New Blog

Welcome.   In the last year, batteries sufficient to drive a motor vehicle have become available to mere humanoids.  I’ve waited a number of years for this technology as I was never able to pencil an electric car that would satisfy my design parameters with lead acid batteries or the many variants that were available.

It is discouraging that these batteries would be made available to me from China, while American manufacturers remain primarily interested in managing intellectual property and seeking the holy grail of a multimillion dollar buyout from General Motors.  They are currently getting their comeuppance as I might have given them money, while GM is essentially bankrupt.

In any event, we did our first conversion – a bit of a simple one, using a reproduction of the 1957 Porsche Model 356 Speedster.  The “glider” came from Special Editions Inc of Bremen Indianna (  They call it the Beck Speedster or Beck 356.

To my way of thinking, it is in all aspects superior to the original Porsche (gasp), certainly for this project.  First, there were 1157 of the originals made, and I would be loathe to chop one up for an electric conversion.

But further, the original Porsche had a heavy steel body and a weak frame based on the volkswagen pan design.  The Beck has a much lighter, rustproof, fiberglass “body” on a much stiffer, stronger 3-inch tubular steel chassis.  It is much more capable to carry the additional weight imposed by the batteries, without the flexing and twisting a genuine Porsche would exhibit.  And the result is a lighter car (2130 lbs).

There are at least three companies doing these reproductions, but in my unqualified but nonetheless strongly held opinion, the Beck is superior in virtually all ways.  Interestingly, the Beck guys have undoubtedly produced more of these cars than Porsche ever did.  This is a testament to both the popularity of the Porsche design, and the Beck manufacturing and design process.

Although we had an order prepared with Special Editions Inc, there was a 12 week waiting period for a glider and in the meantime we found almost exactly what we wanted on eBay and located just north of us in St. Louis.  The car had 1100 miles on it.  So we bought that and pulled the CB Performance engine and sold that off on eBay.

All that notwithstanding, the guys at Special Editions have been enormously supportive, supplied additional parts timely and no small advice, despite the fact that we never did order the car from them.  I cannot speak highly enough of this company.

My intention with this blog is to hold forth mightily and at length on a lot of topics surrounding electric cars that are probably of little interest to most.   But if they catch your eye, feel free to join in.

And you can be as abusive as you like.  This is not my first rodeo.  In a previous life, in the mid 80’s I got involved with bulletin boards and trying to make online communications work with 300 bps modems.  I started a newsletter in 1986 on the topic and Denver PC Boardwatch grew into Boardwatch Magazine and ultimately the Internet Service Providers Convention. (ISPCON).

I developed a following by basically examining technology and picking what I thought it would do and who the winners and losers might be as the concept developed into an “internetwork”.  My magazine actually coined most of the terms you use today to talk about the Internet.  And we more or less “told the future” of almost everything you see online – years before it actually came to pass.

It was NOT a widely read consumer magazine.  It was very technical and read almost entirely by the engineers and software designers at the heart of the network buildout.  It was great fun while building, but I threatened all along to leave the field when the monied “townies”moved into the frontier and took it over.

They did.  And I did.  I sold the company for $38 million in 1998 and went to recharge from 12 years of 100 hour work-weeks, and maybe get in contact with my much ignored and abused kids.

At this point, they are mostly grown for better or worse.  And I need a new field to obsess on.  It’s electric cars.

A printed magazine?  Only if you insist.  The magazine was about deploying the then brand new technology of publishing on a personal computer.  In 1986 magazines were published in large buildings full of graphic designers, page layout people, photographic and printing experts.

I wanted to publish one entirely by myself using the then new and not very good page layout software on a little XT computer.  It more or less worked. Over time, it developed and worked much better.  And we achieved unheard of efficiencies in cost and time to print that the larger computer magazines just couldn’t master.  Disruptive technology.

I’ve been watching another disruptive technology for years.  Video.  I know this may seem a bit late to the party to some of you who have been manfully shooting and editing video on personal computers.  But I just haven’t considered the cameras, editors, and most importantly the personal computers, actually up to the task of high definition video production.  With thousands of videos already on YouTube, you will find it bizarrre that I still don’t.  It’s just not there yet.

