I have to tell you, I just never do get over it.
This week we attempt to illustrate the pleasure of driving the VW THING. Like all our builds, we fail. We simply fail to convey the sense of magnetic electric drive. The simplicity. The quiet. And the sense of power. The sense of freedom. And the sense of release.
I have been pretty much full time in the act of communicating technical information to humanoids since the late fall of 1979. That’s 35 years guys. All day every day.
And I have to tell you, in all modesty, I’m the best there is. By 1983 I really was among the best in the business by anyone’s account and enjoyed employment and compensation far above my peers at the time, while getting to work on some of the sexiest, and often quite secret technology programs of the day. I’ve stayed after it literally every day since.
It is inherently a task of relative failure levels more than success. I’ve succeeded by being less eggregiously bad at it than most of the technical people on the planet. And of course, for many of the best and the brightest, English actually IS a second language. So no shortage of work there.
But again this week, I’m reminded of failure. This is why I need our viewers – the 100,000 man army. The only way that I KNOW works to convey the power and future of electric drive in personal mobility is for you to build one, a good one, a bad one, an ok one, it hardly matters – and go demonstrate it for someone who has not had the experience.
I cannot type words to do this work. I cannot record video to do this work. I have no medium that I have yet discovered to convey this information. It can only be done by demonstration.
We have had all manner of visitors here at EVTV. Hard core hot rod clubs with members in their sixties and seventies who have vowed to smell the fumes and listen to the roar of the V8 unto death. I turned 22 of them COMPLETELY in one evening. Actually the score that night was 22 and 0. I’ve heard from both the well intentioned and the enviously venomous one thousand tiny cuts on why what I’m doing is a waste of time and will never work and blah blah blah. ALL – that is to say 100%, walk away with a different outlook on it with almost no effort on my part. If I can show them the actual stuff, and let them ride in the actual vehicle.
I have no failures to communicate there. THey ALL get it, eight to eighty, crippled, crazy or blind. They all get it on actual CONTACT with it. I have a brother IN the oil business for 40 years. He gets it. He can hear the clock tick. The guys he works with don’t. And no words he can say will change any of that. So he doesn’t bother of course. And as long as oil is $100 barrel, it’s “Rock on Wayne’s World” in their world. But in the background is the faint haunting sound of the clock ticking…
Let’s get real. The VW thing was NEVER a great car. It wasn’t even a good car. It wasn’t even a SAFE car. It was banned in the U.S. after two years. The windshield was too close. It squeeks. It rattles. It rusts. It rolls precariously. THe suspension is a joke. It’s overweight for a VW frame not meant for all that. The steering is vague and loose. The slab seats are uncomfortable. The seat doesn’t move back far enough. The acoustics are terrible. Grossly underpowered with a rattling smoking four cylinder engine.
This car is a JOKE as a vehicle. I would never recommend it to anyone. Unsafe at any speed. Lacking every notion of creature comfort. With the stylistic panache of a five gallon bucket, which it was originally named for. Kubelvagen. Bucket car seems apt. Actually it was originally Kubelsitzvagen referring to its bucket seats. But this was quickly shortened to Kubelvagen and the play on words was lost on none.
So of course it suits my sense of whimsey. And we aren’t driving the pan American highway in this thing. We needed a test bed for the newly acquired Siemens motor and DMOC645 controller and of course the Generalized Electric Vehicle Control Unit – GEVCU. Everything on this build is easy to get to and easy to work on. We can swap the GEVCU out in about five minutes. The motor in 10. The DMOC would probably take a half an hour. I can measure each and every of 100 cells in 20 minutes and none are hard to get to – at all. Indeed, I have a USB jack in the BUMPER of this vehicle to plug in a laptop.
Unveiling at EVCCON 2013 was an embarassment. We barely had the GEVCU turning the motor. But we had no brakes it turns out. Most of the lights and turn signals and so forth didn’t work. Paulo Almeida kind of jimmied and jacked with it to get it to work at all and it was of course precarious.
But in the intervening months we did get some brakes working on it. Sorted out the lights. Upgraded the GEVCU. And added a heater. Blew up about six contactors with precharge issues. It was a lift queen from fall to spring.
