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Very interesting times.

First, no Jeremy Clarkson didn’t go green. It was an April Fool’s joke. Yes, I get it.

In this week’s show we deal with a couple of things but I would say front and center is our current efforts to forge ahead with a CHAdeMO kit for electric vehicles. I kind of see this as a CHAdeMO kit for ANY electric vehicle – OEM or DIY but of course it will be designed for DIY custom electric vehicles. I doubt Leaf owners will be attracted as they have it already. But Bolt owners or Chevy Spark owners, sporting the nearly useless SAE Combo connector might be interested.

Leading the charge is Damien Maguire. The rest of us can’t move fast enough. Unfortunately, the JLD505 boards we had built by HESCoN Electronics Ltd were so badly done, it borders on criminal. They replaced at least two parts with counterfeit Chinese parts that did not operate at all. Swapped the position fo two capacitors on the board. Omitted one component entirely. No, the don’t really want to refund the payment. Maybe if I would buy 20 more, they would ship me 40 to make up for it? That way, what? I have 60 bad boards?

We’ve kind of managed between us to solder on new parts and get four or five boards running. Enough to begin software development on the CHAdeMO project. Collin is working on a new library for the Maxim 1-Wire temperature sensors. Also porting the can_due library to the smaller AVR 328P processor. But in the meantime, Arduino has split into and, the manufacturer of the original boards separating from the Massimo group that originally designed it. Along the way they have a new processor board that is a 48 MHz 256k ARM M0 chip. This is more powerful than the original Atmel AVR chips but not quite an Arduino Due SAM3X. So Paulo is going to upgrade the JLD505 board anyway to this new processor. That will free us from the current 32kb restriction on program size to a more expansive 256kb.

So a lot of steps forward, but also a number of them back. In any event, this will be a fun project and already of intense interest to a number of our viewers who have longer distance driving needs and want CHAdeMO pretty badly. As costs mount, I see this coming in at something under $2000 but I fear the ultimate pricing will be a disappointment to some. But we are definitely going with a quality connector, contactors, etc.

I again descended into the depths of a pin by pin discussion of who done what to whom in regards to CHAdeMO as I was impressed during a past episode how intently people were interested in this but had little understanding of what was actually going on. They tended to plug in their Leaf’s and then try to read messages from God in cloud formations while it charged. Like all technology, once the Toto pulls the curtain back a smidge, it is not nearly so magical. If you get lucky, there is a touch of elegance. I thought taking frame ground from the vehicle, routing it through the connector and then along with tying the EVSE ground to it routing it BACK to the vehicle to be used to disable the inverter/controller kind of a least component solution. That semiconductor won’t burn out because there isn’t any.

Similarly I found all the voting on the contactor coils kind of cunning. Once again, the real note is that the CAR is in charge of the charging. Almost ALL the intelligence in this charge protocol rolls up to the charge station on rubber wheels. And the curiosities observed by the Leafoids while carefully measuring and going from EVSE to EVSE, is all IN their own cars. Unfortunately, Turtles akimbo, they have NO control over how it charges or how much it charges or how long it charges or anything else. If the car chooses to use a time limit override and they just don’t get as fully charged on a smallish EVSE, there’s really nothing they can do about it. The current concept of blaming the EVSE is interesting.

But this goes to the heart of our existence. I have nothing against the Leaf and applaud everything Ghosn and Nissan have done. But if you buy one, you are driving THEIR car, THEIR way. Without access to their firmware, you are powerless to alter it in any respect.

When you build your own electric vehicle, you get to make it do exactly what YOU want it to do. Whether or not that is a good thing with a good result kind of bears on your wisdom in choosing what you want it to do. We’ll try to help with information. But ultimately, you are responsible for YOUR car. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t get a dozen e-mails with proposed projects wanting to know what I think about that or if that is the right combination of motors and batteries and components. I generally offer my best guess, and then sit back for the blast of why the way they want to do it would be best. It’s all good. They may be right. And I could be wrong.

