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I’ve developed an intense like for Damien Maguire. It’s not precisely his haircut or fashionable taste in clothes notable as they are. Nor the strong resonance and perfect Irish diction of his speech, which I do enjoy. It is rather a combination of his pathological honesty with, and most of all, that he simply knows no fear. In some sort of accident of birth, he failed to receive a normal fear gene. Which would account for his willingness to test our delicate LiFePo4 cells by shorting the terminals with an open-end wrench – or in County Cork – a SPANNER.

Many believe that an absence of fear is a trait of the young – their sense of invulnerability. I would make the case that it is exactly the opposite. Youth is ruled by fear. And as we grow older, we largely lose it.

I’m not really talking about the fear of heights, speed, car wrecks, or tornados. I’m more in mind of fear of failure and fear of success.

If I could go back to my youth and have a 10 minute conversation with a younger and prettier Jack Rickard, this topic would entirely consume the alloted time.

Young men yearn for success but fear failure. Worse, they measure every obstacle and every opportunity by how much effort it will take, and what the chances of success are. All of this with no clue as to how much effort it really takes, nor what the chances of success really are. And so there are a very many things they simply do not attempt – often things they might otherwise really want to do.

Mark Weisheimer wrapped up his work with Associated Press in support of the Final Four event and spent a couple of days here this week. We’re at about the same age and our kids are at about the same age and I have only a few tens of pounds on him. Most don’t know it but Mark and I actually go back a LONG way. He was an operator of an electronic bulletin board system many years ago and transitioned to become an Internet Service Provider while reading Boardwatch Magazine. He sold his ISP business at exactly the right time at a modest but tidy sum successfully. He also helps to operate a long time family business in Columbus Ohio part time. And as AP has downsized from hundreds of hands-on satellite communications engineer/technicians to a handful, Mark is one of the keepers. Quick and good with a soldering iron and a spec sheet.

But we were comparing notes on the advantages of age. I’m kind of comfortable with being 59. It has all sorts of disadvantages, but the advantages so far seriously outweigh them.

The principle advantage is I kind of know how things are going to come out. When faced with a challege, or an opportunity, my first reaction is that they tend to look the same. The youthful concepts of good and bad, easy and hard, simply don’t work any more. Often hard is good. And often there is little value in the easy. But I kind of know how it’s going to come out. It’s all about being willing to pay the price then. It’s not a matter of whether you can do it. It’s all about how bad do you want it. Because you’re going to have to pay the price – and there is ALWAYS a price.

Unfortunately it is rarely a monetary price. It is more likely measured in tears and toil, sweat and blood and tears. The analogy I use is of a brick wall blocking my way to what is desired. Generally lacking proper tools to the task, I have my head. And we have the wall.

Oh, I know how its going to come out. The wall loses if I don’t quit. It’s a wall. It cannot move. It cannot counterattack. It can’t run away. If I chose to destroy it, it is destroyed at the thought. Head, meet wall. Wall, meet head. But MAN is this going to HURT. If I run headlong straight at it until cranium meets concrete, and I do that enough times in a row, it has to go down eventually. Some requiring more runs than others.

And after you knock down a few, the head gets harder. And you realize that not all brick walls were properly constructed in the first place. And the mystery kind of wanes. It’s just a wall. You’re just a head. Cycle of life.

A small group of us collaboratively spent some time and effort developing a device termed the Gneralized Electric Vehicle Control Unit really to enable one drive train, the Azure Dynamics FORCE drive consisting of a Siemens 1PV5135 motor and their in-house design Digital Motor Controller model 645 – DMOC. It easily took a year with countless man-hours contributed from around the globe.

In the process, we got a little smarter about the Bosche Controller Area Network or CAN used in automobiles to control various devices and functions of the vehicle. When an opportunity to purchase some UQM Powerphase 100 drive trains from the Coda Motors bankruptcy, I picked up a dozen on the off chance that we could replicate the feat. Despite a heinous encrypted CRC security byte DESIGNED to prevent us from doing so, we succeeded and notably did it in about half the time of the Azure Dynamics mission.

Since then we have turned both barrels on a series of OEM parts including the Delphi DC-DC converter used in the Coda, the Chevy Volt DC-DC converter (Accessory Power Module) used on the Chevy Volt, and the Lear Charger, which was done DIFFERENTLY on the Coda and Chevy Volt. Each has fallen in turn, and both our tribal knowledge within the HACK TEAM and confidence that these things can be done has risen proportionally.

