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  • rickard

    I was really quite energized this week and had planned quite a show for the weekend. But we were kind of overwhelmed with orders and order problems towards the end of the week, and so increasingly I’m finding that the only time I can put focused effort into a project is at home in the mornings or on the weekends at the shop when my “help” isn’t there to “help”. That’s tradiionally when I have edited and uploaded videos.

    But I’ve been obsessing recently on the Tesla Drive Unit. Collin Kidder and I have been going back and forth in kind of intense fashion between a controller box and the EVIC display to control the Tesla Model S drive train. And actually, we are getting very close.

    So close that I went to the shop Saturday afternoon with some new code we’d been working on intending to shoot a video segment showing this remarkable display we have now that controls the drive unit.

    As always, it didn’t work “exactly” the way I pictured it from the comfort of the bedroom. But to give you some idea, we’re kind of doing to doing a 500 slot ring buffer to do a continuous averaging of watt-hours per mile smoothly so we can predict the range remaining in the pack in miles per hour and kilometers per hour. This adds a new sample about every 10 seconds and averages it over the last 500 samples. It won’t be any better than the almost comical one in the ICE Escalade, but it’s traditional to have this displayed.

    So I kept at it. Deadline 6:00 PM Saturday as I had promised the wife I would join her for a bridge games with the Matthews.

    I am pleased to report that the look and feel of the screen are pretty much what I want and pretty much at least resembles the instrumentation in my Model S. It’s all functional and has pretty good response.



    So I get a glass of tea and light up a Camel. It’s 5:43 on Saturday evening and I haven’t shot a second of video as yet. But I do have it calculating a plausible remaining range, and doing the state of charge thing and the amphours used and kilowatts used and it is all hanging together. I can put it in any gear from EITHER the PowerkeyPro 2400 panel or the touchscreen. Creep on/off demonstrably works. Regen increase and decrease. My trip meter works. The odometer resets. The SOC resets at a touch. And I finally have the colors right on the very strange logarithmic scale Tesla uses to show power output or input on the right side of the dial. Life is good. But I’m going to have to shut down and go to a bridge game.

    POP. BANG.

    What was that? Sounded like somebody banging on one of the closed garage doors. BANG POP POP. What the hell?

    I went into the next room to see who was banging on the door, but as I reached to open the door, the POP POP BANG sounded again but BEHIND me. I walked over to the Better Place battery pack from the Renault Influenza that we use on the OEM components test bench. BANG POP POP. These are actually pretty loud. What the……?????

    This pack was right out of the cargo container and we never even attempted a bottom balance. We were only going to use it for testing chargers and DC-DC converters and the UQM test bench. But as the result of one of our assclowns playing around with the bench while I wasn’t in the shop, it had drained down very slowly overnight to a very low level.

    It seemed to charge back up ok. But never quite got to full charge. So I had hooked it up earlier in the afternoon to bring it up some more.

    I quickly shut off the charger and cut off the contactors. But it continued to BANG and POP irregularly. I can’t leave to go to bridge with it like this I’m thinking. As there had been several of these “no show” moments in the past few weeks where I threw my wife under the bus with regards to one plan or another, this was not really good. I can’t believe I’m doing this again.

    Suddenly the pack begins to issue the familiar white smoke – just a bit at first, then more. The pack weighs 450 lbs, and the fork lift is at the other end of the building. I went over to the wall water spigot, glad I had a couple hundred feet of hose there to water our grass. No hose. Assclown somewhere had made command level decision to move it down to the basement in the other building apparently. There was a hose, but it was four feet long.

    By this time the white smoke was coming out pretty good. I don’t know why, but I was curious what the temps were. So I grabbed an infrared gun and shot all the cells. Most were warmish in the 35-40C range but there were two sitting at 95C. Not good.

    Suddenly the pack spewed a spear of sparks and flame about six feet straight out the front – right where I had been a moment before. And then it exploded into a massive fireball shooting flames up to the ceiling with such velocity that they splashed laterally from there.

    It would have made excellent video I must say. At this point, I’m out of altitude, airspeed, and ideas all at the same time. I jumped in the Tesla and backed it out of the building. For some reason, I closed teh garage door after I was out, as I always do. I then had a positively exasperating wrestling match with the car for control of my cell phone to dial 911. I mean this car wanted to do ANYTHING except dial the phone. It played some Kriss Christopherson “Help Me Make it through the Night” (right) and some Rod Stewart. But it must have taken me three or four minutes to get it to dial 3 digits.

    Cape Girardeau actually has an excellent fire department and they have a station about three blocks away. They were there within five minutes. I opened teh garage door to let them in and it seemed the flames had died off – I guess I had inadvertently shut off the oxygen. But black billowing clouds of smoke poured out of the building.

    They quickly got it under control. But the way Fire Departments work to put out fires, they mostly disassemble the building. They cut power lines, climb up on the roof, open it up, and of course dump several shiploads of water down into the space. It looked like they were cutting the cables on the roof connecting the solar system, the air conditioning condensor, and anything else in sight. The $30,000 roof I had just installed two years ago was torn up and opened up with chain saws. Yeah, they’re that good.

    What did I do? Well, I answered a few questions from the fire department investigator but that was pretty short when he found out I don’t HAVE any insurance. We have a lot of buildings around here go up in flames with a LOT of insurance on them. I don’t carry any. So I’m pretty much off the prospective arson prosecution list – shortening the interview rather quickly.

    So I went home to play bridge. Brian Perry kind of hung out to try to secure the building in the aftermath. But I went home and played bridge.

    Not very well I fear. We got clobbered. I guess my head wasn’t into the game but the wife, as almost always, was very understanding of my poor bidding and play.

    It’s Sunday morning. I guess I’ll go down and see what’s left. But we have no roof in rainy November. And no electricity at all – they pulled the meters of course. My OEM components test bench is no doubt gone and I actually had a special bench spruced up on one side with all the various connectors (rather expensive connectors) needed to use these components. I had spent over a year tracking all that down. No hope. It was too close to the battery pack.

    I firmly believe that all happens for a reason and ultimately for the good. But this one will be interesting to see play out.

    It’s a very dark, though sunny Sunday morning.