Copy This Linc (Volt).

Interesting week. We had a visit from Wayne Alexander of EV-Blue Conversions in Walton Kansas. We had a great time talking, which he does love to do, and I may have overrun my budget of time for him on the show, but I thought I would include most of it for a couple of reasons.

We’re very unlike in our approach to EV’s, yet we hit it off rather marvelously. He’s been doing them for a very long time (since 1974) and more recently he does a LOT of them (143 in the past four years). So while we agree on little, I thought it important you hear what he has to say.

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Wayne does EV for food. He’ll convert anything for $12,500. That’s a lead acid conversion, and we all know my feelings about lead. But he makes a case. People want to drive electric, and their budget is not unlimited. He’s done some LiFePo4, but is clearly more comfortable with lead.

He favors standard components – Netgain motors and Curtis controllers. And he winds up doing 35-40 cars per year.

We actually had a ball talking about all of that. He’ll put in anything the customer wants, but those are the designs he considers his bread and butter.

I had a great segment on a 100 mile drive we made in the Speedster AND the Spyder. Ran the Speedster entirely out and the Spyder down to parade rest and had some interesting results from that – two cars with some significant time and miles, living BMS free one day at a time. But I cut that out – we’ll push it to next weeks show.

About a year ago I got a call from Jonathan Goodwin. He mostly converts Hummers to biodiesel, but had gotten involved in a project with Neil Young on a 1959 Lincoln Continental they were calling the Linc Volt. Apparently Neil had seen the videos and kind of got enthused, as he is wont to do about a lot of things. I talked with Goodwin and Perrone at length about the immediate questions and implored them to eschew the BMS top balance thing etc. of course.

Neil started corresponding by e-mail and by telephone quite extensively. We talked about them driving through Cape Girardeau on a cross country trip they were planning in the Linc Volt and he was going to do a documentary on it. In fact, we discussed something even more bizarre, going partners with him on his 1938 Meteor – a classic wooden launch that we would power by battery and capstone Turbine.

1938 Meteor

The Linc Volt had a bit of a secret life. They had decided they could use a Wankel engine and a UQM generator to build a hydrolyzer to make hydrogen, then use the hydrogen to run the Wankel in the usual copper foil helmet concept of perpetual motion. We argued over this somewhat heatedly for some time, and Young had an uncanny ability to catch me on the phone when I was deep in the garage among the wiskey barrels.

In any event, the Meteor never got done. But the capstone went into the Link Volt and the Wankel hydrogen thing went away.

The car came out to be absolutely stunning. Ostensibly 50 miles using High Power cells (not my recommendation frankly but less expensive). And with the Capstone Turbine, a 400 mile range running on natural gas, diesel, biodiesel, etc. The turbines are heavy, and they start at about $30,000. But he wants to do this cross country thing.

The guy filming the documentary was a close friend, and he died suddenly last January.

In any event, they wound up keynoting the SEMA show November 2nd and the Linc Volt was a huge hit. She was all dressed up, and everywhere to go. Young gave an impassioned speech about the need for no compromises go green with large cars that people like. On this, he is so all over it. Right now buyers are returning to the Escalade, Yukon and Denali in droves and you can’t give a Prius away at all.

On November 9, in the early AM, the Linc Volt burned to the ground, taking a good bit of warehouse with it. It was definitely the car that started the fire. They are alluding to a “problem charging” with human error. The human error was having a BMS on it, and using it to control the charging of the car of course. Took the fire department most of an hour to get it out.

The car was truly beautiful. The message was beautiful. And Young was passionate about it. I’m crushed, and I never got to see the car and indeed Young and I have never met except by e-mail and phone. I can imagine how he feels about it. He CAN’T imagine how I do. Those dirty BMSs. You try rubbing them out and scrubbing them out, still everybody in the country is UNANIMOUS – you HAVE to have a BMS. They burn cars to the ground.

I’ve got some contacts in the battery scene. They provided me some shots from the SH2 battery trade show in Shenzhen China – including some shots of the new Gray cells that I’m now told will be available in February. The company naturally doesn’t want to hurt current cell sales by announcing any of this before the switchover is announced. They also were showing a blue 200AH cell and a blue 210 AH cell that was very short but wide. I can’t wait to get more information on these new batteries. I think this will be important.

We have the motor and transmission back in the Mini Cooper. The new controller is mounted. And we’ve made some very interesting changes in the cooling and heating systems in the car – we’ve combined them into one. It can’t possibly work. But I’ve kind of decided to start from the assumption that the controller and motor CAN heat the car, and the car CAN cool the motor and controller, and work backwards from there, adding components until it either does or doesn’t. Should be interesting.

Jack Rickard

57 thoughts on “Copy This Linc (Volt).”

  1. “the system in question would not be in use while driving the car. We are investigating the components involved with plug-in charging.”

    Link :
    (Halfway down the keynote speech article)

    They then go on to describe how the batteries and “battery associated systems” were the only components in the car not made in the USA. I sure hope they don’t try to scuff this fire that “occurred in an untested part of the charging system.” on the fact that they were made in China.

    It will be interesting to watch the dust settle.

