Of Kits and Cars at Carlisle

This week we are a bit late with the show. Worse, our audio is a mess. We’ve never mastered the wind with our little wireless microphones. It won’t sound like the wind to you of course. More like a freight train as it is amplified several dB. But we have it up to view.

[jwplayer file=”news052011 – iPhone.mov” hd.file=”news052011-1280.mov” image=”http://media2.ev-tv.me/news052011.jpg” streamer=”rtmp://s2v8uso6bi7t47.cloudfront.net/cfx/st” provider=”rtmp” html5_file=”http://media2.ev-tv.me/news052011 – iPhone.mov” download_file=”http://media2.ev-tv.me/news052011-1280.mov”]

So what’s with kit cars and electric cars?

We were the only electrics at the event. I expected some horseplay from the petrol inebriated at this event, particularly because it tends to be a historic reflection on automobiles. This year’s “theme” was French cars and almost entirely French vintage cars of course. But there were some fabulous displays of old Saab’s and Volvos etc. I fell in love with a 1960 Saab 95 in a kind of dusky green color. Very peculiar looking little car.

With all that history, you would think we would draw some frowns with our newly contrived electric drive Porsche replicas. Not the case. Everyone was thoroughly interested and quite polite about it, a lot of very pertinent questions and they correctly went straight to the battery chemistry at the heart of it.

The Speedster Owners group from www.speedsterowners.com was in strong attendance this year – probably 80 people many with cars. A few Spyders among them. On Thursday night, we went on a “cruise” with this group and wound up eating at the Caddy Shack, a local golf course restuarant with really quite exceptional food. Vert friendly group of people who very nicely included us in their activities.

This group is kind of an oddity online. If you go to www.speedsterowners.com you will notice something very peculiar about their forums. They are kind of boring. The reason they are kind of boring is that they have a culture of being nice to each other online and there are none of the flamewars that seem almost a requirement for an online forum.

The reason there are none of the flamewars, and everybody is busy being nice to each other, is that they actually MEET in person at Carlisle and Morrow Bay and a couple of other venues about the country. Having met face to face, or perhaps about to, has a very subtle but strong effect on their online interactions. I have hopes we can recreate this type of online forum augmentation with our Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention (EVCCON) scheduled for later this year in September. My hope is that by actually meeting in person, they will then strive to simulate actual humanoids in the online forums.

We were gratified to see so many of our viewers at Carlisle. I thought this quite coincidental, until a couple of them told me they came to Carlisle specifically to see us. Perhaps we’ve missed a trick. We need to get out more.

I dislike travel intensely, which you will find a little odd in a guy with eight or ten airplanes in a hangar at the airport. But it is true. Everything becomes a task. A glass of tea is a project. A trip to the toilet becomes a journey to mecca. A cup of coffee takes group collaboration.

I guess the overall impression I had of the show was of a long enduring mature industry, suffering from having victimized itself over the years to the point of almost irrelevancy. There have been so many crooks in the kit car business it makes honest men look a little smarmy just by being among them. And the overriding theme seems to be to find someone who succeeds with something, and immediately copy it both badly and cheaply. Their belief system in stealing concepts and innovations from each other is deeply ingrained. The majority of them think it’s a good thing.

The contrast was interesting in places. We of course visited with Kevin and Carie Hines of Special Editions Inc and they were there in force with a Speedster, a Spyder, and their new Porsche 904 on display. I always struggle to describe these guys. They are Special Editions Inc., but they are also Beck Speedster, Beck Spyder, and Beck Porsche 904. Chuck Beck is a half century one man industry of innovation and entreprenurial activity and kinda/sorta partner in all this – I’ve never quite worked it all out. But they are careful to GIVE him credit for their cars. I gather Chuck doesn’t really enjoy the day to day grind of manufacture and dealing with customers. But their relationship has spanned many years.

