for an HPEVS system for $4800 which is much less than the CA series of course. If you went with the 120v pack for the 7601 controller you’d be on the road for the same $3600 in batteries as the Renault packs.
Domenick Yoney did a very nice piece on the event in Autoblog Green. Many thanks Domenick. I thought so much of it that I kind of pieced together a little press release with the particulars and sent it to GreenCar Reports and EV NEWs. Bill Moore did send me an e-mail offering to talk about it for 15% commission on the sales. I found that very odd coming from a journalist and we of course declined his generous offer. Apparently it hasn’t worked out for him anyway. He’s kind of wandering off into electric bicycles.
Recall my mention of a daughter who had put me off onto eBay about 15 years ago about auto sales on the service and me subsequently doing rather well in their stock, whilst amassing nine MG cars in the process. Well she’s another interest now that she’s a mommy with two kids in Cambridge. Her husband has left the US Navy and is attending MIT there.
Cambridge/Boston is just a fright. Everyone there loves it and I can’t imagine why. They have no garages, no parking, and too many cars. So bicycles are quite the thing. She asked why we didn’t do electric bicycles.
There’s a couple of reasons but the central one is they don’t need us. I told her there were 20 million electric bikes in China and they would be everywhere here very soon. eBay has hundreds of pages of batteries and kits for them now and it is just a matter of time. I can neither add nor detract anything from this phenomenon. But anyway, I’m a bit past my sell-by date and 25 lbs over the maximum on most of them so it was kind of moot for me.
She spoke of CARGO bikes. She sent a photo of her with her two kids, all helmets and winter jackets etc. akimbo on a regular bicycle. But lusting after a cargo bike. These are kind of heavy bicycles, re-engineered with all manner of brackets and shelves and racks and so forth to haul kids and cargo – groceries etc. She figures with a CARGO bike she would be styling with her two kids, maybe a couple of the neighbors kids, the dog, six or eight bags of groceries, and her golf clubs all on the bike.
The 800 lb gorilla in the space appears to be the YUBA bikes which are almost unobtainium because of demand. I checked it out and learned they were just releasing an electric version with a rear hub motor devised by one of their customers who actually rode their product and had designed the electric and used the bike to haul a couple of kids.
So I ordered one for her. Actually probably one of the first ones they’ll deliver. She tends to be kind of a generation millineal bellweather on these things. So look for about a brazillian young mommies with kids and groceries in tow on bicycles here in a year or two.
This kind of goes to my interest in another vehicle. The SCROOSER. These guys set up a kickstarter funding program on the service to raise $120,000 to start making these very unusual electric scooters. I guess I think the vast majority of Kickstarter campaigns are seriously lame, lacking in vision, and never reach their financial goal so they don’t really have to perform. A lot of it is just “look at me” crap. Scrooser actually raised $186,000 and are purportedly in production.
This looks like something even I could ride. You sit down. It doesn’t go to fast. It’s obviously strong enough to carry me. Probably doesn’t tip over too easily. An urban assault vehicle. Go a few blocks in good weather.
I actually tried to order one and they seem to be taking orders. They want me to wire the money (right) and so forth. I contacted them and I’d really like to sell them here in the U.S. Of course, I’ll hear something about how that can’t happen. Which is ok. I only steal after they won’t sell it to me. Then it doesn’t look like its too hard to engineer. A couple of golf cart wheels and tires and some TIG work on stock tubing.
My point is, if you are looking for a way to innovate yourself into a business, this doesn’t look bad. Let’s start from the premise that the electric bicycle is going to be hugely popular. And that it scratches an itch, but doesn’t QUITE get it scratched. I want something MORE than an eBike. Something that doesn’t hurl me to my death like a Segway. Something new and really useful in an urban environment where traffic is heavy, parking is nonexistent, you can walk faster than a taxi, and you might have to carry an armful of something or other. Let’s call it the Next Great Urban Assualt Vehicle or NGUAV. What would that look like?
As a business entry, it would be MUCH less expensive to design, prototype, build, and manufacture than a car or even Neighborhood Electric Vehicle. I really think they have to come home for less than the $5000 the Segway did.
I remain very optimistic about boats or maybe I just lust after one. Anne is supposed to get me fixed up with Delta flyer though it will cost me. I’ve also resurrected our discussion of a year ago with Aristocraft about their 16 foot Torpedo with a drive out of a jetski for this tiny boat. Jeff Southern actually did a pilgrammage for me to their factory and returned a glowing report. These guys have been doing a small wooden boat since 1946.
We are increasingly optimistic about the GEVCU and now for prospects of getting it to work with the UQM drive train. I’ve ordered five more of the drive trains despite the fact that it apparently hasn’t met the Renault battery sniff test on price as we’ve sold ZERO of them. Mark Weisheimer bought the aux pack with the two chargers and the Delta DC-DC because he wanted to see what was inside them. But the CODA liquidation so far hasn’t worked for us. I’m going to stay after it. Something about the length, girth, and lack of weight in this motor haunts me. I want to put it IN something. It would take 1250 lbs of CALBS to build four of them into a quadrocopter so that may not be the trick.
Our first live show was reasonably well received despite being a technical disaster. After setting up all sorts of cool cameras and microphones and green screens and so forth, the regular show was still uploading both to YouTube and to Amazon at ten minuts until 2:00 PM. So I had to scramble to get a simple webcam up in bad lighting on a second machine in time to have it at all.
Then with no structure or plan, we chatted until about 5:40 PM – almost four hours. I will try to limit it to two hours next week. Feel free to join us.
I still don’t get the live thing. But as I said on the show, I don’t want to walk away from it until we’ve given it a chance. I get a chill thinking what Boardwatch would have been like without Letters to the Editor, and I distinctly recall not wanting to do that either back in the day. So have your questions ready and let’s try to do something a bit more rapidfire and relevant.