  2. And I keep saying, if we build it, they can come or not as they like. When oil hits $300 a barrel they will like.

    This isn’t about personal driving preference guys. It’s about survival. Economic survival. Personal survival. Oil production appears to be finite, but the production of cars is not – it is explosive. We currrently have just under 900 million cars on the planet and it’s looking like 1.2 billion by 2020. In 1995 we had 500 million.

    We can move ALL those numbers around to whatever suits you, it remains the building of THE PERFECT STORM.

    We WILL of course adapt then when gasoline is simply unaffordable for ordinary people. Electric cars will no longer look “expensive” at all. But these things take time.

    Right now the vendors are suffering from lack of sales. Two years ago with the $4 gasoline, you had to wait MONTHS to get a motor, or a controller….

    Once it’s an emergency, everything will be difficult, VERY difficult. You won’t be able to get batteries. The Chinese will keep them for themselves. They’ll simply stop shipping them. The American battery makers don’t actually exist. They are a fiction. A legend in their own minds.

    Right now is the best of times. You can get stuff. You can tinker. You can innovate. You can build. And gasoline is $2.85.

    Later, it will be a panic. In this case, a panic beyond anything we’ve ever seen I believe. But I lived in Southern California in 1978/1979 and I know personally what it’s like to go to the pump and find a line stretching several blocks with no hopes of getting gasoline today and no way to move the car without it. And I lived 18 miles from NAS Miramar.

    Jack Rickard

  3. What was the point of the tail on the 1938 Meteor? Would that not make huge drag?

    As for gas prices….How can we have a PERFECT STORM here in the US of A with gas prices 2X in the EU and no PERFECT STORM. I bet we have more EV cars in the USA and cheaper gas. I just dont understand that part. Europe should be going EV nutts with current gas prices.

  4. We burn through a lot more oil per day and our distribution of goods is completely dependent on oil.

    45 mile daily commutes with no other option but to drive make our market much more volatile.

  5. The Netherlands today has a $8,20/gallon equivalency price for gasoline. Over half of that price is taxes.
    We’re still fine; public transport in the form of trains and buses are still more expensive and offer less comfort and so the highways are still gridlocked during rush hours.

    According to the prices I’ve seen on the only useful modern energy cells available to consumers, coming from Communist China of all places, I would need to drive over 115000 kilometres (71500 miles) to break even with my current gasoline car.

    That’s comparing the battery cells costs and electricity costs with simple gasoline costs – and doesn’t include other retooling costs.

    I agree with Jack’s conclusion that the only viable niche for an electric car is Telsa Motors’ Roadster.
    That one is on par -performance wise- with the Porsche 911 GT3 as seen in the tv show Top Gear (UK). Oh, and that was essentially with a gimped drive train with a fixed gear ratio.
    It’s very interesting to note that the Tesla Roadster’s cheaper on the whole and also more economical to drive then the 911 GT3.

    Oh, and I really like the EVTV shows. Also loved the angry rants on endless-sphere, which pointed me to your site and blog.

  6. At one point I made the comment that it was political suicide to suggest such taxes here, but one of our viewers noted that it could be phased in, and I like the idea.

    Suppose we announced a $5 per gallon gasoline tax, but phased it in at $0.25 per year. It would take 20 years to come into play, giving our economy and population much time to adjust, but we would all know what it was on day one…..

    There IS a way to forestall the perfect storm. If we dramatically cut our consumption, it certainly takes the edge off. The U.S. ist still the 800 lb gorilla in the oil burning category. If we could cut it 5% per year for 20 years, no disaster….

    Jack Rickard

  7. That poor but gorgeous Lincoln Continental! Who would fit a gas turbine to run/recharge the car? Great idea until the computer decides to turn on the engine to recharge the car in the garage!

    If it was the BMS wrecking the batteries then its not a BMS. It’s a BS!

  8. With Cardnal:
    Europe *should* be going nuts with fuel prices. Last time I filled up it was £1.14 for a litre. Thats $6.923/US gallon.

    Here in the UK. 53% of the country lives in some form or another off the taxman. There’s not many left who can turn a spanner to fix our economy.

    The idiots that run this place think they can fly by pulling on their boot laces. Everyone is smug and happy. Must be something the idiots are putting in our water.

    Jack, Top video, just like the last one. I’m with your thoughts as a hobbyist with ideas and Waynes as a producer.

    Anyone found suitable hydrostatic transmission out there to gain some real estate under the car?

  9. “Suppose we announced a $5 per gallon gasoline tax, but phased it in at $0.25 per year. It would take 20 years to come into play, giving our economy and population much time to adjust, but we would all know what it was on day one…..”

    That is more or less the scenario here in Denmark – only problem is that they started 50 years ago…

    But who’s fault is it ? It is us, the people, who has elected the politicians…. With 53% living og the goverments t.. there isn’t much to do, but to flee… ūüôā


  10. Hi, it appears that our leaders (either party) are deliberately trying to destroy us because they subsidize high priced renewable energy (and all the other stuff that won’t help) instead of a suitable post oil solution. Now I believe in solar, just not solar made by expensive wage demanding humans. Thus we need robotic solar PV factories, preferably, {competing} robotic…

    Even more important, is the need for American lifepo4 factories. I believe China may eventually restrict their RE products which would be even more additive to the perfect storm here.