Almost directly across from them was JP Motorsports. This guy generally finds an idea and copies it cheaply. I did introduce myself and he immediately explained to me that they had built the ULTIMATE electric car already using the best of everything and it was nothing but a golf cart and a joke. No doubt. He then ordered Brian to stay away from the cars and not look at them. What he was doing at a car show I cannot imagine, but the purpose he served best was to exemplify what being a bitter and hateful little man is all about when bringing this to the level of art form. It was so bad I thought he was kidding at first, kind of a Don Rickles routine. So I started to play along. If anyone knows how to BE an asshole, it would be yours truly. I’ve certain genetic advantages anyway and then of course there is the careful honing and study of the art over decades. But it appears he prefers to dish it out and is not very good at doing it as a back and forth banter type of gig.

Bruce Meyers was there. A kind of aging giant of the industry, he invented the Meyers Manx, a truly artistic and very avante garde departure in the 1960’s. You may know it better as a “dune buggy”. Even then, he had hardly sold a dozen when a fiberglass shower stall manufacturer down the street bought one of his creations and brazenly did a mold from it. Fifty years later, he is still visibly bitter about it. He actually left the industry for many years but this year he is back with a whole new line of these things and they were very attractive.

t was at Pismo Beach, CA that Bruce first became acquainted with “dune buggies”. These “water pumpers” were crude and heavy so Bruce took it upon himself to design a lightweight version that would be fun on the beach or in the wilds of Baja. After modifying a VW Kombi bus with wide rims (called “Little Red Riding Bus”), Bruce used his expertise in boat building to design the first fiberglass-bodied dune buggy, the Meyers Manx.

The first 12 cars produced were all-fiberglass, monocoque bodies that had a steel structural frame within the fiberglass that attached to the VW suspension and running gear (“Old Red” – #1 now resides with Bruce). These cars were expensive (for their time) and redundant in that so much of the VW was thrown away. Bruce redesigned the body to fit on a shortened VW floorpan, which ultimately reduced the price as well. As a result, the Meyers Manx took off. It took the country by storm when magazines like Hot Rod and Car & Driver featured the fiberglass car on their covers. This caused a rash of over 300 orders. Not able to immediately fill these orders, other manufacturers sprang up overnight and ended up producing over 250,000 look-a-likes and near look-a-likes. Eventually over 300 companies, worldwide, copied the Manx in one form or another – even the copiers copied each other. Bruce tried to stop the floodgate of imitations with patent infringement laws but failed to convince the judge that he had produced anything worth a patent. In subsequent years B.F. Meyers & Co. built 5,280 Manx kits, several hundred Manx 2’s, about 1,000 Meyers Tow’ds, a couple of hundred Manx SR’s and 75 Resorters – a total of nearly 7,000 kits.

Meyers closed the company in 1971, having spawned a mini-industry of copies that has gone on for nearly half a century.


Today, he is back in production with several attractive versions. We found the Kickout SS very intriguing.
Meyers Manx

Bruce has been contacted by the California CARB about doing an electric version of the vehicle and we discussed this with him a bit while we were out there.

And that appears to be the theme. Kit Cars provide a good platform for those building their own cars. They have none of the CANBUS/OBDII/ECU issues of a new modern car. They tend to be a bit spartan on creature comforts, but they are simple cars at reasonable prices. GENERALLY they are available as rollers if you don’t want to do the kit build yourself, but are often available at several levels of completion. You wind up with a NEW car and don’t have to face the rust and restoration issues of bringing a genuine classic back from the dead. And so we are seeing a lot of excellent builds coming from the kit car end of the spectrum.

We found another bit of interest at the show. The Autocross. The electric autocross is nothing new, but they tend to be a cone works in a really ugly back parking lot somewhere. At Carlisle, they have a beautiful little track for this and there is an elevated embankment to view it from. They dropped the ball quite horribly on it. There was no “leader board” announcer, or even an LED clock showing the last time run. But it was still fun to watch.

