I know I need to do the blog part more frequently. But we have a lot going on at EVTV and I’m struggling with time management issues. If you have three dozen pressing things to do, the tendency is to go shell shocked and avoid them all. That’s where I am these days. I’ve spent three days this week going to work with three or four very pressing things right in front of me. I chat with the guys in the shop. Eat a little chicken. And fume. But I’m not getting much done.
This week we announce the death of the Electric Vehicle PLUS Collin Kidder cracks the UQM code. It’s all kind of wrapped up in the same cosmic thing.
I am discouraged by a couple of things these days. One is the simple inability for people to do business in an environment where half the participants are either stealing or incompetent or both. The other is the “intellectual property” issue in technology in general and cars specifically.
Ryan Bohm/Netgain and the Pulsar. Gave these guys $20,000 two years ago for delivery of 10 units in 90 days. Note I was NOT investing in this company. I was purchasing chargers from them. They’ve basically kept the money and the chargers. George Hamstra squalls that it isn’t him, those are the OTHER Netgain guys he just invested in. Ryan Bohm insists I’m just too demanding a guy and he’s going to quit working on the project altogether. How does that work two years after the fact? How could I tell he was still ON it with no communication for three months? I understand he’s sold his EV Source website and has a day job now.
I ordered 50 GEVCU boards from a Chinese PCB manufacturer. Put $5000 down with the rest on delivery. Good move. They were unable to locate one of the parts so they just never delivered them and no longer respond to e-mails.
And I paid a local guy $3000 to paint the DOKA. He is getting a divorce and his air compressor blew up. So he informs us he can’t finish it and doesn’t have the money. So here’s your half painted (badly as it turns out) VW Pickup Truck. No real apology. Just “shit happens man”.
On the wider front, I hear daily from viewers that are certain there is not much point in doing a conversion because the OEMs now offer electric cars everywhere. As best I can tell, they don’t offer them anywhere but California. THere is of course the ubiquitous LEAF with a 60 mile range on it. The THING has a 70 mile range with a single string of 60Ah cells. It isn’t even designed to go anywhere – just be a test bed for the Siemens and DMOC645.
I was bemused and a little nauseated by the ever enthusiastic Ms. Nikki Gordon Broomfield. After years of sucking up to Nissan, they have apparently done some deal and they sponsored her apparently in covering the WAVE gathering in Stuttgart – nearly 500 EV’s in the largest gathering ever. Nissan touted her participation in a Nissan Press Release anyway. She wound up on tour of France and Belgium from the cab of a flatbed towtruck with her trusty Nissan Leaf bouncing about behind her. Finally was able to get it charged sufficiently to make it back through the tunnel to the UK and home. A power demonstration of what NOT to do with a Leaf.
This brings so much into play as to the state of OEM EVdumb I don’t even know where to start. First, a drive from England to Stuttgart is not precisely what I picture as the role of an electric car. It is pretty clear that about 98% of the miles driven in the United States at least occur within 25 miles of home. This isn’t an opinion or a point of view. We can measure this.
But in any event it failed rather ignomiously. I can posit all sorts of “why it failed” but it was a more general failure than a Leaf on a truck bed.
First is Nissan. They have announced that ALL NISSAN LEAF DEALERS will have the fast charge capability by next quarter for about a dozen quarters now. All Nissan Leaf dealers do not even have J1772 Level II charging yet. It is simply a lie. A public misrepresentation of fact. You can’t go to a Nissan dealer and charge. You can go to some and charge. And some that even HAVE charging will only let you charge during business hours. And of course if you are not in a Leaf they generally won’t let you charge at all. It is a systemic failure of the Nissan organization that has had years to rectify it and have not bothered.
But Ms. Gordon-Broomstick also had a fistful of online maps, RFID cards etc to charge at numerous plug-in charge points shown on those maps. In general, many if not the majority are simply non-operational. They don’t work. They work but can’t take the cards yet. Work and can take the cards but you have the WRONG card. Etc. Many of these maps have been created by very enthusiastic organizations and individuals who desperately want to promote electric vehicles in general. And they delight in showing how very many charge stations there are. But there aren’t. No one is out checking to see if you can actually CHARGE at those locations. And so if you plan a trip thinking they will be available, you too will wind up on a flatbed truck – out of altitude, airspeed, and ideas all at a very unfortunate moment.
Meanwhile, we have four J1772 charge stations at the Federal Court House here in Cape Girardeau that have never had the zip tie cut that secures the plug to the pedestal. No one has ever TRIED using them. If all they need to be operational is turning on a circuit breaker in the building, no one has likely turned it on, or ever will. That’s the state of EVdumb circa June 2014.
A broad scale disconnect, with a raging debate involving thousands of people who have never been in an electric car, and a few who purport to be experts but haven’t a clue how to get from A to B in one. And totally unaware that from A to B isn’t even what they are for.
