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I wonder at the parameters of our day and our age. They are in any other generation a miracle. There is a kind of magic in the global pooling and sharing of information as well as commerce deriving from the Internet, and increasingly from the miraculous devices that implement it in every increasing utility.

I had a conversation with some of the resident Chinese students here at the local university. My wife, who teaches information sciences at Southeast University often invites a group of them to dinner on Sunday evening. In all modesty, I make the best iced tea in the world.

I discovered, as a hod carrier in 1973 Southeast Missouri July, that lemonade or iced water or soda pop liberally applied to the stomache when you worked hard above 104 degrees fahrenheit would generally come back up as fast as it went down. Oddly, thin iced tea would stay put, and seemed to greatly aleve dehydration that can actually be fatal under those conditions if not addressed.

I have worked on this recipe for iced tea now for 42 years. Kind of like the battery straps, it doesn’t show as it is elegantly simple. Take four bags of Twinings Earl Grey tea and place in a drip coffee pot. Add one stick of stick cinammon and ONE clove. Not two. One. Pour through the normal clear water to fill the pot. Let steep for 3 minutes. Pour over ice with 1 cup of Splenda sweetener.

I would say probably bimonthly I experiment with this tea recipe and have tried many teas from around the world, and many variations of it. At this point, after 42 years, precious few make the cut. The addition of a single clove, for example, was made four years ago and did make the cut. It was the last “change” despite ongoing experimentation.

Now how can that be any good? The response to it is universal and cross cultural. And the Chinese students were immediately raving over it. They normally prefer hot green tea of course but since we were drinking the iced tea, they had kind of joined in, to their delight.

A wide ranging discourse and discussion of tea followed with the merits and processing techniques for green, Oolong, and black teas ensuing.

There is a natural heirarchical nature to humanoids. In all things, there is a “best” at the top followed by a pyramid of lessers down to a very wide ranging base at the bottom of everything. Baseball players. Musicians. Beer. Wine is famous for it. And so it must needs be for tea. So I inquired what is considered the BEST of the best tea in China. They seemed uncertain so I asked them to research it and return the following week with the answer.

Instead, they came with tea. Tea from Taiwan. And Kirk, the apparent leader of the pack, rather sheepishly told me that the tea in Taiwan was probably better now, because of all the air polution in China mainland. As an island, Taiwan has most of its more obnoxious fumes blown off by ocean breezes.

We tried the tea, a bland oolong of no particular note, and I explained that I wasn’t really seeking TEA per se, as information about tea from the point of view of tea connosieurs in China. I explained the dominance of Dom Perignon for centuries despite arguably better wines akimbo. After awhile, brand recognition tops reality.

Indeed this applies to all the tea in China as well. And indeed he then knew exactly what I was after and had no difficulty with the question. “It is Longjing Tea. The Dragon Well.”

A quick check of Wikipedia confirmed his answer.

Longjing tea was granted the status of Gong Cha, or Imperial tea, in Qing Dynasty by Chinese emperor Kangxi. According to the legend, Kangxi’s grandson Qianlong visited West Lake during one of his famous holidays.

He went to the Hu Gong Temple under the Lion Peak Mountain (Shi Feng Shan) and was presented with a cup of Longjing tea. In front of the Hu Gong Temple were 18 tea bushes. Emperor Qianlong was so impressed by the Longjing tea produced here that he conferred these 18 tea bushes special imperial status. The trees are still living and the tea they produce is auctioned annually for more money per gram than gold.

Longjing, which literally translates as “dragon well,” is said to have named after a well that contains relatively dense water, and after rain the lighter rainwater floating on its surface sometimes exhibits a sinuous and twisting boundary with the well water, which is supposed to resemble the movement of a Chinese dragon.

Legend also has it that to achieve the best taste from Longjing, water from the Dreaming of the Tiger Spring, a famous spring in Hangzhou, is to be used. The water quality of the spring now is certainly very different than before. The tea takes its name from the eponymous “Dragon Well” located near Longjing village.

The best of today’s available Longjing seems to be Xihu Longjing – literally West Lake Dragon Well. Interestingly, this is the area where Jacky Ma and Alibaba are headquartered.

More amazing, a quick trip to eBay revealed dozens of tea merchants now operating there with by far the majority IN China itself. I quickly located one, and literally within minutes after our Sunday dinner, had 500 grams (about a pound) winging its way toward the Casa Rickard – albeit at about $75 per pound. Dragons don’t just crap this stuff for free apparently.

I cannot adequately share with you my amazement at what has come to pass as the result of the Internet, knowing full well that it was a fully formed vision in the late 1980s with just a few hundred souls really promoting it at the time. We saw all this coming, but to live to actually see its full effect is actually startling to me. Individuals and very small companies trading and sharing knowledge on a global basis. English emerging as the lingua franca refuting the Tower of Babel. And all of it without much control or permission from the powers that be.