So much so, that I’ve asked Brain to make it so at EVCCON. We have an airport. But I want each car and driver announced over the public address, a clock showing the time as it runs, and a leader board showing who did what. I’m thinking this can be the Friday evening activity.

We did an interesting experiment with this. Brain took the powerful Speedster Redux on three runs of three laps each. Best time for this 156HP vehicle at 2385 lbs was 32.6 seconds. Next he did the Spyder. Right at 2000 lbs and 76HP. Best time, 29.4 seconds. That’s over 3 seconds difference or 10%. And it proves a point that Porsche actually made with the Spyder in 1955. Lighter weight and lower power will beat heavier cars with more power on a track = essentially 100% of the time. The only time the Spyder lost that season was when it didn’t finish due to mechanical difficulties.

A pound is a pound is a pound and worse for electric vehicle designers, it is a permanent pound forever. If you design it in, it will be with the car on every trip henceforth, and will effect each and every single application of the throttle from thence forward. It is cruelly omnipresent. A pound is forever.

I’ve spent the last six months hearing about how much more powerful the Speedster Redux is. I don’t race, but I have on almost all occasions mentioned to these guys that somehow the Speedster Duh just “feels” better to me. The ivory car picked up a seal leak from the right transaxle on the truck trip out, and we feared to put it in the autocross as the transaxle fluid was very low. That would have been interesting.

I don’t really have a “range requirement”. OF course, range is a defining issue in the talk about electric cars and so the “bragging rights” of a 150 mile Speedster are of note. But truly in designing a car, you simply do NOT want to design in a pound you don’t need, and that means a RANGE you don’t need either. I don’t really have a commute (ok, a block and a half) but my “use” for a Speedster is to take it out on the backcountry blacktop winding hilly roads we have so plentifully here in Southeast Missouri. You can go from about 40 up to 65 in places and you tend to vary wildly between those speeds. It will do that for two and half hours, which is about a half hour longer than I will. It is fun, but not so comfortable that I would ever do it for 3 hours.

And so the 2039 lb Speedster Duh feels right to me and is not overdesigned for range. Since it exceeds the performance of the 1957 Porsche Speedster in all respects anyway, I’m guessing it’s good enough for the job now. And it is truly fun to drive. We CAN make it more powerful. And we CAN make it go further. That’s not to say we should.

Something to think about with your conversion. What do you REALLY want it to do.

ME? I want an aluminum chassis, aluminum rotors, and a carbon fiber body. We’ll use LESS power and LESS batteries with that. Sometimes more is just more….

Jack Rickard


27 thoughts on “Of Kits and Cars at Carlisle”

  1. Excellent show, Jack. Nice showing of the cars speeding around the track. Not sure why HPEVs is not a sponsor yet.

    Nice show intro too! I watched it a couple of times and it looks really good. I might have missed it but Brian’s name is not in the host credits. Yet there he was, hosting the show next to you and doing some pretty decent driving as well. As seen in other shows: “some say he’s chopped liver. Others say we ran out of space in the graphics to put his name. All we know is he’s called Brian Noto”


  2. Wow, wow, wow. All the way through. Good to see a couple of key guys in the EV world. Loved the pumping program start.

    Hey I said Redux with so much mass on either end wouldn’t be so hot on the track. Horses for courses. It’s still an ace car.

    Ironically, I’m looking to make a light (but not fast) car. The downside with light, fast accelerating EV’s is using other cells like Kokams or cylindricals for higher output, smaller mass and volume but less life(?). Plus knocking off weight elsewhere gets costly in parts.

    I bet Brian would of desired some stickies for the track 😉 Eco tyres have a lot more silicon for better rebound don’t they?

    Good point reiterating kit cars for EV’s.

    Lets hope Deux is easily fixed.

  3. Excellent new opening for your show. Now it’s time to work on the ending. It was great seeing the cars on the autocross track. Good presence at the Kit Car show. Should result in some electric conversions. Or at least some thinking about it. By the way, the wind noise is not that terrible. Easy to block that out.