In fact, what I’ve learned over time is the principle difference between myself and 99% of the people in this space is that I could be wrong. I may be the only one. But it’s very true. I could be wrong and I know this because I HAVE BEEN SO MANY TIMES. Apparently if you haven’t been wrong, it never occurs to you that you could be. If you go ahead and do it your way, you’ll know. As I used to tell young Hauber – well we’ll know here in a minute or two.

So I never argue the point. It’s THEIR car. And if they think a cement mixer can be made electric with an HPEVS AC50 at 96volts, boy howdy. I can’t wait to see it. No, that’s not how I would do it, but you go girlfriend and please DO let us know how it turns out.

Unfortunately, my education there remains incomplete. See if it turns out great, they send photos and sometimes videos. If it turns out badly, somehow they just never close the loop and show it on a photograph. I’m left hanging. Always wondering if an ADC 7 inch COULD drive a cement mixer.

We very consciously try not to do that to you. Sure, it can be embarassing that I missed something obvious. But it’s all part of a day at EVTV. I edit out some of the coughing, but not all. If we make a mistake that is generally useful and might save you the same thing, we usually include it. Sometimes we feature it. This week: don’t expect ALL Chinese suppliers to be great to work with. Yes, some will take your money and not deliver the products – sometimes at all. This was not only expensive, but chewed up 12 weeks of time.
Back to square one. This one order took so much time (3 months) that the technology has actually changed while it was being manufactured, and now we have to redesign to the latest chip.

But the theme continues. You gain knowledge and control of your electric vehicle by building it. You can gain many of the advantages of electric drive by buying one from an OEM and indeed I would say that of all the people we have watching and building the ones at this point WITHOUT a store bought OEM car would be in the MINORITY and perhaps a smallish minority at that. But every time I enter the Tesla Model S, I’m reminded of how little I know about it, and how helpless I am to do anything about any of its operation. I can basically steer right and left, speed up and slow down, and roll the windows up and down. The little handles that are suppose to run out when you approach the car? Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. I have no idea why. The little amulet you use to open the front hatch or the rear hatch? Sometimes you press it and the hatch opens magically. Sometimes I press it and it doesn’t do anything – and it never does anything when I’m trying to demonstrate how cool it is to someone else. Beyond that, I have no idea what makes it work or makes it fail. And if I piled the broomsticks of all the wicked witches of all the wests in the world at the rear bumper, I don’t think its going to tell me.

It can be learned of course. I bought a Tesla drive train (and a new maple bench for it) a week or so ago for $6500. This week I got a second for $5500. At this point, $12k tied up in electronic lasers. You plug them in, you turn them on, and they lay there. But I’m more confident at this point that we can figure out how to make them turn.

Of course, I immediately heard from one viewer that his “inside” man assured him it could not be done because of magic fixins in the High Voltage Interlock Loop. As I said. There is no magic. I sent him a copy of the circuit diagram from the HVIL circuit and it was clear it was a simple minded circuit to make sure lids were on some of the components before closing the contactors. It’s unlikely it has ANY effect on the inverter at all. Of course, I COULD BE WRONG…..

Part of the confidence comes from the circuit diagram. And therein lies the tale of the week. Has Tesla done an about face on it’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dyslexia on open source electric cars? Not precisely. Just more of the same confusion. But this one has a particularly bizarre twist. They have FULL circuit diagrams (gorgeous ones really).HVIL All available on a beautiful online service with connector cross indexes complete with part numbers and pinouts for EVERY connector on the car. Maintenance procedures. A full illustrated parts breakdown. Technical service bulletins. It is THE best information I’ve seen available for ANY car anywhere. If they only had the CAN.dbc database, it would be a dream come true.

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Well, it’s kind of a limited dream. You see, by design the service is only available to residents of Massachusetts. Ed Clausen can have it but technically I’m not supposed to have access to it.


Because Massachusettes has passed a RIGHT TO REPAIR law REQUIRING all manufacturers to make exactly the SAME information and tools available to the public that they do to their dealers and service centers at a fair and reasonable price.

