International Battery Setbacks

The news this week was sobering. Despite my caterwauling about American battery companies that arrogantly refused to sell us battery cells, and the obvious karmic infractions thereof demanding their recompense and appropriately so, there is simply no joy in Mudville over the incumbent funeral expenses incurred in the current debacle of battery companies.

First to blow was of course Enerdel/Ener1. They put $89 million into Think, proving the wisdom of BUYING a customer instead of selling cells to us. Think tanked. And took Enerdel with it.

Little known is that Ener1 DID survive bankruptcy – thanks to an $81 million cash infusion (less than their investment in THINK poetically, The prince to rescue them was none other than Boris Zingarevich, a Russian businessman with ties to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

And so after $118 million in Federal tax funds, and $80 million in investment from state and local governments, the technology developed with the Argonne National Lab in Illinois at another untold brazillian dollars, is now wholly owned by the Russians for a measly $81 million.

[jwplayer file=”news040612 –” hd.file=”” image=”” streamer=”rtmp://” provider=”rtmp” html5_file=” –”]

Last week, we discussed the dark cloud over A123 regarding their recall of the same 20 Ah prismatic cells we have been struggling to develop a use for and a package for. Again, this company abusively declined to sell these cells not only to us, but to anyone daring to do a custom or one-off vehicle conversion as they were solely dedicated to selling to OEMs. Again, they invested $30 million in Fisker to BUY a more desirable customer than we represented. Fisker too is in the process of failing most horribly, despite hundreds of millions of dollars of US Depertment of ENergy direct loans and of course A123 received a $249 million GRANT to build their factory in Livonia Michigan.

Fisker did not produce the 15000 cars in 2011 that A123 was so hugely counting on. They suffered a recall of a couple hundred for a coolant leak in the battery pack. And now recall about 600 Fiskers for this battery cell fiasco at a cost estimated by company CEO David Vieau at $55 million.

In case that doesn’t strike you as sufficiently funereal, last week SEVEN major law firms filed shareholder class action lawsuits. This morning that count is now up to EIGHT and the companies shares are trading at $1.05, somewhat down from the $25 peak reached shortly after their Initial Public Offering in 2010.

The company is essentially mortally wounded, but the technology will remain attractive and someone will undoubtedly scarf this up for a bargain at the bankruptcy – which has not been announced but we predict will be momentarily.

Does any pattern suggest itself? Lithium batteries are proving quite expensive to us as taxpayers as well as to builders. That $249 million federal investment now running a total of 600 Fiskers works out to about $415,000 per car just for the cells. That makes $106,000 for the car look like a REAL value proposition. We’ll buy one two years from now on ebay for $30,000, yank that little piston popper, and TRY to get it running again.

And the irony of ourselves being forced to buy these cells and have them imported from China instead of 300 miles up the road?

The cells are no panacea. Our flat pack continues to swell in cost and weight and complexity for what will most likely be a 6000wH little bundle of energy at 120v. That’s 30 miles range in the very best possible scenario. And I’ve probably got 60-80 hours in the pack so far.

The good news is it will have a fuse, a contactor, and a shunt built in. And the cells are proving very efficient in the charging roundtrip and bottom balance very well. We DID lose a cell to a short that was simply unprovoked. Just sitting overnight after bottom balancing did the trick. I’m fearful we may have gotten our own allotment of cells from tab welding machine number four. It could also possibly explain our failures with the earlier 40v resin modules. We did run them up and down a couple of times before pouring, but it is possible.

Motor mounts for the Escalade prove a bit more reluctant than we had planned. One of the issues is access to the bolts that connect our flex plate to the torque converter. We lack the largish starter motor hole of the original engine. Mr. Husted provided us a very tiny hole just large enough for a socket – but oriented to the wrong way. As we had provided him a dummy used transmission, and paid him a stupid amount of money to marry these two motors, I’m a little butt sore over this. We’ll have to hog out a bit of the motor end plate to accommodate this and we’ll probably enlarge the access hole in the bottom of the transmission as a backup.

We have reverted to the stock motor mounts and Brain has devised a clever mounting system I think that will just work by about a 32nd of an inch. I hope….

In this week’s episode, John Allen updates us on his Toyota build with a frightening foray into battery box warming techniques. And Royce Wood shows how to use an automatic transmission and NOT idle the transmission to maintain hydraulic pressure, employing an external hydraulic pump instead. A very thrifty conversion of a Mercury Cougar underway there using a $300 GE forklift motor.

We’ve also heard from Rich Rudman, of Manzanita Micro who will be presenting at the Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention. We did not mention, and have NO knowledge of ANY three phase AC inverter announcement from this company. WE know NOTHING about this. Nor has Otmar been pledged to appear at the convention as yet. And we of course deny any knowledge of a new control board for the PFC series giving it programmability. Though we fervently wish we did.

But Rich does have a 12 cell version of his Rudman Regulator and will be bringing his electric Mustang which is purported to be quite a build. It must have a daughter mode as he is bringing his daughter. Actually I think she runs the company and I suspect she’s the one who forced the visit to EVCCON. Bidness being bidness.

Alsno not unveiled until NEXT week’s show is the decision by George Hamstra to offer a drawing for a Netgain Warp 9 motor at the closing dinner – must be present to win. You’ll be able to sign up for the drawing at the Netgain booth in our about to be unveiled vendor area and the motor will be on display at the dinner. We can probably help you hoist it out to your car afterwards.

Keegan Han of China Aviation Lithim Battery Copmany will also be speaking at the event and participating in the Vendor area. I’m squeezing him for some sort of show discount at the event. But he’s thrifty. You might send him a note of thanks for supporting the event at

The Brain is working with the Show Me Center staff this week to work out the layout, but we’re hopeful to have a map soon of a large session area, a very nice vendor display area, and an indoor car display area all in 32,000 sf. They claim to have limitless 240vac and are working on a grant for J1772 charge stations as well.

I don’t think they actually have a concept of what limitless means, or how much electricity 80 or 90 thirsty cars can drink. But of course we’ll also have charging at the shop and at the airport and perhaps at the car show in the park.

Registrations are lagging, while the number of e-mails of people claiming to not only attend, but bring cars are climbing dramatically. I don’t know what this means. Perhaps the June 1 deadline on the discount was too generous. So my mailbox looks like 800 and 100 cars, and our registrations look like a disaster. Please sign up soon so we know we have a show to go to that week.

And know, I have no idea where Brain and I went during three minutes of today’s video. Probably to take a pee.

Jack Rickard

142 thoughts on “International Battery Setbacks”

  1. Loved your disappearing trick. I watched the episode on Elements on PBS. It was great. Kept my interest. I paid and signed up for the next show at the last show, Im set. 🙂

    I hope the registrations pickup soon. It is amazing with all the viewers you have that so few actually post any comments or give links to their projects if they have one.

  2. I signed up at the banquet also and can’t wait until September. It’s also hard to believe that every component manufacturer and conversion shop is not buying webpage and EVTV episode advertisements. It would appear a company could get quite a bid of exposure here.

    It would also be great to have an index page of all the builds that are in progress as the viewers sometimes need a fix between the Friday EVTV shows.

  3. OK, maybe this OEM thing is not so dark.

    Like many car guys, I’m usually consulted by family members about automotive purchasers. Yesterday, my sister in Michigan, a hospital social worker for whom an automobile is basically an expensive and sort of troublesome appliance, like a self-propelled refrigerated couch, calls and asks me about the Volt. Is it a good car? Someone she works with has one and is WILD about it…

    The guy isn’t particularly well-heeled, but he’s single with some disposable income, and he likes neat new stuff. He’s not really a car guy, but he has a Miata for weekends and a jet ski and a boat and such. He bought a Volt last year because he thought it would save money on gas. He has had ZERO problems, and in four months of ownership, he’s bought fuel ONCE- for a holiday trip to his family’s cabin on the lake, which is hours away and has no charging capability. Like the rest of the Volt owners, he’s 99.something percent satisfied with it, and he gives rides and opinions to anybody that is willing.

    To have my sister seriously asking about this car is quite something. The Volt may not be the ideal EV for the already converted, but it has something really unusual going for it, something I haven’t seen since the Miata, or the original Honda Accord: it does exactly what the people who buy it hoped it would, and they are tickled to death with it.

    That’s infectious, and it might just be enough to carry a legitimate slice of the market across the chasm- especially in an Opel Ampera. If gas hits $6 a gallon here (my wife is now paying $6.25 in Australia) then the little Cruze with a whirring heart and too much AI could be a winner…


  4. And not to put too rosy a view on it, the Volt does cast a familiar shadow:

    Its just one more example that for about the last HALF CENTURY, General Motors has a corporate culture unworthy of its engineering department.

  5. Excellent, excellent. No this is what I’m seeing in my mailbox. Lots of interest in the show. Just not quite filling out the form yet. But yes we have all the signups from the last show safely stowed away. They’re all good. I think about 25 committed at the first show, which I found somewhat astounding as it was obviously a year away.

    Facility wise we will up the game a bit with the Show Me Center arena. The hangar was 18,000 sf and the Show Me Center is 32,000 square feet. We should be able to have a large session area, a good sized vendor area, and have ALL the attending cars displayed indoors at the same time. Some indoor charging as well, though I’m still trying to get a handle on that. They think they have unlimited 240vac right to the floor. But I don’t think they know how big unlimited gets, if we have 30 cars sucking 30 amps and of course an Escalalade sucking 70 amps.