    Pete 🙂

  4. Wind noise is easily overcome. Try covering the microphones with a bit of fur.
    Some say he is a man of mystery who was never born of this Earth.

    JP said…
    “All we know is he’s called The Brain.”

  5. I need to ask this general question. Get it out of my hair.

    Is mileage calculated in AH/miles or Watt/mph(kph)?

    Brian said before testing Redux on the rolling road, his consumption was around one AH. If the three cell packs were equal and in parallel then a 450 mile range could be expected with a (1/3Voltage) lower top speed?

  6. Ah/mi is a unit of energy consumption. If you use Wh/mi then you can directly compare the efficiency of different vehicles even if they use different pack voltages. For example, my Gizmo averages 140 Wh/mi from the battery pack. My battery pack is a 200Ah pack but that is only part of the story. The nominal voltage of my pack is 64V so I have a 200Ah * 64V = 12,800Wh pack. If I only want to use 80% of my capacity that means I have 10,240Wh to use. 10,240Wh /(140Wh/mi)= 73 miles. This is my useable range. Also, in this case I use about 2.2Ah/mi.

    My pack is actually made up of pairs of 100Ah cells. If I were to make two 100Ah 64V packs and parallel them I would have exactly the same amount of energy. If the electronics in my rig could handle the voltage I could have one 100Ah pack but it would be at 128V and I would still only have 12.8kWh of energy. Also, my rig would still consume 140Wh/mi but at this higher voltage I would only use about 1.1Ah/mi.

    W/mph or kW/mph is just a unit of power needed for a given speed divided by the speed. At 50mph it takes about 8kW to keep that speed. That would translate to 160W/mph. The thing is, that at a lower speed that number is meaningless. IIRC, it take about 2kW to maintain 30mph, which equates to 67W/mph. A very different result.


    David Nelson

  7. Legitimate question and a spot on answer on the AH/wH. The appropriate measure is of course watt hours because it accounts for a varying voltage. But most of our instruments are in Amp hours so we talk that quite a bit. They vary ridiculously. In the Mini Cooper, we have a 375 volt system, so it is not unusual to be less than an amp hour per mile though we are typically burning 325 to 350 watt hours.

    In the Speedster, it is more commonly 1.6 AH per mile, though we are really using only 225 wH of energy.

    We fail at consistency here.

    Jack Rickard

  8. Gentlemen, thank you for your answers. Between you both it’s become clear.

    Anyone can think if Brian averaged 1AH and has a 180AH pack, then double them in half and go twice as far. You will need double throttle to increase the Voltage.

    They speak of speed controllers chopping to a lower average voltage when its really chopping the power. The power requirements must be the same at a given speed. So on the motor, Volts = velocity is true only to overcome the motors back emf and V/R=I.

    Maybe its acceptable to fail at consistency because universal instrumentation is lacking. Cars these days have very good consumption meters Yet something so apparently straight forward as one in an EV evades us. So far!

    thanks for the time fella’s.

  9. Since an Ah meter can work with any voltage of pack it is a universal meter meaning that the user only has to know what the Ah capacity of the pack is in order to effectively use it. For example, I have a CycleAnalyst in my Gizmo. All I had to tell it was the resistance of the current shunt and now it works at counting Ah. I know my pack is 200Ah so I know that my pack is “empty” at 160Ah used if I want to stay above the 80% DOD (Depth of Discharge) point. If I did the reconfigure for the 128V 100Ah pack then I would know to stop at 80Ah. It is just that the Ah would count down much slower as long as I drove it the same way.

    The ZEVA-II that Jack uses to run the regular fuel gauge works on this principal and therefore it doesn’t need to know the pack voltage. The CycleAnalyst, on the other hand, runs from pack voltage so it knows the pack voltage all the time and will calculate the Wh used but it isn’t on the main screen I usually use.

    I agree, however, instrumentation still has a ways to go.