So I have no real reluctance to shell out a little over $12,000 on TWO Tesla P85 drive trains. It’s not whether. It’s when. And yeah, its probably going to hurt.

In this weeks video, Mark and I attempt to share the PROCESS of winning in reverse engineering a particularly thorny little mother, the Eberspacher coolant heater. I assume a glancing interest in the details of what we did, but seek to illustrate the HOW, the approach, and the desired result.

It’s kind of like dealing with the Jaguar. You don’t have to be able to outrun the Jaguar to survive. You just have to be able to outrun the slowest guy in the village. Similarly, we rarely actually work out ALL the details of every related CAN message on the bus, down to individual fault bits and what fault they are hailing.

In this case, we just want to make hot water. And we want to control in fairly precise fashion just how hot it gets. And the process used was essentially brute force with a blunt stick. A couple of lucky insights.

The real challenge was the hardware as it turns out. And we had just the right guy on the job with Mr. Wiesheimer. We thought it was CAN, but in the capture Kerry Manning provided us, it was an unusual speed – 33.33 kbps. As it turns out, the concept of the GM LAN consists of a high speed differential CAN at 500kbps, a single wire CAN at 33.33kbps, and a low speed 19.2kbps LIN bus. LIN stands for Local Interconnect Network and single wire CAN, as it turns out, is SWCAN.

This doesn’t appear to be too much of a problem. We’ll tie our CANHI to the single wire, our CANLO to frame ground, and make a few changes allowing us to talk at 33.33kbps. Batta boom batta bing.

It more or less worked. We could read CAN from the bus this way. And we could log it. But when we tried to send recorded logs of data traffic to the Eberspacher off the car, it lay there like a stone. Ouch.

Everyone loves Google. But it really is a miracle of our age. Mark found a special chip purporting to do SWCAN. Now why would they need a special chip????

Because SWCAN is kind of special as it turns out. But not overly special. It was available in the same 8 pin footprint as our CAN transcievers. So Mark replaced the CAN1 transceiver with the SWCAN chip.


So we hooked it up and again sent a 10,000 line SWCAN capture to the Eberspacher. A brick wall.

In reading the specification, I noticed a discussion of a special 12v “mode” for the chip. It sounded like they were kicking teh can, so to speak, up to 12volts in some cases, and not in others. It uses 5v normally apparently. So what’s the 12v?

Mssrs Wiesheimer and Kidder huddled on this and decided that the message 0x100 was some sort of universal WAKEUP message for the SWCAN bus and that it needed a special 12v signal level to work. They tied our CAN enable pin 48 to the mode pin on the chip, and batta-boom-batta-bing. That’s all that was needed – he squirted the 10,000 lines at the Ebenspacher and it woke up and started consuming current, somewhat erratically, but it was making hot water.

The rest was actually no thing. We simply threw out commands until it stopped working and then kept the ones that were necessary. Within a few hours we had seven messages and if you took out any one, it would not work.

Note that we haven’t looked AT a single CAN message at this point. Just kind of deleted them wholesale until this was all that was left and it was kicking on the Eberspacher.
We finally noticed one was in there a couple of times, and had a single byte that changed. We tried changing the byte, and suddenly we could command the exact amount of power the heater was using to heat water. We STILL don’t know what the other bytes do, or don’t do. We might puzzle that out at some point, but there were several messages from both the DMOC45 and the UQM Powerphase that we have no clue what they do. But it will already do all we want it to do. So we’re unlikely to spend much more time on it.

In this week’s show, we did include a longish description from Kerry Manning of his efforts with the Chevy Volt battery pack. He reports impressive performance from the LGChem cells. And he gives some insight into how to hunt down a pack at the junkyard. What he described didn’t sound easy. Head, wall. Wall, head.

The star of the show of course is again Damien Maguire. And therein lies a tale. Some months back I picked out a little different wall for me. The problem is, I didn’t really WANT it. It’s a little difficult to put udder balm on your scalp in preparation for a head/wall butting contest when it’s not something you REALLY want. But I heard from so many of you about it that I took it as a personal wall anyway. And that was the topic of fast charging.