But those powers do not go quietly into that dark night. They have become more furtive and more careful. But they still desperately want to control and mostly they want ot control YOU.

Given all of this, understand that I am naturally a big fan of disruptive technology. The disruptive communciations technologies of the last 30 years have opened enormous opportunity for many millions of people and of course it has all been VERY good to me personally. Mature industries tend to follow a “big fish eat small fish” ecosystem until in the end, they are entirely dominated by huge corporations – the haves, who then use their power and resource to FURTHER disadvantage the small fry (me) and consolidate their position.

But if you introduce a new technology that makes that entire industry totally obsolete and economically irrelevant, it opens opportunity for all and in fact, the entrenched and advantages are always at a DISADVANTAGE, ensnared in their own cultural and economic biases and assumptions.

And the only way to thrive in an environment of continual technological change is to reinvent yourself every day.

It is no news that I have cheered Tesla on from its earliest days as potentially disruptive of the entire automotive system. And indeed have strongly advocated for their battle against automobile dealers, along with their disruptive posture on sales, ordering, payment, delivery, design, manufacture, communications, etc. Indeed, most of the debate about Tesla’s company and future and stock price simply assumes it is a car company. I rather view it as changing the automotive ecosphere forever and in all directions at day’s end.

Recent events have given pause.

Tesla, as it turns out in its annual report, lists its risk factors but they have added a new one. The threat of their customers hacking and modifying their car, causing liability to purse and reputation and all manner of evil.

And when I look over the developments of the last 15 years in the auto industry generally, I see a very dark side to it that Tesla almost REPRESENTS at this stage. And that is a very strong move toward disposable automobiles. A harrowing attack on the ability to even make minor repairs to an automobile. And the implication is that once the warranty has run out, you should really buy a NEW car – not be fooling around with that old piece of junk. You might hurt yourself or others. Come buy a NEW model.

I have been in a battle with Daimler Smart over a Smart ED and getting a battery for it. That soap opera continues, film at eleven. But I was startled to hear from a viewer in Switzerland that there, there ARE no parts available at all. Indeed there are NO salvage vehicles less than 10 years old. You can get some wrecks and parts if they are OVER 10 years old, but it actually doesn’t exist anywhere in country ANY salvage of newer vehicles.

This is the same old furtive moves by the entrenched power structure to further disadvantage the lesser fish. Or in my case minnow.

If you think it cannot happen here, I would urge you to reflect on the history of television sets, radios, stereos, etc in this country. At one time all were repairable, parts were readily available, indeed stereos were essentially component systems for decades before reintegrating into essentially disposables today. You can’t get your big screen repaired at all and you can’t fix it yourself. There’s not a replaceable part on it and if it goes bad, in ways minor or total, you have TWO possible remedies. If under warranty, take whatever the will give you – usually a coupon to apply to a new one. Or just buy a new one.

To me, that this would apply to an item as expensive as an automobile, now averaging over $32,000 per car, is unthinkable. But all the signs are there.

And Tesla, and many OEMS are basically bent on disassembling really a miraculous global ecoplex of automotive parts availability. Still at this point there are thousands of points around the globe where you can buy replacement parts for your automobile. Indeed every town and village has a nearby “dealership” where Mr. Goodwrench will sell you a genuine GM part. But next door is inevitably a salvage operation or “junk yard” that buys wrecks, removes the parts from them, and sells them off one by one.

Converting a car to electric drive to this point has been a bit ad hoc and made do. The most popular motor for years was a repainted Forklift motor from Warfield Motors branded the Netgain. One tiny mom and pop shop made the DIY produced Zilla controller for it, and gave way to another tiny group EVNETICS who did the Soliton1. DC-DC converters were most often just 12v switching power supplies meant for 240vac input. We applied the high voltage pack DC in the input and it routed through one half of the rectifier and the thing sorta/kinda worked. Oh, there were also a few Chinese numbers. Manzanita, a floppy disk company had come out with a charger, again out of a mom and pop shop. And you kind of cobbled all this together as best you could. Excide lead chemistry batteries were the norm.

Today, George Hamstra has largely retired (again) and turned Netgain Motors over to son Hunter, who mostly sells motors to people who make Zamboni ice grooming equipment. And this week we learned that EVNETICS/Rebirth Auto basically is no more. EVNETICS kind of continues furtively making controllers for railroads, but we prefer to forget their life among DIY electric car enthusiasts. Indeed we heard from one viewer who was shopping for an HPEVS AC system for his truck because he just couldn’t get any support for his Soliton1. They do not answer our calls at all.