  10. Redux:
    57/3*180AH=3420AH/1.6AH per mile = 2,137 mile range!

    Fit a smaller motor to make it to 60 cells for better divisibility then switch the series for better mileage!

    Wow! I think this lad is onto something. I’ll inform the BMS guys right away to draw something up.

    Conversely, on the high voltage front. If you place Matts 650V AC motor in the GT40. You could use the 200 cells wired to each of the left/right bumpers as terminals. The uses would be endless.

    Someone run out of charge? Just go bumper to bumper, sorted!

    Park car to the bumper chargers, easy!

    A police car… Instant taiser!

    With Matts motor we should call it “AC Cobra” and fit the bumpers in the upper air intake like fangs because it will sting!

  11. The Nissan Leaf has a moving map that shades out beyond its range. The further you travel, the smaller the circle becomes.

    Obviously they took calculating charge to distance seriously.

    David, 8KW@50mph and 2KW@30mph. Air resistance eh; a range/speed killer.
    Cedric Lynch reckons his EVFF uses 2hp (1500W) at 50mph and >200miles range but its a 2′ wide, 4’3″ high gherkin with modified bicycle rims. Not built solidly like yours.

    Instruments. The open source guys would have a field day if suitably motivated.

  12. Jack,
    I have designs on my car to indicate that it is electric. This is the only way that the average person is going to understand that an electric car is a viable and dependable form of transportation. They see my car driving to work everyday and think, ” maybe an electric car would satisfy my needs”. Unfortunately, that “informed” person you overheard in Carlisle “educating” his wife is not in the minority.
    Great new Intro!

  13. Jack,
    “A pound is a pound is a pound and worse for electric vehicle designers, it is a permanent pound forever. If you design it in, it will be with the car on every trip henceforth, and will effect each and every single application of the throttle from thence forward. It is cruelly omnipresent. A pound is forever.”
    I couldn’t agree more. The more mass an object has, the more energy it takes to move it.
    This is why I have chosen the very difficult task of an all composite, monocoque construction with aluminum suspension. It’s a lot of work, but in the end the very light weight body allows for a much smaller battery pack.
    Your blog is a great read Jack, it keeps me inspired.

  14. Hi Jack, must congratulate you on your new intro to the videos and enjoy the videos very much.

    I was re watching Nov 13th 2009 video on your joys of manual balancing of the batteries in the Gem and your redwood stick explanation on balancing issues. I have a question and a comment. I was wondering if the the pressure relief valve was the button thingy ( real technical term LOL) between the 2 terminals? If so I have a theory that if the cell over voltages and causes the cell to release pressure, now as l understand we have some highly inflammable organic solvents used in the electrolyte. So if we had say a very hot ceramic resistor on a BMS directly above the relief valve and the battery released the electrolyte in a high speed jet and was ignited by the hot ceramic resistor! We would have one hell of extremely hot blow torch happening that would cause a extreme high temperature fire that would ignite anything and everything in its proximity and Bang we have a high temperature fire that has consumed the car and anything nearby.

    That would explain it all.

    Regards Leigh.

  15. Hi Jack,
    another comment l remember watching the video on the testing of the GBS cell where you went out to Dinner and forgot to turn off the charger and melted it. There was not much damage to the table etc and it didn’t burn down your garage. Most likely because the electrolyte didn’t have an ignition source.

    Regards Leigh
    PS:- interested in what you think about these theories.

  16. I was thinking of the comment the bystander made to his wife about the “finely tuned exhaust.” Maybe the response could have been to encourage him to go check out how they tuned the exhaust and that he might really find it interesting. He might even like to try it on his regular car.

  17. Leigh:

    The solvents are not really very flammable. More like an alcohol fire.

    The GBS meltdown was very instructive. The heat was quite intense. That was one inch oak plank and it was charred all the way through. The reason I didn’t have a worse situation was that I didn’t have 40 of them crowded into a confined space and in fact there was nothing over the cells for about 15 feet. But I assure you the heat was intense.