    In any event, it will be much like last year. Hopefully we get to do the private car show on the lawn of the River Campus next to the house that got rained out last year. That was really a signature set piece that no one got to see. We kind of gathered there on Friday night after the races, but it really wasn’t the same – after dark and no cars.

    The Revenge of the Electric Car preview was of course a nice replacement.

    Jack Rickard

    1. I also signed up at the banquet, and there’s a very good chance I could be bringing a new conversion as well. Just bought a distressed MG TD replica on a VW frame. It needs more restoration than conversion, but I think I can get it done in time. Nearly have my Dad convinced to attend with me. He can hang out with Tim Catellier’s Dad if he makes the trip again.

    2. Jack,

      Maybe all the companies that make charging stations (EVSE) can have one or two of their various charge ports set up along a row as recharge central. After the show these could be used as door prizes, auctioned off, drawing prizes?

  6. Tom:

    Everyone who drives an electric car any time at all loves them. I’ve never had someone drive one and say they did NOT like it or really missed the sound of the V8 etc after the drive.

    We have an entire national debate going on among people who do not own and have never driven one of the cars they are talking about. I get regular advice from Dan, he has no electric vehicle. Not a bicycle.

    But acculturation takes time. I endured years of hearing from people who insisted they could do with a stub pencil and paper anything I could do with a PC. The Prius has been on the market for a DECADE and has found traction – not in the numbers of the other Toyota’s but they are selling well.

    In the end, OEM’s will be the producers of most electric cars. I do not see custom builds and conversions ever really going away. Indeed they will benefit from OEM activity in hundreds of untold ways. But the objective is of course to get OEM’s producing them by the millions and with advanced creature comforts. I think it will take another 12 to 14 years for this to happen.

    In the meantime, I have noticed that mostly it is our viewers, who are not only interested in building one, but interested in them in all ways. Peter McWade and Fred Behning both have Leaf’s now. David Hrivnak has a Tesla Roadster. I have a Model S on order. Bottom line his at this point it is an enthusiasts market. And no one really is going to change over based on a television commercial or press release. To make that big a change that effects that much of their life, they are going to want some first hand experience or a strong opinion from a reliable source (a brother would do).

    Jack Rickard

    1. I have driven about 1000 miles electrically. I now have an electric sports car and a V8 sports car with a loud exhaust. No contest, I think the V8 sounds better. Mind you, not that the electric sounds bad, but it is tough to beat the feral growl of a V8!

  7. Tom,
    you really set the pace. I love what you wrote.

    There is something to be said about a phut, phut dangling off the end of a four wheeled EV that will aid type acceptance amongst the greater public.

  8. Dan Frederiksen, Please Stop writing here… you are a waste. Man… I guess you are a child… speak a lot of crap… spend you whole day watching porn and when get tired… come here and write only CRAP…
    GET OUT OF THIS BLOG… here is for ADULTs !!! not TEENAGER LIKE YOU !!!

  9. Jack,
    In this week’s show you briefly talked about charge efficiency and sited that there was little difference between the number of amp hours you put in and the number you got out. It would be interesting to know the terminal voltage while charging and discharging to get a feel for watt hours in vs. watt hours out. It seems like the A123 cells should be more efficient than the Calbs given that they have less sag than the A123s. Is this true and can you quantify it? It would be really interesting to see charge efficiency numbers for 1C 2C 3C etc.

    1. To Dan,
      I’ve spent a lot of my youth from the age of 11, mind wandering how UFO’s worked. I collected all the mechanical and observational data, including attempts to see through the mindsets of those who saw them. I read historical references and findings of unusual items that simply did not “fit the bill”. Everything I could about these things.

      One method, a time distortion “drive”. I learnt from an early age that gravity is the distortion of time through mass. Decades before the “graviton particle” was silently dropped from the scientific world and still laugh at ‘particle’ physics. I have Prof. Brian Cox’s phone number if you want it. (Best not, lol)

      The one UFO drive I attempted to really work was picowave seeding of the atmosphere to make air electro statically repulse itself to create a vacuum to suck the vehicle into. No sound barriers, thermal issues or noise here folks!

      Aliens be blowed. I wanted ultimate freedom. Why take the World?

      Dan, if I started a blog about this subject, will you be replying, attempting authoritative gestures while not even getting off the keyboard and finding empirical facts?

      You see, all this Bible bashing, UFO’s, James Mays’ devil worshipping fingers, AGW and EV’s that are lighter than the total sum of their parts coupled with your complete ignorance of type approvals and national laws makes people think you have a severe disconnect with reality.

    2. I guess my point was simply that an A123 Pack might give better city milage than a Calb pack. The Idea being that city stop and go driving requires high current bursts that drive down efficiency. At low steady current they would be about the same. Just an educated guess. Real world results would be interesting.

  10. I agree with you Nick,

    Dan stated he knew more than me, then spoke of “dark energy”.
    BOOM! Credibility? Gone.

    “Dark Energy” or “Dark matter”.. Another bandage because their theories do not fit reality.

    That D.E. theory defines well where Dans head sadly, fits in.

  11. Jack , Brian … Please… for the sake of this blog… Stop those people talking about UFO’s…
    Here in Japan… people will lose the trust
    We are looking for EV’s blogs… not UFO’s poops…
    If this people are looking for UFO… I recomend them to go to Antartica… or Brazil… We all heard about Roswell and Cape Girardeal fallen crafts… but please… restrict those people of talking about this matter here…

    Let’s talk about…. Motors: Netgain x Kostov . Controlers: Evnetics x Zilla , Chargers: Brusa x Manzanita. Dc to Dc: Iota x others and some GREAT topics also would be Power steering, Air conditioner, Electric Parking Break, power break pump + Power steering.

    1. Dan,
      This forum is specifically for the reporting on and discussion of electric vehicles, EV components, and related topics. I of all people value and cherish the ability of all people to speak their mind on any topic… the problem comes in the application of this freedom where it obviously not wanted. Please find another venue for topics that are not directly EV related.

      If you are working on a conversion, component, or part for an EV, please tell us about it. I would love to read about YOUR research or experiments, even if they are boring.

      As it is now, please restrict your comments to those things and events that YOU have witnessed or done. If you have an EV related question for the group, please ask it. If you have an EV related question for a particular person, please ask that person individually.


    1. Dan:

      I’m feeling plenty strong today. A little overweight and my hip hurts, but strong.

      YOU should listen to the spirit of Jesus. What I’m listening to is about 20 private e-mails from people on this blog that I make you go away, and most advocating setting up a forum you can easily be banned from as a permanent removal of Dan.

      For the moment, I have a full time job removing postings from a delusional kid with too much time on his hands. Get a job. Then build a car. We are just not equipped to deal with “special needs” viewers Dan. I’m touched by your devotion. I just don’t have a way to deal with it.

      Jack Rickard

  12. I’d be interested in hearing folk’s views on the prospects for the Ampera(“Vauxhall Ampera” in the UK) – the European Volt. It seems to me that compared with the US the premium compared with an ordinary ICE equivalent (Vauxhall Astra?) is smaller. Fuel prices are far higher higher (£1.40+ a LITRE in the UK). I put £250 a month into the tank of my small runabout which would cover half the lease charge. With only a 5% benefit-in-kind for tax purposes if it were taken up as a company car it would be a no-brainer, particularly for higher rate taxpayers

  13. BTW I find the Volt concept mildly offensive in terms of engineering style – having two sorts of drivetrain and dual capable everything else adds weight and expense.

    On the other hand as a low friction transition to the experience of electric-only drive I wholly welcome it.

    As folk change driving habits and realise that they don’t actually need to lug all that ironmongery around all the time for the three trips a year they use it, there will surely be increasing demand for an Ampera without the expensive and smelly bits.

  14. The Volt sure is one curious phenomenon.

    Its quite interesting that the EV community would be offended by it. It has a fuel tank and a motor, and GM is the most hated villain in the land, so we all just sort of snickered and felt superior. It didn’t help that GM couldn’t stop lying about every single thing associated with the car, from how it works to who it is for, what they expect from it, its weaknesses, on and on. They are the evil empire, but y’know, Darth Vader’s boy turned out to be a hero. I hated the Volt because I hated the lying and the GM culture, but the engineering and the product are not actually those things.

    Despite all this criticism from inside our tent, the Volt remains one unique little electric car. We disparage it as a hybrid and conveniently ignore both that it does things no BEV can do, and that those things are critically important to the people who buy it. It has unlimited range. That makes it an only car. The people who have it don’t put gas in except for the occasions when they need that range, (Jay Leno has has done 11k miles on less than 5 gallons of fuel.) That unlimited range also means unlimited cabin environmental control, which in a place like Michigan or Vermont is critically important in the winter. The Volt meets needs.

    As EV advocates have no answer for that. We say if you want to drive out of town use your other car. We’re kind of mum about what to do in the dead of winter with 1/2 your range and marginal heat. At best, we say “Oh, its OK, the Volt is a transitional car for people who aren’t yet ready for an EV,” subtly dismissing what the Volt is and does. We’re as guilty of opining about the Volt, those of us who’ve never laid eyes on one, as the rest of the world is talking about EV’s “sluggish performance” and “range anxiety.”