    Therefore, the US government MUST declare mandatory that WE build ROBOTIC or automated LiFePO4 factories as well. Except I don’t know if there would be any raw materials supply problems HERE if these batteries were used on the utility and mobility scales that is necessary to avert the post oil dark age.

    I think enviro’s against strategic mining should be locked up without internet access because that is the same as treason!

    I love to watch Mr Richard’s shows and wish I was smart enough to make the money to convert over to electric.
    I have, however, used a little Lifepo4 battery and just 8 solar cells to make a rather bright solar light using the latest Cree leds (139 lumens per watt at .35 amp and about 3.1 volts). The .6 amp cells (at 4 volts minus the diode’s voltage drop) seems not to damage the measly 1.1Ah battery even when left outside for days on end!


  11. the Friday Long Show was a lot to be enjoyed. Thanks. 
    Looking at Europes gas prices, you can almost make an economical argument for the conversion to electric. Though, at the moment, the capital and shipping cost for the batteries and the equipment (NOTHING useful is made over here) eats big time into the gain made over fuel and tax cost savings in an amortisation period, which would be the batteries asumed lifetime basically.
    Comparing the two business models of Wayne Alexander “I convert what you bring” and Jack “specializing on a classic” I was wondering if there is something in¬†between. Having 100reds of millions of cars on the road today, a couple of them will become desired classics (i.e. convertibles) or utility classics (i.e.Volvo station wagons). With the rise in demand for electric cars, I presume, the demand for conversions will also rise to keep what you love and know,¬†adapting it to “the future”. The cars built in the last 10years may become the basis for conversions of the next 10years. A few examples came to my mind.
    Porsche has built a plethora of cars. The air cooled models depreciate little and are rather dependable and rust proof. Look closely at the Mercedes E Class, Audi A4, Saab 9-3, or the rare Volvo C70 Convertibles. Not really classics but appreciated and modern cars. They are worth considered to be converted.  One advantage of specializing for these cars could be the platform they are built on. Since the basic drive train and accessories kit fits across platform with only minor modifications, the converter can offer a range of vehicles without engineering one from scratch each time. And from a European perspective, where
    you have to certify yor drivetrain, you do it once instead of for each individual vehicle. Have I overlooked something?

  12. Yes European fuel prices are indeed far higher than the US – but part of the compensation is a far lower average fleet fuel consumption. I get better than 40 m.p.g (US gallon) from my daily drive (petrol) and the diesel version is 10 m.p.g better still. I own a car with a small block Ford V8 in it (a GT40 replica). I can hardly afford to drive it at UK fuel prices and so it’ll be my first EV conversion. Even if it’s quicker 0 to 60 as an EV, I’ll miss the sound of the V8

  13. Jack, heating the cabin with waste heat from controller and motor was already patented long time ago. But it is never used (though it was implemented in my EV) as the coolant temps are preferably only a few degrees higher than ambient or else you risk reducing your controller’s life.
    To get good cabin heat you want high temp, so the two bite each other, you cannot have both long controller life and good cabin heat using the same coolant loop.
    On another note, every European car I owned had consumption close to the Prius. I completely agree that USA *needs* fuel tax, it is the only correct way to tax the resource usage itself.
    @fireofenergy: you will understand why the battery survives if you measure the current when the battery is full, and/or the voltage that the panel delivers after the diode and compare it to the spec of the battery.

  14. Hi Jack, great show this week, as always ūüôā

    Just as the the Linc Volt burned this week, today there was a converted Nissan Qashqai that burned while it was charging on a ferry sailing from Oslo to Copenhagen, the driver of the car is part of a company the converts Nissan Qashqais to electric drive, but they had not converted this one.

    The driver thinks that the fire started from a short in the charging plug, an unauthorized plug was used to charge the car from the ferry power outlet.

    I do not know if the car had a BMS, or what cells it was using, if I find out more, than I will let you know.

    You can see some video of the car here (the policewoman is speaking danish):

    Here you can find some pictures of the car, there are a lot of other pictures also, but some good ones of the car:

    Another video of the car:


  15. @Carsten: if the fire started from the charging plug then what is the relevance whether the car had a BMS or not? I do not understand.
    It sounds like those news articles in the USA where a report is made that a bicyclist was crushed under a right-turning lorry and then the reporter adds “the cyclist did not wear a helmet” as if a piece of foam would make any difference for the fate of the cyclist under the lorry.
    I think here the situation is clear: the EV driver overloaded the charging plug and/or used a wrong type plug and it overheated, causing a fire. Did you ever have an appliance with a corroded plug and notice how hot it can get if it is drawing serious current?

  16. It doesn’t matter if the car had BMS or not, if it burned down then BMS is at fault as far as Mr. Rickard is concerned. Don’t let the facts and logic get in the way of a perfect theory. Salem Witch Hunt lives….

  17. ANONYMOUS (but of course).

    No Salem Witch hunt. It’s been a battle with the forces of evil. I’ve been talking about these BMS’s for two years and car after car after car going up in smoke – ALL from the BMS. There is no doubt in this case.