On posting this week’s video on YouTube, I immediately was assaulted by bottom feeders demanding that I copy alll the stuff off the Tesla web site and push it onto Torrent so they could all share for free. This is part of the same communist philosophy that keeps marking DIY as a bunch of bottom feeders. I have NO problem with Tesla recouping the costs of producing this information and running the web site. Is $30 per hour, $350 per month, or $3000 per year too much? I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to put a nail in “fair and reasonable” but I have no need to really question it. I need the info. They have it. Here it is for $30 per hour. Kewell. If I get to choose between FREE but NO ACCESS and $30 per hour and full access, guess where I come down on it? With $12k in drive train parts sitting on the floor, $30 isn’t all that much to ask.

What I did find stunning was that Tesla sought to shut me out because I wasn’t in Massachusetts. You have to pay by credit card, and of course provide your billing address as part of the process, and if your credit card billing address doesn’t seem to be in Massachusetts, you can’t get on. Now what kind of shit is THAT. Once Massaschusetts passes the law, and Tesla goes to the trouble to comply with it, WHY would they then deliberately shut out everybody else simply because they didn’t HAVE the same law in their state?

This is moronic. It’s like painting a target on your forehead with lipstick and setting up a table to sell 44 caliber bullets at 3 shots for a dollar. Certainly it might stimulate ammunition sales, but have you thought this thing through? We are going to PREVENT you from working on YOUR car, except in Massachusetts where we are forced to by government regulation. Translated – we are desperately seeking MORE government regulation to comply with and we pay cash for it where found.

ALL of the automotive manufacturers have CONSPIRED actively to prevent your access to this information and specifically to PREVENT RIGHT TO REPAIR laws. They have formed a voluntary consortium to share information with independent repair facilities and point to it eggregiously as already BEING the answer anytime any state or the federal legislatures start talking about right to repair. But it basically operates to DENY information to all comers and for any reason. There are 160,000 auto repair facilities in the U.S. doing about $80 billion in revenues. It’s all about the money. The Coalition for Right to Repair reports that dealer repairs average 34% higher in cost than independent auto repair shops. The manufacturers are brutal in trying to fight off this right to repair thing. And it is a pure grab for the money. No other agenda.

So the national Right To Repair bill first introduced in Congress in 2001 has never passed. What is new in Massachusetts is the information on just how overwhelming public support for this is. One guy started a petition and gathered 106,000 signatures to get it on the ballot. The auto manufacturers then outspent him about 1000:1 campaigning on the issue. And in the end, it passed by 86% of the voters. I was unaware that 86% of American voters agreed on ANYTHING. But apparently on Right to Repair they do.

And here is how dirty the game gets. Once it was on the ballot, the manufacturers hastily cobbled together a cadre of paid for Massachusetts state legislators to PRE-EMPT the ballot initiative by passing an actual RIGHT TO REPAIR bill in the state legistlature. Of course, it was basically a NO RIGHT TO REPAIR bill labelled as RIGHT TO REPAIR. In this way, Massachusetts would already have RIGHT TO REPAIR, even if it ensured NO right to repair, and if the ballot initiative passed, it wouldn’t be needed.

In the old days of Rome, at least when you bought a Senator he stayed bought. Not in Massachusetts. The whole thing would have worked like magic, but 86% of the electorate voted for the bill. The Massachusetts legislators were unaware that 86% of Massachusetts voters agreed on ANYTHING. But apparently on right to repair, they do. And so they met to “consolidate” the two bills. And facing 86%, the Massachusetts legislature THREW THE AUTOMOTIVE MANUFACTURERS UNDER THE BUS. And here is how comical it got. The DEALERS joined forces to lobby to make sure the bill included THEIR right to repair equal to the independent shops. They were picturing paying HIGHER prices for the information and tools THEY get from the manufacturers than the “fair and equitable” spelled out in the law. So THEY wanted right to repair as well. The inmates did actually take control of the asylum on this one.