    And yet the car, (and the numbers) are starting to speak for themselves. It is indeed the most thoroughly developed EV ever built. It works exactly as intended. It has a unique performance envelope that is perfectly suited to the people that buy it, they absolutely love it, and they are not driving it like a hybrid. It might be a transition to something else on paper, but I don’t see why. Its much better matched to its owner’s usage patterns than that. Its time to look past our own orthodoxy and see the Volt for what it is, and not for what its not.

    Let’s just hope GM can avoid screwing it up, which is no small risk…

    1. Tom:

      I don’t buy into all that actually. I never really faulted GM for the EV-1 thing myself. I understood what they were doing and why they were doing it, but I thought it was a mistake and it turned out to be just so.

      I DO have a serious problem with a company that has NO compunction at all about truth justice and the American way. They simply are agnostic with regard to ethics. They will pile one lie on top of another and if called on it layer a third onto the cake. They do it smoothly, professionally, and with no apparent cognizance that the whole exercise is amoral and worse that it does NOT serve their own interests. It actually has a direct negative impact on sales of their products.

      I would actually like the Volt to succeed and indeed, I do know people who have them and absolutely love them. I do consider them an engineering marvel as an example of OVER engineering a thing to death – 103 microprocessors and 10 million lines of code. We did not have that on the ENTIRE Apollo moon shot program.

      The MX Missile program didn’t have that many processors and lines of code even when you count test and monitoring equipment.

      It is astounding it could be shoehorned into a car.


    2. But the fact remains that a hybrid retains the disadvantages of each drive train while negating the advantages. You still have a fuel system and an exhaust system and all fume and fuel regulations to provide for. And you of course have batteries and in this case a range needlessly limited to 40 miles. My immediate reaction is that without the “range extender” this thing could easily do 120 miles on a charge with more batteries.

      Our solution of taking a different car on road trips is actually quite practical for most of us. There already are 255 million cars for 205 million drivers. Having a his, a hers, and a road cruiser is really no thing. Or just having a his and leaving hers a road cruiser is even less of a thing.

      So I agree it is an interesting car and probably a very good one. But it is needlessly and hopelessly complex and I would not want to work on one. I’m actually surprised there haven’t been four recalls by now with all that complexity so no doubt they have done a good job designing it. I just think they’ve designed a solution to what is not a problem.

      Your case seems to be based on its touched an untapped need in others. I guess comparing the sales estimates they DID make ON RECORD that were seriously NOT 10,000 units the first year, which their actual sales, and I don’t get where you’re coming from with that.

      That the people who DID buy it like it very well is simply a function of it being electric. I think Leaf owners like THEIR cars. In fact, I think anyone who actually DRIVES an electric car is just going to love it.

      In fact, every toy I”ve EVER had, and I have some serious freaking toys including two DC-3 airplanes, two helicopters, a personal jet, a King Air 200, and a Cobalt power boat, all have an initial giddiness but eventually just become a thing. For some reason I just never get over the electric car. Every day I drive one I marvel again. It feels GREAT to drive. And it doesn’t use gasoline. There is no place to PUT gasoline. It is deathly quiet. It is very smooth. I just don’t get over it.

      All that said, Volt owners will get PART of that. And it will make them want more and receptive to more. I remain convinced that the only way we will acculturate people to electric drive is letting them drive. It is experiential. A well turned argument appealing to logic and the many benefits will NOT pry the cars they know and trust fro their fingers. Our car thing is TOO deeply ingrained. Only experience will do it.

      The Volt’s sales could indeed improve as people carry the word of the experience word of mouth. But it is improving from not just poor, but total failure numbers. And the fact remains that it is a very poor value proposition. Chevy Cruze $16,000. Chevy Volt – $42000. And you can barely walk to the right one if you have them both on the same lot. And to add insult to injury, the Cruze already gets pretty damn impressive gas mileage.

    3. Tom,
      I tend to agree with you. The intial price of $40K seems absurd until you take the $7500 off. Now you have a $32,500 car that acording to some estimates will save you approx $1200 a year in fuel costs. So after five years your effective cost is about $26,500. Still way too high, but not as bad the initial sticker shock of $40K.

      You also have the flexabilty of treating it as a pure electric, a pure gas, or a hybrid vehicle depending on your needs.

    4. This has put me in the awkward position of being a proponent of electric drive cars, while predicting the failure of the two on the table. And of course among my fellow enthusiasts, this has been very unpopular because they were sure Revenge of the Electric Car was at hand.

      I think the Leaf and the Volt are both remarkable vehicles and of course I could have one of each and would love them. But they have both done an absolutely outstanding job of designing the wrong freaking car. To reduce the price and make it affordable, they started with a very cheap car. The problem is, it doesn’t wind up cheap after you put the electric drive in.

      It is actually better to start with a very EXPENSIVE car, a BMW I5 or a large Mercedes, and add the expensive drive train to THAT. The price of the drive train components is then less of a percentage of the total price of the vehicle. If I take a $16,000 crude and add $26,000 worth of stuff to it, it is $42,000. If I take a $60,000 car and add $25,000 to it, it is $85,000. But a person that can afford $60 could probably afford $85 if they really wanted it. A person that can afford $16, probably can’t afford $20.

      A person that CAN afford $60, or $85, just doesn’t WANT a $16,000 car – no matter what you put into it, UNLESS they are already an electric car FREAK like our viewers.

      So I predicted it, when it really wasn’t even in my own business interest to do so, and essentially what I said would happen happened. After all the low hanging fruit had their cars, there really isn’t much of a market for these.

      Let’s invert all this. Let’s take a car that looks just like a $197,000 Aston Martin Rapide. Let’s build a brand new state of the art production facility and on purpose and with design make the ENTIRE car out of aluminum. No steel in it. Nothing to rust. A car purpose built to last for freaking ever.

      Let’s put the batteries in the very bottom of the frame, so the center of gravity is SO low, you couldn’t’ tip this thing over with a crane and a hoist. To where it corners like a car on RAILS.

      Let’s put a 200kw drive integrated entirely in the rear axle.Geek up the interior with all Mercedes knobs and gewgaws. And then let’s get serious about putting the entire technology of the personal computer in the car complete with a sunlight readable 17 inch touch screen WITH 3G Internet cellular connectivity built into it. Seat five people. Use the engine bay for the trunk, and the trunk for a trunk OR seating for two kids.

      And let’s triple the range to 300 miles using the very latest Lithium chemistry available. And let’s use the form factor of the batteries that they make by the MILLIONS and already have economies of scale producing.

      We’ll add a fast charge capability and let future infrastructure solve the unlimited range thing.

      And make em pay for it. $75,000 to $90,000 depending on what they want on it.

      This is currently the third most shorted stock on the NASDAQ.

      I predict they WILL sell 5000 this year – I’m number 2783.

      And they may even sell 20,000 next year, though that is a stretch for ANY car in that price range.

      Bottom line, I think Nissan and GM did a GREAT job of designing the WRONG car.


    5. Maybe so, Jack, and I agree with you the Leaf is in trouble.

      I’ve since gotten a little insight into how the Volt is being driven. It has a display for how far you can go on electric power, and 40 miles is just outside most people’s daily average, so driving it becomes something of a game to see if you can bring it home each night without firing up the motor. Its addictive, this little game, touching on driving techniques, combining trips, tire pressure maintenance, etc., and its the source of much of the delight owners are having with the car.

      Call it an EV trainer if you like, without the fear of running the car dead. Joe Nocera of the New York Times calls the Volt a transitional car, but in the macro sense: between cars as we build them today, and cars as Tesla has begun to build them. It does seem to be that.

      I think of the transition more individually, though, with the Volt being that first EV for so many people like my sister. If the had the car for 3 years, and became quite comfortable bringing it home every night with 5 miles left in the pack, then an electric car with an 80 mile range would be an easy choice for her.

    6. Tom Alvary “As EV advocates have no answer for that. We say if you want to drive out of town use your other car. We’re kind of mum about what to do in the dead of winter with 1/2 your range and marginal heat…”

      There are several solutions, actually, from fast charging and Better Place battery swapping to propane/biodiesel/battery range extender trailers, even slot car-like motoring using induction.

  15. Jack & Brian, great show as always. Guys I used to rebuild automatic transmissions. Jack you mentioned about all the power running through the 3 torque convertor bolts and in a previous show you were discussing getting a pulse signal using magnets on 2 of the 3 bolts. In the past I have seen a lot of Big Block Chevy power go through this setup with few failures. If there is any doubt TCI and others make High Performance flex plates that will withstand huge amounts of power. One thing about flex plates, you may already know but given the limited amount of space you are going to have to bolt everything together I thought I would mention, on the flex plate the 3 bolts holes are slightly slotted. 2 of them slotted horizontally and 1 vertically. Look at the flex and mark the one with the vertical slot and on assembly install this bolt first. You can tighten it down and still get the other 2 bolts in. If you start with one of the other 2 bolts half the time the vertical slotted hole will not line up and what ever you have already tightened will have to be loosened. LOL, ask me how I know this.

    Another thing I thought of when you were talking about putting the magnets on 2 of the bolts, you can layout 2 addition holes in the flex plate for 2 bolts to do nothing but hold the magnets and you can get them 180 degrees apart and still not interfere with the 3 torque converter bolts. if they are 180 degrees apart and the same size bolts you will not go out of balance. That might be easier than having to build something to re-time the pulse.