    Elithion BMS running a Manzanita charger into 104 Thunderskys. As if by magic. Fire at 2:55 AM. Left in the warehouse charging.

    David Andreas (anonymous) strikes again. He should have little EV icons painted across the right front fender of his car – all the EV’s he’s shot down in flames with his BMS system.

    Jack Rickard

  18. Arduino/LEM Hass. I would share it if I could find it. I’ve abandoned it in favor of a Roving Networks Blue Sensor module with LEM HASS and software for the Macintosh in Objective C.

    That’s probably subject to further change. I’m looking at a Maxiim 4070 amplifier to interface a more stable 50mv shunt to the unit. The problem is I can ongly get it in surface mount and I can’t see that small.

    I have to work on this when I have time. I currently have two serial ports going on the Mac, one with the Roving Networks sensor module by bluetooth and one from a $27 GPS via USB. In this way, we can get speed and distance to integrate with the AH, current and voltage to determine Miles TO Empty in real time.

    I have to work this into those few moments when I’m not shooting, editing, or working on cars. So it’s coming slowly. I’m trying to modularize it a bit so it will be easier to put different skins. I’m struggling to get data from one object to another without reinstancing the object and this Macintosh view of C++ (Objective C) is just unbelievably dicked up. Quite a learning curve to [here[there:get] from(alloc)].

    Jack Rickard

  19. Hi an update on the burned down Nissan Qashqai EV, it should be noted that the investigations into the fire is not concluded yet.

    It could be a bad connection, and that is something that Jack has talked about before, something about never having found a connector that he likes. The seems to show what a bad connection can ultimately cause.


    A Nissan Qashqai, converted to electric vehicle like the ones we produce, burned Tuesday night on the Oslo-Copenhagen ferry. We have inspected the vehicle together with the authorities and apparently the fire started due to a short circuet in an unoriginal charging cable extension/adapter, which then ignited the surroundings including the electric vehicle.

    We will continue to help the authorities in this matter and although it was by no means a fault of the ferry company we will work to improve the charging conditions on the ferries, as well as to provide further original adapter/extender cables, to help avoiding similar situations in the future.

    When used correctly however, driving and shipping electric vehicles is not dangerous even in adverse conditions, as exemplified by the Moto Mundo Electric World Tour’s drive from Copenhagen to Shanghai, where they have just left EXPO2010 for the USA after having crosseed Russia and the Gobi desert among many other obstacles:


  20. I should come clean here. Have little knowledge on these BMS things and what they are supposed to do. Apart from reading up on WIKI’s relevant links.

    These BMS units cannot create an open circuit or the whole unit stops charging. So I assume they attempt to bypass or dump some current across the battery terminals to stop overcharging said battery.

    Soon we get a cascade of BMS’s shorting out. All of them in series, unable to handle the full fury of the charger.

    These individual modular units certainly appear not to have a central control of the supply.

    Am I being too simplistic?

    If what I’ve think is right. Then the BMS man’fr better shut shop and go into hiding.

  21. The definition of BMS is ambiguous.
    It can be Battery Monitoring System, which does not try to move any charge around, only keeps the charger and/or controller and/or car computer informed about the status of the batteries.
    Then there is a Battery Management System which will try to improve the balance between cells by some kind of regulation, typically bypass. In addition, it will still do the BMoS, keeping the charger up to date on cutting back charging and/or the motor controller on cutting back on discharging and/or the car computer on taking some action such as alarming the operator.
    (The charger is typically cut back to the same level or lower than the bypass current so that a full cell will never be overcharged.)
    With the design constraint that a BMS typically monitors every cell and the nr of series cells is around one hundred for a Lithium pack, this invites a spaghetti of 100 monitor wires which can fail, short circuit and find other ways of destroying the pack or burning down the car. on the other hand running no BMS means being in the dark about the health, balance and State of Charge of the pack, which can have comparable results. There must be a way around this and I have seen approaches doing away with the spaghetti (but not in a cheap BMS) and Tesla also seems to have solved the issue pretty thoroughly, so it *is* possible to have a BMS and have a reliable system. It just takes a larger design effort to make it fail-safe and a lot of testing, so it will mainly be interesting for producers of larger numbers of EV. Note that even a circuit designed to protect can fail and lose its function, so either it needs another layer of protection or it must be proven to fail in a safe way to protect safety. This is also the reason for UL and Safety certification for commercial products.
    It may not be necessary to have a BMaS (balancing cells) as it seems that Lithium may be able to stay balanced long enough, but there is certainly a need for BMoS to know when the charger must stop, when the motor controller can draw no more and if a defect or imbalance develops to bring the car in before it burns down on the next charge or drive.

  22. In this case the BMS was an Elithion unit by David Andreas controlling a Manzanita charger.

    I agree with all those needs for a BMS. We tend to view this in more modular fashion.

    1. A good programmable charger that can detect the CC/CV switch point accurately and terminate charging reliably.

    2. AH counting for SOC information and a limp mode relay to limit controller output at some SOC point.

    3. A very modest balance circuit to notify of extreme or unusual events. This doesn’t balance cells, it just shows half the pack voltage compared to the other half. They should be equal if all is well.