    Had it had neighboring cells to melt, and send THEM into a simliar condition, and so on, it could have been disastrous. All of this was at a very low charge level by the way.

    The only way I know of to get these cells to burn is to overcharge them somewhat dramatically, or set a fire on top of them.

    I just finished watching RACING GREEN’s documentary of their electric car drive from Anchorage to Usuaia on the Pan American Highway. Surely enough, they had a BMS fire along the way. FOrtunately, although disabled for awhile, they did not burn the cells.

    The trip is quite an oddity. Almost everything we’ve ever had happen happened to them along the way of this trip. Attempting to prove the viability and hardiness of the electric car, it appears to me they rather proved that you need 5 or 6 recent engineering school graduates to keep an electric car running even a short distance. The trip looked in all respects like a total disaster from Anchorage onwards. I’ve never seen the like. Utterly fascinating.

    The DVD is available at http://www.racinggreenendurance.com I think.

    Jack Rickard

  18. “Had it had neighboring cells to melt, and send THEM into a simliar condition, and so on, it could have been disastrous. All of this was at a very low charge level by the way.”

    Another reason to stay away from the high end of the voltage curve. I’m staying below 3.5vpc since there is very little energy above that point with LiFePO4 cells as long as ending current is relatively low. I hate to think of how close to the melting stage I was pushing my cells when I used to charge to 4.00vpc. Jack, thanks for pushing me toward making that change and to collect my own data on the cells.

    David D. Nelson

  19. Hi Guys,

    I also love the new into. Some of the chirons go by a little too fast, but the concept is great. Where is “Brain”‘s credit? Any remove the shot of the lead and put in some old Thundersky’s or new Winston’s


  20. Also, I just watched the latest video and I noticed you dropped the old “outro” in favor of the new intro repeated again. I miss the old music on the outro, but do favor the new intro. Since you seemed to favor your old intro, how about a compromise and use the new intro and keep the old outro.

  21. I really liked this in your post: “Having met face to face, or perhaps about to, has a very subtle but strong effect on their online interactions.” Reading about you pulling together the EVCCON — which sounds like an incredible convergence of fun & learning — shows that in addition to being able to assay analysis you really walk your talk.

  22. I was wondering if you know the best way the measure the battery’s internal temperature in terms of safety.

    This is because I have to find out its heat capacity and from what I read from the research papers, the internal temperature is needed for the calculations.

    Or if you have any other suggestions, like where should I mail to to ask about this.

    Thank you


  23. Wyn:

    We generally measure battery temperature directly at the cathode. I know this sounds like an answer evading the question but it isn’t really. Some measurements involve heroic measures to gain more accuracy, and instead gain less.

    This is a little hard to explain. But battery temperature is very localized. because the two terminals are each at the same end of the foils, ionic migration is concentrated at those ends. Temperature rise is more centered on the cathode. And so you willl find a really quite wide variation internally from the terminal end of the cell (highest) to the off end of the cell (lowest) and from the cathode side (highest) to the anode side (lowest). And so when you say you need the “internal temperature” you haven’t really specified much.

    And so the question devolves to you need the internal temperature for what? And whatever the reply is brings us right back to the same spot – at the cathode.

    Because the boiling points of the four inorganic solvents are known, we generally try to keep temperature below a value to avoid venting. That value is about 90C for the lowest boiling point as I recall. And so you will hear various mother in law figures below that, taken at the cathode, under the assumption that the external cathode temperature is lower than the internal cathode temperature. And in each telling, this mother in law figure grows until I”ve heard as low as 60C.

    In reality, the thermal characteristics of aluminum are such that I cannot imagine a differential between external cathode surface and internal cathode at the diffusion layer of more than about 1.5C, which starts to get down to the measurement accuracy of most of the inexpensive devices used for the purpose.

    Short answer is use the external cathode temperature. And add a constant correction figure if you feel better about that. But be conservative in doing so.

Leave a Comment

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

Verified by MonsterInsights