    The video of the viewer using an external pump on an automatic trans was interesting also. I had wondered about this and thought about the possibility of using a Toyota MR2 power steering power as it is electric. An also eliminating the torque converter like is done in the Round Track Race Cars that run automatics. I have seen a guy online with a ’64 Malibu using a tranny setup for Round Track, no converter, but I don’t know how he handles the pressure or the lack of when sitting still. If I remember right he drag races the car.

    One other thing, I don’t see any reason you can’t spoof the signals going to the PCM to make things work. Racers are doing it all the time to make their cars act and run the way they want them. I’ve seen guys controlling the shifts of their 4l60s & 4l80s with a multi contact rotary switch to control the shift solenoids to get a quicker shift drag racing. Good luck with it all and I look forward to seeing how you work it all out.


    1. David:

      You’re a genius. We could certainly add two bolts 180 apart, very short ones that just tap into the flex plate and it would interfere with nothing. I should have thought of this myself. Duh.

      I had no idea about the vertical and horizontal slotting. As we are going to have VERY limited access to put the bolts in, this may be the best tip we’ve ever received. Or at least the most timely.

      What ELSE do you know about this transmission???

    2. just glad to be able to help. I am not too much of “this is why it won’t work”, I am more of “let’s figure out how to make it work”. I am really interested to see how the Caddy works out with the Soliton the A/T. I can think of several FWD cars that are A/T that I think would be good candidates for conversion.

  16. David:

    FYI, the 6L80/90 family of transmissions has no independently controllable solenoids. All the solenoids are mounted on a shared bus tied through the PCM. If you can’t operate the PCM, you can’t shift the transmission. There’s currently no way to wire switches to the individual solenoids as on the 4L60/80 transmissions.

    1. Tom:

      THis simply isn’t true. There is certainly a way. What you are referring to is that the controller for the solenoids is built INTO the transmission and communicates with the ECU by data bus. If I took the transmission apart, I can certainly wire to the individual solenoids.

      We’re not going to do any of that of course. WE have a HPTuneers kit that specifically IS already used with 6l80E’s to change shift points, which you ASSURED me two years ago could not be done. Apparently it is done to death.

      Jack Rickard

    2. I said “currently,” both then and now.

      Its always just a matter of time and learning curve. Fifteen years ago, LS engines were rare in street swaps because the racing community hadn’t reverse engineered the ECU. Today you can run any fuel/spark system on any engine with a laptop and aftermarket controller.

      Same with the transmissions. Two years ago, no one had any traction hacking the 6L80/90. Now they are are getting some, and I’m glad its available. I never said it was impossible, just that then it impossibly difficult for a non-specialist.

      On the GM High Performance website, Senior Tech Kyle House from Circle D performance (a leading 6L80E racing shop) says: “”When GM builds the 6L80E at the factory, it installs a control module directly to the valve body. It houses all the pressure control solenoids, shift solenoids, and the transmission control module in one sealed unit. There are tons of electronic adjustments that can be made to alter clutch pressures and apply times for durability… Depending on a customer’s needs, we can modify the transmission control module so it’s custom tailored to a specific application using HP Tuners software.”

      Read more:

      So, yeah, I suppose if you went in there with a tin snips and a soldering iron you could wire up the shift solenoids independently, and then put a rotary switch on them like David’s racing friends do, but you’ll be on the flat part of the learning curve trying that, and I’m pretty comfortable ASSURING David that it just won’t work that way.

    3. Tom, just to be sure, I never said I saw it done to a 6L80. I said 4l60 & 4l80. The point I was making was that if the Z28 guys at the track can shift their trans with a rotary switch then Jack & Brian should be able to spoof enough signals that the PCM will think the ICE is under the hood. Some of the guys on the Mega Squirt board have created a Mega Shift Trans Controller that I would guess could possibly be used to control a 6l80 if all else failed. I know they are using them on 4l60s & 4l80s.

      By the way, the Z28 guys claim the electric control over the shifts was worth 1 to 2 tenths in the quarter mile over using the shifter.

    4. Dave, I get you. The manual control over the solenoids in 4L series transmissions is possible because those transmissions are basically Turbohydramatics from the 1960s with solenoids grafted into them. Its no mean trick to control them externally, indeed they are wired to the outside of the case in a common plug.

      The 6L series is an entirely different animal. It has no bands, only clutches, and needs precise control of pressures and solenoids to work at all. They are fully integrated into the design. It will one day be reverse engineered and all those parameter maps fully understood, but it will always be TCM controlled. I discovered this two years ago looking into it for Jack.

      Now, HPTuners has a scanner that can change parameters. That’s what is needed. It will take some time for the tuning community to actually figure out what remapping of pressures and actuation is safe to do with these transmissions, but apparently shift points can now be changed without harm. I haven’t looked into it. Two years ago, that wasn’t available. Two years from now, the torque converter and the load/shift characteristics will probably be under safe control, too. Advanced shops like Circle D are working on it. They are using the HPTuners scanner to make the “tons” of changes necessary to remap the transmission. Its a learning curve.

      That’s how it goes, and since the 6L is such a slick piece (with its unbelievable compound planetary gearsets) its going to happen quicker than I thought. It just doesn’t work the way Jack thought it did. Its all good.

    5. Doesn’t work the way Jack thought it Did? And just how did Jack think it would work?

      Actually, I originally thought it would work just fine using MANUAL mode to manually shift the automatic transmission. You assured me THAT wouldn’t work either. That’ snow our fallback position if we can’t get smooth shifting from the ECU.

      In fact, your very expert opinion was what drove me to the purchase of a $7000 TCI transmission, which as it turns out basically shuts down half the systems in the car. We can now use that as lobby decorations.

      The only way it didn’t work was as YOU originally thought it did, and indeed it didn’t. I’ve had a pretty good feeling all along about this transmission and I still do. I don’t know that we’ll get it fully functional, but we’ve certainly had no shortage of know it alls who have assured me of all manner of problems. As we pick them off one by one, almost all of this has been misinformation.

      I guess advice is worth about what you pay for it…


    6. Jack, the problem with free advice, in my experience, is that the receiver has no investment in the information, and therefore doesn’t make any use of it, rendering it worthless.

      Where you and I actually left this matter (from my July 3, 2011 comment on the June 28, 2011 show blog) was:

      “Don’t tell us you aren’t going to give that stock tranny a good college try, Jack, especially with a guy like John Spears 2-3 hours away and willing to help. It would make everything else so much easier to keep the stock 6L80…”

      John Spears of Spearctech Fuel Injection Systems was a GM electrical systems engineer for 23 years, and is now an LS engine tuner and swap guru who, during my discussion with him on your behalf, thought there was no particular reason the original transmission couldn’t be made to work, and was available to sort through any issues you had with it. He’s in Anderson, IN at (765) 378-4908, and it may well be worth the money to have him over for the day when you try to get the power train running. HTH.

      One thing that jumped out at me when you were calibrating throttles, though you’ve probably already thought about it, is that the ECM is going to try to idle the motor.

      You should let it do that, because it will likely add throttle until the stock idle RPM is reached, and you really should disable the Soliton idle function initially to see what happens. It would seem that if you set the Soliton idle RPM just below the stock idle speed, the ECM will likely take over and throttle up to the factory setting. Too much of a difference may throw an error. I’m sure you’ll find out…

      The ECM also has cold start (choke) and hot start routines while the starter circuit is engaged, (and I don’t KNOW what they are) that could be interesting. If you spoof the coolant temp sensor to 195 degrees, you won’t see the cold start choke routine, but you are going to see what the ECM does to the throttle blade in a hot start. That may or may not be OK, and is obviously going to be influenced by motor RPM. Test all that with the controllers disabled, and then at different Soliton idle speeds. Should prove illuminating.

      Once the start routine ends, you can just let the ECM idle the motor (over the Soliton minimum settings,) even raising it properly when you turn on the A/C compressor and all that, just like it wants to. My guess is you’ll only have the Soltions idling the motor for the fraction of a second it takes for the ECM to see 500 or so RPM and think the engine has fired.

      Anyway, I hope it all works…


    7. Tom:

      What I recall was a whole lot of “it’ll never work with the 6L80E”.

      I’m sure at some point you did give me the reference to this guy.

      In any event, you are quite correct. I have not taken into account the ECU’s desire to idle, and either hot or cold starting.

      Assuming that cold starts require the choke, this will result in voltage below the minimum recognized by the Soliton. We should probably spoof the inlet temperature at some cold value to get is worrying about ONE value for startup. ANd we need a below minimum input to the Solitons for about 7 seconds for them to startup at all. I suppose we will have to PRESTART them and then use the usual start signal for the ECU. I don’t like this solution, but am a little hazy on how to avoid it.

      WOrse there are reports of a LEARN process by the ECU where the engine goes to 2500 rpm immediately when starting. Gradually it learns to cut the idle down to a smaller value. At least that’s what I’ve read on some of the LS2 forums. So this may be a LOT more complicated than I had envisioned.

      These modern cars make my head hurt.

    8. Its better and worse, actually.

      First, I wouldn’t worry about the choke and cold start. All that does is change the blade position and, IIRC, fuel delivery. If you permanently spoof the coolant temp sensor to 195 degrees, the ECU will know the engine is warm and won’t invoke cold start, ever.

      Inlet air temp is not likely related to this, but rather more to fuel mapping and spark retard. After warm-up, the engine doesn’t need choke regardless intake air temperature.