Imagine my surprise when we launched it a couple of weeks ago. It took about two passes of the GEVCU web site configuration screen and very suddenly this thing was dialed in. The regen was perfect. The acceleration exhilerating. And some sort of magic happened between the SIemens motor, Sebastien Beugouis VW adapter, and a careful spin balance of clutch and pressure plate. It is TOTALLY vibration free from the drive train. We’ve had these run pretty good on several cars. But never like this. There just IS no sense of a motor spinning. Wheels turn. ANd you move. But the motor is eerie. If you miss getting it in reverse, and take your foot off the throttle to stop the motor to put it in gear, it is always a surprising to hear the gears grinding violently when you were certain it had stopped because of the total lack of noise and vibration. If you goose it a bit in neutral, you can barely hear the motor whine at all from the drivers seat in a quiet garage. I mean BARELY hear it.
And so predictably enough, it is a SHITPOT full of fun to drive – albeit in grave danger of life and limb. So it’s been my daily driver for nearly two weeks and I just cannot get enough of it.
The reaction in town has been phenomenal. Of course, it IS painted electric yellow and it’s not as if it was going to “blend in” anyway. But it’s a head turner. I can’t get out of my own DRIVEWAY without delivering a sermon to the people in the park first. And while I’m telling them to love one another and forgive each other and just eat the damn fish and not worry about where it came from or if it has mercury in it, all THEY want to talk about is the electric yellow THING.
How far does it go? It goes wherever I tell it to go. I’m the driver.
How long does it take to charge? How would I know? I’m asleep then.
How much does it cost? This is the point where the eyes avert and the feet shuffle and the mumbling and grumbling begin… that much????. Yeah. About that much.
I received an e-mail this week from a gentleman pleased to be in the 100,000 man army and an avid EVTV viewer. He wrote that he was an engineer and had a converted Ford Focus with a 45-50 mile range and a one way to work of 34 miles. His employer, a large unnamed corporation had allowed him to charge at work. But “word came down” this week that they were no longer allowing “free electricity” to employees and charging at work would no longer be allowed. He said he planned to appeal the decision and wanted some words and inspiration to include in the “appeal” noting that many of his coworkers were sympathetic.
Some days I wonder if I AM communicating. What specifically does the term ARMY imply here?
First, we don’t “appeal”. We are not seeking permission from our leige lords to ease our labor on the fiefdom. And we don’t need our coworkers “sympathy”. What we are after here is their unbridled ENVY. We want to foment desire for the freedoms we enjoy as guerrila patriots involved in an all out war. While they may not feel able to step up and take both responsibility and command of the world around them, we can. And we do. And we don’t appeal to anybody. The battle cry is not “please may have another bowl of electrons.” It is more properly, need I remind you, FUCK OFF AND DIE BITCH.
To make that stick, does involve some use of ammunition, heavy artillary, and yes, noise and smoke. My advice to him was to put in more batteries. There is nothing in a FOrd Focus limiting it to 50 miles of range. Indeed 100 should be relatively easy in this vehicle. So you built a car to do just what you wanted it to do. They changed the game. You changed the car. He did admit that it was the expense of batteries that had him stymied.
I did say I wanted 100,000 to go into their garages and build an electric car and demonstrate it. I didn’t say it would be cheap. And I didn’t mean build a WEENY car that won’t do what you want it to do. The concept is a power demonstration that you will no longer be a victim, that you can build your own damn car, that you do not and never DID NEED General Motors or British Petroleum. You chose their products when it was convenient for you and so CHOOSE NOT NOW THAT IT IS NOT as is of course your right to do. It would have been wiser had they not called your undivided attention to this problem. But they did. And game on.
Would you be money ahead to just pay the pump tithe? I can assure you, in all cases you would have. IT would have made more economic sense in the short run. As I’ve pointed out many times, life is about choices and the average price of both bass and deer meat isn’t something you want to inquire into either. And there is nothing at stake with regards to deer hunting or fishing.
I personally believe there IS something at stake with electric vehicles. I think our economic future is poised on a knife edge based entirely on the price and availability of fossile fuels and the coming waves of shortages and price spikes. After the activities of 2008 global economic collapse may be determined by one camel sneeze in the middle east.
Many of you believe climate change offers even more grave dangers and after recent weather events, I’m not sure you may not be onto something. I’ve been kind of agnostic on the topic, but felt it didn’t matter as I see some real potential for undetected health impacts deriving from more local and pressing emission issues. Kind of hard to prove given we don’t have a high population low gas vehicle zone with similar health care levels to compare it too for the past 100 years. We could all be dying from gasoline and how would we know? Compared to what? The number of vehicles has climbed steadily for 100 years and we don’t have a control group to compare with. They are everywhere the population is. Alzheimers, autism, cancer, diabetes – I don’t know WHICH modern disease, largely unheard of 100 years ago, to go after here. But largish weather events do seem to be becoming more common. There’s a once in a century event now once every year. What’s that about? I may not be good at weather math, but…..
The bottom line here is I see some clear and present global macro events shaping up here. ANd I see no sign our political or social structures are entirely aware of, concerned about, or taking action on, any of it. Indeed they seem oblivious. Is your wife going to take this on? Your kids?
The “greatest generation” clearly had a strong tendency for the men of that time to take responsibility for and command of the world around them and felt obligated to “do something about it.”
In my generation, we’ve been mostly focused on sitting on the couch, watching TV, drinking beer, and complaining that nobody is doing anything about it.
My internet odyssey in a past life afforded me a unique view of some key things and the most impressive was how totally the world changed at the behest of 35 socially awkward computer nerds connecting their PC’s basement to basement in the night to exchange data bypassing the 25 cents per minute the telephone company was charging them. ANd understand, there was no accidents. They didn’t stumble on this. The Internet you enjoy today was a FULLY FORMED VISION with these guys by 1988 when there were 4000 of them. They predicted THEN everything you see on the world wide web today. They didn’t accidentally build it at all. And they were totally devoted to it in the face of unscalable resistance from the telephone and cable companies, Microsoft, the Federal Government, the state governments – read that EVERYBODY else.
It was ALL guys. ANd ALL the gains and expertise was passed man to man in virtual secrecy at the time. It grew organically. There was no “organization”. No advocacy group. No lobbyists. Vinton Cerf was a one man IP ON EVERYTHING five star general. And it was VERY expensive to play any role in it at all. A PC with significant storage was over $5000. A single modem was always over $2000. A 1.5 kbps data line was $2000 per MONTH. A router was $5000. As an Internet Service Provider (ISP) $50K was a starter kit.
So it is you. Guys. Guys who will pay the price. Who CHOOSE to pay the price. To change the world. There has been an implication that the battle is over and you can go home. Tesla builds cars. So does Nissan. It’s all ok. Go back to the couch. By now the sales numbers and the aspirations of all this “press release fantasy” world should be obvious to you. It is illusory. It is preparatory to the “failure of the electric car – again.” They already have the headlines written. The articles and video reports are pretty much put together. It didn’t work. You don’t need it. I saw the other day a story about electric car owners tiring of their cars.
We live in a media world of illusion. If you watch the boob tube, you will be convinced that there are 2500 people in the whole country, and 1800 of those are very attractive thin 24 year-old women. Of the 700 guys, over half are crazed gun nuts intent on murdering and sexually molesting your kids. The rest are abusive and should be arrested in any event.
100,000 men is precisely 0.00285 PER CENT of the world’s population of guys. It’s also pretty much the tipping point. I think we are at about the 5000-6000 mark at the moment. Don’t be discouraged. It’s kind of a violently progressive growth curve. It’s actually a really GOOD place to be right now.
But yeah, if your employer won’t let you charge, the answer isn’t to beg. It’s rebuild your car where you don’t NEED the recharge at work. And I’m sorry, I’m just unsympathetic to what it will cost you. Step up to the plate or return to the couch. I need 100,000 MEN. Not boys. If you just want to save money and avoid paying for gas, you’ve stumbled onto a very poor way of doing that. Each electric car, built or bought, is a declaration of war. Not a household budgetary maneuver. You’re fighting on the wrong side, for the wrong reasons, and you won’t survive the march. Go back and sit with the civilians and the girls on the couch.
For the rest, return to our FIRST video. I really haven’t added squat to that in all the videos and all the blogs I’ve done in the past five years (this month actually). We’re doing better builds these days, and so are you. Components and batteries are better and more available. Techniques are more understood. The BMS skirmish is largely behind us, though I got another straggler in this week with a perfectly good Volvo 30 with mangled batteries and of course a BAD MANAGMENT SYTEM. Ironically, after I told him precisely how to fix it and drive it and enjoy it without problems, he wanted a recommendation for a new BMS as well. We can bring the good news. We can’t make you listen.
We are working tirelessly on new components, lower costs, and better cars. And boats. And maybe a quadcopter. But for the foreseeable future, I promise you only blood, sweat, tears, and toil — and at no small cost. … and in victory you will be TOTALLY FORGOTTEN — completely written out of the history of the whole thing…
Except of course for the one part…. it being a SHITPOT FULL OF FUN. More fun than you are normally allowed to have with your pants on.
I’m in a very dangerous VW THING and I KNOW how to use it. Lead, follow, or get the fuck out of the way….
See Michael Brown in this episode. Real men move to Thailand and figure out how to build an electric elephant…