    A BMS that would do all of that would be welcome. But the current state of very amateurish BMS with top balancing circuitry, hundreds of wires to be installed by the guy doing the conversion – as best he can – etc is not only no help, it is burning cars to the ground. FIRST DO NO HARM.

    So we’re living BMS free one day at a time. That said, and I have to take this extreme position to avoid confusion, but the concept of preserving your investment in batteries through the use of electronic devices is not unattractive. The amateurish efforts I’ve seen so far have been comical where not harmful. The few professional attempts I’ve seen have been systems so large they would not FIT in any of my cars.

    So there we have it. I look to the future with an eye to better INSTRUMENTATION and increasingly I think this should be tied into the CONTROLLERS since they already have the information. Perhaps displays etc using data streams from the controllers. But a lot of this should just be built into the controller to my way of thinking.

    Jack Rickard

  23. Jack,
    You are getting awfully close to a “dream” concept that I have had for a while now – to create an integrated package for an (AC) EV.
    Just add one of a list of alternative motors and a set of batteries with a fail-safe and ruggedized monitoring unit attached to a number of the cells, but where the whole package is working as a system. When it charges (universal 90V to 280V AC input) then it will protect the pack from overcharging by communicating with the Ah counter, temp sensors and the cell monitors to stop in time (do no harm).
    When it is driving, again the integrated controller will use the Ah counter, temp sensors and cell monitors to reduce the power when needed to keep the cells from going too low (do no harm).
    Little secret: the charger and the controller can actually be the same electronics, because there is no difference between allowing regen from the motor to charge and recharge from the grid… meaning that you can charge with the same power as you can drive!
    If the pack is getting out of balance or the voltage fluctuates too fast, indicating weak cells or bad contacts then the monitors will not allow charging or normal driving (maybe limp home) and give an alarm.
    I call it a dream, because this is what I dream about to design and even bring to production, to further the case for EVs, whether home-built or factory designed – they should have the same high quality components. BMS’es should not be bare PCBs with components rattling along on top of a bunch of shaking cells in a vehicle – that is asking for failures! The cell monitors should be properly designed, fail-safe, sealed or potted or at least conformal coated units in their own enclosure with no or short (fused) wires attaching directly to a set of neighboring cells, mechanically strain relieved and properly bolted down and with a single or redundant bus running along the monitoring modules, again with enough intelligence to perform self-test and fault diagnosis so the whole system is safe.
    It can be done, it does not need to cost many times more than the simplest of BMS’es, it does not need to be much larger than the existing BMS’es but it must be designed as a system and tested to perform in the rugged automotive environment with all failure modes we can think of, including failing cells, interconnects, chargers, contactors and controllers. Still it must try to keep everything safe. Not a nightmare, just an engineering puzzle.
    integrated with a charger/controller designed to have about 200kW (say 400V 600A) on tap and allow combination with a number of different *standard* (=cheap) AC motors, then I think this has all the potential to become the “Zilla” reference standard for AC drives.
    Oh and while we are on the subject – the controller should also integrate a DC/DC converter (for 12V battery) and a separate AC inverter to have in-vehicle AC power and to run an Airco off. Preferably a bi-directional Airco so it can heat as well as cool, meaning that the car does not lose too much range in cold weather (an Airco is much more efficient than a resistive heater element).
    Of course the controller should allow its parameters to be retrieved and set from external such as from the car computer/display.
    Just my dream…

  24. Cor: If you do not isolate the charger from the grid your dream might turn into a nightmare. If you add an isolation barrier to the inverter/motor complex you will also add losses which will reduce the amount of available energy to the motor.
    My Siemens (Simovert) inverter already has an integrated isolated DC output to the aux. 12V system.


  25. Nicholas Iducovich

    Primum non nocere
    This pseudoreligion (faith in a BMS) clashes with the reality that more connections equals more points of failure. Not that you need it jack dealing with these people so emotionally invested in a BMS but I will share my family motto Illegitimi non carborundum.

  26. Hi Martin, please tell me what you hope to gain from adding grid isolation. The vehicle system is hundreds of volts DC and much more powerful and dangerous than a grid connection, so I wonder what you want to change by adding grid isolation.
    Do you want to protect the grid from the vehicle?
    I have owned an EV with this setup (controller switched between grid and motor) for years without problem, but please enlighten me.

  27. Cor: The battery pack is not ground referenced – the grid is. In many coutries (Denmark included) you would need double isolation in order to legally connect a device (car, washing machine, etc) directly to the grid. If you do not have this isolation a single isolation fault in the wirering will make your car deadly to touch. This is why the battery pack is kept floating with respect to the car chassis. It will not hurt you to touch the battery pack with a finger regardless where you put it, but (don’t) try that with a live grid wire…


  28. ACP uses the inverter and motor as a charger, but they require an insulated, (delrin?), spacer between the motor and gearbox.

    The BMS issue can mostly be avoided with closely matched cells. Mine range from 110ah-114ah, but in that production batch there were certainly enough at 110ah to have all my cells be exactly the same. I think it’s worth trying to specify such from the seller if possible, even if paying a bit extra. Still cheaper than a BMS.