      The engine going to 2500 RPM on start doesn’t surprise me, but for an entirely different reason: it takes something over 1500 RPM to initiate charging from the alternator, so almost all EFI motors run up over 2000 and then come down. Maybe you know why this is so with the alternator, but I had it explained to me once and forgot the why of it. I’ve verified it with my own carbureted cars, though. The ECU might just be doing this little trick with a closed loop, sensing alternator output. I’m guessing that won’t be much of a problem, nor would 2500 unloaded RPM on your motor. Having your 12V system always at 14.4 or higher would seem a prudent way to proceed…

      You have a couple more issues to tick off:

      1. You are missing the exhaust O2 sensors, and their ECM inputs. Fortunately, a good tuner who knows his way around your HPTuner set can “dial that out” of your ECM configuration, effectively eliminating the to spoof those inputs.

      2. Without the ignition module, coil packs and sparkplugs, you’re going to throw ECM error codes. The ECM wants to know whether the plugs are operating, misfiring or shorted. Maybe that can be handled with your HPTuners set. The ECM MIGHT run without those components present, but no one knows that for sure, because according to John Spears, you’re going to be the first guy EVER to run an ECM without the ignition system.

      The missing ignition feedback could well require no simulation, and simply throw innocuous codes that put the SES light in the dash on, but since you are relying on the ECM to move the throttle, you may need to do a few things to keep it happy enough with how it thinks the engine is running to get full, normal throttle operation.

      John and I joked that you might have to put the ignition module, coil packs and 8 sparkplugs in a box just to keep the ECU operational. Its no joke, actually, especially since that stuff is worth hundreds of dollars and you don’t have it any more.

      Lastly, if it were me I’d set the Solitons to start with the Ignition On, wait for their POST routine to end and the motors to idle, and then hit Start. If that causes operator-induced errors, you could use a relay on the Start output wire from the steering column, energized by an aux output from the Soliton that closes the Start circuit only when the Solitons are up and the motors are idling, if you can get an appropriate such output from the controller. That would prevent foul-ups by the driver cranking right through Ignition to Start within 50 milliseconds, just as we all do.

      The benefit of doing it this way is you may actually nullify the start routine. If the motors are already idling, the ECM may not even energize the starter circuit, or its throttle setting for cranking, thinking hot start has already
      been accomplished. Wouldn’t that be a lucky break!

      Anyway, yeah, its a lot to think about…

    9. Its better and worse, actually.

      First, I wouldn’t worry about the choke and cold start. All that does is change the blade position and, IIRC, fuel delivery. If you permanently spoof the coolant temp sensor to 195 degrees, the ECU will know the engine is warm and won’t invoke cold start, ever.

      Inlet air temp is not likely related to this, but rather more to fuel mapping and spark retard. After warm-up, the engine doesn’t need choke regardless intake air temperature.

      The engine going to 2500 RPM on start doesn’t surprise me, but for an entirely different reason: it takes something over 1500 RPM to initiate charging from the alternator, so almost all EFI motors run up over 2000 and then come down. Maybe you know why this is so with the alternator, but I had it explained to me once and forgot the why of it. I’ve verified it with my own carbureted cars, though. The ECU might just be doing this little trick with a closed loop, sensing alternator output. I’m guessing that won’t be much of a problem, nor would 2500 unloaded RPM on your motor. Having your 12V system always at 14.4 or higher would seem a prudent way to proceed…

      You have a couple more issues to tick off:

      1. You are missing the exhaust O2 sensors, and their ECM inputs. Fortunately, a good tuner who knows his way around your HPTuner set can “dial that out” of your ECM configuration, effectively eliminating the to spoof those inputs.

      2. Without the ignition module, coil packs and sparkplugs, you’re going to throw ECM error codes. The ECM wants to know whether the plugs are operating, misfiring or shorted. Maybe that can be handled with your HPTuners set. The ECM MIGHT run without those components present, but no one knows that for sure, because according to John Spears, you’re going to be the first guy EVER to run an ECM without the ignition system.

      The missing ignition feedback could well require no simulation, and simply throw innocuous codes that put the SES light in the dash on, but since you are relying on the ECM to move the throttle, you may need to do a few things to keep it happy enough with how it thinks the engine is running to get full, normal throttle operation.

      John and I joked that you might have to put the ignition module, coil packs and 8 sparkplugs in a box just to keep the ECU operational. Its no joke, actually, especially since that stuff is worth hundreds of dollars and you don’t have it any more.

      Lastly, if it were me I’d set the Solitons to start with the Ignition On, wait for their POST routine to end and the motors to idle, and then hit Start. If that causes operator-induced errors, you could use a relay on the Start output wire from the steering column, energized by an aux output from the Soliton that closes the Start circuit only when the Solitons are up and the motors are idling, if you can get an appropriate such output from the controller. That would prevent foul-ups by the driver cranking right through Ignition to Start within 50 milliseconds, just as we all do.

      The benefit of doing it this way is you may actually nullify the start routine. If the motors are already idling, the ECM may not even energize the starter circuit, or its throttle setting for cranking, thinking hot start has already
      been accomplished. Wouldn’t that be a lucky break!

      Anyway, yeah, its a lot to think about…

    10. IT is actually. What I have been noodling since you brought it up. I think I want to buffer the TPS signal with an operational amplifier to keep from loading it anyway.

      This will require the TPS signal of course, 12v and ground. I think I am going to voltage divide the 12v down to about a 1.3 or 1.4 v idle signal using a POT. That will require a 12/12 converter to stabilize my 15 v system to a precise 12v.

      I’ll also use a relay with the start signal as an input. I’ll use IGNITION to start the Soliton on sequence. When you go to start, it will kick in the relay and apply a 1.4 volt signal from the voltage divider to bring the motor up to 500 rpm. When the ECU takes the START signal away, the relay will de-energize applying the buffered TPS opamp output to the Soliton.

      I’ll use a pot for the voltage divider and we can adjust this startup RPM for whatever the ECU wants to see to indicate the motor has started.

      My assumption on the ignition is that it doesn’t provide much in the way of feedback. Why would it? The ECU already controls it
      and there isn’t much in the way of mechanicals to monitor outputs.

      We are GOING to have a LOT of error codes and the engine light. I doubt I can make all that go away. Might reduce their number with the HP Tuners rig, but I don’t see how we can adjust all of it out. I’ll be missing too many sensors.

      My hope is that they are like the CAM signal. I’m told you can disconnect that one entirely and the engine starts just fine.

      And so the hope is to get a heartbeat and have enough inputs where it does the basics. Then tune the shift points. I do want it to be able to run the A/C compressor clutch for example. We might be able to spoof the fuel tank sender. Etc.

      But you’re quite correct, I’ll certainly be the first to run it with no ignition system and probably with no fuel injection.

      I do get a sinking feeling when I consider all that might have to be done to get this thing operating correctly. I can only hope they stayed with the simplest path in the code to make this thing work and made it operate as robustly as possible so the engine would run with maximum damage to it. If it shuts down on every trivial mishap, then we’re sunk.

      But I was amazed at the Mini Cooper – how well the DME operated with almost nothing but an RPM input. I’m hoping the GM version is as robust. Hopefully with an RPM heartbeat, it will handle most of its bidness with not much more than an engine light.

    11. The 2500 rpm is not for the alternator or anything normal. It is kind of after maintenance on the mass air flow sensor and is a problem. But the online story on it seems to be that it gradually diminishes in RPM and within a day or two you are back to normal.

      I would find a 2500 rpm idle very alarming I’m afraid. A kill switch event.


    12. Your start sequence is very clever, Jack.

      The odd 2500 RPM idle is worth sitting in the garage and start/stop cycling to make go away if it learns/quits within 50 or even 100 starts. Just remember that every time you open and close your maintenance switch, it will likely return. That’s just the sort of thing I would ask John Spears if he could disable.

      Supposing it all works, a word of caution about shifting: The 6L series has no bands inside, like other automatics, just clutches, and GM has been proud of the fact that the ECM doesn’t feed torque into it while it changes gears. The changes are so fast that you can’t feel it in your butt, but the ECM is out of the throttle the critical moment the clutches are working.

      Since the 6L has only been available with drive-by-wire throttled engines, it would be safest to assume its very important that this transmission be permitted to change gears without much load. Your dual 11s are going to be providing just the opposite, especially if you can figure out how to lock the TC at low speeds and in the lower gears, which would improve efficiency.

      If it were mine, I’d probably always use it in manual mode, and back completely off the throttle when changing gears. If I had to allow it to shift, I would do it VERY gently, and never uphill.

      Some cool puzzle you have there…

    13. Of course, if you KNEW how the ECM was cutting power during gear changes, e.g. cutting fuel, retarding spark, or least likely, changing throttle position, it would all be so much easier.

      OK, I’m over my head now…

    14. I don’t follow. Changing spark timing could be potentially disastrous, and it is fuel injected – that meter won’t change very quickly. The throttle body would BE how to cut torque during gear changes and I can’t think of another.

      So that would cut my input to the controllers removing power as well.

      It should all work.

      What do think the impact of going to a lower stall i.e. 1400 rpm torque converter would have?

      Jack Rickard

    15. I just don’t know how the momentary gear change blips are accomplished. I don’t think closing the throttle plate is quick enough without changing the fuel and spark maps as well, and if you’re doing that for such a short time, moving the throttle may make no difference. Just don’t know.