In the first place, if the only tool in your belt is a hammer, all problems start to look like nails. I LOVE electric cars and indeed I never do get over it. And I’m totally committed to the TOTAL changeover to magnetic drive for personal transportation WORLDWIDE. Accept no substitutes and nothing less. But if I have to go more than about 200 miles, I DO own eight aircraft still. And I AM type rated in all of them. If I want the roar of power, a Lear24D is the weapon of choice. And if I DID for some godforsaken reason want to drive across country, I have an ICE Cadillac ESV that is really quite comfortable on long trips.

But it is one of the remaining objections to the electric car – you can’t drive it intercity. Worse, OEM cars have become available, notably the Tesla Model S that CAN drive cross country. Nissan Leaf being somewhat less capable, it DOES have a CHAdeMO fast charge function and apparently at least some Leaf owners find that to be a necessary option.
And the thought that OEM cars CAN fast charge but that this is somehow beyond the reach of DIY vehicles is just not acceptable. It’s kind of a slap in the face challenge – you can’t do it.

I beg your pardon? CAN’T do it? Says who and says you. Uhm. (spits on sidewalk). Just how big a boy are ya?

So we brought in plugs and inlets, I actually mounted one on the as yet unfinished THING PART DUH. And we have been working for months with Paulo Almeida on a hardware device to basically control a CHAdeMO charge cycle. The irony is, the closest CHAdeMO charge station is 120 miles away. We don’t have such a thing in Cape Girardeau. We don’t REALLY have public J1772 charge stations except for EVTV. When we get it done, it does me no good at all. But we have every intention of having a CHAdeMO kit online in the next couple of months.

That does not appear to be the case with Damien Maguire and his Land Yacht. Ireland has apparently been crop dusted from the air with CHAdeMO charge stations sprinkled every 4 miles across the land. Project “Inter-urban Electric Drive” is deployed all around Ireland. Thanks to CHAdeMO fast charge point, Irish drivers enjoy stress-free inter-urban drives across the country. Today, 48 stations of the fast charge are already available in major urban locations. Convinced of the efficiency of the fast chargers, Ireland plans to install sixty more chargers.


To put this in perspective, Ireland sports a land mass of some 32,595 square statute miles with 108 CHAdeMO fast charge stations. The state of Missouri, on the other hand is more than TWICE as large at 69,709 square miles. We have 11 CHAdeMO charge stations. Six in St. Louis and five in Kansas City. Those almost entirely at Nissan Dealerships.

Damien will be able to drive anywhere and everywhere his heart desires across the emerald isle. I can’t reach the closest one here without a flatbed truck.

Ergo the REAL reason for his trip to Cape Girardeau – he just had to have one of those JLD505 boards in his hands. He had already ordered a Yazaki inlet from us months ago. As soon as he arrived back home, he decided ONE broken JLD505 wasn’t enough and requested another. He wired the entire thing up in a week. I would urge all brick walls within hailing distance of Wexford to take cover in the nearest basement, low spot, or community shelter. This man has a bald head and he knows how to use it.

He also sports an EVTV HACK TEAM shirt. Collin was kind of busy. I can’t even get the JLD505 to work with Mac OSX and Paulo is busy on the hardware for that and for the CANDue with SWCAN design. But Damien was having none of it. He’s go to the charge station and capture some data and send it back insisting he was just moments away. Collin kind of dropped what he was doing and made a few trial changes to the code. Paulo and I kibbitzed from the sidelines.

He made ELEVEN trips to the charge station since we filmed today’s show. And this morning announced triumphantly that he had charged the Land Yacht successfully twice at 60 amperes. Check the attached video he sent and see what you think. But it looks to me like he actually did wet his pants.

The interesting thing to me was the speed and effort. One week ago, there was not a single line of CHAdeMO code. We DID have the spec so there was little “reverse engineering” to be done realistically. And we’ve all worked with each other enough in the past that there wasn’t a lot of chit chat or posturing for position that you see in these things. It was all pretty focused and pretty straightforward. I sent him a revised CANDueLogger file so he could log more easily. And Collin did a number of changes to both the program and the CAN library, which the previously existing one for the Atmel AVR328P was pretty lame. Paulo noted several variations from the spec – like the byte we have to send claiming WHICH spec.

As of today, to our knowledge this represents the first DIY Electric Vehicle to successfully charge from a CHAdeMO fast charge station. The Leaf owner who had to wait on the Land Yacht was a little shocked I understand.

