I’m running a bit behind on written articles in the blog, or perhaps a bit ahead on videos. I forget which. In any event we’ll discuss the last two videos simultaneously and at the same time, concurrently, together, and in aggregate, as a group, together.
In our video of January 17, 2019, we open up with the final 3 minutes of our video from May 17, 2009. Yes, we approach 10 years of video publication at EVTV.
I had some small experience and some small success as a writer and magazine publisher over the previous 30 years. But my estimation in the spring of 2009 was that the ad sale for printed magazines was difficult in a very new and different way. Basically you couldn’t get anybody in the business world on the telephone anymore to explain what you were doing.
This is like sales cold calling, but it isn’t nearly as cold. At Boardwatch Magazine, most of the people we contacted by telephone were pleased to take the call. Either they knew all about us and would readily speak to us, or they knew nothing about us and were delighted to learn we existed at all. I was fairly certain that a publication about electric vehicles would be received similarly. Understand we don’t bother calling people we don’t think would be interested in the first place. B2B is slightly different than selling life insurance via unwanted sales calls.
But the world had gone through a phase shift regarding telephones. Company land lines were essentially abandoned. IF you didn’t know the cell phone number of the individual already, he didn’t want to talk to you. And basically the modern communications have so enhanced our ability to interact with people, that instead of communicating with 10 or 12 people directly in a day, everyone could now interact somewhat cogently and directly with 50 or 100 or even 150.
That’s an amazing increase in productivity. But it renders everyone feeling as if they were going 800 mph with their hair on fire ALL THE TIME. So if you DID have their cell phone number, realistically they probably still didn’t want to talk to you. Actually, whatever their desires, they’re simply UNABLE to talk to one more person today than they’re already talking to. We’ve hit the wall.
And so the concept of a video series magazine. I saw a guy in New Zealand doing a bit on a very bottom feeder approach to building an EV – Gav’s EV. Short videos. Very low resolution. And he built such a bad car he couldn’t get it licensed in New Zealand because the frame was rusted away.
So how about feature length HD video? At that time, it wasn’t QUITE HD – 1280 x 720, but WAY beyond the 360 pixel stuff commonly on line. There was not nearly enough bandwidth to carry it. And indeed most of the often aging PC’s widely owned didn’t have the horsepower to PLAY such a video if it was already on the hard drive.
Worse, it was a huge learning curve for me personally to edit video. And indeed, once edited, it could take 17-24 hours just to RENDER and output the video. Our little rPi Battery Display today has more horsepower than my very expensive desktop full blown computers of 10 years ago.
The progress in both bandwidth and computer speed and storage over the past 10 years has been astonishing.
I saw the adoption of battery driven vehicles as single stroke solving a good half dozen problems at once. Heat, vibration, fossil fuels, trade imbalance, military oil colonialism, and the unhealthy effects of vehicle exhaust among them. You DO know that a good way to end it all is with a car and a closed garage door? So why do you think a billion of them doing that is ok as long as it is out of doors? Suck starting an Oldsmobile through the exhaust pipe just doesn’t make sense to me.
Al Gore had just released a documentary titled An Inconvenient Truth predicting that we would all be dead from Global Warming by this time. It didn’t of course happen, but it has left a very wide cult of very confused adherents that rather fail to notice none of the predictions turned out. This has morphed into a political sect seeking to control entire populations with this witch hunt. But at the time it seemed plausible and so our first video was titled A Convenient Response to an Inconvenient Truth.
Brian Noto and I had built a fully functional fiberglass kit-car replica of a 1957 Porsche Speedster as an electric car using newly available Chinese LiFePo4 batteries and an enhanced Warfield forklift motor from NETGAIN. We used a Kelly PWM controller to manage speed and power. We started in September 2008 and drove it Christmas day. It rather exceeded expectations. I drove it up to 94 mph on the first drive and it achieved 110 miles on its first charge.
And my story since has been that if a 54 year-old unemployable with ZERO automotive experience, can build an electric car that does 94 mph and can go 110 miles on a charge, working half days falling down drunk in yellow shoes, then what we have here is NOT precisely a technical problem.