I actually don’t know what to think of all of this. Is this an example of democracy in action? Or an example of how broken our democracy has become? I’m not actually sure. It’s a sign of SOMETHING. I guess I think that money and corruption have become so endemic to the process that it is irresistable as long as 50% of us want it one way, and 50% don’t. In that event, monied interests get whatever they want to pay for. But at about 85% unanimity, that system breaks down right smartly.

The other thing it confirms is what I’ve been saying. The American cultural propensity to do your own car repairs and customize your car to be a more personalized item runs SO deep that those who have NO interest in it clearly favor it anyway.

We continue to be in a very strange place with things not previously doable suddenly doable in the face of cratering oil prices and $2 per gallon gasoline. As I said, two unobtainium Tesla drive trains have fallen into our lap. The going rate for teh batteries is $20K per battery, but it IS an 85kw pack. I just dont’ know what you’d do with it.

AC propulsion is actually where Tesla started. In 2003 Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning founded Tesla Motors, an electric car company in San Carlos, California. Their first car design was actually entirely based on motors, inverters, and little 18650 batteries from a company called AC Propulsion. AC Propulsion was actually started by Alan Cacconi and Tom Gage and Cacconi had designed the inverter for the EV1 while at General Motors.

Today, Tesla has grown everything bigger. But they still use a copper rotor AC induction motor, almost identical inverter electronics, and the 18650 battery concept they originally licensed from AC Propulsion.

You may go through the way-back machine with us to our BMW Mini Cooper Clubman build. We finished ours before they finished theirs and ours was better actually. But BMW built 550 Mini Coopers as electrics and leased them out to learn about how people used electric cars. The amount of money they spent on the program is just unheard of – easily over $1 million per car. But within BMW, it is viewed as one of the most successful projects they’ve ever done. And they learned so much from it that purportedly it shaped everything in their BMW i3 and i8 programs today.

The Mini-E was of course just a Mini Cooper converted to electric using the AC propulsion system. Notable in the AC Propulsion inverter is a patented system to take 240vac and apply it from the wall back through the inverter to charge the batteries after the fashion of regenerative braking. This is so effective, the system can actually charge the battery pack at nearly 18 kW per hour.

As it turns out, BMW of course discontinued the program took all the Mini-E’s back from the owners at the end of the lease period and proceeded to shred them (shades of EV1). But someone stepped in and rescued a signficant number of the drive trains and batteries used in the cars. At the risk of tipping off Mr Bream, who doesnt miss an opportunity to copy anything we do without creditation or citation, we are talking to the principals about making these 150kw drive trains available to EVTV viewers. And perhaps the batteries as well.

We tried for years to gain access to this drive train, which was priced at an astounding $25,000 per. It is air cooled, but a 150kw version really of the Tesla drive train, and apparently in very good shape with many of the Mini-Es hardly driven. Here they are literally falling into our lap. We’ll see how it goes but basically we’ve agreed to do it, we just haven’t worked out the pricing and logistics very well at this point. But I’m hopeful it will be priced in the range of our other AC offerings. I view it as a kind of mini Tesla drive train in a 150kw size much more appropriate to many of our car builds – but using the same copper rotor AC induction motor concept WITH a chargerless charging scheme that Tesla doesn’t have.

Mr. Bream’s plagiarism and general lack of ethics have reached a new low. In his latest video he actually shows you how to make a cheesy “bottom balancer” for your battery pack without ever once mentioning what bottom balancing was, why you would want to do such a thing, or who developed the concept and the process. I was floored. Just blatant plagiarism of the lowest sort. I’ve been slimed. I need a shower. What’s next? Will he be selling Nordlock washers on his web site?

Indeed the miniature latino person Jehu Garcia chimed in with an apparent explanation that made no sense at all. The thing is a fire hazard and does almost nothing beyond our economy bottom balancing resistor, which at least has its own heat sink. Please don’t use this on a battery. Batteries cannot hear audible alarms – which inevitably fail after a few alerts anyway.

I’ll try to get time this week to show you how to make a proper home made automatic bottom balancer for those who find our two button Revolectrix Cell Lab 8 Battery Tester too difficult to operate.

Jack Rickard

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream