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Is it me? Or has the pace of all this quickened markedly in the past few months. Both in the number of new trinket and toy developments, but also some sort of sea change among the populace. We’ve probably had a half dozen people in the shop here this week. That’s not unusual actually, but they tend to be from Mexico, Portugal, England, The Netherlands, Australia or New Zealand. This week we had half a dozen people from of all places CAPE GIRARDEAU and the surrounding area in and they were very curious and interested in ELECTRIC CARS. Most wanted to talk about how they could get a project started. Blow on me and knock me over. Before this week, we usually had at least one visitor weekly with a gasoline car wheezing badly that wanted to know if we repaired ICE vehicles there. Or for an oil change.

We do almost nothing locally other than appear at a few car shows and hold our annual convention. There just isn’t a lot of EV activity here. In fact, I often note that we are in the IDEAL location for our role in the EV community as we can face any of 360 different directions and simply take a single step in that direction – and we’re already getting closer to EV activity. We naturally think of ourselves as ground zero, but in this case we mean ZERO ACTIVITY in the EV world.

But I am also giddy at the pace of component developments. This week we take a look at our first actual shipment of CALB CAM series cells and I’m struck by the improvement. Actually I’m struck by how little differently these cells perform, but in a dramatically smaller and lighter package.

I have an Aristocraft Torpedo 16 boat nearing completion in Georgia – it is a very small mahogany speedster/runabout that we have had specially built with a jetski jet drive on the back where you would normally hang a 25 hp outboard on this VERY light little two seater. Kind of like a retro version of Anne’s Delta. We sacrifice hugely in efficiency and performance going to a jet pump, but the safety and trailerabilty and so forth is just huge and it should make it very fun to drive and quite easy to mate a motor to. But space and weight are at a premium. I’m thinking a UQM with these new CAM cells, although rumors persist that HPEVS is coming out with a special MARINE build. Apparently Anne got Brian Seymore thinking boat at the last EVCCON – not a herculean task as Brian is already a boating enthusiast.

So while the power train is up in the air, the concept of a 40% smaller battery pack that is 20% lighter may well be worth the admittedly heroic premium these cells command on introduction.


Woops, no that’s not the Torpedo. Let’s see….here it is….


Ah, yes.. that’s better.

We have apparently come to terms with Scott Osborne with the SCOTT DRIVE which we will be testing very soon on our new Siemens dual test bench. This thing does about 110 kw and apparently very efficiently with the Siemens 1PV5135 motor.
The DOKA is due back from paint THIS MORNING actually (Thursday) and we plan on using one of the Better Place battery packs with a Siemens and a Scott Drive inverter on that build.


The GEVCU continues to delight and surprise me. I’m driving around this week in the THING with the new Speedo doing some range testing (about 0.94 AH per mile at 312v or 290 wH per mile) and I was overheating the DMOC645. A quick look at an iPad light pointed at the GEVCU showed me that the inverter was at 53C while the motor was at 78C and I instantly had a pretty good idea what was going on. By having both of these quite thermally dissimilar devices on the same cooling loop, despite the herculean efforts of two Derali heat exchangers, the damn motor was actually cooking my inverter.

The startling revelation was how easy it was to sort all that out. The GEVCU paints some gages on its website that are updated each 300 ms, including gages for throttle, torque, rpm, voltage, kW, kWh, but most specifically for motor temp and inverter temp which the DMOC645 dutifully reports. Instead of an hour setting up a maze of wires and temperature probes, one glance at an iPad and I knew exactly what was going on real time.

It is encouraging that with just a few dozen GEVCUs in the wild, it is gaining adherents and enthusiasts. The feedback on it has been very encouraging and in all modesty, the interface to set the throttle and brake is just an entirely new mark for inverters. It’s too easy. But as it gains enthusiasts, they tend to pull it in all directions.

We already have a cadre on the team that want to do ELM327 over bluetooth and wireless to also do connections to the tablets and phones so that actual applications can be written for them that will be smoother and faster than the little updated HTML/javascript thing I’m checking temperatures with. This past week we had one guy, who I dont’ think even has a GEVCU, jump in demanding that we basically redo the hardware to include OVMS.

