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Tesla remains an enigma. After announcing he was effectively “open sourcing” his Tesla Model S, apparently Mr. Musk feels it is appropriate to actively “disable” cars that have been wrecked until they can be proven safe, to his satisfaction, by a Tesla inspection. Mr. Peter Rutman, who cachinged out $50,000 for a salvaged Tesla, was treated woefully by the wider media who paternalistically labelled the entire affair a matter of caveat emptor – buyer beware.

I assume most of our viewers know how the salvage trade works. Basically, you wreck your Tesla. The only ones authorized to repair Tesla’s are Tesla. The insurance company contacts Tesla for a repair estimate. On receiving it (in shock) they almost always total the car. Simple aluminum body repairs ARE expensive, but not that expensive. This is going to drive insurance for Tesla Model S vehicles through the roof. Within a year, it will undoubtedly be the most expensive car in the world to insure.

But after they have “totalled it” they pay the owner, and gain title to the wreck. Traditionally, they sell these wrecks with a “salvage” title and there is a ready market for them among those who either repair them or part them out, depending on condition. Mr. Rutman paid a pretty penny at one of these auctions for a very modestly damaged Model S and attempted to make the body work repairs himself. Little did he know that Tesla was actually going to turn the car off – disable it from afar or that they even could.

And just how was he supposed to “beware”? The salvage trade has been going on for decades. Repairing or parting out wrecks is an already established facet of the automotive ecosphere. If you DO repair the car, it carries the “salvage” title forward, so no one need be misled that this is a new car or an undamaged car. But it usually trades at a discount because of this salvage history.

Tesla wants to still control the car. To make sure it is safe????? What???? Actually, they still want to charge somebody something for the repairs. And they don’t really want a market developing for used Tesla parts. Not part of the business model.

This tends to support the National Association of Automobile Dealers claim that having the dealers who make the repairs and the manufacturer be one and the same diminishes consumer choice and leads to monopolitic practices. And it is not at all clear that Tesla is winning this battle. The Iowa ruling stands and now this week Michigan actually enacted further law to bolster the dealers position there.

But the central issue is that Tesla has open sourced nothing. This was sheer pablum for the media. It is interesting to note that the Tesla spokesperson who addressed this issue of the salvaged Tesla, Simon Sproule, resigned the very week after. Sproule was recruited from Renault-Nissan just this past April and is moving on to British marque Aston Martin.
One of our more cherished visions for Tesla has to do with the Supercharger network. Their performance there has been disappointing. Recall we called for them to combine fast charging with convenience stores, though using an upscale model, as a way of funding these charge stations. 160,000 gasoline stops can’t be wrong. Actually the number ONE way to become a millionair in the U.S. today is through convenience store ownership. If nothing else, you can always sell out to Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. This Canadian company operates over 15,000 convenience stores worldwide, grows 20% per year and has an operating margin of 35%. It’s a fantastic business.

We saw a looming standards battle over fast charging. The key to electric vehicle adoption, many would have us believe, centers on infrastructure buildout. We don’t think Level II charging infrastructure scratches that itch. But if you could charge in 20-30 minutes, perhaps. That means fast charge. Unfortunately, we don’t even have a common lingua franca to talk about the subject. Japan and TEPCO proposed the Charge de Move or CHAdeMO standard. The Society of Automotive Engineers has a proposed COMBO standard extending J1772 via Revision B to include a DC charging option. And Tesla has an entirely different supercharger standard it uses on its cars.

A year ago, we predicted that General Motors, BMW, and even Nissan would have to kiss the technologically superior ring and take a knee, signing on to help support the TEsla supercharger network. None have. And at this point we think the window of opportunity may have passed. Tesla is heroically closed with their open sourced “all our patent are belong to you” information about the supercharger network. And no one has “negotiated” anything.

As the SAE combo has so few charge stations we can essentially declare this initiative dead on arrival.