  29. Martin, it is called “ground” or “earth”. The third wire in the cord will make sure that the car chassis is *always* at ground potential.
    The batteries and controller must not be within touch anyway, because of the dangerous DC voltage.
    So having the battery pack floating (which is the only way that I have seen a high voltage EV work) is just another layer of protection, but not so much for the human, but more for accidentally short circuits such as from minor accidents which can pinch a wire. With the pack floating this has no consequence. If the pack is referenced to chassis, this could start a fire.
    BTW, I have never seen a washing machine with an isolation transformer. Also none of my washing machines had double insulation. They had a ground wire and plug. The only requirement for double insulation that I am aware of for Europe is when a *two* pin plug is used, so there is no ground reference to protect the enclosure from carrying a lethal voltage – the double insulation gives the protection to avoid that. EVs are always plugged in with a 3-wire plug having ground reference for the chassis of the vehicle. So to my opinion that is very little benefit in the insulation of a vehicle charger, while it will cause a large loss (in absolute terms because power level is high) and add unneeded weight.

  30. Hi Jack.

    As I mentioned on the phone, the cause of the fire is currently unknown and the cause is still being investigated.

    What information is gleaned is posted on



  31. Cor: Read your local Electrical code and do whatever it requires of you. When it comes to personal safety I would tend to say “Better safe than sorry”. I haven’t said that the washing machine required a insulation transformer, I said it requires double insulation – that is not the same.
    If a car has an insulation failure and the grid installation has a fault in the earth wire you or anybody touching you car will still be fried.


  32. Hi Martin. Maybe my comment was not clear – I addressed the insulation transformer and the double insulation separately and I have never seen a washer with either one.
    The case you describe requires *two* independent faults to occur at the same time. Do you understand that double insulation will also be unsafe with two errors, when both insulation layers are compromised in some way? So, double insulation is not safer than a grounded device. All electrical codes that I have seen have required either a grounded device (and single insulation) or allow ungrounded operation (two prong plug) when double insulation is used. I think you are trying to be too cautious, without merit. We engineers must of course design safe products, but there is a limit to how fail-safe you can make it and still be competitive in the market place. If you go too extreme, your competitor will beat you and you have no business…
    If you think that products are not safe enough then you are free to add additional safety in your own home at your own cost, for example insulation transformers and/or GFCI protected outlets. You can invest in your own safety if that is a serious concern for you. But the Electric Code is there for a reason – compliance to it has shown that level of safety is good enough. You can never regulate common sense. If someone cuts through his extension cord with an electric mower and continues to use the cord and gets shocked, then it is not a problem of code or product quality. For an EV, if someone plugs it in to charge and then opens the battery compartment and gets shocked then that is the same situation – IF you need to work on the battery while it is plugged in (and I have never tried that – I made sure that my EV was OFF and unplugged, with the keys in my pocket, before working on its batteries) only *then* is it useful to have an isolation transformer. Not for daily charging at home.
    In the case of an EV I think it is useful to have it detect a single fault to avoid that the next fault can make it dangerous like you describe. That is why no production EV will allow operation when it detects a leakage from battery to ground. It may also be useful to detect absence of ground in the charge connection so that both faults you mention cannot result in an unsafe operation – the EV will simply not allow it to become dangerous.
    How is that for personal safety?

  33. Hi Martin, I typed a long explanation to your post, unfortunately it seems the blog has not accepted it so it is lost in cyberspace.
    In effect, it said that you describe the dangerous situation occurs when *two* independent errors occur: breaking earth wire and shorting to chassis. Please note that a double insulated product will also become dangerous when a double error compromises both isolation layers, so it is no more safe than a grounded device.
    In fact, all requirements I have seen say that to be safe an appliance must have either grounding OR double insulation, in the latter case the grounding is not required (allows use of 2-prong plugs). EVs can be safe by preventing operation (even charging) when an error is detected. I know many production EVs that will refuse to operate when they detect battery pack leakage to chassis.

  34. Jack,

    In the Friday show you were testing a water heater to add to the Mini; Have you considered separating the electronic cooling circuit that is going into the heater core from the additional heating that will be needed to heat the cabin of the car by using a finned coil heating duct element on the cabin side of the heater coil? As you are heating the air going to the interior of the car and not trying to remove heat from an electrical device, I would think that the finned element would be just as efficient. This way you would be using the waste heat without effecting the cooling for the electronic components and could have the finned heating element operate from a temperature sensor in the interior of the car only as needed.


  35. Hmmm. I’m not certain I understand about this “finned heating element.”

    In any event, the “experiment” was with an undercounter on-demand water heater tank for the ESCALADE not the Mini Cooper.

    The Mini Cooper already has a hot water heater, an MES-DEA RM-4. What we did on the Mini was replumb it to cool the controller and motor with the pump from the RM-4 and the heater core in the car. This vastly simplifies our coolant loop.

    As it turns out, we are doing some preliminary drives with the Mini Cooper now that it is reassembled. As I don’t actually have my digital temperature gages I ordered for this, we don’t know what will ultimately happen. But we can already tell a couple of things.