But like the page layout programs of 1986, they are just ABOUT there.  With a 3.2 GHz 8 processor Mac Pro, using fast SCSI drives and RAID 0 striping, I can just about almost render out a  video in a 24-hour day.  The one featured on the web site is an hour and a half long, shot in 1920×1080 HD, and is actually not possible to reproduce in a communicable form right now.  I can’t put it on a dual layer disk, and Apple and Blu-Ray still don’t play nicely together.  But I can squirt out reduced resolution weeny versions in about a 24 day of rendering.

And that’s about all the network can handle – IF you have a broadband connection.  But I think we are JUST ABOUT at the launching point where video more or less nearly works.  And over the next few years, we’ll see how it develops. It will eventually get there.

My vision for publishing now revolves around the web itself of course (first mention of it in commercial print was in Boardwatch Magazine of course).  Actually the web coupled with hi-res digital photographs and  HD video.  And it’s an odd mix.  Instead of operating a “web server” I find myself melding a lot of online web resources together into one “site” from a lot of different services.  We’re using Google’s Picassa and Blogger for photos and this blog.  I’m hosting weeny videos on Apples, and I do have a bit of it on a machine in my bedroom.  We’ll probably add a Yahoo “forum” to the mix somewhere along the way to do e-mail list delivery.

So what I’m seeing is kind of a neat dispersed “kludge” of servers and services tied together into a single site.  It’s an exciting medium.

Is there a buck in it?  Who knows.  I do like using dollars to keep score, they are the most sincere form of vote.  But I didn’t worry about money when I didn’t have any and was starting Boardwatch, so it would be unlikely for me to spend much time on how to monetize this one either.

And the topic is all about electric vehicles.  I think this is the next “big thing” after the fashion of the early days of the Internet.  I don’t think the automobile manufacturers are going to be nearly as early and well as most do regarding plug in vehicles.  I think we’ll see a lot of “hybrids” and I’ll talk about why they have to do that in a future post.

I view hybrids as an unnecessary evil.  It’s true that you CAN both  saddle a cow and milk a horse, both more or less successfully.  But it’s a funny way to travel to breakfast, and you’re liable to annoy both the horse and the cow.  A hybrid gas/electric vehicle inherits the complexities and negative attributes of both, while forfeiting the advantages and benefits of either.

Electric cars should be powered by plugging them into the wall, or better and faster to an at-home battery bank powered by wind or solar.  No permissions from the government or Exxon, no qualifications, car owner in control.

The early days of the online world was almost entirely driven by individuals, working nights on their computers in basements and attics and bedrooms across the land.  They funded the telephone lines, the modems, the whole thing.  At first a few dozen, and then a few hundred, and then a few thousand.  And it kept growing inspite of every obstacle the government and large corporate vested interests could impose.  It was an idea whose time had come, implemented by resourceful individuals who would not give up the dream.  AT&T, Charter Communications, Cisco Systems, and Microsoft did NOT bring you the Internet.  Neither did Yahoo or Google.  It was a small band of misfits, who trailed ethernet cable across empty lots in San Francisco because they were paving it the next day.

Today, there are a few hundred people who don’t care what GM did to the EV1.  They’re busy converting their Miatas, bicycles, Volkswagens, and in one case a toilet, into electric powered transportation.  Some of it is funny.  Some of it is sad.  And all of it makes me misty-eyed.  They don’t even KNOW how important they really are.

The advantage of being 54 and on Rodeo No. 2 is that I do.  And I’m going to show you.  These guys will change the world forever.  They are my heroes.  Someday they too will be forgotten, much as the Internet pioneers are in the blizzard of corparate nonsense talk you are inundated with.  But it just won’t happen without them.

Jack Rickard

7 thoughts on “New Blog”

  1. Thanks for this blog, Jack. I’d wondered what the years had been like for you before we met in 2007. Was it? Thank you, Dick, for suggesting I meet Jack.
    I was impressed with what I understood of the EV video.
    Thanks for sharing,


  2. The explanation of the basics of how electricity works is simple enough. The basis for computations & hotlinks are beneficial, too. All quite helpful.

    I’m going to view the video for a 3rd time. I would have skipped to the end like you suggested, but it took so long(maybe 30-45 minutes)to buffer, that I just went ahead & watched the whole thing. I get a little more from it every time.

