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We did somewhat better selling Bug-A-Salts this week than we did Tesla Model S reservations. We had ordered 24 Bug-A-Salts and they were gone the first week. Fear not. More arrived yesterday.

Yes, it was mindless drivel but I certainly had fun shooting the rambo segment in the jungle and talking about houseflies. And no I’m not really ok yet. I have Bug-A-Salts spotted here at work, at home in the kitchen, in the bedroom, etc. I’m getting to where I actually LIKE houseflies as the indoor hunt continues. Josh Randall. Wanted, Dead or Alive. (Old Steve McQueen western television show from 1960).

Why? Somehow, blasting a half gram of Morton’s Table Salt nearly four feet into the air, makes me feel POWERFUL instead of feeling like a victim. House flies are an annoyance, but what can you do? Part of life. Suffer gracefully as a victim. NO MORE. A stupid plastic gun that shoots salt and suddenly I’m Rambo. I know I know. Pathetic. But it explains a lot about me, and a lot about our viewers.

We’ve never made the claim that building your own electric car made economic sense. And with gasoline today at $2.65 a gallon, it certainly does not. But again, it’s about feeling EMPOWERED to do something about a deeply integral part of your life, driving around, that you otherwise simply feel like a VICTIM of forces beyond your control.

Forces like oil companies. Automobile manufacturers. Government regulations. Global Petronomics.

I intensely dislike the feelings and trappings surrounding the whole concept of “victim”.

We don’t have to put up with houseflies. There IS something you can do about them. And we don’t have to put up with gasoline and gasoline fueled vehicles. There IS something you can do about them. And you don’t need permission. You don’t need a warranty. And you don’t finance approval. You go into your own garage, and you build your own damned car. And if so much as a housefly has any questions about all that – he had better be salt proof. If not, he’s about to have a bad housefly hair day.

Bug-A-Salt is kind of a 21st Century Mare’s Leg – the chopped Winchester 72 Josh Randall used as a handgun. It makes dealing with flies not only easy, but you’ll gain an intense feeling of personal satisfaction blowing those little MFs away.

We don’t exactly have a Bug-A-Salt for electric cars. It’s not particularly easy. And it’s not particularly inexpensive. But it IS a kind of sure-fired path to relief from being a VICTIM and that first drive in a car you built from scratch to BE electric has a much greater and more intense feeling of personal satisfaction. It’s not a car. It’s a statement. I put up with your shit if I CHOOSE to. And if I choose NOT…… here’s what I do about it. It’s a guy thing in both cases….

And it’s actually more effective because it DOES NOT make economic sense. Their victimization of YOU is based on their knowledge of what you will do facing a very simple economic decision. If you don’t play that game, they are de-fanged. And there’s the rub….what price freedom? What are you willing to pay to NOT be a serf on their turf? And the fewer that are willing to pay that, the more uniquely precious the experience becomes.

A $46 flyswatter? Really? Yeah. Really. Because I choose NOT to be a victim.

You know Jack, you really cannot get ALL the houseflies in the world. They are too many. Yes, I know. Now, the ones that want to mess with me, please fly forward….you little motherless bastards…

It’s not about THEM. It’s all about me. What price would I pay for me? Well, check it out…

EVTV isn’t about making electric car design and construction easy. It’s about making the result better. BEAUTIFUL cars, gliding smoothly and effortlessly through the throng. And it’s not about making it cheaper. It’s about getting more for what we do spend.

And I do sound the alarm and make no mistake, there are concerted, designed, planned strategies among our automobile manufacturers to make you a victim again. It has to do with right to repair. And if you put new tires on your Tesla Model S that are maybe a bit different size than the stock tire, they are quite serious about you taking it to a service center and paying $300-$400 to enter two digits into a tiny screen so that your Speedometer is LEGAL.

Now how would YOU predict that I am going to react to that?

And so we have reverse engineered the Azure Dynamics DMOC645 and made it ROUTINE to install an OEM grade Siemens AC induction motor and not only make it work, but work BETTER and make it trivially easy to configure and tune to EXACTLY how you want it to feel.