      In F1, the teams were maintaining full air flow through the engine even when the driver lifted, because the exhaust was being used aerodynamically over the body work. That was just banned this year, but it is quite possible to run a motor with no air throttle at all- entirely on spark, fuel (and in that case) valve actuation management.

      Anyway, I hope that the ECM cuts power between shifts with at least some throttle body change- that will help you as you say.

      Stall speed is interesting. Remember that the rating on a TC is at full power; at lower torque inputs it will of course stall (transmit power) at much lower speed. A diesel TC with a lower rated stall speed is better for efficiency (and heat buildup) and I suppose it will save some watts, but if you can lock the TC at will, I don’t see the point, so long as the stock stall map is within the sweet spot of the motor’s torque curve. The TC is actually a torque multiplier, so to make power, the higher stall the better. You have gobs of low-end torque, though. The diesel converter is a better choice on paper.

      I guess I would go to a lower stall TC if it were free, or the twin 11s had a more diesel-like powerband and I was worried there wasn’t enough torque left at the 2500-3500rpm level, which is what the gas engine TC is for…

      Did this truck have the transmission cooler routed through the radiator, or is its cooling system self-contained?

  17. Have you driven an electric car yet? I tinker and would not swap out my transmissions for any thing. Repurposing a vehicle is a good thing if its not a piece of crap. It is a move in the right direction. Repurposing a vehicle will get more involved and the more involved in the movement the sooner the movement gains oxygen as Jack says. Tinker-ville? Hardly. Influence, you bet it does. Nothing wrong with the manual or auto transmission. Use what is there. It is already designed in and all we do is take advantage of the components. Why remove them. It takes more engineering to remove them than utilize them when you use an existing vehicle and repurpose it for an EV.

    Pete 🙂

    I also own a Leaf.

  18. Then how do you account for the VW based low voltage systems that actually take advantage of the transmissions? I would not engineer out the transmission if the intended vehicle comes with one. Build the conversion to utilize what is there. The transmission is a strong point and yes in many cases the gearing is not used but should be. 1st is usually not required any more. So now I have a 3 speed and for a street machine I do not worry too much about a few lbs excess. Could I trim the fat, yes. I could not do a VW based conversion without the transmission. Front wheel drive conversions really need to utilize the transmission too and have the same problem. It’s called a transaxle.

  19. Jack and Brian, Would you consider exposing a brushed motor–not necessarily one of your $$$ ones–to ‘silicon(e?) vapors’ to experimentally confirm reports of silicon carbide production?
    Have you any experience with sound dampening materials such as Hushmat? I wonder if the butyl Quiet Tape product might be Nord Lock-like and useful in your builds: “Adheres for the life of your car”. This brings me to another product which interests me but might be very old news to you–quiet tires: I know you favor low rolling resistance tires. Have you considered how quiet tires [which can apparently also be LRR] might improve the Elescalade or other conversions? Is there a brushless DC motor which could be used in electric cars? Wheel motors are claimed to perform well in electric scooters, and GIANT mining trucks also employ this technology:

  20. “Unnamed sources have told the media that it was a prototype battery pack made by A123 that caused the fire.”

    Of course they’re unnamed, more speculative BS to fuel the internet fire storm that always follows this sort of thing.

  21. Indeed, I would love to see anyone eschew various gear ratios after riding a single speed bicycle through city and hills – any attachment to the single ratio notion would be pure bias and require the complete disengagement of intellect.

    Frankly, the only variant of hybrid drive I could get behind would be a highway use only 2 cylinder diesel coupled to the accessory end of the motor via a disengaging clutch. It would provide only mechanical drive through the shaft of the electric motor – which would be mostly freewheeling – and only come into play at 50mph. And would only be able to nearly maintain Speed, and certainly not noticeably accelerate. Skip the mechanical to magnetic to electrical to magnetic to mechanical chain that a range extender uses. Just go mechanical to the transmission.

    Or trade the investment in complexity, time, volume, noise, emissions, etc for more batteries. I hear there’s a guy in Misery making a 1/2″ thick bolt on pack that will double your range and shorten your charge time 😉

    1. Range extender use of ICE or Hybrid one, inherently increases EVs complexity. For today’s availability of charging and fast charging ports, I perceive as best a trailer mounted range extender solution – for road trips.

      Such product could be proven useful, once rendered obsolete due to infrastructure improvement, as a household back-up power plan, or for remote off grid housing solutions.

      What I like the most thinking of EV conversions is, introducing fewer parts while taking out ICE related power installation of countless bits and pieces, hundreds of them if not thousands.

      Even statistically, the car becomes less prone to fail mechanically, electrically, its maintenance cost lowers and durability extends. That is probably what OEMs dislike about EVs and thus, even with scaled production numbers, a “leaf”-like car will continue being over priced in comparison with “verso”-like model. Spare parts will not sell as much.

      But, this is where I hope EV conversions will help bust the sales numbers, because, there will be millions of “build your dream” donors, even when all OEMs no longer make ICE propelled vehicles, but EVs.

      Eventually, decades from now, EVs might become cheaper than todays ICE equivalents, even with range of thousands of miles, but, our children are more likely to enjoy it. I suspect, for the time being, build your dream EV is the best most of us can hope to get from an EV.

      It will not end up being as cheap as OEMs will come up with, but it will be my loving 1986 BMW 316, better then ever before.

    2. Nabile:

      The OEM’s do seem to favor the 8:25:1 single gear drive. I think they view it as less expensive. I may be missing a trick here.

      But realistically, there is no need to “wonder”. The Speedster is a relatively light car that this should work on. I can simulate it pretty easily by putting it in 2nd gear and just driving it. And this works up to a point. But as soon as I get on the highway I’m basically a cripple. Your defense on the freeway in a small light car is the ability to quickly accelerate from 60 to 80 or 90 and leave the bastard tanker truck behind you. If it takes 30 seconds to go from 60 to 80 and the motor is whining piteously, I’m very uncomfortable.

      So if it worked, I’d just drive it in one gear. But I do not. I’m pleased to have the choices. It’s not like driving an ICE where you “cycle” through the gears every time. It’sm more like a Selectomatic. You have stuff to choose from for different driving conditions.

      I’ve also found efficiency and energy use are somewhat RPM dependent. If I can get on the freeway and get it down around 1800-1900 rpm, it is down to a pretty tame battle with air resistance and my energy usage drops rather dramatically than if I have it up at 3000 rpm. And things seem to run a bit cooler.

      Jack Rickard

    3. These are kind of finer points you have to experience. So when I see the JMAC/DAN thought experiment at work, it’s not hard to recognize that they/he just haven’t been in a car.

      Alex Smith did a direct drive truck with a Transwarp11. It operated perfectly. He was so disappointed in the performance he disassembled the truck. He also brought me the motor. It’s actually been reworked and is one of the pair going into the Elescalade.

      Basically in any heavier vehicle, you wind up with a golf cart doing direct drive.


    4. I am with you on this one Jack. The gears really help when you only have 60-100hp to work with.

      Also the cars that use the roughly 8:1 ratio are typically 300+ volt battery packs. That high voltage allows for more torque at a given RPM (especially at low RPM)

      And as you have said many times, it gives you a measure of safety in that you can push in the clutch to disconnect the motor in a run away situation.

      Also I suspect that the efficiency argument is also moot. I can nearly guarantee that being able to push the clutch in and coast will make the car more efficient that regenerative braking through a 8:1 fixed gear box….

      And for the record, Why do people think a multi-speed gear box is so much “less efficient” that a single speed gear box. As a mechanical engineer, I seriously doubt that it is even true….

      It might weigh 20-50lb more, but so what????

  22. I note that “jmac” has been on blogger since April.He has a Frederiksen-like approach of using a combination of idiocy and insult to provoke responses that wrap the discussion around himself. Might I suggest Coventry for him too and any other aliases of master Frederiksen

    1. I fear you may be correct John.

      Working on layer three of your monstrosity. Just the hardware took me a DAY and I’m good at it by now. Bottom balancing it at the moment.

      I sure hope this at least works. It’s like doing an entire car.

      Jack Rickard

    2. I’d use a can of builders spray foam. Ought to be fun to hold flattenum together from the roads ravages. Doesn’t get hot either… it’s good stuff. Holds houses together!

      Jack, do you think the underside of the flattenum is stiff enough for hanging under the car? Watching that sheet bend worried me considering its only supported on the ends. Lets hope eh?

      Tell you what, that carbon fibre, moly steel chassis 356 Speedster with underfloor batteries keeping the mass to the centre of the car and a pair of Emrax motors with suitable controllers could eat just about anything on a kit car autocross track.

      Need a gearbox? hahaha. At that weight just gear the motors down 2.5:1. And build the motors on the gearbox end of the half shafts.

      Performance here:

      A pair of these will give 100KW for 2 mins & 70Kw cont.
      Plus 400Nm torque for 2 mins & 160 Nm cont.
      Peak amps 440 for 2 mins & 260cont.

      2x motor/controller are 37Kg (82 lb) but not Chinese cheap.

      No charger mass: >240V pack on rectified mains. Pack capacity in mF ought to be enough.
      Try for 240V bulbs, horns etc. on no earthed supply plus A high voltage version cycle analyst for all your instrumentation. I’ve got one (Ver. 2.5) and think its good.

      If Brian read this……… He’ll want…. I want!