    Many thanks for the work you’ve done & for what you will do.


  3. So Jack:

    First, thanks for the real-world data points and your forward approach. That’s a huge contribution to the game.

    Second, there’s a planning number I’m evaluating that would be very useful if accurate. I’ve seen it said that 8 kWh of LiFePO4 batteries, skipping lots of math, but more or less accounting for everything, is the rough equivalent of about a gallon of gasoline. Not Btu equivalent, not energy equivalent, not to 80% DOD, but a simple rule-of-thumb in-service performance equivalent. That would certainly be a useful rule for planning a conversion.

    I’ve been looking at a number of LiFePO4 cars with published data points to try to validate that number. A quick check of the various LiFePO4 powered cars on the EV Album with reported range shows a fairly close adherence to this rough rule, regardless of voltage, AC or DC, or gross weight. Just look at the vehicle, look up or estimate the MPG of the glider, find the kWh rating of the pack at 3.2V, and the reported range is around the kVh/8*mpg. Ef course, it is much harder to say whether this equivalency holds up when we are talking about speed as well as range.

    Your Beck 356 seems right about there on the range side. It probably got about 30 mpg average with the ICE, which if we count your 21kWh pack (or call it 18 1/2 at a more commonly accepted lower nominal voltage value like 3.2) as 2 1/3 or so gallons, your 85-100 mile range. My question for is two-fold: Initially, what’s your impression of the accuracy and usefulness of this equivalency number as to range.

    More importantly, do you think the number holds up factoring in how you drive the car? If you lead-foot it, I would expect your ICE mileage would have slipped to 20mpg. If your current range is less than 50 miles in teenager mode, the 8kWh/Gal number would seem very useful indeed.

    Not that you would rely on this for calculating requirements for an expensive pack or anything, but it does seem to simplify the Wh/mi and efficiency corrections and all that. Its a good rule for thinking how many pounds of battery you need to go about how far in a given glider, especially in the absence of a good Wh/mi guess, which is hard to make in the design phase, yes?

    Whaddya think?

    Tom Alvary

  4. Tom:

    It’s precisely the formula I used to calculate the range of the Speedster originally. I like it because it allows you to basically factor out all the more technical issues of air resistance, rolling resistance, drag coefficients etc into the mpg the car actually got.

    Of course your mileage may vary. That’s where the term came from. How you drive a car is very much a part of how energy efficient it becomes. But we have some pretty good numbers in that mpg average from the ICE world.

    Broadly, the formula derives from the fact that a gallon of gasoline contains approximately 32kWh of energy, and an ICE drivetrain is roughly 25% efficient. Electric drives are more like 88%. So a rough rule of thumb is that it takes 8kWh of electricity equivalent to equal a gallon of gasoline.

    The car is what it is. An Escalade gets 11 mpg and a Porsche Speedster 30.

    With the battery upgrade just completed, I have a topped out storage of 23,328 wH. That’s the equivalent of 2.9 gallons of gasoline or 87 miles. I have the range at 85 miles. I can do a hundred with careful driving, but that is taking the batteries to pretty much done in.

    To protect the batteries, I do not want to remove more than 80% of the charge to attain 2000 cycles and that would be about 80 miles. To get 3000 cycles, I would have to limit that to 70% or 70 miles per charge.

    In practice, unless I’m testing the car on purpose, I drive about 30 miles per day. Going full range occasionally does little harm.

    It is interesting to note that the Mini-E lease program touted the Mini-E as getting 150 miles per charge. As we are now working on a Clubman conversion, I have been scratching my ass and picking my nose on how they did that, and just can’t come up with a way to do it within the laws of physics. So I just assumed they must be a lot smarter than I am.

    Now that the cars are out, users are reporting 100 miles as pretty much it, and more like 70 if they use the aircon or heat. BMW allows that they were using some “different criteria” to come up with the 150 mile figure. Go figure.

    Jack Rickard

  5. Hi Jack,

    I am enjoying your blog and videos. It has gotten me excited to get back to work on my car, which has been a bit neglected lately because of other projects.

    I like your open attitude- it reminds me a lot more of the Aussie EV scene, rather that the proprietary mentality of trying to capitalize on the “Next Big Thing”


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Verified by MonsterInsights