    1. The Rinehart already runs substantially cooler than the TIMS600. I take this as a very good indication that the Rinehart gamble will ultimately pay off. This controller is NOT as powerful as the TIMS600. The TIMS put out 400 amps maximum into this motor. THe Rinehart is limited to 300 amps. But the car appears to drive well – although different gears become dominant. We’re learning quite a bit just from that.

    2. We can actually observe the heat of the Rinehart with the blower blowing on my hand. When you accelerate, you can feel an increase in heat output. IT is noticeable, but probably NOT enough to totally heat the cabin in comfort on a really cold day.

    3. The heating loop probably IS sufficient to cool the Rinehart and motor, and probably is so in summer.

    4. The Rinehart is supposed to be able to withstand inlet temperatures of up to 80C. The heater will maintain the water at 65C and there is of course a significant drop across the heater core when actually heating.

    So the very preliminary indications are that all of this will work. The controller and motor will be cooled and the passenger cabin will be heated and at the least, the electronic components will aid in providing heat in winter. We are kind of guessing if the entire system will be adequate for cooling in summer.

    Jack Rickard

  36. Here is a link to the elements I am referring to:

    You would possibly have to find ones that would operate off of your battery pack voltage and would need to have a controller that would vary the voltage to them based on the cabin temperature so that when the coolant from your Rinehart wasn’t warm enough to heat the car, it would increase the voltage to the coil elements so they would put out more heat. This way you would not be heating the coolant with the MES-DEA RM-4 and would only be using waste heat to help heat the cabin.

    Or you could use a ceramic heater like the one at this link:–dot/electric-heat/ht2511.htm hooked up to vary the voltage to them based on the cabin temperature.

    If you are keeping the radiator in the Mini, you could bypass the coolant flow that is going to the heater core to the radiator in the summer so you would get enough cooling.

  37. To save a few $’s using an undercounter demand type heater, one can disconnect the thermostat & overtemp sensors, BEFORE letting the magic smoke out, and wire them to control a relay that sends current to the heater. -Klaus

  38. Duh, yeah. How about that?

    If you did watch the video, that’s the plan Stan. My point was you can’t use the existing controls with DC voltage. There is a temptation to. You could just turn on the pump and let the flow meter turn it on. But they won’t work with DC voltages.

    So yes, of course we’ll use a large relay to switch pack voltage to the elements.

    Jack Rickard

  39. And the big bonus of moving the cooling system into the cabin is:

    Now you can block off the air flow through and underneath the car entirely. There are a number of ways to do this, but a sheet of wetted fiberglass draped over the upper and lower grilles (wrapped in plastic to protect them, and smoothed with spray foam, plaster/perlite or the like,) and reinstalled with them would do nicely. Underneath, nothing beats el-cheapo Corplast sheets, zip ties and Gorilla tape. You should cover the entire bottom of the car. After fitting it, you might redo it in FRP if you’re ambitious, but why bother? The performance won’t improve, and if road debris messes up the corplast, hey, it was $10. Keep a pattern and it becomes an easy wear item to change.

    Buttoning up the whole front and bottom of the Mini would make an already pretty slippery car very slippery indeed, and would probably be worth something like another cell or three in range, particularly with speed.

    Just a thought…


  40. It’s a good thought Tom. I guess I’m not absolutely certain we won’t have to cut the radiator back IN to the game at some point, and I won’t really know till next July 15. More importantly, I DO need flow through for the air conditioning condenser.

    But it’s still a thought.

    Jack Rickard

  41. Jack
    I dont understand why you dont have (or at least consider) the cooling/heating system connected like this
    radiator -> controller -> AC system -> radiator -> (etc)
    (and leave it all PERMANENTLY connected)

    That way, the heat from the controller will warm the ‘water’ somewhat – meaning that the AC water heater wont have to do *as much* heating (sure it may still have to do some – but not 100%), then the ‘water’ continues through – bleeding off it’s heat into the cars heating – then, into the radiator to finish cooling all the way down – back to the controller to keep it cool, and get warmed up again itself to start all over again

    As far as I can see this circuit has the advantage that you dont need to manually cut in or out the radiator or heater – and you just use-as-normal – but will still give you benefit

    Feel free to correct me if it seems like I’ve not thought it all through

  42. Anonymous:

    You haven’t thought it through. The A/C system is closed, pressurized, and uses refrigerant, not coolant. Its not compatible with the cooling system, and is a separate system from the engine cooling and passenger heating setup in every vehicle, and most buildings, for that matter.

    Jack, I would make the A/C a trap door bottom breather. Yes, you need air through it, but its a pretty modest requirement and good fans will probably do it without opening a yawning hole in the bow. Plus, it isn’t on all the time.

    Even if you do need an an underhood heat exchanger in warm weather, it will also be a modest requirement compared to the stock radiator, and it doesn’t need to be flat to the airstream right up front, either.

    Many smaller sports cars with low noses have 45 degree radiators that draw from below (just behind an air dam) and exhaust up through vents in the hood, but even they are probably WAY more than you need. I think a full-size cabin heater core, or even a Gold Wing radiator, would be plenty, given the right fan. You could put it to one side and blow it onto the ground or a wheel well.