Tesla’s supercharger count is pretty impressive. At this writing they claim 118 stations in North America, 74 in Europe, and 24 in Asia.

We’ve been critical of Nissan for announcing over and over again that their dealers would all have CHAdeMO hookups when in reality none had. But things have changed. Not all Nissan dealers do, but many HAVE added fast charging. Indeed, through all of this, CHAdeMO has just kept plugging away. CHAdeMO was formed by The Tokyo Electric Power Company, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Subaru. Toyota later joined as its fifth executive member. As of October 7, 2014, the CHAdeMO Association web site states that there are 2,129 DC Quick Chargers installed in Japan, 1327 in Europe, 731 in the USA and 54 elsewhere.

Having been through all the many and varied standards wars on the way to the Internet, I can tell you that it is actually RARE and even UNLIKELY for the best technology to win. It’s all about adoption and it is usually about having an “open” standard and a very low price. CHAdeMO has qualified. It uses very simple and easy to implement CAN communications and it is easy to design and qualify. And at this point, with 4187 stations, against Tesla’s 216, it appears to be over.

And it may be that Tesla has already read the writing on the wall. They had very quietly offered a $1000 option for Tesla, a CHAdeMO adapter. It’s among the most popular options for the car as it turns out.Chademo_US_shot_02_1024x1024

Just this week, they have dropped the price drastically to $450 from the $1000 they were asking last week when we checked. But it is now “COMING SOON” whereas it had been readily available. What do YOU think it means????

Tesla has had a nasty spat with Chinese officials who were offended at Tesla’s characterization of their own CHinese fast charging standard as being incomplete. The Chinese insisted that it WAS complete and Tesla would be in compliance with it if they wanted to sell cars there. Tesla, who is counting on large sales numbers from China, immediately noted that “yes, we are, will, were, or something…whatever YOU think it means.” All our charge ports are belong to YOU China.

Europe has been particularly interesting to watch. The EU officials all noted that all CHAdeMO would be banned as of 2018. This appears to have set off a CHAdeMO installation frenzy/mania across the continent. And at a current count of 1327 sport nearly twice the CHAdeMO installations in half the land mass of the U.S at 731. I would say by the end of 2015 you would not be able to throw a dead cat out an upstairs window in the EU without a pretty good chance of hitting a CHAdeMO station at least a glancing blow. That is, if you are at least middling competent at throwing dead cats.

CHAdeMO is currently limited to 500V and 125 amps or 62.5KW. Is that enough? Probably not. But you do not have to be faster than the Jaguar to survive. You just have to be faster than at least one of the other villagers. If history holds, after it wins, we will see additions and appendages to the decided standard. CHAdeMO part Duh can’t be far away. A 200A version would sport 100kw and that would charge a 50kw pack in 30 minutes. Will Tesla be better? What difference does it make. Most of us won’t be driving Teslas.

Their latest move is the Tesla D – which of course stands for part Duh. Another prediction we blew badly. Instead of an upscale sports car, or a GenIII reveal, they have added dual drive to the ModelS. This is a very curious move. Automobiles currently average a sprightly 8.2 second zero to 60 time, which is quite an approvement over the 1975 averge of 14 seconds. Part of THAT increase is due to the retirement of the VW Superbeetle. But a 3.2 second zero to 60?

The Model S was sworn and sealed as a $55,000 followup to the $109,000 Tesla Roadster. THEY NEVER SOLD A SINGLE CAR at $55,000. Mine, which doesn’t even sport a sunroof, came in at $107,000. The problem I, and anyone purchasing a Model S faces, is that if you can afford an $80,000 car, why would you want the WEENY version??? And so we think you’ll find that same logic holds true. If you can afford $107,000 for an electric car, you can also afford $133,000 which is where the Model D very quickly takes you nicely equipped.

Who would want ONE failing motor/transmission when you can have TWO to service? And the other advantage is of course the extra 10 mile range????