And so we have reverse engineered the UQM Powerphase 100 motor and inverter and made it ROUTINE to install an OEM grade Siemens AC induction motor and not only make it work, but work BETTER and make it trivially easy to configure and tune to EXACTLY how you want it to feel.

And so we have reverse engineered the CODA Delphi DC-DC converter and made it ROUTINE to install an OEM grade DC-DC converter and not only make it work, but work BETTER and make it trivially easy to configure and tune to EXACTLY how you want it to work.
And so we have reverse engineered the Chevy Volt Charger and made it ROUTINE to install an OEM grade battery charger and not only make it work, but work BETTER and make it trivially easy to configure and tune to EXACTLY how you want it to charge.
And so we have reverse engineered the Chevy Volt Accessory Power Module and made it ROUTINE to install an OEM grade DC-DC Converter and not only make it work, but work BETTER and make it trivially easy to configure and tune to EXACTLY the DC voltage you want to power your windows and seats and wipers and radio.

I will confess I have drank the kool-aid. I’m not given to being a groupie, but I have owned a Tesla Model S for two years now. It really is the best car I’ve ever been inside of. In all respects. After two years I can report TWO complaints. It’s a little narrow to get into. And the turn signal and cruise control are misplaced/swapped. Beyond that, the Volt, the Leaf, the i3, none of it COMES CLOSE. Just not in the same league. The car is a phenomenon and at the absolute apex of not only battery electric plug-in vehicles, but just personal transportation period.

And yes, the batteries are interesting and the super charger is cool and the onboard chargers are kewelle too. And if I can “whistle up Trigger” and have him whinny and come pick me up like Roy Rogers, I’ll probably get onboard the autonomous driving thing as well. I DO love turning on the air conditioner from my phone before going outside into the withering heat to get into a hot (black) car.

But the glistening glimmering bling at the heart of the beast, and so at the heart of an industry movement, is the Tesla Model S “drive unit”. This integrated inverter/motor/gearbox is hardly bigger than a Ford 9-inch rear end and indeed occupies that part of the car. And so we have a trunk as we are not rear engined, and a frunk because we are not front engined either, and indeed we don’t have an engine but a drive unit between our rear legs. This is where 0-60 in 3.8 seconds comes from. This is how 4600 lbs can do a 12.6 quarter-mile. To me, it is the most beautiful piece of engineering ever designed. The bling. The shining bauble. The ornament on the TOP of my Christmas tree. It’s smaller, lighter, more powerful, more integrated, and just way COOLER than anything available anywhere in the world.

Mark Wiesheimer pointed me to one on eBay in April I think. I couldn’t click fast enough. Just to have it as a dead prop on set was worth the $5500. Indeed I’m sure that that was less than Tesla had in the thing. What would anyone do with one? In a very real sense, it is a 300 lb boat anchor. Totally totally useless for any known purpose. Complete junk and often sold by salvagers for the 300 lbs of metal in it at the scrapyard. All because Tesla Motors Inc., after announcing that they were open sourcing their car, would categorically and emphatically decline to reveal the eight, count em, eight CAN bus msgID’s necessary to make it do anything useful.

Understand that the information describing those message ID’s weighs less than the salt in a single Bug-A-Salt shot, and costs the company about the same amount of money as a single shot from a Bug-A-Salt. That this might become known has the potential for doing NOTHING to them or to any Tesla owner, other than making wrecked cars more valuable and so decreasing the insurance rates Tesla owners pay. Any conceivable scenario to the contrary requires heroic straining only seen by a chuhuahua trying to pass an avocado pit.

But it is what it is.

We somewhat slowly and methodically began mounting the drive unit on a spanking new Maple workbench from Sam’s Club. We did access Tesla’s schematic diagrams and connector cross index on the web site – available ONLY to Massachusetts residents as a direct result of their RIGHT TO REPAIR law. So we wired up the connectors and found the right throttle from a Ford Fusion. We rigged up a circuit to simulate the brake input. And had switches and lights and meters to allow us to precharge and connect a Better PLace battery pack to the drive unit and measure the voltage and current into and out of it.