  23. Re the Volt/Ampera…

    “It is actually better to start with a very EXPENSIVE car, a BMW I5 or a large Mercedes, and add the expensive drive train to THAT. The price of the drive train components is then less of a percentage of the total price of the vehicle.” [Jack]

    One of the interesting things about the Volt/Ampera is that it gets closer to that in the UK. It competes in the mid range rather than the el cheapos. The Vauxhall Astra is getting on for twice the price of my Mazda 2

  24. John you have a salient point to make here. Jack has mirrored it oft as well.

    The EV1 simply stood out from the crowd and showed people a design confidence… and it had a cache’. This car as a shape made into a kit car would go a storm.

    I think everyone backs the idea of using a high end car or at the very least a vehicle that stands out.

    My take on the choice of sardine tin to electrify has to depend if you can get it with a junked engine and reasonable body.

    This would be loved but dead Italian sports cars or newer Jaguars with broken cam chains, kit and collectors cars where obtaining a your own drive train is a requirement, too expensive or unobtainable.

  25. Jack (or anyone else): do you have any recommendations for an automated single cell charger/discharger (maybe from the R/C world)? I have 8 Headways to bottom balance and if all goes well will have many more

    1. John,

      The iCharger 3010B is a fantastic charger from the RC world. It can charge and discharge a single cell at up to 30 amps. It has settings for 6 different cell types. I’ve got one and tested my 100AH LiFePo4 cells. It can do top balancing on up to 10S. In order to get 30 amps it needs to do a regenerative discharge where it puts the energy back into the source so it has to be powered by a battery. If you dont use the regenerative discharge the limit is 80 watts so around 25 amps for your Headways.

      My own plan is to bottom balance using nothing more than the 30A discharge feature to bring the cell down to 2.0V. They spring back up to somewhere between 2.7 and 2.8 volts. I don’t think there is any need to try to get them matched any more closely than that. After all, they all should hit 2 volts at the same time if discharged at 30 amps. At lower currents there might be some more variation but at higher currents I believe they will all hit the floor at the same time. And that is what we are looking for with a bottom balance isn’t it?


    2. Actually that is a topic in this week’s show which I am editing this morning. I like the iCharger 3010B but believe I’ve found something much better. Don’t want to spill the beans as it is a big segment in the show I’m working on.

      How timely is THAT?

      Jack Rickard

    3. Doug – Jack – many thanks. I shall be onto the show the moment it hits the streets. A metal shed arrived on Thursday (fire precautions) and the cells plus charger for the test pack have shipped. It may yet end in tears but I’m hoping it will all work out. I’m learning more about Arduino’s and Cell Log’s serial output than I care to know

    1. Well now, a couple of things here. You don’t HAVE to do everything the hard way the way I do. And in fact, your mission is unlikely to be my mission unless you do a TV show.

      Philisophically, I only automate what I’ve first done manually. That way I understand what I’m doing, and am familiar with a variety of outcomes. Then automate.

      Second, yes, I’m testing batteries. But I’m also testing meters, and often five or six against each other. If you’ve ever worked in a calibration lab things are not quite so absolute as you might believe. If you have one meter, it is ALWAYS correct because you’ve nothing to compare it to. Right now I’ve got a thing from RechargeCar, a weeny device from EMW, our JLD404’s, and of course an expensive Fluke clamp meter, industrial power supplies with meters, and constant current loads with meters. It’s kind of by vote. But the bench is such a cluster ***** of wires and clips and meters, I’m embarrassed to show it on camera.

      I see the role of the JLD404 as being primarily in a CAR. IT makes a GREAT dash display in that it is LARGE, BRIGHT, accurate and displays voltage, current, and ampere hours cycling through or selectable manually. And we can sell it complete with DC-DC converter, shunt, and documentation for $100 less than the Xantrex or TBS Pro.

      It’s still plastic, but not as cheesy looking as a Xantrex which I CANNOT READ when driving. But I’m not going to test it there until I’m pretty sure of it on the bench. And so I’ve been using them a lot on the bench.

      But in this weeks show we do examine a tres cool device for both charging and discharging that is quite accurate and you can run quite unattended. IT is perfect for the bench, but would be nearly useless in a car.

      Additionally, the big clunky components I use make what is HAPPENING much clearer on video and I can explain them. The more exotic devices then our viewers can understand do the job much better with smaller surface mount components and micro controllers much better. But they are really DOING EXACTLY THE SAME THING.

      So my needs and yours will vary. Take what you need and leave some for the next guy.


    1. Ah, an online insurrection. Dan, your image of yourself as an intellect is just delusional. You’re truly a moron. There is no need of insurrection. VIEWING OF EVTV WAS ALWAYS OPTIONAL. There are a BRAZILLION web sites to spend your time on. You are not REQUIRED to be here. It in not even mildly necessary. NOBODY watches 2 1/2 hours of video unless they WANT to. You wouldn’t do it if you “needed” to. It’s so purely optional it is to laugh.

      Which brings up the question, why do you keep coming back? And what would I have to do to get you to LEAVE.

      Jack Rickard

    2. You, dan are the groupie idiot. UFO’s, bible bashing, AGW. Will your lunacy never end?

      AGW is an invent of banksters, money grubbing tenure seekers and shysters. I suggest you go to Romania or Southern russia and preach AGW. They will cut you up and feed you to the pigs after what they went through this winter.
      Last month the global av. temp was -0.8C. that’s 100 years of GW gone during this Solar high!!!!

  26. Dan, who are you appealing to?
    Nobody will recognise your genius until you prove it.

    I’ve got some Google sketchup’s here I want making with a 3D printer. Make me 360 A123 insulator/packers please, plus the special knife to cut the Correx channels. Jack will sell them on with his shop. He’ll need 1000 with his last order alone. The idea is a winner. Go for it baby!

      “Utilize up to 50% more energy. Double commodity cell lifespan. Cut battery system production costs in half.
      Intelligent clustering boosts system performance, endurance, safety, reliability, longevity
      Beat high battery cell management costs
      Getting cells to function together represents up to 70% of battery system costs. No longer. With ElectronVault’s universal battery system platform, inexpensive commodity cells form the foundation for large, safe, and highly efficient systems.”

    2. Are you employing the ‘royal’ “us”, Andyj? You aren’t speaking for 2012 Edison Awards panelists.

      <>The KLD stator (figured above) consists of different blocks, each with its own wiring and other elements. The technology used can run at 2500 Hertz, making the engine more powerful, though the KLD runs at a lower frequency, making the engine more reliable. But having separate stator blocks also means if there’s a problem, all that needs to be done is replace one block.<>

      <>What might be the most significant breakthrough in electric motor systems since Thomas Edison’s heyday has made KLD Energy Technologies Inc. a finalist for a prominent award named after the legendary inventor…Rather than a traditional iron core, the KLD motor uses a composite material that allows operation at significantly increased frequencies, producing higher power and torque. An innovative battery system, under license from Electron Vault, accommodates different cell chemistries, and is configured to prevent cascading failure of individual cells, extend battery life and lower the cost of service. The controller optimizes performance of the motor system for different applications and specifications, in part by capturing and regenerating kinetic energy.<>

  27. John,

    Per Eklund uses the iCharger 3010B on all of his cells for balancing and it is spot-on every single time. It will even hold the voltage while tapering down the current until you read the desired setting. He does all of his discharging in the NiMH mode, I believe.


    1. Hi Jack !

      I haven’t had the chance to look at the Powerlab charger. But from the specs it seems to be a killer.

      I have used the iCharger 3010b for over one year now and i’m very pleased with it.

      I have capacity tested over 150 differrent individual cells mostly TS 40ah and 90ah. I have also used it to bottom balance all the cells that s going into my next Clio that i’m putting together.
      On the iCharger there is a setting to taper the discharge current when you reach the desired voltage. So it pretty much does a CCCV discharge to a specific voltage. I do my TS cells to 2.70v and taper the current down to 0.5A before it terminates. The cells seems to climb back up to 2,73 or 2,74. I only use the NiMh mode for discharging because the menu system is a bit easier to work with in that mode. You can do the same thing in the Li mode but it requires some more work on the settings. I would love to try the PowerLab also. Especially since it seems to be fully programmable to the extent where you can do your own charge curves, or atleast thats what i heard.

      Love your show Jack..
      Speakers for EVCCON. I suggested Cedric Lynch last year, and I suggest him this year again. I think he would be interesting.
      I will come to EVCCON this year. Started planning, me and Chris have been talking about sharing a rental from St Louis.

      Best Regards
      /Per Eklund

    1. I thought some good points were made. The discussion wasn’t a broad discussion about EVs but the Volt. So it’s no surprise a lot was left out of the discussion.

      I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I wasn’t being sarcastic; I really would like AutolineDetroit to report at EVCCON 2012. Despite McElroy’s negativity about EVs, I’ve watched many shows where he advocates EVs. I believe he’s a real fan. I also believe he is oblivious to the rumblings below his feet, the silent movement of ordinary people in their sheds doing EV conversions. I think he would be impressed and enthusiastic, and produce an interesting report on the convention.

      The discussion focused on the Volt, not EVs in general. But if it did I think they would miss the fact that there is sufficient, and growing interest to get off gas (petrol) to sustain a slow burn before the fire.


    2. Hi Pads,
      It was… conversational..

      It’s been mentioned and linked by a young gentleman on here for a trailer with a generator when required.

