Share →

After a month between videos, I find we have about 4 hours of video to hand. So I split it into two videos. I particularly wanted the Quaife install video as a single entity for future reference.

Mr. Bill Bayer was a weatherman with the United States Air Force in Afghanistan. He became somewhat disillusioned in the 124 degree heat over our role there in protecting our access to fossile fuels and in a random trip through the Internet discovered EVTV. He became a fan watching all of our then 250 videos on the topic. He returned to the States and did a conversion of a Ford Ranger pickup truck which he found quite satisfying and drives to this day.

On retirement from the Air Force, he expressed an interest in actually coming to Missouri and working for EVTV. His parents live west of St. Louis so this was not entirely madness. He had grown up in Missouri so the culture shock was minimal. And so we added him to the team.

As he was to learn, being around Jack Rickard all day is not quite the pleasant experience of watching him on the Internet. I don’t think I’m really any different in real life from what you see on the camera. But I think most viewers mentally fill in the details of what they want me to be without any actual reference to reality. And so they tend to discount the curmudgeonly old grouch as an act. It isn’t. And when it isn’t all day long, five or six days per week, it can be a bit much. I suffer fools poorly. And I can be quite demanding of those I pay, however poorly to stay on task. Brian Noto worked for me seven different times, and I have vowed simply to not allow an eighth.

We have kind of worked it out over time but part of Bill’s dream has always been to get 10 acres and a double wide outside of town. This is so common in Cape Girardeau that I couldn’t imagine any difficulty. ALL young lads in Cape have EXACTLY this same dream and so 10 acres with a double wide and a well is so popular here that more people live outside of Cape Girardeau in the surrounding area than live in it. And often a pickup truck is involved, along with a john boat. Our “population” is about 37,500 now I think, but on any given week day there will be over 100,000 people in town. Often in pickup trucks… and often pulling john boats.

But that makes it kind of a competitive market, and Bill was not finding good value propositions in his eyes with a suitable house and grounds for his vision of gentleman farmer of no small substance and property. And he does have an interesting vision of living totally off grid, obtaining his own water, using grey water, gardening to grow his own food, raising his own chickens, composting, and all things earth friendly.

I don’t actually share that dream, but I do understand it and as you all know I’m attracted to the technical parts of it – independence both in personal mobility and the generation of energy to power my home and shop.

In Colorado, I actually STILL own a home on 58 acres with a lake and a mountain and a barn and horse stalls and grapevines and what was the first netmeter solar installation in Colorado and at the time, the largest residential photovoltaic array in the world. Today I not only live in town, but in the older part DOWNtown where people walk up my driveway and into my shop at all hours for a bit of conversation and a beer or soda. Indeed with EVTV we receive visitors regularly from all over the world. A guy from Moscow wanted a Siemens motor and DMOC645 with GEVCU and I told him we had one. He flew over and was here the next morning awaiting my arrival at the shop so he could pick one up and fly it back with him on the commercial airplane.

I found I liked that accessibility and socialabilty and the isolation of the mountain escape in Colorado grew old very quickly. But Bill has found his dream home in a 720 sf metal house on 8.5 acres on the Buffalo River in Linden Tennessee. And I get it. It looks very idyllic. I’ve encouraged him to start his own video series on living off-grid on the cheap, and what he does with the composting and solar and water and food and so forth. It’s a scenic setting. He now knows how to make video. And it would be interesting to watch and share his real world learning experience in this beautiful natural setting.

The mark set HERE is kind of modest. Here is an assclown spending 20 minutes of video showing me his devilishly clever troubleshooting technique to find the problem with a perfectly operational solar system consisting of three panels, a cheap charge controller, and a battery. I’m not sure he ever fully understood that when your battery approaches full, and you are not using any power, the output current of the panels naturally diminishes. He certainly seems hellbent on fixing it anyway and the determination is impressive. But it is NOT the ugly truth about solar. It’s the ugly truth about solar guys.

It does kind of illustrate how far we have to go with Solar. I think Bill can do this much better. His DOKA build is undoubtedly the best build we’ve ever done at EVTV. I’m driving it every day now and it is a marvel.