So I’m feeling a little bit of disconnect here. In this episode I read off the LIST of all the OEM’s and startups in batteries and EVs that are BANKRUPT and their assets sold off in liquidation and it is a pretty large list. SEVCONN by the way has informed us they do NOT want to sell us inverters because they don’t feel that our position is compatible with their mission to sell their inverters to OEMs. This is priceless. I didn’t bother pointing them to UQM, who has received $42 million in Federal (read our) money (a redundant theme in the list of failures) to build a plant capable of producing 56,000 inverter/motor sets a year. Of course, as of this writing and after at least five years I know of of valient effort, UQM does NOT HAVE A SINGLE OEM OR OEM CANDIDATE in their business model. Not a one. They DID have ONE – CODA. Coda is now bankrupt, and instead of selling them 15,000 units which they had AGREED contractually to purchase, UQM is stuck with an inventory of $7.9 million in CODA specific hardware, according to their latest sworn SEC filing, which they indicate NO HOPE of recovery. Something to aspire to SEVCCON.
And yes, why am I complaining about a measely $20,000 charger order that turns out to be just simple and direct theft and fraud? Glad I wasn’t selling to CODA.
We really DON’T sell to OEMS. Oh, we had one call and want a dozen Borg Warner eGearDrives. I informed them we had seven left in stock and they wanted them. Had to have them NOW. They are the Vantage Green Van guys (we have one). 39 e-mail messages later, after “their acccounting office” wanted three business references in order to BUY something from us (????????) I finally gave up. I told the guy we just couldnt’ deal with them. We were little and ugly and our mother dressed us funny and we just couldnt’ possibly meet their needs as a huge automotive original equipment manufacturer and member of the Fortune 500. We couldn’t sell them ANYTHING. The next day they sent money and I received hourly requests for progress and tracking numbers from that moment. We did send them the 7 we had on hand and reordered from Borg Warner. The DAY after they arrived, the company informed me they would not work for their application and DEMANDED not only a full refund, but that WE PAY TO SHIP THEM BACK, “WHILE” mind you noting that they were all in perfect shape in their original packaging. ??????
What am I supposed to do with that??
The problem with UQM’s stock of “OEM” Powerphase 100’s is that they are specifically modified for CODA and can’t really be used for much else. The CAN commands are somewhat different and after reverse engineering almost everything about them, we got it down to a single CRC byte that was intentionally coded to keep others from running the inverter. That is its only purpose. To make it proprietary. Why? So you can’t get an inverter from UQM or someone else and use it in a CODA car. You have to pay CODA their parts premium to buy a new inverter.
That’s a little hard to do these days. CODA went bankrupt. It’s gone. Well not entirely gone. After shedding all liability, to UQM and to each of the 81 poor hapless yucks that actually bought a CODA, along with any obligation to any of the investors who put money into the company hoping for a return, a number of the CODA principals continue life in the fast lane as CODA ENERGY. This is a battery backup company.
John Hissong was one of the chief engineers at CODA and is now the same at CODA Engineering. I contacted him and asked if he could provide any assistance in decoding this one goofy security byte. Throw a bro a bone. Actually a bonelette. His reply was breathtaking.
1. First, we should go to UQM and buy them from them as they had done.
2. He couldn’t possibly help because of the liability issues.
3. If neither of the first two were true, that security algorithm might still be used in some of their current products, and releasing it would open up their current offerings to attack.
After politely and carefully vomitting into a trash can, I thanked him for his generous asssistance.
1. Buy them from UQM? You mean steal some from them and then use the bankruptcy courts to avoid paying for them?
2. Liability issues? From the bankruptcy? For the cars? You don’t have any liability. You made certain of that.
3. ??? The motor controller on their battery backup systems???
This is how very FAR the intellectual property paranoia has gone. Mindlessly too far. The problem is, if you buy a modern car you don’t own the sonofabitch. You barely own part of it. ANd if it breaks down or you want to modify it, you can’t and you can’t by the deliberate design of the manufacturer. You are deprived of the use of your own equipment, which you have bought and paid for, in a very deliberate fashion and without apology.
This inevitably has a vast chilling effect on the introduction of electric vehicles. If they break, you are totally dependant on the good will of a company that has expressly demonstrated a thorough lack of good will, if you want it fixed. But in any event, in reviewing our list of failed companies, it won’t matter anyway because they will be bankrupt and gone, shedding any responsibility for the outcome and “so long sucker and thanks for all the fish.”
So Nissan publicly trumpets the availability of fast charging that doesn’t exist. CODA is bankrupt. UQM and Sevconn and Siemens and, well everybody, ONLY want to sell to OEMs even if they are bankrupt. And if you DO buy an electric car, they still own it and you aren’t to touch it. Does this smack of inmates having taken over the asylum? Are we banging our tin dinner plates on the bars here?