    The body mods I’m talking about aren’t permanent changes, just a little smoother, nicer version of the “cardboard wired to the grille” thing so many of us from the upper midwest remember from winters long past.

    If you clean up the aero now, and worry about cooling it next summer, it will also be a much warmer and even quieter ride all winter long. Cleaner, too…


  43. By AC System, I was referring to the MES-DEA RM-4 which is currently in use in the Mini, and the undercounter on-demand water heater tank as is being mooted/trialed for the Escalade

  44. Well, I don’t know. At this point, it seems to work pretty well on a really tight closed little system. We rerouted to take the heat exchanger output and loop it through the controller and motor before going back into the RM-4 heater. That was a ll the plumbing.

    We did separate the control of the pump and the heater element. Now the pump runs ALL the time the ignition is on. This it to provide constant cooling to the controller any time IT is on.

    The RM-4 heater element is switched by a toggle switch in the cabin. I can turn it on or leave it off.

    So far, a the controller and motor put out a modest amount of heat. The Rinehart is about 300 amps tops at 360v so modestly 100kw. The TIMS600 was capable of 400 amps at 400v or 160kw. At our 375v the most I ever saw in battery amps was 365.

    That said, the TIMS put out a LOT of heat, and it tore up our coupler and clutch. Sometimes more is just more.

    I actually LIKE the idea of hte Rinehart being a little tamer and a little cooler. This augurs well for controller longevity and for motor longevity too, and the car drives very nicely. I’m well pleased with acceleration.

    So I can turn on the heater, and I get “warm” air from the controller and motor and in fact I can kind of “feel” the heat of the system as I accelerate and it’s loss at a stoplight.

    I can always turn ON the heater separately, and since it cycles at about 50C it should pose no threat to the Rinehart of motor, and in fact should get some additional heat from them.

    That’s the gig. And it appears to be working.
    Will it work in summer?

    The get well is actually probably NOT the radiator as Tom alluded. We have a 12 inch Denali heat exchanger with a fan. We could reroute the heater core output to THAT and thence to the controller and motor.

    This would provide additional cooling if it is necessary, and some control as well. You see I can switch the heat exchanger FAN off and on then with a thermostatic switch. These things cool a LOT more with the fan on. They are basically smallish radiators with powerful fans. By turning on or off the fan, I can get two very different levels of cooling.

    So we’ll look at the block off of the front. But relocating the A/C condenser might be a task.

    Jack Rickard

  45. Jack, perhaps you didn’t get it about what I said on using the existing undercounter heater controls. I doubt I’m one of those “typing themselves smart”. I consider Murphy my copilot.

    I’ll elaborate: Disconnect the overtemp switch & thermostat from the heating elements in the heater. Their contacts can handle the current but NOT the high DC voltage. HOWEVER, they most probably CAN handle the 12 volts DC it takes to operate a high voltage relay with a reverse-biased diode across the coil. It’s not about DC it’s about HIGH VOLTAGE DC. If the contacts don’t separate far enough to break a high DC voltage they will arc weld together as per your experience. The control contacts won’t oxidize “open” with time either since the relay current draw will not be a dry current.

    One MIGHT even be able to get away with using the device as-is by putting an appropriate series R-C network across the two switch contacts to suppress the arc as the contacts open. -Klaus

    BTW, did I see your plane at Oshkosh this year?

  46. It isn’t worth all that with the controls in the unit. IF I could have used them as is, the unit would NOT have come on until it got “flow” from the pump. So I could control the whole thing with the pump motor control. If I have to wire up another relay anyway, we’ll ditch the whole mess and just keep the heater.

    I had two planes at Oshkosh. N25641 has LEGEND AIRWAYS on it – white top and polished aluminum body.

    N341A is all polished aluminum with a blue stripe. We had both planes at Rock Falls Illinois for a DC-3 gathering and did fly to Oshkosh for a day or two after. I don’t like Oshkosh and don’t normally go. But they wanted to do a mass flyover and so we did.

    Jack Rickard

  47. Okay, you got it. Not being worthy of your time I understand. Of course you want to have water flowing when the heater is on, especially if the thermostat isn’t right there to sense the water being heated.

    My brother and I made an unplanned stop to Oshkosh and did a quick tour. A neighbor & close friend use to fly C5’s in Nam and I wanted to walk through the belly of one again. En-route we saw Legend Airways and the very shiny N341A. Kinda hard to miss standout aircraft like those… I did a double-take while watching your visit to Special Editions video. I’m not a pilot but have family & friends who are and have flown in several times, years ago. It was nice to visit again. -Klaus

  48. It’s not precisely “not worth my time.” The unit is awkward and bulky and there was a bare “opportunity” to do something a little cool using the flowmeter as the control – probably not a very safe one in retrospect. Without that, it’s not worth the WEIGHT and SPACE of the original housing. If we have to use a Killovac relay anyway, and we already have an external pump, let’s throw away the Chinese plastic trash and just extract the kinda cool 11kw hot water bottle/heater.

    Jack Rickard

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