And so this week, in addition to 2:14 of me waxing poetic on autonomous driving and Selfish Solar, we document the Quaife installation in a smooth 1:46 for a perfect 4 hours of unadulterated EVTV goodness. I was very involved in doing the Quaife install ONCE, some time ago. But Bill has simply handled it in the past year and I’ve asked for an install and usually two hours later he hands me a finished drive unit. I had no idea it took two claw hammers and a dead-blow hammer to persuade this delicate and elegant piece of $10,000 equipment to behave itself. As my friend David Matthews of Boeing Aircraft in St. Louis notes, bash to fit and paint to match. If it’s good enough for Boeing….I guess I can live with it.

The Quaife thing turns out to be kind of important. Tesla has a very good electronic traction control. Most of it is actually done IN the inverter which receives CAN data on the speed of all four wheels. If one gets out ahead of the program by even a little, it instantly reduces torque to the motor. The automatic braking system can individually brake each wheel so it applies a little to the slipping wheel. And so it all goes well.

Applying 350 kw, 480hp to two rear wheels with an open differential and NO electronic traction control is an invitation to disaster and I mean truly a disaster with potentially fatal consequences. Elon Musk demonstrated this himself with his brand new million-dollar McLaren. If you are going 40 mph and yell “watch this shit” and hit it, one wheel breaks loose, the other drives like crazy and you leave the road, potentially under the auspices of the FAA. Tragically, he was not technically insured when he landed it in an off runway incident, collapsing his landing gear all the way around.

The inspiration for a solution was actually Doug Yip. Doug was building a Tesla powered AC cobra and planning the installation of a Honda limited slip differential. I noted that that kind of one-off solution was problematical – what if it broke? He would have to “make” another one. I suggested he get Quaife to build him a couple of them. He soon came back that they wanted a minimum order of 20. So I gave it to them, and gave Doug 2 so he could build his car and have a spare. The issue is that guys with race cars do not WANT to reduce torque. And they certainly don’t want to put on the brakes. The idea is to GO and go full power.

And so in the Doka you see what Ben Ashton at Quaife calls a perfect set of elevens – two single streaks on the pavement.

Doug has just released a video of him starting at the rear of a pack of 27 and advancing to position 7 in six laps. Fascinating.

Along the way, Doug was unhappy about our pricing, and unhappy about our development pace, and started to note there were other solutions available to control the drive unit in kind of an amusingly threatening manner. So I promoted him to a position off the beta team and urged him to pursue those. He is now on the road happily without us. But he has proven the Quaife rather emphatically.

In this episode, I have had a change of heart on the autonomous driving issue. While the problems and issues remain daunting and rather beyond those estimated, the simple application of intellect and resource to this problem is sufficiently overwhelming, and the potential payoffs so huge for the winners, that it becomes rather inevitable. And let’s get real here, it doesn’t have to work VERY well to offer a safety improvement over a 20 year-old gal with her foot on the dash painting her toenails while talking on the phone to her girlfriend at 80 mph. Farmers Insurance has seen it because they’ve covered it… IF you think I jest on how bad drivers can be…

And Tesla will no doubt lead the way. At this point, it has become a given that they do. And inevitably, they will not only survive in the rough and tumble world of automanufacture, I think they will come to dominate it. Volvo and Volkswagen seem unnaturally earnest in their protestations that it is not so. GM remains dismissive. Now Ford is going all in on an electric platform and dominance of all things EV. In the face of the basic failure of the Focus and the Bolt to dominate anything thus far. Volkswagen DOES have some capabilities Tesla does not – almost all of them revolving around press release management and their actual performance on environmentally friendly vehicles speaks for its own heavily fined and penalized self. At least it ended the hopes of diesel as a solution.

That leaves a lot of blue sky there for Tesla in an $85 billion annual auto market. But as Ron Popeil so aptly and often put it, “But wait, there’s more.”