I have a Tesla Model S so we actually kind of developed from scratch the CAN tools to capture and analyze the traffic. In June we hosted a party at the behest of Byron Izenbaard to convene the EVTV hack team and map out a plan. Instead, on the second day they got the motor spinning by playing back the recorded CAN traffic from the car.

And so I was excited, and quite willing to spend the next 10 years puzzling out the 192 CAN messages in the bus capture to figure out how to make it work.

Instead, I’m pleased to report in this episode of EVTV, and indeed to demonstrate, full operational control of the Tesla Model S drive unit. Indeed, beyond full operational control. We can actually vary regenerative braking levels at will from 0 to 100% – something I can’t do in the car itself. Forward, reverse, neutral, creep, all of it.

And this is not done by mindlessly playing a recording. Collin and I wrote a 700 line Arduino sketch that actually forms the messages necessary to control it, and indeed reads the messages from it necessary to get rpm, torque, throttle level, from the inverter. I whined in this episode that I still hadn’t found temperature. Since filming Friday and Saturday, I’ve found SIX temperature bytes and can now read more temperatures than I can quite understand. Found them on Sunday while waiting for the video to render and upload.

It all runs on the EVTVDue CAN microcontroller – about the same size as a pack of camels with a total of two CAN wires connected to the system.
And I guess I’m still stunned in disbelief.

Within a day, we received an invitation from one of the top “Goon” DEF CON organizers. It seems DEF CON was mostly about automobiles and CAN this year and he expects that trend to actually accelerate near term. They want us to do a one-hour presentation next August 4-6 in Lost Wages Nevada. I haven’t been there since the last COMDEX I attended in the nineties.

I’m not disparaging the organizers. That’s what they call themselves. Goons. And I’m not much given to the rigors of travel these days. I’m too heavy. I chain smoke. My air force is in disarray. But hopefully I can get the King Air back in annual by then or maybe a DC-3 and get current in time to fly out.

Why? It’s kind of poetic. In 1992, Phil Becker and I hosted the first ONE BBSCON – a convention of BBS operators. That eventually morphed into ISPCON as the BBS operators morphed into Internet Service Providers – over 7500 of them actually. In 1993, some guys with Platinum Net – kind of a Fidonet affliliate, started DEFCON – a hackers convention. The thing they were onabout in those days was software copy protection – which I detest to this day. It does nothing about software piracy but makes software terribly inconvenient to use for those who actually bought it. As far as I’m concerned this is another area with only one side to the argument. I’m totally deaf to the concerns of the software developers.

So we’re a little past being on the same page. We both started in the same space before any of it was written on a page. But I have just never attended a single DEFCON. There’s no reason. Just haven’t gone. Don’t care much for Lost Wages Nevada, but I did go to a number of COMDEX conventions.
But if they are going to take on CAN and automobiles. I’m onboard. I’ll try to talk Collin Kidder into going out with me, and any Hack Team members we can round up. Should be a good place to show off Collin’s excellent due_can library and SavvyCAN. Maybe we’ll host a Hack Team hospitality suite in a hotel out there.

There is still some work to be done to productize this into something you can drop into a car. And some concerns. The whiners have already begun bringing up legal issues. And another hack team has come up with an entirely different CAN capture purportedly on the same model car. It has 107 messages NOT in common with ours. Which is troubling. We’ll have to test our work on a variety of salvaged drive trains.

And I am on notice by the supplier of one of our drive trains. As soon as we make it usable, he intends to double the price. Should be a strong market for it he thinks. Hmmmm….. So we are going to have to step carefully here. There lie beasts in those waters….

But for the moment, we have full control of a Tesla Model S drive train, and I’m not going to let such thoughts dampen the glow of the moment.

My thanks to the EVTV hack team for making this happen.

Jack Rickard
Editor Rotundus