It is far from over. We need to do more and specifically I’m advocating a built in data logging function to let end users EASILY log the CAN transaction and entire session. Inevitably we will run into variants among charge station manufacturers and if we enable those encountering this to quickly send us a usefully detailed log of the session, we should be able to turn around software fixes and updates quickly as well.

But we have already run out of memory on the little 328P. So we kind of have to redesign the hardware around a new more capable chip, and have THOSE produced – hopefully more quickly than the 12 weeks the first outfit, HESCON Electronics took to mangle these boards so badly. Our enclosure and CINCH connector are a little under a cloud as we all found it a bit difficult to make up a wiring harness with this system, and I had a $645 dedicated crimping tool from Modice no less.

I would say that it is nice to be 59 because its nice to know how these things will come out. But oddly, I really don’t. You see I’ve had a lifetime of doing it on my own and indeed, I have to confess that during nearly all of that time, whatever I was focused on I was surrounded mostly by naysayers who said it couldnt’ be done, it shouldn’t be done, it was probably illegal, why was I wasting time with all that and a more or less continous litany that I’m little, I’m ugly, and my mother dresses me funny.

This pass is very different. I have both a wife and a daughter who truly love driving electric cars and are totally onboard with the mission. And somehow, a truly International, global team of extremely talented bright guys, who despite jobs and families and myriad demands on their time seem to be able to single mindedly and in unity focus on a task for hours or days, communicating easily and instantly via Internet, to such a point that I can’t get the IDE loaded and successfully compile a program before they already have the thing I set out to do DONE and are publishing celebratory videos and chomping down on victory cups of tea (cha) or – well it varies, but you get the idea.

Paulo is already assembling a battery pack and test setup to haul around to various CHAdeMO stations in Portugal. Damien has to change his Depends and he actually can’t get RID of electricity from his pack fast enough to suit. No point in going to a fast charge station with a full pack. Collin is already planning to rework the whole thing a better way. And I’m mostly trying to stay out of their way. But like the Eberspacher – it’s essentially a done deal. Light cleanup work.

Where does all this lead? I guess I’m the one who is supposed to have a plan. Byron Izbenhard has suggested a HACK TEAM weekend and we are looking at something in June – more to brainstorm where to go with this. I have a pair of Tesla drive trains but for that matter, I have a Tesla charger and charging inlet – along with a live beast.

As long as the powers that be in Ireland are able to fund the deployment of CHAdeMO stations, all the world is right and indeed the CHAdeMO Association now claims over 5000 stations worldwide. I rather think there is a little problem from my own backwater hinterland view. You see despite all of Tesla’s supercharger stations, there is a big black gaping hole in their map from Little Rock to Memphis up through Cape Girardeau to St Louis and over to Nashville. They have never even installed a supercharger at their St. Louis service center yet.

And I guess I kind of see some dark clouds on the fast charge front. What if someone DOES do an aluminum graphite cell and suddenly it is pretty easy to put 100kWh pack in a vehicle. As noted, the utilities can make 3 phase power very expensive to install. They can ALSO make it very expensive to use, particularly if you use it with HIGH PEAKS and low average use. They have special rate structures to penalize people who use a LOT of power briefly but then don’t use enough over time to make the investment in peak load factoring viable. This is not entirely corporate greed and ignorance. It has an underlying problem with grids that is just absolutely real and also absolute.

Paulo has actually drafted one of the graduate students at the Engineering Institute where he works to assist with the passive component design (capacitors and inductors) for a high power DC-DC converter. I sent him a Christmas basket of the very latest, in fact just now available SiC MOSFET switching components. The concept is a 150kW – 500v 300 ampere DC switch that will convert from a lower voltage to a higher OR from a higher voltage to a lower, with some efficiency. Not a “stack” of ordinary AC chargers which is what most CHAdeMO stations and the Tesla supercharger network uses – but a true big boy switching power supply that operates from the left hand or the right. A bit of CAN goodness and sugar on top and this could be a fast charge station. But instead of feeding it 3 phase, I was thinking sunlight. A large box of batteries and an array of our very efficient 21% solar panels. You could essentially “trickle charge” this mother bank using off peak using ordinary common 240vac at night, and by sunlight during the day. ANd it can put out as much power as you want – 300 amps if you can take it. And the battery bank could do three at a time for that matter.

These could be installed anywhere – including deeply rural dual carriageway America. No expensive grid installation or peak charges. With sufficient batteries and panels, it is even feasible to operate WITHOUT a grid connection of any kind.

We be driving on sunshine…..