OVMS is the Open Vehicle Monitoring System and it is actually a completely separate effort, also entirely open source, developed to monitor data originally on the Tesla Roadster but branching out to the Tesla Model S and Leaf.

The cool thing about OVMS is that it has both GPS and GSM built in. The GPS can link you to maps and give you speed, and distance travelled and lots of neat things we would like to have. The GSM is even more cool as it lets you send SMS text messages to your car and retrieve info such as charge state and potentially raise your windows if you are concerned about rain. IT also of course let’s you LOCATE your car by SMS text message in the event it is stolen. It is very cool.

So why don’t I want it in GEVCU. Well for one thing, it already exists. The OVMS guys have done it and I think the hardware and software assembled is all of $99 or something. But more importantly, we already HAVE it. Likewise ELM327 and tablets and much more.

This is all about CAN – the Controller Area Network. GEVCU can very easily tie into the vehicle’s CAN bus from BEHIND the OBDII connector. In fact, if you have electrified a restored older vehicle that doesn’t HAVE CAN or OBDII, you kind of do have now. The GEVCU IS the vehicle controller. It can work with one that is already there, or it can BE it, it doesn’t care. But it’s on the BACK side of the OBDII connector.

OVMS plugs into the FRONT. Also ELM327 wireless modules, ELM327 bluetooth modules, and a host of other things. Hardware and software without end that mostly already exists but is still in development.

A good example is the tablet application TORQUE. Torque lets you actually develop custom gages and link them to custom CAN messages. Eventually GEVCU will be able to put all that and more on the OBDII CAN and Torque can display that data on an Android phone or Tablet. For Apple IOS, I think the competing application is called DASHCOMMAND. Perhaps even better is ENGINELINK.

ALL of that becomes available to GEVCU through the CAN bus. You will be able to just plug in the $99 OVMS module to your OBDII and GEVCU instantly gets access to the GPS data and the cell phone connection as well.

The concept isn’t to go around and collect everything done in the universe of vehicle monitoring and control, and BUILD it IN to GEVCU. The concept is to be able to access any of that you want using GEVCU. In this way, we dont’ have to ourselves invent every line of code in the universe – we can fit into this ecosphere of applications and hardware very nicely. I think it is a matter of taking care to learn the protocols and conventions that OVMS and Torque and other clearly “leading” applications are using, and efficiently encode that into GEVCU operation where it is all seamless and nothing has to be accommodated. However well or badly they are doing it already, we can use that just that way. THEY think they’re plugging into a car. GEVCU thinks it IS the car.

And that’s kind of a microcosm of the whole thing. OVMS is mostly useful to people who have bought OEM cars. Similarly Torque. You guys build your own. So you should want it to do everything any other car does, including OBDII to USE Torque and OVSM, even if it is actually a 1974 Karman Ghia.

Managing open source projects is kind of like herding 25 cats in a lightning storm using a five iron and a roll of barbed wire. At this point, EVTV actually builds a GEVCU and we do a specific VERSION of the GEVCU software, however well or badly. I think we’ll see variants of both in the future and that is all to the good. But featuritus is kind of an editorial function and if not done well leads to kind of a mess.

The key is having a clearly defined mission and not wavering from it by much – even if for just a few dollars more you COULD actually control the precise temperature of the cigarette lighter – accounting for wind and ambient temperature. No, it would not be that hard. A little PWM circuit on the 12v, a couple of sensors. Yah. We’ll look at it.

I’m also VERY excited this week about a SUPER SECRET Battery Management System that actually did get off the ground from our announcement last year and the contest I killed when some of the natives went on warpath over it. Good reason to keep it a secret now. But I can tell you that if it pans out, we will be able to measure current to an astonishing degree of accuracy not seen on ANY electric vehicle – any OEM electric vehicle indeed. And similarly voltage and temperatures. It probably WILL control CAN controlled chargers – preventing charging at cold temperatures and perhaps even controlling heaters for such charging. And if it works out, I think it will be able to accurately PREDICT cell failures long before they actually fail or even look questionable using a voltmeter.

Twelve steps forward, nine back, and of course we fall to the floor a lot. I have TEN UQM drive trains in the building with me. These motors are VERY similar in power to the Siemens but at half the size and half the weight. And we have almost entirely figured out the CAN transactions to drive it, and the GEVCU can do it admirably. Almost.

For want of a nail, a shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, a horse was lost…

As it turns out, CODA does use the UQM Powerphase 100 drive train, but they did NOT use the stock UQM firmware for the inverter and indeed they did their own VCU, which they termed an ECU, to drive it. And they quite changed everything about the exchange. We have managed to decode MOST of it. But for want of a nail…

Instead of an address 205 command used by Coda for torque, voltage, and speed control. CODA simplified this to a 204 address command that just specifiies torque, along with forward/reverse and enable/disable. IT is a small five byte data packet.

Mysteriously, byte 1 is always zero. We just can’t catch it in the act of being anything else.
Byte 2 is a sequence counter and control byte. It simply counts from zero to seven and then back to zero. Packets have to be received in order to count. And two bits of this byte set enable/disable and two other bits set forward/reverse.
Bytes 3 and 4 are the actual torque command, least significant byte first and it represents 1/2 of the torque. In other words the Inverter will produce two times the torque noted in this two byte packet. It is also directional.

The bad news is byte 5. This is some sort of checksum/hash/cyclic redundancy check/security byte. IF it isn’t right, the inverter issues a CAN communications fault and does nothing. If it IS right, the motor turns.

We can COPY captured log data of these commands, and send them to the inverter and it will do as instructed perfectly.

The problem is, we don’t know how to GENERATE it. Every time we THINK we see a pattern, it disappears in the next example. We’ve tried a number of things, but so far it has eluded us. We’ve contacted the ex CODAOIDS. None of them remembers exactly who worked on that.

This is the contrast between open source and the proprietary approach so fawned on by the OEMs. Imagine being so closed you don’t even know how you did it or who did it. The obvious purpose is that if a motor or inverter failed, you would HAVE to get one from CODA. Other UQM Powerphase units, weather used or from UQM simply will not work in a CODA car. If your inverter fails, you have to get it direct from CODA and pay whatever CODA charges for it.

Not addressed is what you do if CODA fails. It would be cruel of me to point out that this strategy apparently didn’t work out for them. And it would be easy to dismiss. The irony is that it NEVER DOES.

Texas Instruments at one time had a personal computer. So did Apple, at the same time. TI insisted that THEY be the source of all add on hardware and all software. You bought their computer, you had to buy their software. Apple had an “open” backplane for add-on cards of which nearly a hundred became available. And some clown wrote VISICALC, which sold thousands of Apple computers to people who neither new nor cared that it was a personal computer – or what a personal computer was. They just saw this spreadsheet thing demonstrated ONCE, and HAD to have one no matter the cost.

Today, Apple has a share price of $600 and their main problem is what to do with the $140 BILLION in cash that has accumulated, litering the halls and clogging up the vacuum cleaners. TI took a $100 million write down in 1985 and exited the PC business forever.

This scenario was repeated so many times and in so many ways in the PC world, that even IBM adopted the open gig. It was a cliche. An absolute. If you wanted the market for your product all to yourself, you got it – all to yourself. ANd nobody would adopt it.

Car makers have just in the past few years discovered computers in cars. The lessons are not so apparent in that people do not buy cars for the computers that are in them, just like the Visicalc buyers knew nothing of Steve Jobs or Apple or what microprocessor it ran. But it holds absolutely as true if not as readily apparent. This totally closed proprietary protection of THEIR “intellectual property” in MY car that I bought is never going to work to the advantage of any car manufacturer anywhere. They would sell MORE cars by publishing the source code and putting a book in the glove box “How to Hack the ECU on your new BMW”.

Liability? Come on. Need I point out how totally proprietary GM’s ignition switch was and how they are now paying $35 million in fines, have 13 MILLION cars in recall at the moment with the body count rising weekly, and there are STILL tuners all across the land with software and hardware to hack into the ECU on any General Motors vehicle. Has any of that worked out for them? In ANY respect?