      This trailered genny method avoids the UK’s dreaded MOT and saves lugging stuff around one might need only on the odd occasion.
      In my case, it might be the best way to go and fit the sole (larger) mains charger in that too!

      Just food for thought.

    3. Andy:

      I was thinking about that very subject recently.

      How would one go about this at its simplest?

      Would a generator strapped to a small trailer work?

      How much would that cost?

      How well would it work?

      Could this idea be commercialised?

      Could it run on chip-oil?

      Could I put a secondhand catalicic converter on an diesil generator?

      Etc, Etc, Etc……..


    4. Just buy cheap. They are on the ‘net. Genny’s, trailers, everything.

      Chip oil is for diesels. LPG or Propane gas engines run very clean and quietly, if that’s your thing..

      However, the devil is in the details. Best have the vehicle first.

    5. Not sure if my last message sent.
      It’s all down to needs but I’d suggest nothing out of the mainstream.
      however, Diesels are dirty and noisy. LPG/Propane is much quieter and cleaner and does not need a cat.

      Look for stuff on the ‘net.

      My trailer, if made will be on a universal joint because it will have one (scooter, leading link, front) wheel due to being on the back of a reverse trike.

    6. Padric,

      From and engineering stand point a power assist trailer will certainly work. I have been doing a little work on this and 6000watts seems to be the minimum required to make this of any use. Basically it can have a rather simple control or a really complex control depending on the pack voltage. I am thinking about a 120vdc system so a simple bridge, capacitor bank and a few power diodes and a couple of power relays (or contractors as some like to call them) should be all that is required. I think that the most complex part will be the power connector that links e trailer and trailer. It will have to be able to carry 50-60 amps and provide a safe break away linkage.

    7. Guys:

      I think, with a mixture of ignorance and naivety, that this could be done for less than 1000 euros.

      I like the idea of a simple system that simple provides current to the battery at a constant rate. (Jeff, what is the SIMPLIST way this can be done?) It would switch it manually when the battery is depleted to a certain level. And the car would run off the pack. How would the pack handle that I have no idea. If the generator is not powerful enough it will eventually fail to catch up, but you still get range extension. You may have to park for a while, or drive slower.

      I like the idea of Diesel because it may be more efficient.

      I also would like it if it didn’t have that annoying, tut tut tut tut tut tut, racket.

      The range extender should be:
      1. Cheap.
      2. Simple.
      3. Efficient.
      4. Silenced.
      And if possible, it should actually work.

      I know I haven’t added anything. This post is questioning the idea.

      I did find something about a purpose built trailer/generator. Not sure if any sold, but the asking price was 15 000 US dollars. Ridiculous, I could own and operate a second hand car for a few years for that.

      Yes Andy, you’re right, I do need the car first – funny.


    8. 4KW propane genny, £450 on Google shopping.
      Ideal for your electric camper van to reach the distant camping hookups.
      There’s no need to release the batteries with a genny on while driving.
      Many gennys run 110V or 240V.
      Diesel economy will be substituted for noise and vibration (yukk!!)
      Use caravan hook up sockets and plugs.

      Apologies to peeps outside of the UK 🙁

  28. Dan, just build a car and then maybe someone will respect what you have to say. Otherwise leave because nobody here wants to hear what you have to say. I think it’s abundantly clear that you’re not welcome here. From a viewer that is here to learn and not hear about the drama’s of Dan Frederiksen.

    Thank you,


  29. I am sorry guys. We are going to have to go back to full moderation of comments. This wretched little boy child has pee’d in the pool and flatly refuses to stop. In fact he takes delight in it. It’s hard for me to believe such people actually exist in this world. I will never understand the “why” of it.

    Blogger has very primitive tools to deal with it. THere is some talk of moving the blog to WordPress, but such a change offers its own logistical challenges. So for the present, we are just going to have to go back to full moderation of the blog.

    I’ll try to stay on top of it to keep em moving. But there’s one of me in a row and I’m pedaling as fast as I can.

    What I REALLY need is about 75 really pompous delusional morons to help keep me straight in this world. I could only come up with the one – Dan.

    But its past time for him to go away.

    1. Hi Jack,

      I’m sorry you have to go this route I realize it’s extra work that pulls you away from what you would accomplish in other areas. The best way to handle the “Dans” of this world is to stop any and all conversations with him. Any communication at all only instigates a never ending response and keeps his name in print which is what he desires.

  30. Hi Jack,
    Great episode of A123TV, I would wait and post this under the proper episode blog but I’d forget everything.

    The PowerLab 8 (and PowerLab 6) are great devices, I’ve been using a pair of them to do capacity testing on my A123 pouches, I’ve measured each cell and then grouped them into 3P groups that all total the average Ah capacity I’ve measured. So in my case every 3P group will be 56Ah +/- any measurement error in testing at 2C charge/discharge 3.65v and 2.25v respecitvely.

    A couple of tips… use the balance port along with the banana jacks so you get the 4 wire reading. It looks like you have some VERY long cables which you know will create a significant voltage drop and the charger will just be guessing when to turn off. You will get the IR reading if you use the balance port, it can’t calculate the IR of the cell with that big long resistance of cables/connectors you have connecting the cell.
    Update the capacity of the cell in your preset from the 2300mah to 19Ah or 20Ah if you haven’t already so that the C/20 termination current is correct. (or c/10 or whatever you use)

    Although the internal discharge is 100W it is limited to 10A in the PL8 and 8A in the PL6. You never actually get to use the full 100W if you are only discharging 1 cell.

    If your viewers are just going to do single cell testing buy the PL6, it’s cheaper but still does 40A charge/discharge with all the same features, software and PC connectivity. It’s just designed for 6S instead of 8S packs, but when dealing with 1S save some money.

    You can see the rest of my adventures with the PL6’s and A123 cells at
    I have my PL6 preset available for download if anyone wants to use my settings.

    I still can’t wait to see what happens when you get the pack done and in a car!


  31. Bottom Balancing:

    I wonder could you line up all the cells in you pack in parallel on the bench and drain the entire pack to 2.75 V and leave the cells to naturally balance? Then later disassemble and place in your vehicle.


    1. The issue with connecting all the cells in parallel is getting the current to move when the potential difference is 0.01 volts The cells close to the load get drawn down while the cells on the other end don’t. If you could wait an infinite amount of time it would balance with no load, but try it for yourself and see what I am talking about. It might be practice time wise, with a super conductor but that would then cool the cells also.

    2. The issue with connecting all the cells in parallel is getting the current to move when the potential difference is 0.01 volts The cells close to the load get drawn down while the cells on the other end don’t. If you could wait an infinite amount of time it would balance with no load, but try it for yourself and see what I am talking about. It might be practice time wise, with a super conductor but that would then cool the cells also.

    3. Ahh….

      I guess you could brain each cell down first to ROUGHLY 2.75 V, then wire them in parrellel. Question is, how long would you have to wait for the cells to balance…. for ever?

      Thanks for answering my qeustion.


    4. Considering every cell is made of hundreds of cells in a pouch or case and A123’s for instance have such a tiny “internal resistance”. I=V/R. 0.01V/0.01Ω = 1A It won’t take long and you don’t have to clamp them hard either.

      I had a couple of cells, on the outset one read high and the other low. I simply bent the tabs to touch and came back to them the morning.

      Life is such a struggle, you wouldn’t believe the stresses I am faced with.

    5. Having paralleled TS cells to balance them there is no problem with a 0.01V difference at either the upper or lower knee. As Andyj points out, the IR is so low that the current flow is still plenty. Besides, if you are bothered by it just hook the + of one end of the parallel string to the charger/discharger and the – of the other end of the parallel string and the “problem” cancels out anyway.

    6. I’m balancing 10 at a time in parallel right now. I brought the whole pack down to below 3V per cell and then I’m putting 10 at a time in parallel to finish bottom balancing. I’m only pulling 10A and each battery rail shows a maximum delta of 2.5mV end to end.

  32. Jack, your post was about batteries, so I have a battery question. Who is the producer of the Tesla batteries for the Model S and Model X (I understand the Model X will use the same platform as the Model S). Could it be that they are they are doing the design-build of their own batteries for this platform?
    I think the whole “batteries on the bottom” thing adding to the low center of gravity (resulting in great handling) will be even more important in the higher Model X as an XUV. An XUV with more torque, speed and handling than a 911? OMG

    1. Panasonic provides the individual cells with a new 3.4 Ah hybrid cathode cell. They were supposed to have their production run last month, March 2012.

      Tesla of course assembles one BRAZILLION of these little 18650 cells into battery “modules” for the car. The modules are combined into a pack.

      Their theory, and I cannot flaw it, is that Panasonic makes brazillions of these cells for other industries and so this is where the economies of scale lie in Lithium cells. The heart break of assembling literally thousands of them into a car is where I fall to the ground. Then too, the cycle life advertised just isn’t up to what we’re accustomed to with the LiFePo4 cells. I think it is the nightmare battery pack from hell…. but they have had very good success with it so I guess they have it worked out.


  33. Jad, I would concur with Jack that in my experience, the alternator on my Toyota only runs up to 14.6v normally and that puts a 4s pack at a safe range.

    However, is suggest a 2p pack if you have a v8. My 4 banger is rated to I think, 300a starting surge. My calb40’s handle it well. A123s should as well.

Leave a Comment

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

Verified by MonsterInsights