This being AT the time of the home mortgage financial meltdown, which I am certain derived from the six months of $4.50 per gallon gasoline summer, my question was why aren’t there dozens of electric models available from those like General Motors and Volkswagen that DO know something about cars.
And the ONLY OEM I could find proposing one was curiously named TESLA, and their car had become a standing joke of delayed delivery with people doing satires on the ever coming soon TESLA which of course just never quite seemed to be actually available.
And so the original mission was to enlist 100,000 garage tinkerers and innovators and focus their attention on the problem of building a custom electric car themselves. In the process of demonstrating that it could be done, and exhibiting the enormous advantages of electric drive I had already experienced to their friends, neighbors, and ever supportive brides.
Having survived the introduction of the PC, and the Internet, I rather knew what the response would be and counted on it. First, the status quo would try to kill it. And if they were unable to do that, to somehow figure out a way to have invented it.
Elon Musk’s approach was to do it himself. The problem with that is that it provides a convenient point at which to kill it.
My approach was to have a diffuse group of unmanageable individuals around the entire planet EACH do it separately, and in demonstrating the to me obvious advantages, acculturate the population to an idea they were inherently resistant to. The problem was essentially that EVERYBODY knew entirely to much about BATTERIES and the experience was NEVER GOOD.
Lithium ionic batteries being the key. But I first had to kill something myself – the deeply ingrained tradition in the small but already existing group that DID build electric cars already – with inexpensive lead acid batteries. They did their best to ridicule and abuse me out of existence. But compared to FidoNet Network 104 and the newsgroups on the Internet, they just didn’t know how to be abusive enough to get the job done. Indeed, they were by contrast genteel and polite in the extreme, though blissfully unaware of what an online dogfight REALLY looks like. I had already been engaged in these e-mail imbroglios since 1983 or thereabouts.
But this approach from the grass up doesn’t provide the status quo with a good point to kill it. It’s everywhere. Laws don’t matter. Threats don’t matter. These tend to be crusty old guys with a garage, a ball game on the radio, a garage reefer full of beer, and kind of an attitude anyway. And an electric Corvette or Beetle would be sufficiently astonishing that they quickly became local “Edison” celebrities just by building it.
Understand virtually ALL of them actually build much better cars than I do. Some of these people are artists and want each individual wire to march across the firewall in perfect parallel and then curve down in perfectly symetrical arcs. Many used to build hotrods and show cars. If I could show them the electronics and the batteries, they were universally much better at actually building cars.
And they DID take them to car shows. And they were met with a really odd polite resentment from the other hotrod builders as the crowds would simply draw to and focus on the new guy – with the all electric fully restored Pinto. They literally stole the show at every car show they attended.
Not everyone feels equipped to build a car from scratch in their garage. But this created a latent demand of “low hanging fruit”. By the time the Leaf and the Tesla Roadster were available, there was a small group VERY ready to buy the initial offerings of these new OEM electric cars. And I believe that this formed the early group that bought Electric Minis, Leafs, and provided the much needed oxygen for a $110,000 Tesla Roadster to get Tesla off the ground.
We’re a bit past our sell-by date here. The electric vehicle has passed from the tinkerer and innovator stage of the adoption curve described by Everett Rogers and Geoffrey Moore. Classically, at 2 to 2.5% market penetration, you are considered well and safely into the “early adopter” stage and at this point Tesla by itself enjoys that kind of penetration. So we are at the point where demand turns vertical on the curve and grows exponentially.
Right on time, the status quo OEM’s are scrambling to get in the game. The latter phase will be their herculean and usually remarkably effective efforts to rewrite the entire history of the thing so when you think about it, they really invented it from the beginning. This is as much predictably part of the adoption curve as all the rest.
And so in this video, we take a victory lap and congratulate the many who actually did the work and built the cars and so without doubt and without exception (and sadly without reward or recognition) really DID directly change the world for the better. You will be forgotten widely, but will remain forever my personal heroes, joining the cadre that built the Internet and the online world – DESPITE BillGatus of Borg.