Ford is actually making noises about a Software Development Kit to access their ECU. They just can’t QUITE pull the trigger on it it is just SOOOO scarey….

I am actually NOT annoyed with such people because they are petty, mean spirited, selfish beasts who know but one note in the symphony of life (ME, ME, ME, ME…) and whose greed overcomes the better angels of their spirits. No, I am annoyed with them because they are incapable of accurately assessing their own self interests. That the logic that propels them is flawed at inception and they go right ahead not just shooting themselves in the foot, but then to RELOAD and dump another six shells into the SAME foot is just truly annoying to behold. To have them do it over and over just eventually gets to be a noise abatement issue.

We’re kind of a VW shop. VW was the brainchild of the ARCH ENEMY of democracy, Adolph Hitler. So why do we LOVE the entire VW thing EIGHTY YEARS after he conceived it. It literally brought Germany out of post World War II economic ruin single handedly. Leading it to become one of the strongest economies in the world and one of the most BELOVED automobile marques EVER PRODUCED with a cult following WORLD WIDE 80 years and MILLIONS of cars later?

Anybody can work on it. Literally anybody. It lends itself ably to customization and adaptability. You can put a fiberglass bathtub on top of it and start a whole ANOTHER thing. It was never a very good car in any sense of the word and it was never made of very good materials – all VW’s rust while you look at them. Even if they were just restored. So why the love? Why the cults? Why an entire ECOSPHERE of support parts and goodies for cars from the 1960’s???

I hear this all the time. BECAUSE THEY WERE CHEAP!!!. It is not so, and it NEVER WAS so. I bought a Ford Pinto in 1973 brand new for $2185 because the SuperBeetle I WANTED was nearly $3400. The VW THING was $1500 MORE that year. I could have bought a NEW VETTE for the price of a VW THING. Where did this myth get started that Volkswagens were CHEAP. THey were CHEAPLY BUILT. But they were always extraordinarily EXPENSIVE to BUY.

No, they were extraordinarily OPEN. ANd they were easy to work on, and even easy to restore. So they’ve just been restored, and restored, and restored, over and over again. The ONLY car that can compete with them for cult following, is, in the irony of all ironies, the PORSCHE. And mostly for the same reason.

For want of a nail… We have a log of 27,833 CAN messages taken from a brief drive and provided to us by Brian Hall of Thunderstruck Motors – who actually drives a full blown CODA as it happens. I have imported this into an XCEL spreadsheet where we can sort on various things and compare various things ad nauseum. Perhaps among our own viewers is a budding Alan Turing looking for an Enigma project. Dan Friedrickson I know is out there and is a certified genius, or at least a self proclaimed certified fantasy genius, or at least under constant medication for being such. Perhaps he might deign entrance us with a demonstration of mental legerdemain and forward me an algorithm to produce this mystery hash byte.

Note that I am not looking for sage and puckered patronizing ADVICE on what I MIGHT DO to crack it. A heroically detailed analysis restating the problem is actually of limited interest as well. But carefully and elegantly crafted and commented C++ code to produce it would be damned handy.

Guy was driving past the Farmington State Mental hospital here in Missouri and suddenly had a flat tire. He removed the hub cap and put his lug nuts in it while changing the tire. When he put the spare in position, he knocked over the hubcap and all the lug nuts dutifully rolled off into the street and straight down a storm sewer at the curb. Now he had the car jacked up, and had the spare in place, but no way to fasten it to the wheel.

Exasperated, he stood up and noticed one of the inmates at the mental hospital standing just on the other side of the fence calmly looking at him. Well? Now what do I do?

“Why don’t you take one nut off of each of the other three wheels and use those three to secure your spare. You can drive the car to a gas station and buy new lugnuts all around.”

“Damn. That’s pretty good. How did you come up with that and be in there?”

“I’m actually in here because I’m a little crazy. That does not imply that I’m stupid as well…”

“Are you saying I am??”

“No, but I didn’t spill the lugnuts down the drain either…”