When EVTV started in 2009 there were NO production electric vehicles in the world. Read that as ZERO. Hard to picture at this point. But yes, six years ago there were NO electric cars to buy. The closest thing available was an enhanced golf cart with a horn, a rear view mirror, and headlights purporting to be a “Neighborhood Electric Vehicle” or NEV. They were designed with a top speed of 25 mph for geriatrics residing in retirement communities.

We have spent the past six years in a daily wrestling match to get something better going with isolated and less expensive chargers, dc-dc converters, throttles, motors, and controllers. And of course from the beginning we have championed the Chinese prismatic LiFePo4 lithium cell as the battery to use in a car and have literally had to devine how to use and care for these batteries by experiment. The original documentation we received from China with our first set consisted of a half a sheet of paper imprinted with the fabulously useful and informative notice that “Your glad acceptance is our warmest happiness. Best quality. Best service.”

NO other information at all.

Today, individuals world wide are building much better electric car conversions and enjoying them more and longer and I like to think our efforts have aided and abetted that happy occurence. Further, today there are dozens of electric cars in production and hundreds announced on paper, if you believe the paper. Your persistance in building such vehicles and showing them to people has, I believe, been the largest contributing factor to this change. The “powers that be” don’t want any “movement” to escape them or their control. And the picture of you guys converting existing cars to electric cars that don’t use gasoline is beyond threatening. The whisper of it inspires panic. You can judge just how MUCH panic by carefully observing the response to this blog entry and how off the mark I am on this- we’ll hear about it alright.

Recall my admonition – you have to reinvent yourself everyday.

Things have changed. The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt have sold 150,000 electric cars between them in the last five years. Daughters and sons being what they are, that means 15,000 wrecked electric cars by now.

The best way to heat an electric car was an RMS liquid heater. It came from a new defunct company MES-DEA in Switzerland. It cost $750 and there was no parts or availability really here in the U.S. Warranty? Support? A laugh.

Our little reverse engineering group has been in the throes of wrestling with a very small, advanced PTC liquid heater by Ebenspraecher that appears on 75,000 Chevy Volts. It is available at any Chevrolet dealer for $466 brand new. Mark Weisheimer announced last night that he had it heating, although he literally had to rebuild a CANdue with a new chip to do the low speed single wire GMLAN stuff to feed it CAN commands. They sure don’t make it easy.

The point being that we are at the cusp of a new period where the motors, controllers, chargers, DC-DC converters, and eventually even the batteries will become repurposed standard OEM car parts. And the good news about that is that they will be readily available at dealerships, on eBay (just like tea) and through salvage. And at roughly half the price that we’ve BEEN PAYING to get parts to convert cars.

My first charger actually WAS from Switzerland – a Brusa. We still sell them today but that is what we used in the first 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster replica we converted. It cost $3700 in 2008. It went over $4500 subsequently due largely to some currency exchange gyrations.

Today we ship Rich Morris two Lear chargers and a DC-DC converter from a Chevy VOlt. We’re CHARGING about $1500 each for these OEM grade 3.3 kw chargers, with a custom controller with software, harnesses, etc. The controller actually controls both chargers operating together and a dc-dc converter. He can easily set them to do what he wants in his 1962 Studebaker pickup truck build.

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I have alluded to the advantages of HIGHER quality at LOWER cost that all of this brings. I’ve been hesitant to bring the rest of the story because it is kind of eradicating to the other existing players. The REAL advantage has nothing to do with higher quality and lower cost.

The reason this is all important is that it changes EV conversion forever. In the past, when you built an EV you pretty much wore it. There was no way to resell it because nobody could work on it, or even locate parts for it when it died. Typically, once the conversion guy got done with it, most of the parts were obsolete by then anyway.

Eight years down the road, Mr. Morris’s studebaker loses a charger. Well a Chevy Volt Lear charger is going to be on the shelf at every little wide spot in the road with a GM dealership at it. By then they will be showing up in NAPA parts stores. Same with the DC-DC converter. Commodity auto parts readily available inexpensively anywhere in a global auto parts ecoplex. It’s actually an ENORMOUS infrastructure in support of maintaining automobiles.

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And so EVTV is in the process of reinventing themselves. We intend to develop the glue – integration devices, allowing you to make use of used or new auto parts in building your electric vehicles. We are not goint to GIVE it away, although I am already besieged by those begging for it AS LONG AS IT IS FREE. We have a team of very talented guys who are taking an evil pleasure in thwarting the proprietary designs of the “powers that be” that seek to disadvantage you.

That is a good work and should be supported. If you will get behind it, it exists kind of solely to further itself – with more instructional videos and more efforts to reverse engineer things, deriving oxygen from the sale of the OEM parts paired with the controller devices and more infuriatingly the CONNECTORS which are now ALSO PROPRIETARY. You cannot buy most of the connectors for these devices ANYWHERE by design of the OEMS god rot them all. They all use DELPHI connectors made captively for THEM and actually KEYED for them so you can’t connect to them. Not to make anything on the car BETTER. JUST to deny you access to it.