So what’s ahead for me? Well 50 years of Camel cigarettes and Kentucky Fried Chicken have taken their toll. But I fear I may have a few more miles to go before I sleep.
Having built the largest residential photovoltaic array in the world in 1998, I rather thought the solar thing had progressed heroicallly by now. Instead, I find a shitshow of recalcitrant utility companies furiously rolling back the clock, a squabbling industry of go nowhere lost dazed and confused inverter and charge controller guys who remain tiny in the face of growing demand, and just a mess really. Because they never did address energy storage.
I had a 50kWh Trojan industrial lead acid battery pack in my Morrison Colorado home in 1998. It featured an absolutely FOOLPROOF automatic transfer switch that allowed us to have power when the grid went down without putting ANYTHING out on the grid and cost a paltry $400 of the $275,000 cost of the installation. UL1741 and the other regulations established by the Utility Companies have NEVER had ANYTHING to do with safety of anyone. They were and are a land grab, seizing your assets without compensation.
So I am mystified to find an entire solar industry completely lacking in leadership or clue. Nothing interoperates. The utilities control everything. And with HEROICALLY falling prices it has progressed really VERY LITTLE in 21 years. And all proponents are scrambling manfully to dig fallen quarters out of the grass while rivers of hundred dollar bills flow through the air above them SEEKING a home.
It is madness.
And the central issue with solar power is simply that the planet blissfuly rotates on its axis every 24 hours. And the rain falls on the good and the evil in like amount. And utility grids are comically poor candidates to act as energy storage devices. They have ever been plagued with load management issues of their own for over 130 years.
The solution is laying on the ground in front of you. Magic rock photovoltaic panel seeks magic rock lithium battery for long walks in the moonlight.
And so once again, it is ALL ABOUT THE BATTERIES.
Right on time we have the exponential growth in electric vehicles. But along the way to success, they had to make an enormous concession. We never did quite get everyone over their poor experiences with batteries. Indeed, specifically with cars, what is the most common symptom of a failed gasoline powered car? You turn the key and it fails to start – dead battery.
Now it could be caused by many things. But for the not very mechanical public at large, the experience is “the battery is dead”. And whatever repairs are needed, the battery also needs recharge or replacement.
So to address this, and to assure the buyers that LITHIUM batteries were different, the manufacturers had to make a huge concession. A ridiculous warranty on the batteries. Minimum 8 year 100,000 mile warranty on THE most expensive part of the car.
My wife drives an early 2013 Tesla Model S. It was out of warranty last year. But the BATTERY WARRANTY continues to 2021 – another 3 years.
And what that means is that essentially every electric vehicle that has been sold thus far, ALL of them, are STILL under battery warranty and will be for years to come.
So if anyone actually HAS a battery problem with an electric vehicle, they call the manufacturer. And they replace the ENTIRE battery for FREE. This isn’t a lead acid car battery. Nothing is “prorated” by time or miles. You just get a brand new battery. And they install it.
But EV’s are wrecked like any other car. And I could make the case that Musk & Co. have gone to extremes to make a very HIGH PERFORMANCE electric vehicle that about 1% of the drivers owning them are competent to drive them at all. The result is what looks like a demolition derby under the influence of bathtub gin.
Enter the auto salvage industry. This is an integral part of our automotive ecosystem. They buy wrecks and either restore them to operation and sell the now usable car or part them out. But in the case of THE most expensive and valuable part of the electric car – the battery – there is essentially ZERO automotive replacement market for these parts. ALL EV’s are still under battery warranty. So no one is going to buy a battery from the junkyard to repair their car.
And so EV’s make a perfect source for relatively low cost lithium batteries for solar storage. I’ve been singing this song for about a year and a half and it seems our viewers have learned the tune.
We’re selling a lot of our bms controller for Model S batteries these days as well as MOdel S battery modules which have established a pretty steady at this point price of about $1300 per module or $250 per kWh.
But I am actually seeing the more numerous Model 3 batteries going for a premium. People are scarfing them up left and right at ridiculous prices, and then rushing to the keyboard DEMANDING to know when I’m going to have a controller done for the Model 3.