The autonomous driving sensors just kills me. According to a recent survey, 44% of car buyers would indeed be interested in some level of autonomous control. ??? For what? But worse, why would ANY automotive manufacturer want to elbow their way into the courtroom to have part in every disputed automobile accident to help determine whether the driver did it or the car? This is litigatory lunacy. In any event, whatever Elon is taking, I’d like to experiment with just a couple of times in the evenings…

The net effect is a higher priced Model S, larger margins per car, and fewer unit sales.

And so our focus moves toward CHAdeMO. To date, the DIY community has been entirely left out of the fast charge debate. At EVTV, we have experimented with charging both the batteries and the cars at higher rates. I’m uncertain as to the effect on the Lithium Nickle Cobalt Manganese Aluminum cells coming into fashion at Tesla. But for LiFePo4 cells, I can assure you with some confidence that up to about 3C, they just don’t care. No apparent effect of any kind and typically a temperature increase of 10F. They don’t apparently notice it at all. And they charge to 95% of max in that time before heating really begins.

But we’ve been entirely left out of the party.
That cannot be allowed to stand. This week we have added the very high quality Yazaki version of the CHAdeMO DC charging inlet to our offerings in the online store. Click on the image left to check it out. At $895, it’s a bit proud. But it appears to be best of breed and that’s kind of how we roll here.

In this week’s episode our Lisbon contingent, Paulo and Celso, demonstrate their new JLD505 device, a kind of miniBMS that measures voltage and current and offers three interfaces, USB, CAN, and BLUETOOTH. It also sports two digital inputs and two digital outputs. I would hope to have it in production within six weeks.

With a JLD505, the Yazaki inlet, two Gigavac contactors, and a bit of software, you can basically roll up to a CHAdeMO station and water your horse like a Rock star. And I have both the spec, and the Leaf capture data in hand for this one. The outcome is pretty much a done deal. For probably less than $1400 in kit you can drive cross country to the next EVCCON.

As of last night, Mark Wiesheimer was effectively charging using a Lear charger, our recently released CANDue CAN board, and a piece of software I wrote without ever having a wired up Lear charger in the room with me. He could command the current level, the CV voltage, and the termination by laptop and once set, unplug the laptop and forget. Last week, I purchased a Chevy Volt version of this OEM quality 3.3 kw Lear charger on eBay for $445 plus shipping.
By the middle of next year, I expect to have a Leaf inverter and motor turning on its own dedicated test bench and be selling Leaf drive trains here at EVTV.

And this morning I’ve released a software program for the CANDue that lets you log CAN data, at any speed and from two ports simultaneously, to a microSD card that you will have a hard time finding at any size under 2 GIGABYTES. You can download it here. Rock on WaynesWorld.

While you are at it, have a peek at our latest version of the CANDue User Manual.

Basically, based on Collin Kidder’s excellent library work in developing GEVCU, we find ourselves in the enviable position that Arduino and CAN just ain’t no thang anymore. We can whip stuff out in a few days. And that IS the CANopener to access the treasure chest in the junk pile.

THAT’s what I’ve been on about for two years now with the GEVCU development. If we develop CAN tools, and learn a bit about CAN, we can access the good OEM quality components, and make MUCH improved cars at MUCH less expense. So we applaud Tesla’s move to 3.2 seconds and a 155 mph top end. More wrecks quicker. And once known that you can’t rebuild the cars and use them, the wrecks should go for a song at auction.

They are just not repairable according to Elon Musk and Tesla. Not if we are to be SAFE. Safe from what? From Tesla?

Our cars may still belong to Tesla. But before it’s over, all their PARTS are going to belong to us. I’m trying to picture a 1962 Metropolitan D – D standing for DUAL Tesla motors.
photo (17) 2
I can assure you if I’m driving it, it will be zero to 60 – sometime later this afternoon…or maybe not… And I will be the one driving the car, not Elon Musk, Tesla, or an Arduino.


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