And more involves Solar. Musk has entered an agreement with South Australia to install a 129 MWh battery in 100 days or its free. Which is curious. He’s also announced availability of Solar Tiles. I signed up to buy them and was crushed to learn that they don’t actually sell them. They will INSTALL them, sometime, somewhere, and not in Missouri anytime soon. On the first day of the year I similarly put down a $500 deposit on a PowerWall. Purportedly now 13.4 kWh for $5500 and includes the inverter. But alas. It is NOT actually for sale either. They WILL install it though, for an additional undisclosed fee, sometime. They’ll contact me soon. As of July, they haven’t. And I’m afraid by the time they get installers set up in Missouri, we’ll be on PowerWall version 7.0, with 100kWh for $2200 dollars, but still not exactly available.

What has Jamestown South Australia got that Jack ain’t got? Press appeal. He actually may BE acquiring the capabilities Volkswagen thinks they have that he doesn’t. He is mastering press releases on unobtainium. And so a 129MWhr battery is somewhat easier than mailing me a 13.4 kWh one.

Meanwhile the utility companies are already introducing their favorite new rate game, peak usage charges, to residential customers. This worked out so well with commercial customers, that they want to extend them to everyone. This means that if you average a certain amount of electricity each month, if you EXCEED that average by having a peak demand on a single day during the month, you pay a HUGE penalty on the electricity for the entire month. It may be the ultimate “Solar head shot” they have been looking for if they can get regulators to sign off on it, and apparently, for a fixed amount of cash, they can. This game is SO dirty it causes that familiar but uncomfortable feeling of just a little bit of vomit in the back of my throat. The taste is terrible.

Reminds me of the guy who walks into a bar and sees his friend sitting with 12 empty martini glasses obviously inebriated. “What’s up?” he asks. “I’m celebrating” is the reply. “Celebrating what?” he asks. “My first blow job.” is the response. “Well here, let ME buy you a drink if that’s the case.” The response was unexpected. “No, if 12 martinis won’t wash the taste out of my mouth, I don’t think a 13th is going to do it either…”.

But for us who are neither late adopters nor unwashed masses in the millions representing a huge market, the DIY guys are basically unarmed in this battle. In an attempt to deal with being ON the grid and being OFF the grid and being back ON the grid and satisfying everyone everywhere, the available equipment has become comically complex to install and use. An army of opportunists insist of course that I overplay this, while at the same time avowing as how a Sunny Island and a Sunny Boy will work PERFECTLY, but no they do not want to reveal how. There is NO document or video I can find that would be at all useful to actually do this feat because they want you to pay THEM to put it in and they guard the techniques very carefully. If you call SMA, they indeed will tell you you need a professional installer.

And so in this video I am proposing SELFISH SOLAR. It has a couple of key concepts.

1. Devices are simple, stupid, and dedicated to one task. A battery takes care of being a battery. A charger takes care of doing what the battery tells it to do to charge. And an inverter inverts. It knows nothing of grids or batteries. It looks for an input voltage and produces AC. And you can add them in modular fashion for more power.

2. Adoption of a common bus of 300-400vdc to match the voltages of electric vehicles.

3. Heavy use/repurposing of used electric vehicle components to maximize power and minimize cost.

4. Super simple and very optional interface to the grid.

5. Massive batteries as the heart of the system.

On the surface, this doesn’t look much different from how a solar equipment package works now. But it is actually MASSIVELY different. It is an entirely different and selfish philosophy, using very selfish modular components, to deal with a breathtakingly selfish, self destructive and myopic grid/political system bend on self destruction.

It’s a war. And again we can win this one. It only takes a handful. If I can get a scant 100,000 guys to go into the garage and build one, and tell the utilities to fuck off and die, the utilities WILL do as instructed. And millions will follow. The telcos did. The oil companies did. And either one of those looks agile and intelligent when compared to electric utilities. But you do have to let go of the utopian vision of a shared beneficient grid using renewable power where we all just love each other and bask in the bountiful sunshine holding hands and singing kumbayah. It ain’t happening. That is not how you got an Internet. It is not how you got electric cars. And it will not be how you get a solar powered world.

And yes, for the 100,000, it will be expensive, it will be problematic, and it won’t work very well at first.

And yes, it will all work better if Elon Musk leads. But lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way….