Flattered or offended? I can’t decide.
But it IS important. These batteries have very high energy densities and are simply quite dangerous. Tesla has a HUGE motivation to NOT have vehicles bursting into flames and so for their entire history, they’ve put more effort into battery management, with some of the best engineering minds in the field, than any other aspect of their cars.
In this video we do show you what happens when a cell is punctured or overcharged. So we think it is IMPERATIVE to use the Tesla BMS to the greatest extent possible. And so we’ve devoted a truly deranged amount of resource to try to produce a safe “controller” to operate the Tesla BMS. Note that we simply do NOT attempt ever to actually design a Battery Management System. We do a CAN controller to communicate with the BMS boards on the Tesla modules, and indeed have such a controller for the entire pack (which I prefer strongly.)
And yes, we are working on a similar port of our ESP32 controller for the Model 3 modules. As these use custom Tesla chips with a lot of secret sauce, I can’t say we will ever get it done. History being what it is, I’m hopeful we stumble onto something as my experience is it is better to be lucky than good. But IF all that works out, a tested product would be toward the end of the year. ALl of you scarfing up those cheap Model 3 batteries at $16,000 will be able to buy the same thing by then for $7500. They are building, and wrecking, a LOT of Tesla Model 3 cars. We bought the FIRST wrecked Model 3, not in very good shape for $28k and our most recent, nearly running Model 3 for $22k. We talked to a guy in North Carolina that bought one he thought he could repair at $15k. There are 16 on Copart right now.
In this latest video, we came across a PART of a Model 3 module, and so took one of the cells down to parade rest and show you what’s inside and how it compares to the Model S 18650 cell.
We have a very limited number of these to offer as examples – simply something you can keep in the glove box to show people what one looks like in conversation.
We also discuss the theoretical chemistry of the cells, but also the MANUFACTURING chemistry – the actual commercial battery materials used to make a cell. It rather explains why Musk prefers to refer to these as Nickel/Graphite batteries and points to the largest cost component as nickel.
We are pleased to see we are not the only savages on the buffalo hunt. A group in California Tech-Direct is focusing on Leaf Cells – their BMS efforts are probably a fire waiting for a victim but they appear to be working on it. And we would predict a day when ALL EV batteries will be repurposed for solar energy storage.
We do pay attention to economies of scale and cost trends. But we care little for the actual price of things at this point as they are subject to almost daily change. The garage built electric vehicles never paid for themselves with savings at the gasoline pump, though there were savings.
Similarly experimenting with EV batteries is unlikely to make economic sense for many years in reducing your electric bill. But I am convinced that in a nation with 250 million cars and 100 million residences, eventually remaindered car batteries are scalable for the future of solar energy storage. And without that storage, the promise of two magic rocks will remain unfinished.
We serve to enable, abet, and encourage the tinkerers and innovators who do not want to be among the masses who change a light bulb. We need the MEN who will take responsibility for and work to CHANGE THE WORLD and in no small way. Not talk about it. Not dream about it. Not be part of the political movement.
I’m an old man. I only have time, patience, and will to lead and confer with those who use their HANDS and their MINDS to actually CHANGE things, starting in their own shed and on their own rooftop. I believe only they have the ability and the will to change the world, leaving the lightweights and the girls to vote on shit and try to get some facetime on CNN. IT’s kind of like the weather. Everybody talks about it. Who’s doing anything about it?
So for the corporations who want me to consult, and the YouTubers looking for a good cat video, please stand aside and don’t get in any of these guys way. We don’t need your money, and we don’t have time for your silly malformed ill-informed fantasy opinions. You should view EVTV ONCE for a few minutes, and move along quietly. We are far too long and far too boring and far too old and really really fat for you. Jehu needs 10 million viewers and a Youtube income so he can try to get legal and get a green card. We don’t.
I note a blip in this latest video among the 24-35 age group. We never get any of those. You need to move out of mom’s house, marry, raise your children, etc. When you’re done with all that, you can come back and join the men. Till then, this stuff just probably isn’t good for your head. Remember…safety first…