That’s how far these very furtive, to my way of thinking “criminals”, have gone to move far beyond planned obsolescence toward a replaceable irrepairable automobile. And any time they are busted they unctiously mouth that it is all for YOUR safety and beware of HACKERS who might maim or kill you with their incompetent installation of cup holders, window tint, and tiny dashboard statues of Jesus. I actually get the heaves when I hear this utter NONSENSE. I regularly see know nothings online buy into it and repeat it – Well you wouldn’t want to have people able to hack your drive train for example.” Hell I wouldn’t. How about MORE TORQUE. When did we develop this desire to NOT have flames shooting from the tailpipe?????

If you exchange your ducats for an automobile, it should become yours. You should have the right to modify it, customize it, repair it, at will. You should have the RIGHT to do so without voiding your “warrantee” if your modification didn’t very obviously cause the failure itself. The seventy five pages of fine print now accompanying an auto purchase should be declared illegal on printing.

So that’s kind of the position and the plan. We live to steal our own parts. And make them do what we want them to do. The year 2015 is really the time when the first OEM electric cars come off lease and the prices of used Volts and Leafs are already plummeting. It is not unreasonable to expect to be able to buy these cars and make adjustments to maximiize your value, use and utility from doing so. They’re certainly ready to accept your money for the car.

As that trickles down into the parts business, we intend to one by one pick off the most useful parts and develop methods and strategies for resusing them to convert existing gasoline vehicles to electric drive, and to some degree repair and modify existing electric vehicles. I received an e-mail, ironically from a Ford dealer, seeking assistance in repairing TWO Azure Dynamics eTransit Connects. Now what am I supposed to do with that?

Well, we need a large capture of traffic from ours. And we should probably develop a replacement battery pack that will make all those noises to the rest of the car.

I am looking a little ragged at the moment. I’m disabled by the loss of my friend and enabler, Mr. Noto. At precisely the moment when the mountain of work before us in attacking all of this is becoming visible and apparent. The result is I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment. And so little things like some poor hapless yuck trying artlessly and inelegantly to work a deal on an HPEVS 50 because his Soliton is gone, complicit with a tiny brained belly bucking testosterone moron parts seller wannabe makes me a bit snappish.

YES, you CAN have a deal on HPEVS. We’ve put the whole line up on sale at enough above dealer cost to avoid the criticism that we’ve leaked the dealer cost. It will remain on sale until HPEVS cuts us off or I get over the offense of tiny little minds who know only ONE note in the symphoney of life “me, me, me, me, meeeeee”. We’re facing MUCH bigger fish to fry.

On another note, the debate about global warming and CO2 continues. I don’t entirely buy it, nor entirely deny it. I think this is taking our eye off the ball. I have long suspected that vehicle exhaust has some much more imminent and personal problems. And that we are straining at a mote with a beam in our eye. We do know that shutting yourself up in a garage with a 12 cylinder BMW is a good way to off yourself. Why that would be better open air and in the hundreds of millions rather escapes me.

I was touched by a young woman of 31 who had left what has to be the most glamorous dream job in China. She was reporter and host of China’s Central Television service, the state run television. She left her position and was not heard from for some time. In the interim, she had a daughter and turned into some sort of helicopter super mom dragon lady. And the object of her wrath became the air and water pollution reaching epic proportions in China. She spent $160,000 of her own money on producing a one hour and forty three minute documentary on this.

The environmental “advocates” in the U.S. do themselves and their own mission a crippling disservice with their demeanor. They “advocate” which to them means shrilly and rudely demanding free attention from the media, using every sort of whacko device possible, all in an effort to get somebody ELSE to spend some resource on improving things. They do nothing themselves. THey only “advocate.” They are repulsive to almost everyone they encounter and so counterproductive to what could be an extremely important issue.

Ms. Chai Jingh appears in this documentary, again produced at her own expense and with an obvious level of effort, as a very graceful, indeed elegant “advocate” seeking address such disaster in China that good tea can only come from Taiwan. She is polite, calm, but very firm and I was enchanted at every level with this piece. It recieved over 200 MILLION views on the Chinese equivalent of Youtube and became the SOLE topic of conversation across 1.3 billion Chinese all of last week. On Friday, March 6, the Chinese government pulled the video and all mention of the video down from their social media. It just disappeared entirely.

Fortunately it persists on YouTube and they can’t pull it down there, at least for us. Friday it had 200,000 views and Tuesday morning today it is up over 500,000. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I’m afraid I’m quite in love at this point with Chai Jing. She is at this point formally invited to Sunday dinner.

We’re serving Longjing this week you know. Both hot and iced as it happens.

Jack Rickard