Tesla is the lone success story. But even they rather fail the sniff test. At $107,000 for my Tesla Model S, I’m guessing this is not the solution to the future. We still have the “value proposition” here. There were pefectly running electric cars widely available in 1914. Quite mature and with the bugs ironed out. But yes, they were $3000 and the Model T was $750. The value proposition has to be addressed or this will not work.
It is very interesting to see Mr. Musk, who is a very bright guy and does get it, as the problem finally crosses HIS brow. Tesla is a very closed very secretive bunch. They are striving for excellence in product service and largely achieving it. But the conundrum of totally closed Intellectual Property and vehicle ownership has occurred to him. MOre specifically at the moment the closed nature of Tesla’s fast charging network that DOES seem to be maintained and operational. In his words, “we don’t want to carve a path through the jungle and then plant land mines on it.” And so he’s noodling how he can provide access to it which obviously involves sharing the technology of charging at least with his competitors. They have to be able to charge at 135kw and climbing like a Tesla. And he does insist they help fund the network pro rata to their use. And philisophically, the use of the network has to be free or Elon doesn’t want to play.
Interesting problem. BUt it assumes the other OEM’s want to sell electric cars at all. And that is NOT a given. As Musk himself noted in their annual stockholders meeting, by far the majority of OEM plug in cars are simply California Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate compliance cars. And that if those ZEV mandates go away, so do the cars.
This may all sound doom and gloom. But it isn’t necessarily. Who in the entire world holds the key to the future of electric cars? It is really quite simple. Collin Kidder does. If you ask nice, he’ll give you one.
You see if my 1974 VW Thing breaks down, I don’t need anyone’s permission to fix it. AFTER we decoded the DMOC645 CAN bus command structure. Collin was key in that. If my Escalade breaks down I don’t need GM’s permission to fix it. They wouldn’t know how. ANd if I can just get out of my current overwhelmed activity mode, getting the UQM running is pretty trivial now that we have the 15 lines of code necessary to produce the byte.
And so we have Damien Maguire and Collin Kidder and Mark Weisheimer and Michael Neuweiller and really an unending resource of talented individuals out there that eventually can indeed get most all the components of an electric car to work one way or another.
Now let me ask you this. If you COULD by an electric car. And were considering two models who each had like 4 wheels, an airconditioner, and a bluetooth module for your phone, which would you pick? A proprietary vehicle you were warned not to even look at. Or an open source car. A car that EVERYTHING IN IT was open source hardware and software.
Now if you buy a Leaf and it doesn’t go far enough, you just add some more batteries in the trunk. If it doesn’t go fast enough, you swap out the motor – and maybe the inverter while you’re in there. If it doesn’t charge fast enough, change the charger. If its your car, you should be EMPOWERED by the manufacturer to do that. He should be assisting you in that.
Curiously, you already are. If you build your own that is. Which is one reason why I see this custom EV thing growing phenomenally in the future. Control of your own transportation destiny.
But I can see an actual seam in the zone for someone to sell an open source car. We sell GEVCUs. They are entirely open source in both hardware and software. But it is just easier to buy the damn thing from us and get the manual and the cable and the nice enclosure etc. By doing a lot of them we get the parts cheaper. But you can certainly build your own if you like.
What if that were the case with the whole freaking car? If you could buy a brand new car, get financing and insurance for it, but it is entirely open source with all the software and hardware diagrammed and described in the shop manual. Kind of like cars WERE in the 1950’s. Would it have a “competitive edge”. And ironically, isn’t a competitive edge what all the proprietary IP is about in the first place?
I think it would be MORE of a competitive edge to have a 100% open source car. ALL of it.
In the meanwhile, we will keep plugging away on the GEVCU and the UQM drive train. You might find it amusing to learn that Ed Clausen and I are working on an open source BMS. No shit. I’m not kidding.
And it might be that we will just have to set up an Indigogo account to do a crowd funding project to buy Collin Kidder a Leaf so he can develop a GEVCU module to basically OUT the CAN bus stuff to run a Leaf = inverter, charger, BMS, all of it. They claim to have sold 110,000 units worldwide. The parts for all of them should be available on eBay within five years.
But buyer beware. The business ethics thing is still a problem. WE talked with a guy in Las Vegas who is selling brand NEW Leaf cells – obtained from salvaged Leafs. New meaning new to the market after they are taken out of the wrecked Leaf, which had however many miles on it. New to you. It never ends.
In any event, thank you Collin Kidder for literally pulling off the Alan Turing Enigma thing on this annoying little one byte problem.
What he calls obsessing on a little puzzle problem I call changing the world.
For the John Hissong poseur wannabees – BYTE ME! Your stock options STILL ain’t worth shit…